Mails: Ta-ra, Neymar; Come on, England!

Date published: Saturday 7th July 2018 12:08 - Ian Watson

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Come on, England
I keep reading, not just on this esteemed website but pretty much everywhere, people from other counties explaining that England has it’s usual hubris, arrogance and whatnot, and that we are all suffering from the collective delusion that we are blessed with the greatest football team on Earth and will no doubt win the World Cup.

We are informed that we have not created much from open play, don’t have world class players, have done a bit of diving, have only beaten weak opposition etc. This is presented as though it is news to literally everyone in the country.

I can honestly say I have met exactly nobody who has anything other than a balanced view of our chances, some erring on the side of optimism and some on the side of pessimism.

Anyway, whatever happens agains Sweden it’s been great fun and I am sorry if the Sun’s mindless hyperbole and a few “It’s Coming Home” memes are upsetting you.

Anyhow, enjoy the rest of the tournament, wherever you’re from.
Nobby (Tottingham).

 

Arigatou, Japan
When Japan left the World Cup they left a thank you note, in Russian I believe, for their hosts which received worldwide acclaim.

If Belgium end up lifting the World Cup trophy next week, then they should be sending their own thank you note to Japan.

In their last 16 match, the Japanese raced into a two goal lead which came from them taking advantage of Belgium’s lopsided system.

Martinez has insisted on playing a 3-4-3 formation with a right back on the right of a midfield four and an attacking winger on the left.

In theory, some people would say this gives you the best of both worlds. However, in reality it can also give you neither.

The Japanese took full advantage of what seemed a blatant weakness in the Belgium fortress, the space in behind the fake wing backs.

Vast gaps were there for all to see and Japan attacked it at will like the rebel alliance blasting a couple of shots down a massive hole in the Death Star.

A clear weakness overlooked that would inevitably be there downfall to the right opponent. Luckily for Belgium, it was ‘only Japan’.

If that match played out like most anticipated and the Belgian red devils ran out 2-0 comfortable winners, then Martinez would very likely have stuck to his guns going into the Brazil game. As why would he change?

The 3-4-3 would no doubt have been absolutely demolished by the likes of Neymar and Willian, which would have made this quarter final a very different affair.

Not only would they have been weak without the ball but playing De Bruyne in a midfield two against the Brazilian three, would have also seen him stifled.

As it turns out, Martinez learned his lesson from Japan after a miracle comeback and plugged the gaps and free his biggest weapon.

Belgium were the clear better team last night and Martinez is being lauded a tactical master. Yet this Jedi may need to remember what has lead him to this moment.

When you consider how well they played in a 4-3-3 with his big hitters in better positions to play, you should be asking why he has insisted with the doomed 3-4-3 for his entire reign as Belgium boss.

Yet nobody will if they lift that trophy. It will all be forgotten. But I would be keen to stress to Martinez if I ever met him to insist he remembers the Japanese.

If it weren’t for them, Belgium could well be going home right now. I suggest Mr Martinez should be sending a thank you note of his own to Japan, perhaps in Russin would be apt.
Ginger Pirlo

 

…Right. Can someone please tell me – does Roberto Martinez know what he’s doing, or is he winging it?

I have no clue.
Jonno McSchmonno

 

…Bloody Hell, Bobby Martinez is going to win the world cup isnt he?
Not watched a match of such great entertainment for a long time, and thats said having watched a friggin brilliant world cup.
Couldnt be happier that the histrionics of Brazils has been knocked out by the well organised entertainers of Belgium. Certainly wouldnt want to come up against them in the final(allow a man to dream)
Bloody football eh? Its been absolutely grand.
TGWolf (Anyone who says come the new season “The real football starts now” is no friend of mine) THFC

 

…It’s really weird. At a club level, I can’t blame Sterling or Coutinho for leaving Liverpool: longish term servants, super $$$ deals, and Liverpool’s a wearing club. Lord knows I’ve found that in twenty years’ supporting them.

Similarly, Pickford at Everton, there’s a grudging respect for his agricultural hoofings: it’s late-period Allardyce in excelsis, and I say fair play.

The Spursy boys, Dier, Kane, Trippier, all them, I just sort of wish they played for Liverpool, they’re good lads.

And then you have Hendo, who is a great ‘second captain’ or whatever.

But any of them line out in their national colours, and my blood froths to the boil.

Maybe it’s because I’m Irish (it is because I’m Irish). Maybe it’s because I live in Mexico, where Brazilian entitlement sticks in the craw deeper with every last-16 hurdle Mexico stumble at, to the point where I just yell ‘snake’ every time Coutinho touches the ball.

And then you have Belgium, right.

Martínez — the ultimate bald fraud. De Bruyne — boiled head on him, looks like an eejit yelling shite at ball-boys. Kompany — made of crisps. Lukaku — plays for United. Fellaini — plays for United. Courtois and Hazard — Chelsea, a team I somehow hate more than United.

And yet, and yet: all those bells, they pull on the red, and they stick it to the Brazilians, and I feel like I’m watching The Mighty Ducks, and I immediately want Bobby Martínez back in the Prembo to reveal Pep as the Biggest, Baldest Fraud of All.

Cheers,
Tim, LFC, Mexico

 

European Union
I’ve seen a few journalists lamenting the absence of African teams in the knockout stages of this World Cup, and I’m sure now there will be voices of disappointment at the remaining six matches of this tournament being an all-European affair. I’ve also heard tales of South American media crews and former players cheering on other South American countries which they usually despise. And yes, I do understand. It’s a World Cup, so ideally you want to see diverse representation. But also, don’t you really want to see the world’s best teams competing for the highest honour? It just happens that those teams, again, are concentrated in Europe.

If we are to treat continents as footballing entities (and I think it’s a bit spurious to be honest, but I definitely didn’t start it), can’t we be a bit pleased that ours is the one which utterly dominates world football?

Four consecutive World Cups will have been won by four different European nations. In the last five World Cups, there will have been nine different European semi finalists (and 15 in total) versus four different semi finalists from the rest of the world (and five in total). We can certainly understand that Europe as an entity has many underlying advantages, but it’s impressive nonetheless. And if we are going to talk so broadly about “African teams” and “South American teams”, it would be remiss to ignore the unrivaled collective quality of Europe’s teams.
Neil, LFC

 

Fellaini > Neymar
Roberto Martinez. Roberto f**king Martinez. The absolute STONES of the man to put Marouane Fellaini up against Neymar on the right of midfield. And I literally do not believe how well Fellaini played. He didn’t even get a yellow card!

Almost as unbelievable was the overall setup. In an age where everyone on the pitch defends, when was the last time you saw three—three!—players told to stay high to counterattack? I felt bad for Fernandinho. He’s 33, and hasn’t had to play much top-level defense under Guardiola. With Hazard, De Bruyne, and a truly majestic Lukaku running free he was several years too old to compete.

Jan Vertonghen was showing his age too, but Toby Alderweireld was brilliant. And of course there was Courtois, who hasn’t had a game like that for Chelsea in a very long time. With fine performances everywhere, he was my man of the match over 90 minutes.

No clue how the match with France will pan out. The 4-3-3 worked so well that Martinez might very well stick with it, with Dedrick Boyata at right back for the suspended Meunier. And as we know, Deschamps is conservative. When France were 2-0 against Uruguay they didn’t even think about scoring again, and Griezmann was quite brilliantly tracking back in the 91st minute. So both Kanté and Pogba might stay back, and it could be a dull affair.

Or it could be insane, like this World Cup.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA (revenge for 2002, when Marc Wilmots’ header against Brazil was wrongly disallowed by Peter Prendergast, the worst referee in CONCACAF history)

 

End of an era
I watched the Brazil vs Belgium game in a pub somewhere in Nigeria. I was happy to see Belgium winning but the mood in general was quite damp, especially amongst the middle aged who seemed unable to wrap their heads around the mystical Brazil losing deservedly like that. Maybe 7-1 was an anomaly but this game just crushed what was left of a lot of youthful memories for a lot of people. By the end, they started to accept that maybe things had changed. It was like witnessing Man Utd’s journey post Fergie in 90 minutes.
Lawrence, cfc Abuja

 

VAR having an effect
Gotta love this World Cup. High drama and dark horses abound.

Brazil are out, deservedly, setting up a semi final derby of sorts between France and Belgium.

As an admittedly biased Liverpool fan, I cannot fathom how Firmino was not in the starting 11 for Brazil throughout their campaign, despite him being the difference maker every time he was on the pitch. Tite shot himself in the foot there.

As for Neymar, I’m glad he’s out. His diving and theatrics were too much to bear. Had he spent more time looking for the right cross or shot and less looking for penalties that would have been a different tournament and indeed a very different game tonight. His GOAT audition couldn’t have gone worse, unless you count all the time spent eating grass and bleating.

But hats of to Belgium. Thoroughly deserved. Tonight they looked like the team on the pitch they’ve always threatened to be on paper. Their industry in defence and ruthlessness in attack was a pleasure to watch. I have an unlikely image in my head of a Belgium v Croatia final which would be a thing to behold.

What I particularly like is that basically all the teams who were playing cynical, diving, fouling football are now out. It hasn’t been rewarded. Is that a symptom of VAR? I’m not sure, but I’ll take it.

Genuinely, best of luck to England. The 2018 World Cup has been full of surprises, so who knows what can happen?
ShaneO’, Ireland

 

Lukaku in midfield
Did we just witness the emergence of a false true number 9? Lukaku was unplayable last night. Gliding past the normally effective Fernandinho like he didn’t even exist.
And the Kompany was on fire with no stakeholder despairing.
Martin Wambugu LFC Githunguri (Most of the teams I was supporting to fall have not disappointed)

 

Romelu on the right
So the transfer rumours have consistently linked Willian with a move to Manchester United as a means for Mourinho to solve the problem of having an attacking threat on the right hand side who can also help out defensively and not leave the entire right wing for Valencia to manage alone. After watching the game, I had a crazy thought…why not Lukaku?

Lukaku was immense tonight, putting in a hell of a shift (maybe I haven’t been paying attention but I had no idea he had that much pace) and while putting him on the right would lessen his goal threat, his all around game is good enough that he could do a decent job on the right of a three man attack. It would require having someone else in the middle, Rashford perhaps (Ronaldo…?) but I’m now having visions of Lukaku basically playing the role Jonathan Walters has played for Ireland.

Like I said, a crazy thought.
Steve, Cork.

 

No more Neymar
I’m absolutely delighted that Neymar is out of this world cup. He’s an overrated pathetic sportsman.
I’m not so delighted that his team mates are out.
Strevs, AFC, Canada.

 

Mbappe’s at it too
If anything I hope France don’t win the World Cup based on that cynical effort from Mbappe… England cheated Colombia? Well f**k me the French cheated Uruguay!

Regards
Cowlick

 

An Irishman’s appreciation of England
It was half time in the England /Colombia match when the two grumpy old gits of Irish tv got to have their say….And hate them or not you have to acknowledge they know their football…
“This is a streetfight now” Liam Brady reckoned, to which a cheeky Eamonn Dunphy replied, “you’d have to fancy a Colombian in a streetfight”
But with the fixture in the melting pot, the vibe in studio was very pro England.. there were numerous occasions where “what do we… sorry England… need to do now second half??”
As someone who has spent the last 30 odd years watching football on rte I can tell you this is a new departure…. but thinking about it there is a universal appeal about this team that makes them a team to identify with.
Pickford could be your little brother or cousin who is shit hot at sport but good craic to hang round with…
Harry Maguire is the type of solid skin that you played with all through your youth and held the team together.
Henderson is the antidote to the golden generation nonsense… someone who does their job to the utmost of their ability without looking for the celebrity limelight.
Sterling, a kid from a tough background, can do no right in the red tops eyes… why wouldn’t you root for him…
As for Harry Kane.. he is as Irish as Paddy’s pig..he is one of our own..
So football might not be coming home… but ye,ve won a few (begrudging) fans
Rob

 

Tears of a clown
Jimenez crying 7 mins!!!!! (2+5) before match is over . What the f*ck? Liverpool scored 3 in 6 minutes that time in Istanbul. It’s not over till it’s over.
Dharam

 

Our bad
Totally jinxed poor Muslera. You bastards.
Nikunj ‘MUFC’ Solanki, Mumbai.

…Good job on picking a keeper Daniel Storey. Are you Jurgen Klopp in disguise?
Stewart, Chicago

Lazy365
Where are all the 16 conclusions on the games between the biggest teams? Nothing for France Uruguay? Or Brazil Belgium? Bit lazy if you ask me.
Ollie (Coming home? We won a penalty shootout, it’s been home for days), Bath

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