Let’s start as usual at the World Cup, and Takehiro Tomiyasu’s tournament is over after Japan were beaten on penalties by Croatia. He started for the first time, and played all 120 minutes of a game in which I thought Japan were just about the better team. The way they gave the opposition no time to settle from first whistle to last was really impressive, helped somewhat by Croatia’s aging legs, but they lacked that bit of cutting edge in the final third to win the game.
I think they’ve had an excellent tournament, beating Germany and Spain along the way, so it was disappointing that their penalties didn’t reflect that. You have to give some credit to keeper Dominik Livakovic, but I don’t think he’ll ever face a sequence of spot kicks that tame again in his career. Croatia could even miss one themselves without it meaning too much.
They will now face Brazil in the quarter-final, and the first half of their 4-1 win over South Korea was probably the best 45 minutes of football any team has played in the World Cup. I know it comes with the caveat of the second goal, a penalty scored by Neymar after a very, very generous decision from the referee after Richarlison dived in the box. However, the quality of their third and fourth goals was unquestionable, the last one in particular was just so pleasing.
The way Lucas Paqueta arrived on our screens to finish off a lovely move was superb. While I know the stakes were not as high, nor the opposition as strong, there were shades of Carlos Alberto’s goal in the 1970 World Cup final.
I did wonder just how many Brazil might score, but South Korea didn’t capitulate, and played some decent stuff in the second half. They scored a great goal, and forced a couple of saves from Alisson, but that game was won in the 45. Even in this World Cup of comebacks, you don’t recover from being 4-0 down to Brazil. Gabriel Martinelli got some minutes too, which was nice for him and Son probably cried at the end but we’ve seen that too many times now to care.
The Arsenal interest today comes in the second game when Portugal face Granit Xhaka’s Switzerland. There’s speculation about Cristiano Ronaldo’s involvement after some comments from the Portuguese coach, who will have to be prepared to face the simpering wrath of Piss Morkan if he leaves the 37 year old out. He’ll sic his gimp Twitter fans on Fernando Santos if he makes that kind of decision, tapping away on his phone wearing his Ronaldo onesey, the front of which is crusted with dried tears and other secretions. Honestly, is there anything more pathetic than this grown man’s obsequiousness and desperation for attention from a footballer a long way past his prime?
I think we’re overdue a Granit Xhaka moment in this tournament, leaving aside the other moments where he grabs his nuts and enrages everyone on the Serbian bench. Time for that left foot to whistle one into the top corner, then do a Lauren on Ronaldo. Let’s see.
Before that it’s Spain v Morocco. On paper you’d say the former are the favourites, with their ability on the ball and to control possession the way they do, but Morocco have been no pushovers in this World Cup. Spain do lack a little something up front at times, so I’m curious to see how this one plays out.
After today’s games, we have a gap, which seems almost unthinkable after so much football, football, football, non-stop football, football all the time. But it is what it is, and we’ll just have to cope. Maybe we’ll have some more definitive news on Gabriel Jesus by then.
I should also remind you that Arsenal are in action this week, taking on Lyon on Thursday in what is being called the ‘Dubai Super Cup’. That is obviously better than just a regular Dubai Cup, but not quite as good or important as the Dubai Super-Duper Cup. That’s the trophy everyone really wants, along with the Jampions League which sees the winner receive a lifetime supply of strawberry and raspberry preserves.
Right, that’s it. Join myself and Dan from HLTCO on Patreon later for a World Cup round-up podcast dropping in a little while.
And finally, one last push for the Goodly Morning mugs which you can get here. Every penny of profit made on these is going to Great Ormond Street Hospital and Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Dublin. So far, we’ve raised well over €5000, which is a fantastic amount, so if you’re looking a new drinking receptacle and you want to help worthy causes, this is the mug for you!
More here tomorrow.