De Futebol Stick a fork in em Argentina is done! Almost!

Argentina got their asses kicked by Croatia. Croatia wins 3-0. Argentina is on the verge of not making it out of Group D.

Nigeria defeated Iceland 2-0.

Croatia is top dog with six points and has advanced to the round of sixteen.

Nigeria is second with three points.

Iceland is third with a point  a minus two and Argentina is fourth with a point a minus three

The Guardians Stuart James:” Jorge Sampaoli held his head in his hands. Lionel Messi stared at the floor. The rest of the Argentina players were speechless, standing with hands on hips and gazing aimlessly into space as wild Croatia celebrations broke out all around. Luka Modric had just filed a contender for the goal of the tournament showreel and twisted the knife in the process, leaving Argentina, twice world champions, on the brink of elimination. By the time Ivan Rakitic added a third, in the 91st minute, Argentina were broken.

This was about as humiliating as it gets for Argentina as the limitations of a team that only just managed to qualify for the World Cup were brutally exposed. Messi, their talisman and inspiration, was a passenger throughout, lost in a game that took place around him as Argentina, abject defensively, overrun in midfield and clueless going forward, crumbled in the face of a terrific Croatia side.

To put an extraordinary evening into some sort of context, this was Argentina’s heaviest defeat in the group stage of a World Cup since losing 6-1 to Czechoslovakia in 1958. It is also the first time they have failed to win either of their opening two matches at a World Cup for 44 years. Sampaoli’s players, in other words, were creating history here – just not the sort of history that Messi had in mind when he came out of international retirement two years ago.

Messi could never have envisaged when he made that decision that Argentina would descend into such a sorry mess, encapsulated by the sight of Willy Caballero, who made his first competitive start for his country on Saturday, making the sort of blunder that will live with him for ever. Ante Rebic was the grateful recipient of a dreadful pass that sent Sampaoli, who must have covered more yards than some of his players as he paced up and down the touchline in a blind panic, into a meltdown.

What followed showed just how weak and brittle Argentina are these days as Croatia took the game away from Sampaoli’s side with alarming ease. Modric, shifting the ball one way and then the other, curled an exquisite 25-yard shot past Caballero, before Rakitic completed the rout by tapping in the third.

As Croatia’s jubilant supporters celebrated the sight of their country winning back-to-back World Cup matches for the first time since 1998 – they finished third that year – the Argentina fans sat in silence, wiping tears from their eyes as they tried to digest a woeful performance that prompted Sampaoli to “beg for forgiveness”.

With one point on the board and a final group game against Nigeria to come, Argentina could still qualify for the last 16. Yet it is hard – almost impossible – to imagine how Sampaoli and his players can possibly recover from such a chastening experience and one that highlighted all the concerns that had been voiced before a ball had been kicked at this World Cup, not least the unhealthy extent to which Argentina are dependent on Messi.

It felt strange, almost uncomfortable at times, to see Messi struggling to emerge from the shadows of this game, waiting for the pass that never came and powerless to bend the match into Argentina’s favour after Caballero’s error. He is still looking for his first goal at this tournament and may not get another chance after the Nigeria game, although Sampaoli summed it up rather succinctly when he was asked about the inevitable comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo’s contribution for Portugal. “The reality of the Argentina squad clouds Leo’s brilliance,” Sampaoli said.

Messi is so often the scapegoat when Argentina lose, yet Sampaoli will not escape the fallout this time. His decision to keep faith with Caballero – something that one reporter told him 40 million Argentinians could not understand – badly backfired and it was also a huge gamble to dispense with a four-man defence and set up with a back three instead. A huge gamble that spectacularly failed.

Croatia sensed vulnerability early on and targeted the flanks, where so much space opened up behind the two Argentinian wing-backs. Ivan Perisic, Mario Mandzukic and Rebic all had excellent chances to open the scoring before Caballero pressed the self-destruct button. Only he knows why he chose not to punt upfield when Gabriel Mercado, running towards his own goal, passed the ball back to him. Instead, Caballero tried to return the ball to Mercado with a little chip, horribly miscued and gifted Rebic a chance that he was not going to refuse. The winger volleyed the ball straight back over Caballero’s head and Croatia were on their way to one of their most famous victories.

Sampaoli then rolled the dice. He replaced Sergio Agüero with Gonzalo Higuaín, brought on Cristian Pavón and introduced Paulo Dybala, as he became more and more desperate. Messi, with a rare sight of goal, had a close-range effort blocked by Rakitic, his Barcelona teammate, after Maximiliano Meza had been denied by Danijel Subasic, Croatia’s goalkeeper, but there was nothing menacing about Argentina’s play.

Croatia, in contrast, looked threatening every time they attacked and ran riot late on. Modric’s goal was a beauty and Rakitic, who hit the bar with a free-kick, slotted in the third to put Zlatko Dalic and his players in dreamland. “We were excellent,” Dalic said. “But now we must be calm, dignified and humble.”

De Futebol France shutout Peru! Voce Vai Peru!

France defeated Peru 1-0 to advance to the round of sixteen. Peru is sent packing.

The Guardians Amy Lawrence:” The audacity of youth was unfurled all its swaggering glory. Kylian Mbappé bounded off after scoring the match-winner to decide an absorbing game, his first on this stage, and one that could not have been easier. Then he suddenly stopped and shrugged, as if to say, what is the fuss all about?

Life moves pretty fast for Mbappé. The whirlwind forward, already the most expensively valued teenager in football, became France’s youngest ever goalscorer at a major tournament and took it all in that easy stretch of a stride.

He broke a record that had stood since the World Cup in 1998 (just a few months before he was born) when David Trezeguet scored against Saudi Arabia. In a moment of sweet symmetry, a grey-suited Trezeguet just happened to be watching on from the stands in Ekaterinburg, a guest of honour for this match.

It was riveting, its tightly bound emotions propelling both teams to give everything to reach their stated goal. France found a mix of enough style and substance to seal qualification. Unfortunately for Peru, their was no reward for their gutsy, energised display. A second defeat ends their hopes of reaching the next round, even if the adventure off the pitch with their army of fervent supporters will go on for the next game at least. At times this felt like the Lima of the Urals, with Peru’s bouncing red and white mass crammed into the seats that had lain empty for Egypt against Uruguay.

The excitement levels were raised in the 6th minute when Yoshimar Yotún tried an audacious lob from close to the half way line. It skimmed the roof of Hugo Lloris’s net. France needed sangfroid. When they pieced together some early possession the whistles cascaded down from the stands, so they needed to master the atmosphere as well as the technical questions of the game all at once.

The inclusion of Olivier Giroud, designed to give the team more balance and to allow others around him to have more freedom to do damage, made an instant impression. Giroud bustled up front, fighting for possession and looking every inch the big man towering over Peru’s defenders. He gave France a target that was perfect for Antoine Griezmann and Mbappé to buzz around. They put Peru under pressure with a series of chances which all originated from Giroud’s knock-downs and buildup play. Griezmann twice darted on to shoot. Mbappé was sandwiched by defenders as he sped onto another assist. The chances, ominously for Peru, kept coming as the influential Paul Pogba let fly from long range and Raphaël Varane glanced wide from a corner.

Peru had to hang on, regain a footing, and they suddenly found room to carve an opening on the half hour mark. Miguel Trauco’s cross sliced through the France defence and Paolo Guerrero intuitively stepped in front of Samuel Umtiti for a one-on-one with Lloris. He shot low but it was close enough for the France keeper to parry.

The response came quickly. Pogba won the ball off Guerrero in the centre of midfield and played a clever pass for Giroud, whose effort took a looping ricochet off Alberto Rodríguez. The ball spun, almost in slow motion, and as Peru’s stranded goalkeeper could only helplessly watch the trajectory Mbappé arrived to tap into the empty net.

The moments when Mbappé and Greizmann put set the afterburners purring were too much for Peru. Mbappé even began to showboat, with a flick here and a chop there, enjoying the opportunity to express himself.

Ricardo Gareca made changes at half-time. Desperate measures and all that. On came Jefferson Farfán to provide another attacking option paired with Guerrero. Peru were soon on the attack, and Pedro Aquino shot with glorious power and swerve only to see his effort crack against a post.

Peru had fresh wind in their sails and swarmed forward with extra intent. The crosses were fizzed in, André Carillo swept a shot over the bar and Luis Advíncula smashed in another that was even more fierce. Farfán whipped in from an angle and hit the side-netting. The crowd did their utmost to will one of these opportunities in as the emotion swirled around the stadium.

It was not to be. Lloris collected his 100th cap without ever being overly troubled and France advance emboldened by their improvement.

De Futebol Uruguay wins 1-0! On to the next round

Uruguay is on the round of sixteen with a less than convincing 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

The Daily Mail:” Luis Suarez scored on his 100th international appearance to send Uruguay through to the knockout stage along with hosts Russia as Saudi Arabia and Egypt were eliminated from Group A.

The Barcelona star became the first Uruguayan to score at three different World Cup finals when he prospered from another Saudi blunder midway through the first half in sweltering Rostov.

It was just as well too because it was a second flat performance at this tournament from a team boasting the likes of Suarez and Edinson Cavani following an unconvincing win over Egypt in their opener.

For the Saudis, there was at least a measure of redemption in the wake of their horror show against the Russians. They remain on a 12-game winless streak at the World Cup going back 24 years, and will be hoping to sign off with a win against Egypt in what is now a dead rubber.

They had endured a miserable start to the tournament following that embarrassing 5-0 defeat to Russia in Moscow. Even their team flight to Rostov had gone badly after one of the engines caught fire.

The nation’s sports authority chief Turki al-Sheikh had to apologise to Saudi heir Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after admitting that the team gave ‘less than five per cent effort’ in their Group A opener.

Football federation chief Adel Ezzat went one step further by naming and shaming three of the players – goalkeeper Abdullah Almuaiouf, striker Mohammed Alsahlawi and defender Omar Hawsawi – while vowing they would face a ‘penalty’ by a state not known for its leniency.

Being dropped is the very least they could have expected, and it was no surprise to see coach Juan Antonio Pizzi name all three on the bench as he made a total of four changes.

On the other hand, Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez made just two as the inclusion of Carlos Sanchez and Cristian Rodriguez meant that the South Americans started with seven players over the age of 31.

If there was any hope for Saudi Arabia, it was Uruguay’s difficulty in breaking down Egypt in their opening game before winning with a late goal. It was a similar story here for the first quarter before the favourites capitalised on more kamikaze defending from their opponents to take the lead.

Replacement goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais, winning just his second cap, rushed out to meet a corner in the 23rd minute but ended up flapping at thin air under pressure from Diego Godin. Suarez was waiting unmarked to meet the ball with a side-footed volley from close range.

At that stage, you feared another Saudi collapse but they actually rallied to create two chances before half-time.

Both efforts came from Hatan Bahbri who cut inside from the right after 26 minutes and unleashed a fine effort that forced Fernando Muslera to tip the ball over his bar.

Bahbri should have done better three minutes later when Godin lost track of Yasser Alshahrani’s cross from the left. The ball fell at the No.9’s feet and he seemed to be caught by surprise as he steered his effort over.

Saudi had to make a change before the interval when Taiseer Aljassam pulled a hamstring as he overstretched for the ball, but was rather bizarrely retrieved from the tunnel and thrust back into the action for a few moments before Hussain Almoqahwi was ready to come on as a replacement.

However, they continued to match their highly-rated opponents whose slender lead was looking increasingly precarious as the second half progressed.

Tabarez sent Lucas Torreira and Diego Laxalt in an attempt to raise his team, and they almost added a second just after the hour mark when Cavani’s excellent cross picked out Carlos Sanchez but his header flew well over the bar.

Cavani also went close on two occasions but, ultimately, Suarez’s strike was enough to send Uruguay and Russia through. However, the South Americans will need to raise their game in the second stage if they are to justify their tag as dark horses to win the World Cup.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.