Tag Archives: penalties

A Few Notes On Day 1 Of The Round of 16

Brazil needs to calm down. Brazil’s players don’t merely sing the national anthem; they bellow it with aneymar manic intensity I find slightly disturbing. After opening day of the tournament, many fans hailed the pre-match a capella performance as a moving example of the squad’s patriotic spirit. But in recent games, the emotional screaming has begun to seem indicative of a serious problem: Brazil’s inability to exert steady control over matches it should win. The size of David Luiz’s eyeballs dramatically increases as he passionately howls the anthem, but Luiz remains a sloppy defender prone to stupid mistakes. And if Luiz Gustavo continues to hack opposing players with the same enthusiasm he brings to each rendition of “Hino Nacional Brasileiro,” he will eventually get sent off. The team needs to relax. At the moment, it feels like only a matter of time before a Brazilian player high on nationalistic fervor tries to bite somebody.

Neymar is a seriously cool customer. Unlike his teammates, Neymar seems completely immune to the manifold pressures associated with playing football in a stadium full of expectant Brazilians. If he’d missed his penalty and Chile had won the shootout, Neymar probably wouldn’t have made it out of Belo Horizonte with his head intact. And yet he was still confident enough to pause for some cool but unnecessary stutter steps in another ridiculous run-up.

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Here We Go Again

And thus begins another two years of hurt for England. The only difference this time is that the inevitable penalty-shootout defeat was a deserved punishment, rather than a cruel trick of fate.

England’s tournament destiny was sealed the moment that injury ruled out Jack Wilshere. Wilshere isn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, player to be touted as the “future of English football,” but he would have added cohesiveness to an England midfield that was outnumbered and overrun in all four matches.

With Wilshere unavailable, Hodgson should have worked harder to recruit a player capable of dictating the tempo of a game. Gareth Barry was never going to be the answer. Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes are the only fully fit English players at all comparable to Italy’s Andrea Pirlo. But Carrick turned down a place in the squad when Hodgson refused to guarantee him a starting spot. And Scholes, frustrated by coaches who constantly played him out of position, had retired from internationals in the mid-2000s. He showed no interest in a return. Without a passer in midfield, England never had a prayer. Possession is the crux of international football, and it was England’s inability to maintain possession that ultimately cost them a place in the semifinals.

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