The gift that keeps giving. There’s a Matryoshka Doll analogy to be made about these World Cup finals but I’ll leave it for now. Last night’s game is the one we’ll remember the longest.
No disrespect to the Aussies who did well (again) in their draw with Denmark. They didn’t win, of course, but that’s the new Australian sporting etiquette kicking in for you. After years of domination, winning for them has become so passe. And doing well is relative. You could argue that by not conceding another world record score to England in yesterday’s ODI, Australia ‘did well’. Still lost, and remain on course for a whitewash, but they did well nonetheless.
That’s the Australians nicely patronised. Who’s next? Ah yes, Argentina. Argentina, Argentina, Argentina. Don’t worry, we won’t cry for you.
They are, as the saying goes, bang average with Lionel Messi in the team. Which gives a frightening insight into how bad they would be without him. That may come sooner than they think as he became the lightning rod for the criticism I’ve seen of their World Cup. Which is, I hasten to add, limited. The criticism, that is; a ‘limited’ World Cup would be considered good compared to how this one has gone so far.
Their goalkeeping situation is staggering. The first two choices for the national team are the reserves for Manchester United and Chelsea. With Sergio Romero out with knee-knack, they get to see just how bad Willy Caballero really is. And he took it to a new low with the first goal.
As Pablo Zabaleta said, it is a sad moment which will define his career. Much like Gordon Smith is remembered outside of Brighton only for that miss at Wembley, Willy is going to be remembered for that moment.
In all of that, there was much to be admired in Rebic’s finish. A perfect volley to rub in the sheer madness of Caballero’s actions. And while I revel in the ‘collective’ agony suffered by the Argentina side, it’s impossible to not remember the tale of Moacir Barbosa, Brazil’s goalkeeper from the 1950 World Cup.
He was unable to venture out of the house for some while without a reminder of his mistake being thrown in his face. We’re not quite at that level yet but Caballero left an indelible stain in Argentina’s footballing history. All the while, Diego Maradona looked like he needed a huge line of coke to sort him out.
Modric found a good finish, and Caballero found himself maligned by Shearer (again). As did all the transgressors, but the VAR and referee got it in the neck from him most. This, presumably, isn’t the same Alan Shearer whose wanton disregard for the safety of a fellow professional at Leicester City in 1998, benefited from lax refereeing.
The throwback thuggery of both sides remains the hallmark of the match. Croatia were no angels, and Rebic was fortunate not to see red in the first half. It is staggering that no red cards were brandished in the 90 minutes. There was plenty of knee-capping, topped off with Otamendi’s outrageous stamping on Rakitic, having kicked the ball into his face.
It was, to use the footballing vernacular, ‘sh*thousery’ of the highest order.
After the match, Jorge Sampaoli confessed he regretted the squad not travelling to Israel for a pre-tournament friendly. “It was a missed opportunity,” he said, ”to put a rocket up their arses.”
Money for Nothing
Today is a more ‘Arsenal’ day at the World Cup. Switzerland are on show, Nigeria might show up this time, and there’s the burgeoning disappointment of Brazil as well. Joel Campbell floats some people’s boats. For me, he remains the epitome of markedly poor investments made with limited funds.
Elsewhere, nobody has joined or left so the questions about what the Transfer Window Action Team are doing can begin!