Ivan, Dick; c’mon, let’s run some red lights. I want to continue to feel as good as Rick Moranis looked in yesterday’s post. A deep breath, inhale; slowly exhale and enjoy the moment. Yes, that’s a feelgood factor strutting the ballsiest rhythm ‘n’ blues this side of Wilko Johnson’s guitar and Lee Brilleaux’s harmonica. If the doctor didn’t order this stuff, sack him.
So we come to the conclusion of the World Cup. Brazil bowed out in a haze of distinct averageness, losing to a slightly more average Dutch side who having set the tournament alight then pursued a course where frankly all but the Dutch wanted them to lose. The Seleção meanwhile proved there were a one-man team; a shame that the one man they needed wasn’t fit. In the stands, bovine banjo players waggled their backsides in the direction of the XI on the pitch and still went home without a mark on their hides save for the Budweiser spills. There’s a joke in there somewhere about the Brazilians having nothing up front that is screaming to stay hidden from view.
Things are deemed so bad that the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol is pulling former heroes from retirement in a bid to make a better fist of the 2018 World Cup. The first sign of this policy came with Southampton signing Pele; Viagra is a lot more powerful than previously thought.
There is a genuine problem for the CBF to address though. Even the 1974 and 1978 World Cups, despite perceptions of those squads being poor, seemed to have more about them than the current crop. There is an element of romanticism attached to Brazil, one which is eroded by the Harlem Globetrotter approach to international friendlies as they prepared for this tournament. The suspicion was that they would have sent a team to the opening of an envelope such was their desire to promote the brand. Whether that policy changes in coming seasons remains to be seen. Clubs are already rattling their sabres over future World Cups as they renegotiate with FIFA over player releases but frankly we all know that a deal will be reached; despite their wealth, none of them want to kill the fatted calf.
Perhaps it is a sign of the globalisation of the game that a fixture against Brazil no longer holds the allure that it once did. We see the players on a weekly basis through the media and maybe that hinders the national team; it’s easier to scout them, to work out their weaknesses and certainly the Germans and the Dutch did their homework, neutralising a formation filled with players bereft of confidence. Maybe it’s not that involved; it’s the time in the footballing cycle when they are not strong as they were. Look at the Spaniards. They haven’t suddenly become a bad team, just an aged one reliant upon a style that has been overtaken by the adapted tactical version at club level and the international set-up has followed suit.
I can’t help but think that overall the biggest problem was the hype; a World Cup in Brazil, the chance to put right the perceived wrong of 1950. A World Cup in Brazil, the most damningly romantic vision in football.
And it will be won by Germany or Argentina. I nominated the Germans beforehand and of the ‘big’ footballing nations, their performances have been the most consistent. Argentina, labelled a one-man team before the tournament, have plodded along unassumingly, raising their performances to the point where they won matches and that is what they needed to do to reach this stage. Whether they are able to improve them, to take them up another notch is one of the interesting aspects of this evening. Certainly, I think there is every danger that the match might end up in a rerun of 1990 rather than the openness of four years earlier. Sabella’s pragmatism lends itself toward that theory and Maradona identified that Messi wasn’t the key, it was the Argentine defence which needed to play at its peak. Vested interest in remaining the country’s best player or genuine assessment; only he knows the answer to that.
For Arsenal, a German win will give them confident players on their return but I think too much can be read into that. I concede that there will be an initial boost but fairly quickly, club form will take over. I do believe that a bigger, more positive impact on all the players, is knowing that they are returning to a club where the problems of last season have been addressed through investment in the squad. That will have more of an impact than three – possibly four – World Cup winners returning. Likewise, defeat tonight will soon be forgotten, or at least until the next international soiree, as Premier League and Champions League campaigns commence.
It might well help Arsène though in selling the club to players in future, pointing to three World Cup winners and making no secret of Arsenal’s contribution to their improved form, even if he and everyone else knows it a soft soap routine. And on that front, there is nothing new beyond comments that Arsenal are close to reaching an agreement with a German or German club. The truth is that everyone is focussed on Sami Khedira which may be where the club’s eyes are looking as well or it could be a sleight of hand. Who knows but we’ll find out in the coming weeks.