Celebrating a World Cup win is ALWAYS best done in the sea
If England did ever enjoy a taste of World Cup success again one thing is certain: it would be celebrated poorly. Too much drinking and shouting; not enough swimming or dancing. The Argentines showed their class in taking to the sea to jubilantly bask in their latest moment of glory, again demonstrating that drenched flags and waterproof trophy replicas should always be a fundamental part of rounding off a wonderful win. Now, to find and dry off that phone with all the pictures on...
In what was perhaps the most disappointing game of the tournament so far, several factors were key in sucking the joy from things. Argentina's underperformance and Switzerland's general lack of quality were up there, but another was the cynicism in some of the fouling, for the most part from the Swiss side. In a World Cup that has largely seen some lenient refereeing, they conceded 29 fouls and were very lucky not to have more than two players booked after some particularly spicy challenges, and one by Gelson Fernandes on Angel di Maria stood out as especially violent. Argentina got in on the act themselves, with Di Maria himself getting a yellow card for a particularly 'professional' chop, but by and large the Swiss will not be missed from the World Cup after this display.
Why not go for it?
It is of course understandable that Switzerland might have an inferiority/underdog complex when playing Argentina, Leo Messi and all. It's also understandable that they might start off a game against them cautiously, even defensively, and perhaps attempt some spoiling tactics. However, after it became fairly clear that this was not an Argentina side at the top of its form, why did Ottmar Hitzfeld not make more of an effort to win the game? He knew that with Messi in opposition, no matter how much you park the bus, the chances are he will find his way through at some point anyway, so why not show a little more ambition? Switzerland only seemed to jolt themselves into life after Argentina scored, and since only two minutes plus injury-time remained at that point, it was too little, too late.
Romero, Romero, where for art thou Romero?
Brian Clough always believed that, if a team has a top-class goalkeeper, they have won half the battle. One of the reasons he held that view was that there isn't a huge amount a manager can do to significantly improve a keeper. A manager can organise a defence, set out a system to retain possession, instil a mentality conducive to scoring goals, but if the keeper is no good, then the rest almost becomes moot. Teams have won the World Cup with a dodgy stopper before (notably Marcos in 2002, but he had Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo at the other end to make his job quieter), but not a team who can look as limited as Argentina did against the Swiss. If Argentina are to succeed in Brazil, particularly against some of the more potent attacks they will face, Romero will have to up his game significantly.
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Tim Howard: superhero
When the opposition captain tips his cap to you, you know you've had a good game. As Tim Howard contemplates the USA's departure from the World Cup in what could be his last international, it might not be much consolation to know that defeat was suffered in spite of your efforts, but at some point it might. Howard was superb, as Belgium rained 39 shots on goal, 16 of which he saved as they tried and tried to breach the American defence. That it took one of the most highly-rated attacks in the tournament 93 minutes to beat you might not be much comfort, but Howard and the USA can leave Brazil with their heads held high.
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One of the men who was supposed to spearhead this great generation of Belgian players was Eden Hazard, and coming off a superb season for Chelsea it seemed he would be one of the stars of this World Cup. However, he has only shown his influence in flashes thus far, coming alive to inspire the victory against Russia in the group stage and only showing his class sporadically against the USA. It's possible that spending more time than he might like playing from the left is troubling Hazard and impacting on his performance, but should it have that much of an effect? If Belgium are to go any further, they need their playmaker on song, rather than the listless version of him that we have seen so far.
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One World Cup pundit is better than terrible (i.e. everyone else)
What is there to say about Danny Murphy, other than 'well, this chap speaks a bit of sense'? It's not particularly easy to explain why, but the former Liverpool and Fulham man has a lovely old mix of common sense, blunt analysis and dry wit to go with a penchant for a cocked-collar polo shirt. Seemingly very popular on social media, he is just about the only World Cup pundit to be coming out of this tournament in credit, or so it appears. Another star showing on the mic as Belgium took on USA saw his stock rise still further. While Mark Lawrenson moans about another tiresome shift at the Maracana, Murphy is full of enthusiasm, relishing his privileged position. We applaud you, Danny.
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- Sports & Recreation
- TIM HOWARD