Daily Cup Check: Day 12
Sam Fels is taking a breather. Austin Fido deputizes with a look back at the day the first second round pairings were confirmed…
Australia 0 – Spain 3
This was the only game of the third round with absolutely nothing at stake in the broader context of the tournament: both teams were eliminated before kick-off, and they were still eliminated at the final whistle.
Pretty much anyone who watches or reads about this sport believes Spain in 2014 is a helluva lot better than Australia in 2014 – and the scoreline supported this hypothesis.
If you wanted a match to let you impress your friends with your knowledge of soccer, this was the one: “David Villa is a marvel at this football lark,” you said, inexplicably adopting the linguistic affectations of a Victorian-age gad-about. And David Villa scored the dinkiest little back-heel to prove your point.
And then he got subbed out in the second half and went to the bench and cried and cried, because all he has to look forward to for the next six months is scoring goals against Australians.
This might be the last match in which we see the greatest generation of Spanish soccer. Del Bosque is probably on the way out, some of the big names have said they’re retiring from the national team, some may be cycled out of the squad before the next big tournament.
So this game felt like a bit of a send-off for Spain’s best-ever or best-yet, or however you want to rank them. For Australia, it was about the new guys. Ange Postecoglou has an Asian Cup in his own back yard in January – and it’ll be the likes of Mathew Leckie and Oliver Bozanic he asks to win it for him.
Tim Cahill was suspended, Mark Bresciano got a sort of valedictory appearance for the last 20 minutes after the game was well lost, and the emerging Socceroos were not as good as Spain, nor even as good as they had been in earlier games in this group.
Both teams are irrelevant to this tournament, so we wish them well and move on.
Netherlands 2 – Chile 0
I’m not sure that many teams will beat Jorge Sampaoli’s slick-passing Chileans by letting them have 70% of possession and knocking them over whenever they get too close to goal, but the Dutch used that game plan back in the 2010 final against Spain, and it almost worked – and they’re pretty good on the counter, as they showed against Spain this time around.
Indeed, the only team to have made the Oranje look remotely uncomfortable so far is Australia, who came at them hard and fast and direct.
Anyway, the Dutch are flying, and they’re Mexico’s problem now. They got a goal off a set piece because…well, some are saying it’s because the Chileans are short, but it looked to me like they simply forgot to mark Leroy Fer. He’d only been on the pitch for about a minute, so maybe they just didn’t know he was there.
And the second goal was on the break at the death when Chile was much more interested in the other end of the pitch than anything so prosaic as defending. Give Arjen Robben the ball and some space and he’ll do things to make you regret it, but we knew this.
Chile rested Arturo Vidal, so maybe he will make all the difference against Brazil in the second round. But Big Phil will look at the tape, and if he needs to go big to send La Roja home, that’s what he will do.
Cameroon 1 – Brazil 4
Are you feeling Brazil in the tournament so far? Me neither. Seems like the only time they came up against a team with some gumption and a referee who wasn’t going to bend the rules for them, the Brazilians came up short.
They needed to beat Cameroon by a number of goals to be sure of staying ahead of Mexico, and they got what they needed. Yes, there are some very good players on the Brazil team, but I could have scored Neymar’s first goal, such was the space between the centerbacks and their utter lack of interest in tracking his run.
His second should have been saved – maybe the ‘keeper’s line of sight was blocked, maybe he is clinically blind and the vibrations of the crowd threw off of his extraordinary ability to divine the ball’s path by feeling it displace the air around it. Whatever happened, the ball went one way and Charles Itandje threw himself in the other direction as though it were made of molten rock.
The third was offside – like I said, the refereeing has come up huge when Brazil has needed it so far. And the fourth was what happens when your opponents are thoroughly demoralized and just want to go home.
The best goal of the match was Cameroon’s: Allan Nyom tricked Dani Alves into defending, an exertion which left him on the deck, and then smoothed a pass across the six-yard box for Joel Matip to tap in. David Luiz was immobilized with joy at the beauty of it.
Brazil won’t complain: top of the group with plenty of goals is absolutely as planned, and if this is the home team playing below its best, that’s discouraging news for everyone else.
The Indomitable Lions have assiduously ducked anything remotely comparable to 1990’s run to the quarterfinals for every World Cup they’ve been in since. Perhaps the they will treat this particularly ignominious campaign as the end of the mission to banish the memory of the good times at Italia ’90, and get back to being something resembling a good football team for their next appearance at this level.
Croatia 1 – Mexico 3
It seems like all the terrible refereeing has been wished upon Group A. Brazil gets goals it probably shouldn’t; Mexico can’t catch a break. Against Cameroon, El Tri had a couple of perfectly good goals disallowed. Against Croatia, the referee managed to ignore Darijo Srna standing right in front of him, shoving people over in the box and blocking shots with his arm (in fairness, the blocked shot didn’t look like much from the angle I saw).
Just when it appeared Mexico were in for a nervy last 20 minutes, Rafa Marquez popped up with a goal, and Javier Hernandez finally showed up again – setting up a goal for Andres Guardado with a run that cleared space for Oribe Peralta to cross to the open man, then nodding in Marquez’s flick-on from close range.
Three goals in ten minutes was enough to win the match but not the group, because goal difference. If they’d had a little more luck with the referees though…
Doesn’t matter. Mexico is through and gets the Netherlands in the next round for its trouble.
Bonus Miguel Herrera gif of the day
OTF Player Of The Day
Rafa Marquez: The game was a little chippy, so you know Rafa had to get himself booked, and then he scored, and then he set up Chicharito. A captain’s performance.