There’s another holiday destination crossed off Dave Ospina’s list. No summer’s in Chile for him after “another dramatic night in the World Cup qualifiers” which saw Chile dumped out on their arsenal’s and Peru qualify. A 0 – 3 defeat in Rio didn’t help matters for the Chileans but after his mare at the weekend, Ospina threw in another error for good measure:
Guerrero’s goal by Peruvian TV.
Narrator: “Indirect free-kick, Paolo!
He takes it… GOAL!
He (Ospina) touched it!
He touched it!” pic.twitter.com/ihNUlVRT3W
— FlamengoENG 🇺🇸🇬🇧 (@FlamengoENG) October 11, 2017
After the final whistle, he left the pitch hoisted on top of shoulders, a conquering hero. It’s a funny old game, Saint.
The gallows humour of the past few weeks about Alexis getting a rest just as he’s leaving turned out true so maybe I will start that ahead of Russia 2018 with England. Not that there will be much to worry about from an Arsenal perspective. Rob Holding probably won’t get into the squad and now Arsène has put impossible conditions in place, Jack Wilshere won’t get a new contract. Ten games between now and Christmas. As if Wenger will select him for that many…
A little more fortunate than Alexis was Granit Xhaka as Switzerland limped into the play-offs. Portugal deserved their victory last night which saw them end the evening as group winners. The Swiss might look around the rest of Europe and feel miffed at winning 9 and lost just one of their qualifiers but ending up in the play-off.
However, they are there on goal difference and the purists might argue that the Portuguese attacking play received its just reward. And in a group which contained Andorra, Latvia and Faroe Isles, there’s not much sympathy to be had, I’m afraid.
A Crude Art
Therein is UEFA’s problem. A quick glance at the tables shows that the bottom teams in the groups managed a total of 2 wins and 10 draws between them. The second-bottom teams recorded 17 wins and 20 draws so there is a genuine gap in quality even at that level.
How do you solve a problem like that? Years ago, the suggestion was put forward that smaller nations improve even when they get a real spanking. There’s little evidence it makes matches any more competitive. Indeed, this qualifying campaign seems to have seen more twattings than previously.
Maybe I’m inured to those results these days; the disparity in Europe and in domestic cup competitions is at a similar level, even when two apparently evenly-matched teams meet. Yes, Anfield, I’m thinking of you.
UEFA argues that it is trying to address these issues with the League of Nations or whatever they are calling it, running alongside the Euro2020 qualifiers. It’s barely scratching the surface of a problem for which I don’t believe there is a satisfactory answer.
Perhaps the time-honoured kids football tournaments provides the answer. Instead of having a World Cup for everyone, have two tournaments: The World Cup for the better teams and the World Plate for the not-so-good. A Champions League and Europa League for international football, if you like.
It serves a two-fold purpose. Firstly, there’s the prospect of winning a trophy for the lesser nations, while the elite get more broadcast money and the prospect of genuine competition. Do away with seeding; just good old of luck of the draw. Is that the way to reinvigorate international football which judging by the crowds at Wembley, is dying on its arse.
Or is that just the English falling out of love with the football team in much the same way we have with their cricket and rugby union counterparts? The latter came back into our good graces by playing well and winning. That criteria is, I fear, beyond football’s reach.
A Bovver Boot Ballet
Still, it could be worse; we might be Dutch. Another World Cup missed and we say fair thee well to Arjen Robben.
In the time-honoured tradition of E.J. Thribb, here is my ode to the Dutch winger (misprint):
So. Farewell then
World champion at
Tumbling and rolling
Now you are free
During international breaks
Pretend you were shot by a
sniper in my back garden
The turf needs flattening
Good rates of pay.
To finish this afternoon post, a reminder that the latest episode in Jukebox Classics airs on Dad’s Jukebox. This week it’s the turn of the Pixies.