Wednesday 18 June 2014

World Cup Observations 3: What is going on here with all these upsets? Plus I didn't know that Algeria represented so many

If an upset is defined as an unexpected result, it seems like this tournament has produced plenty of "upsets" and, of course, goals thus far. By my count, excluding matches that were expected to be closely contested, we've had at least 4 obvious upsets (Brazil-Mexico; Spain-Netherlands; Uruguay-Costa Rica; Ghana-US).

The total number of goals scored thus far is 49 within 17 matches (2 x 8 groups + 1 for the Brazil match). This means that 2.882 goals per match have been scored. This article, along with some of the comments, offers a few reasons why this might be the case. I wonder if the ball is better than what it was in 2010 or whether it's simply a case of teams realising that a purely defensive game can only get you so far?

Other Observations of the Day
  • Korea were really quite poor in their last third - despite having decent possession they basically did nothing damaging with the ball; they were extremely lucky that Akinfeev let in a howler and, on that basis, did not deserve to win. However, the Russians were also culprits, only waking up from their slumber once they conceded the first goal. Kerzhakov made an immediate impact though as a substitute. I wanted to see more of Alan Dzagoev, who did quite well at Euro 2012 - I was a little surprised that he and Kerzhakov did not start (one wonders if complacency was a factor here).
  • Algeria seemed to play quite well, especially defensively, though they were a bit fortunate that Vertonghen conceded the penalty (being caught off guard, not playing his regular centreback position).  They also posed some attacking threat. I admire the courage demonstrated by the Belgian manager - when his "star striker" Lukaku failed to perform, he was brave enough to give someone on the bench a go. This is (sometimes, but not always) a good philosophy to have - my view is that there is always someone hungrier on the bench who wants to prove themselves. The other changes, Fellaini and Mertens, were obviously key.
  • Brazil and Mexico draw - I won't say everyone, but most people would not have expected that. The Mexican goalkeeper was a hero of that game. Obviously he made all the difference, with at least 4 good saves on my count. He must be highly valued now and of course, no one would be surprised if he moved to a good club when the new club season begins, given that he is a free agent. There is a big question mark over Brazil now. It doesn't mean they can't win the whole thing, but Mexico proved today that they aren't invincible. 

Algeria the only Arab country?

  • Interestingly, I heard on the news that Algeria is the only Arab country that is represented at this World Cup. Now that got me thinking: Purely on the basis that Algeria is in that ballpark region or geographical proximity of what the ordinary person might consider to be a whole group of Arab countries, why isn't Iran an "Arab country"? From Wikipedia, it appears that Iran has yet to join the Arab League, but from my limited understanding of the subject matter, it seems like there are other historical reasons for this:

Relative joining dates of Arab League members - darker colours indicate later joining date. 

  • This reminded me of this other interesting thing I found out a while back. This map below shows the countries that are part of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. The question that I had at the time was this: Why were Yemen and Iraq not part of this Council?

Answer: Yemen is currently in negotiations for membership, but it appears that the main reason why it did not receive initial membership was because it does not share a coastline on the Persian Gulf (North-East of the purple area). Iraq, which does border the Persian Gulf coastline, used to be part of the group but left for other reasons.

Meanwhile check out this headline:

Mario Balotelli’s agent hints the Milan striker is interested in Arsenal transfer

If it's true, I'm buying a Balotelli Italian Jersey.

I'm off to nap - hopefully when I wake up in a few hours' time the Socceroos are able to fluke a victory over the Dutch. It's wishful thinking I know, but false hope is all part of the excitement.


Andre Lim

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