World Cup 2014: Please Sir, May I have some more?

After watching the exercise in frustration, that was Japan vs Greece, in Natal, I came to understand why the stadium has been named Arena das Dunas. A basic translation would be Arena of the Dunes – and watching the match this morning, it truly felt like an arid wasteland for football.

A place where the bountiful harvest of goals so far in Brazil 2014, could believably dry up. Where goal-scorers in general and potent strikers in particular, go to die. Or maybe it was the teams involved.

First, a nervous Japanese team that surrendered a promising start against the Ivory Coast, to be overwhelmed by the muscular ‘Les Elephants’ withering finishing burst. Their opponents, a maelstrom of Greek Tragedy that has devolved into the risible farce of soap-opera. Even ‘scripted reality’ shows have more claims to authenticity, than the drama queens who represent the dregs of Greece’s one & only ‘call to honour’, on the World Stage, Euro 2004.

Some might say I am a harsh judge, or worse yet, a pernickety grouse, just waiting for the opportunity to pounce on the ‘smallest failing’, of a tournament whose football for the most part has been a resounding success.

I can only point to the score, the dry-heaving histrionics on-field & field-adjacent. It’s all there for anyone to look it up. Two teams that for different reasons took the name of the stadium that hosted them literally, and played such arid football, it’s a wonder they didn’t turn to salt when the final whistle blew.

Still, all that information was there for me to translate & interpret from what I saw and read. Easily discoverable. Hardly a shock.

What was surprising was the turn of events between Uruguay and England in São Paulo, at the Arena de São Paulo. I saw it, I read it, I looked it up. No matter how hard I looked, how deeply I considered, nowhere did I find that the English translation of the arena name was actually Anfield.

Find it or not, it’s the only way I can explain what I saw.

After the prodigal Suarez added a deliciously ironic post script to his banner year in the EPL, by converting a sharply angled wonder-strike – having gobbled up the assist from his Liverpool Captain Gerrard – to give Uruguay the lead.

After resident Toffees in the England defense Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines had a mare, laying cables every time Uruguayan ‘wonder-twins’, Cavani & Suarez came anywhere near them.

Given what happened at Anfield when four of the five players I named (except Cavani), played there this year, and what happened this morning, what else can I do with this information?

I have to believe my eyes and assume these men in turn believed, Anfield was where this World Cup match was being played.

I suppose I can take as many cheap shots as I want, one thing we have to acknowledge is the importance of Suarez and the belief he instills in his teammates. The marked turnaround in a team that played with the cheap integrity of a ‘Hugo Voss’ suit against Costa Rica was telling.

Like injured skipper Diego Lugano, Suarez is not one to consider histrionic episodes beneath him. Each is as hissable a villain as the other. But where Lugano’s antics overshadow his value as a player and leader, often dragging his teammates into the mire with him, Suarez has the ability to play a brand of football that can make all football fans who hate him, regret that emotion.

More, he makes them wish he was on their team.

And it’s that inspiration that bound Uruguay together, lifting them past the hard-earned English equaliser – finally Wayne Rooney, you got one! – to keep the English at bay after Suarez had gloriously restored their lead.

A remarkable transformation after the rabble we saw capitulate to Costa Rica, less than a week ago. That’s what else Suarez can do … Apart from scoring goals for fun that is.

Speaking of fun. That was how I opened the session today. My somnambulant state evaporating as the pace and rigour of Colombia’s examination from the Ivory Coast, intensified.

Two clear tactical doctrines playing offensive football, their respective managers uncompromisingly exhorting them to impose ‘their way’. The result defined in the end, in Colombia’s favour, by an unfortunate mistake from the grieving Serey Die – playing despite the proximate passing of his father – which was sandwiched by exquisitely taken goals from Rodriguez of Colombia and Gervinho of the Ivory Coast, respectively.

And so Brazil 2014 enters its second weekend, closing out the week with a variety assortment of the very best and the very worst that football can offer. Sandwiched in between was the inexplicable, heavily seasoned with the inspirational.

Please sir, may I have some more … Suarez that is.

Comments

  1. I thought Australia lucky to beat Japan in the qualifying. But recent days have proved the formline spot on. If we were in that Group we would be heading for the Last 16. Japan – Greece was the first I have watched that confirmed the naysayer view of ‘football’. Suarez just doesn’t miss. Give him a sniff and he knocks them in from anywhere by head or foot. “Hungry” Suarez?
    I hope not too many Spanish and English on the same plane home. Could get nasty.
    All the imported talent in the EPL does nothing for the home talent. Very flat.
    Keep ’em coming Gregor. Grand stuff.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    The Greeks reflected the state of their country. An irresponsible leader does something stupid and the rest have to pay. Austerity measures even on the soccer pitch.
    They were brave though and keeping a clean sheet for the first time in their World Cup history was laudable under the circumstances. A fit Mitroglou would have made a difference.

  3. Gregor Lewis says

    Agree that Phil. A fit Mitroglou would have been key to Greece’s best chance to have a worthwhile tournament.

    Not just in himself, but in allowing coach Fernando Santos to optimise his use of the revolving wingers Salpingidis & Fetfatzidis, using the old battleaxe Karagounis to best effect off the bench and taking the pressure off Katsouranis and Kone in midfield.

    Moreover, it would have meant Samaras wouldn’t have felt the need to come so deep to receive the ball, and subsequently take it on himself to nurse it forward.

    Problem is, unlike Greece’s first opponents, Colombia, who lost their own potent striking talisman Falcao, Santos knew he didn’t have the replacements in enough form to emulate Mitroglou, however palely. Nor did he have the team ethic to deal positively with such a drastic change in responsibility, amongst the rest of the group.

    Mitroglou should never have been selected, but he presented the key to Greece’s aspirations to being ‘world class’ and presenting a threat on this stage. Santos either had to gamble, or settle for grinding it out. He gambled. He lost … And so did everyone watching, because Greece’s ‘new’ midfield is predicated on feeding Mitroglou, not grinding out results and holding the ball.

    That lack put more pressure on the defenders against a confident & sharp Colombian outfit. Japan were neither and the decision to leave Kagawa on the bench was a poorly judged attempt at making a statement.

    I absolutely disagree that there was anything honourable in the clean sheet being kept by Greece against such a team. The last honourable performance Greece had in the World Cup was the first 75 minutes against Argentina in 2010.

    This was the meek & inept up against the petulant and bellicose. No fast & furious or heart & soul here. Just whingers & prima donas. It makes me a little sick that the Greece I saw yesterday still has a chance to progress as compared to Australia.

    Now if Mitroglou miraculously comes good and Santos goes All-In with the old curmudgeon Karagounis … My lips curl with the savoury twist of anticipation of what THAT Greece could produce. Against the attack minded Ivory Coast, it would be well worth watching.

    Yesterday, it wasn’t even worth the cost of the electricity I wasted.

    -Peter, we were both lucky and unlucky in our qualifying matches against Japan, this time around. After our disastrous start to the final round of Asian qualifying in the Middle East (0-0 draw vs Oman & 2-1 loss to Jordan), we came back to Brisbane and outplayed Japan for the most part, before giving away a goal (sound familiar?).

    Then we were lucky to get a penalty to facilitate the goal we absolutely deserved, but couldn’t convert in open play.

    In the return leg in Japan, we scored first. Do you remember Tommy Oar’s ‘lucky’ cross that went in? We held our own for the most part in that game and gave away an unnecessary penalty (handball by McKay) in the last ten minutes.

    We did OK against Japan, ironically producing our best performances because we felt justifiably threatened by them. But we never beat them this time around.

    The only time we have beaten them in Asia was the 3-1 dead rubber at MCG after both teams had already qualified for World Cup 2010.

    Absolutely agree that Japan that played against Greece would be put to the sword by our current team, going on World Cup 2014 performances. But that’s all woulda & shoulda.

    Like Timmy Cahill said, ‘sometimes it is what it is’.

    Ya gotta take it or leave it. In Brazil, I take Australia, every day of the week. Greece & Japan? Leave it … Leeeeeaaaaaave it lad.

    grl

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