Wellety, wellety, wellety – how about that from the Saudi Arabian’s over the Argies yesterday, eh? That was some statement victory from the supposed whipping boys in the group, which also blows the group right open now and I think might have contributed to the absolute snooze-fest that was Mexico v Poland.
I went to a pub quiz last night and a mate asked me why I thought that, but if you think about how little margin you have for error in these group games, it kind of makes sense. You play three matches and normally if you pick up four points to six points you stand a chance of going through. Mexico, Poland and the Saudi’s probably all thought that Argentina would get nine and it would be a fight for that second place spot to get out of the group. Poland and Mexico probably thought that a win over the Saudi’s was basically a necessity because of the fact three teams were fighting for one spot. By beating Argentina yesterday, the Saudi’s have blown up the permutation rule book and as a result both Mexico and Poland probably knew that a draw for both isn’t the worst result in the world. That’s because if they draw with each other, both beat Saudi Arabia, then it comes down to picking up a point against the Argies to most likely qualify. If both teams get a draw against Argentina and beat the Saudi’s then both teams go through.
I’m not saying there was anything dodgy going on from a match fixing perspective, far from it, but tournament football feels like psychology as much as anything some times and this was a game in which both teams knew they didn’t want to lose, so a snoozefest was always going to be a possibility in that match.
And for those thinking “well, the Saudi’s could just go and do another upset”, I think that’s probably highly unlikely. They basically scored their two goals with their only two shots on target and had three in total in the entire game. If they get the same numbers against Poland and Mexico, they’d have to have the world’s luckiest charm stashed somewhere to pick up points based on performances like that and get through. But hey, let them have their moment, there will be celebrations in Saudi Arabia today and probably until they play next.
As for Argentina, there will be an inquest no doubt, but I heard that Emi Martinez has already found out why they lost that game yesterday. Apparently it was Arsenal’s fault, for letting him go and not giving him the number one jersey in September 2020, so that’s that mystery solved and the Argentinians can all move on with their lives. For them the path and aim is now abundantly clear; to win the World Cup they need to basically win every single match between now and the final. It can be done of course, as Spain showed in 2010 having lost to Switzerland in the opening game. So it can be done and part of me wonders whether this is the shock they Argentinians need to kick start their World Cup bid. Time will tell.
Elsewhere in the competition that is Arsenal-related, sort of, is the French game, in which Olivier Giroud has equalled Thierry Henry’s World Cup goal scoring record by notching two goals against Australia. I didn’t believe that and then I looked it up; Thierry got 51 in 123 appearances for France, but Ollie G has now notched 51 goals in 115. He’s done it in less than Henry did! That is some record and you have to give praise to him, but he’s an interesting case as a player because he feels a little like Welbeck to me, in that Danny Welbeck for a time had a phenomenal international goal scoring record, but for The Arsenal and for United he never really translated those ratios to the Premier League or domestically. There’s also something in the fact that Giroud has never been a player reliant on any kind of pace whatsoever, so his longevity in terms of his playing days was always going to be more than some of his other compatriots. This season for AC Milan he’s on nine goals in 19 games so fair play to the man, he’s still doing it both domestically and internationally.
The real disappointment though will be with Wiliam Saliba, who didn’t play a single minute and I can only think that Deschamps hasn’t watched a single minute of The Arsenal play this season, because he’s arguably the best defender in the best team in the best league in the world right now, so how that shouldn’t translate to some minutes on the pitch, I don’t know. Hopefully Deschamps sees the error of his ways soon enough.
Today’s footballing instalment see’s Arsenal involvement down to just Takehiro Tomiyasu today, with Morocco vs Croatia, Germany vs Japan, Spain vs Costa Rica and Belgium up against Canada. I wonder if Japan can cause an upset against the Germans, but I’m expecting little else from the other games other than the favourite teams to win. It’d be funny to see the Spanish lose but I don’t see it happening to be honest.
The only other thing we need to watch out for is the next controversy that unfolds in this World Cup. Perhaps the Qatari’s will ban fizzy sports drinks being held in the right hand of spectators, although that’s ok if you have a ticket supplied by FIFA as a VIP. Or maybe they will force everybody to stand on one leg for one whole minute at halftime? Who knows. What I do know is that we’re now deep in to the football side of it and at least that is one positive to come out of this infernal competition.
Right, I’m done for the day, so I’m going to call a halt to proceeding’s and catch you all in the morrow.