By unanimous verdict, this World Cup is providing higher entertainment value courtesy of the frequency of upsets. Pre-tournament favourites Germany failed to live up to their high billing whereas Spain, Portugal and Argentina went home early. Allow me to explain why.
Fernando Hierro’s 2010 winners were undone by a conglomeration of factors, chief among which was the sacking of Julien Lopetegui just hours to the tournament.
Any team’s spirit and sense of direction would be undone by such an ill-timed move, and so it was with Spain.
Throughout Russia 2018 Hierro failed to find the right mix between technical proficiency and physical-athletic balance.
In all four World Cup matches, Spain failed to break down defenses lined up numerous bodies because their passing carousel was too slow and predictable.
Midfielder Isco’s 132 passes (of which just 12 were forward looking) in the Round of 16 clash with Russia on the day Spain broke all passing records, epitomises Spain’s problems. There isn’t sufficient movement in front of their several playmakers.
Twice winners Argentina’s pitfalls centre around two men - Lionel Messi and manager Jorge Sampaoli. The Pumas have failed to blend the right players around Messi, whose displays for Argentina are a far cry from his mesmerising performances for Barcelona. Sampaoli has been so confused by the Messi conundrum, he’s been reduced to a bumbling idiot.
Messi’s case for the Greatest Of All Time accolade has taken repeated blows, not least of which is inability to score in the knock out rounds of the World Cup. The solution is to build a new team minus the 31-year-old legend.
Sampaoli also ought to be given marching orders. Such was his loss of credibility, rumours were rife Messi was choosing the team. World Cup winning managers Carlos Bilardo and Cesar Menotti would never accept to be paper tigers.
World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann wasn’t far off the mark when he suggested Die Mannschaft were not hungry enough in finishing bottom of their group. I had noted a cavalier approach to issues in a build up game with Austria.
The decline of Jerome Boateng, Matt Hummels, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller and Sami Khedira, five of the ever presents in Germany’s resurrection but whose club form was dodgy, badly affected Joachim Loew’s team.
The other question marks are whether Loew did have a Plan B. Leroy Sane’s pace could certainly have been an option.f Sabaly onto the world stage.
Regardless what happens to them, Senegal have lit the path for African football with their exuberant, extravagant displays.