Sunday, April 21, 2024

Diary of a World Cup day

Here’s today’s blog, and it’s in diary form. A day of World Cup action with four games, starting at 10am here, with the last one kicking off at 7pm. And I’m going to watch them all, between doing other stuff.

7am: Write the blog.

8am: Breakfast – bacon, egg, toast. Coffee. Orange juice.

Morocco v Croatia (0-0)

1st half: Morocco are well organised. Ooooh, good save near the end of the half. Hopefully the second half is better.

2nd half: This is a very dull game. Postman arrives, dogs bark like an evil horde is about to take the property. The post is even more dull than the game, but perhaps mortgage interest information from the bank is slightly more exciting.

75′: I dread the inevitable 19 minutes of added time.

79′: Unless someone can do a really long throw, there’s not much point. These half-long things that get about 2 yards inside the penalty area are an abomination.

86′: That Morocco fan has great hair.

88′: Why is Lovren?

90′: 6 more minutes 😭

90+6′: Thank goodness that’s over. That’s three 0-0s in the last four games.

Lana sums up the mood.

11.57am: Watching a bit of post-game stuff on RTE. Liam Brady doing his best to say something about anything that sounds vaguely interesting.

Right, time for another coffee, and I’d better tidy up the kitchen before the next game.

12.58: A small word of advice: If, when you’re cleaning your own kitchen, a voice in your head says ‘You know, you could also just quickly clean the inside of the oven’, ignore that voice with extreme prejudice.

There is no very quickly cleaning the inside of an oven. I have inhaled so many fumes, I think I have the Black Death. Which is still preferable to Morocco v Croatia.

Still, just in time for …

Germany v Japan (1-2)

No Tomiyasu in the starting line-up for Japan. The German team make a pre-game statement as they have their picture taken. A statement from DFB says, “Human rights are non-negotiable.”

07′: Japan have a goal ruled out for offside.

24′: So far Germany winning 0.06 – 0.0 on xG. Japan have made 12 tackles to Germany’s 0.

28′: Fantastic last-ditch defending from Japan as Germany ramp up the pressure.

30′: PENALTY GERMANY! What was the goalkeeper doing? That was very clumsy.

32′: 1-0, Gundogan sends the keeper the wrong way.

45+3′: Germany have a goal disallowed for offside. Havertz from a Gnabry ‘assist’.

45+5′: Japan flick a header just wide, a sign of life? Hopefully for the neutrals who would like more entertainment.

Half-time: Germany have completely dominated this game. Japan have to change their approach in the second half if they want to get anything from this. They risk leaving themselves open, but as we saw yesterday, football can surprise you. Let’s see.

Time for a bit of half-time God of War: Ragnarok on the PS5. I like hitting things with a giant axe. In video games, obviously. Honest.

46′: Tomiyasu is on in place of Kubo. No strings.

50′: Jamal Musiala is fun to watch.

56′: Former Arsenal player Takuma Asano is on for Japan. I mean, he never played a game for us, but we did buy him back in July 2016. He currently plays for VfL Bochum in the Bundesliga for whom he has scored no league goals this season.

59′: Gundogan hits the outside of the post.

60′: Asano shoots way wide with his left foot. To be fair though, he has given Japan a bit of something at the attacking end. Not much, but something.

67′: Another half-chance Asano, but Rudiger is too strong for him.

70′: The Japanese keeper makes four successive saves in about 30 seconds to prevent Germany from making it 2-0.

73′: Oooooh, Asano again – but Neuer makes a super save, then the rebound is fired way over the bar with the keeper stranded. Could easily have been 1-1.

75′: GOOOALLL JAPAN! 1-1. Germany can’t say it wasn’t coming. A nice move down the left hand side, it’s fired in, Neuer saves, but pushes it straight into the path of Doan who knocks it home from close range. This is fun now.

83′: GOOALLL JAPAN! 2-1. ASANO! OMG. What a finish, and he deserves it. Germany got caught, Asano got in behind, drove on and finished from a really acute angle. It’s a brilliant first touch and a fantastic finish from the Gunners legend!

90′: 7 minutes of added time. Tomiyasu has gone down, but he’s back up. Is he ok, or did he just stay on because Japan had used up all their subs? Hopefully just a bit of tactical time-wasting.

90+5′: Goretzka just wide. Blimey.

90+8′: FULL TIME. Fantastic from Japan, that second half performance was brilliant. Tomiyasu coming on and changing the shape really helped, and Asano caused the German defence all kinds of problems when he was brought on. The winning goal was just outstanding too.

Right, time to walk the dogs before the next one. A longer walk for Lana, and a short trip around the block for Archer who goes at his own pace these days. Suffice to say, it’s not quite peak Theo Walcott!

Now …

Spain v Costa Rica (7-0)

Joel Campbell, who got out while he could, starts for Costa Rica.

11′: Lovely goal Spain, Olmo. Gorgeous touch and finish after a pass deflected kindly towards him, but the way they moved that ball around in the build-up was excellent.

21′: 2-0, Marco Asensio. Good first time hit, but I think the keeper should do better with that.

30′: 3-0, Ferran Torres from the penalty spot. Spain are far too good for Costa Rica. There’s no chance of any kind of shock in this game.

36′: Archer farted. I need to open the window.

Half-time: Spain 3-0 Costa Rica. The most one-sided game of the tournament so far, even beyond England’s win over Iran. My pizza has just arrived too.

54′: 4-0, Torres again. Smart play from him, but more dodgy goalkeeping from Navas. Ospina-tastic.

75′: 5-0, Gavi – and what a goal. Hit a pass on the volley first time with the outside of his foot, and it went in off the post.

89′: 6-0, Carlos Soler. Navas again, gets to a low cross but only directs it into the path of the PSG man who slots home.

90+3′: 7-0, Morata plays a 1-2 with Olmo, and curls it into the bottom corner with his left foot.

Final thought: Spain were very, very good, and that’s a hugely impressive start to the World Cup for them, but Costa Rica were very, very, very bad. A team can offset a gap in quality with organisation, but individually and collectively they were nowhere near Spain this evening.

Apparently Gary Neville said before the game that there were ‘no goals’ in the Spain team. A good rule of thumb from now on is to consider that whatever he says in the future, the opposite is most likely true.

The dogs have been fed, they’ve had a post-dinner snack (but not a snacky-snack), the fire is lit, and they’re making the most of it.

Belgium v Canada (1-0)

There’s no direct Arsenal interest in this one, but there are a couple of players we’ve been linked with in the not-too-distant past: Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans, and Canadian forward Jonathan David.

8′: Oooooh, VAR check for a handball in the area, could be a penalty to Canada.


10′: Courtois saves it, but it’s a poor penalty by Alphonso Davies.

13′: Belgium are a shambles right now, Canada are all over them.

19′: You very rarely see Kevin de Bruyne pick the wrong pass, but he completely got that one wrong. Tielemans was free outside him, with just the keeper to beat, and he played a difficult ball through the inside channel which Canada defended. He’ll probably spank one in from 40 yards to make up for it.

25′: Belgium beginning to find de Bruyne in lots of space in midfield. That’s dangerous.

29′: Belgian’s old centre-halves are having a hard time. Do I have any sympathy for ex-Sp*rs players? No, no I do not.

32′: Davies just made Tielemans fall over with a step-over.

39′: Another VAR check for a possible Canadian penalty. Not given, and I think that’s the right decision.

44′: Goal Belgium, 1-0. Michy Batshuayi gets on the end of a ball over the top and fires home with his left foot. That is a classic against the run of play goal.

45+2′: Oh no, another BIG chance for Canada, Buchanan puts it over the bar from 6 yards out. It should be 1-1.

Half-time. Belgium fortunate to be going in ahead, they have been outplayed throughout but when you don’t take your chances, you run the risk of getting punished like that.

Canada have made two half-time changes. Tielemans and Carrasco off, Meunier and Onana on.

56′: Both Belgian subs have been booked for clattering Canadians in the head. Meunier is then very lucky to avoid a second yellow for studs-on-foot foul on Buchanan.

60′: Canada have had some good set-piece positions, but the deliveries have been very poor.

62′: Leandro Trossard replaces Hazard, and he’s been in good form for Brighton this season. He could cause problems for Canada.

67′: What a tackle Laryea in the box to deny Batshuayi.

75′: Canada looks like they’ve run out of steam a bit, from an attacking perspective at least. Too many hopeful long balls.

80′: Good header by Larin, Courtois makes a good save.

87′: Canada have their 21st attempt on goal. Current xG 2.7 to them, 0.66 to Belgium.

Full-time: Belgium 1-0 Canada.

Not what either team deserved, but I guess that’s the beauty of football. Not that that will be any consolation if you’re Canadian, but they definitely showed enough to suggest they could get something from the other games in their group.

Right, that was a long day of sitting down and watching football. The things I endure for you guys!

Join us on Patreon later this morning for a World Cup round-up podcast too. Have a good one.

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