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The World Turned Upside Down?

You may have noticed there’s a rather large and important football competition taking place at the moment. (A swift glance at TV schedules would be enough to tell you that.)

Four years ago I expressed my fear that a period of Germanic hegemony was upon us. Notwithstanding Portugal’s efforts at the last European Championships the young German side which triumphed at last year’s Confederations Cup boded well (or ill, according to view) for that prospect.

It seems that hegemony is not to be. In three performances of stunning inadequacy Germany have been so poor as to finish bottom of their group, only a moment of individual brilliance on the part of Toni Kroos yielding them a solitary win over Sweden.

It’s been a topsy-turvy sort of tournament what with England playing well (so far) and Argentina, like the Germans, struggling badly – but still managing to reach the second round.

I’ve not been overly impressed by anyone – though I thought Colombia looked good against Poland. But that may have been because the Poles were totally ineffective.

Brazil seem unbalanced to me; too much in thrall to their star player, Neymar, who doesn’t look fully fit. Belgium may be dark horses but haven’t played anybody of standing yet.

Judgement must be reserved till the knockout games. Too often before, a good showing in the group has unravelled at the next step.

But… Could this be Uruguay’s year again? They’re the only side yet to concede a goal.

(Cue a Portugal win on Saturday.)

Chile 0-1 Germany

Confederations Cup Final, Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, 2/7/17.

To slightly amend Gary Lineker. Football is a simple game. Twenty-two plus men chase a ball around a pitch for 95 minutes, and the Germans win. Even if it’s their B-team.

Well, they might not have got to the final of the last European Championship but after this tournament who can doubt the strength in depth the German national team now has?

It’s a frightening thought for the other possible contenders for the 2018 World Cup.

Mind you, had it not been for a dreadful mistake at the back by Marcelo Díaz the game might have ended 0-0.

Still, Germany took that golden opportunity and Chile, despite their domination of possession, failed to take any of their chances.

And Germany always looked capable of getting another goal whenever they forayed up the park.

Not bad for a country whose normal first choices had been given the close season off.

For Joachim Löw it’s a good selection headache to have.

Blogging Hiatus

For various reasons I haven’t been able to organise blog posts recently. I’ve also missed the second round of Confederations Cup matches.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as I can get round to it.

I note Sons’ fixture list for next season is due out tomorrow. I might be able to comment on that by Saturday.

Brazil 3-0 Spain

FIFA Confederations Cup, Final, Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, 30/6/13

Seemingly Brazil don’t do competitive defeats at home. Their last was 38 years ago, and that was the only one in the past 50 years. They have only ever lost twice in a competitive game at the Maracanã (whose official name I’ve now learned is the Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho.)

As in the semi-final Spain were most unSpain like. This could be due to the fact that both Italy and Brazil got at them. I note here that even if Big Phil did not send Brazil out deliberately to play the early ball over the top David Luiz had certainly noticed the Spanish vulnerability. It was his crossfield pass that led to Brazil’s first goal.

It was strange to see Spain out-hustled for two games in a row. Hustling is one of their strengths. But Italy and Brazil didn’t allow them time on the ball nor space to pass it.

Spain had their chances but the combination of a David Luiz goal line clearance and a Julio Cesar in great form frustrated them.

Fred’s second early in the second half killed the game. Iker Casillas showed here why Jose Mourinho may have preferred Diego López latterly.

Talking about goalkeepers falling from their absolute best Gianluigi Buffon in the semi seemed to have recovered from Italy’s defensive horrors in the group games but looked a bit iffy again in the third place match.

Brazil don’t lose competitive matches at home?

Well, they’re still haunted by the loss to Uruguay at the Maracanã in the last game of the 1950 World Cup. They still will be when next year’s tournament comes round.

Confederations Cup 2013

This year’s tournament has been very watchable stuff, even if the games involving Tahiti were total mismatches.

Italy have been strange; leaking goals in the group games was very unlike them. They reverted to defensive type in the semi-final against Spain, though, except they seemed to adopt that most un-Azzurri tactic, the ball over the top. An un-Italian inability to convert chances scuppered them in the end. I wonder if Brazil will try the ball over the top in the final. It caught Spain out a few times, confirming the sense that the Spanish are get-at-able at the back.

Nigeria look to have the nucleus of a side for the future; get themselves a clinical finisher and they’ll be there.

I was surprised that Japan ended up with no points. They were excellent but allowed themselves to be caught out. Given a good draw in next year’s World Cup they could go deep into that competition.

Brazil aren’t the full article yet either but Neymar is a player (even if he falls over too easily.)

And what a transformation for Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani from the group games – when he looked lost – to the semi-final, where he was influential all over the pitch.

(The final will probably be a let down now.)

Denmark 1-3 Japan

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg, 24/6/10

A thoroughly deserved win for Japan. Denmark were turgid, uncreative and pedestrian. The Japanese were quick, bright and incisive, passing the ball delightfully, and in Keisuke Honda had the best player on the pitch – though some of the other Japanese ran him close. If it weren’t likely to be construed as politically incorrect I’d have said the Japanese were nippy. The Danes weren’t at the races.

Their first two were magnificent strikes (goalkeeping aberrations accepted) but Japan’s third goal was a thing of beauty, Honda turning the Danish defender inside out and giving Thomas Sorensen the eyes before laying it on a plate for Okazaki.

(Speaking of un-PC-ness, what was it with the Germans and that black outfit in the Ghana game? I know it’s one of the colours on their flag but a black uniform on Germans has unfortunate resonances. What was wrong with their traditional green second strip?)

And what odds could I have got on New Zealand going through their group unbeaten?

As I thought in game 1, Italy were vulnerable at the back. Buffon’s absence probably didn’t help them. At least they weren’t wearing that sky blue effort – not to mention the brown shorts – they had at the Confederations Cup.

And France went out early as I expected.

More 1966-all-over-again nonsense to endure from the commentariat.

At least until Sunday.

England 1-1 USA

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg, 12/6/10

Honours even, then. Possibly a fair result.

Contrary to the TV pundits I thought it was a thoroughly disjointed and lack-lustre performance from England in the first half – which the US dominated even if they didn’t work Robert Green enough. (As it turned out working him once was enough.)

Rooney was anonymous, Lampard was anonymous – I don’t recall him being on the ball at all till the second half.

The US, by contrast, seemed to have an idea of what they were trying to do: at least their passes were crisp and reaching their team mates.

It was noticeable that after the US goal the commentator suddenly remembered that the US pushed Brazil hard in the final of last year’s Confederations Cup.

In the second half things opened up a bit late on, Rooney began to make an impact on the game, but neither side looked totally convincing.

So. Did we see potential winners tonight?

Let’s put it this way.

I don’t think Brazil, Spain, Argentina or even Holland will be quaking in their boots.

Edited to add: I see from the highlights that Lampard was involved in the goal – but that was his only contribution to the first half.

Confederations Cup (5) USA 2 Brazil 3

Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg

Cracking final.
USA rocked a poor Brazil back on their heels first half and were well worth the two goal lead. The early goal second half put the writing on the wall, though, and it was all Brazil from then on. So in the end the world wasn€’t turned upside down.

The US are good when they have eleven men on the park. The rest of us are stuffed if mainstream US ever takes proper football to its heart over their own version, baseball and basketball. Or if China gets its football act together.

One remark from the commentators: “England really don’€™t have anything to fear next year,”€ – Mark Bright.
Oh, dear.

Confederations Cup (4) Spain 0 USA 2

Free State Stadium, Mangaung, Bloemfontein

It’€™s not going to be a Spain vs Brazil final, then.
Whether this result is a reflection of the imbalance in the two groups only today’€™s South Africa-Brazil game will tell. The USA were worth this win, though, hardly allowing Spain a chance.
Spain increasingly resembled the old teams of bottlers who never quite stepped up to the big occasion.
I’€™d noticed earlier they were missing Senna. Iniesta too. That might make a difference next year.
Nil desperandum amigos; apparently Confederations Cup winners never do well at the following World Cup.
One further thought about the Italy-USA group match, it now seems the sending off told most.
And I wish the commentators would shut up about the vuvuzelas (those horns the South African spectators blow continually.) As it’s easy to blank out as background, I barely notice the noise.

Confederations Cup (3) Egypt 0 USA 3: Italy 0 Brazil 3

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Tshwane, Pretoria

In the words of Sir Alex, “Football. Bloody hell!”

A six goal swing is beyond remarkable.

I spent the night game-hopping and managed to catch four of the goals live and the other two on the first replay.

Italy did not defend like Italy. On the other hand Brazil attacked like Brazil. Italy reverting to white shorts and socks improved neither their luck nor their performance. Buffon was in brown, though; it really is very strange.

Egypt’s goalkeeper El Hadary saved them from a worse defeat even if he made a mistake for the first USA goal.

A Spain vs Brazil final could be tasty.

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