Mails: Pogba should follow Modric’s lead…

Date published: Friday 22nd June 2018 8:56

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His name is Luka…
No words can really give Luka Modric the accolade he deserves, but by God I’m gonna try. If you were to ask me to pick a world XI, he’d be one of the first names on my teamsheet.

Perhaps I’m being hyperbolic after watching him tear holes in an admittedly desperate Argentine side, but everything about him and his play is simply joyous to watch. The deceptive strength, the feints, the close control, the incisive passing, the patience, the defensive intelligence. Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane made the point that in order to become a consistently excellent player, Paul Pogba needs to stop trying so hard and start doing the simple things. For me, Modric epitomises that sentiment – his quiet simplicity is the platform, and from there he unleashes those world-class moments of magic, like an inch perfect through ball or the goal he scored tonight.

For club and country this guy is so pivotal, yet he remains so unflappable. It’s like he’s forgotten his own importance, or better still, he thrives on it. The little man with the big calves is bloody sublime.
Jack, 24, London (when everything clicks Croatia are very impressive)


Defending Deschamps
The narrative surrounding this French team, on this website but also elsewhere, is that the French team is a juggernaut held back by a crap manager. Judging Deschamps on club credentials, his resume dwarves pretty much all other managers at the world cup. It’s certainly much better than Southgate’s with whom this website is so enamoured, whose only claim to fame is relegating Middlesbrough. Judging Deschamps on past performance with France, he has one quarter final with an exit to the eventual winners and one final in two major tournaments. The “scuttling” to the final involved a 2-0 defeat of Germany and a 5-2 win over Iceland. To call out Deschamps on his record with France so far is not an “uncharitable assessment”, it is absurd. We know what a crap manager looks like; just 8 years ago Domenech’s team finished bottom of a group with South Africa, Uruguay and Mexico.

The style so far at the WC has not been scintillating, though France played well in the first half against Peru. However, it’s rarely the team that plays the best football that ends up winning. Greece 2004 and Portugal 2016 (winning the final where I would argue France actually played their best game of the tournament, and set a record for most shots on target during a Euro final) are infamous examples, but even Spain in 2010 or France in 1998 won almost all their games by a single goal. What matters is to win. Peru’s only dangerous chance in the second half was a long-range shot that hit the post. It’s been 6 points from two games, so it’s odd to criticise Deschamps right now.

This French team is full of potential, but few truly world-class players; only Kanté and Griezmann deserve to be called as such. Pogba is wildly inconsistent, as Man United fans can attest. Dembele and Mbappe are still raw, Lemar has not played well this season, Thauvin is unproven at this level. This is the second youngest team at the tournament, and there are no teams we should expect it to sweep aside.
TFF, Paris


…Sincere question, what did Didier Deschamps do to Dan Storey? Honestly these ‘hit’ pieces on him are becoming repetitive. And I would add they are unwarranted. I am not saying France is playing all kinds of wonderful. But we did just win 2 games out of 2. And we did beat a very talented team in Peru.

This is a team full of young players who are playing in their first or second international tournament. It is difficult trying to find the right balance. And Deschamps is a pragmatic coach. What matters most is the result.

How many teams have won the World Cup spanking everyone 5-0? Do people honestly not remember Spain scrapping through in the World Cup in 2010 or even Portugal in 2016. I am not comparing France to these teams, but let’s remember that what matters most is the result. We have 2 wins from 2, and we are slowly improving (we had an impressive 30 minutes where Giroud, Griezzman and Mbappe combined well).

Additionally, when England scrapes by at the last second, no one is allowed to criticize the team as per Mediawatch, but when France wins 2 games having led for long periods of time, we should only look at the negatives. I understand we have amazing players, but this isnt Football Manager. You can’t put a bunch of players who play at different clubs and expect instant chemistry. Deschamps is not the best coach in the world, but he is massively pragmatic. If Storey knew anything about him, he would know that he specializes in narrow wins. I may not love his style, but that is the

Finally, can we stop riding him about Euro 2016? Let’s not forget we convincingly beat Germany in the semi final. Does he not get credit for that, or does that simply not fit the narrative of him being a subpar manager?
Guillaume, Ottawa


Argentina? Moyes, that
It’s 80mins in to the Argentina v Croatia match amd something has been winding me up for most of the game and certainly since Croatia scored their first.

Argentina have small, skilfull players up front.

Croatia have large, viking-like centre backs.

Why oh why does Acuña keep whipping crosses in to no-one?! I don’t have the stats but it feels like that imfamous game for Moyes v Fulham, except United at least had a target to aim at! Argentina look stifled through the middle admittedly, but I just can’t fathom their approach. Slow, slow, wide, whipped cross, lost ball. Acuña wasn’t the only culprit, but certainly the worst.

Croatia looked comfortable throughout. They may be a dark horse…
Alex, (the boy Pavon looks like he could be class though), Ayr


…Messi, Aguero, Higuain, Di Maria, Dybala.

All this means squat when you have a central midfielder partnership that’s combined age of 66 and play their football in the Argentinean and Chinese league. Croatia’s tactics where spot on and Messi was at his worst since the champions league second leg vs Roma.

It shows that all the attacking talent doesn’t mean a huge amount when I team can be pulled apart so easily.

I think Croatia are a real dark horse for this tournament, their midfield are dynamite and Lovern is tailor made to sit in and head everything away for 90 minutes.

Kinda glad yous have Henderson and Lingard now aren’t ya??
Robbie DFC Éire.


Where Messi falls down as the GOAT
Daniel Storey leaves out the all-important point that the best players make those around them better. Think Jordan in his prime (Luc Longley had no business winning NBA titles) or Ronaldo two years ago. You don’t even have to think of Maradona in Mexico to understand this point. Messi fails at making those around him better. Ronaldo succeeds to meet the contractual obligation mentioned in Storey’s article. For a player who seems to spend so much time behind the scenes trying to get his choices around him on the field, Messi is rightly blamed when things end like this. Argentina has some serious soul-searching to do for the manner of this defeat and the longer-term issue that their style of play is absolutely appalling on the eye in an era of exciting, fast-paced, creative play. Messi’s inability to carry any significant weight on his shoulders is how we should always judge superstars.
Niall, Denver


…Long time reader and first time writer to the mailbox with something that has been tickling my brain for a while now and what better time to let it out than on a Friday mailbox?

The debate will forever rage about who is greater between Pele, Maradona, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and many people will use the scoring rates to separate them, trophies won, Ballon D’Or’s and what country they played in to justify why their favourite is the best ever. But who would be remembered more fondly in 10 years time for example?

The catalyst for this never ending internal debate was after Real Madrid dismantled my cherished Liverpool in Kiev a month ago and became the greatest European team ever statistically with their 3 in a row. But will they be remembered as a team of pragmatists who managed to beat whatever team was in front of them without capturing the hearts of millions say in comparison to the Barcelona tiki taka team of 2011 who appeared to create a new way of playing football? Don’t get me wrong this Madrid team is outstanding and deserved every one of their champions league titles but there was always that sense that ‘they were there for the taking’.

If you really wanted to stretch the debate across different sports you could look at tennis and how pragmatic Pete Sampras was in winning his 15 grand slam titles compared to the first fifteen of Mr. Federer.

Interested to get the mailboxes opinion on this.
Barry, Kilkenny (LFC and GUFC)


Just a few of the responses to Andy
Oh Andy, you almost had it.

If you had just said, ‘I’ve no issue with women giving an opinion on the World Cup games but it isn’t for me’ I think I could have lived with that. Life and its vast tapestry is only made more interesting by those with differing opinions – I can respect the idea that you just don’t like it. I don’t like quiche, custard and sweetcorn. My wife thinks I’m an oddity. Different opinions and we are still happily married.

However, you undermine your entire argument as soon as it starts, so in fact you do come across as a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal – loving your mum doesn’t excuse that. You admit throughout that Aluko, Scott and Sparks all know infinitely more than you or their male counterparts, which surely makes them experts, so therefore is it just the pitch of their voice that sets you off? Do you react to other similar sounds in the same way like a dog and the doorbell? I’d go see a doctor about that if so. As for you being one of thousands who switched the coverage due to your outrage at a woman’s voice on your TV, do you know for certain that they switched because of a female commentator as opposed to preferring radio commentary? Can you show us evidence of this mass switch over?

To even attempt to defend Kelner’s piece takes some doing – it is ignorant, uninformed and just plain wrong. The basic skill set for football is exactly the same no matter your gender or ability and to say otherwise shows how little you understand this game you profess to love. Basketball and netball are different sports – men’s and women’s football is not – so his entire argument is based on a false premise.

The fact that you feel downtrodden by some women talking about football as opposed to standing there and looking pretty while asking The Men questions (Women – know your role!) or you feel that you are ‘losing’ because women are no longer tolerating your shitty banter is pretty irrelevant. The world is changing, deal with it.

Andy, this may come as a shock to you but you are the problem, not them.
Conrad Wiacek, MUFC


…No one needs to respond to that email from Andy because he’s already mugged himself off with it, hasn’t he? “I’m not sexist but women in football sound wrong”. To you maybe, matey, but not to the rest of us. It sounds like a sports commentator doing their job, and if they do it well it really doesn’t fucking matter whether they’re male or female. Frankly I’ve had enough of uninformed, lazy ex pros rocking up to tv studios under the guise of being experts, and within minutes it’s clear they’re not trying. They fall back on lazy cliches to disguise the fact they’ve done no research at all. Half of then don’t even know the rules any more. It’s embarrassing. So I really don’t care for the tone of someone’s voice as long as they know what they’re talking about. If you’d rather listen to Dean Saunders and Lawro all repeat the same tired nonsense they come out with every week because it’s easier on your little ears then fill your boots. But you cannot tell everyone you’re not judgemental and overtly sexist, and deliver that absolute shower of misogynistic bullsh*t.
Harry The Manc.


Ok, you will get plenty of these, but here’s my take. Though you deny it Andy, you are the text-book definition of sexist. You may believe various non-sexist things such as – speaking hypothetically – that women should have the vote and that they should be equal members in society, etc, but you are just kidding yourself if you believe that that is enough to be classified as non-sexist.

You specifically say in the second paragraph that “If that 5-live commentary team had been led by a woman then I would have muted it”. So if any woman had been commentating you would have muted it. This is a job that requires nothing more than a voice and an interest in football, and you are saying that all women will necessarily do a woeful job. This is sexism. You are sexist. End of story.

Your ‘evidence’ that people don’t want to hear a cockney pilot is bullshit too. While some people may be made uncomfortable in such a situation, the wiser ones among them know that that prejudice is something internal to themselves and they force themselves to come to terms with it and to grow and improve as a person. It’s the d*ckheads who think that the pilot is at fault. (Yes, that means you).
SL (Everything else in your letter was bulls*it too), Berlin


…Andy, a hypothetical question for you.

You’re on your death bed in hospital, only an immediate heart bypass will save your life, you’re surgeon turns up for the pre op. SHE has a thick Cockney accent and is called Tanya. Would you refuse the operation?
Mark Danger Endicott, MUFC


…I watched France play Australia with my 4 year old daughter on Saturday, on her request. As pre-schoolers do, she asked me questions about what was going on incessantly throughout – all of which I answered in good humour, obviously – but you know the one thing she didn’t ask me about…?

Why there was a woman on the panel at half time.

She asked me who each of the pundits were (“He’s Didier Drogba – he played for a country called the Ivory Coast, she’s Alex Scott – she played for England, he’s Phil Neville – he played for England”) but she never questioned how or why Alex and Phil both played for England, despite one being a “girl” and the other being a “boy”, or whether Alex’s opinions were worth any more or less than Phil’s.

That she’d not questioned that didn’t dawn on me immediately but as the second half kicked off it began to occur to me how insignificant the genitals of the pundits had been to her (as they had been to me, I might add) and, ultimately, how empowering it might be for her to see female pundits as the norm alongside their male counterparts.

I don’t want to be confrontational toward Neanderthal Andy – but I just thought an alternative perspective might help him to understand that the World Cup isn’t just for him and his ilk.
Luke Nuckley


Stick with VAR
Just as a quick rejoinder to JCNUFC, most Germans would tell you that the 66 world cup was won off the back of a refereeing mistake.

In more general terms, I disagree with him about VAR. Yes, it’s clunky at the moment, but it’s infinitely more streamlined than it was, and there’s every reason to expect it to get better. Referees are still getting used to the technology, the rules around it’s use, and the best way to use it. As they get more comfortable, it’ll get faster and be used more consistently.
Dan, Plastic LFC


a big round of applause to JCNUFC, who writes in today’s letters about how people who like VAR are “those who watch football primarily on TV”, while people who actually go the stadium don’t want anything to do with that nonsense.

I believe this to be entirely true and it’s where my aversion to VAR comes from. Earlier this year I was in Portugal, where VAR is already used, and I went to watch a Sporting Braga game with the locals.

The stadium is beautiful, the crowd was fine, the teams were half-decent and the food in the concessions was splendid and ridiculously cheap. So, all good except that in the first half Braga scores, everybody goes wild, but then the ref gets word of something, the game is paused for two-three minutes, the goal is reversed for – reasons? Maybe the tightest of offsides? Anyway, me and everyone else are left feeling stupid.

Second half, an away player falls in the Braga box, his entire team starts motioning towards the ref to go and watch it on the telly. He does – no penalty given, but that’s another two to three minutes of sitting on our bottoms waiting for the ref.

Then in injury time a Braga player falls down inside the box after the flimsiest of contacts. The ref calls nothing but, hounded by Braga players, he goes to review it and, lo and behold, decides it is a penalty after all. I saw it live and I thought it would be the greatest of stretches to give a penalty for that – but once you watch the same thing 10 times on super-slow-motion, everything seems like a penalty to you, doesn’t it (maybe that’s why this world cup has had a score of them already)!

Braga missed the penalty kick, the game ended in a tie. The impression I got was that VAR is a strain on the nerves: nothing you watch is really real, because it can be reversed by VAR. Then there’s the waiting around – you don’t know what’s happening, you don’t know what the ref is seeing. Being at a VAR-ed game is a frustrating experience.

But then again, who cares about us saps that still like to watch the games live, eh?
John Ashdown


Not sure about VAR
I know there has been a lot of discussion already on VAR. Whilst not being an advocate of it, I think it has been a relative success so far in the World Cup.

My main reservation was that it would excessively disrupt the flow of the game, the negative impact of which would outweigh the benefits; this has not proved to be the case in this tournament, decisions have been made relatively quickly.

The reason for this success however is surely that every match is televised worldwide and therefore have multiple cameras at each match along with 4? referees in a studio for each match with multiple screens to view to expedite any decision making.

Will this level of resources be available for each match in the normal course of a season? In the Premier League maybe due to the coverage and money involved. How far down the footballing pyramid will this be available? At what level will VAR not be used? I am not just talking about the UK but across Europe and World football.

With the scrutiny of cameras the behaviour of players will undoubtedly change (think speed cameras on motorways) Players earning a living at lower levels of football will not face the same level of scrutiny and therefore their attitude to the game and hence behaviour will not be impacted in the same way.

Thought provoking (for me anyway) as surely this will provide an advantage to elite level players/countries when it comes to future international or domestic tournaments as they will be playing under conditions that they are far more familiar with.

Inconsistencies in the same round of the same tournament are also an obvious issue – FA Cup where VAR was trialled this season for example. Why should one 3rd Round match be subject to VAR when others are not?
Brian BRFC


Could be worse…
Earlier this week the mailbox contained a load of complaints regarding the TV punditry available in the UK. Please spare a thought for us unlucky few on the southern tip of Africa.

Tonight’s cracker of a game was covered by the presumable rejects of British commentary getting a hefty pay day from SuperSport. We were blessed by a 3 minute conversation between Andy Townsend and Tim Sherwood discussing Jorge Sampaoli’s (Argentinian coach) tattoos and how he looks ready for a fight down at the pub.

Exactly the expert analysis you want to hang around for after the match.
Jeandré, Cape Town


Game, set, match
Seeing as the mailbox has lately tried to pinpoint who Unai Emery looks like, I am surely not the only one that thinks Jorge Sampaoli looks the spit of Andre Agassi? I wonder did he have a Baggio-esque hairpiece in the 90s too.
Brian, Wexico


…I have sussed out why Argentina are playing so poorly. It’s because their manager is really Dana White from the UFC. Have a look next time Argentina plays, they could be twins.

That is all.
Gary, Perth ,Western Australia

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