Morning folks – how we all doing? Enjoy the festivities of football yesterday?
I must admit that I didn’t expect to be talking about a Denmark exit at the hands of Australia for the knockout stages, that’s for sure. The Danes looked impressive at times in the Euro’s and I just assumed that it would be the same in this tournament, but they have very much flattered to deceive, it seems, which has meant that it is the Aussies who go through. And fair play to them and their fans for getting up in the middle of the night to watch it, because it seems like there was a fair few of them who had made the effort and for those sore heads this morning, it’ll have all been worth it.
Of course they’ll get a bit of a pasting against Argentina in their Round of 16 game, so it’s probably as far as they’ll go, but maybe Christmas miracles can happen.
On a related note, when on earth did it stop getting called the second round? I could have sworn that’s what it used to be called. Second Round, Quarter Final, Semi Final, Final. Could’ve sworn it was that all those years ago. Or maybe even recent tournaments. ‘Round of 16’ just doesn’t have a ring to it, does it? It’s a bit clunky as a stage.
“How did you get on?”
“Got to the ‘Round of 16”
“So what does that mean then? Is that good? How many rounds were there?”
Nope, give me good ol’ fashioned ‘Second Round’. Do it like they do with the FA Cup; you get to the Sixth Round, then after that you’re in the Semi Final. Simples.
In terms of the other games yesterday, I’ll not put as much effort in to the France vs Tunisia game as the French did, so let’s move on from that, as the really exciting stuff happened in the evening. Who doesn’t love a ‘permutation’?? Before I talk about Poland v Argentina, sad times for Mexico, who I watched the last 20 minutes of their game and thought the desperation, the chances, the excitement and then the agony of that late goal against them from Saudi Arabia, was a fantastic watch. Not if you are Mexican, but as a neutral the drama is always gripping.
I’ve repeatedly stated I’m not a fan of International football, but tournament International football becomes very interesting when you have situations like last night with Group C. That was a hum-dinger! I found myself pre game routing for Poland because of the Szczesny connection, which I still think I was behind when he made the penalty save after the frankly ludicrous decision to award the spot kick from the Szcszesny palm away. I’m sorry but if that’s a penalty then the referees in this tournament have missed about three in each game. Then for the referee on the pitch, as well as in the VAR studio, to all agree? Madness. It’s kind of deflating too; as English Premier League watchers we all bemoan the shocking standard of our own referees. I almost take solace in the fact that ours are so terrible and there are nations out there with plenty of great referees. But that guy yesterday – think he was Dutch – just threw a Netherlands-shaped spanner in the works in showing that incompetence on VAR and on-field spans country borders too. Thankfully Woj saved it, but he couldn’t save Poland from being generally terrible in the game.
But then they went through anyway, so they’ll all be patting each other on the back this morning, but based on what most of us have seen so far in this tournament, they’ll be heading home soon enough when France give them a hammering. I cannot see any other result barring – again – some sort of Christmas miracles. But based on Poland’s lack of ambition I’m inclined for that to happen more for the Aussies than the Poles. And that’s taking in to account the fact that if England beat Senegal on Sunday, they’ll play the winner of that match!
My hope for today is that we get some more intriguing moments in which teams flit in-between going through and going out. Group E is set up nicely, because every team has to go for it, but if I was a betting man I’d assume that the two big names will ultimately go through. Japan should have beaten Costa Rica and if they’d have done that then they’d have knocked Germany out, but I think Germany finishes the job today and with Costa Rica’s terrible goal difference, I suspect that it almost counts as a point for Germany already given the group context. A 1-0 Germany win will probably put them through because I can’t see anything other than a Spain win against the Japanese. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the fat that Spain are basically qualified due to their superior goal difference – again, practically acting like an additional point – but I don’t think that will force the Spanish to take their eye of the ball tonight. Regardless though, at least there are no dead rubbers.
Unlike the earlier games in the day, where sadly Canada are out, which is a shame given how admirably they’ve played. But Morocco have something to play for and I just hope that they can overcome the Canadians now, because it would be funny to see a pretty bang-average Belgium team go out. The goal difference is such that a draw for Morocco is enough if Croatia win and Croatia know they can’t not go for Belgium for fear of Morocco winning their match and knocking them out. So three of the four teams are playing for something and hopefully that adds some intrigue.
Away from the World Cup and back on The Arsenal, it has been sad to hear that Ben White has returned home from the World Cup for ‘personal reasons’. You don’t come home from that unless there is something serious happening at home and so at this time that privacy requested by both England and Arsenal is essential. We just have to hope that he and all of his family are ok.
On that potentially sombre note I’m going to call it quits for today, so hug a family member tighter and hopefully you can enjoy the rest of your Thursday.
Have a good one peeps.