As expected, Brazil and Portugal played out a drab, goalless draw. If there were any doubts about the intentions of the Portuguese, their manager’s celebration at the end of the game quelled those emphatically.
Portugal started this game with 6 defenders in the starting eleven and a couple of defensive minded midfielders. Brazil started with 5 defenders and a couple of defensive midfielders. People must have paid hundreds of pounds for the ticket to such a game. I wonder how they feel. Are they happy just with the thought that they saw “Portugal V Brazil”? Is the experience of being in that stadium enough to justify the expenses incurred? Personally, I would find it a colossal waste of money if I ever ended up watching such a game.
We are likely to see more of the same when Portugal take on Spain in the second round as they will look to emulate the fluke achieved by the Swiss, who bowed out after failing to score in the other two games.
Hopefully, Del Bosque will have enough to get past Carlos Queiroz but I have my doubts based on what Spain have done in their first three games. They haven’t got going yet and their qualification is largely down to the quality of David Villa who scored another memorable goal.
Chile V Spain turned out to be as exciting as I was hoping for. The South Americans took the game to the Spaniards and were really asking some tough questions in the first half hour. The goalkeeper’s blunder did put them a goal behind but they always looked like they could get one themselves.
It all changed when another idiotic refereeing decision forced Chile to play with 10 men. Estrada received his marching orders for a second booking. I thought both cards were extremely harsh, although he did get away with one tackle where he should have been booked.
In order to understand the significance of this sending off we have to see the passing stats. When the game was 11v11 Chile had more passes than Spain. Xavi was making roughly one pass in two minutes with a 50-55% success rate. After the sending off Spain almost doubled the number of passes by Chile and Xavi had more than a pass a minute with over a 90% success rate. In short, the ref sucked the life out of the game.
Chile did the tactically correct thing of protecting their goal from then on and were lucky to score one from a deflection. It didn’t matter in the end as the Swiss couldn’t score. The last half an hour of the game was just tippy-tappy stuff in the middle of the park by the Spaniards as Chile held back. I think it’s not fair on the spectators either but it’s understandable, and both teams have been extremely positive thus far so it’s acceptable as well.
Cesc came on in the 55th minute for the woefully out of form Torres. By then the game didn’t have an edge so most of his contribution was rather meaningless, keep-the-ball-no-one-really-cares kind of stuff. He did manage 52 accurate passes out of 58 total, roughly matching Xavi in terms of numbers and accuracy. Incidentally, these passing stats were far better than what Alonso did in 73 minutes but as I said before the game was dead by then so we can’t read much into it.
Del Bosque will have to change his approach for the game against Portugal. I think he needs the creativity of Fabregas but the formation he is playing severely limits his options as he has to play one of Torres, Silva or Navas. If Spain fail to get past Portugal, it will be due to the incompetence of their manager.
Now that the group phase is over, only three Arsenal players remain in the competition (United, Chelsea, Spuds, Liverpool and City have more). One is injured, one is getting his form back and the best one is struggling to get a chance. The good news for Arsenal fans is that our players will get a much deserved rest and won’t have to miss much of the preseason.
Amongst those who are left, I think Vela will go out against Argentina in the second round. Van Persie is likely to have a mouth watering clash against the Brazilians in the quarter-final and if the Dutch get through, they will have a good chance of making the finals.
Spain have a tricky second round tie and will have a tough semi-final with an easy game in between.
It’s likely that our two best players will be the last to leave the World Cup and that will affect their preparations for the next season. Some might say that Fabregas is getting a rest anyway, but that’s definitely not the case. He must be mentally exhausted with the transfer saga and physically from all the continuous training.
We have a tricky start to the season and will be interesting to see how Arsene handles it. Anyway that’s still in the distance. Let’s just enjoy the few games that are worth watching before we worry about the next season.