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Hurrah for a World Cup of chaos
How would you describe Russia 2018 in one word? I’d go for chaos.
It started off with Spain’s manager being sacked on the eve of the World cup (an omen of the madness to follow), a plethora of goals, last minute winners/equalizers of the highest pedigree (Kroos, Ronaldo, Shaqiri and possibly even Aspas), unparalleled shithousery/b*rstadry, controversy (see VAR), a few notable upsets, not a single 0-0, genuinely believing Germany will not progress from the group stage until stoppage time of their 2nd game(when have you ever entertained such an idea?), controversial goal celebrations (Tite falling over doesn’t count but see Shaqiri and co), managers getting injured (Tite from aforementioned fall and then also England manager Southgate), a national football association getting fined by FIFA for claiming there’s a conspiracy against it, Aguero leading a sodding mutiny against Sampaoli only for it to backfire and now he may not even feature in what could be Argentina’s last game, Ronaldo missing a bloody penalty, David de Gea conceding 5 goals in 3 games, the oldest player ever to appear in a World Cup pulling off a blinder of a penalty stop.
To top it all off, I get to occasionally benefit from the insight of Tim Sherwood. Life is good!
Tauriq mufc Cape Town
…I don’t care that both those games turned into a complete circus, that was some of the most gripping football I have ever seen.
I bloody love the World Cup, and this one has been absolutely incredible.
Bring on tomorrow night!
But that sh*thousing was a new low
Baffling how refs and pundits fail to grasp the rules of the game. The Ronaldo incident cannot possibly be a yellow – if it’s punishable, it’s violent conduct, so red or nothing. (Personally I think he stuck one on the Iranian player, clear as day)
Shearer said he thought a yellow was about right, Drogba agreed. Truly perplexing. The less said about Lawrenson waffling on about Ronaldo not being in control of the ball the better, utter nonsense.
Finally, the general shithousery from both Portugal and Iran must represent a nadir in the direction elite level football is heading. Retrospective punishments for trying to con the ref would be so easy to implement, and would kill the problem within one season.
I love football with all my heart, and the game of football will never die, but the pace at which the spectacle of elite level football is becoming embarrassing to watch is deeply troubling.
Want to get a new deal? Be linked to Man United
I’ve noticed a theme in transfer gossip (courtesy of BBC), see if you can guess what it is?
Atletico Madrid and Uruguay centre-back Diego Godin could be on his way to Manchester United this summer. The 32-year-old may be available for £18m, with only one year remaining on his contract.
And Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said he has spoken to Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, who could be set to bid for Fekir.
Manchester United could offer Englishman Luke Shaw, 22, a new contract because they are unwilling to pay £60m for Juventus and Brazil left-back Alex Sandro, 27.
Paris St-Germain have offered Manchester United a deal to trade France midfielder Paul Pogba, 25, for Italy midfielder Marco Verratti, 25, plus cash.
What I read from this is:
Diego Godin wants a new contract with Atletico
Lyon want a ton of money for an average player and are using Utd as leverage
Alex Sandro still wants a new contract at Juve
Marco Verratti wants a new contract.
I may be being simplistic, but how many times have you seen Man Utd linked with a player only for them to sign a new improved contract shortly after? As an Everton fan, I couldn’t really give a damn but how do Man Utd fans feel? The fact that their club just seems so desperate that they’ll bid for anyone which ultimately gets used by agents to drive up wages and fees elsewhere.
Fat Man Scouse
Welcome to Ruleball
Welcome to Rule Ball, people! Where teams compete to see how much they can cheat, con, harangue and play act. A competition to see how well they can manipulate and intimidate the referee enough to gain advantage for their team! The crowd can join in too! Forget about goals, it’s VAR referrals you’ve come to see and we can promise you plenty!!!!
Last night was abysmal. If there ever was a spirit of the game, it has well and truly been exorcised. As flawed as the ‘old’ system was, there was one thing absolute; the referee’s authority. It could be discussed, protested, deplored but not overruled. VAR, on the other hand creates doubt, uncertainty, indecision and ultimately panic. Yes, panic. I reckon some of these refs are bricking it when they hear something has gone to referral – “oh shit, what have I missed now!” Pomposity and arrogance are a good thing for a person being shouted at for being a “wanker” for close to 2 hours, especially when they need to control 22 baying idiots who expel any decency and sportsmanship from their character as soon as the whistle blows.
Sepp Blatter, for all his many faults, had a few decent traits. One of them was his guiding principle that the football played in the World Cup final should be the same as any match played anywhere on the planet at any level. And in that was included the rules and how they were officiated. What’s wrong with that? Elite footballers are already as removed from the general masses as multi-millionaire elite young athletes can be. Why not apply this one leveller?
Also people seem to be losing sight of what the rules are actually for. They are there to ensure a game of association football can take place. They overarching aim is that people play the bloody game. The stretching and use of rules for your own team’s advantage has been done probably seconds after the first set of rules were scratched down by posh toffs in top hats.
The offside trap is a great example – it wasn’t created so teams could step up to create an offside situation but that’s how the rule was bent to teams’ advantage. Ok, it happens. Now though, with the absolute authority of the referee removed, teams know that every rule is up for grabs to be bent, twisted, manipulated and the authority of the referee can be bypassed. Look how many players scream for VAR for everything!
For pity’s sake, we had a player geeing up the crowd to make noise as the referee went to the pitch side screen! While all that is happening the actual football has stopped being played. As I said, this is not the purpose of the rules. The rules are there principally to ensure a game of football can take place. The referees are taking centre stage too often in this World Cup through no fault of their own. That is not the purpose of football.
In conclusion, I would just like to ask how is anything improved by a 100% adherence to the rules. Not just football, anything? It leads to pettiness and the small minded taking charge of situations as they’re the only ones with the will to make sure every rule is followed. What we have at the moment is Ruleball. I want to watch football. Scrap the whole VAR nonsense, bring back Blatter’s guiding principle and let’s encourage teams and supporters to try and actually play instead of creating situations for VAR review.
Rob Y (Stockholm)
User error not VAR error
See, this is why good ideas often fail – someone always ruins it for everybody. VAR was working perfectly well up until now, but how anyone of sound and rational mind can watch that incident and think it’s a penalty to Iran for handball, I will never know. Speechless.
“VAR doesn’t work” – yes it does, but like any bit of technology, you can’t account for user error.
Olly Cole, THFC
A really good one on England trying to finish second
A couple of mails in the mailbox telling us to “wake up” and stop being naive about England’s final group game. That it would be better to lose than to win and England should do their best to arrange this. I think that those with this viewpoint might be guilty of a little naivety themselves.
First of all, let’s remember that England have won 6 knockout games in major tournaments since 1966. So there is whiff of arrogance in looking ahead to who you would meet in the quarter finals, when the last 16 is no foregone conclusion. If Colombia finish top, which they may well do, you’d be extremely foolish to “want” to play them. If they don’t, Senegal and Japan have proved that they are no mugs. It will be a tough game and you can worry about the quarter finals, when and if you get there.
Let’s assume though that Senegal or Japan do finish top and England can get through the last 16 game. On paper, we would all agree that a quarter final against Switzerland or Mexico looks easier than Brazil or Germany. How would you arrange this though? You have 2 options really. 1) Ask your team to throw the match. 2) Make sweeping changes to “rest” players and hope that the new players aren’t good enough.
Option 1 is a non-starter. You can’t ask your players to go out and lose. It would be terrible for morale and it’s hard to see how you would even do this. I’m also pretty sure there are FIFA regulations about deliberately losing. Anyone who remembers the badminton at London 2012 (and who doesn’t?) will remember players deliberately losing for an easier draw and being thrown out the tournament for doing so.
Onto option 2. More realistic, but how would that team talk go? “Right lads, I’ve put you in the team today because it’s better for us to lose to Belgium and I don’t think you’re good enough to win.” Superb for morale. There’s also the question of rest v momentum, I always remember Euro 2008 in this regard and it was interesting to hear Slavan Bilic discus it on ITV yesterday. 3 teams in the tournament won their first 2 games. They all rested players for the final group game. They all lost in the quarter finals to teams who had to get a result from their final group match. Bilic yesterday talked his team being flat and blamed resting players for this being the case.
Finally, this England team has done in 2 games what few England teams this century have managed to do. Build up good will. Players are enjoying the football and fans are enjoying it. I’m sure the players are desperate to play and desperate to win. How will it feel if they are told they don’t want to win the game because they’re not good enough to beat Germany or Brazil? As a Scotland fan I can tell you that World Cups should be enjoyed, because you’re lucky to get to take part. So try to win, build up the belief and if you do face Germany or Brazil, who knows? You might just do something special.
Mike, LFC, Dubai
So I have just spent the last few minutes reading yesterday afternoon’s mailbox and all the talk of permutations has actually managed to get under my skin a bit.
Don’t get me wrong, I see the logic in England resting players for the last 16, knowing that even if the reserves lose it is ok because they may just have helped us go further in the tournament. I get it, I do.
But seriously when did we become so cynical that we are rooting for our team to lose a game of football. It’s madness.
Southgate has done a great job in the build up to this tournament and is actually starting to generate some genuine belief that this squad can actually do some nice things in this tournament. I am even managing to be happy about Harry Kane, despite my inherent club bias.
But honestly nothing would kill the belief both inside and outside of this camp like throwing a game to Belgium to possibly get a better draw for the knock out stages.
Players need belief to succeed, just look at Harry Kane. I laughed when he declared himself in the hunt for the golden boot before he had kicked a ball. But honestly, that level of belief is what you need to when you compare the belief that Kane has with the lack of it that Raheem Sterling seems to have in an England shirt it shows just how important that belief is to succeed at this level.
The message that worrying about who we get in the next round sends is one of fear and an intense pressure to avoid failure.
Having a go and beating this highly rated Belgium side to top the group, that sends a different type of message. It would prove to our players that they can actually do this. Not just against the minnows and the also rans but against the big boys too.
For what it’s worth I have faith in Southgate on this one. The words coming out of this England camp all the way through have been “We want to show everyone what we can do” and I get the sense that they actually believe it. They already seem to believe they are good enough and for them it is now just a matter of proving that they can go head to head with some of the top sides in world football and come out as victors.
Isn’t that what international football should be about? Maybe it is just being idealistic, but at the world cup there really is no need for the pragmatism that is so prevalent in our club game, we don’t need to get to at least the semi’s to keep the country afloat, or to fund the outrageous transfer fee for that “highly rated forward”. Southgate just has to pick the best 23 he can find and have a crack at it.
We can afford to just go out there, play our best and try to achieve either ultimate glory or glorious defeat. Either way, as England fans the absolute best thing that we can get out of this tournament is the ability to believe that our national team can excite us again.
It’s all about the late swings
In one very important respect, we are witnessing the most extraordinary World Cup of modern times. We are now up to 10 group stage matches decided in the 88th minute or later. The previous record was six, in 1998.
If you’re thinking the 32-team world cup gives more chances for late deciders, that’s true. But even if the total finished at 10, it would still smash the record for the greatest percentage of group stage games decided so late. This record goes all the way back through 1958, when the modern group stage was established. It’s astonishing—and there are still 12 more matches to play.
On a less dramatic note, we’re only those 12 matches away from another record. Since the modern group stage was established, there has never been a group stage without a scoreless draw. And now the record would be all the more remarkable, since so many more games are played with 32 teams.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA (nothing in this e-mail about VAR)
Gerard Pique has been bloody awful
Looking at the Spanish team throughout the tournament so far, and it must be said that their defence haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory. But it begs the question. Has Ramos’ role as football’s pantomime villain taken the focus off the ineptitude of Pique beside beside him?
It was Pique who conceded the late free-kick vs Portugal despite surely being cognisant of Ronaldo’s propensity to “go down easy” on contact. He got nut-megged against Iran in a gilt-edged chance to draw level. He probably should have seen red for his two-footed lunge in the first half tonight. That’s not even mentioning his political activism in a powder-keg national team dressing-room.
Ramos may be a bastard, but at least he knows how to defend. And does his talking on the pitch.
Brian (a ridiculed Chris Smalling wouldn’t make as many brainfarts), Wexford
Not impressed by Portugal either
Portugal are the international Manchester United. They do enough but you just feel they’re capable of so much more.
And Pepe is a shithouse like Herrera.
Annoyed by the word ‘permutations’. Niche
t’s that thing that comes around every four years. You love but hate it in equal measure. It’s necessary, yet unnecessary at the same time. Yes, you’ve guessed it – it’s the stage of the tournament where everyone starts using the word ‘permutations’. I’ve checked the Oxford Dictionary to see if you can use it anywhere outside of discussing the possible scenarios around World Cup group stages, but turns out you can’t. The word ‘permutations’ is reserved in the strictest terms for the World Cup, and the World Cup only.
I’ve seen it 7 times today, and will probably see it three more times before bedtime. I’ll see it another 7 times tomorrow. By Friday, my brain will be haunted by ‘permutations’, and I’ll be unable to sleep through a balance of joy and fear.
You know who you are. You know if you’ve used it. You’ve probably already used it in a sentence today, unwittingly. Think back – maybe it was with a colleague making coffee, or casually checking the score over a workmates’ shoulder an asking ‘Ooo, what are the permutations of that goal then?’.
I end with a plea: Use a different word. Re-phrase it. Say it any way you can without using the f*cking word PERMUTATIONS. We’ll all sleep a little easier at night, and can look forward to the knockouts.
Lee (You’ll hear it during the Olympics too), LFC