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

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