And just like that we’re reached the final stages of the competition. I’ve loved it so far, it’s been my favourite World Cup since Italia 90, which was also my first. Before I preview the four quarter-finals, I’ve decided to indulge myself with a few thoughts relating to the competition. Why? Because it’s my blog and that’s that.
Contrary to popular belief, one of the remaining eight teams will win the tournament
You know what I’m getting at, right? You’ve heard it at work, you’ve heard it from the people you live with and most often you’ve heard it from those insipid blowhard pundits on the telly – ‘none of these teams impress me’, ‘they’ll need to improve’, ‘I’m not convinced’, etc, etc. It’s been applied to every last team. Not only is it completely inaccurate, it’s mind numbing. I suspect that when it comes to the English TV pundits a lot of it has to do with the disappointment that ‘Team England’ (vomits) were so dismal that they couldn’t even manage to put themselves in even notional (read delusional) contention in one of the most open tournaments in living memory.
There have already been more goals scored at this World Cup, with eight games to go, than there were in the entirety of the tournament in South Africa. Nearly all the games have been up in the air, often until late on. Even the dullest second round matches, like Argentina versus Switzerland, eventually produced drama. Stop complaining, the quality’s there, there’s just greater parity now. Defences are more sophisticated than ever and players are fitter than ever. It’s harder for teams to dominate, especially when you factor in the conditions.
One of these teams will have to be the fittest, so get over it.
The punditry and commentary has been more woeful than even I first feared
I’ll confess I’ve watched the entirety of this World Cup on mute. I learned of all the following transgressions after the fact. Thankfully.
Let’s start with the worst first – Mark Lawrenson. We already knew him to be an arch cunt and an insufferable twat with the charisma of a OAP’s colostomy bag. Tell you what Mark, if you hate watching football so much, why not fuck off as so many ex-footballers do and buy a themed pub with signed pictures of yourself on the wall? Sitting behind the bar offers you the kind of pulpit and audience where your incessantly humourless, grumpy because my prostate’s acting up, permanently condescending pessimism will go over more favourably. Instead you’re infecting this World Cup with your not so casual chauvinism and that fucking awful snively whiny Prestionian accent. So yeah, just to repeat, fuck off Lawro.
By now you’ll have seen Glenn Hoddle refer to Algeria as Al Jazeera. An instant classic. Hard lines Glenn, perhaps in the next life you’ll get the pronunciation right, but as recompense you’ll be in a wheelchair.
Other belters include Fabio Cannavaro’s fixed grin. He’s always sitting closest to Adrian Chiles. I hope he’s getting paid the most money. Either that or he’s not sure what Chiles is on about. I hope for the sake of his sanity it’s the latter. Chiles has chattered away like someone permanently jacked up on a mixture of poppers and caffeine. Also, the producer that allowed/encouraged him to wear shorts needs to be sacked, the games are on at tea time. So inconsiderate.
And last but not least we have the self appointed guardian of morality, even though he got caught drink driving, and shit Countdowner Clarke Carlisle, who somehow, in his wisdom, came to believe that Jackson Martinez should’ve been starting for Ecuador in their first group game. Jackson Martinez is of course Colombian. Mind you, it’s an easy mistake to make I reckon, as both Ecuador and Colombia have similar kits, and they both come from the same region of the same continent. A European equivalent would be confusing Belgium with Switzerland. Muppet.
Or maybe it wasn’t all bad & a few more thoughts on Luis Suarez
Courtesy of Gordon Strachan. This is bang on the money:
I’ve had my say on Luis Suarez and the fallout already, but I’ll add that the faux moralising from the media and FIFA is completely redundant, hypocritical and myopic when the media hack phones, brand innocent people as murderers, publish lies and perpetually attack the weak. In FIFA’s case they accept bribes to allow the World Cup to be hosted in a country that has a shady human rights record, where homosexuality is banned, where you really wouldn’t want to be female, and the infrastructure of the tournament is likely to be built by slaves living in tin huts earning a fraction of the western minimum wage, and they’d be the lucky ones.
Why does biting carry a heavier penalty than punching or dangerous tackling, which are more likely to cause bodily harm? In a vacuum it seems ridiculous, but the answer is obvious, biting is seen as such a primal feral action, the thought of us doing it seems so foreign, so to appear civilised we must distance ourselves from it. Punching someone is seen as a common, albeit violent, reaction. As such we’re far more likely to understand and accept it. And that’s the irony of it all, everyone jumped on the bandwagon double quick to condemn Suarez, when attempting to understand his impulses and complexes would be far more interesting. Sadly people are fucking stupid.
The inconsistent treatment of violent ‘play’ or ‘misconduct’ just sums up the stupidity of the whole thing, as does the actions of Luis Suarez during and after his altercation with Chiellini.
I’m convinced the whole episode has made humanity 3.8% stupider. It’s also completely tiresome, so let’s accentuate the positive and move on to the footie.
Here’s my take on the quarter-finals, I’ll also add a prediction of the score of each match at the end, because I did so well with my pre tournament predictions. :sarcasticrolleyesemoticon:
In the spirit of fairness I’m not counting the England one as a success. That was the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, too easy.
Brazil versus Colombia
Probably not what the hosts wanted after that second round ordeal, another street fight with a familiar South American foe.
Colombia are different to Chile however, they have more pace and guile but are far less robust than Chile, with their manic frenzied style. It’s sad that Chile had to go out. I’ve seen very few sides play like they did, like their lives depended on it, literally. I’m half expecting to hear of the squad receiving state executions on the team’s return to Santiago. Just as well Pinochet’s dead.
In all seriousness their style of play is what cost Chile, keeping that intensity up for seven matches over four weeks in a tropical and sub-tropical climate isn’t feasible.
Things have picked up for Brazil since Scolari finally ceased dabbling in chaos theory. That experiment being the first side to try to win the World Cup playing every match with ten men. Poor Paulinho, he was so woefully out of his depth, so inept, so devoid of use in defence and attack that Cameroon’s midfielders, who may or may not have been trying, looked better than him. Unlike Paulinho, Fernandinho’s prepared to accept the ball under pressure with his back to goal, this gives Brazil a genuine chance of maintaining controlled possession and it furnishes Neymar with more time and space to damage the opposition, therefore it’s improved Brazil’s odds of winning the tournament exponentially.
It suits Brazil that Colombia are weakest in central midfield, where they feature two hatchet men.
So to counter act this, will Colombia play with two up front, or will they give James Rodriguez, who, alongside Neymar, is the young star of this tournament, central billing in the number ten role?
It goes without saying that Neymar will be afforded this by Scolari, can Colombia contain him? Put it this way, I think it’s far more likely Brazil contains James than Colombia contains Neymar…just.
Prediction: Brazil 2 – Colombia 1
The Netherlands versus Costa Rica
Well the surprise package has turned out to be Costa Rica, not even they would’ve picked themselves to be it. What a fantastic story. The cynics will point to the poverty of the Italian and English performances being the deciding factor, and a favourable second round match-up against shitty Greece. But that’s shite, they deserved to play Greece due to winning their group. Even if it took penalties to beat them, they deserve not to be underestimated.
As for the Dutch their performance to date is sadly reminiscent of their functional run to the final four years ago. Don’t be fooled by their goal output in the group stages. This Dutch side doesn’t play good football. They do however have Arjen Robben, who alongside Lionel Messi, who I daftly predicted wouldn’t perform as well as many expected, has been the best player in the tournament. Robben’s been helped by being given a free role in attack, and it’s paid off, as the Dutch have functioned best while playing on the counter attack largely thanks to him. It was telling how clueless they looked chasing the game against a packed Mexican defence. They spent the last fifteen minutes hoofing the ball aimlessly, only for a poorly defended corner and an embellishment by Robben and a subsequent weak piece of refereeing to see them through.
On that point, stop moaning about cheating. As Gordy says there’s no morals in football, when someone dives and it benefits your team you say fuck all, yet you whine when it goes against you. As Luke Haines rightly observed ‘life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it’.
I believe at some point the Dutch will pay for having a team which prominently features Dirk Kuyt, whose transformation into hospital pass playing wing/full-back is now complete, and the laughably sluggish and thuggish Ron Vlaar. Their other two centre backs and the keeper don’t look too clever either, but they haven’t faced a side that’s been good enough to continuously exploit those weaknesses, choosing to play narrow and deep helps too, so credit to Van Gaal for that. Will Costa Rica be able to get at them? Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell have caused problems for everyone else they’ve faced so far, so why not here too?
Still, I’m rolling with Robben. If anyone’s going to be the difference it’ll be him.
Prediction: Netherlands 3 – Costa Rica 1
Argentina versus Belgium
Consider me telt. Lionel Messi has been fantastic, which is just as well, because the rest of this Argentina side hasn’t been, and that was always going to be their downfall.
It was always going to be tough for Messi, nobody else in this side is on his wavelength. None of his teammates have any idea how to create space and or give him the ball in optimum positions. It must be exasperating for him. Di Maria has his strengths, but he often gets tunnel vision and he’s not the sort of player you want out there if you’re protecting a lead of any kind. He plays as if he’s still on the street or playing Futsal and there are no stakes whatsoever. Higuain and Lavezzi have both been poor and Aguero may not be seen again due to injury.
Can they win this tournament with a midfield comprising of Gago, who is average, and I’m being kind, and Mascherano, who cuts a pale imitation of the player he was at Liverpool? And this defence, which, at times, looks too slow?
I think they can. Beat Belgium, and they’re into a semi final, likely against a beatable Dutch side. That’s two more wins, Messi can deliver that.
The but is this – they’re still alive, thanks, it has to be said, to a combination of Messi and an easy group. That win over Switzerland in the last round was a real struggle. It’s been one of the themes of the tournament thus far, the better teams struggling to break down the mediocre but well organised sides.
Belgium’s route has been similar. Crap group, the worst, easily, iffy individual performances and unconvincing wins against weaker opponents. Their defending against the United States in extra time was bordering on Benny Hill.
So I expect Belgium to play the role of pragmatist in this one, utilising another central midfielder, possibly Moussa Dembele, likely at the expense of De Bruyne, to clog the u-bend, a region in which Messi is Mr Muscle. That means we could bear witness to the leaden footed Fellaini trying to help contain Messi. It should be the comedy highlight not just of this World Cup but of the year.
Belgium can win this if Lukaku or Origi (whoever starts up front), Hazard and Mertens can isolate the Argentinean defenders on the counter attack on enough occasions. Romero, the Argentinean goalie is as a dodgy as they come, so expect a shoot on sight policy.
What’s that saying, once bitten, twice shy? That’s me with Messi, I’m taking the wee magician.
I also have a completely irrelevant and entirely irrational reason for picking Argentina: the Belgian coach is an annoying cunt, a serial real arm waving no necked, Mafioso suit wearing spaz who acts like petulant child every time a decision goes against his side. Has nobody from the Belgian FA, one of his assistants or even one of his mates pointed this out to him? Perhaps they think it’s alright. It wouldn’t surprise me. Jacques Brel aside they’re a weird bunch. I once saw an episode of Eurotrash, with a segment focusing on why the Belgians like to eat Beavers. And no, ‘eating Beavers’ wasn’t applied euphemistically before you ask, they actually eat fucking Beavers, the large rodents that perpetually dwell in water and shit. Get them and their mutant toilet headed, fifteen fouls a fucking game eyesore “linchpin” (LOL) the fuck out of this tournament already.*
*The vindictive tone has a purpose, I want my petty prediction of them failing to live up to the daft expectations bestowed on them by impressionable/clueless morons to come to fruition, and while we’re at it, here’s another:
Prediction: Argentina 2 – Belgium 0
France versus Germany
It’s a shame for Germany that Marco Reus got injured before the tournament, this German side is badly missing him. The drop off in quality and effectiveness between him and the Gotze and Schurrle shit sandwich is significant.
Their other problems to date are largely self inflicted. Like playing centre backs at full back, something I loathe. I have no problem with Phillip Lahm playing as the anchor man in midfield, he’s very good at it, but if you’re not prepared to play Erik Durm, a left back, over Howedes, a centre back, at left back, why even include him in the squad?
As for this French side I picked them to reach the semi-finals, but they leave me cold. They got landed in the second worst group, the worst being the putrid group H. There’s no Pires, Zidane or Henry in this bunch. It’s a functional side that plays decent football, no more, no less. They’re actually an accurate representation of how their manager Didier Deschamps used to play; hard work, humility married with decent ability. The German’s like to play a high line so expect to see the counter attack slowing Giroud dropped with Benzema restored as the focal point of the attack. That means Griezmann will start, and that improves France’s chances of creating something.
Germany’s coach Jogi (what a great nickname) Low continues to insist on doing a mediocre impersonation of the all conquering Spanish side of 2008 to 2012. By packing the midfield and dominating the ball. Compared to France Germany has the superior technical ability in midfield, and I expect them to have most of the ball and for France to let them. Due to Gotze, Podolski and Schurrle failing to perform, Ozil and Muller have been put under immense pressure to carry the creative and goalscoring burden so far. I just wonder if Miroslav Klose might get the call from the start? It would liberate Thomas Muller from the thankless duties of a centre forward, while still affording him the attacking scope to do what he does best, use his innate ability to find space and exploit it.
Both of these sides can be exploited defensively, but will we get that kind of game, say like the brilliant group game between Germany and Ghana, or will we get a cagey match, with both teams playing three in midfield? I suspect we’ll get the latter.
I keep changing my mind about this one, and I probably will again, but at this moment I’m leaning this way –
Prediction: Germany 1 – France 0
Above all let’s hope we get some exciting games, and goals, and no botch jobs by the refs. I might do a semi-final preview, if I can be bothered that is. Enjoy your weekend everyone. Peace out.