De Futebol England needed a Daily Double from Harry Kane to beat Tunisia 2-1

England needed a late goal from Harry Kane to secure a hard fought 2-1 over Tunisia In Group G.

Belgium defeated Panama 3-0.

Both England and Belgium each have three points in Group G however Belgium is a plus three while England is a plus one.

The Daily Mail:” Soft penalty. Tick. Raheem Sterling missed sitter. Tick. Underwhelming opening-game scoreline, plenty of work to do now, a frustrated nation watching from home. Tick, tick and bloody tick.

So it was shaping up as another typical World Cup opener for England. And then Harry Kane scored. He scored in injury time, his second of the game.

The cynical will say they were two tap-ins: a header and a close-range finish, six-yard box interventions from corners. But let’s put that into perspective. England last scored two in any finals game in 2006 against Sweden. And an England player last scored twice at a World Cup 28 years ago. Gary Lineker, against Cameroon, in 1990. England did quite well in 1990, too. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

England won. The best team won. That’s good news, too. England haven’t looked as lively as they did in the opening 45 minutes here in close to two decades. It was far from the perfect display but it is not going to be when Gareth Southgate is sending out England’s youngest team at a World Cup since 1962.

There will be errors like the one Kyle Walker made to give away the penalty for Tunisia’s goal — although it was still a soft fall —there will be misses, like Sterling’s horror show after just five minutes. Nerves can do that.

Yet, in glimpses, Southgate saw his vision, his England, take flight. They were everything the manager would have wished: fast, positive, ambitious, optimistic. They dominated Tunisia, creating enough chances to have won not just this first group game, but maybe all three.

They had six shots on target before half-time: more than any team at the World Cup so far. More than Spain and Portugal, more than Lionel Messi’s Argentina against Iceland; more than Brazil. And it was just like watching Brazil at times. Except the finishing. The finishing, Kane aside, was like watching Alan Brazil. Long retired, and after four days at Cheltenham. Not a pretty sight.

And then there’s Kane, entering a World Cup as if born to it, the youngest captain of his country at the tournament, the oldest head on the field when it mattered.

Anyone who wondered why Southgate made him captain now knows: because he leads by example, because he stays cool under pressure, because he makes good things happen, and can drag people through adversity with him. And memo to Roy Hodgson: it’s a lot easier to score from corners when you’re not taking them.

Kane changed England’s World Cup narrative and maybe this entire campaign, too. England were slipping towards another night of disappointment, but Kane had other ideas. He’s always got other ideas. He had other ideas when Tottenham thought he wouldn’t make it as an elite goal-scorer, other ideas when the European Championship in 2016 appeared to have blighted his England career, and other ideas when England were conforming to type in Volgograd.

The announcement of four minutes’ injury time had just been made and England appeared to have run out of steam. We’ve seen this film before.

They won a corner, but hadn’t threatened even from that favourite area in the second half. Kieran Trippier whipped the ball in, Harry Maguire won the header, as he had all night, and there was Kane — just as he had been for the first goal — at the far post seeking the glimmer of a chance. He nodded it past reserve goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha. Against all expectations, England were going to get what they deserved.

Now this has to be repeated. Not just the performance but the scoreline. One won’t do. That has been England’s problem at tournaments for too long now. They score one. Never two. And if they are going to take risks as Southgate wishes them to, they have to be prepared to score two.

For, as tame as Tunisia’s penalty looked, there was plenty of professional opinion that blamed Walker for giving it away. Fakhreddine Ben Youssef made the most of it, and then some, but Walker’s positioning was poor. It needed Kane to overcome that. It now needs his team-mates to chip in.

That England went in level at half-time was a travesty; but it was a travesty, sadly, of the players’ own creation. Miss followed miss, blunder followed blunder. Not just half-chances, or even good chances, but absolute sitters, the sort any professional feels he could score with his eyes shut.

Defensively, Tunisia had no answer to Kane, Jesse Lingard, Sterling and Dele Alli in England’s front line. From set-pieces, they could not handle John Stones and, largely, Maguire. England were dominating, winning every ball in the air, getting behind the full backs, working opportunities in the box.

Had they scored even half what they created they would probably have been safe. But the chances fell to everybody bar Kane. That, and a dubious penalty award from Colombian official Wilmar Roldan, went against them.

Walker, out of position as a rare cross came in, caught Ben Youssef with a trailing, extended arm. If Ben Youssef falls that easily when touched he must be a nightmare on public transport but Roldan bought it, pointed to the spot, and despite some conversation with the referee impersonators dressed in their kit in a television studio, was given no reason to consult a screen or change his mind. Against that, Ferjani Sassi’s finish from the spot was outstanding. He swept the ball into the side-netting to his left, even though Jordan Pickford guessed correctly. Yet it should have been little more than a consolation. It should have been an irrelevance: and here’s why.

his was England’s best performance in a tournament opener in many years. Much better than their last win, over Paraguay in 2006. Had the scoreline reflected England’s supremacy Southgate’s side would have laid down the most emphatic marker of any nation at this World Cup so far.

Instead, it was hard. You’ve heard commentators tell you how a player did the hard part, only to miss the goal. Ignore him; it’s rubbish. The goal is the hard part. That’s why strikers get the most money. Time and again, England did exactly what Southgate asked of them, got to the hard part, and flapped.

The game was only three minutes old when Jordan Henderson — whose passing range impressed — played a lovely ball over the top for Alli. Sterling couldn’t quite get on the end of it, but Lingard could and should have done better, his shot diverted around a post by the feet of goalkeeper Mouez Hassen. Just two minutes later, Alli played a beautiful reverse pass inside to release Lingard and his cross put Sterling in, the ball on a plate. What happened? He went for it with his wrong foot, somehow getting mixed up between that machine-gun right, and his lesser left, and sending the ball bobbling wide. There were 85 minutes to go and already the chance of the night had been spurned. It surely wasn’t going to get better than that.

Yet, it did. From an Ashley Young corner on 11 minutes, Stones’s header was palmed out by Hassen, but only as far as Kane, who turned it in. To make matters worse for Tunisia, the goalkeeper injured his shoulder making the save. He was replaced soon after by Ben Mustapha, but still England tried and failed in front of goal. Young hit a great cross after 24 minutes, but Lingard finished it woefully at the far post, scuffing the ball tamely wide. It was hoped the unexpected reverse of Tunisia’s equaliser would focus English minds. Sadly, no.

A 39th-minute goalmouth scramble saw Sterling miss the ball with an attempted overhead kick, then Stones miss it entirely trying a more conventional finish. Finally, Lingard went through one on one, slipping the ball past Ben Mustapha and then watching as it rolled agonisingly and hit the near post, diverting wide instead of straight out for a rebound finish.

Maybe Panama will give the rest of them the chance to get their eye in.

They need to, before what should be the group decider against Belgium. Kane can’t go it alone from here.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-5857763/Tunisia-1-2-England-Harry-Kane-rescue-Captain-scores-injury-time-winner.html

De Futebol Brasil stinks! A one all Draw with Switzerland

For the first time since 1978 Brasil has not won their opening match in the World Cup. The guys snatched a draw from the jaws of victory. Lazy horrible defense cost Brasil big time.

Phillipe Coutinho tickled the twines in the 20th minute. However, Switzerland came back to score in 50th minute. Steven Zuber parked in front net by his lonesome poked hone the rock to level this puppy at one all.

Brasileiros had their chances to get the match winner but they missed it by that much.

Serbia defeated Costa Rica 1-0.

Serbia is top dog with three points.

Brasil and Switzerland are second and third with one point apiece.

Costa Rica is in the whale dung position with zero points.

The upset of the day Mexico defeated Germany 1-0.

The Guardians David Hytner:” his was not how Brazil had scripted it. The five-times world champions were in control thanks to a trademark Philippe Coutinho screamer and the first step to avenge the trauma from the previous finals looked set to be sure-footed.

Yet one lapse was all it took for Switzerland to crash back into it – Steven Zuber heading the equaliser – and, with a priceless result within their grasp, they were in no mood to relinquish it.

Brazil complained bitterly that Zuber’s goal ought to have been disallowed for a push on Miranda but the referee, César Arturo Ramos, was correct to ignore them.

Switzerland, ranked sixth in the world, were on the back foot for almost all of the evening and they rode their luck during a frenetic finale when Brazil pushed hard for a winner. They had a flurry of chances but none would go in and, in the end, it turned out to be a valiant point for the Swiss.

Brazil have cast themselves as avenging angels, even if the agony of their home 2014 World Cup – when they were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final – might never truly leave them and they have not run from their status of favourites. Far from it. Neymar had posted a message on the eve of this tie declaring himself unafraid of dreaming big. “Let’s go Brazil – for the sixth!” he wrote.

But it was not their night. Coutinho sliced when well placed on 69 minutes while Gabriel Jesus felt that he should have had a penalty when Manuel Akanji put his hands on him inside the area. In the closing minutes Neymar and the substitute Roberto Firmino headed too close to Yann Sommer, Miranda dragged wide when gloriously placed and another substitute, Renato Augusto, watched Fabian Schär clear a shot to safety. The ball simply would not go in.

Switzerland wanted to impose themselves and to play their front‑foot possession style but it would become a display of rearguard action. The occasion had felt different for Brazil when Coutinho put them in front and the goal was a peach.

Neymar, looking every inch the A‑lister with his meticulously coiffured blond crop, popped the ball off to Marcelo and his cross was headed out by Zuber but only as far as Coutinho. The midfielder took a touch before shaping a right-footed curler into the far corner. Sommer dived at full stretch but there was nothing he could do.

Tite had started Coutinho on the left of a midfield three, which had Paulinho on the right and Casemiro at the base, but the former Liverpool man had the scope to roam. So did Neymar. Actually, Neymar was allowed to do whatever he desired and that included a few bursts of trademark professional dramatics. Valon Behrami could be seen to laugh after one first-half Neymar tumble and there were other occasions when he went down with ease.

Neymar demands free-kicks from any contact; it is a perk of his status. But those in red played with fire whenever they challenged him. At times, his rapid movement was too much. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Schär and Behrami were each booked for fouls on him.

Brazil might have led sooner. Neymar combined with Coutinho to cross low and when Schär got himself into a tangle, Paulinho sniffed out a close-range shooting chance. He went for the far corner, scuffing it slightly, only for Sommer to make a finger-tip save. The goalkeeper did not get the credit at the time, with Ramos awarding a goal-kick rather than a corner.

Blerim Dzemaili had lifted an early half-chance high from Xherdan Shaqiri’s pass but Switzerland could do nothing further as an attacking force before the interval. They would also breathe a sigh of relief when Thiago Silva glanced over from Neymar’s corner at the end of the half. Moments earlier, Akanji had snuffed out Jesus in a last-man duel.

The game turned sharply at the beginning of the second half and it was a poor way for Brazil to surrender the initiative. From Shaqiri’s corner, Miranda felt Zuber deliver a little shove to his back but it was not enough to throw him off balance. He had merely lost his man, misreading the flight of the ball. Zuber leapt up to head past the exposed Alisson. Brazil pleaded in vain for a VAR review. Game on.

witzerland grew visibly and, all of a sudden, there were one or two jitters in Brazil’s ranks. Neymar, who has only just returned from a serious ankle and metatarsal injury, looked to be feeling the troublesome right foot. His fitness remains a concern, as does his tendency to freeze-frame in possession, as he looks to draw his marker into a rash move. Does his tendency unduly slow Brazil’s tempo?

Tite made midfield changes, swapping Casemiro, who had been booked, for Fernandinho and Paulinho for Renato Augusto. It did not alter Brazil’s shape or their approach.

They continued to probe, primarily through Neymar, but Switzerland, who were always likely to be obdurate, could feel the desperation and their resilience grew. Tite’s final substitution was also like-for-like. Jesus off; Firmino on.

Jesus had been central to the game’s greatest controversy. On 74 minutes Akanji put his arms around him as he ran onto a pass inside the area. Down he went but the appeals were waved away. The fall looked exaggerated but the contact was there. It was certainly risky from Akanji. He got away with it. Switzerland would do likewise with the point.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/jun/17/brazil-switzerland-world-cup-match-report

De Futebol Peru is Back. The Result is not so good! A 1-0 loss to Denmark

Peru’s Christian Cueva wore the choke collar when he spilt the uprights O’ Yea wrong sport in dying moments of the first half against Denmark that could have given the Peruvians the one nil lead in the 45th minute plus one.

The missed gift sent into orbit was the match changer. Denmark came back to nab the match winner in the 59th minute. Yussuf Poulsen tickled the twines for the 1-0 win for the Danes over Peru’s.

Peru’s players were crushed by this heart-breaking loss.

The Guardians Stuart James:” A landmark day for Peru, who returned to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1982, ended with a sobering reminder of just how cruel football can be at times. Yussuf Poulsen scored the goal that broke Peru hearts on a night that turned into a personal ordeal for Christian Cueva, who had to be consoled by his teammates after his awful penalty, which was awarded following a pitchside review by the referee, sailed wildly over the bar just before half-time.

Cueva struggled to keep his emotions together at the time as he fought back tears and the midfielder was still shaking his head at the final whistle, along with plenty of other Peru players, as the team whose colourful supporters have travelled to Russia in such huge numbers, capturing the imagination of people from all over the world, struggled to come to terms with a chastening defeat.

Even Åge Hareide, Denmark’s coach, conceded Peru deserved something from a game that slipped from their grasp just before the hour, when Christian Eriksen came to life and delivered one of those killer passes. Poulsen, who had brought down Cueva for the penalty, coolly dispatched his shot inside the near post and the Peru fans briefly fell silent.

It did not take long for them to regain their voices and, buoyed by the introduction from the bench of Paolo Guerrero, their all-time leading scorer, the tens of thousands of Peru supporters inside the stadium willed their team to get an equaliser. That the players came up short was down to a combination of profligacy, bad luck and an outstanding performance from Kasper Schmeichel, the Denmark goalkeeper, who denied Edison Flores, Guerrero and Jefferson Farfán in the second half. Guerrero also back-heeled inches wide and Alberto Rodríguez headed agonisingly past the far upright.

Denmark have gone 533 minutes without conceding a goal but that run should have come to an end before the interval. Bakary Gassama, the Gambian referee, initially waved for play to continue when Cueva tumbled to the floor under a challenge from Poulsen and it appeared as though no penalty would be given.

Then, however, Gassama got word from the VAR that he should look at the incident on the pitchside monitor. Although the contact was slight, the footage clearly showed that Poulsen caught Cueva’s trailing leg, and Gassama pointed to the spot. For all the criticism of VAR and the concerns voiced beforehand, the process was relatively quick and ultimately the correct decision was reached.

What nobody could legislate for is what would happen next. Giving himself a long run-up, Cueva stuttered before sweeping a right‑footed kick horribly over the bar and into the supporters behind the goal. Cueva looked absolutely devastated moments afterwards, so much so that when the half-time whistle blew he was surrounded by Peru players, including the substitutes. “At half-time we told him he had to keep playing the same,” said Ricardo Gareca, the Peru coach, whose team had been unbeaten in 15 matches.

The missed penalty was a huge reprieve for a Denmark side who created little throughout. With Eriksen on the fringes in the first half, they were guilty of knocking too many long balls and overly dependent on set pieces. Hareide called his team’s display “tentative” and also admitted that Denmark’s players had struggled to cope with the noise inside a stadium that must have felt like a home venue for the Peru players. “We were afraid a little bit of the atmosphere and it did affect us,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/jun/16/peru-denmark-world-cup-match-report

De Futebol Argentina Stinks the joint out in a One All draw against Iceland!

Now you know why Argentina barley made it to the World Cup. Iceland played the match of their lives to earn a one all draw with Argentina in Group D.

Argentina stinks. Their defense and numerous errors cost them big time.

The Guardian Barney Rona: “With 64 minutes gone on a tight, bruising afternoon Argentina finally seemed to have found a break in a game in which their revered attack struggled to find its gears against an excellent Iceland team.

The score was already 1-1, as it would finish. Iceland were holding steady. With a long pass from the left Sergio Agüero was suddenly in space in the area, and sent tumbling by a collision with Hordur Magnusson. The penalty was given. Half of the stadium leapt up, phones raised as Lionel Messistepped up to take it, breath drawn ready to yowl and cheer as the ball hit the net.

Or perhaps not. Messi’s kick was terrible, too close to Hannes Halldorsson, who saved well, guessing the right way and palming the ball far enough from goal. In the stands there was a gawping sense of shock, heads cradled, jaws dropped.

What an astonishingly brilliant moment, though, for Halldorsson, who six years ago directed Iceland’s entry to the Eurovision song contest, but who has now saved a penalty from Messi in front of a few hundred million people, not to mention his future grand-kids, great grand-kids and anyone else who meets him for the next sixty years with an active YouTube feed.

There was controversy a quarter of an hour later when Cristian Pavón went down in the penalty area. There seemed to be contact from Birkir Már Sævarsson but the referee was having none of it and did not refer it to VAR.

And so Iceland held on in this Group D opener to take an entirely deserved point from their first ever World Cup game. This is a rise that has been pegged out in moments, from the defeats of Holland and England to the extended glory of qualification for Russia 2018. Here was another one, a new plateau for the smallest nation ever to get to the tournament. Albeit against an Argentina team that pressed hard, had most of the possession, and might easily have won the game, but which also presented its own weaknesses to the world.

For long period the general preconceptions about these two teams seemed to be confirmed. Iceland were willing, deft on the ball and completely unafraid. In between its best moments in attack, Argentina came across like a team that had forgotten its trousers on the way out, dressed in full ceremonial regalia on top, but with its long-johns flapping at the back.

This was Willy Caballero’s first competitive international at the age of 36. It might well be his last if Franco Armani has been looking smart in training. There was a fumble for Iceland’s goal, one horrible attempt at jazzed-up possession play from the back, and a first-half shot that was palmed away with all the agility of a dead tree falling over in a high wind.

Before kick-off on a dazzlingly bright Moscow day the Spartak Arena was gripped with a wonderful rolling surge of noise. Argentina’s travelling fans are present in the usual city-scale numbers. Here they created the usual warm, celebratory noise, a mess of chants and cheers and soaring balladry that manages to be both ferociously inspiring and also somehow devoid of menace.

Nobody quite knew how Argentina’s players would hit their stride here. Instead of playing friendlies Argentina have trained with unusual urgency, Sampaoli grooving his players like a club side. The issue with this team is simply the right jiggle of the switches, finding a way of channelling without clogs or snags the benefits of pure, unfettered Messi power.

The sight of Messi’s huge, impassive ginger-bearded face on the big screen as the teams walked out drew the first ear-splitting whistle from the main Albiceleste end. Heimir Hallgrimsson had been phlegmatic as ever on facing Argentina’s own universe-boss level playmaker. “I don’t have a magic formula,” Hallgrimsson shrugged on the eve of this game.

In the event Iceland packed the midfield, with Gylfi Sigurdsson, just returned from injury, as a No 10 in possession, a No 8 without the ball. And throughout they played Messi supremely well.

Early on Iceland were brusque and bruising. Messi was hauled over the first time he picked up the ball in a pocket of space. At the other end a huge punted long pass from back to front put Alfred Finnbogason for a shot over the bar and from the ensuing sweep-keeper horror show of a goal-kick Birki Bjarnason scuffed past the post on the run when he looked certain to score.

All the while Messi thrummed around in the low gears, with Aaron Gunnarsson always quick to intrude on his personal space. With 16 minutes gone there was a sudden Messi swerve to the left and a powerful shot that Hannes Halldorsson pumped away with both fists. And four minutes later came the reminder that Messi isn’t the only world class footballer in this team.

Nobody works a pocket of space quite like Agüero, a player with legs so rubbery he can spring through 180 degree circle in the time it takes you to think about raising your left foot. Here he took the ball in the area and pirouetted away from Ragnar Sigurdsson. No back-lift was required. With swish of air the ball was in the top corner.

Even before they levelled the scores Iceland had demonstrated their own cutting edge, and also the brittleness of this Argentina defence. Alfred Finnbogason’s equaliser was the product of excellent Icelandic pressing, drawing slackness down the right and that fumble from Caballero as the cross from Gylfi Sigurdsson came in. Iceland’s centre-forward moved quicker than the swamp-bound defenders around him to poke the ball home.

Iceland sat back. Argentina pressed without any real sense of edge, finding little space. There was shout for a penalty as the ball bounced up from close range and hit the hand of the sliding Ragnar Sigurdsson. Sampaoli capered and fumed and waggled his arms on the touchline. But Sigurdsson was guilty of little more than possessing arms in the usual place arms tend to be.

For long periods after the break Argentina were ponderous in central midfield against opponents who dropped deep. Up ahead Messi was pushed right to the fringes, handled with remarkable certainty and disincline by this Icelandic midfield and defence. Ángel Di María provided little effective width. On the right Eduardo Salvio made good ground at times. But there was a lack of snap, of easy rhythms in possession. Iceland were able simply to hold their ground.

With 53 minutes gone Sampaoli shifted the weather in his team, bringing on the more dextrous Ever Banega for Lucas Biglia. Banega is a lovely midfielder. But Iceland gave him more of the same, crowding in well-drilled pairs, shutting off his angles. There were chances, shots that whistled just wide, and that missed Messi penalty. But Iceland were cool throughout, their point welcomed with a huge Nordic cheer.

No doubt some will now draw an unavoidable and indeed deeply unflattering parallel with Cristiano Ronaldo’s wonderful hat-trick last night, an extreme contrast with Messi’s impotence here. That struggle for tournament fluency continues. But this afternoon belonged above all to the men from the volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic, whose extraordinary world tour isn’t showing any sign of losing its momentum just yet.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/jun/16/argentina-iceland-world-cup-match-report

De Futebol A wild shoot out Portugal and Spain Three All Draw

In a wild one Cristiano Ronaldo nailed the hat trick earn a three all draw against Spain in Group B play.

The Guardians Sid Lowe: “After all the fall-out, the football. A classic clash, Portugal manager Fernando Santos had called it the day before, and it turned out he wasn’t far off. Twice Portugal led, twice Spain equalised, and then they took a lead that felt like a liberation, but with one minute to go Cristiano Ronaldo curled in a wonderful free-kick to complete a hat-trick and give a superb night an unexpected ending.

For all that other stuff sometimes seems to eclipse the game, for all that it can feel like the garnish has eaten the steak, in the words of one Spanish coach, the game fights back. Football tends to find a way.

Here, Spain found a way. Ronaldo certainly did. Portugal almost got a winner, too, right at the death – twice, in fact – but that would have been even harsher on Spain than the result already was. Portugal had three efforts on target, just five overall, and all three went in. After the days they have had, seeing their manager announce a move to Real Madrid in the afternoon and their president sack him the following morning, listening as the federation and Madrid accused each other, defeat might have hurt Spain. Yet for most of the night here there was little sign of any lasting effects of what Sergio Ramos called “delicate days”.

Perhaps it was simple: perhaps recovery was always most likely to come with the opportunity to get back to what they know: playing football very, very well. They might have lost their manager two days before the World Cup but Spain are still Spain.

And Ronaldo is Ronaldo. Spain didn’t win because of him, and in part because of a mistake from David de Gea too, but while the late equaliser may leave regret, there should be comfort in the fact that even conceding after three minutes hadn’t sunk them. Nor did conceding a daft second just before half-time. Spain have Isco, Andrés Iniesta and David Silva, after all. They also have Diego Costa: the one big doubt, even from Julen Lopetegui’s era (all of three days ago now) appeared at their moment of greatest need, scoring twice.

Any vulnerability was tested immediately, just two minutes gone when Ronaldo tumbled over Nacho to win a penalty from which he opened the scoring. The clock showed 3.30. Five minutes later, Spain appeared to still be disoriented, denied the thing that makes them Spain: the ball. It didn’t last. Costa laid off to Silva who hit over and bit by bit Spain worked their way in, Isco taking responsibility to get them going. The risk though remained – in the air and on the run, Portugal looked faster, stronger, higher.

Portugal’s intention had appeared clear after just 47 seconds when Pepe waved Gonçalo Guedes forward and sent it long towards him. Guedes is swift indeed, but twice he failed to finish dangerous breaks, his team tearing through the middle. On the first, he seemed unsure what to do, doubting whether Ronaldo was going to join the run. On the second, a slick, precise move that released Bernard Silva on the right saw Ronaldo drop it off to him in the area but he was indecisive.

While Spain had the ball, Portugal carried arguably the great threat. But then, suddenly, Costa did what Costa does. He may feel like an awkward fit with Spain at times, but he is good at this and he brought them level, gave them life and changed the game. Maybe changed Spain’s tournament too.

He leapt with Pepe, crashing into him, forearm first. Pepe tumbled, Costa continued. He turned, stopped, bumped, turned again, away from José Fonte and Cédric Soares, and struck into the bottom corner, three men lying on the floor inside the Portuguese penalty area. Spain’s substitutes raced from the bench, as if they were released. As if they all were.

 This game, though, had a lot more left in it. Isco thumped a shot off the underside of the bar that landed plumb on the line and although Spain were denied, it seemed they were back: the ball moving fast, Isco and Iniesta combining, Jordi Alba whizzing along outside. A sharp combination between Costa, Isco, Iniesta, and Alba finished with Iniesta’s shot skidding past Koke and just wide.

In truth, clear chances were few and Portugal speared passes into space beyond Spain, for whom corners often felt more like a concern than an opportunity. Guedes, Silva, and Ronaldo led the race and just before the break, Guedes controlled near the edge of the area and laid back to Ronaldo. His shot was simple enough but it slipped in off De Gea’s hands and into the net.

The remedy came fast. A planned free-kick – presumably Lopetegui’s legacy – saw Iniesta clip to Sergio Busquets, who nodded back across the six-yard box, and Costa finish from close range. And then, two minutes later, as Spain worked their way in on the left once more, a sliced clearance came to Nacho on the edge of the area. He thumped the ball on the bounce and it flew in off both posts. The touch and passing had been good before; it was impeccable now. Spain took control, the ball theirs. There was even the occasional olés amidst the fans trying to get a Mexican wave going.

If that sounds like Spain, they looked like Spain too. They also looked set for an impressive, therapeutic and deserved victory. But, as Fernando Hierro, the man who never expected to be standing there on the touchline, said: “When there’s someone like Ronaldo out there these things can happen.”

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/jun/15/spain-portugal-world-cup-group-b-match-report

De Futebol Uruguay Wins their Opener with a Hard Fought 1-0 win over Egypt

It sure looked like Uruguay would tie with Egypt. Luis Suarez and company were frustrated with the Egyptian defense. A tie was in the cards until Jose Maria Gimenez noddled home the rock past the helpless keeper in the 89th minute to secure a hard fought 1-0 over Egypt.

Luis Suarez’s perfect corner kick into the box set up the match winner for the Uruguayans.

Russia blew out Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of the 2018 World Cup held in Russia.

Russia and Uruguay each have three points however Russia is the top dog on goal difference over Uruguay in Group A. The Russians are plus five while the Uruguayan’s are plus one.

The Guardians Jonathan Wilson:” Slowly, slowly, it had been coming. After 80 minutes in which almost nothing had happened, other than the non-appearance of Mohamed Salah, Uruguay in the final minutes had just begun to increase the pressure. There was a volley from Edinson Cavani pawed away by Mohamed El Shrawy then a free-kick smacked against the post by the same player and then, finally, with a minute to go, José Giménez rose to meet a right-wing corner with a powerful header and Uruguay, for the first time since 1970, had won their opening game at a World Cup.

But much of the game had seemed to conform to the stereotype of modern international football. The better teams can defend and can hold their shape, and very few sides have the cohesion to attack with the pace or precision to break them down. That was exacerbated here by a pitch that seemed to have been insufficiently watered. As in the early stages of the opening game, before Saudi Arabia’s implosion, there was a sense that the ball was sticking, reducing further the pace of attacks.

The result is slightly scrappy, underwhelming football, short of fluidity or goalmouth action – and, correspondingly, a premium on the sort if dynamic attacking player who can transform games. And the brightest of those this season, was missing. After all the excitement of Thursday, and the overblown response to one line from Héctor Cúper in a press conference that was replete with equivocation, Mohammed Salah did not start. He had seemed tentative performing some basic windmill exercises in training and his only involvement here was to elicit a great roar from the Egyptian fans as he trotted out to warm-up and then another cheer – and a chorus of Happy Birthday (he turned 26 on Friday) – when he was shown on big screens midway through the first half.

But much of the game had seemed to conform to the stereotype of modern international football. The better teams can defend and can hold their shape, and very few sides have the cohesion to attack with the pace or precision to break them down. That was exacerbated here by a pitch that seemed to have been insufficiently watered. As in the early stages of the opening game, before Saudi Arabia’s implosion, there was a sense that the ball was sticking, reducing further the pace of attacks.

The result is slightly scrappy, underwhelming football, short of fluidity or goalmouth action – and, correspondingly, a premium on the sort if dynamic attacking player who can transform games. And the brightest of those this season, was missing. After all the excitement of Thursday, and the overblown response to one line from Héctor Cúper in a press conference that was replete with equivocation, Mohammed Salah did not start. He had seemed tentative performing some basic windmill exercises in training and his only involvement here was to elicit a great roar from the Egyptian fans as he trotted out to warm-up and then another cheer – and a chorus of Happy Birthday (he turned 26 on Friday) – when he was shown on big screens midway through the first half.

When a corner did drop to Suárez on the edge of the six-yard box after 24 minutes, he mystifyingly dragged his shot wide. There were other chances, one kept out by the right boot of Mohamed El Shenawy and a one on one in which the keeper dived at his feet. But slowly the chances began to mount up and in the end, Egypt cracked, the first goal they had conceded at a World Cup since Mark Wright’s header in 1990.

It was not pretty from Uruguay, but it was enough.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/jun/15/egypt-uruguay-world-cup-group-a-match-report

De Futebol Another World Cup Story!

Let’s take another trip in the way back machine.

The Guardians Scott Murray: “When Johan Cruyff sold Jan Olsson the mother of all dummies with the subtlest of swerves, the Dutch captain’s signature move became the enduring symbol of Total Football.

It’s the defining image of the 1974 World Cup; the defining image of the great Dutch team of the 70s; the defining image of one of the most talented, enchanting and magical players to ever breeze around a football field.

It’s the 23rd minute of the Group 3 game between Holland and Sweden at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund, and Wim van Hanegem has the ball at his feet on the right wing. He’s about to be crowded out by Bjorn Andersson and Ralf Edstrom, so clips a pass back along the flank to Wim Rijsbergen, who in turn flicks the ball inside to Arie Haan, airily ambling through the centre circle. Haan takes a couple of quick, adroit touches to tee himself up, then wafts his right leg, spraying a long diagonal pass towards the left-hand corner flag, towards … Johan Cruyff.

Cruyff has already spent the opening exchanges of the game causing Sweden’s right-back, Jan Olsson, all manner of pain, bother, trouble and angst. But now he’s going to take it up a notch. Sticking out a telescopic left leg, Cruyff kills Haan’s pass. Well, nearly. The ball slides a touch to the right, and for a second looks like sticking awkwardly under Cruyff’s right boot. But the Dutch captain adjusts on the hoof, rolls the ball under his studs while turning through 180 degrees. He’s now facing back down the pitch, with Olsson tight behind him and nowhere to go. The full back is doing everything right. Then, through no real fault of his own, he’s doing everything wrong. Having read an almost imperceptible drop of Cruyff’s left shoulder, Olsson makes to chase him back downfield. It’s the right decision 999,999 times out of a million.

What are the chances? By dropping his shoulder a few millimetres, Cruyff has sold the defender the mother of all dummies, the subtlest of swerves. He caresses the ball with his right instep, pulls it back and spins to the right, retracing those 180 degrees. Olsson’s been packed off downtown, but his opponent is away in the other direction, making good for the touchline, and the Swedish box. A split second, and already there are a couple of yards between the players, Olsson struggling to stay upright as he realises he’s been diddled by a million-to-one shot, Cruyff striding into the area, free as a bird.

Those are the base mechanics of it, though a thousand words would never be quite enough to paint the full picture. No matter, as two suffice as a trigger to jog the memory: Cruyff Turn. The move became instantly world famous, seared indelibly on the brain, stored forever and available for replay on your mind’s eye-player. There it is! Cruyff Turn!

This was athletic, aesthetic, balletic brilliance out of the very top drawer. Cruyff was beginning, argued our reporter David Lacey, “to make the sort of impression on the competition that was left by Didi in 1958 and Garrincha in 1962”. Elite company – and that was the reason Olsson never felt ashamed about being diddled, reasoning, quite correctly, that nobody could have stopped a peak-era Cruyff from executing that trick, and in any case to be preserved in amber as an integral part of one of sport’s most magical moments isn’t the worst fate that can befall a player.

Cruyff’s turn came to symbolise the Total Football being played at the 1974 World Cup by the Dutch, somewhat erroneously perhaps, as it’s really all about one man’s other-worldly skill. Then again, the move does possess many of the trademarks of Holland’s constant carousel: a central midfielder and defender faffing around in tight spots down the right wing; another defender stepping forward to assume the role of playmaker; Cruyff patrolling the left which, if the Dutch footballers’ union had been far stricter about job demarcation, really should have been the beat of his team-mate Piet Keizer.

In any case, Total Football was less a tactical approach, more a state of mind. Haan explained the concept to the Observer’s man in Munich, Hugh McIlvanney: “People talk of total football as if it is a system, something to replace 4-2-4 or 4-3-3. It is not a system. As it is at any moment, so you play. That is how we understand. Not one or two players make a situation, but five or six. The best is that with every situation all 11 players are involved, but this is difficult. In many teams maybe only two or three play, and the rest are looking. In the Holland team, when you are 60 metres from the ball, you are playing.”

The Dutch proved the stars of the tournament. They saw off Uruguay 2-0, trounced Bulgaria 4-1, then started turning it on big-style in the second group stage, routing Argentina 4-0 before putting away the reigning world champions Brazil, who ended up resorting to base thuggery. Holland reached the final playing a new style of sexy soccer, and what’s more looked damn fine doing it, long hair flowing, love beads jangling, cheekbones glistening, the first football hipsters. (You can’t blame Cruyff for the way that particular trend developed, any more than you can finger Escoffier for McDonalds, or Laurel and Hardy for Sex Lives of the Potato Men.)

But there was a small flaw in the plan, which this most famous of moves inadvertently illustrated. The Cruyff Turn didn’t actually lead to anything. At all. Certainly nothing so crass as a goal. Having Harry Houdini’d his way into the Swedish area past Olsson, Cruyff flicked a nonchalant cross with the outside of his right foot towards Johnny Rep, level with the right-hand post, 10 yards out. Rep miscontrolled. Van Hanegem attempted to retrieve the situation by scampering across the face of the area from the right, but merely bounced to the floor off Bo Larsson, looking for a penalty kick that was never going to be awarded. Never mind: who remembers that bit anyway? This was art for art’s sake, more Whistler than Winterbottom, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that.

Providing you don’t mind not winning trophies, of course. The Dutch dominated the remainder of the Sweden match, but Rep and Keizer were off form up front, while the Swedish goalkeeper Ronnie Hellstroem was in an inspired and awkward mood. Indeed, Sweden could easily have nicked the win, Roland Sandberg fluffing a close-range shot on 81 minutes, Edstrom’s low fizzer being hacked away by a panicked Haan four minutes later. “It is a pity when you fail to produce a positive result after playing so well,” sighed Cruyff after the game. “We have played attacking and entertaining football.” His new party piece had symbolised the sparkling artistry of Total Football, but also served as a reminder that the purest forms of art are devoid of any utilitarian function whatsoever. No goal!

The Dutch masters also had to address another small problem: the hosts West Germany were world-class operators themselves, staffed with just as much (arguably even more) top-drawer talent. Holland had Cruyff, Rep, Haan and Johan Neeskens; the West Germans boasted Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Berti Vogts, Paul Breitner and Gerd Müller. Not only that, the Germans were reigning European champions, had several players from the Bayern Munich team that had recently deposed Ajax as the continent’s No1 club side, and were confident enough to sideline their own idiosyncratic genius, Günter Netzer.

And their manager Helmut Schön’s view of football, while not quite Total, was not too far removed from that of the Dutch. “His definition of a good team would satisfy the Total Football lobby,” reported this paper. “He says it is one in which attack and defence are equally strong and in which all players are engaged whether the team is attacking or defending. Defenders are involved when the team is attacking, and attackers are involved when the team is defending.” West Germany could certainly walk it like Schön talked it, the left-back Breitner’s winner against Chile in their first match of the 1974 finals illustrating the point. He scored from distance along the inside-right flank, the culmination of a move he’d started himself on the other side of the field. If you blinked, you could have been forgiven for thinking the Bayern prodigy was patrolling both wings at once. The more robust-looking Germans may not have been blessed with the sultry sass of the dynamic Dutch, but a goal like Breitner’s qualified as Total Football. Totally.

Having said all that, West Germany weren’t half as impressive in the early matches as Holland. They fell to an embarrassing defeat in the group stage to East Germany, though that proved a more political and ideological blow than a sporting one, given it sent them into the easier second-stage group alongside Poland, Sweden and Yugoslavia. Or, to put it another way, Not Holland, Not Holland, and Not Holland. It gave Schön’s side time, space and opportunity to get their chops up and hit their stride; by the time they reached the final, they were ready to square up to the best team in the tournament.

How three weeks of tournament football had changed perceptions! Before a ball had been kicked, West Germany were “the outstanding favourites” for the 1974 World Cup, according to both the bookmakers and David Lacey, the latter noting that while Australia, Haiti and Zaire were “obvious makeweights, there is remarkably little to choose between the other 12 countries”. Holland had only scraped into the finals thanks to a highly dubious offside decision that went against Belgium in qualification, and despite boasting the “star attraction” in Cruyff, were no more fancied to do well than Poland, Yugoslavia, Uruguay, Argentina or Italy. But the Dutch touchpaper had been lit – an oranje boom – by the sheer audacity of Cruyff’s turn. Holland, now poets in motion, went into the final as new, hot favourites over the hosts.

“In the Dutch players,” began Hugh McIlvanney’s Observer preview of the final, “as they take the field at the Olympic Stadium, the normal flutter of nerves is likely to be tranquilised by a deep conviction that they have the talent, the courage and the collective maturity to lay emphatic hold on the championship. All who have seen them play, who have thrilled to an attacking style at once so spirited and so cuttingly precise that the effect is of a cavalry charge of surgeons, must share that belief. Yet, for some of us, those echoes of events that took place so many seasons ago tend to form ice cubes in the blood.” The legendary scribe then went on to recall the fate of the Hungarians in the 1954 final. Where, of course, the darlings of the tournament came a cropper against resolute German underdogs.

The Dutch flew out of the blocks in the final, so much so that they were a goal up before West Germany had even touched the ball. After 16 passes stroked around the back from kick off, Cruyff suddenly drove forward from the centre circle and along the inside-left channel, before drawing a hapless challenge from Uli Hoeness. To nick the catchphrase of the greatest television commentator of the day: one nil!

Vogts was then booked for persistently fouling Cruyff, an achievement that was quite remarkable (thanks to the BBC’s David Coleman again) seeing only four minutes had elapsed. But this was about as good as it got for the Dutch. They enjoyed the lion’s share for the next 20 minutes or so, stroking the ball around, almost teasing their hosts. Never mind Total Football; Total Humiliation was on the cards. (Mind you, whether the Dutch were collectively hell bent on deliberately shaming their opponents, as the legend states, is a moot point. Van Hanegem certainly had payback for the atrocities of war on his mind, but the team as a whole didn’t goad the Germans with any notable arrogance in their play, or put on any bullfighter’s airs and graces; it was just that, when on song, as they were in these opening exchanges, Holland were simply better at retaining the ball and recycling possession).

But this approach, while giving Holland dominance, was not foolproof, and the dangers inherent in their laid-back, probing style became apparent soon enough. One 51-second passage of play saw the Dutch ping the ball around with signal insouciance, 11 passes which culminated in an aimless Haan cross from the right. Breitner headed upfield with straightforward purpose, instigating a quick break. Müller was only stopped from racing clear by a desperate last-ditch intervention by Rijsbergen.

“Misguidedly, Holland continued to slow the rhythm of their game,” reported Lacey. “Perhaps they thought they could win the World Cup without allowing Germany to play in the final. If so, it was a rash assumption, for the Germans needed only a goal to recover their poise and confidence.” The equaliser came after Wim Jansen was denied a chance to break into the German box by an imperious Beckenbauer interception, then made a proper horlicks of chasing back after Bernd Hölzenbein, who was making good towards the area up the other end. The German winger took all available advantage of Jansen’s clumsy lunge; a hint of moral turpitude in the ease with which he went over, perhaps, but the challenge was dafter than the dive was saucy. Breitner, aged 22, slotted the penalty away. Before this match, there had never been a penalty in a World Cup final, a run that had stretched 44 years. Now there had been two in 25 minutes.

Three minutes after the equaliser, West Germany should have taken the lead. And if you wanted an example of Total Football – or Ramba Zamba in the much more sing-song German parlance – then this was it, Vogts of all people exchanging passes with Hoeness down the inside left, then belting a shot towards the top-left corner. Jan Jongbloed palmed away. Despite all the early Dutch pressure, their keeper had now been forced into more meaningful action than his German counterpart Maier.

Cruyff quickly began to betray inner turmoil, voicing legitimate concerns at a couple of barely legitimate challenges from Vogts, who was treading a fine disciplinary line, but also coming out on top in the majority of their encounters. But while Vogts gets most of the credit for doing a number on Holland’s star man in this final, the unflappable Beckenbauer won perhaps the most important mental duel with Cruyff. On 35 minutes, Cruyff and Rep sprung into the German half with Breitner and Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck claiming offside, even though Cruyff received the ball in his own half. The Dutch pair were two on one with Beckenbauer, but the German captain held a central line as he tracked back, ensuring Cruyff couldn’t get a shot away. Cruyff was forced to lay off to Rep on the left, who sent the ball straight at Maier from a much more difficult angle. The star of the 1974 World Cup had been effortlessly shepherded away from danger, the loser of a battle that was less football, more One Man And His Dog.

The decisive moment came two minutes before half-time. One of Jürgen Grabowski’s increasingly dangerous sorties down the right ended with Müller resetting himself and screwing a shot towards the bottom left, away from a wrong-footed Jongbloed, eight yards out. Müller’s Twist was everything Cruyff’s turn was not. It looked inelegant and scrappy. It was also forensic and brutal. Müller had adjusted his body weight on the hoof, then brilliantly threaded the ball home. Doing what had to be done, he had opportunistically found a way to win the World Cup for his country. It was a swivel as skilful in its own way as Cruyff’s had been. It was just positioned in a different place along the spectrum.

That was that. The hosts held the lead at half-time and – with Cruyff whining at the referee as the pair left the field and receiving a booking as punishment – had the upper hand mentally, too. Holland would come at West Germany with great determination during the second period, pinning them back in their own area for the last half-hour or so, Rep guilty of an astonishing miss on 77 minutes as he failed to connect at close range with a low Wim Suurbier right-wing cross. But even then, the Germans looked the more likely to actually get the business done: they had a perfectly good Müller chest-down and finish ruled out by an appalling offside decision, and a good appeal for a second penalty turned down when Jansen upended Hölzenbein again, for real this time.

Poor Holland, who ended up suffering for their art. They’d bared their souls to show the world all they had, and refused to compromise, giving so much pleasure over the course of the tournament. But it was the hosts who were lifting the brand-new Fifa World Cup trophy (Brazil having made off with Jules Rimet’s goddess of victory with their third win four years earlier). A sporting tragedy for Cruyff not to get a winners’ medal, but then what sort of world would we live in if the likes of Beckenbauer and Müller didn’t have one in their collection? And at least Cruyff, the aesthete supreme, was leaving with a unique consolation prize. He went home with an (admittedly intangible) award for artistic merit: the Cruyff Turn ensured his own personal legend, as it became the defining image of the 1974 World Cup, the defining image of the great Dutch team of the Seventies, the defining image of one of the most talented, enchanting and magical players to ever breeze around a football field.

But is there an image that defines it all better? As Müller twisted again, in celebration at the final whistle of West Germany’s astonishing victory, Cruyff could be seen standing stock still in the middle of a melee, towering above a throng of associates and punters who had surrounded him to offer commiserations. A perfect portrait of existential pain, he’s looking straight ahead, ashen-faced, in a world of solitude, peering exactly one thousand yards into the distance. Another arresting snapshot, but this one said even more about his, and his famous team’s, ultimate failure to get the job done. Never has a man on a football pitch looked so disoriented, lost and alone. With the possible exception, of course, of poor old Jan Olsson.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2014/jun/11/world-cup-stunning-moments-johan-cruyff-turn-1974

De Futebol 1986 World Cup

Let’s take another trip in the way back machine. This time the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City.

The Guardians Rob Smyth:” The right-back was unknown, uncapped and unemployed before scoring twIn the summer of 1964, England took part in the Little World Cup in Brazil. It was a simple four-team league involving Portugal, Argentina and the hosts. England finished joint-bottom with Portugal. In their first match they were plugged 5-1 by Brazil in Rio. They commiserated with a night on the town, and were staggering around Copacabana beach the following morning when they were challenged to a game by some local kids.

It was an embarrassing mismatch: the England team, two years away from winning the Big World Cup, got absolutely slaughtered for the third time in 18 hours. Admittedly it was 12 v seven, and the seven had quaffed a few performance-diminishing substances the night before. But the story, told in Jimmy Greaves’s Don’t Shoot the Manager, reflects an eternal truth about Brazilian football: that there are brilliant, natural talents on every beach corner.

The ultimate symbol of that is Josimar, the two-hit wonder of Mexico 86. No World Cup has ever produced a better collection of goals – if you do only one thing with your lunch break today – and Josimar scored two monsters against Northern Ireland and Poland. He might as well have come straight out of the thin Mexican air. Nobody outside Brazil had heard of him; he wasn’t even in the Panini album.

He wasn’t just unknown – he was also uncapped and unemployed when he was called up to the Brazil squad at the last minute after the first-choice right-back Leandro pulled out. Four players missed a curfew but only one, the playboy winger Renato Gaúcho, was thrown out of the squad by the manager Telê Santana. Leandro, whose head was a mess at the time, pulled out in a kind of guilty solidarity.

Josimar had not played a game since mid-March, when his Botafogo contract expired. He was cooking and looking after his pregnant wife when he received a call telling him he was going to Mexico. In the best traditions, he thought it was a joke, politely said thank you and got on with his day. An hour later he received another call telling him where and when to report.

Édson Boaro, the back-up for Leandro who was now first choice, got injured after 10 minutes of the second match against Algeria. Josimar was not on the bench but he did replace Edson in the starting line-up against Northern Ireland six days later. He was strikingly tall for a full-back and formidably built, with a sinewy frame and thighs made of oak.

Brazil were 1-0 up with four minutes to go to half-time, keeping the ball with some lazy passing in Northern Ireland’s half. “Josimar … Júnior … Elzo … Alemao,” said BBC commentator John Motson, capturing the rhythmic groove of Brazil’s possession as Alemão played the ball square to Josimar. “Well, Careca and Casagrande are waiting for a cross.”

They’re still waiting. Josimar pushed the ball in front of him, sprinted on the spot in excitement at what he was about to attempt, and put his whole being into a shot. It was a ridiculous distance from which to shoot – 30 yards out and a long way to the right of centre – but the ball swooshed wickedly and arrowed past Pat Jennings into the far top corner.

The celebration was almost as iconic as the goal. Josimar went off on a mini lap of honour, both arms raised in the air, his face a picture of giddy disbelief. Years later, Jennings was asked by a small boy at a Q&A what it was like to be chipped by Josimar from 35 yards. “Son,” he said. “Your idea of a chip and my idea of a chip are two different things!”

For a full-back, a goal like that is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. So Josimar did it again four days later, rampaging through the Poland defence to batter the ball home from an absurd angle. It was the second goal in a 4-0 win that took Brazil into the quarter-finals, where they lost to France on penalties after a classic 1-1 draw.

Even though he only played three games, Josimar was included in Fifa’s team of the tournament, the only Brazilian apart from the centre-back Júlio César to make the XI. Botafogo re-signed him, and the media adopted him. “UM HERÓI DESEMPREGADO” (THE UNEMPLOYED HERO) was the headline of a feature in Placar. He also won an informal award as the most beautiful player of the tournament. “I’m just like coffee,” he said. “The ‘blackie’ that satisfies everyone.”

The fairytale soon became a cautionary tale. Josimar, like so many Brazilian footballers from poor backgrounds, was allergic to overnight fame. His life was tipped downside up and he surrendered to a hat-trick of vices: booze (especially whisky), cocaine and womanising.

Soon after Mexico, he started to make different kinds of headlines. He ended up in prison after hitting a prostitute who racially abused him when he tried to negotiate a cheaper price for an orgy that had already happened. A few years later, he threw his wallet out of the window when being chased by police; it was later found with three grams of coke in it. His brother, a cocaine addict, was also shot dead in a favela.

Josimar was one of the first bad boys of Brazilian football, a status that rankled. “Maradona and Edmundo were given second chances,” he said in a 1995 interview. “Why not me? Nobody ever proved anything against me. I only liked a bit of whisky.”

Many sportsmen never recover from their lowest point; Josimar never really got over the high of Mexico and his career drifted to nothing. In 1988 he almost went to Dundee United (the mind boggles at the thought of the relationship between Josimar and Jim McLean) and he was offered to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United (the mind boggles, etc) before having a shambolic spell at Sevilla. He did play a significant part in Botafogo’s legendary Campeonato Carioca victory in 1989, and was a bit-part player in Brazil’s victorious Copa América squad a month later. He won the last of his 16 caps in November 1989. Those two goals in Mexico were the only ones he scored for Brazil.

Josimar eventually found his way back on the rails with the help of the great right-back Jorginho. He embraced Christianity and now lives in the north of Brazil. He is still bitter about all the racism, the fake friends and his treatment in the press. His recent interviews suggest the internal tug-of-war between denial and regret is unresolved.

He is more fondly remembered abroad than in Brazil, where he is a curiosity in the national team’s lavish history. The rest of the world only really saw Josimar at Mexico 86 and then in the greatest theatre of all, the imagination. We assumed he was roofing 30-yarders every week. If the World Cup is our dream holiday, once every four years, then Josimar was a helluva of a holiday romance.

Globalisation, the internet and Football Manager have long since stripped football of its mystery. Josimar is a joyful lament for the past. His name – and what a name, by the way – evokes the innocence of ignorance, before the internet bred know-it-alls in more ways than one.

There was a mythical quality to Josimar’s goals. You would see them once in a blue moon – on a grainy home-made VHS that you had lovingly labelled ‘DON’T TAPE OVER’, perhaps, or if Grandstand had a feature on great long-range goals. YouTube has changed our memories of our memories, and probably softened some of the Proustian magic of his goals. But his association is as powerful as ever.

Norway’s best football magazine is called Josimar; there’s even a Scottish graphic designer who named his business after his Brazilian muse. Along with Salvatore Schillaci at Italia 90, Josimar is surely football’s greatest one-tournament wonder.

He is also often included in the list of lost talents. If anything he was the opposite, a good but not great player whose brief career peak was perfectly in sync with the apex of football’s four-year cycle. Brazil has millions of talented unknowns, sure – but few left a mark on the football world like Josimar.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2018/may/15/world-cup-stunning-moments-josimar-charms-the-world-at-mexico-86

De Futebol World Cup Stunning Moments France beats Brasil !

Let’s take a little trip in the way back machine for some more stunning World Cup moments.

The Guardians Jacob Steinberg:” The French celebrated a historic home victory while the rest of the world wondered what had happened to the previously imperious Ronaldo as he sleepwalked through the final.

As the Brazilian national anthem floated around the Stade de France, the camera kept lingering on one man. His identity was not a surprise. Ronaldo, after all, was the greatest player in the world, O Fenomeno, the star of a Brazil team that was hoping to become the first to retain the World Cup on two separate occasions. Nothing unusual about that, you might think; television prefers to focus on the talent and in 1998, no one was as ferociously talented as Ronaldo, whose supernatural mixture of power, pace and skill had made him the player every child in the playground wanted to be; at the age of 21, the hopes and dreams of a nation rested on his shoulders.

The assumption was that they were broad enough to handle the pressure – but this was not a normal evening, even by the manic standards of a World Cup final. Sixteen years on, the events of that Paris evening remain shrouded in mystery and intrigue, the murky circumstances that led to Ronaldo first being omitted from the Brazil team sheet and then reinstated some of the most bizarre – and, some insist, scandalous – the sport has seen. It is a depressing but still fascinating story of claim and counter-claim, of conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, of rumours of self-interest and political manoeuvring, of angry denials and scattergun accusations and, above all, a story where pinning down the truth can feel like a troublingly elusive task.

To this day, only a select group of people know what happened in the hours and minutes leading up to the final, what compelled Brazil’s coach, Mário Zagallo, to backtrack and name Ronaldo in his starting lineup. Given that it later transpired Ronaldo had suffered a seizure in his hotel room in the afternoon, was saved by his team-mates and had to be taken to hospital, this was hardly a case of a manager making a decision on tactical grounds. That was too tall a story to sell; the widespread belief was something bigger was at play.

The buildup

What we know is that on 12 July 1998, Brazil were in the World Cup final against the hosts, France, and because they had Ronaldo they were the favourites. At 7.48pm local time, 72 minutes before kick-off, the first team sheet was printed and submitted to Fifa, whose delegate surely did a double take once he had scanned the piece of extremely important paper in his hands. “Yes, everything seems in order here. Taffarel; Cafu, Júnior Baiano, Aldair, Roberto Carlos, Leonardo, Dunga (captain), César Sampaio, Rivaldo, Bebeto, Edmundo. Edmundo? Edmundo?! Wait a minute, where’s Ronaldo? Mr Zagallo, are you sure there’s no mistake?”

There was no mistake. Zagallo was said to have made his decision at about 5pm, telling Edmundo that he was in the team and Ronaldo, Brazil’s top scorer with four goals, was on the bench. He subsequently informed the rest of the team and, in an attempt to motivate them and lift their spirits, he reminded them that he was part of the Brazil side that won the 1962 final without Pelé.

A good try on his part but some of those players had earlier seen one of their team-mates, their talisman and an apparently healthy young man, convulsing on his bed.

The list was the first one given to journalists, just after 8pm, and the unofficial reason given for Ronaldo’s absence was that he was suffering from an ankle injury he had picked up in the semi-final against Holland five days earlier. Cue bedlam. Cue chaos. Cue questions as journalists scrambled around the press box, tripping over each other as they tried to find out what was going on. On the BBC, John Motson was in a magnificent frenzy. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my career,” he whirred. “The scenes in the commentary box have been absolute mayhem and chaos.”

Ronaldo’s omission had come out of the blue. Even though there had been allegations that his weight was higher than usual and there was also a hint of the knee problems that would afflict him later in his career, pain and stiffness caused by tendinitis restricting him throughout the tournament and requiring the use of painkillers to get him through matches, he had still been Brazil’s best player and he was expected both to start and dominate the final, even against a French side that contained some of the most formidable defenders in the world.

It was impossible not to be overcome by a sense of disappointment – no Ronaldo, no party. “He didn’t come to France to compete with the players of his generation but to seek a place amongst the best of the two millennia – this one and the coming,” Jorge Valdano wrote the day before the match. “If Romário, his predecessor, was subtlety, Ronaldo is exuberance. If Romário’s habitat was the penalty area, Ronaldo’s home would need to measure half the size of the pitch. If Romário is the past, Ronaldo’s almost cybernetic play belongs to the future.” To put it into context, imagine the reaction if Argentina reach the final in Brazil this summer and Lionel Messi is not playing. Twitter would crash, Jim White’s head would explode and over on ITV, Roy Keane would be glaring at Adrian Chiles.

Confusion reigned, and Brazil did not emerge for their warm-up, but rumours then started to circulate that a modified team sheet was on the way and Ronaldo was going to start after all. Sure enough, when it arrived at 8.18pm, a furious Edmundo was on the bench and Ronaldo was in the team. He had made quite the recovery in such a short space of time. Eyebrows were raised.

The match

Ronaldo was the last Brazil player out of the tunnel. The camera focused on him and continued to do so during the anthem, its attention diverted away to something less important every so often but always returning to its primary target before long, training its glare on Ronaldo as if it was trying to bore a way into his soul, to reveal to the world what was going on behind that impressively impassive look on his face.

For his part, Ronaldo’s poker face was giving nothing away. Or maybe he was in a daze. There was a hint of a smile, nothing more than that, and Ronaldo stayed still when the anthem finished. “Ronaldo,” ITV’s commentator, Brian Moore, said, “Well he’s come through that dramatic injury crisis.”

With the viewing public and the media still in the dark about what had occurred behind the scenes, there was an assumption that Ronaldo’s presence would swing the final in Brazil’s favour. Yet they had been heavily criticised throughout the tournament, a consequence of Zagallo’s caution, their rickety offence and their reliance on Ronaldo, who was quiet during the group stage but explosive in the knockout rounds, scoring twice and hitting the woodwork twice in the 4-1 win over Chile in the second round, creating a goal for Rivaldo in the 3-2 win over Denmark in the quarter-final and scoring in the semi-final against Holland, who were defeated on penalties.

Pelé felt Brazil were a collection of great individuals rather than a great team, while Johan Cruyff went further. “I said at the start of the tournament that I did not like this Brazilian team and I still say that. It would be really bad for football if Brazil won with such poor play because this team is imitated throughout the world.”

Writing on the morning of the match, Ruud Gullit said he was disappointed with Brazil and felt Holland had been the strongest side in the tournament until their elimination on penalties. But Brazil were mentally stronger than the Dutch and Zagallo was unrepentant about a gameplan that veered towards bus parking. “We couldn’t risk leaving any open spaces,” he said. “Otherwise we would have lost – easily.”

But as stoutly as Brazil defended against Holland, the sorry facade came crumbling down against France. Inside a minute, a long ball from Lilian Thuram caught out Baiano and Stéphane Guivarc’h, he of apostrophe and Newcastle fame, ran through to hook a glorious chance over the bar. Minutes later, Zinedine Zidane nutmegged Aldair, releasing Guivarc’h, who fluffed his lines again. A Zidane free-kick from the left found Youri Djorkaeff unmarked and he headed high and wide. Brazil were all over the place and Zagallo was soon off his seat, arms outstretched, demanding more from his players. Yet they could not raise their tempo, the lack of a warm-up unsettling them, and the sloppiness of their passing was only matched by the paucity of their imagination and the sluggishness of their movement.

And then there was the sleepwalking figure of Ronaldo, who barely touched the ball in the first half, was tracked and hassled everywhere by the persistent Frank Leboeuf, playing instead of the suspended Laurent Blanc, even when he dropped deep. On the few occasions that Ronaldo saw the ball, he was on the halfway line, had his back to goal and was slow to react, constantly allowing Leboeuf to step in front of him to win back possession for France.

Barely 20 minutes had been played and it was already clear that all was not well for Ronaldo, although the ITV commentators were not yet aware of the full extent of the situation; like the rest of us, they did not know about the fit. “If it was anyone else, he wouldn’t play but he is so vital and inspiring,” Kevin Keegan observed. “At the moment, it’s a gamble that hasn’t quite come off. My feeling on ankles is they don’t get better, they get worse the more you play. Look, again, on his heels there.” Moore agreed with his co-commentator. “The one thing he has is electric pace and you need strong ankles for that,” he said. Ronaldo lost another battle with Leboeuf and Keegan said: “He doesn’t look in any way up for it.”

There were only fleeting glimpses of Ronaldo’s coruscating speed. Midway through the first half he burst past Thuram on the left and although he sliced his cross, France’s goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez, almost flapped it over the line. Then, shortly after Zidane had headed France into the lead from Emmanuel Petit’s 27th-minute corner, Dunga knocked a straight ball over the France defence for Ronaldo to chase but out came Barthez, taking out ball and striker in one go. Ronaldo lying prone on the ground was the last thing Brazil wanted to see but he got up after a while.

France, meanwhile, were enjoying themselves and after Petit, Djorkaeff and Guivarc’h wasted further opportunities, Zidane headed in his second just before half-time. Again Brazil had been found wanting at a corner, this time from Djorkaeff’s delivery. Zidane, who had been in disgrace after his foolish red card against Saudi Arabia in the group stage, had finally arrived on the big stage after disappointing in successive Champions League final defeats for Juventus against Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. “I’m not very good with my head,” he Trevor Brooking-ed.

That much was evident when he lost his cool against the Saudis and France laboured without him against Paraguay in the second round, but he returned against Italy in the quarter-finals and then played in the Thuram-inspired victory over Croatia in the semi-finals. “Zidane, Zidane, Zidane … France was in the grip of ‘zizoumania’,” Marcel Desailly wrote in his autobiography. “I never imagined it could grow to such proportions. Sometimes I asked myself if one human could withstand such passion. And did he, in any case, quite resist it? At the start of the tournament we found him a little febrile, more stretched, more demanding than usual, at least on the pitch. That febrility culminated in his expulsion against Saudi Arabia. And after a moment of depression, he reacted like a champion and started to prepare himself for the quarter-final.”

Desailly’s comments offer an insight into the suffocating pressure placed on the most gifted players during major tournaments and even after that torrid first half, Zagallo did not remove Ronaldo, whose one sight of goal resulted in him firing straight at Barthez after 55 minutes. Roberto Carlos, his closest friend in the squad, wondered whether it was too much for him and said that Ronaldo had been “in tears in the night and in the afternoon he went yellower than our shirts”.

Although Desailly was sent off for a second booking and, belatedly, Brazil stirred into life as the match wore on – with Ronaldo lasting the 90 minutes and Edmundo introduced with 15 minutes to go – they were caught on the break towards the end, Patrick Vieira setting up Petit for France’s third. Brazil had been comprehensively beaten. France were the world champions.

The fallout

While France celebrated their first World Cup, an inquest into Brazil’s non-performance was beginning to rumble. The spotlight was thrust upon Zagallo and he admitted the fears over Ronaldo affected his team psychologically. “For the whole of the first half I was wondering whether to take him off,” he said. But Zagallo became angry when probed further about Ronaldo’s condition and eventually stormed out of the room, shouting “I have my dignity.” All was not well.

So why didn’t Zagallo remove Ronaldo? First, he said, he did not fancy dealing with the outcry if he had substituted him. Yet conspiracy theories also abounded, the most prominent of which was that Nike had pressurised Brazil into playing Ronaldo. Two and two were added together and it was alleged that Nike used its £105m sponsorship deal with the CBF, the Brazilian football federation, to push for the inclusion of the most marketable player. “Here was a 21-year-old player, the best player in the world, surrounded by contracts and pressure,” Roberto Carlos said. “It was as if this was always going to happen to him. Something had to give. And when it did, it happened to be the day of the World Cup final.”

For many in Brazil, pointing the finger of blame at a major corporation made sense and gave a voice to fears that money was ruining the people’s game. As the protests in Brazil against Fifa and this year’s World Cup have demonstrated, that feeling has not gone away. However, Nike swiftly and strongly denied allegations that it had exerted any influence over Ronaldo and was never proven to have done anything untoward.

Slowly but surely, though, details began to seep out and it became clear that the supposed ankle injury was a cover story. “It was as if a malaise had come over him,” Roberto Carlos said. “Not even he knew what was going on.”

The team doctor, Lídio Toledo, spoke to the media and said: “He was not feeling well this afternoon and now he’s better. What happened to him? Quite simply, he felt faint and after that he went to rest. I stress that he is feeling better now.”

Perhaps he was but soon the Brazilian newspaper O Globo was reporting that the decision had been taken out of the hands of Zagallo and Toledo by Ricardo Teixeira, the head of the CBF and the son-in-law of João Havelange, the outgoing president of Fifa.

The paper claimed Teixeira was told that Ronaldo had to play and also that the player had said he was ready. The only statement Ronaldo made was to tell Globo television a few weeks later that he was not a coward. He has since maintained that he was fit. At a low-key reception to welcome home the squad, he recalled the moment his world fell apart. “I don’t remember properly but I went to sleep and then, like the doctor said, it seems I had a seizure for 30 or 40 seconds,” Ronaldo said. “I woke up and then my whole body was in pain. But with time the pain got less and I relaxed a bit.”

Brazilians were unsatisfied. Zagallo lost his job. Coaches followed him out the door, doctors too, and an inquest was launched in Brazil’s national congress. There it emerged that the squad had lunch before the final, before returning to their rooms at the Château de Grande Romaine hotel at about 2pm, whereupon Ronaldo, who was with Roberto Carlos, began to have a fit, his body convulsing and his mouth frothing. When Roberto Carlos began screaming for help, Edmundo, who was in the next room, came in to find the shocking scene.

“César Sampaio, the defender, was the first person to administer first aid,” Alex Bellos wrote in the Guardian in 2002. “He got to Ronaldo before the doctors did and, with Edmundo holding him down, put his hand in Ronaldo’s mouth to unravel his tongue and prevent him swallowing it.” Ronaldo then fell asleep. People looked in on him every minutes but he did not wake up until tea, when Leonardo insisted that he should be told about what happened.

Toledo and one of his colleagues, Dr Joaquim da Mata, examined Ronaldo and he was taken to the Lilas clinic in Paris at 5pm. One suggestion, made at a later date, was that Ronaldo had been given a valium to calm him down but the tests showed nothing and he was given the all-clear at 6.30pm, arriving at the stadium at 8.10pm and telling Zagallo that he wanted to play. So he played, apparently neither the manager nor the team doctors wishing to stand in his way. “Imagine if I stopped him playing and Brazil lost,” Toledo told the commission. “At that moment I’d have to go and live on the North Pole.”

Zagallo also angrily denied he had been ordered to pick Ronaldo. “If there had been interference, I would have resigned,” he said. “I have never accepted interference as coach of any club or national team.”

For all Zagallo’s protests, it was highly debatable whether Ronaldo was the best person to decide whether he was ready to play the biggest game of his life seven hours after having a convulsion. Professor Alex Caetano de Barros, employed by Internazionale, Ronaldo’s club, to examine the striker, said letting him play was “an absolute error, since the 24 hours after a convulsion are those when a recurrence is most likely”.

Could the painkillers Ronaldo was taking have been behind his collapse? A month after the final, Da Mata spoke out. “Never, in all these years, have I seen before a player with a convulsion,” he said. “I see young Ronaldo that day and I’m thinking tragedy.” He said that he had prescribed a common painkiller after Ronaldo aggravated a knee injury early in the tournament and said it was taken orally rather than being administered via an injection, which would have been too dangerous. “The medicine we use is not so strong, to cause convulsion,” Da Mata concluded.

Globo would also hear from an anonymous team official that Ronaldo was given an injection of a cortisone with anaesthetic on the morning of the final. It was later claimed in the Brazilian press that the drug had entered a vein accidentally.

Whatever the truth, and there are many shades of grey here, Jogo Bonito has rarely looked so ugly. But there was to be a happy ending when, after four years of being tormented by knee injuries, Ronaldo grabbed his chance of World Cup redemption by scoring the goals that helped Brazil beat Germany in the final in 2002. Older, wiser and a little larger, O Fenomeno was back.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2014/may/08/world-cup-stunning-moments-25-ronaldo-france

De Futebol World Cup stunning moments!

Let’s take a trip in the way back machine. The Guardians John Ashdown:” In 1934 a revolutionary Austrian side reached the World Cup semi-finals on the back of a storming run. History beckoned. And then turned its back

On the morning of 23 January 1939 Gustav Hartmann burst through the door of a Vienna apartment in search of an old friend. He found him, lying naked alongside his unconscious lover. Matthias Sindelar, Der Papierene, the greatest footballer in Austrian history, shining star of the Wunderteam, the forward fulcrum around whom a ground-breaking new style of play wowed Europe in the early 1930s, was dead. He was 36.

The most prosaic explanation is the most likely – carbon monoxide poisoning due to a blocked chimney flue was the cause of death recorded on the police report both for Sindelar and, a few hours later, his partner Camilla Castagnola. But conspiracy theories still abound. The Gestapo had a file on him and had kept his cafe under surveillance. He had celebrated rather too wildly in front of a batch of furious Nazi top brass after scoring against Germany in a game to celebrate the Anschluss (a fixture that was “supposed” to end in a draw) then refused to play for the unified team. Was it murder? A state killing? Suicide? No one will ever truly know for certain, but Castagnola’s neighbours had complained about the chimney problems earlier in the month.

Sindelar’s passing serves as a tragic epilogue to the golden days of Austrian football, one that begins with old English gents and Scottish tourists and ends with Nazis, conspiracy, misery and death. In between there came something magical: the Wunderteam, pioneers of the flexible, passing style that inspired Hungary in the 1950s and was taken to its apotheosis by Holland in the 1970s and Spain in the past six years. They were, at their peak, probably the best in the world. But as far as the 1934 World Cup was concerned that peak came just too soon. Even if they weren’t quite at the heights they reached in 1932, they still stormed into the semi-finals on the back of a breathtaking run that had seen them score 101 goals in 31 games over three years. Only Italy, who had been dispatched 4-2 in a Gero Cup match prior to the tournament, stood between them and a place in the final. History beckoned. And then cruelly turned its back.

The story of football in Austria goes back to the late 19th century and the European expansion of British trade. As Willy Meisl, whose brother Hugo was the managerial mastermind behind the Wunderteampoints out in his seminal Soccer Revolution, the Austrian public took to the game with gusto and five years after the first match between two Vienna sides in 1894, the first British touring team turned up at the Westbahnhof. It didn’t go particularly well for the hosts – Oxford University beat a combined Vienna XI 15-0 on Easter Sunday 1899. Another game on Easter Monday finished 13-0. A year later the first professional side visited – Southampton again took on a combined team, this time winning only 6-0.

But the key visit came in 1905. Rangers hammered teams just as the Saints and the students had done a few years before, but they did it in such style that Austrian football would be moulded in their image over the next three decades (in turn Rangers were so impressed with the young goalkeeper Karl Pekarna that they gave him a contract and took him back to Glasgow). Pass and move became the Austrian groove.

In 1926 the 23-year-old Sindelar, darling of the intelligentsia, made his debut for the national side under Hugo Meisl, who had taken control of the team in 1919. The centre-forward was the embodiment of the Austrian style – the triumph of mind over muscle, the pen that was mightier than the sword. The bohemian bourgeoise had taken the game to their hearts in Vienna and in Der Papierene, the Paper Man, they saw a player whose artistry matched their own.

And Paper Man is no exaggeration. Footage of Sindelar is limited to a few seconds of scratchy black and white newsreel, but there is no mistaking his startlingly slight, almost gaunt, frame. As builds go he brings no one to mind more than C Montgomery Burns in an era where centre-forwards were supposed to be Rainier Wolfcastles.

Sindelar scored on his debut, a 2-1 win over the Czechs in Prague, bagged two more in a 7-1 demolition of Switzerland, and then a fourth in three games against Sweden. But Meisl then hesitated to go on breaking the mould, and turned back to the more traditional centre-forward strengths of Josef Uridil. Sindelar was The Paper Man, Uridil was The Tank.

Sindelar was restricted to a bit-part role for the rest of the 20s. He played in the 2-0 win over Switzerland in October 1928, had to wait nearly 18 months for his next taste of action in Prague in a 2-2 draw with Czechoslovakia and then spent a year watching from the stands as the national side stuttered over the course of seven matches, only two of which they won.

After that set of indifferent results, Meisl could ignore the clamour for his inclusion no longer and Sindelar was thrown back into the fray when Scotland visited Vienna in May 1931. Der Papierene scored his first international goal since 1926, Scotland were hammered 5-0 and the Wunderteam was born.

Over the next two years Sindelar, playing as a kind of 1930s prototype false ninewould score 16 goals in 16 games as the Austrians battered allcomers. Germany were belted 6-0 in Berlin, then taken apart 5-0 in Austria. The Swiss were beaten 8-1 in Basle, the Italians 2-1 in Vienna, the Hungarians 8-2, the Swedes 4-3.

“He was truly symbolical of Austrian soccer at its peak period: no brawn but any amount of brain,” writes Willy Meisl of Sindelar. “Technique bordering on virtuosity, precision work and an inexhaustible repertoire of tricks and ideas. He had a boyish delight in soccer exploits, above all in unexpected twists and moves which were quickly understood and shared by his partners brought up on the same wavelength, but were baffling to an opposition only a fraction of a second slower.”

In December 1932, with the Wunderteam perhaps at their peak, they became the third overseas side to be invited to England. Previous visitors from the continent had gone home with their tails between their legs – Belgium had been beaten 6-1 in 1923 and 4-0 a year later, while Spain had lost 7-1 at Highbury in 1931. With his team slightly off-colour in the matches leading up to the game at Stamford Bridge Meisl invited his old friend Jimmy Hogan, an Englishman and proponent of the passing style who had long been coaching in central Europe and would later be credited as the inspiration behind Hungary’s victory at Wembley in 1953, back into the coaching set-up having first introduced the Scotsman to Viennese football as far back as 1912.

England raced into a 2-0 lead early on and though the visitors dominated after the break they could only pull the score back to 4-3. “It was in that first half-hour that Austria lost her chance of bringing off a sensation compared with which Hungary’s victory at Wembley in 1953 would seem unimportant,” Willy Meisl mourned. For the English the result was seen as a triumph for physicality over finesse and an object lesson in the limitations of the passing game. They would have to wait another 21 years for their wake-up call and the Mighty Magyars.

Austria got that setback out of their collective system four days later with a 6-1 win in Belgium and normal service was resumed, the cream of the continent left mesmerised by the revolutionary – in more ways than one – movement of Sindelar and co. Der Papierene was far from alone – Josef Smistik was hugely influential in the centre-half role in Meisl’s 2-3-5. Josef Bican was only 21 at the time of the 1934 World Cup but would go on to be one of the greatest goalscorers of all time. Johann Horvath was a dervish at inside-left, Rudi Hiden one of the great pre-second world war goalkeepers.

By the time the tournament rolled around the Wunderteam were indeed past their peak but not by much – their four matches prior to the tournament had been that 4-2 win over Italy in Turin, a 3-2 away win against Switzerland, a 5-2 win over Hungary and a 6-1 win over Bulgaria in a qualifier. They began the tournament – then in a straight knockout format – with an unconvincing 3-2 extra-time win over France.

Then came the quarter-final tussle with the old enemy – Hungary. It was a full-blown battle in Bologna but Austria prevailed, with Horvath and Karl Zischek scoring in a 2-1 win.

While Austria had grown increasingly cerebral in their football, Italy, under Vittorio Pozzo, had become more and more combative. “In Luisito Monti, a naturalised Argentinian who had played in the 1930 World Cup final, Pozzo found the perfect man for the [método] role – a hard, ruthless tackler who could also read the game and pass the ball,” wrote Jonathan Wilson in 2012. “Pozzo was an early devotee of man-marking and there was a steeliness and nationalistic fervour about his sides that was not to all tastes, but their effectiveness is beyond doubt.”

Their own quarter-final with Spain was a slugfest to make the battle in Bologna look tame. Ricardo Zamora, the Spanish goalkeeper, was so battered and bruised that he was unable to play in the replay the following day, a replay that Italy won 1-0 thanks to Giuseppe Meazza’s early goal.

That set up a classic clash of styles – Pozzo’s man-marking, bruising, steamroller versus Hugo Meisl’s “Danubian waltz”. The dark arts versus the passing purists. Athletes against aesthetes.

Pozzo’s athletes won out. On a San Siro pitch that was a bobbly bog patched with sand and with rain teaming down Italy took an early lead. Peter Platzer, in goal for the injured Rudi Hiden, collected a low cross, felt the full force of Meazza’s challenge and Enrique Guaita poked home what would prove, with Sindelar marked out of the game by Monti, to be the only goal of the game.

In the final Czechoslovakia, also proponents of the Meisl passing philosophy, took the lead with 19 minutes left but Raimundo Orsi equalised and Angelo Schiavio scored the winner for Italy in extra time. The triumph was not without controversy – the referee who had allowed Italy’s goal to stand in the semi-final, Ivan Eklind of Sweden, was conveniently enough appointed once more for the final. Spain had complained vehemently about a foul in the buildup to the Italy goal in the quarter-final replay. The shadow of Benito Mussolini lies across the tournament.

The Wunderteam’s chance of World Cup glory had gone, they failed to rouse themselves for the third-place play-off, losing to Germany, and though they reached the final of the 1936 Olympic football tournament (where they again lost to Italy), the Anschluss meant there would be no Austrian team at the 1938 World Cup, although several members of the 1934 squad turned out for the German team.

Sindelar was not among them. And less than five years after what could, maybe should, have been a crowning glory for Meisl and Austria’s WunderteamDer Papierene was dead, leaving behind a legacy of football genius and a sense of mystery that had not dissipated when, six months after the events on the Annagasse in Vienna in January 1939, the Nazi regime ordered the public prosecutor to close the as yet unresolved investigation into Sindelar’s death.

“The good Sindelar followed the city, whose child and pride he was, to its death,” wrote the writer Alfred Polgar, who was very much in the conspiracy camp. “He was so inextricably entwined with it that he had to die when it did. All the evidence points to suicide prompted by loyalty to his homeland. For to live and play football in the downtrodden, broken, tormented city meant deceiving Vienna with a repulsive spectre of itself. But how can one play football like that? And live, when a life without football is nothing?”

Romanticism aside, Austria’s Wunderteam deserve to be remembered – along with the Total Footballing Dutch, the Hungarians of 1954 and the Brazil teams of 1950 and 1982 – as one of the greatest sides never to lift the World Cup.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2014/apr/22/world-cup-stunning-moments-austria-wunderteam