Monday, 14 July 2014

This is the end (Review of World Cup 2014)

This is the end, my only friend, the end
of our elaborate plans, the end
of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end

So begins the Doors seminal song, The End, and with this we are going to begin our summary of the tournament, as we struggle to come to terms that a whole month has gone by since the tournament began and that we have to wait another 4 whole years until Russia 2018.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, the old cliche about Germany came true again except that it took 120 minutes instead of 90, but in the end the outcome was the same, 1-0 to Ze Shermans.

I wrote ysterday that Messi would be asking why once he had lost, and now that he knows, he must be thinking of the lyricsto the anthem from the musical Ebita we all know so well,

"And so for fortune as for fame I never invited them in, though it seemed to all the world they were all I desired, they are illusions, they're not the solutions they promise to be.
The answer was here all the time, I Love you and hope you love me. Don't Cry for Me Argentina."

171 goals were scored which equals the record for the most scored in a World cup finals, but for me the best innovation was the can of shaving foam that, the referees had clipped to their shorts, with which they marked out the 10 yards line that the wall had to stay behind on free kicks. It was such a pleasure not seeing players edging forward to gain an unfair advantage at free kicks.

Of course football being run like the Byzantium empire which it is, a vast sprawling many headed entity, we shall probably not see this innovation in domestic leagues for a while.

What shall we remember the most from this world cup say in 3 years time? I don't think there will be much argument on this, 2 events stand out above all others. The positive footballing one will be the 7-1 annihilation that Germany handed out to Brazil. I know that one of the people who commented on the blog (thanks to all those who did and more of you should, it adds spice and you can remain anonymous) thinks that maybe I wrote the requiem for Brazilian football too early, but there is no doubt, that it is going to take Brazil a while to completely recover from the shame of that performance.

The fear factor is gone and they have no true defenders, back to the drawing board.

The 2nd event was the rather unsavoury incident involving Luis Suarez, biting the Italian defender. Suarez despite his 4 month ban has not done badly, he was sold on Friday to Barcelona for 75 million pounds, yes that is right seventy five million pounds, you can convert that into your own currencies, but it is a lot of money anyway you look at it.

Apart from that, the more dedicated football fans will remember, the goal by James Rodriguez against Uruguay and perhaps the header by Robin Van Persie for Holland against Spain.

Life and football go on, the domestic European leagues start next month, qualification for the club European champions League actually began during the world cup and the Euro 2016 to be held in France qualification macthes start in September.

I  have had fun bringing you my musing on the wonderful game and I hope you have enjoyed reading them.

Until the next time, Auf wiedersehen

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Carpe Diem, for there is no tomorrow WC Final 2014

Dawn has been, the countdown begins and tonight, we shall know who is going to be crowned world champions (notice to our American friends, a real world champion). Tonight, we have a battle between the individual (Messi ) and the whole (NationalMannSchaft) and I will already state here and now that I believe that the whole, that is Germany will be victorious.

This is the 3rd final between these 2 nations, they played each other in 1986 and 1990 and they have one win each. The game in 1986 was great 3-2 (end to end) to Argentina, the less said about 1990 the better, 1-0 (classic scoreline) to the Ze Shermans in one of the most boring finals ever.       1986  highlights         1990  highlights

Argentina, is hoping that the new messiah can be officially crowned tonight. In 1978 it was the number 10 Mario Kempes, in 1986 it was the number 10 Diego Maradona and they are hoping that it will be another number 10 Lionel Messi to complete the holy trinity, if we say that Kempes is the Holy Ghost and Maradona the father, then Messi will be the son. Why not they say, the pope is Argentinian, God is on our side.

The only problem with this theory is that tonight, they will be facing a really good team, who epitomise the old Mohammed Ali expression, they fly like butterflies but sting like bees. Ze Shermans have definitely been the most attractive team in the tournament, they have demolished Portugal and Brazil, 4-0 and 7-1 respectively, their 2-2 draw against Ghana was incredibly entertaining and they have performed effectively enough to do what had to be done in their other games, so on a purely footballing level, Ze Shermans deserve to take the trophy.

I think tonight Messi would if he knew them, thinking of the lyrics of the Oasis song Live forever,
"Maybe I will never be All the things that I want to be, But now is not the time to cry, Now it's the time to find out why"

The answer Lionel,could be this, "Vorsprung durch Technik" as the Audi ad used to go, which although it means progress through technology, it became synonymous with German engineering efficiency, which is what we may witness tonight as the NationalMannSchaft effortlessly shift through the gears on their way to world domination.

Four to watch, 2 of whom are obvious as they aim not only to win tonight, but to win the Golden boot as the tournament leading scorer.

#10 Messi the Messiah
#13 Head of  Gestapo Muller

#14 the Grim Reaper Mascherano
#6 The Arabian Horse Khedira

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Mea Culpa

This will be short and a preview of the final will appear on Sunday

I am known for being someone who does not shy away from saying what needs to be said.

The game last night between Argentina and Holland is one of the reasons why football is not popular in the US of A. Americans don't understand how 120 minutes of utter negativity can be seen in a positive light and to tell you the truth, neither can I. It was almost as if, that after the 7-1 between Germany and Brazil, the 2 teams agreed, that is not going to happen to us. Both sides were so intent on not losing that they forgot, that the idea of the game is to win.

The reason for the title of today's blog is that as the 2nd half began, I decided to go to sleep on the couch relying on my extensive experience of watching these type of games and passed up the opportunity to be bored to death. I set my alarm to wake me up in time for penalties and I woke up at 119 minutes and 30 seconds, seeing that I had been fully vindicated in my decision and was able to enjoy the shoot out.

I just want to mention that the Argies did it again and made the Duch wait on the pitch for 90 seconds just as they did in 1978 as I wrote yesterday.

So we are left with 2 games, the completely meaningless third place final on Saturday night between Brazil and Holland, and the final on Sunday between Ze Shermans and the Argies.
The 3rd place final raises the possibilty of the away team having more fans in the stadium than Brazil the hosts. I don't see many Brazilian fans turning up for that game and in fact I wonder who the Brazilian manager is going to pick for that game which will also probably be his last game in charge before he is put out to pasture.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A Clockwork Orange, Holland look to punish Argentina

I would like to open by pointing out that yesterday, I wrote " 7  is the number to watch out for tonight". How prophetic that proved to be.

Tonight we have the mouth watering prospect of Argentina V Holland (20.00 GMT) with the winner earning the dubious honour of having to face the NationalMannSchaft in Sunday's final.

In 1978, these two nations faced each other in the final which was held in Buenos Aires. This was at the height of the country being run by the military junta, they were almost as cynical as Hitler had been in 1936 in exploiting a sports event for political capital. I remember the Dutch coming out and having to wait maybe 10 minutes before the Argies appeared and then there was a brief argument over whether the Dutch player Rene van De Kerkoff could play with a plaster cast on his wrist. Clear gamesmanship but effective.

The Argies won 3-1 in extra time, but the Dutch were so enraged that they refused to take part in the post match ceremonies, quite rightly if you ask me.

The Dutch had a modicum of revenge when they beat Argentina in the quarter-finals of the 1998 World cup with one of the best goals ever seen in a world cup scored by Denis Bergkamp.

Tonight they will be looking to go one better and set up a repeat of the 1974 final, while Argentina will hope to win to reach their 4th final and 3rd against Germany.

Unlike Ze Shermans who have no main superstar but a collective excellence, the Argentinians rely on Messi and the Dutch on Robben.

Apart from their opening game, when the Dutch spanked Spain, neither side has really shined.

Excluding the obvious 2 I just mentioned, here are 2 to watch for.

Higuain #9

Vlaar #4

Deutschland Uber Alles

Any respectable football lover can not let the events of the 8th of July 2014 go by without comment. The title refers to the now not used, but so well known first lines of the German National Anthem, Germany above everybody, everybody in the world.

It was an example of Blitzkrieg at its most brutal, Heinz Guderian (German general WWII) would have been proud. 5-0 after half an hour, 4 goals in the space of 6 minutes, a well oiled machine relentlessly and ruthlessly crushing all resistance it its path.

Last night you could have mistaken the Brazilians for the French in terms of their abject surrender.

In the words of Simon and Garfunkel "I'd rather be a hammer than a nail" and as I sit here in Israel typing these words, under a rain of rockets, I'd rather be in Israel than in Rio.

Does this result have a wider significance and how did it happen ?

Already last night, the fans were signing songs against the incumbent Brazilian president, whose popularity had received a boost as the tournament started. According to a colleague of mine whose wife is Brazilian, her whole family went home at half time in fear of violence in the streets.

The BBC has pictures showing fans fleeing in sheer panic from the Copa Cabana beach in Rio. We may not yet see a repeat of last year's civil disobedience, but after the final on Sunday, who knows?
The world won't care until the build up begins to the Olympics in 2016 which are also due to be held in Rio.

As to the football, ze Shermans, as we wrote yesterday, are the most consistent team in world football, but they never played with very much flair.. The joke used to be, that football is a game played for 90 minutes by 2 teams and ze Shermans always win 1-0.

However now the influx of the children of the Gastarbeiter who I have already referred to, have managed to fuse the traditional German values of discipline and efficiency with their extra flair which makes for a lethal combination. This is also true for a number of other nations in Europe, Switzerland, France and Belgium to name but 3 who have integrated immigrants and improved accordingly.

Brazil on the other hand, have other problems, lots of them not all to do with football, but which in an indirect way affect football.

Football is a global village and Brazilians because of the tradition and reputation of their footballers are a hot commodity. Young Brazilians players are leaving Brazil at an increasing rate at very young ages to play in all the leagues round the world, because of course if you are Brazilian, you must be good.

For a young Brazilian from the Favelas (Brazilian slums), the chance to escape the poverty and get rich quick is too good to be true. This trend has a negative side for the development of those said players. They leave Brazil before they have fully developed their abilities and are then open to mainly European influences which tend to stifle their natural Brazilian tendencies.

So can they bounce back?  probably, but I think it will take a long and Brazil maybe heading for a long stay in the footballing wilderness, which will not be a good thing for a country with such economic difficulties who are used to using the success of their football team as a form of escapism.

Check back soon for a preview of tonight's semi-final.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Cream Rises to the Top

I Apologise in advance that the next few paragraphs contain a lot of statistics, but in this case they do paint a picture which is not really open to interpretation in the way that articles based on statistics usually are.

The cream rises to the top.

In the time that I have been on this planet (48 years), 13 world cups have taken place, and this is the 10th time that the Ze Shermans will have featured in the semi-finals. To put that into perspective,  this will be the 7th semi final for Brazil, the 5th for Holland and the 4th for Argentina in the same time period.

The other 2 teams who should also be mentioned here are Italy with 6 and France with 4.

Whatever one may think about Ze Shermans, you have to respect, if not admire, their consistency at reaching the top of world football time after time. They have advanced to 6 finals but only won 2 of them. Italy come next with 4 final appearances (2 wins)  Brazil also have 4 finals (3 wins),  and then Argentina and Holland with 3 appearances apiece, with Holland losing all 3 in the same period.

There is an adage in sport which is as follows, class is permanent, form is temporary.

Spain are a case in point, in the same 48 year period they have only once made it to the semi-finals, other teams such as Portugal, England, Uruguay and Poland have managed it on 2 occasions and Turkey, Poland, S Korea, Croatia, Poland, Sweden, Bulgaria and Belgium once each.

Interestingly enough given the above statistics, it is somewhat surprising that the game tonight between Brazil and Germany (kick off 20.00 GMT) is only the 2nd meeting between the 2 nations in World Cup History unless one counts when the now defunct East Germany played Brazil in 1974.

I say surprising because in most other sports, when there are 2 such dominant forces, they tend to always be playing each other, such as in Tennis, with Nadal and Djokovic, or the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics in the NBA being another example.

The Previous meeting between these 2 was played in the 2002 final which Brazil won 2-0 with 2 goals from Ronaldo. see link below, you have to enjoy the look on the face of Oliver Kahn the German keeper.

The Brazilians are going to be missing their superstar Neymar through injury and their captain Silva through suspension, how will that affect them ? who knows.

2 to watch out for, tonight 7 is the number to watch.

The Incredible Hulk #7

Schweinsteiger #7

Thursday, 3 July 2014

France V Germany, their Nemesis (and 3 other games)

56 games down, only 8 to go (and one of those the 3rd place final is irrelevant)  it has been a breath taking tournament so far, fantastic goals, the biting incident and much more.

The 4 quarter finals which are due to be played on Friday and Saturday feature the following match ups. Brazil V Colombia, Holland V Costa Rica, Belgium V Argentina and Germany V France which is the game I will concentrate upon here after a very brief look at the other games.

Brazil V Colombia,  Colombia have been the team of the tournament so far, they have scored the goal of the tournament to date, but in historical terms at least, it doesn't look good for them. They have only beaten Brazil twice in twenty five attempts. They seem to go weak at the knees when they face Brazil which is what I am going to do on the predictions for these games. All too close to call.

2 to look out for
Cuadrado #11

David Luiz #4

Holland V Costa Rica. the Costa Ricans have been the surprise package this year exceeding expectations. they have done well to get this far, but will they be able to beat the Dutch who are top scorers so far. One of the Dutch goals for you to enjoy

2 to look out for

Robben #11

Ruiz #10

Belgium V Argentina

Belgium, have got this far without impressing but they have a very talented squad. Argentina have also not been impressive to date but any side containing Messi can not be taken lightly.Should be a good one.

2 to look out for
Courtois #1

Di Maria #7

Germany V France

The Battle of Waterloo 1815, The Franco- Prussian war 1870-71, WWI, WWII and most relevantly to us the world cup semi-final between France and W Germany in 1982.

Germany are France's Nemesis and to quote from the film snatch.

"Do you know what "nemesis" means? A righteous infliction of retribution maifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by (and here I will paraphrase as the original is a bit of an 18 certificate) something horrible Ze Germans"

I mention all these as I don't want one anyone to be under any false impressions. These 2 nations do not like each other, don't believe all the rubbish about European unity or a rapprochement between these countries. they are rivals for the leadership of Europe at every level and in football as in war there is previous.

In 1982, France faced W Germany in the world cup semi final, the game went to extra time. France stormed into a 3-1 lead only for the Germans to draw level at 3-3. This led to the first ever penalty shoot out in World Cup history which Germany won 5-4.

However despite all the excitement I've just listed in this excellent game, it will be always be remembered for the German goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher clattering into the French defender Patrick Battiston. Schumacher made no attempt to play the ball, he just took Battiston out of the game in the type of play that Ann Coulter would like. Battiston suffered concussion, a broken jaw, and had 2 teeth knocked out.
The referee didn't even award a free- kick but rather a goal kick to Germany.

In my opinion this was far worse than any Luis Suarez bite.

The French have been excellent so far, the Germans as to be expected methodical. Gallic flair versus German efficiency. How can you pick a winner from these 2 when you want both of them to lose.

2 to look out for

Valbuena #8

Kroos #18