Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Martinelli comes home, Neymar is not a fish …

Morning, a very quick Saturday blog.

Gabriel Martinelli’s World Cup is over after Brazil went out to Croatia on penalties yesterday evening. We spent a lot of time speculating about how we might cope without our two first choice wide men, and now at least one of them will be back and should be available when the Premier League resumes on December 26th.

Brazil looked like they were going to win it, scoring late in what was something akin to a war of attrition. The quality of Neymar’s finish was unquestionable, even if I thought the defending left something to be desired. A succession of subs were made, Martinelli was not among them for reasons only Tite can explain, and late in extra-time Croatia grabbed the equaliser.

I should point out that I predicted the outcome in a WhatsApp chat with my brother well before the 90 minutes were up:

It wasn’t quite like the penalty shoot-out we saw in the Arsenal game the other day, there was just a smidgen more quality, but Brazil were found wanting and Croatia go through. I did think before the game that their aging legs might find it tough going, but fair play – they made many people’s pre-game predictions incorrect. Congratulations to them, what a record they have at this tournament.

As an Arsenal fan, it’s a good result because we get Martinelli back, but I’m cognisant we have many Brazilian fans, so commiserations to you guys this morning. On Irish TV afterwards, there was a lot of chat about Neymar who, goal apart, didn’t have a particularly good game. Despite his goal drawing him level with Pele’s international tally, former Arsenal legend Liam Brady was having none of it. He said:

“I wouldn’t put him in the top 5 Brazil players I’ve seen in my lifetime. He’s a large cod.”

Just to be clear: he’s not calling Neymar a fish which is delicious when battered and sold in your local chipper. In Irish slang, a cod is someone who is a spoofer, who pretends to be something they’re not. It’s such an interesting debate because on the one hand his talent is undeniable and his goalscoring record stands up to the highest scrutiny, but he’s very difficult to connect with all the same for all kinds of reasons. Anyway, he can go back to PSG, one of the worst clubs on the entire planet, win Ligue 1, and nobody bar PSG fans will give a shit.

I didn’t see all of the Argentina win over the Netherlands because I was out last night. I did see the first half in the pub before dinner though, and Lionel Messi’s pass for the opening goal was just unbelievable. From what I’ve been able to gather from the clips and bits I’ve found this morning, I missed a pretty contentious second half and extra time. I don’t know if the late, late equaliser is one of the cleverest goals I’ve ever seen, or one of the most stupid, and there was clearly no love lost between the two sides. From a neutral perspective, you love to see it though. More of that please.

Today, it’s Portugal against Morocco, and later on England v France. Bukayo Saka is set to start, and if England win, it will mean he stays at the tournament right until the end. At the very least they’d be involved in the third/fourth place playoff, football’s most ridiculous and unnecessary game. If France win, the non-playing William Saliba will be there for the duration instead. There’s a lot of chat about whether or not the England defence can deal with Kylian Mbappe, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if that man Olivier Giroud caused them some problems too.

Finally for today, condolences to the family and friends of Grant Wahl who died in Qatar yesterday. I know he was an important figure for so many football fans in the US, thanks to his fantastic journalism, as well as his enthusiasm and love for the game.

May he rest in peace.

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