Archive for June 28th, 2010

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

Archive for June 28th, 2010

What We Learned From Holland vs Slovakia (2-1)

Here Come The Jets (Oh No, There They Go Again)

Unlike gasping toddlers Slovenia, Slovakia has entered its protracted adolescence. And it’s not a pretty sight. Collectively they look like some kind of Newtown estate gang, almost certainly led by evil looking tatmeister Skrtel. They’ve got those ‘nit nurse’ bald cuts and close ups reveal them to have ugly, skulking faces full of contempt and loathing. They’ve even got their part time punk Hamsik, who’s had his mohican specially polished but hasn’t had a chance to brush up on his skills. And they’re not crap, certainly nowhere near the uselessness of their first two outings here. In fact they’re like those feral urban kids in Dublin who ride horses bareback, like street apaches.

And the Dutch are like those sophisticate 6th formers. Five or six years older than the street rabble, you can see they have an air of sophistication and experience that the Slovaks crave. “Hey big kid, yes, you, big kid…” they implore,  tugging on the Dutch boys’ sleeves and looking up with big, red rimmed eyes, “what’s it like? you know, in the Second Round?”. And then they are told.

Four matches in and the Dutch still haven’t had to get out of third gear. They were able to start with Robben, but not overwork him. They didn’t worry overmuch about Slovakia’s pretty please passing because as often as not there was no clear final third finish. They played it calm and then bashed them over the head for the first goal, then pressed a little harder for the second when, once again, the Slovak keeper got it horribly wrong. Out at the same stage as Engerland, the Slovaks will regard getting this far as a massive coup.

One day soon, like Friday soon, the Dutch will have to wake up and play Brazil. And then we’ll see whether they’re genuine contenders, or have just been moseying along in a Dutch stylee.

53 Down 11 To Go 11 Teams Remaining

Archive for June 28th, 2010

What We Learned From Argentina vs Mexico (3-1)

Say Hello To My Leetle Friend

One of the more entertaining elements of the tournament has been the class acts that are the managers. Obviously most of them are tedious, rather serious looking rich dudes like the Fab or, less so in your international manager, tracksuited twats who’ve lucked out on some foreign dosh. But some are stars. like the various Eastern European looking, chain-smoking, corpses who haunt the African and Central American sides or Mr Disco the Portuguese manager, who has his open shirt and vaguely hairy chest and desperately, desperately needs one of those solid gold chains like P Diddy to complete his world or the Sartorially Ineligant Twin Managers of Germany, Jochim Loew and his dynamic ward Robin, whose matching outfits would be the pinnicle of bad taste if only West Ham’s David Sullivan didn’t have a penchant for kinky militarywear or that Brazillian toff Dunga hadn’t nailed the storestaff and got hold of all the pukka jackets. But best of all, top of the managerial shitpile are the entire oiled, bequiffed, pompadoured managerial staff of Argentina, who bestride the touchline like collosal gangmaster football pimps. Chief among them Mr Hand of God Maradona. He is great. Plump, fantastically well-oiled and suited in the kind of garish class act whoremeister-wear you’d expect someone in Dallas or CSI:Miami, Diego is top drawer. Just like his lovely boys.

Here is Leetle Carlito. He is good. Runs very fast. Very, how you say, agile. Very squirmy. Can find hees way through even the smallest cracks in your defence. Yes, you will lov Leetle  Carlito. Even when he is completely offside, the linesman, he makes no complaints because Leetle Carlito, he knows joost how the linesman likes it. And if it peeses off a few Mehicos, well, that’s just part of Leetle Carlito’s charm.

And then there’s Higuin. He is a big boy. Likes to lead from the front, always pulling about those defenders. They just can’t keep him under control. First it’s one side, then it’s the other, then your centre back has no idea where he is and, hoop-la, it’s in the back of the net. And if that confuses those Mexicanos a leetle more, then that’s fine.

And Leetle Carlito, you will love him so much, he just doesn’t stop. Always taunting, always teasing, he is like a leetle minx, if you have minx wherever you come from, if not, well, he is always taunting. And those defenders, they are like putty in his hands. He pulls them one way, he pulls them the other, just like Higuin, just like the big boys do, but Leetle Carlito, he is not so big, he has to work so much harder than Higuin to pull those defenders about. But when he does, Blam! Oh the goal is open for just a second, maybe only a half a second, the blink of an eye, but Leetle Carlito can tell that the goal is winking at him, the goal is a cheeky bad girl who wants Leetle Carlito. She wants him so much. Leetle Carlito, he cannot resist. 20 yards, 30 yards, who knows, who cares, Leetle Carlito he shoots and like great explosion the ball is in the net.

Only Pepito Messi is a problem. He dances, he sleeps and slides, but he cannot score. Oncle Diego is going to have to teach Pepito Messi how to behave or Pepito Messi is going to have a long talk with Oncle Diego’s leetle best friend. And that wouldn’t be good for Pepito.

Sure those pesky Mexican kids fight back, like they did against Engerland in the friendlies, like they did against the South Africans. And sure that kid Hernandez is interesting, but against Diego’s boys he isn’t much. Mexicans ptah! Breeng on the Germans.

52 Down 12 To Go 12 Teams Remaining