Let’s catch up on a weekend full of eliminations with a few obituaries.
Ramble of the Day
Russia’s first set of quarterfinals mixed drama with lackluster displays, and naturally, winners and losers. The first team to quickly say hello and goodbye to the World Cup knockout stage was Argentina, the team I have described as a dumpster fire in text messages with my best friend. A Round of 16 berth was punching above the team’s weight; Jorge Sampaoli, now reportedly out of a job, hardly set up his team for success. Almost every decision he made, from squad selection to tactics and in the case of Tim Sherwood, tattoo sleeves, was worth questioning. One question we finally have the answer to, though, is that of Lionel Messi’s ability to carry his team. One man can only do so much, which is hardly a smart tactic in a team sport.
Next out the door was Portugal, who occasionally brought the form that won them the European Championship two years ago. It meant that their defensive efforts were always effective, though they traded it for offensive prowess. Naturally, Cristiano Ronaldo recorded a few memorable moments, most notably in the team’s opening match against Spain. That particular game is still one of the more thrilling of the tournament, and Ronaldo’s hat trick was a large part of it. Other than that, it was a continuation of sorts of their recent success, with very different results.
Sunday opened with the most shocking of eliminations of the weekend, as Spain found itself on the wrong side of a penalty shootout. It was a World Cup campaign that exposed certain weaknesses for the former champions, though the sum of the parts seemed strong enough to make a deeper run. The defense was not as rigid as it has been, as several members of the team made notable errors along the way. In the Round of 16 against Russia, offensive difficulties were easy to spot, as they lacked creativity. Ultimately, it was a tournament that started in dramatic form, firing coach Julen Lopetegui just two days before the match against Portugal, and ended somewhat similarly.
Finally, Denmark were eliminated from the World Cup, allowing some stars to shine in the process. As a team, the Danes were unremarkable with brief spots of brilliance sprinkled in. Christian Eriksen showed off his impressive passing ability, while Pione Sisto was reliable as an outlet in attack. On the other end of the pitch, Kasper Schmeichel went out on a high, making two stops in the penalty shootout that kicked them out of the tournament, along with other strong performances along the way. Denmark did little wrong, and can call the 2018 tournament a fairly successful return to the World Cup.
tl;dr: See you around, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, and Denmark.
Links of the Day
Minnesota United midfielder Collin Martin has come out as gay, making him the only openly out man playing in America’s top five sports leagues.
Andrés Iniesta has retired from international football following Spain’s Round of 16 exit to Russia.
Waistcoat sales have gone up, as many have been inspired by England manager Gareth Southgate to wear them.
Transfer roundup: Mohamed Elyounoussi has joined Southampton from Basel; Newcastle confirmed the signing of Ki Sung-yueng from Swansea; Wolverhampton Wanderers signed forward Leo Bonatini and defender Rúben Vinagre on permanent deals; Matteo Politano has joined Inter Milan from Sassuolo; Bournemouth have signed David Brooks from Sheffield United
Today’s longer read: Shannon Kelley interviews Aly Wagner, the first woman to call a men’s World Cup match in the United States, on her experiences thus far for Vogue