A couple of more obituaries before the World Cup finally returns.
Ramble of the Day
Saturday saw the final batch of quarterfinals, and another pair of eliminations. First out the door was Sweden, who were finally undone by England. Over the course of the last three weeks, the Swedish team proved it was a hard team to break down, remaining defensively organized as it recorded victories against South Korea, Mexico, and Switzerland. Sweden were perhaps the best of the boring sides at the World Cup; they executed their defensive game plan better than most, and managed to deliver a bit of attacking interest, thanks party to Emil Forsberg. It was quite the way to cap off a successful year for Sweden, forcing the Netherlands and Italy to stay home in order to make its first World Cup quarterfinal since 1994.
The final quarterfinal exit belonged to Russia, whose deep run was the surprise of the tournament. The host nation fielded a team that, ultimately, did not excel at anything. Clearing a group of Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt was a believable feat; it was the team’s elimination of Spain in the Round of 16 that shocked many. Russia certainly benefitted from good luck, and until we have concrete answers one way or another, many other questions will be asked of a team that looked far from this form at last year’s Confederations Cup. Still, they depart the tournament with some impressive individual performances, namely the attacking talents Aleksander Golovin and Denis Cheryshev.
tl;dr: Bye bye, Sweden and Russia.
Links of the Day
RB Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick will take on head coaching duties before Julian Nagelsmann starts next year, with Jesse Marsch leaving the New York Red Bulls to take on an assistant coaching role.
Transfer roundup: Hull City have added David Milinković from Genoa; Barcelona have signed Brazilian midfielder Arthur from Grêmio; Jack Wilshere has joined West Ham from Arsenal; Roma have signed Daniel Fuzato from Palmeiras
Today’s longer read: Juan Arredondo documents the journeys of fans who were willing to do anything to be at the World Cup in a photo essay for ESPN