I have no doubt that Tim Krull’s antics before each Costa Rican penalty kick will be consigned to the history books by a FIFA suit before the next World Cup. Who knows, perhaps before the next shootout given the propensity of the Gnomes knees to jerk to anything which speaks ill of the Corinthian spirit. Krull’s gamesmanship was undeniably questionable and was it ungentlemanly conduct? Perhaps Messrs Hackett and Trevillion will be addressing that shortly? Whatever the answer, it was the stuff you love when your goalkeeper doing it but for the neutral and opposition, it drives you mad.
And when you lose, to the edge of despair.
You, as supporters of a Premier League club, will soon know that feeling. Not that I want you, just that by the time of the new season you will be heartily sick of the van Gaal lovefest that began the moment Krull made the second penalty save. Aloysius was, we were informed, courageous, tactically vibrant and astute, a manager whose entire record of substitutions in the World Cup is unblemished. Well, aside from the ones made in normal and extra time in the quarter-final. And that he was outwitted by a coach who had worked extensively with his players in the understanding of their roles. George Graham’s rope surely came into play.
As with the earlier tie, yesterday’s match between the Dutch And Costa Ricans was not Roy of the Rovers encounter although Keylor Navas’ heroics might have come from those pages. The match itself was largely forgettable save for the saves. And when was beaten, defenders or the woodwork or any combination of the two, came to his rescue. It was a valiant effort but Cinderella found the chimes of midnight had rung. The Dutch were nerveless and efficient with penalties, displaying the clinical touch in front of goal which had escaped them as the match progressed.
The problem FIFA has concerns the officials. Another sub-standard performance leaves you wondering if they are left with the best of a bad bunch? Certainly for the linos, that is the case; all four exposed the lack of support they give the referees and certainly the timidity of their decision-making is questionable. So often are their offside calls wrong that it strikes me that the fear of getting a decision is causing them to jump the gun, to make a call where none is required.
It is a common theme, repeated down the years as World Cups come and go. Have any the courage of Jack Taylor?
Facing the Dutch will be Argentina with Alex Sabella priming himself perfectly for the role of fall guy. Lee Majors would surely have approved of the Argentine’s bizarrely unknown see trust fall. It was a rare memorable moment from a match which failed to ignite despite Gonzalo Higuain’s instinctive finish. Courtois saved well from Messi who could not find the iconic moment the last eight and his manager needed.
The quarter-finals have proved the essence of tournament football;,play well enough to win, ride your luck once and then in the match that matters, produce your big performance. That has to the hope at least, a World Cup that promised so much isn’t delivering any more. The endlessly refilling pint has temporarily run dry.
Belgium’s exit from Brazil is assured to give the story of Thomas Vermaelen’s sale to Manchester United fresh impetus. From the player’s perspective, such an opportunity could prove irresistible with a better prospect for first team action than he is probably going to have at Arsenal this season. The question is whether Vermaelen actually wants the move. Even finishing outside of the Champions League places has little impact on United’s attractiveness for players. Aloysius has a reputation that they find attractive and the club is not reluctant to spend in the transfer market. Last season’s failure has already been written as Moyes fault with players absolved of their part in the club’s downfall. It would take a repeat of that for any end to the cycle of success to set in and you sense, such a collapse would have to be abject for the notion to really take hold.
Arsenal can play a small part in the attempt to achieve that end, not that it is in any way coordinated; it’s a happy by-product of their own success but selling a more than capable centre back to a rival is folly. It strengthens United and weakens Arsenal’s squad, even if that subsequently gets stronger through purchases. It also highlights a problem with the third central defender in recent years but the source is not so clear-cut. Is the quality of player poor, which seems unlikely given Djourou and Vermaelen contributed significantly to their nations relative success. They are both full international but are not considered good enough as Arsenal squad players. The cry for experienced international back-ups is never-ending but often drowned out by the criticism when they arrive. It’s as if the unfeasible option of Mertesacker and Koscielny backed up by Kompany and Hummels will only be acceptable. It’s a dream to think that Arsenal will ever have that depth; not even the likes of City, Chelsea, Real and Barcelona with their wealth have that depth. It’s madness to think they have.
Elsewhere, Sami Khedira is apparently back on Arsenal’s hitlist whilst the club awaits the outcome of Alexis Sanchez’s talks with Barcelona that hold the key to his future, so the Spanish media reports. Luis Suarez’s move to Barcelona is stumbling, not because of Sanchez, but Liverpool’s insistence that the Catalans take Daniel Agger as well according to El Mundo Deportivo. Victor Valdes has emerged as a shock target for Arsenal, diverting gazes from Iker Casillas. Having failed a medical at Monaco because of a knee injury, the former Barcelona stopper has elected to chance his arm in the less physically demanding Premier League.
Finally, my thoughts go to the family of Alfredo di Stefano whose condition remains critical having suffered a heart attack on Friday. Reminiscences of the great Real Madrid are shown, it is invariably the Argentine who features heavily and his abilities even from the distance of this time, remain undeniable. Surprisingly for a great player, he was a successful manager with titles won with Boca Juniors, River Plate and Valencia, guiding them to victory in the 1980 Cup Winners Cup final. Yes, that final but like Vincente Del Bosque, despite European success he was relieved of his duties less than a month after that victory. The madness of football club directors knows no bounds.