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They’ve got the vier

July 14th, 2014 by · Features, Football

The stats tell the story. Argentina - ten attempts on goal, none on target. Germany - ten attempts on goal, five on target.

Argentina had enough chances to win the game in normal time but Germany won their fourth World Cup with a brilliant piece of finishing from Mario Gotze seven minutes from the end of extra time. Argentina missed a series of goal scoring opportunities, including ‘one-on-one’ chances for Gonzalo Giguain, Rodrigo Palacio and even Messi. All of them went wide of the goal.

On small margins and all that. This mornings papers are full of a new era of German dominance in the mould of Spain but this could so easily have been a story about Argentina winning in Brazils back yard to rub salt into wounds for their neighbours.

Manuel Neuer, always on duty.

Manuel Neuer, always on duty.

The difference could have been a simple as Angel Di Maria recovering in time or even having Tevez in the squad. The referee, in tune with the rest of his colleagues this tournament, was excessively lenient. Both sides could easily have seen red cards, not least for Benedikt Howedes studs-up challenge on Pablo Zabaleta and Sergo Aguero’s elbow on Schweinsteiger.

It all came down to one moment – Mario Gotze’s brilliantly-taken goal in the 112th minute. The Bayern Munich midfielder was been a late substitute for Miroslav Klose at the end of full time.

So Germany add that fourth star above the badge but it could easily have been Argentina adding their third. It’s been a great tournament and both teams contributed to a compelling, and close fought final.

At lot has been said about the rebuilding of German football after the, relative, failure around 2002. As coach Joachim Löw reminded us last night.

“In 2000 and 2004, German football was down and out, we went out in the group phases so we took decisive steps and invested more in the players’ education”.

And he also voiced what’s been on many minds. Can this German team achieved the same long-term dominance that Spain has enjoyed for the last 5-6 years?

“And it is a relatively young squad … with only Miroslav Klose – who is likely to retire from international football on a high – and third-choice keeper Roman Wiedenfeller over the age of 30. I think this title will give us a push for the future”.

“Look at Gotze, (Thomas) Muller, (Mesut) Ozil and (Marco) Reus, who wasn’t here – there are a lot of players who can still achieve a lot in their careers.

This result really has been over a decade in the making and Germany, who finish with a joint record 18 goals, will always remember Rio de Janeiro with pride and consider it a greater achievement than even Bern in 1954, Munich in 1974 or Rome in 1990.

Fear them.

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Brazil – worst hosts since Alien

July 13th, 2014 by · Features, Football

Despite this match traditionally being the one no-one wants to play 70,000 turned up to the Estadio Nacional, Brasilia. 

Brasilia, deep in the heart of the country, was chosen presumably because Brazil had never lost a game there. Well, this a tournament of firsts, in a bad way for Brazil, and so it proved again.

Netherlands scored an early penalty, a late bonus and a first half give away from David Luiz. The dutch take home the ‘bronze medal’ with an easy win against a desperately disappointing Brazil.

Then I woke up…still worth £50m though

Then I woke up…still worth £50m though

Things started out bad and got worse for Brazil. Any hope of salvaged pride faded in the first three minutes. Thiago Silva pulled back Arjen Robben. Referee Djamel Haimoudi gave a penalty but was lenient with Thiago who received a yellow. Van Persie converted the spot kick.

More misery followed in the 17th minute. Georginio Wijnaldum’s cross was headed straight to Daley Blind, unmarked on the penalty spot by the hapless David Luiz. Blind had plenty of time to chest the ball down and place a smart volley past Julio Cesar.

Brazil may have been unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the second half. Oscar went down after a trip by Blind but the referee decided to book the Brazilian for diving.

The dutch played well within themselves for the remainder of the game and in injury time, to add insult, Wijnaldum turned in substitute Daryl Janmaat’s cross after a great pass from Robben.

Fred retires from internationals today…I know, fish/barrel

Fred retires from internationals today…I know, fish/barrel

The goal capped another miserable night for the hosts who managed to break yet another record on the night. They have now conceded 14 goals in a World Cup. That’s the worst ever performance for a host. Also one of the worst in history surpassed only by South Korea in 1954 [16 conceded], Sweden in 1950 and Belgium in ’86 both with 15.

So Netherlands go home ‘undefeated’ and the Brazilian players and coach leave to ponder their uncertain futures with the jeers of the Brasília public ringing in their ears. Maybe they should have spent more time focussed on the games and less time on the sponsorship malarky. Here’s the list of official sponsors JUST FOR THE TEAM below. Refunds anyone?

Nike, Itaú, Vivo, Sadia, Guaraná Antartica, Mastercard, Nestle, Samsung, Extra, Gillette, Volkswagen, Voegol, Englishtown, Seguros Unimed, Parmigiani, Tenys Pé Baruel


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Final Preview – Messi’s Baggio moment?

July 12th, 2014 by · Features, Football

Argentina v. Germany on sunday will the third final in which they’ve faced each other.

The first, 1986, was a 3-2 cracker but the last, in 1990, was settled with an Andreas Brehme penalty on 85th minutes after a dull stalemate of a game. Let’s hope this one is better.

Argentina have not been very good, except defensively. They have kept four clean sheets in six games, but scored only two goals in the knockout stages. The key question is can an out of sorts Messi do ‘a Baggio’ and drag his under-performing team through a tournament all the way to the final.





The focus had been of Argentina’s attacking options but there most effective group have been the defence who have achieved a string of one-nil or nil-nil games. They won’t, however, be winning any games. That responsibility falls to their attacking players such as Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín, Ángel di María, if fit, and of course Lionel Messi.

Germany’s progress has been much more positive and dramatic. Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos have grown into the tournament and now look an effective bridge between their increasingly solid defence and the best array of attacking talent in this World Cup.

The Germans may have benefitted from the mental and tactical collapse from the Brazilian team but they still needed the composure and talent to exploit that opportunity. Argentina will not be as naive as Brazil but they will be cognisant of the treat that Germany pose. That alone will prevent Argentina from pressing too high and too early.

An early goal for Germany could mean a rout as Argentina would be forced to ‘play up’ and leave the kind of space that Brazil left on tuesday night. The longer it stays goalless the more likely that Messi will rescue them one more time. But for that to happen they will have to, at some point, take risks.

For us at WCO we hope it’s a great game to wrap up a great tournament but fear that, for Messi, this WILL be his Baggio moment but, as in 1994, remembered very much for the final result, not the process.


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Ticket tout suspect goes on the run

July 11th, 2014 by · Features, Football

Despite their best efforts FIFA can’t seem to rid themselves of controversy even at what should be their finest hour. 

Just as everyone was beginning to focus on Sunday’s final the ticketing scandal that has been rumbling in the background took almost comic centre stage yesterday.

As the Brazilian police moved to rearrest suspect Ray Whelan, at the Copacabana Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, he legged it via a hotel service door and is now a fugitive. Whelan’s employers, MATCH, are a subsiduary of FIFA partners Byrom.

One of these men has disappeared after being accused of crimes against football.

One of these men has disappeared after being accused of crimes against football in Brazil.

To make matters worse a company run by Sepp Blatter’s nephew is a shareholder in MATCH. MATCH sold over 300,000 hospitality packages for this event and has a £175m contract with FIFA.

The attempted arrest is part of a concerted action against an alleged $100m ticket touting ring making money by illegally acquiring and selling VIP tickets and hospitality passes. Those tickets and passes are only available to FIFA members and partners.

For more on the background to the story and updates here’s the brilliant Inside World Football.

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