International Over: Football’s Back

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:

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
Arjen Robben
Flying Dutchman

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.

’til Tomorrow.


34 thoughts on “International Over: Football’s Back

  1. @Bill

    I’ll post it again but it is an ABSOLUTE DISGRACE that the USA couldn’t beat Trindad & Tobago or at the very least get a draw to make it to the World Cup. Honestly, there is literally no excuses, yea the pitch was shit but some of the pitches that these players play on get water logged from time to time, Belgium won on something that was barely better than a cow patch, Argentina put in work against Ecuador on a shit pitch. To me it just again proves that the US might have taken steps but to even think that they could challenge even some of the poorer nations in Europe is ridiculous.

  2. Yep, the interlull is over, all that remains is for the ambulances to deliver the injured players back to their respective clubs.

    Advanced ticket applications for the World Cup have fallen off the cliff edge following warnings about violence against travelling fans. “One commented, I’m not going there to get banged up by the Russian police for being beaten up by the Russian hooligans”

  3. Trinidad didn’t have their best player because he was suspended, left all their most experienced players at home, literally called up mostly their U21 players, they literally didn’t give a ahit about playing and the US turned in an absolute stinker.

  4. Bill,

    It is in shambles and while the Omar Gonzalez own goal was fluky, the fact that they didn’t turn up is inexcusable. I have been chatting all night and morning with mates of mine who support and go travel to matches both in the US and abroad when they can and they say for all the good work that has been accomplished, the US could potentially lose a whole generation of players given that the US hasn’t been in the last 2 Olympics and aren’t in the World Cup this year and now have to wait until the next World Cup cycle.

  5. Damon,

    Trust mate, I was laughing hysterically last night when I was watching the match, thank god for great youth team managers 😉

    Have to say though, as an American, I did feel some pain especially when you consider that Panama and Iceland are going and the USA are so shit. then again, when the manager prefers to start Altidore over Bobby Wood (CF for the last 2-3 seasons for Hamburg) this is what you get.

  6. Well done Yogi. It isn’t easy to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear of an incredibly dull interlull – but somehow you managed it. 🙂

    I too had heard something along the lines of it being better to play weaker International teams against the whiz kids of the football world like Germany, Spain and Holland, so that they learn and improve by association with them. The Nederlands don’t seem to have thought that threw.

    It is similar to inviting promising youth team players to attend 1st team training, in order that some of their greater skill rubs off.

    It’s all bollix. Luxembourg will always be San Marino – with each trying to best the other about who has the weakest defence.

    Maybe C will bang on and supply us with a workable solution? :-0

  7. C

    Right now we are not good and there is not much hope that we can get better anytime soon. We don’t have anywhere close to a critical mass of difference making players.

  8. Bill,

    Nope and while players like Bobby Wood and Pulisic are only 24 and 19 respectively, by the time the next World Cup cycle comes through, will they want to play for the US and more importantly, US supporters have to hope that they continue to develop like they are. Yup, its all gone to shit and on top of that Mexico is going to rub salt in the wounds.

  9. Ospina has had quite a shitty International break I must say, on the back of his performances for Arsenal and its a shame we sent Martinez on loan but I would like to see Macey more personally.

  10. Based on those shocking international performances Ospina is surely done with us come season’s end.
    Personally, I hope Cech starts all competitions from now on but that seems more than unlikely.
    As several of said at the time – we should have kept Chezzer.
    Martinez is 25 now and barely getting a game.

  11. Wasn’t sure what a Bovver Boot Ballet was.
    I mused that I’d rather see a Bowyer Boot Ballet.
    However, after googling Bovver Boot I see they are the same thing.

  12. Europe should have 2 divisions. The elite countries playing each other for WC qualification in a Pool A. This would reduce the number of international games. Let the lower tier teams fight among themselves in Pool B – the top 4 perhaps gain promotion o compete with the Pool A in 4 years. And the 4 weakest of Pool A get relegated to Pool B.

  13. Just seen a video that purports to show Falcao negotiating with multiple opposition players individually to engineer a draw – putting both Colombia and Peru through.

    Have to admit it looks very incriminating.

  14. The USA are overrated. They have been for a long while. But for some poor referee decisions T&T would have had more points and be contesting a spot at the next world cup.

    In T&T reaction is mixed but leans on the side of Schadenfreude. Some point out that we are not going to the World Cup so there is no reason to celebrate.

    I remember Nov 1989 when all we had to do was draw with a crappy USA side to get to Italia 90. There was partying before the match. No one expected the USA to win. They did not expect to win either. We lost 0-1. We would have been the first West Indian island at the world cup. We weren’t .

    It’s 28 years later but Schadenfreude is sweet.

  15. Wasn’t even paying attention but apparently Sead waa hauled off at half-time for Bosnia…is he injured too? That would mean Kos, Mustafi and Sead all injured along wIth Chambers.

  16. You’ll probably appreciate this amazing rant.


    It is in shambles and while the Omar Gonzalez own goal was fluky, the fact that they didn’t turn up is inexcusable. I have been chatting all night and morning with mates of mine who support and go travel to matches both in the US and abroad when they can and they say for all the good work that has been accomplished, the US could potentially lose a whole generation of players given that the US hasn’t been in the last 2 Olympics and aren’t in the World Cup this year and now have to wait until the next World Cup cycle.

  17. According to the Telegraph the Sead Kolasinac injury was nothing serious and he will be fit to face Watford on Saturday evening.

    Here’s a few commas as, apparently, one was missing from an earlier comment. , , , ,

  18. Further news on Kolasinac, he wasn’t injured at all, he was substituted for tactical reasons.

    Further bulletins will be issued as and when the situation needs clarification.


  19. Who would be a fan, eh, when player transfers (or not) are in the offing?

    Following yesterdays drivel about Özil being prepared to stay at Arsenal, and that his agent had hinted that talks were ‘progressing’, today we learn that AW has said there is no progress on the contract talks for Mesut, and that he and Sanchez are possibly/probably going to move in January.

    No surprise there. Transfer rumour bollix is endemic on blogs. Injury rumours likewise. 🙂

  20. Entering into the spirit of the rumour mill, I was amused that Wenger said there was no truth in the speculation that Overmars could become the DoF at Arsenal, again no surprise there, but he went on to say something along the lines – yes, we have been in touch with him, but not at the moment – so that’s pretty clear —- not. 🙂

    Maybe Overmars has pulled a muscle, and won’t be available for a few weeks?? 😀

  21. Now this is interesting.

    Kolasinac was withdrawn from the action at the end of the first half in mid-week, sparking concerns that he had suffered some kind of injury. The rumours suggested he had a calf injury, but Wenger confirmed in his pre-Watford press conference that Sead has a “minor hip problem”.

    He went on to say the wing-back will be assessed ahead of the match against Watford before any final decision on his availability will be made.

    He failed to say that after treatment Sead would be out for another 6 weeks, but he will not be transferred, yet. [I fully expect that last sentence to be in the Star tomorrow.] 😀
    Well if you can’t beat them – join them – spread a little rumour/injury happiness.

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