Monday, June 30, 2014

Concacaf 1-UEFA 1

Yesterday two matches between Concacaf and UEFA teams ended with a victory for each of their representatives.
For a long time it seemed that Mexico would be able to upset the Dutch, leading 1-0 until almost the end of the match. It was not an impressive Dutch side, which is not looking unbeatable any longer. However, it is most often teams that combine skills, luck and cynicism who win the world cup, and on that count the Dutch are surely the foremost candidate to win the title now. Wesleyyy Sneijder's equalizer was a canonball at the right time, while Huntelaar did not forgive the penalty when it seemed it would go tto extra time.
Was there penalty? Arjen Robben had surely been looking for it the entire match, diving again and again. I guess at one point it had to work. The penalty can be defended, but it looked weak considering other offenses and the time of the match. 
The heat and humidity probably affected the referee as well.

Cosa Rica-Greece was another encounter between a team that plays football and one that awaits to strike back. Greece are not a team that wins many friends, while the Ticos are now the favourites of the world. So it was great when they went ahead, but disappointing when only one minute from the end, Greece equalized after what in Greek terms can be considered massive offensive. It all went to the most nerve-wrecking penalty kicks of the tournament. Keylor Navas was the Costa Rican hero when he saved a good Greek kickk, but truth is that the Ticos also were steadfast and cool, scoring on all their kicks.
Another fantastic Costa Rican match.

The quarterfinal is another Concacaf-UEFA match, as the Costa Ricans will face the Dutch. It will look to be similar to what we saw today, with the Europeans waiting and the Central Americans looking for goal. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 17 of the World Cup: Berlin, Germany

I missed seeing a match with their national team in the football country of Europe, Germany. But I did arrive  as they had opened the biggest fan zone in Europe, right at the Brandenburger Tor, in a feast of football with beer, curry wurst, and most important of all, many of the awesome people from Berlin, capital of a country which is in a clear world cup mood, full of (justified) expectations about their possibility of winning the title.
With its beer, its culture, its people, Germany is already the most fantastic country! Do you also need to win a world cup!?
Spent the day wandering the streets of Berlin, dwelling into its sad history and all the architectural renewal, where the past is not forgotten but the future is celebrated. At 6 PM I was with a beer at the Hyundai Fan zone. There were most Brazilians, only a few Chileans, and quite some Colombians (myself arriving with a Colombia shirt as well). Brazil has wide support everywhere; they are impossible not to like. But Chile won many friends today as they played a passionate and outstanding match. Technically, they were at the level of the Brazilians, and even played a type of football that I could imagine that the Brazilians would like to see their team play. Only in glimpses, mostly from Neymar, did we see Brazilian skills. Then, Alexis Sanchez' goal was the best show of how one punishes a defensive mistake. In the end Pinilla hit the crossbar, which could have eliminated Brazil.
The tension of the penalty kicks was felt even in Berlin, where dark clouds covered the city, and the mood became one of somber nerves before the party exploded. So much adrenaline was released during these penalty kicks! Brazilians celebrated, and Chileans had no reason to cry. One great South American nation was bound to lose out.
The veteran Julio Cesar saved the day. But Brazil should be nervous about how their young players could not handle pressure. The tournament will only get more difficult and the burden greater. And next the Brazilians will have to face the sensational Colombians!

The Colombia match lacked the drama and intensity of the Brazil-Chile match, but had the outstanding play of Colombia facing the always-waiting Uruguayans.
Could Colombia defeat Brazil? Absolutely. Their team has been a strong unity, and in James Rodriguez they have a super-star at the level, at least, of Neymar and Messi. In my view, James Rodriguez has outshined them both. His first goal against Uruguay was a superb individual effort, while the second goal was a superb team effort. 
The magic potion in football is to blend Individuality and group considerations into a whole. Colombia is so far the team that has managed this best in the World Cup.
Uruguay was no match for the Colombians, and sadly, Uruguay did not win many friends in the tournament which will largely be remembered for Suarez. That said, they are another great nation eliminated today, and I look forward to seeing them again.

In the meantime, let us celebrate with the Brazilians and Colombians! I did so shamelessly!

Friday, June 27, 2014

The sixteen best in the world

It has been an exciting group stage of the 2014 World Cup, full of drama, entertainment and passion. We have sixteen nations left. For the first time ever three of these are from the Concacaf after USA qualified in their dullest match of the tournament, where it did seem they relied on Portuguese and German largesse. It is also the first time ever two African sides qualified: Nigeria and Algeria. The latter were a great surprise, holding a poor Russia to 1-1. I guess we all expected Ivory Coast to be there, but they have been another of the tournament's great disappointments.
Five teams from South America have progressed, but we are certain to see at least two eliminated in the next round, as they will face one another. There are six teams from Europe; where Spain, England, Italy and Portugal have been disappointments, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France are all candidates for the title, while Greece upset everyone by progressing.
We are thus looking at the following matches:
  • Brazil-Chile: Two of the most exciting teams of the tournament. This could have been Brazil-Spain, but Chile is an outstanding replacement. While Brazil are favourites, Chile will be no pushover, and the pressure on the Brazilians will be enormous from now on. Alexis Sanchez said today he was most nervous about the referee, which is a real worry indeed.
  • Netherlands-Mexico: Mexican coach Miguel Herrera has won many friends with his charisma, but he has also built up a great side. The Dutch have been outstanding, but also shown vulnerabilities against Australia. However, the Dutch remain most likely to eliminate Mexico in the last-16, and I think they will.
  • Costa Rica-Greece: Two of the surprises of the tournament and they could hardly be more different. While Costa Rica has won many supporters, Greece are a more controlled and tactically clever, not to say defensive and boring. Costa Rica will have all the support, but I think that the Greek will again upset everyone, and be the biggest surprise in the quarterfinals (where they are likely to face the Dutch).
  • Colombia-Uruguay: This will be an intense South American clash. The Uruguayans are upset, seeing themselves as victims after the whole Luis Suarez affair. Colombia have been outstanding both on an off the pitch, and are considered outsiders for the title. Colombia defeated Uruguay 4-0 in Bogota in qualification, but doubt they can do the same again. At the same time, Uruguay grows with the tournament, but will miss Suarez. I think Colombia will win a narrow and dramatic match. The winner will probably face Brazil in the next round, so this is the start of the fall of the South American domino.
  • France-Nigeria: France were strong in their first two matches, and looked to be saving themselves in their final group match against Ecuador. In the meantime Nigeria made it through despite a loss to Argentina, where they nevertheless played well. I do believe that the French winner mentality under Didier Deschamps will prevail and France will be in the quarterfinals.
  • Germany-Algeria: The winner of this match will probably face France in the quarterfinals, so no matter what, that quarterfinal will be historic. This match will be historic as well: in 1982 Algeria defeated Germany - the first time ever an African side defeated a European in a World Cup. But Algeria were eliminated when the Germans cheated their way to the next round with a "fixed" 1-0 victory over Austria. The Algerians will be hungry for revenge. But this German team is looking as potential champions, and while the Algerians will fight their heart out, Germany will, as always, prevail.
  • Argentina-Switzerland: All Argentina's success comes down only to Lionel Messi. And this will be their doom, as other players, who are supposedly good, do not perform. Higuain and Lavezzi, besides playing poorly, have not put their heart into the matches. Di Maria cannot hold an entire match, while Argentina's defense continues to be a joke. Switzerland had a terrible match against France, but their striker Shaquiri has proven to be deadly. I think he will make a feast of the Argentine defense, and if they can control Messi, the Swiss will win, as Argentina has nothing else to offer.
  • Belgium-USA: Belgium progressed with three victories but without impressing. The USA were both physically well prepared and organized, but also somewhat lucky to make it through. They were very bad against Germany, but could still upset anyone who does not respect them. This includes the Belgians, who I nevertheless think will win. This would make the quarterfinal a fight between Swiss and Belgian chocolate!
Wow! Fantastic matches ahead of us, and more excitement! I think at least three European teams will make it to the semifinals (Switzerland/Belgium, France/Germany, Netherlands/Greece) and one South American (Brazil/Colombia). I hope I am wrong.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dear Ghana

You have been a shining example of African football for so long. Why this circus now, when all eyes are on you? We knew that there was already problems when rumours of match fixing arose (this was not the first time match fixing allegations surround Ghana), and then the players threatening to go home unless 3 mio USD were paid. The Ghanaian government had to pay that money. The government of millions of hard working Ghanaians had to pay millions to a bunch of greedy guys for the honour of playing for their country.
Ghana, against Germany you showed that you were a world class team. But what will you show today? Amid controversy, conflict and greed, you are not the African team I would like to see in the next round. I want to see the happy, joyous country that Ghana is supposed to be.
Good luck Ghana. I hope you make it for your fans, but not for the greedy players and leaders representing you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I am tired of all the misplaced nationalism

I love this world cup. It has a lot of goals, passionate teams, fantastic players, as well as drama and entertainment. That said, I am already sick and tired of all the fans who do not know about football but watch the world cup because it lights some kind of national spirit in them. Apparently these people have nothing else to be proud of their country than eleven guys kicking a ball. They are people from every single country participating. For teams who are doing bad, this is part of a global conspiracy against them, such as Iran, Italy or Uruguay. For teams who are eliminated but see no conspiracy, it becomes a reason not to be proud of their country. For teams who surprise, as Costa Rica or Colombia this is an expression of their countries now being powers. For countries doing well, this is an expression of their "rightful" greatness, like USA, Brazil or Germany.

Most of these idiots who suddenly love football hardly know the off-side rule, and even less about the tactics. They never watch a league match, but just want to stand on their bigoted legs waving their flag in excessive national pride, and for many, much worse, in contempt for other countries; not because of what they do on the football pitch but because it becomes an excuse to express their deep-seated and primitive xenophobic tendencies. "I do not like Argentines!"; "The Germans are evil!"; "I do not support USA because of their foreign policy"; "Russia invaded Ukraine"; "The Africans are all so primitive".... etc. etc.

I hate all these idiots. They are too many. And because of them, the World Cup is not a celebration building bridges between countries, but rather exacerbating stereotypes.

Argentina and Nigeria: the best are through

Argentina defeated Nigeria 3-2 and took first place in their group with three victories. Surely they have not been convincing, and they will have enormous difficulties in the coming matches, but their group victory and Messi's four goals must give them hope.
Nigeria are through on a victory and a tie, and after a great match against Argentina there can be no doubt that the African champions belong in the last 16, where they will hopefully be accompanied by other African sides.
Bosnia-Hercegovina won 3-1 over Iran to end the tournament with a well-deserved victory. They did not play bad, but a combination of bad luck and lack of commitment saw them out. Iran did not lack commitment, but they were a thoroughly poor side. After a good, but very defensive match against Argentina, they spent more time complaining about the referee and making up conspiracy theories than worrying about the next match. This shows what a poor side they really were; a side that came to defend and complain.
Great that they are going home. They will not be missed at all.

In the meantime I am celebrating with all Argentine and Nigerian fans! Cheers!

Yet another Ivorian debacle

It seemed that Ivory Coast had it all in their hands to follow Colombia to the last-16 of the World Cup. Colombia did their part, defeating any possible Japanese threat 4-1, so everything was up to the Ivorians against a Greek side that had not scored a goal, and had played the kind of football that is easy to forget.
But beware of Greece; they work hard, are solid in the back, and in Georgios Samaras have an experienced and classy striker. And the Greeks did what they had to do against an Ivorian side without pace or commitment. A side that disappointed in 2006, 2010, and were apparently not mentally prepared not to disappoint. 
Cote d'Ivoire are a better team, player for player, than Greece. But that is not what football is about. Greece played as a team, with heart and commitment, and that gave them the 2-1 victory where Georgios Samaras kept his head cool in a last minute penalty.
Against all odds, Greece are in the last-16 where they will face another sensation, Costa Rica.
Either Greece or Costa Rica are among the best eight in the world. Nobody expected that.
In the meantime, one of Africa's hopes has disappointed the world yet again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Life in the group of death

With 0-0 against England Costa Rica has fulfilled the sensation and wins the group of death against three former world champions. That should be the only important news from this group, but of course, the group final between Italy and Uruguay took the headlines, as only one of the sides would survive the group of death.
It was typical Uruguay; they awaited the whole match, letting an inefficient Italy come forward, trusting that the chance would come. Eventually it did, when Diego Godin scored on a corner kick. The same Diego Godin who gave Atletico Madrid the Spanish championship and almost the Champions League. The same Diego Godin who is having the year of his life.
The red card to Marchissio can be discussed. I personally think it was too harsh (yellow would have been enough), but it can be defended. It was nevertheless not the reason Italy were eliminated, although it will be a good excuse in Italian media. Italy were inefficient. They were unconvincing against England, and in reality lost the next round against Costa Rica. And as against Costa Rica, they had the ball more against Uruguay, but without creating chances. They seemed to rely on 0-0, where the Uruguayans wanted Italy to believe in 0-0. This was wrong, and both against Costa Rica and against Uruguay one has the feeling that Italy should have done more, but did not want or were unable to.
That is the reason Italy did not survive the group of death. Anything else are mere excuses.

Two great European nations are going home after not surviving the group of deaths. Costa Rica and Uruguay live on. But only until the next round.

Suspend Suarez!

Just a word on Luis Suarez, because he is not worth that much. If FIFA is serious about its message of respect and fair play, they should suspend him for life from the World Cup. He has apologized for doing this again and again, and then does it on the world stage.
Luis Suarez is a disgrace to the World Cup, to his beautiful country, and to the world in general.

Concacaf success

Mexico played a great second half against a disappointing Croatian side to win 3-1 and make it to the last 16, where they will face the Netherlands in what will, by all accounts, be an exciting match. 
As so often is the case, Mexico has been underestimated, but they are another of the Concacaf success teams of this tournament: Costa Rica has killed the others in the group of death, while the USA are on the verge of qualifying to the next round. This may be the first time we see three Concacaf teams in the  last 16.
With the generally poor showing of Asian sides and mixed showing of the Africans, it should perhaps begin to be considered whether Concacaf deserves a full spot, instead of the half spot being given to them. This was the spot through which Mexico qualified, destroying New Zealand. And see them now.
And who should then be getting a play-off?
UEFA of course!

Del Bosque's final disgrace

I am of the firm opinion that the only one to blame for Spain's disgraceful exit is Vicente del Bosque. In yesterday's match against Australia he showed himself as inept again. David Villa finally started instead of the hapless Diego Costa, and left the impression that he could have helped Spain in the previous matches, fighting hard and scoring a nice heel goal for Spain. This was to be the last match for David Villa on the Spanish national team, and del Bosque took him out amid Villa's tears. And what was Mr. del Bosque's comment? 
"I did not know it was his last match for the national team".
Does this coach even talk to his players? 
Del Bosque has proven incompetent in tactics in this tournament, and apparently also in player management. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Portuguese disgrace and the safest bet of the tournament

Before the World Cup started Group G was surely to be considered one of the most difficult groups of the tournament with four world class teams who could all upset one another. So far, three of these teams have shown the promise given earlier: Germany, Ghana and USA. Portugal on the other hand have been a disgrace. Their 0-4 loss was only in part due to Germany playing well (they did), but also to a completely disastrous line up and generally poor performance. Today, Portugal had to try to redeem themselves against a USA side who had won a hard-worked victory over Ghana.
The USA are good. Not brilliant, but good, and they will punish any team that underestimates them. I do not think that, as in 2002, Portugal underestimated the USA this time, but rather that the Portuguese did not have sufficient quality to face them. Ronaldo only showed glimpses of class. Nani may have scored one, but in general he had no quality whatsoever. Eder was, to say the least, nonexistent as a footballer. But worse was the defense: the entire match there was a huge open gap on the left side of defense, besides opening big spaces in the center. 
This was just plain lack of quality in the whole defensive line of Portugal, and more worryingly, the coach did nothing about it.
As the USA were arrogantly celebrating before the end of the match, it was nevertheless only in place that Varela equalized to 2-2 in the last second of the match after a great pass from Ronaldo.

I must admit I was hoping for a Portugal victory, since this would make it more likely for Ghana to go through. Although a tie is better than a USA victory (since that would have made it extremely unlikely that Ghana would go through), it must be noted that a tie in the final match between Germany and USA would put both these sides through. I do believe that to put your money on a tie in that match is a very safe bet, considering the close links between the two football teams.
It is just a damn shame for Ghana.
As to Portugal, while they still have a slight hope to progress, this would nevertheless be an insult for all football fans. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The best of group H: Algeria

There have been big expectations to Belgium for this tournament. But the team has not lived up to the expectations despite winning their first two matches. Today Belgium and Russia combined to play one of the dullest matches of the tournament. It looked like a boring 0-0 until the last five minutes when Belgium finally decided to play some football, and Divock Origi scored the winner for Belgium.
Belgium are now certain to make it to the next round. Very unimpressive though.
Russia is another disappointment. Their first 1-1 against South Corea was a bore, and today they were as boring, uncommitted and poor as bowling pins.
Expectations were not big to South Corea-Algeria, but here was, for the first time in group H, a team that actually wants to play football. Algeria were stunning in the first half, 3-0 up against a Corean side that arguably gave the worst performance of the tournament in the first half. Knowing that they could not look their countrymen in the eyes for such a performance, Corea played with different commitment and scored two goals. But this was not enough, as Sofiane Feghouli and Yacine Brahimi combined in to score a beautiful fourth for Algeria.
For many, Algeria's victory is a surprise. But truth is that they are the true champions of a group H where they are the only ones who have wanted to play football. They deserve to be in the next round, and if they play like today, I can see no way that they could not defeat Russia. It would also be a victory for football.
Thank you Algeria!

The best match of the tournament

I joined some great friends to watch Ghana versus Germany in the small Danish town of Viborg. It was not coincidental that it was the same friends with whom I had gone on a Ghana roadtrip in 2006 (, when Ghana for the first time took the world with storm.
Ghana were under pressure for a result against Germany, who had looked almost invincible against Portugal. However, one should not forget that Germany faced an awful Portuguese side, where Ghana has quality. And it really turned into one of the best matches of the tournament with two teams that played good technical football and with heart. Both had confidence and wanted to win, and there were many chances. 2-2 was a fair result, although one was left with the feeling that Ghana did not sufficiently keep their head cool towards the end when they had a couple of counter-attacks.
Germany were not bad, but looked less awesome than they had done before, and certainly are not unbeatable. The most memorable moment was when Miroslav Klose equalized for Germany with his 15th World Cup goal, equalizing Ronaldo, and on the verge of becoming the most scoring player in World Cup history.
Ronaldo also scored his 15ht goal against Ghana.

I hope Germany and Ghana progress from this group. They want to play football. Ghana could defeat Portugal, but I fear that Germany and USA may have a small agreement in place, similar to the infamous West Germany-Austria match of 1982.
I hope not. The world deserves to see Ghana in the next round.

Messi the saviour

Argentina played another poor match against Iran. Granted, Iran are clearly not an easy team to play against. They showed that against Nigeria, standing solidly in the back, and against Argentina they proved to be dangerous in the counter-attack. Argentina's defense was exposed, and Sergio Romero again proved to be crucial. The goalkeeper is the best man for Argentina.
But in the end Lionel Messi appeared with another fantastic strike, knock-outing the brave Iranians and putting Argentina in the next round almost single-handedly.
Argentina will not be world champion. Messi cannot do it, and when they are up against more qualified opponents their weaknesses will be exposed even more. Argentina is a side of 10 good footballers and one super star, but can barely be qualified as a team.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

French superiority

In 2006 Switzerland were eliminated from the World Cup without conceding a goal. In 2010 Switzerland defeated the later world champions. In qualification Switzerland won their group overwhelmingly. 
All this is to say that the Swiss are a side that is not easy to defeat. If anything, you should not expect to score many goals against them.
But France came into the picture. An amazing French side that is playing like a team, rather than as eleven players. 5-2 over Switzerland is not a fluke, but rather expression of a French side that has found a rhythm and are announcing themselves as contenders for the title. Five different players scored France's goals, which also speaks about the squad's depth. It was an outstanding French side, and all teams will be fearing them, and all football fans should be looking forward to see them.


I want to be Costa Rican. Their incredible football team has upset everybody in "the group of death". Their 3-1 victory over Uruguay was obviously no fluke as they today beat Italy 1-0. The Costa Ricans played a great match where they always seemed to be in control, never losing their cool in the face of rather meager Italian attacks.
Costa Rica has been the best team in the group, and are in the next round. However, they will want to fulfill the sensation by beating England in their last match, and sealing their win of the group.
A team that has won the group of death will not be any walkover for anyone that will have to face them.
And likely, the entire world will be with Costa Rica.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Luis Suarez 2-England 1

I watched the England-Uruguay match in a crowded bar in Brussels. The lone Uruguayan present waved his flag as he saw Luis Suarez score twice to sink England to a likely early exit. I spoke with a Liverpool fan who expressed her mixed feelings about this. Luis Suarez is loved in Liverpool, and hated pretty much everywhere else. He did not play the celestes opening opening match against Costa Rica, but proved crucial against England. Uruguay had their back against the world, and played pretty much like they did all of 2010: let the others dominate possession, but Uruguay strike with force in the counter attack. Better teams will know how to win against this, but England was certainly not one of these great teams. While not outright bad, the English seem to lack imagination and pace. One even has a slight feeling that they do not believe in themselves; that the pessimism of English fans and their press has gotten to the players as well. Whatever the case, they have a small hope that Italy will all their matches and that they can beat Costa Rica sufficiently to progress on goal difference. But how England have looked till now, they cannot take a victory against Costa Rica for granted.

Colombian delight

The expectations to Colombia are growing. Last night they won a difficult match against a difficult opponent. Very equal in the first half, one had the feeling the match could go to either side. In the end Colombia won 2-1, in the second goal by Juan Quintero they punished a defensive blunder by the Ivorians reminescent of Spain's defense. Great teams are the ones who do not let free opportunities go by. colombia is proving a great side.
Colombia is in the last 16 after Japan and Greece tied. Expectations will be growing. And that will be the biggest enemy of Colombia, who have difficulty in handling the pressure, mostly from their own fans. But I hope they will, as I continue to wear my Colombia shirt.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 7 of the World Cup: s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands

After the amazing victory of the Netherlands over the World Champions, I thought I would visit a friend in the Duke's Bush, or s-Hertogenbosch, in the Netherlands, to watch the match that the orange side would play against Australia. Taking the train from Brussels, it is often not immediately obvious that you are changing country, but for the fact that the colours displayed on windows suddenly changed from red to orange.
On my way to s-Hertogenbosch I decided to do a bit of exploring, and went off the train in the small and lovely city of Breda, where I visited the Gothic church of Grote Kerk, where the ancestors of the house of Nassau-Orange are buried. The football connection is undeniable, as this is where the use of orange for the Dutch national team comes from. Indeed, the beautiful Grote Markt in front of the church was decorated with orange colours in preparation of the match.  And you could feel the World Cup fever getting higher as more and more people dressed in often creative orange garments would appear on the train to s-Hertogenbosch.
Another lovely Dutch city, I was received by a great Dutch friend who gave me an orange shirt and a cape adorned with the Dutch lion. I blended completely into the orange sea of people who we joined at one of the lively pubs showing the match in downtown s-Hertogenbosch.
The Dutch are committed; the national anthem was sung with loud national pride. And I must mention that Dutch ladies are the most beautiful football fans I have come across. The Netherlands wins on almost all fronts, if not on their tiny beers.
But the Dutch suffered. And here I must be honest; I was caught on by the Dutch, and celebrated their every goal (how could you not with beautiful Dutch girls celebrating all around you?), but at the same time I was happy they were suffering a bit, as the match then got much more interesting for... me.
In the end, it is all about me.
Australia are no pushover. They have proved that again and again, and therefore it is amazing to see that some countries, notably arrogant Europeans and South Americans, are again and again taken by surprise. I do not know if this was the case of the Dutch, who were a shadow of themselves in the first half. They were slow, imprecise and uncommitted. It was not deserved when they went ahead, but Tim Cahill's equalizer was fully deserved. And how ironic that a goal so fantastic that one would have expected to come from the feet of the great Dutch, came from an Australian!
The Dutch improved a lot in the second half, but had to suffer more when Australia went 2-1 up. In the end Van Persie and the young Memphis Depay gave them a deserved victory, and depending on the result between Spain and Chile, the Dutch could be the first team to qualify for the last-16.
Chile won 2-0 over the defending World Champions. Spain joins France in 2002 and Italy in 2010 as World Champions who have been eliminated in the first round. This Spanish golden generation gave the world of football a lot, but fell from greatness due to lack of preparation and respect for their opponents. I am sorry to say this, but the responsible is not Iker Casillas, Xavi, Diego Costa, or any of the players, but Vicente del Bosque. He did not set a team according to the opponents, whom he did not bother to study. Had he, Mr. Del Bosque would have known that Chile were a team to be reckoned with. Just being Spain is not enough to win a match; this is also to disrespect your opponents. As much as the Spanish team will be remembered as one of the greatest side ever, Chile did the world a favour.
Chile and the Netherlands will be playing for first spot in the group in what will be a great match. 
The last match of the day was Croatia-Cameroon. Cameroon proved to be perhaps the poorest side of the World Cup. They do not play like a team and are as committed as a cock to monogamy. Croatia's victory was too easy, and not too small. I guess we have all been expecting a lot from Cameroon since 1990, but truth is that since then they have gone out every time in the first round, and suffered some humiliating defeats. Of all those bad Cameroon sides, this is surely the worst of the lot.
Croatia will face Mexico in the last group match, a clash that will decide who goes on to the next round.
In my orange cape I have celebrated the Netherlands, and hope they get far, just because of this great day I had amid the awesome (and stunning) Dutch fans! Hup Holland Hup!

Viva Chile!

The World Champions are out. After the trouncing they received from the Netherlands, the story was perhaps foretold. Chile played a great game, and all credit to this achievement. They have proven they are a world class team, something that anyone having watched their development over the last four years should have seen.
Apparently the Spanish do not watch football.
No matter the degree to which the Spanish underestimated Chile, their degree of commitment to a match that was so crucial was appalling. The Spaniards had no pace, marked poorly and scandalously missed their few chances to score. Diego Costa was so useless that the Brazilians must be delighted to see that he did not join their side. The central defense looked a bit better without Pique, but still lack quality. Casillas had another bad day. However, he remains the best in the world, and the degree of criticism he seems to be getting in Spain is simply too much. 
The one that should be blamed is Vicente del Bosque. Not to know a thing about your opponents is bad enough, but to choose your players seemingly at random is poor to say the least. Against Chile he decided to play with no midfield; leaving Xavi and Fabregas out was to take away the needed offensive creativity, and only rely on the brusqueness of Busquets and Javi Martinez. Besides this poor lineup, his lack of choosing any of the many young and upcoming Spanish stars in the squad (perhaps except Koke), was without vision of the future.
Names do not win matches. Mr. Del Bosque forgot that.
Australia and Spain are the two first teams to be eliminated from the World Cup. They will now face one another in the last match. Australia proved to be no pushover, but I do not think that the Spaniards have taken note of this. With zero points and a score of 1-7 against Australia's 3-6, Spain needs to win the final match if they are not to suffer ultimate humiliation and end last in the group.

In the meantime, Chile are looking with optimism at their next match. Excellent fans and good players have justified that they now have great expectations. If anything: VIva Chile!!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day 6 of the World Cup: Brussels, Belgium

Landing in Brussels you could feel the World Cup atmosphere. There were flags and signs about the Red Devils everywhere. For a country so divided, it is amazing to see that the power of football can unite it in such a way. Football is one of the only reasons that the country remains united.
Belgium is not only a very nice country, but their football team has always been over-performing underdogs. In the 1980s they were surely among the world's best; I did see Belgium shirts with Mexico 86 on it, a year where they made it to the semifinals, where only Maradona's genius tore them apart. Their last World Cup appearance was in 2002, so they are eager to return to the world with their much touted side.
I watched the match in a crowded bar on Place Luxembourg, a square where the European elites hang out before and after they have been doing their things. It is a fun place to watch football as there are usually people from all over the world, but this day the square was wonderfully red in the Belgian colors.
It seems the Belgians suffered more than they had  expected. The Algerians were packed in the back, barely daring to move forward. In what was almost their only attack the referee gave them a  very doubtful penalty with which Sofiane Feghouli  brought the North Africans ahead.
The Belgian fans were suffering as their team pushed forward against a white wall. In the second half Marc Wilmots made two changes: Dries Mertens and a young Divock Origi came on. To everyone's surprise Romelu Lukaku went out. But Wilmots was right.
It was Marouane Fellaini who broke the wall when he scored with his hair, and ten minutes before time the Belgians for the first time caught the Algerians in the counter-attack, and Dries Mertens made it 2-1.
The Belgians in Place Luxembourg celebrated as if the World Cup had been won. This was really football passion! In fact, later, downtown Brussels was also full of celebrating fans with a lot of police guarding or rather protecting the smallest group of Algerian fans.
Happy for Belgium, I felt a bit sorry for the Algerian fans; but their team was not very good to look at.
I stayed in Place Luxembourg, less crowded for the Brazil-Mexico match. There was a group of lively Mexicans who saw goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa be the star of the match with some fantastic saves. At the same time Brazil was very disappointing, although you have to grant the Mexicans that they have always had a good take on Brazil. But 0-0 is always a disappointment when we talk about Brazil, and the home side must impress more if they are not to start losing fans.
I watched the last match in a rowdy and a bit scummy bar in downtown Brussels. It was a match that could have gone to both sides, so 1-1 between South Corea and Russia is well-deserved, although the Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev must like Coreans because he gave them a goal. In the end it plays into the hands of the Belgians, who are leading the group and despite the problems they had, they can beat both South Corea and Russia.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Another Iberian massacre

I must admit that I expected more of Portugal. But their tactic of "pass the ball to the handsome tall guy" totally backfired against a well-organised and clinically efficient Germany. In my view Thomas Muller was the find of the 2006 World Cup, and I still believe he could have done a difference had he played the 2010 semifinal against Spain. In the meantime he has grown to be one of the pillars of Bayern Munich, and now also of this German side. 
Portugal fans are already complaining about the referee. But there is nothing to complain about there. The penalty was clear, and Pepe... Well, what can you say about Pepe? He has always been a violent thug, and his red card puts a bit more decency into this World Cup. Contrary to others, this particular referee deserves a prize and not criticism.
4-0 was none too little, and the other teams that will play Portugal must be looking on with satisfaction.  The USA of Klinsmann, who started by defeating Ghana 2-1, will look to copy Germany, as well as repeat their 2002 victory over Portugal.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ten Year anniversary of my blog

Today it is ten years ago I started this blog, during the 2004 European Championships, and immediately after the Italy-Denmark 0-0 tie. That first post was in Danish, but since I have posted in English, on this blog that in ten years has been an expression of one of the most important things in my life. I don't write my blog for anyone but myself, but happy to know that someone may read it. I write when I feel like it; I write what I feel like, with only my passion for the beautiful game as my guide.
I have had my ups and downs in those ten years, both on and off the pitch. I have lived in five countries, traveled to many more countries, and always had football as an entrance and reference point in my otherwise pretty dull life. I wrote about travels in Ghana during the 2006 World Cup, where Ghana became my darling African side. I was in Iceland for the 2008 Euro, celebrating Spain's victory. I was in France when Spain won the World Cup in 2010, in Venezuela during the 2011 Copa America, and travelled to Ukraine for the 2012 Euro.
I have been to see matches in diverse places such as Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko in Accra, Benfica-Braga in Lisbon, Copa Libertadores matches in Caracas, NASL match of the legendary Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, a local match in the deep Mozambican countryside, and even an amputee national match in Monrovia, Liberia.

I have been sad, happy, disappointed, elated, angry, and many more of those emotions one goes through in football, and have expressed them here, sometimes too much, but I have also tried to be objective amid my unapologetic subjectivity.

I don't know if anyone reads this, but if you happen to run into me today, I am buying a beer. I will be hanging around bars in Rome.

Poor Argentina

There is not positive to say about Argentina's 2-1 victory over Bosnia-Hercegovina. Messi scored a nice goal and Romero had good saves. Otherwise both teams were an enormous disappointment. Argentina went on the pitch with a five-man defense, looking as one of those teams who is more afraid to lose than wanting to win. Incredibly, that crowded defense looked shaky and I think a team with better strikers would have had a field day.
Besides his goal, Messi was not really working, and there was no midfield to talk of until Sabella did something sensible and put Gago on the pitch. It improved Argentina a little bit, making them from bad to mediocre. The thousands of Argentina fans in Brazil really do not deserve this.
Bosnia-Hercegovina will be quickly forgotten in this World Cup. Had they had more quality and more passion, they could have done damage.
This was one of the poorest matches of the tournament, and I doubt whether Argentina can get past Nigeria playing like this (I know too little of Iran to give my opinion). The Nigerians will press high in midfield and are unforgiving up front. 
The Rio de la Plata teams (Argentina and Uruguay) are positioning themselves to be the tournament's big disappointments.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Day 3 of the World Cup: Rome, Italy

The first day of my holidays I arrived in Rome Italy. After food and a rest I found a pub to watch the first match of the day: Colombia-Greece. I was delighted to be among many lively and happy Colombians in a pub, watching with joy (and undeniably a bit of envy) the yellow wave in Belo Horizonte. If anything, people will love the Colombian team because of their fans. And I will gladly and proudly subscribe as one of them.
Colombia won 3-0. 
I then went to a small pub called Druids Den. I was there long time ago, and like the atmosphere. Discussed football both with a Russian and an Ivorian as we watched Costa Rica make one of the first big upsets of the tournament: 3-1 to the Fantas-Ticos over a hugely disappointing Uruguay side. Uruguay were a bit arrogant as they went ahead in the first half without really trying. But the Ticos gave the Uruguayans a footballing lesson in the second half with a wonderfully inspired Joel Campbell, who announced himself as one of the players to watch in the tournament. He was simply incredible.
In the group of death Costa Rica are a serious contender. England and Italy should know that the Ticos will be pushover. Uruguay in the meantime, must improve at everything. It is much more than a question of Luis Suarez. He would have made no difference against Costa Rica.
For the Italy-England match I went to meet some Italian friends at a club called OsClub. A posh place where everyone looked like Andrea Pirlo and Paolo Maldini; goofy guy like me felt a bit out of place there as I ordered a drink with a bartender who seemed to despise me for my appearance. I got there a bit early as a band was playing "we are the champions". It sounded so bad I really wished that Italy would not be champions. 
I asked a friend why nobody was wearing Italy shirts and carrying flags.
"No. It is too early. We do in thi final".
Impossible not to love the Italian confidence and cool. Quite a contrast to the crazy Colombians I had seen earlier!
When the match started the entire house supported Italy of course, including myself. I like Prandelli's approach to football and Pirlo's mastery of the pitch; an orchestra director of football. It was great when Claudio Marchisio brought Italy ahead, but also good to see Raheem Sterling, who made trouble for the Italians, equalize. However, I was delighted to see my favourite enfante terrible bring Italy ahead and finally give them the victory. Super-Mario Balotelli is bound to prove crucial for Italy yet again.
Great footballing day in Rome!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Colombia is in the house

After first half I was a bit nervous about wonderful Colombia: they were thinly spread, and left open chances to the Greeks. However, I loved the fact that they played with patience to get an all-important 3-0 victory in a difficult opener against a difficult defensive Greek side. It may prove crucial when it comes to goal difference.
On top of all, the best thing were Colombia's fans. When they continued singing the anthem's last lines, it was overwhelming. They will be remembered as the best fans of the tournament because of their passion, joy and undiminished support for their team. 
Colombia is already World Champion because of their fans.

The foretold fall from grace

All great teams fall from grace. Some people did not believe it would happen to Spain, but it had to. Perhaps the greatest surprise was that it would happen in such a way that it happened, getting hammered 1-5 by the Netherlands, whose revenge for the defeat in the 2010 final could not have been sweeter.
But looking at Spain's defense it was perhaps not so surprising. We have to admit that while Pique, Ramos and Albiol are good players, none of them are certainly not world class players. The genius of Spain's defense in 2008, 2010 and 2012 was Carles Puyol. Without him they are barely strong enough to withstand world class players. Teams like Brazil and Argentina must have been watching with delight. Pique and Ramos' weaknesses were particularly exposed in Robben's goals, where they proved to be slow and in wrong position. 
When the best goalkeeper in the world fails, it is a recipe for disaster, and that is what happened. He may not be at his best, and this is surely a cold shower, but Casillas has been the best goalkeeper in the world.
With the weak defense the Dutch team under Van Gaal did the right thing against the by-now predictable tiki taka. High pressure on the Spanish midfield and strike quickly. By the third goal (which was a free kick to Casillas) what happened to Spain was what happens to all great sides that have not faced adversity before: they fall apart. This included Del Bosque's changes, which seemed more of desperation than any tactical calculation.
Van Gaal again proved to be a genius, and Manchester United fans must be delighted at what lies ahead.

Of course the World Cup is not over for Spain, despite this heavy blow (never before has a World Champions been trounced this way). In 2010 they also opened with a defeat to Switzerland. But back then the problem lay in bad luck and underestimation, and that match proved to be crucial. I am not sure this match will be the same; there are structural weaknesses in an ageing side (Koke is the youngest player in the squad at 22). The match against Chile will be excellent. The Chileans will try to capitalize on the obvious Spanish weaknesses, while Spain needs to show that the 1-5 was a fluke.

I only watched first half of the match before I had to board a plane. I have watched second half online now, and will now be fully dedicated to the World Cup!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 1 of the World Cup: Monrovia, Liberia

It was a tough day. Not only for me, but also to a bunch of football players in Brazil. I was tired when the opening match started and so it seemed that 22 players from Brazil and Croatia were. It was a slow match, with only occasional outburst of class. Seen over the entire match Brazil's victory was well-deserved, but I think it left a bit of a sour taste for all the football fans who love Brazil for their style. The penalty was an outright mistake by the Japanese referee, who seemed to be a bit too sympathetic to the home team.
Why is there a Japanese referee for a home match in the city with most Japanese people outside Japan in the world...?
Croatia deserved more, but also made too many silly mistakes in midfield to deserve a victory. On the other hand, they also exposed weaknesses in the Brazilian defense, which must have hardly impressed many of the stronger attacking sides who candidate themselves to the title (and one has to wonder whether Mario Mandzukic could have done some damage). On the other hand, Neymar showed that he can do some damage, and Oscar that he wants to pursue glory with Brazil. Watch out for them both!

I watched the match in a place called Fusion, in Sinkor in Monrovia. Great atmosphere and I was with a large group of lovely people from all over the world. This is the best of the world cup: friends across borders adoring the common god of Football! Wonderful place to start this World Cup which will take me to more countries in the following weeks!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The difficult opening match

Opening matches are always difficult, and tomorrow all the pressure will be on Brazil, who by many are expected to take the first step of seven matches that will give them their sixth World Cup title, and more seriously, to leave the place as the only nation that has never won it at home.
That first step is always difficult, and the favourites have often had it notoriously difficult in opening matches; just think Argentina-Belgium in 1982, Bulgaria-Italy in 1986, Argentina-Cameroon in 1990,  France-Senegal in 2002...
Brazil tomorrow are enormous favourites against Croatia, who most people who do not know much about football (but tomorrow many will be watching), would quickly discount as just a minor hurdle in Brazil's quest.
But be careful! I do not deny that Brazil are favourites. But Croatia will be no walkover. A solid side that made it to the semifinals of 1998, they nevertheless qualified with some difficulty. Still, notably their midfield would be the envy of many teams: Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic (who today was linked with an imminent transfer to FC Barcelona) are without doubt two of the best in the world in their position. Experienced veterans led by Darijo Srna line up a defense of physically strong players, while they have some known guys up front with Ivica Olic and Mario Mandzukic (who will nevertheless not play due to suspension).
The Croatians know that they are underdogs, but I think they are quite comfortable with that role. They will not let themselves be intimidated and will surely do their best to take their own first step in the quest for the title.
Let the games begin!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The dark sides of the World Cup

I am an unapologetic fan of the football World Cup; of the dreams, the matches, the passion, the common love for something so simple among so many.
Sadly, there are also some sides of the World Cup that are, to say the least, horrible. Any football fan or decent person out there should not forget them, but instead scream out against them, because nobody else will.
  • Injustice: The World Cup is a money machine. And while big fat sponsors, FIFA and governments will enjoy luxurious hotels and first class tickets, thousands and thousands will only receive the crumbs of the bastards. The protests in Brazil are no coincidence; an event like the World Cup is bound to exacerbate them. Injustice is real. There are thousands who will not benefit from the extravaganza, and the critics of the World Cup are swept aside, but use art to get their important message out.
  • Violence: outright hooliganism may be on the retreat at an event such as the World Cup in Brazil, but there will be some disgruntled and drunk fans who will get into fights. Also bad fights. More worrying is perhaps the every day violence that affects such a wonderful country as Brazil.
  • Prostitution: A recent article in Huffington Post almost made me cry. And stories of child prostitution increasing during the tournament abound. This is a sad result of the injustice. If FIFA really cared, they would campaign as harshly against prostitution as they do against racism. Oh, but right, it is only women....
  • Nationalism: While World Cup brings people together, it also brings them apart. The World Cup is by now almost the only event during which it is still legit to be overtly nationalist and downgrade other nations. History and wars that have nothing to do with football will be invoked. People who do not know the off-side rule will be crying for their flag. Forget unemployment, poverty, injustice; the greatness of a nations will be defined by 11 guys in shorts kicking a leather ball. In a generation the only reason for countries to exist will be the World Cup.
  • Racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia: Believe me, not just in Brazil, but in the entire world, you will see more of this shit during the World Cup.
Football will not save the world. As a fan I will focus on the football. But always a thought will be with the many people for whom society is not giving a thing, who cannot enjoy the beautiful game, that sadly contributes to the ills of a sick, sick world.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The injury domino

Many of the world's top players have had a very long season. And after a long season, now comes the world's foremost tournament. Many are still trying to get past injuries. Some are already ruled out due to injuries, while other have suffered the horrible fate of getting injured during the warm up to the tournament. Here is some of the domino of world Cup injuries:
  • Germany: Marco Reus was injured in last week's friendly against Armenia. A loss for Reus, and a huge loss Germany.
  • France has lost their best player, Frank Ribery. Although France has been good lately, this would seem to hamper their possibilities. That said, many teams have before done well without their super-star...
  • Colombia will miss their star striker, Radamel Falcao. However, I do not believe this will matter that much, as Colombia already has good striking power. Colombia's weakness will be elsewhere.
  • Netherlands: they have more men down, with Rafael Van der Vaart, Gregory van der Wiel and Kevin Strootman all out. Still a strong side, but not as complete as they could be.
  • Portugal has brought Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe to Brazil, but both remain doubtful. I would be surprised if they do not force them on the pitch anyway. Portugal's success depends on Ronaldo.
  • Uruguay: Luis Suarez has been doubtful, and recently underwent an operation, and he is apparently ready.
  • Belgium: Cristian Benteke was injured before the tournament, and Belgium will have to rely mainly on Lukaku and Hazard.
  • Spain: Diego Costa has been doubtful, but seems to be ready. Thiago Alcantara is their main loss, but are otherwise at full strength.
  • Italy's Ricardo Montolivo fractured his leg in a friendly against Ireland. The curse of the friendlies, where players are dead scared to get injured...
  • Russia's Roman Shirokov is out, and this will surely weaken the Russian midfield.
  • Mexico's Luis Montes was one of the new players brought in by Luis Herrera when the North Americans almost missed qualification for the World Cup. A broken leg in a friendly against Ecuador has also left him out of the tournament.
  • England's big loss is Theo Walcott

Saturday, June 07, 2014

My World Cup predictions

The time has come for my World Cup predictions. I am, in my own view, notoriously bad at it. I analyze too much, playing on the safe side, and guessing wrongly on the surprises that are always going to happen in a tournament.

I have played the entire tournament on paper, and here are my predictions:
  • Group A: Brazil will win. Not by big margins, which will lead to some criticisms. In second place I find it very difficult, but think that Croatia may just squeeze past Mexico on goal difference (their last group match ending in a tie). The match to watch will indeed be Mexico-Croatia on June 23rd.
  • Group B: Chile is being touted as a potential surprise, but I think the surprise will be that they will not surprise. Spain and Netherlands will open with a safe 0-0, and then go on each to win their next two matches. Spain's scoring problems will put them in second place in the group, even though they will try to score many goals in the final match against Australia. Chile will try hard against Spain on June 18th. Chile-Spain will be the match to watch.
  • Group C: Such an exciting group! I want all to progress, but I think one of the surprises will come here, as Japan takes first spot with two ties and a victory, same as Colombia, but with better goal difference. It will be comfortable for both teams to play in the last round, where Ivory Coast will defeat Greece for nothing. Japan-Ivory Coast will be the match to watch, on June 14th.
  • Group D: Another difficult group, but where Uruguay will benefit by experience and near-home advantage, while weather and schedule will be the enemies of Italy and England, who will struggle in all three matches. So I think Uruguay will win the group, opening with a victory against Costa Rica, where they can subsequently play comfortably against England and Italy. It is difficult, but I think Italy will squeeze through ahead of England. The match to watch is certainly England-Italy on June 14th, as this may decide second place.
  • Group E: France, Switzerland and Ecuador all have similar options. I think France and Switzerland will start with victories, but overtly confident Frenchmen will underestimate Ecuador in the last group match, where Ecuador will defeat France to take second place behind Switzerland. Ecuador-France on June 25th is the match to watch.
  • Group F: I predict no surprises in this group. Argentina and Nigeria will win their matches to tie in their last group match, and Argentina taking first place on goal difference. Match to watch will be Argentina- Nigeria (a modern classic by now) on June 25th.
  • Group G: Germany will win the group due to their schedule, where they know that they have to close by scoring many goals against the USA in their last match. Klinsmann will be fired after losing heavily to his home country. Ghana will fight bravely, but will not manage to beat a Portuguese side that will be inspired by Ronaldo. Match to watch will be Portugal-Ghana on June 26th is a safe bet.
  • Group H: Belgium will start with two victories against Algeria and Russia, and will be touted as potential champs. But last match against South Corea, who will be pressured to win after defeating Algeria but losing to Russia, Belgium will be too confident and the by-now experienced Coreans will upset them. This will end with a group where Belgium, Russia and South Corea will all have 6 points. Goal difference will mean Russia and South Corea will progress. Match to watch: South Corea-Belgium on June 26th.
 This will give the following matches for the last 16:
  • Brazil-Spain: The end of the road for the world champions, I think, but them winning would not be impossible. It is not unlikely that the winner of this match will be world champion.
  • Netherlands-Croatia: A dramatic match where I think the Dutch will win, not unlikely after extra time.
  • Japan-Italy: Here I will go for the surprise. Italy squeezed through, and will be tired after a heavy schedule, while Japan are thoroughly well prepared. Japan in the quarterfinals!
  • Colombia-Uruguay: This will be a dramatic South American clash, where any of the two could prevail. I tip Colombia, more due to the fact they also defeated Uruguay in qualification.
  • Argentina-Ecuador: Argentina will defeat Ecuador, but will struggle. It may take extra time, and the first cracks will start in the Argentine side.
  • Switzerland-Nigeria: A repeat of the youth World Cup final of 2009 in Nigeria, where the Swiss won. But this time Nigeria will get its revenge and be another African side progressing to the quarterfinals.
  • Germany-South Corea: The end of the road for South Corea against a German side that by this point will be geared for the tournament.
  • Russia-Portugal: It will be an epic clash, but Portugal will prevail, and progress to the quarterfinals.
Now it becomes more and more difficult... The quarterfinals:
  • Argentina-Portugal: Portugal will at this point be inspired and motivated, and obviate the cracks in Argentina's defense. Cristiano Ronaldo will outshine Messi, and Portugal will be in the semifinal.
  • Brazil-Japan: Will be a great match because of the close links between the two countries. It will particularly go over in the football history of Japan, who will put on a great match. But Brazil will prevail and be in the semifinals.
  • Nigeria-Germany: The Nigerians will play a fantastic match trying to become the first African side in a semifinal. But a last minute doubtful penalty kick will give Germany the victory in what will be the most controversial decision of the World Cup. This is a lot of detail, and not very likely to happen, but a safe bet is to say Germany will go through.
  • Colombia-Netherlands: The Dutch experience and technique will be too much for a Colombian side that will have won many fans during the tournament. Netherlands will make it to another semifinal.
Already at the semifinals!!!! Any little change in the results above could totally upset it all! But here we go:
  • Portugal-Netherlands: This will be another epic clash, perhaps going into extra time, maybe even penalty kicks. Portugal, who by now will be seeing the flame of glory ahead of them will win and make it to their first World Cup final ever.
  • Brazil-Germany: How proper that the two greatest footballing nations of all time should play in a World Cup in Brazil! It will be a match that will go over in history. Brazil will win.
So the final will be an epic Lusophone clash:


My prediction stops here. Anything can happen in any match until this point, and in a final, anything can happen. Brazil will be favourites, but a Portugal inspired by a Cristiano Ronaldo who will enter the history books of World Cup legends, will be a difficult adversary. 
Note that the final could also be Spain-Portugal! Also, Spain-Brazil is possible if Spain win their group.

Is all this likely to happen? Probably not; as I mentioned I am usually wrong (but it is difficult-o!). 
If I had done it with my heart rather than my head, the final would be Argentina-Brazil, and Nigeria and Colombia would have made it to the semifinal. Also, Ghana and Belgium would have progressed, and Chile might have fulfilled some of the expectations. But ok, all this could also happen....

Good luck to all nations and all fans though!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, June 06, 2014


Expectations to your team are one of the important build-ups of the World Cup. Not only fans' expectations, but also journalists, players, coaches... Entire countries are building up to what their eleven guys will do with a leather ball on a pitch of grass.
Recent comments by Keisuke Honda and Jurgen Klinsmann gave an interesting insight into these expectations.
Keisuke Honda said in an interview that he believed that Japan could win the World Cup. Indeed, he said that nobody expected them to, but that Japan had the players and the style to do it. Personally, I do not believe that Japan will win the World Cup, but there are certain truths to what he says: Japan does have a strong and confident side with which they will defeat anyone who underestimates them. Also, every team, of the 32 that are going to Brazil, have a chance at winning the World Cup. Teams aim at winning every match, and all 32 teams are at this point seven matches away from lifting the World Cup Trophy.
Despite this, Jurgen Klinsmann recently said in an interview that the USA "...cannot win this World Cup". While many in the US press have gone crazy about such a comment, it also rings true when Jurgen Klinsmann clarifies it: "For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament". Mr. Klinsmann knows that the USA has a chance, but he knows that realistically, it is not possible.

Someone told me that Keisuke Honda's comments were not common for Japanese. Expectations are already low for Japan and they can indeed surprise. Klinsmann's candid comments were considered unpopular in the USA, where the mentality of winning is prevalent, even as unrealistic as this may seem.
But what these comments show the huge diversity of expectations about the tournament. Expectations that are based not only on football quality, injuries, style, etc., but as much on culture and history. Some teams are trying to bring expectations down about their World Cup chances; others have no expectations, while others have too many expectations. The only truth is that many will have expectations confirmed, many will be surprised, and many will be disappointed.

Update 2: Trying to get a ticket for the World Cup

I am trying to round up things at work and home before I go on my World Cup vacation, even though I may not be going to the World Cup itself. But I made one last attempt to get a ticket when I was informed that FIFA had now put thousands of tickets on sale on their site. From my poor connection in Liberia in the rainy early hours of the morning I logged onto FIFA to see the availability of tickets a new.
Unfortunately, my plane tickets and agenda for my vacation during the first round has been bought and paid, so it is no longer an option to go to any first round matches. It was nevertheless with enormous regret that I saw that there were tickets available for matches I had previously not been successful in my application for.
I then looked at quarterfinals and forward. Indeed, there were some tickets available, and I tried, tried and tried. I would punch the "add to shopping cart" button, only to be told "this ticket is sold out' as the page reloaded.
Needless to say, I was not one of the lucky ones.

I am looking forward for a wonderful vacation where I will go to different countries to watch football. But I will not go to Brazil, and this leaves me with a sense of regret and wonder at this ticketing process, where thousands can suddenly go on sale. Is this a result from the jungle of ticket sales in the first round, where I did not "win" either"?
I know that what I may say is sacrilegious, but what about the free market? I am willing to pay a lot of money for a ticket, but I am obviously so scary of tickets that will not be honoured that I have not done it. But I would gladly pay a much larger amount than what FIFA has sold them for.
I will be hugely disappointed if, like in South Africa, we will be seeing empty seats for the first round matches in Brazil.

I guess I have to plan for ticket for future World Cups. Who do I have to pay off to get a ticket for Qatar 2022?