What a stunning match! Surely today’s Ghana-Uruguay quarter final must go down as one of the most thrilling and dramatic in football history. Uruguay prevailed on penalties after Ghana failed to pot a penalty kick with literally the last kick of extra time.
Outside of football, Uruguay is a quiet little place which is seldom heard from for other reasons. I am thrilled that Uruguay has made the semi-final of the World Cup for the first time since 1970, when they lost 2-1 to Brazil. Uruguay has such a great history in the game, and what an accomplishment for this small nation of 3 Million or so. Uruguay won the Olympic gold in 1924 and 1928 and the first World Cup in 1930, which it hosted. Uruguay stunned host Brazil by taking the World Cup again in 1950. After the 1970 tournament, Uruguay went into steep decline and it looked as though they would never be heard from again. They are back with a vengeance.
It is a beauty to behold their fine skills and toughness. Funny that the team is led by a brilliant little blonde fellow, Diego Forlan, who looks more like a fashion model than a footballer.
While they surely must fall in the semi-final due to cards and injuries, it is very satisfying to be able to see them play in the semi-final. I wish them all the best of luck going forward.
By beating Dunga’s Brazil 2-1 today, the Dutch not only scored a great victory for their country, but they also struck a blow for football. Dunga was never the man to coach Brazil. He is the most extreme exponent of the defensive, Europeanizing trend in Brazilian football. Dunga’s philosophy was to build his team on strength and defensive ability, rather than upon footballing flair and creativity. The result was a Brazil which was as dull as ditchwater to behold. This year’s Brazilian team was an insult to the great Brazilian teams of the past. The great Socrates called Dunga’s style “an offence to football”. It is time Brazil hired a coach who can release the creative essence of Brazilian football. Sure, the team needs to defend, but why pack the field with a bunch of mean-spirited oversize goons? Dunga built a team in his own image, but a team of Dungas cannot win the World Cup.
Dunga blew it today and was already losing his cool five minutes into the match. No wonder his team collapsed emotionally when they went down 2-1. Great teams do not lose their cool when the chips are down. Brazil panicked and started lashing out at Holland with reckless tackles. As soon as Holland scored their second, I predicted a Brazilian player would be sent off, and so it happened. It would have been better to have some players with intelligence and creativity rather than those thirsting for opponent’s blood.
Now that Dunga surely must go, perhaps the soul of Brazilian football can be brought back by a better manager.
Among the many apologies I owe to people for what I say on my blog I certainly owe a big one to Diego Maradona (although I am sure he could care less about what I say like my other readers!). When he was appointed coach of Argentina, I could scarcely believe my eyes and ears. Frankly, I thought the whole thing was a joke which could only play out in a place like Argentina, which has taken so many political and economic wrong turns in the last hundred years or so it makes one’s head spin.
Diego had been a disaster while he was still playing in his later career, and became more of a disaster when he stopped. Born to play football, Maradona could not cope with life when his brilliant playing career was over. Drug abuse overtook him completely. His excesses brought him to the brink of death, and he hit rock bottom in his life. People feverishly wrote obituaries and planned for his inevitable demise as a death watch was held outside of a hospital in Buenos Aires.
Amazingly he survived and began to rebuild himself, as, among other things, a talk-show host. He had a few unsuccessful stabs at coaching prior to taking on the Argentina job. It was a major risk to appoint him coach. So far, and to my amazement, the risk has paid off.
Not only is Argentina winning in this world Cup, but is doing so with style, pride and panache. Argentina are playing in the spirit of the Great Diego himself.
One of the suspenseful parts of watching Argentina is the fact that Diego still might collapse under pressure, to the point where the wheels could still come off of the whole project. This may happen against Germany in the Quarter final. Germany is playing magnificently. Argentina have yet to play an offensive powerhouse like Germany, and I suspect they are vulnerable at the back. Will Maradona collapse at the first sign of adversity? Will he keep his cool if Germany are up 1-0 with 20 minutes to go? Will he make the right player choices and substitutions? I can hardly wait to see!
I must say it is great to see that Maradona has returned and reinvented himself. He is Maradona at full throttle, and watching him strut up and down the sidelines has been one of the joys of this World Cup. It is great to see that he has found something to get passionate about, which has been missing since he stopped playing. One of the things that I love to watch about Argentina in this World Cup is that Diego has them playing attractive attacking football. No one plays with pride and panache like the Argentinians.
Welcome back Diego, and best of luck. I apologise.
I dream of an Argentina-Brazil final in which Maradona defeats Dunga!
I, like many other fans of England, will be crying myself to sleep tonight. I had always been an advocate of bringing Fabio Capello into the fold, and relished the prospects of what a truly great football manager with a proven winning record could to for us. England looked good on paper with a star-studded midfield including multi millionaires Steven Gerrard, Gareth Barry, and Frank Lampard, each of whom is earning something close to 100,000 pounds a week. It is looking like they are getting overpaid. Each one of them is still at the peak of their career, but each is about to make the inevitable downturn which will see their playing time decrease for their club teams. Of the three. Gerrard looked the most fit, but Barry looked positively out of shape, fat, and frankly, too old. All three looked slow compared to the Germans.
On Germany’s fourth goal, 29 year old Barry started 10 yards ahead of Ozil at the halfway line in a chase for the ball and ended up 20 yards behind him when 21 year old Ozil passed in front of the net for the goal. Frankly, it was laughable.
I don’t blame Rooney for not scoring, because Gerrard, Lampard and Barry were supposed to get him the ball but failed miserably in that task. Even the most brilliant striker will not score unless he gets service. Interestingly enough, when we look at the Goal against Slovenia, it was the younger Milner who got the ball to a young Defoe for the goal which allowed England to advance. If Rooney had some younger and faster midfielders to work with, he might have had a chance of scoring a few.
The sign that Capello had lost the plot was when he brought on late substitute Emile Heskey as his last ditch effort to save the situation. Talk about going from the frying pan to the fire. Heskey should never have been in the squad. He should have been dropped for the younger, faster Theo Walcott, whose speed could unbalance and terrify defenders. I hate to say it, but this is classic in terms of the history of English national teams selections: an older established player is conservatively chosen in favour of a younger more talented, (if inconsistent), younger player. In the World Cup, it is often the gamble which pays off. Walcott could have changed the game today; Heskey was never going to.
It has been said that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger brought about a revolution in English football when he changed the diet of English footballers from fried fish and chips and bangers and mash to healthier fare, but it looks like the English squad have gone back to their old ways. The team as a whole looked overweight. I am not sure if the players are lifting more weights in order to bulk up for the very physical english Premier League, but Germany’s players looked fitter, leaner, and faster than England. If you take a look at the age of todays German starting line-up with the age of England’s, you will see a stark contrast. I shudder to think how good Germany will be in 4 years with this generation of players. But where will England be in four years time?
One thing can be said from today: Germany is doing a better job of player development than England, producing young players who can play at the highest level sooner in their careers than young English players. While most young English players toil away in the Championship, overlooked while foreign players are brought in to the star-studded English Premier League, quality youngsters in Germany play in the Bundesliga 1.