Several pardners of mine had some really memorable things to say this week.
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Topsy turvy world in Samba land
If the number of surprises which had occurred within the past two days continue, then the World Cup may find some new countries in the final four of this competition. The comment does not only refer to the final results of the matches, but because of the disappointment which we have so far seen from some countries from which better is expected.
There is no desire to discredit any of the winners, especially the Netherlands, whose coaching staff must have made some clever adjustments to his previous effort against the Spaniards.
Sometimes we tend to forget that the retention of high quality play from these hard working professionals is of paramount importance.
It is not in hindsight that coach Vincente Del Bosque’s error of judgment could easily have been read by the technocrats, knowing that he had made comments which related to his team winning the World Cup in South Africa by scoring eight goals in seven matches, a factor which he had planned to address over the four year period.
There was merit in the observation and everyone expected that he would return to the drawing board. He may have decided that he can operate with one less midfielder and improve his attack.
The strategy did not work and the players’ ages did not indicate that they had improved, especially when their club activities were so intense.
His assessment of players like Zavi, Xabi Alonso, Busquets and Sergio Ramos should have been recognised, a factor which may have sent him in search of options with the strength, youthful vigour and responsibilities which were needed.
Coach Del Bosque frowned at the simple errors, probably realised that the Dutch had taken over the midfield, and set the course for some artistic work from Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder, whose penetrative moves were potent and implemented remarkably at most times.
This disastrous situation will probably lead to anxiety and lack of confidence, especially with players like Iniesta, David Silva, and Xavi, whose ability to string passes together and search well for passing lanes were not well defined.
They must go in search of an alternate pattern, maybe even to revert to their midfield domination.
So a five goal beating obviously sends an emergency signal to the Spaniards, knowing that Chile had taken full points convincingly against Australia.
The Aussies were physical and sometimes robust, running a thin line with the possibility of red and yellow cards. This approach is the way they play their game, using the extreme pressure on the players with the ball and trying to avoid the embarrassment of being faced with well orchestrated attacks from competent opponents.
Chile must not be ignored. They are skilful, quick footed and have mastered a series of quick passes in the opponents penalty, which tend to create the element of surprise, and some simple goals.
Costa Rica also turned up with a fine performance against Uruguay, who many thought would be a part of the final four. Some may wish to view the convincing victory as a bad hair day from Uruguay, but I prefer to see this display of good attacking football by the Central Americans whose midfield consisting the excellence of Bolanos, Campbell and Duarte, which tore apart an ageing and disorganised Uruguay defense.
The game of that day was clearly England and Italy, two previous World Cup winners, and teams with a commanding respect from the major countries of football.
However, strategically, the Italians were better equipped.
Roy Hodgson decided that the speed and skill of Sturridge and Sterling would do the trick, especially down the flanks. They held the Italians at bay and even started to put the squeeze on Andrea Pirlo with his typically accurate free kicks and superb passing.
England continues to be void of world class midfielders and they showed little creativity other than the number of crossed balls which should have produced better results. But the quality of crosses was appalling and not at the standard which Rooney, Sturridge and Johnson produced in previous times.
Italy was methodical with the use of energy, as they literally played a walking possession game when they were in the lead, without England trying to win the ball.
While the result was close, England needs to add to their moderate midfield performance and remind the youngsters Sturridge and Sterling that trying to work individually in a team game situation has no degree of success.
Now they must defeat Uruguay and Costa Rica to stay in the race.
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