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today's matches

It's not that nothing happened today ... at least one thing was historic. But after two days of intense drama, today was less emotional, unless you were a fan of the teams whose chances disappeared.

In Group F, I started watching Mexico-Sweden. All Mexico needed was a draw, which they had after a first half that was fairly even and mundane. But things fell apart for El Tri in the second half, with Ludwig Augustinsson scoring five minutes into the half. The Swedes added two more on their way to a 3-0 victory and first place in the table. Mexico looked awful, especially on defense.

Meanwhile, South Korea-Germany didn't look too thrilling, either, although I was only watching out of the corner of my eye. That match, too, was scoreless at the half. All the group needed was for Germany to take the lead, and the possibility of a three-way tie for first was there. When Sweden took the lead, the Germans, knowing they needed the win more than ever, brought in Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller. Germany was dominant, but outside of Korean goalkeeper Cho Hyun-Woo, no one was having a particularly good game. When Sweden went up 3-0 in the 74th minute, I switched to the other match. It was still fairly equal, and the table was SWE 6 MEX 6 GER 4 KOR 1. South Korea's only chance to advance depended on Sweden losing, so they were out, leaving the Germans chasing Mexico and needing two goals. They had most of the possession, they took shots, but it looked more and more like a scoreless draw. But then the bottom fell out. Kim Young-Gwon scored a VAR-approved goal in the first minute of extra time, as the Germans poured forward ... even keeper Manuel Neuer, who didn't have a good match, joined the attack, leading to a second Korean goal as Neuer left his goal open.

So Germany is out ... that's the historic part. Mexico snuck in and became big fans of South Korea.

Serbia was the wild card in Group E ... they had 3 points, Brazil and Switzerland had 4. But the good Brazil showed up. Paulinho scored late in the first half, Brazil always looked the better team, and the final 2-0 score just told us what had been clear ... that Brazil and the Swiss would advance.

Hard to pick a highlight. Perhaps this will do: Mexico fans cheering wildly after their team's 3-0 defeat, when South Korea scored a goal. Local angle: the footage is from Mexico City, Moscow, and ... San Jose, California? Yes, the Earthquakes have been opening Avaya Stadium for fans to watch matches, and several thousand were there for the Mexico match.

Or this brief clip ... what happens when Mexican fans meet a Korean fan after the matches?


tomorrow's matches

First, here are the Round of 16 matches that are already set:

Saturday, June 30: Uruguay-Portugal, France-Argentina.

Sunday, July 1: Spain-Russia, Croatia-Denmark.

On to tomorrow:

Group F: Mexico-Sweden, South Korea-Germany. Not sure why, but Group F plays before Group E. This is a complicated group. Despite having won both of their first two matches, Mexico is not yet guaranteed to go through. Despite losing both of their first two matches, South Korea still has a shot at advancing. There are a bunch of 3-way tie scenarios. I can't keep up ... if you're interested, check out ESPN's explanation. I'm rooting for Mexico, and a win or a draw puts them through at the top of the table. That simplifies things, so hey, El Tri, win or draw tomorrow! Another possible simplifier: if Mexico wins or draws, and Germany beats South Korea (which seems likely), Mexico and Germany will finish first and second. But ... if Sweden beats Mexico, well ... read that ESPN thing.

Group E: Serbia-Brazil, Switzerland-Costa Rica. Costa Rica is out. Beyond that, anything goes. One note: when these matches are played, the Group F results will be in, which means we'll know which teams from Group F will play which teams from Group E. Say Mexico and Germany finish 1-2. Then the first-place team in Group E will play Germany, the second-place team will play Mexico. This will be more apparent once Group E action begins. I'm guessing the group will be Brazil and then Switzerland, which would set up the proverbial mouth-watering quarter-final match between Brazil and Germany. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


today's matches

Group C:

Australia-Peru: Australia's chances were slim, and when Peru's André Carrillo scored in the 18th minute, they got slimmer. Veteran Paolo Guerrero added another in the 50th minute, and the group was decided. This meant Denmark-France devolved a pointless bore, the first 0-0 draw of the tournament. The crowd of 78,000 booed the players off the field at the end. Which set up ...

Group D:

As play begins: CRO 6 NIG 3 ISL 1 ARG 1. On the opening whistle, the live table adds one point to everyone: CRO 7 NIG 4 ISL 2 ARG 2. Croatia will advance no matter what. All three of the other teams have a chance at second place.

14th minute: Messi scores, Argentina leads 1-0. CRO 7 ARG 4 NIG 3 ISL 2 .

51st minute: Victor Moses on a penalty to equalize: Nigeria 1, Argentina 1. CRO 7 NIG 4 ISL 2 ARG 2.

53rd minute: Milan Badelj gives Croatia the lead. CRO 9 NIG 4 ARG 2 ISL 1.

76th minute: Gylfi Sigurdsson brings Iceland level with a penalty. CRO 7 NIG 4 ISL 2 ARG 2. At this point, second place is still up for grabs. If the scores remain the same, Nigeria advances, if Iceland scores two, they advance, if Argentina scores, they advance, unless Iceland ... well, you get the idea.

86th minute: Marcos Rojo puts Argentina up to stay, 2-1. CRO 7 ARG 4 NIG 3 ISL 2. Only a few minutes left, Iceland is probably doomed, Nigeria can still advance if they put one more past Argentina.

90th minute: Ivan Perisic scores for Croatia, ending the hopes of Iceland.

Final whistles: Croatia and Argentina advance, Nigeria and Iceland go home.

Absent context, the best goal of the day was Argentina's first. Éver Banega's pass was perfection, and Messi's control was unworldly: two quick touches and then the shot from his "worst" foot.

I posted the call from Andres Cantor earlier. Here is the audio from Argentina television for Rojo's goal:


tomorrow's matches


Group C: Denmark-France, Australia-Peru. France has already qualified, and Denmark only needs a draw. If Denmark wins or draws, the other match doesn't matter. Peru is already out, but they have a decent chance of beating Australia. In other words, I think France and Denmark are advancing from this group.

Group D: Nigeria-Argentina, Iceland-Croatia. Croatia is through, all the others have a chance, even Argentina, who have played so poorly. I suppose people are rooting for Iceland, and people are rooting against Argentina, but I want to see more of Argentina, so I am rooting for them. If they win and Croatia wins or draws, Argentina will advance. If Argentina and Iceland both win, goal differential will matter. If Nigeria beats Argentina, nothing else matters, and they will advance with Croatia.

today's matches

I told you these four days would be crazy.

To get the boring part out of the way, Uruguay put Russia in their place. It was even for about ten minutes. Then Luis Suárez scored, and the match was essentially over. In the 23rd minute, Uruguay went up 2-0 on an own-goal by Russia's Denis Cheryshev. In the 28th minute, Igor Smolnikov received a yellow card ... eight minutes later, he got a second yellow and was dismissed. All that was left was a goal by Edinson Cavani in the 90th minute. Uruguay 3, Russia 0. The primary importance of this is that Russia finished second in Group A. This meant whoever finished first in Group B would have an easier opponent in the first knockout round than the Group B second-place team, who would face Uruguay.

The less said about the meaningless Saudi Arabia-Egypt match, the better, but it was our last opportunity to see this man at this World Cup:

Then, the proverbial all hell broke loose.

When the Group B matches began, it was ESP 4 POR 4 IRN 3. Spain was ahead of Portugal on the "Fair Play" tiebreaker. When the opening whistle was blown, each team added one point to the "live table", as they were all playing draws. So ESP 5 POR 5 IRN 4.

14th minute: Khalid Boutaïb of Morocco scores! POR 5 ESP 4 IRN 4.

19th minute: Isco scores for Spain, restores order. ESP 5 POR 5 IRN 4.

45th minute: Ricardo Quaresma scores for Portugal. At the half, POR 7 ESP 5 IRN 3.

52nd minute: Ronaldo misses a penalty

81th minute: Youssef En-Nesyri puts Morocco back on top. POR 7 ESP 4 IRN 3.

89th minute: Iran calls for a handball in the box, referee didn't see it. But it goes to VAR.

91th minute: Iago Aspas seems to score for Spain, which will settle things. Except the assistant referee has the offside flag up.

91:39: VAR overrules, penalty to Iran.

91:57: VAR overrules the assistant, Spanish goal stands, match tied, 2-2.

93rd minute: Karim Ansarifard converts the penalty. Iran 1 Portugal 1. Which, after a few more minutes of extra time in both matches, meant the table ended up just where it started: ESP 5 POR 5 IRN 4.

You could say much ado about nothing. But as someone who was pulling for Spain, I guarantee you, when Morocco went ahead in the 81st minute, I was freaking out. My brain knew, to some extent, that Spain was still likely to go through to the next round. My heart didn't accept that fact. And I had two different screens showing both matches.

Final result? Spain will play Russia, Portugal will play Uruguay.

I should also show this, since it was likely the Goal of the Day:


david silva and racism

From 2012, inspired by watching David Silva on Telemundo today:

"‘It’s Just a Nickname”: AntiBlackness & AntiAsian Racism in Latin American Soccer" by Blanca E. Vega

And what if Silva said it was ok to call him “El Chino”? Would it make the nickname more acceptable?

I contend that even if Silva is “ok” with being called “El Chino” it is still not suitable for a soccer federation and its announcers to continue to call him “El Chino”, particularly if they are trying to build anti-racist campaigns.  For one, Silva is not Chinese.  He is not even of Chinese descent.  Calling Silva “El Chino” continues to perpetuate the racial ideology in Spain and Latin America and among Latinos in the U.S. that it is appropriate for us to continue to call Asians “Chinos” simply because it is easier.

Secondly, we don’t call white soccer players “El Blanco” and we do not overtly call Black soccer players “El Negro” (I say overtly because words like “Negro” are still being hurled at players in private). Why is this acceptable to do to players of Asian descent?

Finally, this example points to the well-rehearsed perspective that is commonly attributed to people of Asian descent, particularly those in the US  — that of the “passive” Asian.  By saying, on Silva’s behalf no less, that it is “just a nickname” we take it upon ourselves to speak for a whole race of people. It denies the vast impact that racism has on its soccer players of color. By us ignoring this “one incident” we deny the opportunity for referees and soccer announcers to learn about the different ways racism manifests; the ways that racism differentially and differently impact people of color.


the final group-stage round

(A revised version of what I wrote at this point, four years ago.)

This is where it gets crazy.

This World Cup has been filled with amazing matches, so it’s silly to suggest the best is yet to come. But for the obsessive-compulsives in the crowd, nothing matches the next four days, when the eight groups are decided. Each group’s matches take place simultaneously … tomorrow at 7:00, Uruguay-Russia, the only Group A match to matter, will begin. At 11:00, Iran-Portugal and Spain-Morocco will close out Group B.

The reason why the groups’ final matches are held at the same time can be found here.

The reason these four days are made for us obsessives is that the “live standings” for the group will change with every goal scored in either game.

Having said that, we’ll be able to ease our way into things, because as mentioned, Group A is the first one up, and it has already been decided that the Uruguay and Russia will advance.

But Group B at 11:00 will be the first full-blown craziness. Morocco is out, everyone else has a chance. At the start of play, Spain and Portugal have 4 points, Iran has 3. Spain gets Morocco, who they should beat, meaning Portugal and Iran will play for second place. Since Portugal has an extra point, they can advance with a draw, while Iran has to win. This is, of course, a simplification ... if Morocco somehow beats Spain, everything changes.

For what it's worth, I had Uruguay-Russia down as a draw in my pre-tourney predictions, which would put Russia first, Uruguay second. I predicted a 3-0 by Portugal over Iran, which would put Iran out.

Finally, I can get a bit more sleep now ... the early starting time moves from 5:00 AM to 7:00.

today's matches

Two blowouts meant a lack of drama to some extent, but there was a lot going on nonetheless. And now 50% of the matches are finished.

England-Panama. A ridiculous mess for Panama, an endless party for England, as they join Belgium in qualifying for the knockout rounds. Panama is out, having done CONCACAF's reputation no favors. Harry Kane had a hat-trick, and he did have a great game, but it was one of the lesser hat-tricks you'll see, with two of the goals from penalties and the third goal an accident:

Then, on to Group H, and the only nailbiter of the day, Japan-Senegal. I admit when Sadio Mané scored, 11 minutes in, I thought the rout was on, but Japan equalized later in the half, and when Senegal went back on top in the second half, Japan equalized once again. Takashi Inui was especially good, with a goal, an assist, and a shot off the post. A draw was a fair result, leaving the two teams tied atop the table.

Poland-Colombia. Poland is eliminated, Colombia stays in the race, and they looked really good doing it. Radamel Falcao's first-ever World Cup goal was well-deserved, but the real highlight of the match was not the goal by Juan Cuadrado (although he took it in stride, you might say), but rather the pass from James that gave Cuadrado the chance:


jonathan wilson on the lack of goals

This interests me particularly because it addresses something I've bitched about at every World Cup, yet thus far I've found this year's edition fairly compelling. ("World Cups tend to be defined as much by their storylines and drama as by the actual quality of the football and so far there has been plenty of that", writes Wilson.)

"World Cup’s lack of goals is down to issues that stretch back decades"

But goals, clearly, are an issue. The pattern has been clear for at least three decades and is predictable and natural. The lack of time available to coaches mean that they, naturally, make a priority of defensive structures over attacking ones: while an under-drilled attack can always conjure a goal from nothing, an under-drilled defence will always concede. Besides, defensive principles are relatively universal; much less adaptation is required than for attacks that can vary wildly....

That is not to blame those sides, who have a duty to do what they can within the laws of the game to achieve the best possible result. But it is perhaps to wonder how dangerous the pattern is for the general spectacle. It is an issue that has faced the World Cup for some time and will become even more prevalent after the expansion to 48 teams. It is an issue in football generally as the gulf between rich and poor grows ever greater and matches even within the same league become ever more unbalanced.