A week into the biggest sporting event in the world and no thread yet - time to put that right!
To be fair, I can understand a lack of enthusiasm for a world cup in Qatar. Awarding a huge global tournament to a tiny oil-rich country with shameful disregard for human rights was a low point even in FIFA’s grubby history.
But without disregarding that very serious context, I can’t resist a month of blanket free-to-air football bringing together players and colourful supporters from different continents in intriguing clashes…I find even the 0-0s strangely compelling.
We’ve seen each team at least once, so what have we learned? It’s great to see some of the less fancied teams play confident, attacking football. I’m hoping to see upsets continue into the knock-out, with teams with personality and passion rewarded at the expense of more arrogant or complacent teams. It’s amazing how far team spirit can trump talent in these tournaments.
France, Brazil and Spain look very strong, although it’s foolish to draw too many conclusions from a single game. Argentina were very disappointing: I hope they recover tonight against Mexico but have doubts once again around Messi’s ability to truly lead a team on this stage, despite his insane personal talent.
As for England? An enigma to say the least. A team with the bare talent to beat anyone in this tournament but which can also look utterly bereft of ideas or passion, as was the case last night. England fans will be hoping this is a repeat of the Friday night second group game at last year’s Euros where they put in a similar drab performance against Scotland and then went on to nearly win the whole thing.
I too have severe reservations about this one. The despicable, craven posturing of FIFA, whose own endemic corruption makes it impossible for them to stand up to the authoritarian demands of the hosts gives the whole event a thoroughly unpleasant tone.
However, from a strictly football point of view it’s been reasonably entertaining. A couple of excellent upsets (Argentina, Germany), some enjoyably knockabout, high scoring games (England’s opener, Spain v Costa Rica, Portugal v Ghana) and not too much cynical fouling/play acting, so far at least.
England v USA stinker of the tournament so far, and a few poorly attended games with very little atmosphere the downsides.
Brazil, France and possibly Spain look like the sides to beat. England maybe - if they can find a way to play with bravery and at a higher tempo against better opponents
There are a million more important reasons not to award a WC to somewhere like Qatar, but the half-empty stadiums and sterile atmosphere of some games ruins the enjoyment of too many matches.
The first half of this France v Denmark game was played in an atmosphere that reminded me of the miserable covid season. Unless teams have large travelling supports there’s no-one else to fill the gaps. Hopefully Argentina v Mexico later should be fine in that regard!
Agreed - it’s so obviously the wrong place in so many ways.
I’ve seen one report saying that the Qataris are regretting the whole thing due to the relentless criticism. I guess they expected something similar to Russia where the protests seemed to largely die down when the tournament was obviously successful.
I hope FIFA are also secretly regretting it as it’s been abysmal for them, although they are obviously utterly shameless, so maybe they just sit back and count their💰
I’m normally watching as much football as I can when it comes to the World Cup and The Euro’s, but not watched much of the games so far and have missed both England’s games so far.
Can’t say I was that excited about it during the run up, which may explain the above.
It is perhaps worth remembering that when England bid for the World Cup for 2018 they had to give FIFA undertakings one of which in effect exempts FIFA employees from prosecution for Money Laundering offences. It is not phrased as such, because it is wrapped up in a foreign exchange clause, but that is the ultimate effect of the wording. So when it comes to corruption, every country who bids is doing no more than condoning it. I think that this sort of clause pops up in the application form for a country that regards Money laundering as a serious offence.
This looks like being one of those days when it’s the lesser anticipated fixtures are the by far the most entertaining. After Camaroon v Serbia & S. Korea v Ghana served up plenty of hectc, end to end actiom, dubious defending and 11 goals, Brazil struggled to break down a resolute Switzerland and had to resort to a late winner from their defensive midfielder.
Currently watching Portugal v Uruguay which has livened up slightly after a deadly dull first half, with one C. Ronaldo claiming the only goal when it didn’t look to me like he actually touched the ball…
With Spain also struggling last night against a less then stellar Germany, for me France look by far the most convincing side to date.
That was a terrific set of fixtures on Monday, the first two in particular were great games. I’m with you on France as the team to beat as well. They’ve looked pretty solid defensively but they just move possession quicker and more dynamically than anyone else. If we can get past Senegal I think that quarter final could be a great game but one I wouldn’t be too hopeful of winning.
That said, I remain fairly impressed with Southgate and what he delivers with England. The USA game was no fun and we really didn’t get at them, but in retrospect I’m not sure that was what he sent the team out to do. With the group set up the way it was, I get the feeling Southgate knew that a draw against arguably our toughest opponent in the group would be enough to see England through, most likely as winners. So why drive the team hard? Do enough to get the result you need. We saw a more expansive approach against Wales which was no doubt influenced by the belief that we were against a significantly softer team. So now we’ve sailed serenely into the last 16 as the top scorers in the tournament despite having come through the toughest group according to FIFA’s rankings.
Yes, great stuff Monday, and very much what I wanted to see against Wales last night.
First half we didn’t move the ball fast enough and were too cautious, but having seen the lack of threat Wales offered, we came out fast and blew them away. The pressing was key, and that’s what we’ll need to do consistently against the better teams.
Overall, I have to take my hat off to Southgate. Winning the group gives us a very winnable fixture against Senegal. He’s used the depth of the squad and got performance from them, no injuries or suspensions either, so we now have options all over the place and intense competition for places. A pretty perfect set of outcomes.
I think we’ll beat Senegal, so the QF’s will be real test.