Sunday, 4 July 2010

World Cup Observations - Part 5: Quarter-Finals

So after singing his praises last time around, Luis Suarez gone from scoring sensation to public enemy numero uno throughout the world for his supposed act of cheating to deny what would have been Ghana's winning goal. Talk about jinxing the guy.

In truth, I'm not really sure I understand the whole furore surrounding the incident. Yes, we were all behind Ghana and wanted to see them through but let's not lose sight of the fact that the laws of the game were applied accordingly. Suarez broke the rules and was punished with a red card and one game suspension (thankfully common sense has prevailed and this has been upheld rather than extended). If Asamoah Gyan had just done what he did in the shoot out and bury the resulting penalty, we wouldn't even be sitting here talking about this now. Suarez is no more a 'cheat' than a player who wrongly tries to claim a corner or a throw in. I can't see why people are getting so bent out of shape demanding longer suspensions, rule changes and the like.

That said, I was discussing with a mate the idea of introducing a 'penalty goal' in such situations and I have to say, I'd actually very much be in favour. It was a certain goal and as we saw, the award of a penalty provides no such certainty. Given the circumstances and timing, it was heartbreaking for Ghana and you could see in the shootout, the life had been sapped from them completely when they should have been celebrating a semi-final place.


The at times peerless Lionel Messi is going home from South Africa without a goal and his tail between his legs following Argentina's exit from the tournament is which he was expected to emulate the fantastic achievements of El Diego 24 years earlier.

Young Leo is that most talented football player I have ever had the pleasure of seeing and I'm fairly sure there would be a number of others who would agree with me. The man has helped Barcelona conquer both La Liga and Europe in recent years, almost single-handedly destroying some of the world's best club sides with frightening ease in the process.

Yet for whatever reason, while not being totally terrible at the World Cup, he has failed to replicate his club form at international level. Although, as this tournament has shown, he's in good company.

Messi does have time on his side however. Should his powers not wane in the coming years, you’d think he has at least a couple more tournaments to strut his stuff.


Despite Messi's failure to light up this weekend's quarter final, another 20-something whose name begins M was able took centre stage. Off the back of making England look like some sort of pub team, Thomas Müller and his gang of German upstarts repeated the trick and handed the Argies their collective backsides on a plate with a ruthless, near perfect performance which was as impressive as any ever seen in the history of the competition.

I know such sentiment isn't supposed be uttered in 'In-ger-lund' I can’t help but love this German team. The old stereotypes of functional efficiency could be put to bed thanks in part to the potency of their brilliant counter-attacking style. If Brazil had played like that, we'd still be wiping the ejaculate off the walls.


Speaking of Brazil, Dunga has paid the price for sacrificing the ethos of flair in favour of a more conservative approach. The quarter final against the Dutch was supposed to be Samba vs Total Football. I think it's safe to say that neither team has been worthy of these respective descriptions in the tournament up until this point but while the Dutch seem happy to plod along simply being 'effective' the Brazilians expect much, much more.

In a proper 'game of two halves' Brazil were in cruise control for the first 45 minutes and could have been out of sight by half time. The second period was a different story as they were as bad as I've ever seen them. Mental Melo, who coolly provided the assist in the first half but then self-destructed as dramatically as a suicide bomber on a Baghdad bus, was a microcosm of the whole Brazil team in the match. A true case of the sublime to the ridiculous.

The Dutch deserved their win and could have made the final scoreline far more humiliating but for some truly woeful finishing.


Speaking of which, how utterly underwhelming have Spain been so far? Lot's and lot's pretty passing and possession football but about as capable of doing anything in the box as a blind eunuch. Arsene Wenger once allegedly claimed he wanted his Arsenal team to adopt the Spanish model for success. Anyone who has ever seen a match at the Emirates will already be used to frustrating profligacy and failure to regularly kill teams off so his team are already there.

The match against Paraguay was a dire, soul-destroying affair that the Spaniards barely scraped through despite Pedro and Villa's best efforts to miss the decisive winning goal. Torres was terrible yet again as Spain failed to fashion a clear cut goal scoring opportunity until very late in the game. Despite still being man-for-man the best team in the tournament, I very much doubt the rampant Germans will hold much fear at this point and will be eyeing revenge from the Euro 2008 final. Could the perennial under-achievers fail to deliver yet again in a World Cup?


The Spain v Paraguay match provided an insane few minutes where the referee Carlos Batres went out of his way to be as inconsistent as possible. Paraguay were awarded a penalty for a Pique's pull on Oscar Cardozo. Fair play to the ref for giving it but if there was any consistency, there would a bout 6 penalties given per match for the exact same offence. Cordozo missed and within seconds, David Villa was brought to ground by Antolin Alcaraz. As last man, why he wasn't sent off, only Batres can explain. Xabi Alonso buried the spot kick but the ref made him retake it as some players were deemed to be encroaching in the penalty area. Again, for the sake of consistency, every penalty would need to be retaken because every penalty you care to look at will have someone running into the area early. Alonso naturally missed the retake and Cesc Fabregas (who was probably encroaching) was taken out by Justo Villar in the Paraguay goal only for Batres to award a corner! All that happened in the space of about 3 minutes and it still somehow remained 0-0 afterwards.

My guess is that ref Batres was about as bored as the rest of us and upon realising he didn't have the luxury of simply switching the channel just wanted to spark the game into life. Well done that man!

Then the phenomenal David Villa scored his 33rd goal in 34 internationals to take the Spaniards through and but himself ahead of the rest in the race for the golden boot. Villa has also scored ALL bar one of Spain's goals in the tournament so far. Where would they be without him? At home, that's where!

I hate to say I told you so...

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