All four of the big international beasts qualified for the semi-finals of the World Cup, so no surprises here. It’s evident that the cavalier, expressive football of the qualifiers has been replaced by something more pragmatic, if not cynical. Brazil committed 54 fouls to oust Colombia whilst the Dutch style is now a distant relative from the total football of the 70s. Brazil’s coach Big Phil Scolari is running a risk strategy because if they fail to win he will be doubly blamed – for defeat and the non-Samba style.
None of the four games were that watchable and most only came to life in the final quarter. France and Belgium were especially disappointing for going out so tepidly. France had played some fine football in the qualifying stage, whilst Belgium carried great hopes – though not from this quarter. They lacked a Messi or Neymar to spark the team. Their player most suited for this role, Eden Hazard, had a poor tournament.
Analysts have derided the poor quality of defending. I am not sure I agree. I was especially impressed by Gonzalez of Costa Rica. Hummels had a wonderful game against France. Kompany is invariably commanding. We have also seen some fine goalkeeping, notably Navas and Tim Krul, in the penalty shoot out. All defenders are helped by lenient refereeing.
In the England autopsy the lack of English players in the Premier league is still trotted out, though the argument bears little scrutiny. In the 70s there were no overseas players played and yet England failed to qualify for the World Cups of 1974 and 1978. I received an email from Alan Tanner who said jokingly that England had so few national players that they were reduced to picking 2 players who had indifferent seasons for Fulham: Ruiz and Dempsey. I thought England’s squad compared favourably with teams that went further, though probably not of semi final quality. It’s the mentality that lets us down every time. It’s time to ditch Rooney and the whole baggage that goes with him, and Gerrard too, and build up a young side.
With Neymar out of the tournament, I stand by Argentina to win as Messi has the skill set to deal withe kicking that is coming his way .