WC2014 Spain 0 – 2 Chile

World stunned as Spain's football king announces his abdication

World stunned as Spain’s football king announces his abdication

The Reign Of Spain Ends Mainly With Great Pain

“Mes Hombres,” began the tearful announcement, “it is over.” So spoke Spain’s once and former king as behind him legions of distraught workmen began the three day clearout of Iker Casillias’ trophy cabinet. Two European Championships, one World Cup, A World Youth Championship and six years of world domination had failed to slake his thirst. Like all great men he believed he was immortal. And like all great men he was mistaken.


WC2014 Chile 3 – 1 Oztralia

Some chap unrelated to either Chile or the Land of Oz pokes his nose in.

Some chap unrelated to either Chile or the Land of Oz pokes his nose in.

After The Lord Mayor’s Show

After the fabulous goalfest that was Spain vs Holland, this felt a lot like a let down. Still it wasn’t a bad match and it gave everyone good match practice for staying up to watch tomorrow’s Engerland Italy showdown.  Chile will be happy with the win, but will wonder where their gameplan went after their second goal, while Oz will be rightly proud of their fightback but will feel they really should have got something (other than pride) out of the game.


What We Learned From Brazil vs Chile (3-0)

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (But Not Mad Enough)

So the fantastically deranged maddest side in the World Cup take on the most successful, most assured, most bloody excellent footballing nation in the world. And for the first half hour they held their own. Only Chile don’t know how to hold, they don’t know how to defend, they barely know how to midfield. No, all that Chile know is how to attack. So that is what they did. I guess some wars were like this, wave after wave of devoted patriotic fighters launching themselves at the enemy with no thought of their own safety. Sadly the Brazilians have no sense of romance for things like this (plenty for all sorts of other things, but not this).

The Brazilians are like a seabreak, their defence extends from the halfway line and the wave upon wave of Chilean attacks ended up broken and diffused. They simply could not make any headway beyond the 18 yard line. No matter how mad the attack, how ambitious the movement, there was nothing they could do.

And then the Brazilians came. Last year in the Confederations Cup Brazil surprised everyone. Not because they won it, but because of the way they won it. Lots of set pieces, corners mainly. Headers. Not the sort of thing you normally associate with Brazil and the beautiful game, but somehow quite enticing. Anyway, they did it again. Juan scored from a corner, a  nice, well timed header. And then it was game on.

Because Dunga’s side don’t just embody the old skool Brazil, they epitomise the very best of the Mourinho Discipline. The tightest of defences, well not the tightest of defences, because they’ve conceded two goals, one of them to the North Koreans, the North Koreans eh, remember when we thought they might actually be worth a damn? Seems like a thousand years ago, but it was actually only last Tuesday week. But, in any case they run a pretty bloody tight defence. Tight enough that the mad, mad, mad, mad Chileans couldn’t get through it.

And as the Chileans tried, so the Brazillians just had to get back at them and started playing some neat football. Not so neat that you’d call it crazy samba football or anything, but neat nonetheless. Sort of Inter on a very, very good day. Nice.  But not that nice. That is coming later.

54 Down 10 To Go 10 Teams Remaining

Extra Extra What About Them Second Rounds Then

Group Of Ease

Yeah, so one of Uruguay, South Korea, USA or Ghana is going to a World Cup semi-final. And, let’s face it, that should have been Engerland not USA in that list. Out of these I give the Koreans little or no chance, for while they have a great team with a couple of decent players, they’re up against Uruguay, who have the excellent Diego Forlorn, who seems to be one of the very few players not to have been overwhelmed by the scale of the World Cup and has actually seized control of and dominated games. I see Uruguay going right the way through to the semi. USA have a great team with a never say die attitude, but attitude aside all they really have to offer is Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey and I’m not convinced. Ghana are a great strong passing side, who haven’t managed to score goals other than penalties so far. You can see them riding the wave of African euphoria, but they’re going to have trouble when they come up against a quality side.

Group Of Death

Forget any previous pussy, lame Groups of Death, this is the real thing. Germany, Engerland, Argentina and, well there’s always one, Mexico. For Engerland to get to the semis, we’re going to have to beat both the Germans and the Argies. If we get that far life will be very sweet indeed and we’ll probably only have to beat Spain and Brazil to win the big lump of gold. So no pressure there boys. If we want to win it, we’re going to have to do it the hard way. Heart says we go through and win, rational analysis says it’ll be the bloody Argies (again).

Group Of Football

With both Holland and Brazil, this should be a group of total football. Holland, I suspect have been playing a very cagey game and not really over-exerting themselves. Straight wins throughout their First Round matches means that they haven’t really been tested yet and I don’t see the conquerors of Italy, Slovakia, giving them any trouble at all. I think the Dutch will open with their wingmen and then we’ll see some football. Brazil and Chile should play off a great South American cup tie, but given Chile’s attack only policy and Brazil’s excellent defence I see Brazil wiping the floor with Chile’s poor quality defending. Brazil v Holland will be a cracking quarter final, which will provide Brazil with a really serious test, but this Brazil side is pretty formidable and, like the Dutch, just beginning to find their form. I see this as Brazil’s group.

Group Of Unexpected

Ideally, Spain and Chile should have switched groups, but they didn’t so this group has the Tweedledumb and Tweedledumberer match up of Spain and Portugal, in some ways it hardly matters which one of them comes through. Spain will have a tough game, they seem to have lost their way mentally and don’t know which direction to go in. Now true World Cup Champions always undergo some kind of transformation during the tournament, but the transformation Spain are undergoing is tortuous. Will they sacrifice the beautiful game that got them here for a pragmatic hoof and wingplay game we saw them trying before Chile gifted them the game? Portugal will be a hard test, they have a rock solid defence and are really hard to play against and when they’re in flow as they were against North Korea, they can’t half knock in the goals. I see Portugal going through. Paraguay and Japan will be a fantastic, open game, the Japanese will not give in and Paraguay are a decent team. This match should be a cracker and I see Portugal going out of this group.

The Semis

I see these being

Uruguay vs Engerland

Brazil vs Portugal

Can’t help being optimistic eh?

What We Learned From Group H Eliminators

Suicide Is Painless – Spain 2 – 1 Chile

Suicide may be painless, but as the Theme From M*A*S*H so accurately states, it brings on many changes, none more so than the act of suicidal madness that led to the first Spanish goal. Spain were being soundly humiliated by a Chile side that just hasn’t got a clue what ‘careful defending’ means, so much so that you just couldn’t believe this was the same ‘tikki-takka’ loving possession-hogging  Spanish team that had gone nearly a million football years without losing and is currently European Champion. They seemed totally screwed, neither sticking to their pretty passing, nor going for a more varied mix-it-up strategy, almost as if they had had some kind of psychotic incident following their loss to the Swiss which caused them to undergo a total  personality change. Up to the point which we will in keeping with the best traditions of spoiler avoidance simply refer to as the ‘unfortunate incident’, the Spanish had no chance of surviving this match and every chance of joining France and Italy in Economy Class.

Now I’ve rightly slated the ITV coverage of this tournament, but one prescient comment in this match stands out. Summeriser Chris Coleman, not usually one to make intelligent observation, referred to Chilean goalie Claudio Bravo as “a bit of a risk, you never know what you’re going to get”. No sooner had he said it than Bravo inexplicably sprinted out of his goal to try and cut off what looked like a classic ‘hoof and bope’ attempt from Pique. Although he made the ball before Torres and the defender chasing him, he failed in that most vital of defensive tasks, namely hitting the ball into Row Z. Instead the ball landed in front of David Villa, who was prowling around the centre line and presented him with a totally empty net to aim at. Now I’m sure it took a fair amount of skill to trap the ball and then lob it into the net, but it did look like one of those goals that even you could have scored. 1 – 0 and the Spanish basically hadn’t even got out of bed.

It illustrates everything that is great and exasperating about Chile. In the same way that Switzerland only know how to defend, Chile only know how to attack. Their 3 – 1 – 3 – 3 formation is really flexible, when they’re in attack they leave 3 at the back, but as soon as they lose possession one of the midfield players drops back into defence, but it is essentially set up to attack. And once they were a goal down, their defensive inadequacy came to the fore as they started to incorporate a policy of ‘hack and slay’ on the Spanish, picking up a load of bookings and one sending off. After that it was essentially game over.

The Spanish still haven’t overcome their psychological  torment, even though they were tippy-tapping it around at the end. They still look completely unsure of what they want to do in a footballing philosophy sense. And while it’s great that Switzerland didn’t get through, it’s a shame Chile weren’t the Group winners, if only because Spain’s win sets up an all-South American clash between Brazil and Chile and an all-European clash between Spain and Portugal. It would have been much more interesting to see two ties between Europe and South America really.

All We Are Saying Is Give Us A Goal – Switzerland 0 – 0 Honduras

So well done to Switzerland, you continued your wholly average run through the last two World Cups, drawing every match and barely scoring any goals. And remain comfortably the least interesting international football team in the world. All you had to do was score and you just couldn’t do it. Even your goal against Spain was more of a happy accident than an attempt on goal. And jolly well done happy Honduras, comfortably the worst and least interesting team to watch (and that’s saying something). You never felt they were capable of adding anything to the tournament.

So Bye-Bye Switzerland And Honduras

48 Down 16 To Go 16 Teams Remaining

Extra Extra What We Learned At The Halfway Point

The Competition Has Kicked Off

Yes, the Second Round of Group matches were certainly better than the First Round. Most teams understood that they couldn’t simply defend all the time and play for a draw, even the Swiss, whose adoption of an almost ‘Neutral Country’ option has seen them regularly top both the Haven’t Conceded and the Haven’t Scored tables, realised that at some point they’d have to come out and have a shot, although to be fair they did have something that vaguely resembled a shot in the First Round and it paid off handsomely. The games got faster and more meaningful as we saw Matches That Mattered and teams realised that there was a very real danger of their World Cup ending later this week.

The Goals Are Coming

As teams threw off the shackles of defensive cowardice and started attacking we began to see more goals. Few teams were content to sit on a one goal lead and continued to press their opponents. Some goals were even good, although few of them were up to the Tshabalala standard. However, I distinctly remember exclaiming, “What a goal” more than once during Round 2.

The Cheating Has Started

Grab and Dive, with or without pirouette, is the order of the day. Compulsive penalty box wrestling at every set piece. Not that much deliberate diving, but plenty of subtle blocking and writhing around. All in an attempt to cheat your way to a free kick or some colour of card for the opposition, or both. Not good. I think if it continues, we will see some kind of tv replay system introduced on the fly, if only because the whole world is watching.

Lots of Empty Seats

Now that it’s getting serious I suspect we won’t be seeing too many empty stadiums, but I’d lay money that there will be empty seats at the Uruguay Mexico match, where both teams need only to draw to go through (0 – 0 anyone?). However, too many venues have been conspicuously less than capacity.

Who Has Been Naughty?

It’s goodbye to South Africa, France (very naughty), Nigeria, Greece (very bad),  Algeria,  Oztralia (awful), Serbia (painful). Cameroon, New Zealand (rubbish), Slovakia (tedious), Ivory Coast (unlucky to get Group of Death for the second World Cup in a row), North Korea, and Honduras. You are all officially too crap for the World Cup. Book your flights now.

Who Has Been Nice?

And it’s hello to Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, South Korea, Ghana, Germany, Holland, Paraguay, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, and Chile. Nicely done South America.

And Who Is Bricking It?

Group C is totally up for grabs with two of Engerland, USA and Slovenia, the permutations are excruciating, but basically all teams have to win to be sure that they will qualify. In Group E Japan and Denmark will duke it out, a draw being enough to take the Japanese through. Group H is so complicated that Spain, Chile and Switzerland could all end up with 6 points and theoretically identical goal differences and goals scored, in which case as Spain will have beaten Chile, who have beaten Switzerland, who have beaten Spain lots would have to be drawn.  Makes penalty shoot outs seem tame by comparison.

And Who Is Really Bricking It Most?

Has to be ever-optimistic no-hopers Engerland, who just seem utterly unable to cope with the pressure of having to play a few matches away from home in front of large television audiences. Basking in unwarrented media acclaim and with performances getting more inadequate by the day, Engerland are a disaster waiting to happen. And while the French are imploding with a farcical degree of hilarity, Engerland can’t even manage an effective internal coup d’etat. One thing is clear, Wednesday could be the most excruciating game of football ever played.