Mohamed Salah, Real Madrid and revenge

May 27, 2022


“It’s a question — like, ‘You don’t mind, do you?’, or ‘Does size matter?’ — that is very rarely answered honestly. When the BT Sport gang asked Mohamed Salah, in the immediate aftermath of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final win over Villarreal, which of Manchester City or Real Madrid he would prefer to play in the final, they probably thought he would give the standard, stock answer. ‘I don’t mind, both are great teams, I’m just happy we’re in the final, either will be a tough game,’ blah, blah, blah. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Konate or Matip? Liverpool’s big Champions League final decision
SI: Champions League Final Brings Elixir for Liverpool, Real Madrid’s Fresh Setbacks – Jonathan Wilson
The Athletic: Luis Diaz: The remarkable rise of ‘Luchito’, Liverpool’s ‘true miracle’
Guardian: ‘It’s not easy to score against me’: Courtois the key to Madrid’s wild ride (Video)
The Athletic: Carlo Ancelotti — the Galactico whisperer and king of cups
The Athletic: What makes Eduardo Camavinga the perfect super-sub for Real Madrid


How Mino Raiola Became a Super Agent

May 20, 2022


Mino Raiola passed away in April 2022 at the age of 54. He had become the most infamous football agent in the world, broker deals for some of the games biggest player, including Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But how did he become a footballing super agent? How did a restaurant worker from Naples connect Serie A with the Eredivisie? How did he inspire such loyalty in his clients? James Horncastle writes, Philippe Fenner illustrates. …”
YouTube
SI: Mino Raiola Was an Unorthodox, Transformative Force, Adored by His Players – Jonathan Wilson
W – Mino Raiola


Outbreaks of chaos expose fatal flaw that keeps denying Guardiola European glory

May 7, 2022


“At what point does just one of those things become more than just one of those things? If Manchester City’s defeat to Real Madrid on Wednesday night were a one-off, it could be written off. What can you do about luck like that? If you have nine shots on target to the opposition’s none in the first 90 minutes and still lose 2-1 what, really, have you done wrong? Especially when you’ve dominated the first leg as City had done. But this keeps happening. Season after season, Pep Guardiola finds his teams dominating Champions League ties and losing. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Pochettino and the paradox at PSG, a club that is almost unmanageable

April 30, 2022


“There is probably only one thing a manager can do at Paris Saint-Germain that would enhance his reputation, which is to win the Champions League – and even then there would be plenty of people looking at the £900m net spend since the Qatari takeover in 2011 and thinking: ‘About time.’ Mauricio Pochettino has not done that. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Alan Shearer analyses Man City 2 Liverpool 2: Quick free-kick aids De Bruyne, Klopp’s clear message, screaming at Ederson

April 11, 2022


“Electric, relentless, scintillating, towering standards and brutal in its intensity; Jurgen Klopp likened this match to a boxing match and so it was, with these two exceptional teams slugging it out toe-to-toe at the top of the Premier League, each committed to their own style and principles, utter belief in what they do, and refusing to change for them or for anybody. It was everything we hoped for and expected. Blimey, Manchester City against Liverpool was good. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Manchester City’s strive for perfection goes on as Liverpool highlight flaws – Jonathan Wilson


Broken down: How Klopp’s Liverpool and Guardiola’s Manchester City play football

April 9, 2022


“Manchester City vs Liverpool. Pep Guardiola vs Jurgen Klopp. A 4-3-3 vs ….well, a 4-3-3. Whichever angle you look at it from, City and Liverpool have barely given each other an inch as they set record-breaking limits in the modern Premier League era. … The numbers certainly support Klopp’s assertion. Only one point separates the two sides in terms of Premier League points accrued since the beginning of the 2018-19 season. After 143 games each, City are just edging it 338 to 337. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: How Guardiola and Klopp left the rest of the Premier League trailing in their wake (Video)
The Athletic: One day, Jurgen Klopp will leave Liverpool – will all he has built last once he has gone? (Audio)
Guardian: Foden, the flanks and key battles that will decide Manchester City v Liverpool – Jonathan Wilson
BBC – Man City v Liverpool: Tiny margins involved in Premier League’s title-defining rivalry (Video)
NY Times: Liverpool, Manchester City and a Bar Set Too High
NY Times: Classic Games, Lingering Scars and the Finish Line in Sight


Roman Abramovich: What do Russian owner’s sanctions mean for Chelsea?

March 14, 2022


“The future of European champions Chelsea is uncertain after sanctions were placed on Russian owner Roman Abramovich on Thursday. The billionaire has been in charge since 2003 but had his attempts to sell the club halted by the UK government, which has frozen his assets. What does it mean for Chelsea’s fans, players and staff? BBC Sport explains how the situation will affect those associated with the club. Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The government believes the billionaire has had a ‘close relationship for decades’ with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, links Abramovich has always denied. …”
BBC (Video)
NY Times: At Chelsea, Nervous First Steps Into an Uncertain Future
NY Times: Britain Freezes Assets of Roman Abramovich, Creating Crisis at Chelsea
Guardian / Jonathan Wilson – ‘It was so emotional’: Yarmolenko on his tears for Ukraine after West Ham goal
Guardian: Stamford Bridge hosts dark day for those who care for football’s soul
New Republic: Is Soccer on the Brink of a Moral Awakening?

Hammers ahead Andriy Yarmolenko, born in Ukraine, scored his staff’s opening objective within the win. With Russia’s invasion on Ukraine persevering with, there isn’t a doubt that his coronary heart is heavy and hurting.


Russia exploits football as soft-power tool but it also helped forge Ukraine’s identity

March 12, 2022


“Josef Kordik was sitting in a cafe in Kyiv when a bedraggled man on the street caught his eye. That, he was sure, was Myklova Trusevych, the great Dynamo goalkeeper. He rushed outside. It was spring 1942, a few months after the city had fallen to the Nazis. Kordik was a Moravian who had been left behind after fighting for Austria-Hungary in the first world war. He had not enjoyed his new life and watching football had been his only joy, but the occupation had meant opportunity. He had falsely claimed Volksdeutsch status and been installed as manager of Bakery Number 1. But for most people occupation had brought suffering. Trusevych had sent his wife, who was Jewish, to Odesa to escape the fighting. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
Guardian – ‘The worst possible nightmare’: voices from Ukrainian football as war rages


Bruno Lage finds right connections at Wolves to shrug off Portuguese struggles

February 28, 2022


“The temptation when Bruno Lage was appointed by Wolves was to assume it would just be more of the same: another Portuguese manager, another Jorge Mendes client, at a club with a strong Portuguese core. If managers from the German school of hard-pressing are the most modish appointment for an aspirational modern club, Portugal’s disciples of Vítor Frade and periodisation are not far behind. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
W – Bruno Lage


Premier League title race has finally regained its intrigue as Man City falter

February 22, 2022


“As if from nowhere a title race has appeared. Manchester City’s 12-point lead is down to six which means that if Liverpool win their game in hand and if Liverpool win at the Etihad Stadium in April, the two clubs could be level on points. City are still in the better position, particularly given they have not lost a league game at home against Liverpool under Pep Guardiola. But what had started to look like a procession has, quite unexpectedly, regained a sense of intrigue. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Notorious match-fixer Solti’s game of fine margins echoes down the years

February 13, 2022


Liverpool – Ron Yeats
“For Liverpool, Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Internazionale will inevitably conjure memories of 1965. Leading 3-1 from the first leg of their first European Cup semi-final, Liverpool went to San Siro and lost 3-0 in a game that players insist was fixed. The first Inter goal was scored direct from a free-kick they believed to be indirect, the second after the ball was nicked from the goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence as he bounced it before clearing. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Africa Cup of Nations review: sorrow, anger and Mané’s redemption

February 8, 2022


“Our writers relive their highs and lows of a tournament completely overshadowed by the Olembe Stadium tragedy. … This Cup of Nations was played under a shadow from the moment eight supporters died outside Olembe Stadium a fortnight ago. There is no excusing what happened at a venue surrounded by vast spaces and the depressing sense remains that its causes will be swept under the carpet. After driving back to Yaoundé the following day and speaking with Romaric, who had been in the ground and encountered people who had been caught up in the crush as he left, the horror of what had occurred started to become clear. A subsequent visit to the emergency hospital brought some harrowing testimonies; these are, sadly, the words and images that linger. …”
Guardian
The Athletic – Cox: Italy-esque Senegal shackled Egypt with five men – they were deserved winners (Audio)
****An African Cup of Nations Primer
NY Times – Africa Cup of Nations: Soccer Tournament Offers Joy Amid Coups and Covid
AFCON 2021: The Review
W – 2021 Africa Cup of Nations
YouTube: Senegal vs Egypt | AFCON 2021 FINAL HIGHLIGHTS | 02/06/2022, Cameroon vs Egypt – CAF African Cup of Nations 2022 2:10:39

Fans from Burkina Faso, which recently underwent a coup, rehearsed their dances and drumming before Wednesday’s semifinal.


Salah’s Egypt to face Mané’s Senegal in final after shootout win over Cameroon

February 4, 2022


“Africa’s two best players will square off in Sunday’s final but, before this tournament’s marketing team gets too excited about a clash between Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané, it would be best to expect a slow burner. Egypt revel in those, and showed it again here. They survived a series of first-half scares against Cameroon, who were enthusiastic but blunt, and then stretched proceedings to their elastic limit. Once penalties loomed there was a sense everyone bar the noisy 900 fans who had flown from Cairo might as well head home: Egypt simply do not lose them and, for the sixth shootout running, showed cool heads while others wilted. …”
Guardian
BBC: Cameroon 0 Egypt 0
The Athletic: Liverpool’s Salah and Mane to meet in AFCON final as Egypt beat hosts Cameroon on penalties
Guardian: Sadio Mané seals Senegal’s passage to Afcon final as Burkina Faso blown away – Jonathan Wilson


Mohamed Salah makes the difference in Egypt’s fightback victory over Morocco

January 31, 2022


“A solid defence plus Mohamed Salah equals progress. It might not be particularly edifying or good to watch but it does seem to work. This was a dismal game, two hours of spoiling with a dusting of football but, in the football that was played, Salah was decisive. He scored the equaliser and set up the winner, so Egypt will meet Cameroon in Thursday’s semi-final, a meeting of the two most successful sides in Cup of Nation’s history. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Mohamed Salah’s nerveless shootout penalty takes Egypt past Ivory Coast

January 27, 2022


“It ended, as it had for a long time seemed that it would, with penalties. And as has happened twice before at the Africa Cup of Nations in the past 24 years, Egypt beat Ivory Coast on penalties after a 0-0 draw. Eric Bailly, who had had an excellent game, saw his dinked effort pushed against the crossbar by Egypt’s substitute keeper Mohamed Abou Gabal. Combined with Mohamed Salah’s decisive spot-kick, it was enough for Carlos Queiroz’s Egypt to progress. …”
Guardian: Jonathan Wilson
BBC: Ivory Coast 0 – 0 Egypt


Everton and Its Identity Crisis

January 18, 2022


“In retrospect, Rafa Benítez was probably never going to work as manager of Everton. Certainly by the end, as he was sacked on Sunday after 200 days in charge, following a run of just one win in the club’s last 13 Premier League games, there was a feeling of inevitability about his departure. When you have been a successful manager of Liverpool, when you have been so closely identified with that half of the city, when you have made comments about Everton perceived as disparaging, the window for error is extremely small. And there was plenty of error. …”
SI: Jonathan Wilson (Video)


When football’s laws are so inflexible, referees’ gaffes are harder to swallow

January 16, 2022


Tunisia’s coach Mondher Kebaier remonstrates with the referee Janny Sikazwe at Africa Cup of Nations
Janny Sikazwe made a mistake and ended up blowing for full time after 85 minutes of Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations meeting between Mali and Tunisia. Forgetting to stop the watch during a water break (if that is what happened) is an understandable error – particularly given he was subsequently taken to hospital suffering from heatstroke – and one that could easily have been rectified. As it was, though, Sikazwe, an experienced referee who took charge of the 2017 Cup of Nations final as well as Belgium v Panama and Japan v Poland at the 2018 World Cup, looked rattled. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
The Athletic: Three final whistles, two penalties, a dubious red card and a potential replay – the AFCON game mired in controversy (Audio)


Afcon 2021: Cameroon beat Burkina Faso 2-1 before Cape Verde see off Ethiopia

January 10, 2022


Vincent Aboubakar is looking to lead Cameroon to a sixth Nations Cup title
“Cameroon came from behind to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in an incident-packed opener at the Africa Cup of Nations. An acrobatic volley from Gustavo Sangare put the Burkinabe ahead midway through the first half in Yaounde. But two unerring penalties from captain Vincent Aboubakar turned the game around for the hosts before half-time. Indomitable Lions keeper Andre Onana made two crucial second-half saves as Toni Conceicao’s side opened their Group A campaign with victory. …”
BBC>
Guardian: Relief and atmosphere as Cameroon open Africa Cup of Nations in style – Jonathan Wilson


The Barcelona Inheritance – Jonathan Wilson

December 18, 2021


“… His new book is The Barcelona Inheritance: The Evolution of Winning Soccer Tactics from Cruyff to Guardiola. Wilson takes his tactical knowledge and applies it to a specific coaching tree, albeit one that is quite famous. Johan Cruyff has traditionally been attributed with creating the modern Barcelona style of play. Even today, with every new manager, the questions are asked whether the new man can keep Barcelona playing the same tika taka style while churning out the next great generation of soccer talent every year. Wilson explores Cruff’s legacy through the men who succeeded him at Barcelona and in the Netherlands. …”
Review of Jonathan Wilson’s new book, ‘The Barcelona Inheritance’
Jonathan Wilson and The Barcelona Inheritance
amazon


The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog

December 10, 2021


December 9: Villarreal qualified for this season’s Champions League despite not finishing in the top six of La Liga, the cutoff for traditional Europa League qualification. They did so by beating Manchester United in the Europa League final. And although they couldn’t chase down United to win Group F on Thursday, they did more than they needed to in Bergamo to carry on to the Champions League last 16 despite sitting 13th in La Liga. …”
The Analyst
SI: Champions League Group Ouster Is Barcelona’s New Bottom – Jonathan Wilson


West Ham display the virtues of manager Moyes to shock Liverpool

November 8, 2021


“As Pablo Fornals ran on to Jarrod Bowen’s through-ball midway through the second half, the London Stadium fell into one of those pregnant silences that were probably the greatest loss of the time without fans. Over the course of what can only have been two or three seconds but felt far longer, you could almost hear the thought processes. First, was he going to get his shot in? Yes. Then, was he set to measure his finish? He was. Then, was his shot going to beat Alisson? It did, just about, carrying on into the net despite a hefty touch by the keeper. Is the London Stadium still disliked by West Ham fans? Perhaps it is. …”
Guardian: Jonathan Wilson
Guardian: Kurt Zouma earns West Ham victory as Liverpool run ends with Alisson errors
West Ham United 3-2 Liverpool – Tactical Analysis – How Moyes’ Men Claimed Victory


The Blizzard (magazine)

November 4, 2021


The Blizzard is a quarterly football magazine edited by Jonathan Wilson, published in both download and hard copy formats by Blizzard Media. The magazine was originally sold on a pay-what-you-like basis. The Blizzard took its name from an eclectic Victorian Sunderland-based newspaper set up by Sidney Duncan, which ran for 12 issues and was established in 1893. Wilson, who also comes from Sunderland, wanted to replicate the eclectic nature of this publication. The Editor’s Note, which began Issue Zero, set out the magazine’s ethos as an alternative to that which was currently available in football media. … The Blizzard accommodates longer articles than a typical football magazine, with pieces up to 8000 words long. Topics are often more obscure and esoteric than other magazines, aiming to either cover little-explored components of football culture, or to take new perspectives on previously well explored issues. …”
Wikipedia
The Blizzard


El Gráfico

November 3, 2021


Heleno de Freitas (Boca)
El Gráfico is an Argentine online sports magazine, originally published by Editorial Atlántida as a print publication between 1919 and 2018. El Gráfico was released in May 1919 as a weekly newspaper, and then turned to a sports magazine exclusively. It began to be scheduled monthly from 2002, and was discontinued in 2018, continuing only on internet. El Gráfico is widely the most regarded sports magazine in Argentina and Latin America. The magazine was nicknamed La Biblia del deporte (‘The Bible of sports’) due to its chronicles, notable journalists and collaborators and its photographies. … The best selling era of El Gráfico was during the 1986 FIFA World Cup when Argentina crowned champion, with 690,998 sold. The second place in the ranking of all-time best seller magazine is for the 1978 FIFA World Cup with 595,924. Diego Maradona was the sports man with the most appearances on the cover: 134, followed by Daniel Passarella (58) and Norberto Alonso (54). …”
Wikipedia
Angels with Dirty Faces – Jonathan Wilson: 15 – Our Way
Diego Maradona: A genius and the soul of a nation – Jonathan Wilson
El Pibe del Barrio: Understanding the Latin American archetype and what it means for U.S. Soccer


Manchester United 0 Liverpool 5: Salah hits hat-trick, United’s midfield goes missing and pressure mounts on Solskjaer

October 26, 2021


Manchester United were booed off the pitch at Old Trafford after suffering a 5-0 humiliation at the hands of their fierce rivals Liverpool. The pressure mounts on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose side were outclassed in every area of the pitch during Sunday’s match. Mohamed Salah was the star for Jurgen Klopp’s team, scoring a 12-minute hat-trick (either side of the break). Liverpool remain unbeaten in 13 matches this season across all competitions, and are one point behind Premier League leaders Chelsea. Here, Oliver Kay and Dominic Fifield analyse the key talking points from Old Trafford… ”
The Athletic
Guardian: Salah’s crowning glory for Egypt in sight after feats for club and continent
NY Times: Goals Rain on Manchester United, Covering the Boss With Blame
Guardian: Manchester United rout had been coming: nobody has a clue what they are doing (Jonathan Wilson)
SI – Manchester United 0-5 Liverpool: Mohamed Salah Reaction To Sensational Performance On Instagram (Video)
BBC: Manchester United 0 – 5 Liverpool
The Athletic: Liverpool humiliation should be the death knell for Solskjaer’s reign
The Athletic: Rest, right-side connection, mentality: Lijnders on how Salah has become ‘unstoppable’ for Liverpool (Video)(Oct. 2021)


Louis van Gaal may be rude and stubborn but his vision should be celebrated

October 10, 2021


“… The 70-year-old glares from behind the desk. ‘You have no idea at all,’ he says to the 58-year-old Valentijn Driessen, who writes for De Telegraaf, wants the Netherlands to play 4-3-3 and has implied a back three is inherently defensive. ‘I’m sorry to say it, but you’re just a journalist. You want to implement your vision, but you have no vision in football. You have a vision for the newspaper, fantastic.’ Louis van Gaal’s third stint in charge of the Netherlands national team has only just entered its third month, but already there have been a series of moments of memorable directness. Could it be that Van Gaal is even more blunt than before, that age has made him even less tolerant of the failings of the rest of the world, that he cares even less for diplomacy? …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
W – Louis van Gaal


FSG and the culture wars at Liverpool

October 3, 2021


“The smell of ale usually hits you as the doors of the Twelfth Man on Walton Breck Road swing open but not on this Saturday afternoon. It is 50 minutes before the Premier League game between Liverpool and Crystal Palace and the pub is half-empty. On the walk up to Anfield from the direction of the Mersey river, pints have already been sunken at the Saddle Inn on Fountains Road and it was quiet there as well. Closer to the ground, any bar is normally two or three deep. Yet last month, you could walk into the Twelfth Man and get served more or less straight away. …”
The Athletic (Video/Audio)
Guardian – ‘It’s the package’: how Liverpool’s rhythm got the goals flowing again
Guardian – Liverpool v Manchester City: great games in the Klopp-Guardiola era
Guardian – A striker isn’t everything, but might solve Pep Guardiola’s all-or-nothing problem (Jonathan Wilson)
Pep Guardiola record vs Liverpool is a myth, and Man City boss’ own comments prove it
W – John W. Henry
******Guardian: Manchester City make spitting complaint after thrilling Liverpool draw

Pep Guardiola says Jurgen Klopp


Defender (association football)

September 27, 2021


“In the sport of association football, a defender is an outfield player whose primary roles are to stop attacks during the game and prevent the opposing team from scoring goals. Centre backs are usually in pairs, with two full-backs to their left and right, but can come in threes with no full backs. There are four types of defenders: centre-back, sweeper, full-back, and wing-back. The centre-back and full-back positions are essential in most modern formations. The sweeper and wing-back roles are more specialized for certain formations depending on the managers choice of play and adaptation. … The sweeper (or libero) is a more versatile centre-back who ‘sweeps up’ the ball if an opponent manages to breach the defensive line. This position is rather more fluid than that of other defenders who man-mark their designated opponents. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as libero, which is Italian for ‘free’. …”
Wikipedia
Guardian – The Question: Could the sweeper be on his way back? (Jonathan Wilson – Sep. 2009)
Football Tactics for Beginners- The Sweeper Keeper: From Lev Yashin to Manuel Neuer (Dec. 2017)
YouTube: What Happened to Sweepers in Football?, What is a Libero?, What is a Sweeper Keeper?


2021–22 UEFA Champions League

September 22, 2021


“The 2021–22 UEFA Champions League is the 67th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 30th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was originally scheduled to be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, due to the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final, the final hosts were shifted back a year, with Saint Petersburg instead hosting the 2022 final. The winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Champions League will automatically qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Champions League group stage, and also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Europa League in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup. …”
W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League, W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League group stage
Guardian – Champions League 2021-22 draw: group stage analysis and predictions


No surprise Leeds lost to Manchester United, just look at the wage bills

August 19, 2021


Marcelo Bielsa
“The easy thing is to blame the manager. It has become football’s default response to any crisis. A team hits a poor run or loses a big game: get rid of the manager. As Alex Ferguson said as many as 14 years ago, we live in ‘a mocking culture’ and reality television has fostered the idea people should be voted off with great regularity (that he was trying to defend Steve McClaren’s reign as England manager should not undermine the wider point). Managers are expendable. Rejigging squads takes time and money and huge amounts of effort in terms of research and recruitment, whereas anybody can look at who is doing well in Portugal or Greece or the Championship and spy a potential messiah. Then there are the structural factors, the underlying economic issues it is often preferable to ignore because to acknowledge them is to accept how little agency the people we shout about every week really have in football. …”
Guardian: Jonathan Wilson
Man United 5-1 Leeds – Tactical Analysis – Pogba’s Masterclass
YouTube: actical Analysis : Manchester United 5 – 1 Leeds United | Solskjaer’s Tactics vs Bielsa


How Vienna coffee houses gave rise to a new era of intellectualism in football

August 11, 2021


Cafe Griensteidl in Wien
“The intellectual scene in football has taken a sharp upturn with the emergence of quality publications over the last half a decade that fearlessly delve into the niche and fascinating aspects of the game that may otherwise be overlooked. Alongside this, the rise of social media has allowed us to engage more intimately with tactical theoreticians and pundits, giving our understanding of the game’s nuances a chance to thrive. Essentially, we know more about football than ever before. It’s hard to imagine that we could trace the emergence of this facet of football culture all the way back to interwar Vienna’s coffee houses. It was here that the game became an intellectual pursuit, not just a sport, and it helped give rise to one of the most ephemerally wonderful international sides of all time. As well as being a movement about the unrelenting desire for growth and development, it was also one marred by tragedy. …”
These Football Times
Coffee Houses of Vienna: Birthplace of Intelligent Football – Jonathan Wilson
Coffee House rules – how football was shaped in Vienna’s cafes
BBC – Dancing over the edge: Vienna in 1914


The Names Heard Long Ago: How the Golden Age of Hungarian Soccer Shaped the Modern Game – Jonathan Wilson

August 2, 2021


“Jonathan Wilson’s eleventh book, The Names Heard Long Ago: How The Golden Age of Hungarian Football Shaped The Modern Game, once again sees the celebrated journalist and author delving into a fascinating part of football history, meticulously detailed, thoroughly researched, as one would expect from the architect of the football fanatic’s Bible, Inverting The Pyramid. The Names Heard Long Ago explores the revolutionary concepts found in early 20th Century Hungarian football and the subsequent spread of ideas, tactics and characters around the globe, often granting unprecedented success in the far-reaching countries in which they were adopted, and still found in the game today. It illuminates names of once-great teams MTK and Ferencváros, characters who had a profound influence on the game such as Béla Guttman, Dori Kürschner, and Imre Hirschl. …”
How 20th Century Hungarian Football Influenced The Game We Love Today
amazon


Breaking down England’s penalty heartbreak: At 10.49pm, Maguire slashes penalty home. At 10.54pm, everything changes

July 12, 2021


“It’s brutal sometimes, football. One by one, the players went to Bukayo Saka. They told him it would be OK, that they were proud of him, and that he should be proud of himself, too. They told him there was no blame and, even as they were saying it, they must have known their words made little difference. Maybe, in time, Saka will come to understand that, yes, he ought to be proud he played with such distinction during Euro 2020 that he was trusted, at the age of 19, to be part of the penalty shootout which decided the final between England and Italy. For now, though, what can anyone say to console a player who has suffered this kind of professional trauma? …”
The Athletic
NY Times: How Italy Beat England to Win Euro 2020 (Video)
Leaving Euro 2020 – Brian Phillips
BBC: ‘Out of despair, Italy have brought joy to a nation’
NY Times: After Defeat, England’s Black Soccer Players Face a Racist Outburst
Marcus Rashford mural vandalised after England lose Euro 2020 final
Guardian: England battle for survival instead of control as deep-lying issue resurfaces – Jonathan Wilson
W – UEFA Euro 2020 Final
NY Times: In the Big Euro 2020 Game, I Knew the England I Was Rooting For


Andriy Shevchenko’s modern methods have revolutionised Ukraine

July 3, 2021


“Five years ago, Ukraine lost 1-0 to Poland in Marseille to complete a miserable Euros campaign in which they lost all three games and failed to score. Their football was leaden and uninspired, predicated on three lumbering holding midfielders and the vague hope that either Andriy Yarmolenko or Yevhen Konoplyanka might do something spectacular. Yarmolenko remains but as Ukraine prepare for a European Championship quarter-final, almost everything else has changed beyond recognition. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Croatia 3-5 Spain (AET): Alvaro Morata scores in extra-time to book Euro 2020 quarter-final place

June 28, 2021


“Alvaro Morata’s extra-time goal helped Spain secure an extraordinary 5-3 victory over Croatia in a pulsating Euro 2020 last-16 tie in Copenhagen. In a game full of twists and turns, Luis Enrique’s side dominated the early stages but fell behind in bizarre circumstances when goalkeeper Unai Simon’s miscontrol caused Pedri’s 49-yard backpass to bounce into his own net (20). Spain fought back, scoring three goals without reply through Pablo Sarabia (38), Cesar Azpilicueta (57) and Ferran Torres (76), but Croatia, who appeared out of it at that point, staged a remarkable comeback to send the game into extra-time. …”
Sky Sports
Guardian: Luis Enrique’s Spanish revolution takes nerve-shredding step forward – Jonathan Wilson
ESPN – Euro 2020: Spain show character in spades again, as Morata, Simon inspire extra-time win vs. Croatia (Video)


Belgium 1-0 Portugal: Ronaldo draws a blank, Hazards come to the fore, Pepe loses his cool (again)

June 28, 2021


Thorgan Hazard
“Cristiano Ronaldo had the all-time men’s international goal scoring record and the Euro 2020 quarter-finals in his sights, but he hadn’t reckoned on a stubborn and resilient Belgium side, who defended solidly and provided the game’s most outstanding moment of technical quality. Here, The Athletic’s Liam Twomey and Tim Spiers pick through the major talking points… The stage was set for Cristiano Ronaldo. His team, his tournament, his Euros, his next goal record… but for once, he failed to take the spotlight. … But while the elder Hazard brother’s improved rhythm should be cause for optimism among Belgium supporters, he wasn’t the hero of this particular night. Thorgan shattered Portugal’s ultra-cautious game plan from 25 yards with one magnificent swish of his boot late in the first half. …”
Belgium 1-0 Portugal: Ronaldo draws a blank, Hazards come to the fore, Pepe loses his cool (again)
Guardian: Thorgan Hazard strike sinks Portugal and puts Belgium in quarter-finals
Guardian: Cristiano Ronaldo exits but does not have the look of a man whose race is run – Jonathan Wilson
NY Times: Relief for Belgium Comes at Ronaldo’s Expense


Euro 2020’s flying full-backs show risk-free football is not the only path to victory

June 25, 2021


Lukaku & De Bruyne
“… Which is perhaps a polite way of saying a little bit boring. But then most successful international sides are, based on the construction of a solid base and a couple of gifted creators who can extemporise upon that – or at least they have been. The sophisticated models that dominate at elite club level take time to instil. To press effectively in the modern game takes weeks of repetitions on the training ground so that players know instinctively when to hunt the ball and when to ease off. And pressing is pointless if it isn’t coherent: it’s just players running about. It works only if conducted in packs: one or two men to the man in possession, a wave of others blocking off his options, either by closing down opponents or the passing lanes. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Belgium’s attacking riches bail out creaking back line against Denmark

June 17, 2021


Kevin de Bruyne, a second half substitute for Belgium, turned the game on its head.
“Perhaps this wasn’t the game for making proper judgments. Belgium were in the desperately awkward position of being the other team in the face of a great outpouring of Danish emotion, and for half the game they struggled in that role. But the introduction of Kevin De Bruyne, back after surgery on the facial injury he sustained in the Champions League final, changed everything. But beyond talk of the difficult emotion of the occasion or of De Bruyne’s brilliance, there are other issues for Belgium. Going forward after half-time, they looked like the side that had scored 40 goals in qualifying. Romelu Lukaku, the isolation of the first half ended, was exceptional. …”
Guardian: Jonathan Wilson
De Bruyne inspires Belgium comeback win after Denmark’s Eriksen tribute
The Athletic’s 10 Euro stars – Kevin De Bruyne: Belgium’s man on a mission (June 9)


France Doesn’t Stray From Its Championship Formula In Beating Germany to Open Euros

June 15, 2021


“There is something slightly odd about this France side, in that the scores of its games so rarely reflect what has just happened. No team seems quite so often to hammer an opponent by a single goal. Germany may have won the shot count and the possession battle in Tuesday’s 1–0 triumph for Les Bleus in the teams’ first match of what’s the competition’s most difficult group. But this was rarely a game Germany looked like winning, with it never quite able to put France under pressure and always appearing vulnerable to the counter. Ultimately, an own goal from Mats Hummels, who had scored the winner at the right end when Germany beat France in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals, was enough, but Adrien Rabiot hit a post, Karim Benzema had a goal ruled out for a tight offside and Kylian Mbappé did as well, albeit for a slightly more obvious infraction. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video), Guardian: Paul Pogba full of bite and craft even after Antonio Rüdiger tries a nibble, Joachim Löw’s Legacy (Video, June 12 2021), NY Times: France, So Deep and So Dominant, Finds One Goal Is Plenty


Euro 2020 Power Rankings: France the Clear Favorite—but Then What?

June 11, 2021


“Five years removed from Portugal’s coronation just outside Paris, the next European Championship begins on Friday, and with it comes the quest for the 2016 host and runner-up to make amends and follow a World Cup title with another triumph—and for 23 other national sides to do something about it. France is as good if not better than it was when it lifted the World Cup trophy in Russia three summers ago, and after an extra year’s wait due to the pandemic, it’s out to confirm its status as the world and region’s preeminent team—it’s No. 2 FIFA world ranking notwithstanding. Before the competition begins, with Italy facing Turkey in Rome, we examine team form, ability and outlook based on the draw to rank the 24 contenders vying to be crowned European champion (group opponents listed in order of when they’ll play in the opening stage). …” SI – Jonathan Wilson, Guardian: At the Euros, winning teams can start badly. It’s how they respond that matters, ESPN – Euro 2020 preview: Picks, scouting reports, must-see games, biggest ‘upset’ teams and much more (Video)


Joachim Löw’s flawed planning leaves talented Germany at the crossroads

June 6, 2021


“At least now there is no future to work towards. After 15 years as Germany manager, Euro 2020 will be Joachim Löw’s seventh and last major tournament. There is no need for him to have an eye on the next cycle: his only job is to get the best result possible in the here and now – and to rescue a reputation that took a battering in Russia. Löw is a World Cup winner who helped to oversee the great stylistic transformation of German football and for that, he deserves enormous credit. But he also led Germany to their worst World Cup in more than eight decades and, given the extraordinary quality of players available, it is hard to avoid the sense that he has underachieved in recent years. …” Guardian


The Barcelona Legacy: Guardiola, Mourinho and the Fight For Football’s Soul – Jonathan Wilson

April 11, 2021


“Wilson’s historical study gives fans a keen, thrilling insight into the philosophy of the game’ The New Yorker Manchester, 2018: Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho lead their teams out to face each other in the 175th Manchester derby. They are first and second in the Premier League, but today only one man can come out on top. It is merely the latest instalment in a rivalry that has contested titles, traded insults and crossed a continent, but which can be traced back to a friendship that began almost 25 years ago. Barcelona, late-nineties: Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team is disintegrating and the revolutionary manager has departed, but what will come next will transform the future of football. Cruyff’s style has changed the game, and given birth to a generation of thinkers: men like Ronald Koeman, Luis Enrique, Laurent Blanc, Frank de Boer, Louis van Gaal, and Cruyff’s club captain Pep Guardiola and a young translator, Jose Mourinho. …” Kinokuniya Book, The Barcelona Legacy Podcast (Audio), amazon


Champions League’s Last 16 Will Be Quite Telling

December 16, 2020


“By the time the UEFA Champions League’s knockout stage begins, much could change. A winter transfer window will have come and gone, though with COVID-19 impacting club finances across Europe and some already having spent big in the summer, it remains to be seen how substantial the forthcoming moves will be. Barcelona will have held its club presidential elections, a pivotal moment for a giant in turmoil and one that could have plenty of say in how the club operates moving forward. Influential players currently out injured should return, and the form, fitness and focus levels of clubs will certainly vary to what they currently are. …” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Liverpool show they have resolve to retain title in season of trench warfare

November 23, 2020


“Retaining the title is hard, proverbially harder than winning it the first time – although that clearly to an extent depends on what you’re up against. But if Liverpool do become the 27th side in English league history successfully to defend their crown, they will have done so in conditions more different to the initial success than any of their predecessors. Quarter of the way through the season, their record unbeaten home run extended to 64 games, they are level on points with the leaders and, despite all their injuries, look by far the most likely winners. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The Barcelona Inheritance: The Evolution of Winning Soccer Tactics from Cruyff to Guardiola – Jonathan Wilson

June 21, 2020

“From Cruyff’s ‘Total Football’ to the epic rivalry between Guardiola and Mourinho, a gripping chronicle of the rise and fall of Barcelona’s dominance in world soccer. Barcelona’s style of play–pressing and possessing–is the single biggest influence on modern soccer. In The Barcelona Inheritance, Jonathan Wilson reveals how and why this came to pass, offering a deep analysis of the evolution of soccer tactics and style. In the late 1990s, Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team was disintegrating and the revolutionary manager had departed, but his style gave birth to a new generation of thinkers, including Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho. Today, their teams are first and second in the Premier League, marking the latest installment in a rivalry that can be traced back twenty-five years. The Barcelona Inheritance is a book about the tactics, the personalities, the friendships, and, in one case, an apocalyptic falling-out that continue to shape the game today. …”
amazon


Bayern Munich Maintains Its Bundesliga Dominance While Undergoing a Rapid Transition

June 18, 2020

“Confirmation of an eighth successive league title came with a 1-0 victory over Werder Bremen on Tuesday, secured with yet another Robert Lewandowski goal and a brilliant late save from Manuel Neuer. Bayern has clearly deserved it. In recent months, Bayern has been the best team in Germany. Since the Bundesliga’s restart, it has been remorseless, winning seven league games out of seven and racking up 22 goals in the process. …”
SI


Carlos’s 1986 World Cup foul and the value of rethinking our villains

April 18, 2020

“Football can give you completely the wrong idea about people. One incident in one match can skew the perception. For years I thought I hated Carlos, the Brazil goalkeeper who pulled back Bruno Bellone after the France forward had gone round him in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final and somehow went unpunished. How, four years after Harald Schumacher’s horrendous assault on Patrick Battiston, could that glorious France – Platini! Tigana! Giresse! – be cheated once again by a goalkeeper? Carlos’s offence had nothing like the raw violence of Schumacher’s, but it was cynical. And so, for compounding the injustice of Seville 1982, he went on the blacklist. …”
Guardian


Yuri Semin: the man who can’t say no when Lokomotiv Moscow call

October 5, 2018


“Never go back, they say, but Yuri Semin has never been somebody to place too much store by conventional wisdom. He is 71 now, his eyes more watery than ever, and this is his fourth stint in charge of Lokomotiv Moscow. In total, he’s managed them for more than two decades. To a large extent, Semin is the club and that they are playing Schalke in the Champions League on Wednesday is to a large degree down to him.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Champions League group-by-group guide: English quartet well placed

September 4, 2018

“Manchester United, Liverpool and Spurs should squeeze through tricky groups while Manchester City’s task looks relatively straightforward” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Sergio Agüero embraces defending to erase Pep Guardiola’s doubts

August 26, 2018

“Manchester City beat Huddersfield 5-1 in an FA Cup fifth-round replay in March last year. Sergio Agüero scored twice but post-match discussion centred largely on whether he had a future at the club. Pep Guardiola had made it clear he felt there were elements of the Argentinian’s game that did not fit with his vision and had brought in Gabriel Jesus with a view, it seemed, to easing him out.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Manchester United lack clarity on and off the pitch – nowhere is that clearer than in the centre-back department

August 26, 2018

“DIEGO Godin, Harry Maguire, Yerry Mina, Toby Alderweireld… as each Brighton goal flew in on Sunday, Manchester United’s inability to land a centre-back came to seem more and more of an error. United were shambolic at the back, lacking leadership and organisation, an open door through which Brighton seemed not quite to be able to believe they could keep walking. For United that is a deeply worrying sign, for if there is anything Jose Mourinho has historically been good at, it is organising his back four.” Unibet – Jonathan Wilson


World Cup 2018 Best XI: France’s Champions Lead the Top Players in Russia

July 17, 2018


“After 64 games and more drama than any World Cup in at least 20 years, there’s one piece of business left to do: Pick a team of the tournament. It’s been picked as a team that might function together rather than just the 11 best players, and to avoid the temptation of packing it with France’s champions, a limit of four players per country has been self-imposed. In a 4-3-3 formation fit for the world stage, here is our 2018 World Cup Best XI.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Luka Modric’s Croatia Success Story Comes With Complications

July 13, 2018

“There is an image of Luka Modric that sums up everything he has meant to Croatia in this World Cup. He had missed a penalty against Denmark in the round of 16, squandering the chance to win the game in extra time before a shootout. In the shootout, his penalty was poor, nervously prodded straight down the middle. Luckily for him and Croatia, Kasper Schmeichel had dived, and the ball had just enough curl on it to evade goalkeeper’s trailing leg. He returned to the center circle, lips pursed with relief, but as teammates congratulated him, his eyes barely registered them. He was in his own world, perhaps already looking ahead to the next challenge, perhaps aware that had he missed–he of all people, the leader of his nation–it would all have been over.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Eden Hazard’s World Cup brilliance could have long-term consequences

July 7, 2018

“There was a moment late in Belgium’s win over Brazil on Friday when Eden Hazard led a break. He charged into the opposition half, turned back inside and, as runners went by him, taking defenders with them, space opened up for a pass out to the left to the substitute Youri Tielemans. There was an overlap, a chance of a third goal that would have finished the game. Hazard saw it. He tried to play it. But his legs, for once, did not obey. The ball set off in the right direction but with nothing like enough pace; Marcelo intercepted. Hazard had essentially been too exhausted to pass a ball 40 yards. Like the rest of the team, he was spent.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


If Belgium are to beat Brazil in their quarter-final, how can they do it?

July 6, 2018

“There was a spell, for the first 20 minutes or so, when it seemed Mexico might be able to trouble Brazil. Carlos Vela was getting the better of Fagner on the Brazil right and it felt that Mexico, as they had throughout the group stage, were struggling to convert decent positions into clear opportunities. But the longer the game went on, the more it became apparent that Brazil were comfortably holding Mexico at arm’s length. That first 20 minutes, though, perhaps offers Belgium the best hope there is.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Possession lost on the World Cup stage as defences learn to adapt

July 5, 2018

“No side, perhaps, is ever so much itself as when it is going out of the World Cup. When teams – or at least those with aspirations to the title – fail, they tend to fail in their own way, and become too much of themselves: self-parody is a perennial danger. And so Spain and Germany went out of the World Cup after anaemic performances in which they seemed to fetishise possession rather than it being a means to an end. That doesn’t mean juego de posicion football is over, as some of the more excitable voices on social media have claimed; it just means that two teams who played football infected by Pep Guardiola had bad tournaments. Sides who play post-Cruyffian football won the league in Spain, England and Germany, while Napoli came second in Serie A.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Manager Oscar Tabarez Wields His Influence to Mold, Adapt, Embody Uruguay

July 5, 2018


“Oscar Washington Tabarez is fascinated by history. Barely a press conference goes by in which he doesn’t, in one of his typically thoughtful answers, illustrate a point with an example from a previous World Cup. You wonder how that plays in the dressing room, in the modern world of celebrity footballers who, by reputation at least, care for nothing but their next fancy car or watch. But then you see Luis Suarez sitting next to him, gazing at his manager with rapt attention. If there were any doubt before that Tabarez is the greatest figure in post-War Uruguayan football history, it has surely gone now.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Uruguay is playing for you
“The knock came at four in morning on Sunday, April 15, 1984.  Dr. Vladimir Roslik of San Javier was informed by an officer of Uruguay’s 9th Cavalry Regiment that he was being arrested for questioning.  The next day Roslik’s wife was advised to collect her husband’s body from the Fray Bentos Hospital. Roslik, who attained his medical degree from Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow in 1969 was to be the last victim of Uruguay’s military dictatorship.” Africa is a Country


Neymar and Firmino take Brazil past Mexico and into World Cup last eight

July 2, 2018

“Beneath the fancy hair, the absurd solipsism and the antics of a latter-day Sun King, it is good to be reminded sometimes that Neymar is an exceptionally gifted footballer. It was his goal that broke the deadlock and if his influence on this game was far more positive than in any in the group stage, it was almost entirely because he played without that same furious determination to be the protagonist. But, of course, he is the same Neymar, the same diva who must always be the centre of attention. Just when everything seemed to be going well, just when it seemed there might be an argument he was growing into his role, he reacted ludicrously as Miguel Layún picked the ball from between his feet as he lay by the side of the pitch. Perhaps the Mexican midfielder did brush his ankle but the fourth official was roughly six inches away and saw nothing untoward, and neither did VAR.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Arrogant Germany Accepts Its Shocking, Deserved World Cup Elimination

June 27, 2018


“KAZAN, Russia – Against Sweden, when Toni Kroos whipped in his late winner, the general feeling was that this was what Germany does. This was what it has been so good at over the years. Always, somehow, finding the vital goal at the final moment. Always somehow, finding a way through. This is the essence of being a Turniermannschaft–a tournament team–that no matter how badly actually plays, it always prevails.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

World Cup 2018: Germany boss Joachim Low admits side deserved to go out
“Germany manager Joachim Low says his side deserved to go out of the World Cup after they crashed out in the group stage in ‘historic’ fashion. The defending champions finished bottom of Group F after losing 2-0 to South Korea, the first time Germany have gone out in the first round of a World Cup since 1938. ‘This is something for us to reckon with,’ Low said. ‘This is historic. I am sure this will create some public uproar in Germany.’ Sweden won the group with a 3-0 win over Mexico at the same time, which meant Germany needed to win their game in Kazan.” BBC (Video)

Germany Flamed Out In Spectacular, Historic Fashion
“Say goodbye to another defending World Cup champion: Germany, the team that won it all four years ago, is officially out of the 2018 tournament. Despite ultimately only needing a win over South Korea — the fourth-worst team in the field, according to our pre-tournament soccer power index ratings — to advance to the knockout round, the Germans were upended 2-0 on Wednesday in what was easily the biggest upset of the World Cup thus far. (Going into the match, our model only gave South Korea a 5 percent probability of winning.)” FiveThirtyEight

Germany’s approach was football suicide – I’ve never seen such an experienced side so exposed
“England fans will have allowed themselves a satisfied smile as Germany made a shock World Cup exit. Some of those celebrations will not be so quiet. Opportunities to laugh at German football’s expense are rare. Such triumphalism should be accompanied with a warning. Remember what happened the  last time a German team were eliminated in the group stages of  a major tournament? It was Euro 2000. A restructure by the German football federation brought the World Cup 14 years later, as well as a few final and semi-final appearances in between. What has been clear over the course of three poor performances is that another rebuild of the German team is needed.” Telegraph – Jamie Carragher

Germany Is Out of the World Cup. Let’s All Laugh at Die Mannschaft.
“For the first time since 1954, Germany will not be exiting the World Cup’s group stage. South Korea stunned the defending champions 2–0 on Wednesday, sending Die Mannschaft to the bottom of Group F and out of the tournament for good. As a once unstoppable juggernaut heads home, the rest of the soccer world struggles to find a word to describe the joy it is feeling at Germany’s expense. While other nations ebb and flow between ‘golden generations’ and talent draughts, Germany chugs along with infuriating consistency.” Slate

‘Over and out’: media reacts to Germany’s World Cup exit
“In Germany. Niedergeschlagenheit (noun, feminine): Despondency. German football fans, who had never seen their country fall at the first hurdle of a World Cup finals before, will recognise it as they pick up their papers on Thursday morning. Their team, the holders and one of the pre-tournament favourites, finished bottom of Group F after a 2-0 defeat to South Korea on Wednesday. Bild. Germany’s most popular newspaper is ‘speechless’ as it contrasts its front page from June 2014 – after the national team inflicted a 7-1 semi-final defeat on Brazil on its way to winning the World Cup – with its Thursday edition. The headline is the same. The story is not.” Guardian


From Elimination to Elation: Argentina Somehow Staves Off Early World Cup Exit

June 27, 2018


“It’s probably best not even to try to make sense of it. You have Lionel Messi in your side. You bring on Sergio Aguero to play alongside Gonzalo Higuain in front of him. You have taken off Angel Di Maria. You have just brought on Cristian Pavon. None of them look like scoring. Passes are misplaced. The shape has gone. Every attempt to advance, it seems, runs into a Nigerian wall. It’s the same story as against Iceland, as against Croatia. All of the ball, no penetration. And then the goal comes. You make all your plans, you squeeze in as many gifted forwards as you can, and somehow the vital 86th-minute winner is scored by Marcos Rojo turning up with no justification whatsoever to volley in a rare accurate cross from Gabriel Mercado. With his wrong foot.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Argentina Takes Its Bad Self to the Knockout Round
“With time running out and his team on the brink of group-stage elimination, everyone in the world knew there was only one man Argentina could count on to find the winner against Nigeria. Yes, Marcos Rojo, the versatile defender who made nine Premier League appearances for Manchester United this season. Scorer of four goals in the last four years for club and country. Perhaps the last person you might expect to save his country by scoring a late goal, other than Argentina forward and chronic international choker Gonzalo Higuain. Rojo’s claim, made in an interview after the game, that he told his teammates he was going to score is either a sign of a healthy, functioning ego or grounds for a psychiatric evaluation, even considering that one of those four goals in the last four years was the winner against Nigeria in the 2014 World Cup.” Slate

Argentina Survived the Group Stage. But How Far Can Messi Carry Them?
“On a team with Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín, and Ángel Di María, few would have predicted that Marcos Rojo — yes, that Marcos Rojo; the one who scored just one goal in four seasons with Manchester United — would be the hero who put Argentina ahead of Nigeria and into the knockout stages.” The Ringer


Shambolic, frenzied, anarchic – and Argentina crisis has Messi at its heart

June 22, 2018


“It was in 1913 that Racing became the first non-Anglo side to win the Argentinian league title. For much of the century that has followed, Argentinian football has defined itself in opposition to the English, distancing itself from its British heritage. And yet, under pressure, in their frenzied desperation on Thursday, Argentina resembled nobody so much as England. This was shambolic. Too many players tried to do too much themselves. There was altogether too much running, too much frenzy, too many fouls conceded as they desperately tried to regain possession, too little thought. By the end, as Ivan Rakitic casually rolled in a sarcastic third for Croatia, Argentina were gone, any semblance of defensive structure blown to the winds.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

World Cup 2018: Jorge Sampaoli’s approach was an utter disaster that rendered Lionel Messi useless
“There was always a danger Argentina might flop at World Cup 2018, but it shouldn’t have been this pitiful. If Argentina were going to go down, they were going to go down fighting, with coach Jorge Sampaoli a noted advocate of aggressive pressing, attacking football and quick combination play. If those tactics exposed them defensively, it was a risk Sampaoli was willing to take. But the approach Sampaoli stumbled upon somehow provided all the drawbacks without any notable positives. Argentina didn’t press high, they didn’t attack relentlessly, and it’s difficult to recall any passing moves worth mentioning, yet they were still hopelessly open defensively, conceding space on the outside of their three-man defence readily. Only poor Croatian finishing prevented them from taking the lead earlier.” Independent – Michael Cox

Mentally and emotionally burned out, Lionel Messi crumbles under the burden of carrying Argentina at the World Cup
“By the time a humiliated Argentina emerged from the dressing room in Nizhny Novgorod, it was late – in so many ways. A stony-faced Lionel Messi at least led the way here, but this time with ample support as the entire squad followed tightly behind…and right on through the mixed zone without stopping once. Argentina were at last singing from the same hymn sheet in this World Cup by not saying anything all.” Independent

As fighters, as entertainers, as a team, this Argentina project has failed
“On 21 June 1978 Argentina’s World Cup defeat of Peru went down in history as one of the most controversial games ever. The goalfest and intelligent football that unfolded on that cold night in Rosario, as the wonderful Mario Kempes found his feet on his home turf of yesteryear, were eclipsed by allegations which kept conspiracy theorists and investigative journalists busy for years. Argentina, aware they needed to win by at least four goals to progress in their home tournament, triumphed 6-0 amid rumours that an exchange of grain between the countries had been brokered in the dressing room. They went on to lift the trophy.” Guardian (Video)