Yesterday I had a really busy day of meetings and personal appointments, so I didn’t watch a single minute of football. By the sounds of it, that started off as a good idea with what Switzerland, Cameroon, Uruguay and South Korea all served up, but I’ve seen and heard some of the comments on the Brazil/Serbia and Portugal Ghana game and it seems I missed a whole host of talking points, which is frustrating.
I remember being at Uni in 2002 and watching the World Cup every day. It was a bit of a pain in the arse because it was on during the mornings, but I recall thoroughly enjoying getting up and drinking Snake Bite and Black at 7am in the student union bar with my mates. In 98 for France I was at school and so I couldn’t really watch all of the games, but in 2002 I was able to come and go as I pleased, so there were a fair few lectures missed for things like Paraguay versus Slovenia, for example. Well, if that is the option above Management Science, what is a boy to do but to go with his footballing gut?
Since I’ve entered the working world it has been a bit of an up and down situation. I’ve been in the world of work for 19 years now and in that time there has been four World Cups that have gone on whilst I’ve been working. In the ‘old days’ you’d just have to miss the games, but in recent years and thankfully with the flexibility I have in my current role, I can have the TV on in the background to catch parts of the games. But it still doesn’t match being able to just watch all of the matches without any distraction. So yesterday was a bit of a shame for me as there was a fair few Arsenal players on that it would have been good to get a glimpse of.
Today I’ll get a good look at two for tonight’s game, at least, as Matty Turner will line up for the US and Saka for England. This is a game I’m fascinated to watch, because on paper the English team should have more than enough to cope with what I thought looked a decent American side in the first half of their game against Wales, but then just became introverted and too defensive in the second half. If they ‘have a go’ at England tonight, they’re going to get done with the space available to those English attackers. If they sit back, however, they’ll just find themselves camped in their own half and you’d hope that England have the quality to unlock their defence. So I’m not sure what sort of USA approach we’ll get today.
The early game is Wales against Iran and I think this will also give us an indication on where the different teams sit in their respective groups and that is often the case with these second round of games. Sometimes teams can have shockers – like Argentina or Germany – but then you realise that it isn’t that they are finished, but merely had a blip and will grow in to the tournament. Whereas other times you see a team race out of the blocks – like Spain and England – but the second game proves that actually they’re not as good and going to sweep everyone aside. If, for example, Wales smash up Iran and beat them by three, four or five goals, then you’ll look at the England result and say it was calibre of opposition rather than how great England are. If Costa Rica also get beat up in their group, then you’re just looking at that hammering Spain delivered them as par for the course based on the opponent.
That’s why tonight’s game for England will be interesting. Are we going to see that this England team is the real deal as they turn over the US? Or will we see a tight and cagey game that could go either way, thus proving that Iran just aren’t actually any good? We’ll start to find out today just which teams had a good opening start to the tournament and nothing else, as well as which teams really are the ‘real deal’.
Speaking of ‘real deal’, good on Gabby Martinelli making his first appearance for Brazil yesterday, as he came on as a sub in their game against Serbia. He’ll be buzzing today and hopefully that just skyrockets his confidence. My hope is that he shows the world just what he’s been delivering for us this season, but I suspect he’ll be limited on his minutes because Tite will insist on playing Raphinha and that unknown footballer Neymar. Although by the looks of that ankle that I saw the stills of yesterday, I wonder whether Neymar is a doubt for the second game in the group. If he is, then surely there’s a chance that Martinelli might get some more game time, although admittedly I know he hasn’t played the same position that Neymar plays. But perhaps there’s some shuffling that can be done to get him in? Here’s to hoping.
The only Arsenal news to come out yesterday from the mens side was that we have a friendly arranged at the Emirates on 17th December against Juventus. That’ll be an interesting one and it will probably have a fair few first teamers rocking up, so should be a good watch. Whether or not I go I’m not sure though; Christmas is a family time in my household and we get about seeing various relatives, so may or may not be something I can get down to see with the lads. But should be a bit of pre Christmas fun so certainly it’ll be of interest to most of us.
Right, I’m done for today. A day of work ahead, with the occasional glance round to the TV to see what’s happening on the various matches today.
Catch you all tomorrow.