The Mailbox offers some ideas for enhancing – and complicating – the World Cup. Also: England’s diminishing returns; Richarlison; Ghana’s Suarez grudge; and more…
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One wonders what Daniel Levy thinks when he sees THAT Richarlison playing for Brazil…
What a goal that was.
To answer Dave’s question on why he was bored, it’s probably because the match was quite boring. After England scored anyway. 2-0 up after half time, total control, added a third, completely bossed it. I suspect you’re suffering from the law of diminishing returns. A last 16 win may have excited you before, but after a semi-final and final in succession, a routine win against Senegal isn’t really going to get you going.
Nice? Yes. Pleasing? Yes. But it’s not going to be thrilling. If England beat France, I suspect you might feel differently. It’s one of the problems of becoming good. Where there was once excitement there is now expectation.
Mike, LFC, London
In Gareth we trust
Great result for England, the usual tension (as a supporter) for the first half an hour until the skill of Bellingham, Foden & Kane kicked in. Not to mention the very conservative Southgate midfield choice of Henderson…
So onwards to France in the QF. I don’t think we should fear them, I don’t think we should fear anyone in this World Cup. At the same time I don’t echo the same thoughts of Shearer (still a God in this part of the country not just Newcastle) Rio etc that France should fear us. Fear isn’t the right word, respect is. In my opinion whoever wins this match is then favourites to lift the trophy.
As an England fan whose first memory of a World Cup was the famous Hand of God match of ‘86 I’ve experienced the rollercoaster of ups and downs but am well on board with the longevity of this Southgate version.
Handbrake on or off, whatever your personal view is, surely we must get to a point where the detractors will have to admit they have got it wrong at some point after Southgate’s tournament record? Will Saturday be it? If we lose the clamour will undoubtedly return that he must go. If we win will those same doubters finally give him credit for the amazing job he has done? Or will “went out to the first decent team we have played” u-turn to “but France had key players out injured anyway”
If you are English and can’t get on board backing this England team then I suggest you look elsewhere as we will not win every match 3-0.
Brian (BRFC) England
A pessimist writes…
England vs France could be one of those games where England play their socks off, are much the better side for long periods of the game but still lose..on penalties. Think West Germany in 1990 and Argentina I’m 1998. It would be a real shame if the media and fans subject Southgate to battering if that happens.
Bellingham > Gerrard?
Rob, Dorset; Why the need for that mail? It’s not necessary. Gerrard was a great player, Bellingham looks like he’s going to be a phenomenon. Who cares about comparisons?
I remember World Cups with matches so long and boring they are still going on, so this one is a relief and enjoyment in comparison.
But the game is still plagued by the “niggly” foul. The one that stops an attack, handing the advantage to the perpetrator as the fast break is broken down and the defence given time to get into position.
Yellow cards do nothing to stop it, only to stop one player from repeating and letting another do the same thing.
A ten minute sin bin would add real jeopardy to the illegal tackle, rewarding the innocent side and putting the aggressors in the back foot.
Despite being very much on referees’ side in terms of the abuse they receive, you felt it was appropriate to claim Bellingham’s best moment last night was telling the ref to f*** off. I know that this point was probably tongue-in-cheek (at least I bloody hope it was), but that kind of reaction and celebration of the typical behaviour we see towards referees is hugely unhelpful and hypocritical.
I, for one, think the refereeing in this tournament has been largely excellent. There have been a handful of controversies, and there always will be, but the general reluctance to blow up every time a player hits the deck has led to some brilliantly flowing football. So, maybe instead of bizarrely lauding a player for hurling abuse you could spend some time talking about the positives of the refs in this tournament. Might fit better with the general line you take on things. Or just write more about the good things Bellingham did. I could have read 16 conclusions on that man alone.
Of punditry and pedantry
I watched with disdain as the BBC panel gushed over the Netherlands first goal vs USA calling it a great example of Total Football. I was a bit disappointed when the F365 also went along with the same theme. Just because it was the Dutch and there were lots of passes – does that give everybody the freedom to blithely call it Total Football? This is how specific meanings get diluted. Total football is the abandonment of rigid positions for players and a fluid interchange of roles and spaces all over the pitch while retaining the team structure. Although the full backs made all the difference for the Dutch, that’s merely in keeping with almost how all teams play nowadays.
In general, this world cup has delivered well above expectations in terms of the quality of football so far, but the quality of punditry has been fairly rudimentary, rarely getting beyond basics and general geniality, and occasionally descending into borderline racism – such as when Klinsmann suggested that Iran was making things difficult and playing the referee because it was ‘in their culture’ to crowd you and be in your face. Has anybody come across truly insightful punditry yet?
Ved Sen (MUFC)
Ghana and Suarez
I’m a bit mystified by Oliver Dziggel’s recent angry emails regarding Ghana blaming Suarez for their world cup 2010 exit.
Mate, football is an emotional sport. The idea that Ghanaian fans should have analyzed the situation completely rationally, full put the blame on Gyan for missing the penalty and then move on from being mad about Suarez shows a huge misunderstanding of the sport. For what it’s worth, Asamoah Gyan did get a lot of heat for missing that penalty as well but there is no reason why blame can’t be spread around (although I do agree that the questions Suarez faced in the press conference the other day were a bit much). The fact that it was a handball on the line right at the death rather than say a last man foul also gives it a certain cinematic element that elevates it beyond many other sporting controversies and makes it sting so much more for those who supported Ghana back then.
So yes a lot of Africans still loathe Suarez because of it. Whether that’s fair or logical is almost besides the point- it’s a sport of emotions and theatre and passions and you can’t expect football fans to have the logical analysis of a robot. That’s not how this works.
Turiyo Damascene, Kigali, Rwanda
How to complicate the World Cup
As I watched the USA crash out to the Dutch and also England cruise past Senegal in the knockout rounds, a thought came to me. First, that’s North America and Africa out of the competition. I’m in no way condemning US and Senegal for producing limp performances , these teams were simply overmatched. So I began thinking, would it be so bad if countries from a region congregated or combined to form a single team that represented the region. So instead of sending a limited US team, what if they allowed the US, Canada and Mexico to form a team. A representative team that can provide better competition to the old guard. These countries never make a dent because they have 1 or 2 stars , but if we allowed Pulisic and Alfonso Davis, and Ochoa to be on a team, it may give the opponent a tougher ask. So I thought, if FIFA allowed Northern America, North Africa, West Africa , East Africa South Africa, Asia to form a team, it’d be more entertaining. I’d love to see, Mahrez and Salah form a partnership in a team against England.
The caveat here is, it seems unfair, what if England want to team up with France, and The answer I came up with is, if they have won the world cup before, or are considered a football power nation, they cannot link up. Use a coefficient system to rank teams, so for example Belgium are highly ranked, haven’t won it but because they have a very good team aren’t allowed to join another country. However, Poland and Croatia could conceivably form a team. Having Modric and Lewandowski in the same team would be magical. There are generational talents that never ever get to grace the Pinnacle because of the countries they come from.
It was so sad watching those Senegalese and USA fans feel dejected, and all I could think was, did they think they had a chance? Also, even if let’s assume Senegal beat England, next was France, were they expecting to be at France as well? The odds are stacked against them . So instead of just adding the number of teams and predictable matched, wouldn’t it be better to improve the competitivity of it all.
Dave(Some countries that don’t get along could benefit), Somewhere
Just a quick one following on from Simons original idea, and Niall’s follow up on a Non qualified team playing in the World Cup.
It would never happen of course, but how about FIFA scrap the pointless 3rd/4th team play off, and replace with a one off friendly game made up of 2 squads of players from countries that didn’t qualify?
Maybe even list them all, and have the world vote on who gets called up!
Actually, knowing FIFA, they’d charge everyone £1 for each vote, sell the rights to this game somehow and make a fortune won’t they…
Chris, on a hill, somewhere.
… If the other qualified, and therefore supposedly best teams, cannot beat a squad of 20 something players with 2 weeks prep & communication problems etc, then they deserve to win.
I would expect 3 group games (current format) and most likely elimination before the knock outs. Especially if the team is 4th seeded. Enough time for everyone to get minutes and hopefully some magical moments/stunning strikes along the way.
Imagine players from two rival nations striking up an unlikely on pitch bromance, or falling out dramatically.
Some fella from San Marino scoring a screamer, gaining instant legendary status.
Players like Cantona, shunned by their nation, but given an All Star alternative route to the finals. *New rule, cannot play against your country.
Some might say it’s about representing your own country. But that’s already a grey area, with numerous players switching their allegiance just to get a game at the finals if they don’t get selected by their “first choice” nation.
Others might say that it’s the pinnacle of football and therefore the best players should be there? If Messi, Ronaldo & Pele were from a nation that never qualified, wouldn’t you want to see them at the world cup at least once?
I don’t expect this to happen anytime soon if at all. Just got me thinking how good a team people could come up with, and how far they would go.
World Cup conclusions
1 Most compelling since ’06
2. Mbappe is the new Ronaldo (Nazario)
3. Giroud has a one of a kind career-arc
4. France isn’t better without Benzema…his absence just makes things more straightforward
5. De Bruyne’s international career has been Messi’s except in a Belgium kit with even worse support
6. LVG is at his best when coaching Dutch talent
7. Denzel Dumfries is destined to be linked with English clubs from here on out
8. If CR7 were better than Messi he might have something to add other than taking goals away from his teammates
9. Harry Kane’s career has been much better than I thought it would have been circa 2015
10. England still have yet to beat a good team when it matters (we now know Germany has real problems)
11. Sterling – if available – is a must start against France. There isn’t anyone in the side who can keep the ball under pressure (other than HK) quite like him while also maintaining a significant goal threat.
12. If Sterling is not available – it’s a total toss-up between Foden and Saka, IMO
13. I recognize #12 is technically not a conclusion, therefore, Saka’s composure for his goal displays a player who has grown exponentially as finisher
14. Southgate will regret not bringing more pace into central defense
15. Kyle Walker is not your savior (not sure how many in his position against Mbappe would be…)
16. Neither is Harry Maguire
17. England 1 – France 4
MAW, LA Gooner
Here all night
The gag about The Athletic in 16 conclusions? Just top work.
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