luni, 2 iulie 2018

Shoot out

Russia - Spain 1-1 (4-3 penalties)
Croatia - Denmark 1-1 (3-2 penalties)

'Shock' was the most common word I've seen used to describe Russia's elimination of Spain, and it leaves me baffled. Russia had two very good games, scoring 8 and conceding one, looked like a vary in-form team and came to a pitch they know well with a full and vocal backing of the whole stadium and the country behind it. Yes, they lost to a very good Uruguayan team a game that didn't matter. But Spain was completely unconvincing after being dominated by Portugal, squeezing out a rather undeserved win against Iran and incapable of beating Morocco, in front of who they've fallen behind twice. Most pundits and onlookers are probably still talking about the Spanish team that won a World Cup and two European Championships in quick succession. But the last of those was six years ago and that team is long gone, and the Iniesta you see now is far from the Iniesta of 2010. Instead, what's left is a team of valuable under-achievers still trying to play according to a method that was never efficient, passing the ball on the width of the pitch but without the pace, velocity or efficiency of the team that had 80 percent possession against Germany in the semifinal 8 years ago. When you think Spain, think the days of Butragueno and Zubizareta rather than Xavi and Puyol. A lot more accurate.

Yes, of course they dominated Russia, but they needed a very awkward own goal to open scoring and they looked confused and without a plan once Russia equalized. It was a penalty on Pique's high above the head hand and no, it was not a penalty in the 115th minute for Spain, the tackle was very much on the ball. The Putin VAR jokes are funny, but completely missing the mark. 

The Croatia game was a lot more surprising to me. I called Croatia to win in 90 minutes, and I'm very surprised they didn't. Potentially the Croatians under-estimated their opposition?

When you score a goal in the first few minutes of a game, most of the time luck is involved, and luck was fully involved in the Danes scoring just before the first minute of play was up. But greatness often becomes evident in adversity, and it took the Croatians just 3 minutes to pull level. From then on it was more or less one direction, with just Ericksen missing a half-chance for Denmark towards the end of the 90 minutes. I really like a good few of the danish players, and I believe they have a fair amount of talent in their squad, but as a team they're not working. They were poor in the group stage and when the keeper is your best man you usually have a problem. I feel for Schmeichel, of course I do, and of course this is on account of his father, 'cause I see no reason to care about a blonde prick who played for City and Leicester otherwise, but it's way to little to warrant Denmark a pass against a very good team. Croatia's attacking talent is downright scary, and if anything in this game was a steal, I feel that was Modric missing the penalty in extra time. poor shot, but it shows the experience of the Madrid midfielder that he was able to keep cool-blooded and composted enough to score in the shootout. A very spectacular shootout otherwise (both of them have been spectacular), but it should've never gotten that far. Credit to Schmeichel for a very good game, but the better team won. I can see Croatia reaching the final.

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