My World Cup Scrapbook and Related Musings

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An appeal to all those activists and kind-hearted souls interested in doing something for the country - why don't you get hold of the Alberto Colacos (him and all his brethren who happen to be warming the seats at AIFF), and set them to play among themselves, five-a-side soccer if need be, with balls of any make or variety that they may fancy, leaving Indian football well alone.

While I do not know the said Mr. Colaco from Adam and don't have the slightest desire to seek him out ever in future and make his acquaintance,  I am singularly unimpressed by his total lack of contribution to the cause of Indian football during his term as a top official of the AIFF, which happens to be the body defining where Indian football may be headed in the months and years to come. [ Link ]

I'll risk repeating my earlier suggestion that the AIFF (India) could hire Dunga with a view to participating in the 2022 WC. I would not suggest though that they consider Diego Maradona (who I guess will soon be asked to fall on his sword by his football federation, metaphorically speaking) for the job. The AIFF is known for its numerous junkets (and little else) and from there to becoming confirmed junkies would indeed be a short slippery path of no-return. Besides, his habit of kissing his players before and after each game may not quite go down well with Indian officialdom and AIFF members.
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In an earlier post, I had appealed for Colaco and his cohorts to be stripped and paraded down Main Street. After reading this, I take that back. Instead, I now suggest that he and his cohorts in the AIFF and various State Football associations, should be neutered. Football always has been one of the most popular ground level games in India. The pathetic state of Indian football today can be squarely attributed to inept, inefficient and corrupt guys like him who have taken control of the various associations meant to promote football.
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With the World Cup 2010 nearing its end, one of the most enduring items of this one will be Shakira's 'Waka Waka - This Time for Africa' official song. Something equally catchy and football-ish was Ricky Martin's 'Copa de la Vida' ('Go go go, allez, allez, allez) theme song for the 1998 World Cup in France (just heard again the video on Youtube, link below)
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Ever wondered about the similarities? Latin American beats (with some pulsating African rhythm thrown in for Shakira's Waka Waka) and Latino singers seem to be as pulsating and catchy as their brand of football.


The World Cup is over for Kolkatans! Having been away for decades, I had no idea that Brazil and Argentina have become the new Mohun Bagan - East Bengal on the world stage for Kolkatans.

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If you have believed till now that the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain, think again. Observe Spanish commentator and ex-Real Madrid player Camacho's convulsions in the box after Spain has scored against Paraguay and you will be well within your rights to wonder whether it's rain, hailstorm or a swarm of bees which may have just hit that box. Viva el fútbol español! (Here's hoping that Germany causes some further convulsions, of a different kind, when they play Spain shortly)


While everybody is busy making predictions, let me sneak in my best-case scenario which reads like : Uruguay manages to squeeze past Holland and gets into the final, where they meet Germany who have comfortably dumped Spain in the other semi-final. Germany then proceeds to wallop Uruguay in the final and lift the 2010 WC. All those who have been fantasizing about an idyllic brand of samba (or rhumba or salsa, take your pick) soccer which,in reality has been non-existent for quite sometime now, experience a hard-landing and a shattering of carefully crafted dreams. Coaches all over Latin America either get sacked or fall on their swords before the axe falls on them, while Fabio Capello quietly keeps on building up England for the Euro in 2 years time

Of the 133 goals scored so far, check out the top 10. Maybe the best is yet to come!

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Leander Paes won the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Title this year, bringing his tally of Doubles and Mixed Doubles crowns in Grand Slam events to 12 (the highest by any Indian). Meanwhile India's Sania Mirza has as good as vanished from the Women's tennis scene while the Chinese girls Zheng Jie and Li Na have steadily improved their rankings, winning several doubles and singles events and consistently being ranked within the top 32 (Li Na currently is within the top 10 in fact). The Indian media however has largely ignored Paes, focussing instead on tidbits like Cristiano Ronaldo, who had an eminently forgettable World Cup and captained his team Portugal into a series of uninspired performances leading to a relatively early exit, becoming a father!
Does this tell you a thing or two about the Indian sports media's leanings and general mindset and possibly even the orientation of the Indian masses who profess to love sports? Does this explain why a country, which is so enthusiastic about football in general and World Cups in particular since my childhood days, fails to even make a mark in the Asian games or the Commonwealth games, let alone even dream of qualifying from the Asian Zone for the WC?

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Here's the coach of World Cup 2010, Diego Maradona, egging his players on. Carlos Tevez decides in the clip below that he has had enough of the coach's hugs and kisses.


Poor Diego Maradona. His plans to streak through the streets of Buenos Aires have come to nought. Some of his players started shunning his customary pre-match and post-match hugs and kisses during the World Cup matches. Excepting Messi, who quite misfired during the WC, and a couple of others, a number of the experienced players in the side like Heinze, Tevez & Mascherano have not indicated any kind of support for him to continue as coach. And now the Argentine Football Association just can't figure out the best way to nudge him out. It's all proving to be a lot more complicated than their Brazilian counterparts simply sacking Dunga the day after.
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The expected happened, though Uruguay wasn't quite humbled as some had feared they would be. They were possibly a little unlucky about the 2nd goal which took a wicked deflection off one of the Uruguayan defenders, leaving the keeper stranded. Holland's finishing and positional play was decidedly superior. Samba soccer (or rhumba or salsa, take your pick) has had its comeuppance and rightly so - modern football isn't just about flair and style and showy stepovers - and the 3 teams left standing after the first semi just about sounds right. On to the Spain - Germany semi which, to me, is the match of WC 2010 and should rightfully have been the final.
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Paul the Octopus proves right once again -- masterclass tactical performance by Spain who come out deserving winners. Germany sorely missed Thomas Muller possibly. The current Euro champions are 1 match away from becoming the World champions. What a day that will be for Spanish football!
In terms of positional play, tactical astuteness, possession and intricate movements this Spain team is definitely ahead of every other team in this World Cup. Having lifted the Euro 2 years back, their coach Vicente del Bosque has seen and done it all before. I can quite visualize the men in 'Oranje' turning yellow at the thought of having to come up against this team in the final.

Germany with a young and largely unfancied team before the WC started, did pretty well and would be going home with their heads held high. The way they were pinned back and shut down during the semis was fascinating to watch. A team which had scored freely in several of their previous encounters, could hardly get in a meaningful shot at the Spanish goal.
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An analysis and a point of view I have believed in for sometime now. I couldn't agree more with the article below.
"IT WILL be an All-European affair for a second straight World Cup final. Apparently, there are people upset by that. These are your football romantics, the supposed devotees of the “Beautiful Game”. For them, the only way to play football is the South American way.
Indeed, they are enamoured with the passion and deft skills of twinkle-toed Brazilian and Argentinian players, and view European football to be as soulless and mechanical as a German footballer rampaging down the centre of the field. They cling on to Brazil’s 1970 World Cup victory, seeing it as the pinnacle of football: skillful players in every position, passing confidently and patiently until they find a weakness, and then scoring with a flurry of dribbles, backheels and flicks. It is a viewpoint as dated as it is tiresome. Indeed, South American football nowadays is increasingly ineffective and unappealing. This World Cup has provided plenty of proof. Witness how Brazil were stumped for ideas once the Netherlands equalised during their quarter-final clash. What they did afterwards is symptomatic of the worst kind of football anywhere: They kicked the Dutch players. Served the Brazilians right for losing their nerve, and for passing the ball around with little idea of how to convert possession into scoring chances. The Argentinians could do no better. Witness their fans howling in frustration as Lionel Messi and gang dribbled their way into German cul-de-sacs on the pitch, surrounded by two or more defenders, and still stubbornly refusing to pass the ball.
 
Indeed, the myth of South American football being superior was spectacularly dispelled in this World Cup by the best of European football, as served up by the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. What’s so bad about the European style? All it did was to place equal importance on attack and defence. Granted, when their attack is sputtering, they can be as frustrating as the South Americans. Unlike their transatlantic counterparts, they do have a chance of not losing the match, with their devotion to defensive organisation. And, of course, there is flair in European football. Witness Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s 35m blast that gave the Netherlands a 1-0 lead against Uruguay, Bastian Schweinsteiger’s lung- bursting charge past at least three Argentinian defenders to set up Germany’s third goal in their 4-0 rout of Argentina or  David Villa’s winner against Paraguay. These are instances of pure inspiration, but these European players used them as surprise weapons to catch opposing defences off-guard. In this era of professional football, where scouting is so extensive, one cannot rely on sheer skills to win matches.

No matter how skillful South American footballers are, they can be contained by a well-marshalled defence. And they will suffer if they don’t have the instinct to thread pinpoint passes to their teammates. All the deft, improvisational skills should serve a purpose – and this is usually drilled into most European footballers right from their youth academy days.
 
Indeed, the best European football preaches simplicity, organisation and, best of all, team unity – winning values that do not reject the occasional touch of flair. It clearly sends a message to youngsters who dream of playing professionally: You do not need to have the intricate skills of Pele, Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi to win for your team. Indeed, even a simple side-foot pass, when perfectly timed and executed, can produce a goal, too. And the
knowledge of that is perhaps as enlightening as the most jaw-dropping football trick one can conjure. It is definitely miles better than the self-indulgent, meandering mess that is South American football now."


One of the biggest stories of World Cup 2010, has been that of Paul the Octopus. Paul, based in an aquarium in the western german city of Oberhausen has had a 100% record so far in predicting the outcome of various World Cup matches. On the eve of the final and the 3rd place play-off, Paul has now made his final choices: Spain to win the WC and Germany to win the 3rd place playoff.

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 Came across this presentation detailing the history of FIFA and the World Cup. While it may be somewhat long, it's certainly worth browsing.
History of FIFA World Cup  

 While it may be small consolation for the Germans, they managed to come up trumps in an exciting and hard-fought match against Uruguay. Paul the Octopus proved right again and now he is just one game away from a 100% hit record for this World Cup.

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Given the total football popularized by folks like Johann Cruyff and the Dutch in the late 70s and early eighties (incidentally Cruyff is currently backing Spain to win this World Cup) and the tiki-taka style (roughly translated as touch-touch) presently implemented by Spain, it is necessary to analyze and understand the tactics and strategies implemented by some of the other countries who featured in WC 2010. Here then, is a quick presentation on the subject:
Football Strategies and Tactics

What a messy, scrappy, forgettable final it turned out to be.  The Dutch were clearly bent on hacking down and kicking the Spaniards out of the game. My reactions are summed up by my comments on Facebook during the half-time and after it was all over.

Total football! Total thuggery more like! There's only one team trying to play football there - the Spaniards. The Dutch are doing their best to stem the flow by consistent attempts to hack down and provoke the other team into mistakes or even a rush of blood. Expect the 2nd half to get uglier. While ref. Webb is trying his best not to red-card someone, at least one Dutch attempt, Nigel De Jong's stud high challenge on Xavi's chest was worthy of one. It'll be a pity if the Dutch team, playing some of the ugliest football seen so far, were to somehow get a matchwinner!

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Salute Spain who were clearly the best team of this WC! Touching to see Spain's keeper and captain Iker Casillas, breaking down in tears as soon as Iniesta scored the winning goal!

Thomas Mueller of Germany wins the Golden Shoe for 5 goals and 3 assists. Diego Forlan of Uruguay is named the best player of WC 2010.

Hats off to Paul the Octopus for a 100% record of forecasts during this WC.

The Dutch have shamed themselves with their tactics and strategy for the day. If ever a team set out to play ugly football it was this Holland side which must have set a WC final record with 9 yellow cards and 1 red. Thankfully the better team and one which believes in playing the game fairly, kept their anger and frustration at the Dutch tactics bottled up and did not get provoked into an outright rash act or a fatal blunder as the Dutch might have been hoping. Holland's major contribution was towards a WC final which, thanks to them, got scrappy, ugly and forgettable in terms of the quality of football on display.

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Rob Parker's observations on the final in his blog:

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Iniesta's winning goal in extra time which secured the World Cup for Spain

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A glimpse of the impressive closing ceremony for World Cup 2010, including Shakira performing 'Waka Waka' live




The ecstasy of holding aloft the World Cup!

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