Summer Blog Post Six
Oscar Wilde as read by Anne Frank 75 years after her diary entries about "An Ideal Husband"
Summer Blog Post Six
Summer Blog Post Six
On Monday I ought to have believed my own words about the true strength of the Costa Rican side in order to have changed my prediction. Despite my words to the contrary, however, I remained convinced in my heart that Italy would win once I had looked into the incredulous face of a colleague whose Italian wife had turned him into an ardent fan of the la Squadra Azzurra.
Secretly, I must say, I have fancied them ever since I saw them play the opening game against Germany in the Euro tournament in 1988. The mere cohesion of the team, the teamwork in defence, the passing of the ball with everyone always aware of where the team-mate was, all this had impressed me, and if they pull it off, it still impresses me. So, for once, I also hoped Italy to hit home twice when, for the first time, I switched on my PC to watch a World Cup game at home. Having lived without our own TV set since 1992, we of course refused to pay the subscription fee. Last year, though, the law was changed, so that everyone has to pay for both radio, TV, and the computer. In fact, it was since 1988 when I moved into a students’ hall of residence where they had three TV rooms that I had been living without my own TV set – half my life that is.
Like Uruguay before them, the Italians created hardly any chances against Costa Rica’s well-organized, sturdy defensive line. The more strikers they fielded, the fewer opportunities to score were allowed them. The best chance they had in more than forty minutes plus additional time was a free kick that Navas managed to deflect to his far right. After that, Pirlo disappeared in midfield, whereas Costa Rica always remained a force on the counter-attack. Surprisingly, the Italians often failed to circulate the ball in midfield, regularly being caught in the two spider webs of the Costa Rican defence. Cerci and Insigne, arrived on the pitch to open up space on the right and left wings, found themselves faced with up to three defenders at a time, with the result that they completely failed to integrate Balotelli who, for his part, remained totally ineffective, as he kept waiting for long balls or crosses that were not forthcoming, while gli Azzurri found themselves offside about a dozen times.
It seems as if neither the Italian coach nor his players had ever watched Bayern Munich fail with Ribéry and Robben in 2012 when both Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea FC succeeded in blocking their wing dribbles in two finals by up to three defenders uniting their forces. Nor did they see that the only situation unmanageable for any defence in those two games was that from which Kroos and Thomas Müller profited to score the one nil lead in the Munich final. Neither had been waiting for that situation, while those two were prepared to create an untypical one to score.
Friday, 20th June 2014
P.S. Needless to say but it’s true that with Costa Rica already in the next round, they’re looking forward to a friendly with England – already eliminated like holders Spain and, possibly, Cameroon. 24 years after their last appearance in a semi-final, 48 years after the Wembley Final of 1966, England may have hoped for more. In 2014, as indeed only in 1950, also in Brazil, and in 1958 when they lost a play-off match against the USSR, The Three Lions must return home after the group stage.
Surprises are the order of the day. Iran vs. Argentina is still at nil nil at half-time with a keeper saving some of the most dangerous shots. The TV expert, Mehmet Scholl, complains about the referee being too close to both the ball and the players, as if he wanted to join in.
Traffic jams are another topic of this World Cup. The team coaches, for that reason, are driving on closed-off lanes while everyone else, including Pelé, must wait.
Today’s referee is the same who appeared in Germany’s first match where he also managed to be in the way.
According to the reporter, Iran tends to become weaker towards the end of the match. Their counter-attacks need to be pursued with more determination, he adds. Argentina, however, plays like a first division team in an away cup-tie – with little inspiration as far as I can see. The best chance in the second half, saved by Argentina’s Sergio Romero, is created by three Iranians on the counter-attack, with the Brazilians in the crowd waking up for a moment. Briefly, one could even hear Iranian fans shouting in English.
I’m also reminded of the match Trinidad/Tobago vs. Sweden in Dortmund in 2006 with Messi being as much a disappointing star today as Ibrahimovic had been then. Once, Messi accelerated, walking past several Iranians but missing the left post as well as the goal. Again, there is a dangerous goal mouth situation in front of Romero, with Iran putting Argentina under pressure. Romero only just saves Dejagah’s header, deflecting it for the third corner in only five minutes. Will Argentina score from a set-piece? Messi misses once again. They are, however, lucky, not to have been punished by a penalty against them when Dejagah was in fact fouled, something which couldn’t be seen by the referee.
Yet another counter-attack is stopped by Romero, the last man of his side who rightly stayed on his line then since the Iranian striker had reached the long ball and fired off his shot. Then, in time added on, it is Messi who scores from outside the area. It’s a world-class goal, the reporter shouts. If that’s the win, well, I’ll have two more points but it oughtn’t to have been, it was neither fair nor just. In the remaining minutes, Argentina has no problems to hold on to that slight lead.
Having watched that game reminds me of a brief interview I gave in Vienna to two young Iranian students collecting views on the Costa Rica vs. Uruguay match in the courtyard of the former General Hospital where people were already assembling for the Italy vs. England game. I was inspired by the performance of the Costa Ricans, while my own predictions had collapsed.
Saturday, 21st June 2014
Compared to the dreary early afternoon game at Belo Horizonte, the late afternoon match at Fortaleza featuring Germany vs. Ghana proved to be a terrific clash of two well-prepared sides, neither of whom wanted to cave in when the other took the lead. It was in the second half that the one nil by Mario Götze was followed by two errors in midfield, so that Ghana was suddenly two one up.
When the man next to me, who’d always been wailing whenever the Ghana players approached the German goal, started to clamour in earnest, two substitutes, Klose and Schweinsteiger, came on. This being their third and fourth World Cup respectively, they not only immediately commanded the respect of their team-mates, they also created chances before it was Schweinsteiger who ran into a cross from the left deflected by a defender to win a corner which, standing at the far post, it was Klose to convert for his 15th World Cup goal. Now he shares the record with Brazil’s Ronaldo.
Sunday, 22nd June 2014