Pique bounces Czechs, Ireland and Italy, + UEFA/FIFA corruption

Morning Eurochums. So, my betting streak came to an end yesterday thanks to Belgium. Nice one Belgium, first Jean-Claude van Damme and now this.

I suppose I should have known better. A team that deliberately picks Marouane Fellaini, a couple of Sp*rs players and the pre-pubescent Kevin de Bruyne is only going to let you down. Italy took the lead with a lovely goal from Emanuele Giaccherini. The importance of a good first touch was highlighted in said goal, and every time Romelu Lukaku got the ball and clumped it in some direction that was a surprise to him each time.

The Everton man missed a brilliant chance to equalise in the second half, but clipped his shot over the bar. Giroud would have scored that one, no doubt about it. I needed a draw in this game to make my treble complete but they never really looked like getting it. When you replace Lukaku with a carbon copy who comes on and misses chances you only have yourself to blame. Why they didn’t put on Benteke just to add some variety to their non-variety was a surprise.

Anyway, as the second half went on I thoroughly enjoyed the cynical fouling perpetrated by the Italians. Just when it looked like Belgium might break dangerously, they were hauled back or chopped down with gay abandon. There was a moment when the BBC commentator got really excited late on when he thought that perhaps a chap already booked had perpetrated one of these fouls on a Belgian and was about to get sent off, but Italy were too clever for that. It was rotational, organised and great to watch because it wasn’t happening to a team I support.

Even though I wanted them to score so I could buy another yacht, I loved watching the Italians do that. And as a game I thought it was one of the best of the tournament thus far. In the end Southampton’s Graziano Pelle got a late second, volleying home to seal the deal.

Before that I’d found myself somewhat torn by my betting selections. As Spain huffed and puffed against the Czech Republic, there was part of me that really wanted them to huff and puff and fail to blow Rosicky and Cech’s house down. Some of the defending was fantastic, one last ditch tackle in the box to prevent a Spanish player get a clear sight of goal was just brilliant.

They sat off, rode their luck a little as you have to do against Spain, and were helped by fact Vicente del Bosque’s team don’t look particularly potent up front. Arsenal target Alvaro Morata started and did ok, but wasn’t particularly impressive, and it really did look as if they wouldn’t find a way through. That was until just before the end when Iniesta clipped in a ball for Gerard Pique to head home from close range.

My bet came in, but Tomas Rosicky looked unspeakably sad. I wanted the Czechs to get something from the game, but GAMBLOR had to be satisfied. I felt a little dirty, I have to say. And having gone for a draw between Sweden and Ireland, it was much the same thing. I wanted Ireland to hang onto the lead they took through Wes Hoolahan, but it wasn’t to be.

A Ciaran Clarke own goal got Sweden the equaliser, but really Ireland should have done more in the first half when they looked really impressive. They kept Zlatan pretty quiet, had chances, hit the bar, and deserved to go ahead early in the second half. After the goal, however, they sat back and let Sweden into it again. Much of the post-game discussion was about this, but it’s quite a natural thing to do when you score – especially when you’re not necessarily confident as a team that you can really go for it, take advantage and put the other team to the sword.

In the end I think 1-1 was result neither side could complain about, but I think both teams will look at this as a missed opportunity. Still, based on what we saw last night between Belgium and Italy, there are points up for grabs in this group.

Today, I haven’t got a clue about Austria v Hungary but Hungary have a goalkeeper called Gabor, and my Astro team also has a goalkeeper called Gabor so I’m going for a draw then. And for a bit of spice, I’m going with Iceland to do something a bit special and beat Portugal. I know it’s unlikely, but hey, blah blah blah fairytale. Come on Iceland, you’re only one letter different from Ireland, so we could be cousins or something!

I know there are people who will study form and odds and stats when they make their selections, but this is the true essence of betting right here.

If you haven’t had a chance to listen to yesterday’s Arsecast Extra, it’s filled with Eurochat. One of the things we discussed when talking about the unseemly violence, was how the decisions made by the game’s authorities influence what we’re seeing. When the World Cup is awarded to countries whose outlook on certain matters is so opposed to what’s considered right, is it any surprise when fan behaviour is somehow reflected in that.

In 2018 the World Cup will take place in Russia. In the wake of the clashes in Marseilles, one of their top football officials Tweeted:

“I don’t see anything wrong with the fans fighting. Quite the opposite, well done lads, keep it up!”

While another suggested the French police were not used to ‘normal’ men because ‘They’re only used to seeing ‘men’ at gay parades. In the wake of violence that has left people injured and some in serious condition in hospital at this tournament, and the attack on gay people in Orlando, these attitudes are profoundly depressing and really should not to be tolerated in any way.

I don’t suggest that they’re representative of all Russians, but to glorify fighting and throw in some casual homophobia too goes against what football should be about. We want to see inclusion, tolerance, a chance to bring people together around a game we all purportedly love, but these words are nothing but dangerous and divisive.

Then you have this story from Qatar where people are dying to build stadiums in a desert so we can have a BRAND sponsored World Cup in the winter. When those who are tasked with doing things in the best interests of the game are so fundamentally corrupted that money outweighs basic decency, you can’t help but think this trickles down into the stuff we’ve seen over the last few days. If they have no respect for the game, why would some fans act otherwise?

Yesterday we had Sepp Blatter talking about ‘hot and cold balls’ used to fix draws in UEFA competitions. I bet it’s tip of the iceberg stuff too. You want UEFA and FIFA to lead by example, but their example has been to act with impunity, avarice and with no thought as to what’s right for football or the vast majority of people who follow it. Until that’s addressed, how can anybody pay them any mind when they criticise fans for the way they behave? Hollow words from a hollow organisation.

Anyway, to listen to the podcast, which does contain a lot more happier stuff than that, stream on site here, listen via Acast or subscribe on iTunes or your favourite podcasting app.

Till tomorrow.


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