Luck, skill, good management have been important elements in the early success enjoyed by Brazil, France, Holland and Italy in the opening games of this World Cup.
Alan’s 2014 Summer Diary: No. 10
Friday 13 June
Unlucky For Some
Unlucky for some, Spain and Giovani dos Santos for example. He had two perfectly good goals disallowed and should be the joint top scorer with Robin van Persie and Neymar. At least Mexico beat Cameroon 1 – 0.
Spain on the other hand were absolutely tonked by Holland 5 – 1. That was after being 1 – 0 up and Diego Costa missing a golden chance for 2 – 0. It was just like on the PlayStation when you are one on one with the keeper and can roll it in, blast it, or try and lob him, which is one of the most difficult moves just as it is in real life. Can you trick the goalie into going to ground? If he does can you lift it over him and get it to dip into the net before it floats over the bar? Only the best players can pull that move off with confidence and in this case Costa blew it.
Then came the glory goal from van Persie. It looked like it was in slow motion in real time. A high floating cross ahead of him and between the two centre backs. On the edge of the area he had time to check out where Casillas was and then leapt like a salmon with super powers, with a two footed take off and head-lobbed the ball perfectly with power into the top of the net. It will go down in World Cup history as one of the best.
In complete contrast to the final 4 years ago, Holland took Spain on at football from the outset instead of trying to kick them out of the game and it worked. It makes you wonder what might have been back then. Apart from a 10 minute period late in the first half when they got a bit niggly and collected a flurry of bookings, they outplayed the World Champions.
In the second half they ran rings round them. Robben, Blind and van Persie were brilliant. Casillas made some brilliant saves but also embarrassed himself a couple of times. Holland could and probably should have had 7 or 8. Marvellous. Jumpers for goal posts. Four matches in and we haven’t had a bad game yet. I can’t remember such a good start to a World Cup. Let’s hope England can match it.
Saturday 14 June
As we all feared/expected, England lost their opening game. It’s one of the rare times I have felt OK about a defeat and I don’t seem to be alone. Pundits players and fans all seem to have had similar reactions. It was such an improvement on 2010. England gave it a good go, which is all we ever ask. There were good performances from some players, particularly the youngsters who were prepared to take people on.
Everybody could see that Wayne Rooney was like a fish out of water out on the left, despite his one decent cross for our goal. He didn’t have the fitness to cover the runs in behind him. Let’s hope Roy Hodgson saw it too and doesn’t become a stick in the mud about insisting he stays out there. I agree with the clarion calls to play Rooney in the middle in the next game and give him his head. It is the only way we will find if he truly is a world class player as opposed to a very good one.
I have always made it clear that he would not have been in my squad but I firmly believe that once you have included him, you must play him in his favourite position and support him as best you can. I hope Roy does so in the next game. If he does not perform and take his chances then replace him with a youngster for the last 20 minutes against Uruguay and put him on the bench for the Costa Rica game.
This is a watershed time for Rooney. His situation isn’t that unlike Messi’s vis-a-vis World Cups. Messi hasn’t really performed for Argentina at previous World Cups, so people say that although he is a great, to be considered the greatest, he needs to win this one. Rooney’s World Cup record is similarly disappointing. He may be at a level below Messi but what he does in the next match could make or break his worldwide reputation and affect his whole football future.
Sunday 15 June
Messi comes good in the second half against Bosnia and scores a wonder goal for Argentina. In the first half he looked a shadow of his normal self but seemed to get an injection of energy and pace at half time. It coincided with Argentina’s coach putting another striker on to support him. The change in him was astounding. So much so I hope he was selected for a drug test, not because I suspect foul play but because it would be nice in this cynical age to have such an improvement rubber stamped as pucker to shut up any whispers before they get started. There is still that horrible taste in the mouth that lingers from Maradona’s last appearance as a player at the World Cup.
Now that Messi has delivered, all of the great stars have done so already; Neymar, an Persie, Robben, Benzema and now Messi himself. So come on Roy, give Wayne the chance to join the club. Come on Wayne, take it.
Luck, Skill, Good Management
There have already been plenty of examples at this tournament of how you need luck to have success in football and particularly at the World Cup. England haven’t had any for many years, not since the Russian linesman really.
One of the things that has not drawn much comment despite the generally positive reaction to Saturday night’s game against Italy, is how lucky Italy were, as well as being good. Their reserve goalie made several top class saves. But he was beaten all ends up by Wayne’s shot that squirted the wrong side of the post. Sterling’s shot in the first couple of minutes was nearly in; it could have been so different.
Look at Brazil, Neymar was lucky not to be sent off before just before he scored for Brazil.
Look at France. A 3 goal win, yet Pogba should have been sent off by the letter of the law for flicking his foot out twice at Wilson Palacios. I am glad he wasn’t. It was petulant but harmless. Palacios deserved to go for his multiple assault on him in the first place and then for feigning injury afterwards. Poetic justice when he went for the penalty foul. France were also lucky not to pick up any serious injuries after the serial assaults by the Honduras thugs. However, if David Beckham had received the same sympathetic treatment as Pogba when he flicked his boot out in a similar situation against Simeone all those years ago, we would have probably beaten Argentina and gone on to win the World Cup.
Good management? The Argentinian coach recognising in game that Messi needed the extra support that preceded his massive improvement. Didier Deschamps’s substitutions which transformed France in the 2nd half against Honduras. We are now hoping that Roy proves to be similarly inspired in the next few games.
Back home meanwhile, David Bentley has announced his retirement at the tender age of 29. It’s a shame. Logan has covered his career comprehensively in his own article. Despite the fact that he has said he is comfortable with it he sounded emotional and very down in his telephone interview with Sky Sports and I think it was a mistake and a bit crass to broadcast it. I think someone needs to keep an eye on him and ensure he gets plenty of support to help him adjust. People have commented that he made plenty of money out of football and Spurs in particular for very little return, so he can afford to retire. Having said that, money isn’t everything and I wish him well for the future.