World Cup Day Four: Five Thoughts

Is This Tournament His? - Matthias Hangst

History Made in All Three Matches

On perhaps the least competitive day so far in Copa Mundial, history was made in two of the three matches. We also saw perhaps history's greatest player break the ice and no fewer than four Citizens in uniform.

THE NBA OF THE 70'S

I was a big basketball fan in the 70's, before Magic and Bird (though I welcomed both, particularly Magic). The game was too often dismissed as a drug league, the best player of which-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-could probably have used a few drugs to improve his misanthropic personality. A common criticism of every game-and there were some damn good ones being played-was to wait until the last two minutes because that's the only time you'll see something genuinely exciting. It was an unfair critique that would have been more than fair to apply to today's match between Switzerland and Ecuador. In an otherwise fairly dull match, the last 90 seconds was fairly insane, with both sides vacating the midfield because of fatigue and heat. In a 1-1 tie, the tournament saw it's latest group stage goal ever, with Swiss striker Haris Seferovic putting in the game winner in minute 92+.

FOUR YEARS TOO LATE FOR ENGLAND

Goal-line technology overturned a World Cup referee's decision for the first time ever in the France-Honduras match. The contest was all but over with France getting a first-half PK on the same play Honduras' Wilson Palacios got his second yellow. Heavy underdogs under the most ideal conditions, Honduras was down a goal and a man for the remainder of the match which was put to rest for good in minute 48 thanks to replay. French striker Karim Benzema caromed a shot off of woodwork and man. To the naked eye the shot looked for all the world like it hit the line. But the electric eye showed the ball passing the line completely by millimeters. The final score of 3-0 led me to two conclusions:

A.     Replay will work, will continue to work and

B.     It should be used on more than just goals.

I maintain replay is needed on the huge calls like second yellows, red cards and PK's. Some of these huge calls get missed because a ref is in bad position (don't get me started on the need for a second referee) and sometimes the call gets missed when a ref is literally right there. I can't think of a call in any sport with larger implications than the PK because I can't think of a larger play in any sport than a goal scored. We need to be sure before we blow that whistle that the right call is being made. A goal that would have been disallowed was rightly put on the scoreboard because of replay. This, in my opinion, is a very good day for the sport.

CITIZENS EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK

Dzeko played okay but was sorely lacking in touches. Aguero didn't play all that well to be frank. Zabaleta was Zabaleta, Mr. Consistency and endurance and Demichelis didn't get off the pine. Other than that, Argentina vs. Bosnia-Hergezovina was notable for three things:

A.     The earliest own goal ever scored in World Cup History and

B.     Lionel Messi looking the like the best player in the world during a World Cup match, something he emphatically did not look like four years ago and

C.     My sincere hope that Bosnia-Hergezovina advances.

Argentina won it 2-1 but the game was competitive which shouldn't have been a surprise to those who have observed Bosnia play. It's not just Dzeko-they've got a decent back line and midfield made more than decent by their ability to hustle their backsides off. Essentially, the entire team brings the same mentality to a game that Pablo Zabaleta takes to every match. And yes, I'm aware of the irony that Dzeko, a player known to take entire games off for lord-knows-what reasons, is on the team I'm currently praising for their hustle. I've seen them three times now and every game Bosnia plays like it's their last. It'll frankly be a shame if they don't advance. As for the favorites, the talent is certainly there and Messi might very well make this tournament his own but their goaltender is ordinary, their midfield is a bit of a mess and they might be using too many attacking players at once. Argentina has weaknesses and if they aren't ironed out in the group play, it'll come back to bite them big when they advance out of the group.

Oh, one more thing: U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

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