I’m just off to Glastonbury for the weekend and I’ve been up early because my little girl woke up at stupid-o’clock. She’s now asleep, but I’m wide-awake and the house is quiet, so I thought I’d knock out my thoughts on the World Cup so far.
Ochoa’s display against Brazil makes him the standout keeper of the tournament for me. You don’t often have a game where the goalkeeper was MoM by such a long margin, but that is exactly what Ochoa was against the hosts. His save to deny Neymar at the far post was stunning and his overall display was a head and shoulders above anything else I’ve seen in Brazil. I believe he’s a free agent at the monute, but he won’t be for long. Got a funny feeling we’ll be seeing him in the Prem next season.
You’ll have to forgive me for my cynicism here, but my defender of the tournament so far is Georgio Chiellini. Italians are known for their ability to get away with roughing up their opponents. Baresi and Costacurta were perfect examples. And for me, the only reason Suarez cracked the other day was because Chiellini had been winding him up all match. For professional defenders at the highest level it’s not just about clearing balls and blocking shots, it’s about owning the player that’s up against you. He did that on Saturday, and if the ref had been on his game, Suarez would have been sent off and Italy may well not have conceded that goal to Godin.
Tricky one for me this one. I thought Pirlo and De Rossi were fantastic against England, but they really tailed off after that. So for me it’s between Vidal and Pogba. They played together at Juve last year, and helped them to win the scudetto at a canter. They both play with tempo, commitment and precision that enables their teams to use them as a springboard for attacks. If I had to choose, I’d go for Vidal just because I prefer the way his Chile team play.
While Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo were grabbing all the headlines and hefty advertising contracts prior to the World Cup, it’s Robben that has made the biggest impact at the finals. His performances against the Spanish and the Aussies were excellent, and with three goals already he’s gotta be in with a chance of the Golden Boot if the Dutch can progress past the quarters.
Brazil, Holland, Argentina, France all look like they’re capable of winning the whole thing, but as someone who was told they were too small to play professional football, I’m gonna go for the underdog: Chile. They have some really decent players, an excellent coach and the best midfielder in the tournament. They have a fantastic team mentality and their pace, power and their ability the press the ball and harass opponents is amazing when you take into account the conditions they’re playing in. I think they’ll give the Brazil a good game on Saturday. I’d imagine I hope I can find a quiet place to watch that game away from the Glastonbury crowds!
There are a few candidates. Van Gaal has done a great job with the Dutch and made some great tactical decisions and substitutions. Deschamp has sacrificed some of the more talented players in France in favour of unity and a team ethic. And the guy from Mexico just makes me laugh. But for me the manager of the tournament so far has been Jorge Sampaoli of Chile – they play excellent football and he’s the reason why.
There are times in football when you can see the course of history change. New powers emerge and reigning dynasties fall. When Man City murdered Man United 6-1 at the Etihad. When Hungary beat England all those years ago. The day I first took to the field for City! Well, the Netherlands v Spain game was another example of that. Players such as Cassillas and Xavi, who had seemed untouchable and blessed with unique gifts and incomparable dedication, were reduced in the eyes of the millions watching worldwide. You’ve got to give credit to the Dutch as their attacking play, their finishing and their hunger were excellent, but the game will be remembered as the death of tica-taca rather than as the re-emergence of Dutch total football.
That’s my two cents, I’m off to get muddy in a field. Let me know what you think and I’ll try to respond to a few comments when I get back from Worthy Farm.