Fans of England and Brazil won’t feel the same as I do this morning, for very obvious reasons, but from an Arsenal perspective the quarter-finals have been good for us. England went out 2-1 to France last night, as I tipped in yesterday’s blog, it was Olivier Giroud who had the last laugh.
Well, to be fair, anyone who has spent years wishing Harry Kane might actually miss a penalty would have done that, but the former Arsenal striker showed great anticipation and sharpness of movement to head home what turned out to be the winner. Quite why he was left unmarked in the box before Antoine Griezmann’s excellent cross is a good question. Perhaps a Mr H Maguire of Manchester might explain at some point.
France had gone ahead through Aurelien Tchouameni’s first half strike. A lovely hit, but I think you also have to look at the keeper a bit, those are some short arms at times. The contentious element of the goal was the clear foul on Bukayo Saka which occurred deep in the France half and was completely ignored. I don’t quite know if I should feel a strange sense of relief that this happens to Saka everywhere, and not just the Premier League, but England fans of other persuasions might now understand how Arsenal fans feel when this happens every goddam week.
After that though, I thought England were the better side. Saka won the penalty which brought them level, and for me he was comfortably the best player on the pitch. Which is why I don’t really understand the decision to take him off. Unless there was an injury, it didn’t make any sense, and his departure coincided with England losing momentum and dominance.
The second penalty was as clear as you’ll ever see. A solidly Mustafi moment from Theo Hernandez, and if there’s anyone you’d back to score from the spot it’s Kane, but he chundered it over the bar. Hopefully this is the thing that ends his incredible record with penalties, because we all know he’s going to get one when we play Sp*rs next. If it ends up halfway down the Seven Sisters Road, that’ll be fine by me.
So, England are out, and while I obviously can’t speak for England fans, I’d say there’s a sense of frustration based on the way they played last night, and the talent that’s in this squad. From an Arsenal point of view though, it means Bukayo Saka will make the short hop to Dubai unless he’s given a few days off, but also that fitness permitting he’ll be in the frame for our game against West Ham on December 26th. I wasn’t expecting for both him and Martinelli to be available, and it’s just the kind of boost we need after the Gabriel Jesus injury.
In the other game, what a story for Morocco as they became the first African side to reach a World Cup semi-final. Portugal knew they were going to be in for a tough game when they saw Spain eliminated to the same opposition, and while they are a technically very impressive outfit, it’s just so hard to get behind a team that dives with such frequency. Bruno Fernandes’ insistence he should have had a penalty doesn’t really stack up when you look at the clip – he just falls over. That’s a dive, and an outright lie.
Post-game complaints about the referee are ridiculous too. Which team had a man harshly sent off? Was it the referee who made Pepe head wide from 6 yards out? Nonsense. Morocco worked so hard, defended so well and resolutely, and they deserved their win. Let’s face it, if they had even a semi-competent striker, they’d have won the game 2 or 3-0 when you look at the chances they had late in the game. Fair play to them, and the scenes at the end between the players and the fans were absolutely wonderful.
As for our old friend Cristiano Ronaldo, his reaction at the final whistle tells you everything you need to know about this man. I think we can all understand being emotional about your last World Cup game, but there was no sportsmanship in congratulating the opposition, nor was there even a moment of consideration for his teammates or the Portuguese fans in the stadium who will also have felt the pain of defeat. It was all about him as he walked off crying, knowing full well the cameras would follow his every movement because of star status.
In contrast, I saw Saka comfort Kane post-game. He’s been there, he knows how it feels. Football is a team game, and even an exceptional talent like Cristiano Ronaldo can’t turn it into a one-man show.
Right, that’s it for this morning. James and I will be recording the Arsecast Extra for you this morning. Keep an eye out for the call for questions on Twitter @gunnerblog and @arseblog on Twitter with the hashtag #arsecastextra – or if you’re on Arseblog Member on Patreon, leave your question in the #arsecast-extra-questions channel on our Discord server.
We’ll have the pod for you before lunchtime. Until then.