Allons enfants de la Patrie!

The 2018 World Cup, far more enjoyable than folks were expecting, was similar to a three-course meal that you spoiled by eating too much of the excellent starter (the Group Stage), leading you to a less spectacular but occasionally tasty main meal (knock-out stage), but a decent enough dessert to end the evening.  Without wishing to stretch the metaphor any further, the best team won despite the dubious nature of their first two goals, in a game where both sides stuck to the guns that had seen them reach the final.  Continue reading “Allons enfants de la Patrie!”

Back home

A disappointing Spain flies back home

It took me a while to digest Sunday’s defeat. Not only because I felt optimistic about the match and the squad, but especially because I liked the line-up and thought it sent the right message to the team and the rival.

However, it didn’t work. In fact, the match became the continuation of the downward spiral Spain’s game got into after the tournament started. Each match was a bit worse than the previous one in terms of energy, risks taken, errors committed. Making a simple extrapolation, the tournament was bound to end badly. Continue reading “Back home”

Did I not enjoy that!

As Graham Taylor might have said (had his sympathies been directed towards Spain) ‘Did I not enjoy that!’  The Russians stride on, unconcerned about the nature of their victory, since victory it is.  Perhaps Spain hadn’t quite seen it coming – in the sense that Russia, playing in front of the home crowd with a tail wind – might have been expected to have played a slightly more open game.  Fair cop to them, of course, but half-way through the first half their supporters showed a certain lack of irony when booing the Spanish team for retaining possession of the ball.  As the Spanish saying goes ‘¿Qué remedio?’ (what else could we do?), and in the second half it only got worse, with Russia completely renouncing any thoughts of more than two consecutive passes. Continue reading “Did I not enjoy that!”

The night Saint Petersburg became Buenos Aires

Argentina defeat Nigeria and a few of their own ghosts

“Vení, vení, cantá conmigo” (Come, come, sing with me), starts the most repeated chant in Saint Petersburg during the last couple of days. The Argentines, present in every corner of the city, spent hours humming, whistling and very often singing the short, catchy tune off the top of their lungs, almost as a good luck charm that should make Lionel Messi and his teammates click in their do-or-die match against Nigeria. Continue reading “The night Saint Petersburg became Buenos Aires”

Top of the group, thank VAR

Spain struggle to draw with Morocco. Fresh ideas & legs are badly needed

The fact that Spain managed to qualify to the knockout stages of this World Cup in the first spot of their group defies all logic. Yes, they’re undefeated. Yes, they’ve scored six goals in three matches. Yes, they dominated proceedings for most of the games against their three rivals. But all those facts fail to tell the story of an embarrassing defence – both in open play and in set pieces –, and of an endless succession of touches without much intent to score, easily dealt with by their opponents. The way Spain have played, especially in the last two matches, does not look promising for the outcome of this World Cup. Continue reading “Top of the group, thank VAR”

Of buses and bunkers

The last time I was in Tehran there were some taxi-bus vehicles that were called ‘Ayans’, if I recall correctly.  That’s what Iran parked on Wednesday night. They parked the Ayans, with so little shame that not even a forward was left up front.  Eleven behind the ball, and to think that when Carlos Queiroz, the coach with the looks of a long-faded porn star was signed for Real Madrid, he was considered to be one of the children of the new coaching dawn.  Bring on the night. Vicente del Bosque made way for him, because poor old Vicente, good coach though he was, could never have been a porn star, except in some parallel universe. Continue reading “Of buses and bunkers”

Spain: wax and wane

Well that was interesting, to employ that over-used English adjective. But you have to wonder about Nacho, a player who has spent the last 7 years on the training ground with Ronaldo, trying to work out how to nullify his attempts at the step-over.  And then it happens – the World Cup, fourth minute, and your mate is bearing down on you, in an unusually coloured red shirt. He does the step-over that you expect, but you fall for the trick, hook line and sinker.  Not only that, but you let your mate (CR7) make contact with you, and not the other way around.  Penalty, and suddenly Spain’s rather wet week is looking like it might just get diluvial.

Foul
Training-ground mates get serious

Continue reading “Spain: wax and wane”