The World Cup dominates the skyline, as you would expect. Granit Xhaka took everyone’s minds off the numbing Brazilian win over Costa Rica earlier in the day, with an excellent strike from outside the box against Serbia. Shaqiri’s Cristiano Ronaldo pose after his winner means he wants to be known as ‘stocky’ now, rather than ‘tubby’.
For the pair, the motivation for the clash came from familial, political and cultural reasons. Shaqiri’s boots featured the Kosovan flag in a move that will probably see him fined. Which he won’t give a rat’s arse about.
Overall, Xhaka was Xhaka. The stats look good, he ran a lot, passed a fair bit and quite accurately, but was, I thought, little more than average until he scored. A case, perhaps, of trying too hard?
Stephan Lichtsteiner was interesting to watch. The disciplinary sword hung over him and he did nothing to warrant a booking. For a man labelled as ‘mad, bad, and really quite dangerous’, it’s was a sensible night’s work.
Former referee Jonas Eriksson didn’t like Lichtsteiner. According to the Swede, he’s met several international players and you can’t judge a book by its cover; it takes several meetings to find the true nature of a player. So, how does he rate the new signing?
“I have met Lichtsteiner several times and he is one of the most unpleasant players I met. You cannot talk to him, he gets more and more angry.
“I’m trying to explain [my decision], I’m trying to be humble, but he’s hard to get in touch with. It creates a bad mood.”
It’s hardly surprising; Eriksson booked Lichtsteiner in most games where the pair “worked together”. Lichtsteiner probably walked onto the pitch angry, upset at the inevitable booking. It’s hardly surprising really.
Are You Talking to Me?
The more I see of him at the World Cup and reading things like that, I am quite warming to Lichtsteiner. There is scope for some major league sh*thousery from him.
Who was the last defender who got angry for no apparent reason? It’s easy with the midfield, that was Steve Williams. But defenders? It’s tougher; they could all get angry, the likes of Bould, Winterburn, Adams, etc., but they needed provoking.
Just being angry for angry’s sake is a different matter. Midfielders doubling up as defenders doesn’t count so Peter Storey is ruled out. I guess Martin Keown might be the nearest thing to it.
On the subject of referees, VAR is again under scrutiny. Neymar dived and won a penalty. Then VAR questioned the decision and the ‘Petulant One’ found he didn’t have a penalty. Quite right too, so it works both ways.
However, there are some major issues with VAR and officiating at the World Cup finals generally. Grappling in the penalty area is at epidemic levels. Surely FIFA called the referees and VAR teams in to find out why it isn’t punished? Was last night the nadir? Mitrovic double-teamed to the floor and no penalty? It defies explanation.
An explanation of why there was no penalty was awarded is needed, as well as that suffered in every other match. Also, why are matches seeing kneecapping routinely go unpunished? The PGMO in England would be crucified if this happened in the PL. Why give FIFA a free pass?
It was a decent day for the Arsenal players with Nigeria turning up and beating Iceland, leaving them with a make-or-break match against Argentina. There’s no doubt that when you wear a shirt like theirs, you have to turn up.
Bling-bling Instead of Thing-thing
Mesut Özil finds himself on the receiving end of criticism in Germany, continuing a running theme. The photo with the Turkish president did him few favours and poor performances for the national team don’t help. There are cliques in the Germany squad, according to reports and Özil leads the ‘Bling-bling gang’.
Now a vacuous media term a crime does not make. However, there’s a general picture beginning to form over the midfielder which isn’t pleasant. There’s a suggestion he wants Jack Wilshere’s Number 10 shirt because it ties in with the marketing plan. The ‘branded house’, mysterious injuries, and lacklustre performances; it smacks of a player whose focus isn’t on his core business.
Harsh? Maybe, but a year ago, it was unthinkable. The question is whether his managers at various levels need to refocus his mind and indulge less?