sâmbătă, 16 iunie 2018

That boy Ronaldo

Egypt - Uruguay 0-1 (Gimenez '89)
Morocco - Iran 0-1 (Bouhadduz og '90)
Portugal Spain 3-3 (Ronaldo pen '4 '44 '88 - Diego Costa '24 '55, Fernandez '58)

Luckily enough we didn't have to wait too long to see good football, despite the first game of the day throwing that promise into long grass, so to speak. A lot of people speak highly of Uruguay and, while I do believe they have the potential to come out of the group (meaning, they are better than both Egypt and Saudi Arabia), they're going to struggle after. And I think Oscar Tavarez knows this, and by the look of the game today I think he's still working on the team and playing the waiting game.

Today the team looked extremely disjointed, with a very good defensive line and a scary attack (Cavani and Suarez), but not much in-between, bar Diego Godin's angry pushes forward. The frst half was surprisingly balanced and Egypt looked like they might just do the business even without Mo Salah. Second half told a different story, with the South Americans getting more and more courageous as time wore on. In the last 20 minutes or so we could clearly see the wing-backs pushing forward more and more and even though it would've made for a more interesting group, it would have been a shame for Uruguay not to win. I'm glad Suarez missed a sitter because, although I'm very sympathetic to Uruguay, I don't hold much love for Suarez. Cavani's shot in the side post was absolutely spectacular and would've probably made for a better game should it have gone it. It's nice, in a way, that a defender scored, because it goes to show that a team is more than its stars and that all 11 people in the team have to get involved at both ends of the pitch.

Somewhat surprising the absence of Mo Salah from the team, but even if he would've been present I doubt much would have changed. Cuper might do his best, but there's very little material in the Egyptian team to warrant their presence at the World Cup. At least judging by the display today.


Morocco - Iran is one of the least spectacular fixtures of the tournament and the game confirmed it. I have only seen bits of it, and Morocco seemed to be playing better while Iran didn't really seem to be playing at all. I thought Morocco was going to snatch it in the end, which would have encouraged them to hope for qualification, specially if Portugal - Spain would've provided a loser. As fortunes have it though, it was not to be. Scoring an own goal in the last minute of the game must be a horrible feeling, specially that Bouhadduz wasn't under too much pressure from the attacker. But such a mistake also reveals a lack of experience and a lack of game maturity which can indeed be seen every now and then even at this level of the competition but which spells an early plane ticket. Iran was very poor and unless something changes dramatically, they won't get any more points in this tournament, specially with the Iberian draw meaning group winner will probably be decided on number of goals scored.

Not to worry Dave - you won't have to see this
fucker every day in the dressing room
But beyond the economy of the group, Portugal - Spain should just be enjoyed as a beautiful game of football. I didn't expect it, and I don't have much sympathy for either team (I'm ok with Portugal, were it not for that one betrayal a decade ago), but this is the type of game that makes people fall in love with the sport. Between Penaldo, Barcelona's School of Drama and Injury Feigning and Madrid's Supermodels and Leg-breaking Academy, it's fair to say these are not the most fair-play teams one would encounter, and this has also been abundantly on display today. But there's some skills slipping between the hair gel and referee insults, and that's what we should concentrate on.

Of course it wasn't a penalty on Ronaldo's first goal, he forced the contact and he forced the fall, but the ref had a brief moment of excitement. Sure, would he not have given a penalty, Ronaldo would have given him a lesson in refereeing, as he had tried on all the occasion when the Lusitan primadonna didn't feel like running and would ask for a yellow card for the opponents instead, as was the case for the last goal.

Trouble is, he does know how to hit a ball. Laugh at De Gea all you want, but that shot for the second goal was a hard one to keep out, probably impossible to catch. The spin on the ball for the equalizing free kick was also incredible. As for the penalty, well, they don't call him Penaldo for nothing. 

Spain looked more of a team, though it was everyone's favorite villain who shone. Diego Costa is strong and can bully a defense every day of the week, but he's also quick, skilled, has a great shot and senses the goal like very few others. Both his goals have been great in different ways, though none greater than Fernandez's shot for the third Spanish goal. Spain might feel they've been a bit done-by, penalty and all, and Isco's shot was unlucky not to go in, but again, it's fair for the teams to have shared the points. I doubt either Morocco and even less so Iran can get any point from these two teams, but both will feel motivated to have a go, while Spain and Portugal now will be racing for goal difference, and with Ronaldo already scoring a hat-trick, he'll start thinking about the golden boot and other individual accolades, and hopefully this will keep hi motivated to stay in the games.

Therefore, while the group table if pretty much sorted, chances are we'll see some more good football in Group B.

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