Sunday, June 17, 2018

Disappointing Brazil

Alongside Germany, Brazil has been touted as one of the favourites for the title. And in the first part of the match against Switzerland they looked like possible champions. Right until Coutinho scored his fantastic goal, Brazil were by far the better team. But it seemed as if the goal was the end for them. They took down the pace, pulled back, and let Switzerland slowly enter the match, instead of attacking to get a second goal.
When the game seemed at its slowest, Switzerland equalized after a corner kick. Surely Steven Zuber seemed to push Miranda before scoring, and surely the Brazilians might have had a penalty denied. But this was not why they did not win. Switzerland were cynical, organized and physical. As the match progressed they did some tasteless free kicks and continuously stopped the game. Brazil were slightly unlucky not to score in the end, but one did leave with the impression that Brazil was unable to put on a higher gear when things seemed to go against them. Their reaction was petulant frustration, which the Swiss were good at pushing.
A future World Champion is tested when things go against them. In this regard, Brazil did not succeed today, but hopefully it may be that this meager 1-1 against Switzerland may represent a wake-up call for the great Brazilians.

Mexico defeats the World Champions!

Germany has been hailed as a favourite to defend their title, and today we saw what they are made of: a 0-1 defeat to Mexico, who had studied Germany's main weakness: their high and slow defense. This defense also almost cost them the title in 2018, but a German side without Lahm continues to use it, and this gave fantastic space to Miguel Layun, Carlos Vela, Chicharito, and most notably to Hirving Lozano, El Chucky, who scored the Mexican lone winner amid their many chances.
Germany pressed on, but bad luck, good goalkeeping and heroic defending gave Mexico the victory and Germany a costly defeat. But in the end, Germany have only themselves to thank: they entered the match with arrogance and underestimating Mexico. You cannot defend a title with such an attitude.
Mexico defeated the World Champions, but I hope this victory does not go to their heads. There are more very difficult matches ahead.

Denmark winning in El Salvador

I went to a place called Strikers in San Salvador to watch Denmark-Peru after the big disappointment of watching Argentina-Iceland. I was surely the only Dane there (I doubt there are any other Danes here) against a small group of Peruvians who seemed much more into it than I did.
Denmark won, and I was happy. Denmark played bad and were lucky to win, but that shows the luck factor in football. But you cannot count on luck throughout the tournament, and after having seen such a shitty performance, I cannot say that Denmark are certain not to lose against Australia or France. Peru on the other had showed skills but lacked to keep their head cool.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Messi and his attachments

I want to start by saying that Messi is a splendid footballer. In fact, he is the only real footballer on Argentina's side.
That said...
I have before said that this is the worst Argentina side ever. And I believe this more strongly than ever after having seen a side that doesn't know how to defend and that seemed never to have watched Iceland play (Iceland are a solid side that played as predictably organised as they did during Euro 2016 and during the qualifiers).
And Messi was a mess. I am not only talking about his missed penalty, but also about his attitude; he did not seem a man who wanted to win. Much has been made about him being better than Maradona or not and in my view this misses a point after having seen the match today: Maradona played for the team, but Messi plays for himself.  Messi does not understand, like Maradona did, that carrying a team is not about you doing everything, but about making your team-mates better, even if it takes attention away from yourself.

Back in Maradona's day he was as much a star as Messi is today. All eyes were on him and his carrying the team. And he did carry the team, even without having the ball: in many matches Maradona used the fact that all eyes were on him in order to pull back, pull some opposing players along, and thus give space to other skilled Argentinean players. He knew how to use the attention for the best of the team. Messi has no such skill; instead, it seems that Argentinean players have been told that all they need to do is pass it to Messi. Against Iceland is seemed that some otherwise decently skilled players (except the defenders, who do not even deserve to be called defenders) were afraid of taking any initiative of their own, because all initiative is supposed to be done by Messi. And when Messi doesn't perform, nobody is supposed to overshadow him, probably because Messi, as a narcissistic millennial, doesn't want anybody else to overshadow him, even if it may cost the team.
Messi will never do like Maradona, by giving space to other players, because that will overshadow his little own selfish self. That same little selfish self who cannot score on the penalties when it counts.

Argentina are supposed to be a great team, and they would be great if they were not just a one-man team, but a team where the best of each player came to its best (does the best of DiMaria or Aguero come forth???), and not just Lionel Messi's ego.
But Argentina cannot be World Champion. With or without Messi they are simply not good enough. That said, it is a wonder if they want to play and win or lose with honour. As it is now, there is no honour in just always passing the ball to Messi, who clearly does not have the willingness or skills to lift the skills of each of his team-mates; to make a group of players into a team, and not just an attachment to Lionel Messi.

In the meantime, Croatia beat Nigeria 2-0. Croatia are bound to defeat Argentina, and Messi and his attachment will be facing elimination against a Nigerian side that should be much more a team and a group than Messi and his attachments.

The use of technology

France deserved to win against Australia; they are clearly a better team than Australia (Bert van Marwijk has made them a solid, boring, physical team, which works better than what he did to Netherlands in 2010). But what this match will be remembered for is the use of technology by the referee, for good and for bad....
I am not in favour of using VAR for penalty situations or off-sides. It should only be used for outright violence or for goal situations. And in my view France's penalty was such a case: maybe it was a penalty (I do not think it was), but it is clear that VAR does not take the controversy away, but just adds to it. Such a call has a high degree of subjectivity that VAR does not eliminate.
The second French goal clearly showed the good use of goalline technology, and I can think of other situations where this goal would not have been called (think Germany-England 2010 or Brazil-Spain 1986). It is great that the message that the ball is in goal, goes directly to the referee, avoiding the use of VAR. This is a huge improvement, but the way VAR is being used is no improvement, but just serves to further create controversy.
I look forward to a faraway Star Trek future where AI Androids are refereeing. At least they will be immune to temptation, if not to hackers!