How Russia’s counter-attacking showed pointlessness of possession without purpose

June 14, 2018


“There will not be many occasions when Saudi Arabia’s players have enjoyed 62 per cent of the possession on the home turf of a European opponent and yet for much of the first half, as the world watched Russia kick-off its own tournament, the team in green had the ball. This is the way that so many modern managers aspire to play, and when they watch the best teams in the world it is easy to see why. Possession football is well established as the game’s purest form – the right way to win and perhaps even the right way to lose.” Telegraph

The Goal That Sealed Russia’s Latest Victory on the World Stage
“Watching the first game of the World Cup, an entirely lopsided affair between Russia and Saudi Arabia, burdened with the knowledge that the U.S. national team had not qualified for the tournament, I couldn’t help thinking that this was a sports-world reiteration of our country’s broader failures on the international stage. As was recently revealed in a detailed report from The Ringer, America’s absence was the product of factors that, these days, ring familiar: blithe incompetence (especially in the former manager Jürgen Klinsmann’s seeming inability to manage the personalities on his team) and an institution-wide focus on everything but the common good.” New Yorker

Pomp, absurdity and goals galore get Russia’s show off to a delirious start
“Take that! On opening night in Moscow the World Cup turned a full-flush red, setting off like a train inside a periodically delirious Luzhniki Stadium. Every tournament needs a fully functioning host nation. The fear had been that an ageing, stagnant Russia team might bleed a little life from the World Cup right at the start. In the event it all went off like a dream. There was the required grimly magisterial speech from your host for the night, Mr Vladimir Putin. A commendably short opening ceremony played out like a homespun Saturday teatime TV oddity.” Guardian

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Nine Reasons Why Brazil Will Win the World Cup

June 14, 2018

“… They’re among the betting favorites, but the Selecao still haven’t quite emerged as the favorite. ‘As good as Brazil are, they’re still arguably underrated,’ said Omar Chaudhuri, head of footballing intelligence at the consultancy 21st Club. There’s a chance we’ll get to July 15 and wonder, as we watch Neymar lift the World Cup trophy, how we didn’t see it all along. So, to prevent that from happening—and to risk some relatively minor, low-stakes, online embarrassment—here are nine reasons why Brazil is gonna win it all.” The Ringer (Video)


With a Coach Who Pulls Teeth to Relax, Iceland Becomes a Contender

June 14, 2018

“REYKJAVIK, Iceland — As the coach of the most successful national soccer team in Icelandic history, Heimir Hallgrimsson has had to make some sacrifices. This year, for instance, he was abroad with the team and could not dress up as his favorite mythological character, Gryla the child-snatching troll, at the Christmas party in Heimaey, his hometown. … Coaching a team bound for the World Cup has also left less time for Hallgrimsson’s original job, looking after people’s teeth in his dental practice in Heimaey (pop. 4,300), a 5.2-square-mile volcanic island off Iceland’s south coast.” NY Times


A World Cup Sleeper May Be Lurking In Group H

June 14, 2018

“Group H is potentially the most interesting in Russia this summer. While the average group difference in FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index score between the best and worst teams is about 25, Senegal’s SPI rating of 66.0 is only 14.5 points lower than Colombia’s 80.5. Poland (73.3) and Japan (71.4) are rated very similarly in the middle of the group. On top of this, the teams are filled with exciting attacking players from Europe’s strongest leagues: Poland’s Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Colombia’s James Rodríguez (Bayern Munich), Japan’s Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund) and Senegal’s Sadio Mané (Liverpool) will all be battling to make an impression on the world’s biggest stage.” FiveThirtyEight