Saving Hoddles for the weekdays meant the obituaries piled up over the weekend, so I am about to throw five at you. Today’s music recommendation if you find yourself getting misty-eyed: The Fray’s “How to Save a Life.”
Ramble of the Day
As Friday’s World Cup action got started, Costa Rica lined up against Brazil. The next 90 minutes, in a quick summary, flatters the North Americans, as it took the five-time world champions a full 90 minutes to score, but last time’s Cinderella side was hardly as memorable this time around. The attacking talent could not find a rhythm, as two games and zero goals scored indicates, leaving the defense to hope for the best. Ultimately, though, this was an unmemorable trip to the World Cup for the Ticos, who follow up a trip to the quarterfinals in Brazil with a group stage exit in Russia.
Tunisia will leave the World Cup more memorably, but not in a particularly positive way. Spending a majority of their two matches before clinching elimination defending the likes of Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku was no easy task; a 5-2 drubbing by Belgium to all but book the tickets home demonstrates that perfectly. The Tunisians will take the smallest of victories home with them in exposing a few defensive weaknesses of the Belgians in the process, but no clear silver lining.
South Korea soon joined the club, playing an incredibly physical game that reaped very few rewards. The team’s parting gift was an impressive goal right at the end against Mexico scored by, of course, Son Heung-Min, but it was hardly any consolation. Much like Costa Rica, other than sloppiness, there is very little to remember about South Korea’s trip to Russia other than off-the-field antics with Sweden and the aforementioned goal; like Tunisia, there are no obvious positives to take out of it, either.
Panama, though, left Russia with a drubbing and a reason to celebrate. Down 6-0 to England in the 78th minute, the team’s 37-year-old captain, Felipe Baloy, made it 6-1. It hardly mattered in Russia, but to Panamanians everywhere else, they finally got to do what so many others have done: they celebrated their side scoring a goal at the World Cup for the first ever time. They may have accomplished little else other than keeping Belgium out for an entire half, but the joy from Baloy’s goal is hard to ignore — and forget.
A celebration years in the making!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 24, 2018
Panama fans around the world got hyped after their first-ever FIFA World Cup goal. pic.twitter.com/eGlRYgwz5y
Finally, Poland were the first to exit Group H, clearly the inferior of Colombia, Japan, and Senegal. Poland was the only one of these four to not bother entertaining the audience; while the other three managed ambitious attacking football that sometimes led to open games, the Poles did not come close. They also did not match the quality of their opponents, despite the recognizable names on the team sheet. In a sense, it was the purest form of football justice: the most boring team went home first, leaving very few impressed or excited in the process.
tl;dr: Looks like I was mean today to the World Cup teams eliminated over the weekend.
Links of the Day
FIFA has opened up disciplinary proceedings against Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaquiri following their 2-1 defeat of Serbia, and will investigate Serbian FA president Slavisa Kokeza and the team’s head coach, Mladen Krstajic.
Sweden’s Jimmy Durmaz has responded after receiving racist abuse on social media following his team’s 2-1 loss to Germany.
Transfer roundup: Roma have confirmed the signing of Justin Kluivert from Ajax and Antonio Mirante from Bologna; Real Madrid have signed Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Lunin from Zorya Luhansk
Today’s longer read: David Hirshey on the time Brazil was knocked out by Italy at the 1982 World Cup for Eight by Eight