It's not all about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, you know. We're talking about the pressure on Iker Casillas, Luis Suarez debuting in the big one and Isco's big chance...
Those being sniffy about Erik Lamela's rabona are given short shrift in the afternoon mailbox, where criticism of Brendan Rodgers is smashed out of the park...
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Who Cares Who Saw Who First?
What is it about us Brits and the 'I knew about the Smiths before Morrissey did' mentality?
Full disclosure: I have an English mother, was born in England, and have always lived in England. My dad, however, is Colombian, so I've reluctantly replaced Arsenal for a month or so with two teams in the World Cup.
On the whole, it's heart-warming to see so many Brits taking to Colombia and adopting them as a second team. As much as anything, it's nice to see recognition for players like Jackson M., Cuadrado, and, of course, James.
But, surrounding the latter in particular, there is an all-too-familiar cloud of egotistical party-pooping. See the comments section on Daniel Storey's recent article, 'Rodriguez - The Boy Who Would be King James', for example. Rather than joining Daniel in his praise for James - which, believe it or not, is exactly what Colombians are doing right now - readers were instead desperate to get one up on the rest, proving that they were in fact the first European to lay eyes on the boy.
It's indicative of England's attitude towards the game in general: dour. And maybe that's why we're crashing out of tournament after tournament, despite the time and money we invest into the game.
Why can't we just loosen up and enjoy it? After all, do you really think Colombians are sitting around in the bars of Medellín and Bogotá, arguing about who was the first to see Raheem Sterling play for QPR's youth team? Are they f**k.
Dane, North Bank
Jumbotron? Jumbo T***s
This World Cup has, to be fair to it, been pretty good so far. But there is one thing that is annoying me. Every time a team is losing, or on the edge of going out, the camera pans to the fans of said team sat in the crowd looking miserable. Fine. We all like a bit schadenfreude from time to time.
But as soon as those fans realise they're being shown on the big screen in the stadium, and therefore to a worldwide TV audience of millions they suddenly and miraculously cheer the f*** up. And I mean seriously cheer the f*** up.
From the edge of tears to waving, cheering, and jumping around looking happy in the split second it takes them to realise that yes, it is their face on a massive big screen. I don't understand it. In the 5-7 mins after Suarez scored against England I was pretty miserable and I do wonder that if my unhappy face had been displayed on a big screen whether I would react the same way. I'd like to think not.
Makes me think that you deal with any situation by having your face on a big screen. Like you could cope with your girlfriend cheating on you, just as long as it happens in the centre-circle of a football pitch, and just as it gets going the camera pans round to a miserable and shocked looking spurned lover. But it's ok! Look! You're on the TV!!!! Wave like a lunatic! Yay!!!
It's all very odd. If I see myself in the mailbox tomorrow, I'll start cheering and waving at my desk.
Will CFC, The Shire.
We Call It 'Killer'
Where I grew up Ireland 'Heads and Volleys' was called 'Wembley'. Did anywhere else have this name for it? Going for a game of Wembley was awesome. Heads and Volleys sounds crap.
...In response to Paul, (technically Jarrow), Newcastle: Forget the lack of a B league. Forget the lack of coaches or quality pitches. Clearly the reason England are crap at football is we're allowing three touches to set yourself up in Newcastle!
Next you'll be telling us you play World Cup Doubles without a goalkeeper.
Simon (have a word Dyke) CFC
I completely agree with Joel about leniency from refs helping to lower the amount of diving going on. I have long thought that protecting players from being booted off the pitch has contributed to the increase in diving.
Nowadays a little touch is enough to win a penalty. Combine this with the fact that it is easier to con the ref of a little touch rather than a proper old school hack, and you have a recipe for Greg Louganis style diving.
For me (Jeff), There are only three ways to eradicate or curtail diving: Appropriate punishment; reducing the incentives to dive; or reducing the likelihood a dive is rewarded. The first two are very tough to implement. Tough bans might work but retrospective punishment would be hard to keep objective and might lead to media campaigns and corruption to get another team's player banned. The second is near impossible to implement as the low scoring nature of football means a dive for a penalty is always going to worth a punt. The third has some promise though.
If referees are lenient and don't feel every touch deserves a foul players will be less inclined to try win a free. I'm not advocating a return to the Neil Ruddock days of allowing the raking of player's ankles but an unwillingness to give every decision to the attacker might mean they don't keep trying to win a free kick every time.
In the end, if we aren't going to ban players properly for diving then being unwilling to give free-kicks is the only alternative.
Dave (had a tenner on Holland so I'm cool with Robben diving!) P, MUFC
Am I missing something in Suarez's apology? It has widely been reported that Suarez has "admitted biting". Indeed the premier football website claims he "finally owns up to bite".
Stating that Chiellini "suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me" is not an admission by Suarez that he bit Chiellini.
Whilst I'm often paid to be pedantic (barrister) I can't see that the headlines reflect the natural meaning of Suarez's statement.
In my humble submission, m'lud.
World Cup: Just Like Watching Villa v Stoke
I just realised why we love this World Cup. Fast paced games, more long balls, less tika-taka and lots of upsets. Sound familiar?....it's just like watching the Premier League. Not the higher quality but certainly the most exciting.
Simon (England would be a Championship club) Morris
One Of The Many Who Can Count
In response to Sudarsan Ravi (All my bags are packed and I am ready to go. CBF, I am just a call away): basic football rule number one: Only 11 players from each team on the field during play. Your proposal included Luiz, Silva, Dante as the three centre-backs, Marcelo and Alves as the wing-backs, Fernandinho and Luiz Gustavo in midfield, Willian, Oscar and Hulk in front and Neymar in a free role. This adds up to 11. Unless Neymar in a free role includes him playing in goal for and then running up to dribble his way past the entire opposition 11 or take penalties, you haven't accounted for Julio Cesar, good sir.
Or this could be a revolutionary new attempt at a false nine type tactic where we have a false goalie. Neymar gets a back pass from his defenders, the opposition strikers charge him down, only to watch him dribble his way past them with ease and get the ball to the midfield/wing backs before sprinting all the way to the opposition goal to score from a cross. Playing your best dribbler as a keeper; this could be legendary! I want this!
A gentleman wrote into this esteemed mailbox a few weeks ago decrying the lost art of backwards running. Well I hope he watched the Germany-Algeria match last night. If nothing else, the Algerians are excellent exponents of the backwards jog. As my old coach used to bellow: Turn and face!
Shut It, Scholes
I haven't tried my hand at getting in the legendary mailbox for a while, but the latest comments by Paul Scholes have really pricked me and as such this email represents a little bit of a cathartic vent.
First of all, I loved him as a player. Not only was his shirt number my lucky 18, but I loved his screamers and intelligent passing just as much as I did his professional conduct away from the pitch (dirty tackler on it); he apparently didn't care a jot about offering his opinion to the media, which appeared admirable in a world of throwaway soundbites. How things have changed since he (for real this time) stopped playing.
Now blogging for Paddy Power (he couldn't have picked a more reputable company if he tried) there's been a bafflingly bitter and vindictive comment on United every week that is eroding his "humble" reputation in record time. Clearly i'm not suggesting he's now blacklisted after his decades of excellent football for his only club, but he's really starting to annoy a good portion of the fans from what i've heard and seen. If he carries on there's a more than genuine risk of him tarnishing the reputation as a loved servant he built up over those many seasons, and for what? A few extra grand?
His latest inexplicably bitter comments are especially unhelpful, apparently bemoaning the clubs lack of interest in Kroos whilst simultaneously casting aspersions over the quality of the players we have signed. For the record, I was delighted we pursued Herrera over Kroos and think it's the right move for the team. We've already got a few one-paced players (Mata, Rooney, Fellaini, even Kagawa is hardly greased lightning) and adding another I think could have meant the team was dangerously slow. Herrera has great energy in attack and defence and I think he'll really suit the Premier League.
It's all well and good speaking your mind, but if your opinion happens to be inadvertently or otherwise smearing excrement all over the employers that paid your salary for two decades and made you a multi-millionaire, how about you just keep your mouth shut, Paul? It suggests that his previous conduct had less to do with his retiring personality, love for his club or apathy towards the media, and far more to do with a simple fear of the bollocking he'd get from Ferguson. What else has changed?
If he really does have the clubs best interests at heart, which is presumably the pretence for making remarks like the Kroos one, he should go and teach the kids at the club how to pass like he used to; as opposed to handing the media the soundbites on a plate he avoided doing for years. I think he needs a "reminder" from the man himself. A rain soaked Salford evening, a firm knock at the door, a stray boot flying at velocity through the letterbox.
Punish Robben Like Suarez
Usually the World Cup rolls around and I enjoy it so much I forget all the cultural issues with the beautiful game (cheating, sportsmanship...etc.); oddly this World Cup has exacerbated my unrest. Suarez took another nibble, and Robben's flopping about like freshly caught salmon. This happens; it's sad, but it has become part-and-parcel of football.
My problem with the Robben incident is the lack of parity in the intrest/action taken by the governing body compared to the Suarez incident. I know, Suarez's actions were violent, not cheating, I don't mean to directly compare the offenses and I'm no Suarez apologist - he deserved a lengthy ban - but what concerns me is that while bitting someone is considered vile, dirty, despicable and must be dealt with immediately, clear cheating is something we can apparently push aside. Robben dived (twice, then milked the barest of touches), admitted to diving, and then said "That was a stupid, stupid thing to do but sometimes you're expecting to be struck and then they pull their leg away at the last minute." Read that again, this is admission of premeditated cheating, he is waiting for contact - often just as culpable in initiating it - so he can exploit it. I do believe that is was a penalty against Mexico, but the thing is not many players would have 'won' that penalty - are the refs really going to keep rewarding a serial diver because he's gotten very good at it? This is a man who slaloms through defenders and tackles as though they weren't there, but once in the box, falls at a miss-placed breath.
This is not new. Robben is simply one of the finest exponents of the darkest art in football. What I take issue with is that it (and the broader culture of casual, passive cheating and disrespect) is just an accepted part of football. From Robben's dive, to Fred's, to Buffon screaming in the refs face and going un-carded, how can we be ok with the Suarez ban then turn the other way at this? But my point is there is a gaping hole where sportsmanship, fair-play and respect should be in football, and the governing bodies seem at best, not overly keen in rooting it out.
Rowan 'maybe I'll follow badminton now' Hansberry
We're All Missing The Point
Yesterday's message from Mark, DCFC sort of riled me up all over again after I'd finally managed to calm down about the Nigeria vs. France game. The analysts here in the States, ranging from Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Roberto Martinez (great) to Steve Nicol and Claudio Reyna (less great), all seemed too comfortable settling on the pre-match narrative for the game. Basically, the minnow played well for a while but the better team with players the analysts recognize eventually showed their class and won the game.
I have to admit that I expected the same. But that isn't what happened. Sure, Pogba forced a save out of Enyeama and Debuchy should have done better when he shot from inside the penalty area, but Nigeria was just as, if not more, dangerous in the first half. They had more possession (not sterile), had a goal disallowed by the slightest of offside calls and generally made the French look clueless. And this continued into the second half.
Until Blaise Matuidi committed what was arguably the worst tackle of the tournament on Ogenyi Onazi right in front of the referee. Every other red card tackle I recall from this World Cup wasn't as bad as this particular tackle on Onazi and the poor guy ended up leaving on a stretcher with suspected ligament damage to his ankle. So instead of France going down a man, they got away with a yellow and removing Nigeria's best midfielder from the game.
Of course, the game turned in France's favour after that incident and the increased pressure led to errors that eventually won the game for them. But to let the commentators tell it, France's quality just outlasted an inferior team and since the inferior team 'surprised' them, they should leave the tournament with their heads held high.
Ridiculous! I could be slightly biased but it seemed as if there was a clear turning point in the game - the tackle/injury/forced substitution. The kind of turning point that gets analysed ad nauseum during Premier League and Champions League games. But the incident didn't fit the narrative and the Nigerians were too well-mannered to crowd the ref and ask for Matuidi to get sent off, so no one talks about it.
And I'm making an assumption here, but I bet it was the same across the pond in the BBC or ITV studios. Shame. All to fit the same old boring narrative we've been subjected to forever. Apologies for the length of the rant. I'm still upset.
Forget James Rodriguez, Luis Suarez and all these beardy goalkeeper having cracking games. John Obi Mikel flipping nutmegged somebody with a backheel. A BACKHEEL. And then a couple of hours later Thomas Muller makes an utter t*t of himself by falling over running up to a free kick. On purpose? Accident? Either way, utterly brilliant to see that arrogant team c**k something up in such a hilarious manner.
These truly are the days of our lives.
Stu (Algeria were better than England, by the way), Chiswick
I'm So, So Sorry
I know I'm a little late with the emails about Suarez and his apology, but in the notable words of Fr Dougal McGuire: "Well, Ted, as I said last time, it won't happen again."
A Different View
TheOneTrueGaz (Yeah, legally they're probably right... but they're still d*cks) talking about Rodriguez's goal filmed from the crowd reminded me of what has now become one of my all time favourite goals, totally because of the angle it was filmed at.
I usually thought that TV cameras would also have the best angles for goals until I saw Paul Pogba's goal (the first one I think) against Udinese. From the TV angle, it's a quality strike, but filmed from the crowd it turned it into a completely awe inspiring one. The strike, the curve, hitting the bar and in... It's now up there as one of my all-time favourite goals.I saw Paul Pogba's goal
Does anyone else have any 'fan view' goals?
James (Damn you Germany, you cost me £230 not winning in 90 mins last night!) Davies, Darlington