Summer Blog Post Two

Current tournaments; World Cup Brazil 2014 continued

Summer Blog Post Two

 

Summer Blog Post Two

Dear readers of my blog,

watching the highlights of the Nations League semi-finals with Portugal beating Switzerland and the Netherlands coming back against England to win following two decisive defensive blunders in extra-time, I thought that the old truth still holds: no matter how good you are up front, it is always the back four and the goalkeeper who make you lose a match and a title. You can never control Cristiano Ronaldo absolutely, nor can you prevent the Dutch from attacking, but as in 2018 when both Bayern Munich and Liverpool lost to Real Madrid for lack of cynicism, the team beaten on Wednesday or Thursday last failed to control the ball when in their own third of the ground.

Friday, 7th June 2019



Before uploading this post, let me briefly say that watching women’s football matches live at the World Cup in Germany in 2011 has made me a fan of their more playful variant as well. So I tuned in the first half of the France v. South Korea tie yesterday evening and have just followed the highlights of Germany v. China. The Équipe tricolore seem to justify their status as favourites in their home tournament, while the young German side, who beat France some months ago, had to work very hard to clinch the match by one goal to nil, showing some frightening weaknesses – similar to those blunders made by the English defence on Thursday – which, however, the Chinese failed to profit from, someone only prevented by a ball hitting the post from taking the lead.

Saturday, 8th June 2019

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Having watched the pre-match talk in the Italian ice-cream parlour Colosseum at Hanover Central station, something I normal detest, there was barely a quarter of an hour of the opening match before moving up to the platform for the overnight train to Vienna.

       Much more than nothing, the twelve minutes I actually witnessed saw Croatia attack quickly whenever there was a chance to do so, and it was with their third attempt at surprising David Luiz in the centre that the world’s most expensive defender failed to control a ball slipping past him. Worse, he touched it albeit with the tip of his boot so as to produce an astonishing own goal. Caught by the TV cameras while running back to the centre circle, his face conveyed a mixture of boyish guilt and unbelief at what had just come to pass. Only later, I find out that it was in fact Marcello who was unlucky enough to open the score: Anything but spectacular, the opening goal of the competition for a moment seemed to silence not only the fans in the ground at São Paulo, it also changed the waiters’ faces around me. One of them, on the cell phone immediately afterwards, only managed to say: “The match is not over yet.”

       To me, it hadn’t even begun, Croatia having just scored the one goal I’d allowed them in my tip of Brazil three Croatia one. On the train, later on, a man said he’d left when the score had still been goalless. All the same, the last two moments I recall were Brazil trying to surprise the Croatian goalkeeper with a cross coming very close to his line which he, however, saved before sending his left winger, Ivica Olić, on his quest once more, just as I remember that striker from June 2008 when Croatia beat Germany by two goals to one.

Friday, 13th June 2014, on the train to Vienna

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With breakfast on the Austrian overnight train hope for a fulfilment of my prediction arrived in the form of a remark made by the conductor that Brazil had reversed the result. The headline of the free paper distributed in public transport in Vienna specified that the penalty which effectively became the turning-point of the match was due to Fred’s dive in the 69th minute. Neymar did his due to fulfil part one of Brazil’s mission towards winning the trophy for the sixth time by scoring the first two goals, while Oscar provided a late one to make it Brazil three Croatia one, which a student at my school yesterday over lunch had considered improbable given the scarcity of goals normally scored in opening matches.

Beaulieu, a café-restaurant in Vienna with a Franco-German menu and personnel who readily speak both languages with patrons, Friday, 13th June 2014

 

***

A memorable match, my first full one this World Cup, saw the Netherlands thrash Spain by five goals to one after being one nil down. Four players were not up to the mark today: Xavi in midfield, the two central defenders and also the skipper, goalie Iker Casillas. The Austrian experts in the studio agree on it being an utterly well-deserved defeat of la Roja (la Selección española) against a very strong Elftal. Interestingly, one of the best German football writers, Ronald Reng, expected the Spanish to triumph after the tournament despite their having gradually giving up the offensive tika taka they had made famous at the Euro 2008. He also thought Vincente Del Bosque had successfully rejuvenated the squad since then.

       The third goal, however, ought to have been disallowed. Casillas’ body language, the former German international goalkeeper and TV expert Oliver Kahn remarks, had been lacking self-confidence in many games of the recent past. For me, it was the most astonishing defeat inflicted on a champion I’ve ever witnessed. As for the Dutch, the presenter recalls Germany’s win by four goals to one in their opening match in Italy in 1990 which had allowed them to move on through the various rounds of that World Cup before winning the final on 8th July.

       All my own tips have collapsed today but I don’t regret a minute of the second half in Salvador. The only thing that may have been too much was the number of goals the Dutch put past Casillas for their performance reminded me of a win by six goals to one at the Euro 2000. In the next round, facing Italy, they missed enough penalties for several matches and shoot-outs to be eliminated.

Vienna, Hotel Baronesse, Friday, 13th June 2014



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Suitably, neither Captain Robin van Persie nor his vice-captain Arjen Robben could explain what had happened except that a nation’s dream had come true. Robben, though, pointed out that in 2008 they had started the competition in a similar vein, only to be knocked out in the quarter-finals.

       I remember that game well when the Russians, coached by a Dutchman, beat them easily in extra-time. With this World Cup’s first sensation a fact, I felt fit enough also to want to watch Chile’s clash with Australia. This group might prove an extremely interesting one if Chile succeeded in winning today’s game before facing holders Spain.

       Ruining part of my prediction in time added on, the favourites were lucky to win by three goals to one when throughout the second half the Socceroos had been the more dangerous team. Recalling Coach Del Bosque’s after-match comment saying that Spain had been the better side before half-time and that the Netherlands had been better thereafter, I think he might actually have been talking about the second match of the group which, surprisingly, proved much more balanced. So I feel justified to predict only a two nil win for the Dutch on Wednesday. Likewise, I am not prepared yet to imagine Spain’s reaction. In Del Bosque’s place, I would have substituted Casillas after he had lost the ball, allowing van Persie to put it past him for the fourth Dutch goal. Actually, I feel this may have been Casillas’ last World Cup appearance. On German TV, they also state that the penalty accorded to Diego Costa had been a mistake on the referee’s part given that he had slipped rather than being tripped up by the Dutch defender.

       With Casillas such a sad figure on the night, I cannot but hope for a good decision on the part of the German medical team, should they find Manuel Neuer not to be absolutely fit to face Portugal on Monday.

Vienna, Saturday, 14th June 2014

 

 

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