At least one of the Arsenal squad will be wearing a big grin for most, if not all, of the summer. Not only has Alexis inspired Chile to retain their Copa América title, he’s retired Lionel Messi from international football. Now, if he could just hold that jinx over the mercurial Argentine at club level…
Messi’s reaction was emotional and underlines their disappointment at losing their third consecutive final, after Germany and Chile beat them in previous years. I didn’t see last night’s game but it’s hard for the Argentinians to argue with either of the other results when they should have been beaten by wider margins.
It’s a phenomenal achievement by Chile whose ‘Golden Generation’ are delivering silverware, as opposed to England’s which delivered one disappointment after another. About the only thing of note that the Three Kittens delivered was an end to the red top jingoism which accompanied every major international tournament. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose.
Sanchez took note of the failings of Granit Xhaka and Mesut Özil from the penalty spot, and left it to his more capable Chilean teammates to deliver the 4 – 2 win. Or perhaps less cursed. It capped a good tournament, by all accounts, in which he was awarded the Golden Ball trophy – Player of the Tournament in real money. Which ought to add £5-10m to the price tag we charge Juventus when the come a-knocking.
I watched Özil’s penalty with incredulity; it was a carbon copy of his miss against Bayern Munich. It wasn’t hard to guess where he was going to put it; he hasn’t a vast library of successful penalties to cause doubts. Indeed, I could be wrong but I don’t recall him taking a penalty since that fateful evening at The Emirates.
In the end it didn’t matter. Germany were in cruise control yesterday and thoroughly deserved their win. It says something about England’s failings that both Wales and Germany proved adept at finishing and eased concerns about the parked buses which caused Roy’s Boys so many problems. I don’t expect any different tonight from Iceland.
It wasn’t the best weekend for the Emerald Isle with the insipid North losing to the Welsh whilst the Republic fell to the French. The latter didn’t lose through lack of effort, at least not whilst it was 11 v 11. Correctly reduced to ten men, the Republic did well to keep the scoreline to 2 – 1 with West Ham’s Randolph putting in a good goalkeeping display.
It does beg the question though. When the Republic of Ireland stop being called ‘Eire’? Football reports when I was growing up – yes, I can remember that far back – rarely used ‘Republic of Ireland’; Brady, O’Leary and Stapleton were frequently referred to as ‘Eire internationals’. Probably about the same time we stopped referring to Rumania and Columbia, I should imagine.
Yesterday’s Euro 2016 offerings were far better than Saturday’s stalemates, with Belgium racking up the tournament’s clearest win with their 4 – 0 win over Hungary. I have no doubt that the Belgians were far better than their opponents but three goals in the last quarter of an hour put something of a lop-sided look to the result.
Romelu Lukaku was unimpressive but like Olivier Giroud, suffered from poor service. Michy Batshuayi added £10m to his value with hyperbole overtaking his finish. Giroud played reasonably well; not many openings, denied by solid Irish marking. Even so, his contribution to both goals was significant and worthy of meritorious mention. Laurent Koscielny missed a presentable chance, putting his diving header wide when it seemed an inevitable goal.
As I said earlier it’s England today but not until Italy and Spain have shown them how to defend and pass. Croatia’s win in the final group game will have put questions into Spanish minds and Italy has the right level of obduracy to frustrate them even more. Defeat today will raise some difficult questions for the Spanish to answer, inevitably I suppose, bringing headlines about the death of tiki-taka.
It works at club level for Barcelona, principally due to their incredible forward line but even then, Atletico exposed their limitations in the Champions League semi-final. I suspect it will take failure in Russia in 2018 to cause a genuine navel-gazing at international level on the Iberian peninsula.
On the Arsenal front, service in the restaurant where they are meeting is so bad that Arsène Wenger hasn’t finished talking to Alexandre Lacazette’s agent. I expect some rumblings of discontent as this week is likely to see Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan join Manchester United. The usual questions of why we are so slow to act in the market compared to others will arise.
That’s if we can drag ourselves away from the politics of opportunism and fag packet economics which currently besiege these isles.