Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Who was robbed?

One of the bad things about the World Cup is that people take it way too seriously. People who will never get excited about a Champions League or League match (which are so much better than the vast majority of World Cup matches) will get excited about the game because they get to wave a a coloured piece of cloth called a flag, sing the anthem, and support 11 guys who happen to share their passport.
Some people get tears in their eyes because of the nationalistic fervor, others use it to confirm their wrong stereotypes about other nationalities.
The worst are people who in their indignant ignorance see conspiracies in the footballing results: "It is a scandal!!! We were robbed!!!"
Who the fuck robbed you? Did you call the police? And who is "we"? Are you one of the players who were robbed?
What did these people rob you? A football result!? Why don't you have a beer and relax? There are way more important things in the world...

https://fromacomrade.tumblr.com/post/171731237118

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The 2018 World Cup table

The World Cup has ended, and as usual I prepare a table with the final positions of the tournament, based on a three-point system, goal difference (GD) and in case of tie (Australia, Costa Rica and Iceland), I have used FIFAs fair play (number of yellow cards):

Country
Games
Won
Tied
Lost
GF
GA
GD
points
1
France
7
6
1
0
14
6
8
19
2
Croatia
7
4
2
1
14
9
5
14
3
Belgium
7
6
0
1
16
6
10
18
4
England
7
3
1
3
12
8
4
10
5
Uruguay
5
4
0
1
7
3
4
12
6
Brazil
5
3
1
1
8
3
5
10
7
Sweden
5
3
0
2
6
4
2
9
8
Russia
5
2
2
1
11
7
4
8
9
Colombia
4
2
1
1
6
3
3
7
10
Spain
4
1
3
0
7
6
1
6
11
Denmark
4
1
3
0
3
2
1
6
12
Mexico
4
2
0
2
3
6
-3
6
13
Portugal
4
1
2
1
6
6
0
5
14
Switzerland
4
1
2
1
5
5
0
5
15
Japan
4
1
1
2
6
7
-1
4
16
Argentina
4
1
1
2
6
9
-3
4
17
Senegal
3
1
1
1
4
4
0
4
18
Iran
3
1
1
1
2
2
0
4
19
South Corea
3
1
0
2
3
3
0
3
20
Peru
3
1
0
2
2
2
0
3
21
Nigeria
3
1
0
2
3
4
-1
3
22
Serbia
3
1
0
2
2
4
-2
3
23
Germany
3
1
0
2
2
4
-2
3
24
Tunisia
3
1
0
2
5
8
-3
3
25
Poland
3
1
0
2
2
5
-3
3
26
Saudi Arabia
3
1
0
2
2
7
-5
3
27
Morocco
3
0
1
2
2
4
-2
1
28
Australia
3
0
1
2
2
5
-3
1
29
Costa Rica
3
0
1
2
2
5
-3
1
30
Iceland
3
0
1
2
2
5
-3
1
31
Egypt
3
0
0
3
2
6
-4
0
32
Panama
3
0
0
3
2
11
-9
0
TOTAL
32
64



169
169
0


It is clear that France were the best team in terms of points. Belgium, on third place, in fact had more points than the vice-champions, Croatia, who had to go through a couple of ties, while Belgium only lost one match. Uruguay, with four victories won more matches than England, who nevertheless got a well-deserved fourth place. Notice though, that both Uruguay and Belgium were eliminated by the later champions. Belgium was also the team with most goals and the best GD, while the best defenses according to least goals were Denmark, Iran and Peru. The worst defense was that of the Panamanian debutants, who also ended dead last in the table. The 2014 champions from Germany ended in the 23rd spot, which is their worst performance ever.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

France World Champions and Croatia, the world's Champions

The World Cup final between France and Croatia will be remembered for many things: Croatia's first final and France's second title; the most goals in a final since 1966; the first final since 2002 that does not go into extra time; Mbappe as the youngest goalscorer in a final since Pele in 1958; Didier Deschamps joining Beckenbauer and Zagallo as having won the cup both as a player and manager; the first use of VAR in a World Cup final.

It was a great final that defied expectations in Moscow, proving a fine end to a World Cup that has been better than expected. Croatia started best, and looked superior until Mario Mandzukic scored an own goal to bring France ahead, in what was really France's first shot on goal. Perisic's equalizer was well-deserved, but what will probably be discussed a lot was the penalty award for hands, following a revision from the VAR: initially the Argentinean referee did not call it, but after revising the video he awarded the penalty that Antoine Griezmann scored on. It was not a clear-cut call: in my view the hand did not stop an open goal situation and was unintentional, but that can certainly be interpreted differently. What is clear about VAR is that it does not take controversy away from football, but is a tool to help referees make decisions (which may not always be better).
Although Croatia came out to attack in the second half the French counter-attack was excellent, with Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe making it 3-1 and 4-1. Paul Pogba was young player of the tournament four years ago, a title that now goes to Mbappe, underlining the strength of French youth football. It was only a dreadful mistake by Hugo Lloris (reminding of Loris Karius' giveaway to Karim Benzema in the Champions league final), giving a goal away to Mario Mandzukic (who became the first player in a final to score for both teams...), that gave Croatia some hope that they might make another amazing comeback.
But it was not to be and France won 4-2.

France are World Champions, but Croatia were the world's champions. Added to their quality, the Croat team has fought bravely and with spirit throughout the tournament, playing some of the most dramatic matches of the tournament. Luka Modric deservedly got the award as the best player of the tournament, but the entire team has been fantastic. And in the end they also took their final defeat with a level of dignity that you would be unlikely to see in many other teams: they were disappointed, but congratulated the French and thanked their fans, of which they can now surely count most of the world (including the Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who looked disarmingly excited about the entire final and meeting the players in the award ceremony).

Congratulations France. Thank you Croatia.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Third and fourth best of Europe (and the world)

Belgium ended in third place after defeating England 2-0 in the bronze match of the World Cup. This is the best result of Belgium in a World Cup ever, following their fourth place finish in 1986. So Belgium can be proud of this despite the fact that they probably expected and deserved more. They end the tournament with an impressive record of six victories and only one defeat (the semifinal defeat to France), as well as probably the most scoring team of the tournament with 16 goals (unless Croatia or France respectively score 4 or 6 goals in the final).
Belgium has a lot to be proud of from this World Cup.
England is also proud of a team that had low expectations and that made it to fourth place, the best English result since 1990, when they ended in the same place. Their record is nevertheless more mixed: They ended with three victories (against Panama, Tunisia and Sweden), one penalty victory (over Colombia) and three defeats (two to Belgium and one to Croatia). On paper this is not overly impressive as one has the impression that England's only true test was against Croatia. But it will certainly be interesting to watch England's youngsters (who surely have great talent and potential) in the future. In the meantime, unless extraordinary things happen in the final, Harry Kane will end up as the top goalscorer of the tournament with six goals, being only the second Englishman ever to achieve this honour, following the great Gary Lineker in 1986.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Winter World Cup

FIFA has just announced that the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar will be held in November-December, apparently due to the heat in June-July.
As if the heat was not there when they chose Qatar...
So expect a World Cup to suspend the excitement of the best football in the world: Champions League, Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Serie A, etc., will all be suspended during the World Cup. Instead, 2022 will be a loooooong summer...
The decision on making the World Cup with 48 teams instead of 32 for 2022 is still pending. It is an idiotic decision that will only contribute to lower the quality of the World Cup so much as to make it almost meaningless in footballing terms, if not in nationalistic money-making terms.
I am afraid that with these horrible decisions the World Cup in Russia this year will be remembered by many fans as the last World Cup.
From now on, it is just downhill.