Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Thursday, June 14, 2018

FIFA World Cup 2018

Continuing a tradition I started many years ago, I'm creating again a post that allows the soccer fans among my friends to share thoughts about the tournament as it unfolds. The difference this time is that for health reasons, I cannot travel to Germany to watch the matches with my brothers. I have to find ways to do this here, which may mean that I cannot watch every match I want to see.

A few initial remarks. This Cup promises to be really exciting because there is no clear-cut favorite. In 2014, Brazil was expected to win. Especially the Brazilians themselves seemed to be believe that, which made their historic 1:7 loss to Germany in the semi-finals the more devastating. This time, they are again one of the favorites, and for much more legitimate reasons. But France, Spain, and Germany also have strong teams, and the English, Portuguese, and Belgians should not be counted out. All of this looks very promising.

78 comments:

Ulrich said...

The mood in Germany seems to be guardedly optimistic. Optimistic because there's the convictions that ours is a talented team with agood mix of experienced and younger players. Guarded because the last 6 test matches were less than convincing--only the last one was won, against Saudi-Arabia, but only by a score of 2:1 and in a fashion that left much to be desired.


It's true that the matches were tests, meant to give various players a chance at the final selection; that is, Germany never fielded the strongest side and always one that certainly will not play in that configuration during the tournament. But in the last match, the one against the Saudis, the German side was close to the expected starting configuration, and that's why I, for one, am so concerned.
Boateng, Hummels, Khedira, and Müller didn't even come close to the form they had in 2014. True, Löw is a master in getting a team to peak at exactly the right time, but I can't shake a feeling of unease.

Safwan Aly said...

not sure if Mo Salah will play in 7 hours against Urgway but I think Egypt will struggle to even tie the game without his presence.... Egypt needs to at least tie this match.

Pedro said...

Good afternoon to all, to Ulrich, and all his frienss who read and post on this very nice blog of his.
I am writing from Portugal. The mood here is moderate. Portugal is the European Champion, so, of couse we have hopes and dreams of winning the WC, although it seems hard, but possible. Realistically speaking, there is na awareness that there are stronger teams, such as Germany (the World Champion) and Spain, or eventually France or Brazil. For now, and within a few hours, the kick-off will be with our neighbours. What a game for a start !

Ulrich said...

In the end, I was rooting for Egypt to hold on to the tie because of their spirited, well-organized defense backed by a very good goalie. In front, Salah was sorely missed, of course. It will be interesting to see how they play with him on board.

Georg said...

Spain/Portugal was certainly the highlight so far. Austrian TV experts were delighted, which is rare...

Ulrich said...

True!

Ronaldo's two standards were textbook-perfect. I always get mad when players kick a penalty with the inside foot low into a corner--the goalie has a 50-50 chance of saving it--he just has to guess the right corner. Ronaldo's sharp kick breast-high was unsavable, even if the goalie had guessed the right corner. But it takes tremendous skill--there is always the danger the ball goes over the goal (I still remember Hoeness kicking a penalty over the goal in a match against the former Yugoslavia).

And the curved free kick, of course, was sheer perfection.

Ulrich said...

...and I loved the flying header by Bouhadduz: It would have made a forward proud. Who cares if it went into the wrong goal!? Well, the Moroccans do, I guess ;-)

Safwan Aly said...

hats off for Iceland.... very impressive defence, fearless offense

Pedro said...

About the Portugal vs. Spain:
Not that it has been all perfect for my National team. And I don't say it has been a wonderful performance. But, for a first game against Spain it was after all a good result. And since I know the team will improve, it leaves me quite optimistic with my Nationl team.
I have to refer the exhibition of Ronaldo. A hat-trick is a hat-trick. A hat-trick against Spain is something only for very few. He was very good yesterday!

Ulrich said...

...as opposed to Messi today. I managed to watch only the second half, but there at least, he didn't happen.

Ulrich said...

The unease I felt after the test matches provse to be well justified. We saw an inexplicable poor performance in one-on-ones, combined with an abundance of errant passes, lack of ideas up front, and vulnerability in back: All very uncharacteristic for a German team. The best we can hope for now is second place in our group, which most likely will pit us against Brazil in the next round. And that will be the end, as things look right now. But the World Cup is famous for surprises--so, who knows?

Georg said...

I missed the Germany-Mexico game. Germany's coach said afterwards: "Wir werden es schaffen." Which is what Angela Merkel said too during the refugee crisis ;)

Of course the Germans will make it to the next round.

Delighted about the 1-1 between Switzerland and Brasil. The Swiss were lucky and Brazil did not play consistently. Neymar's new hair style is funny. He also has a talent for falling in style...

Ulrich said...

Yes, @Georg!

Pedro said...

About the Germany vs. Mexico, honestly, I was expecting a better exhibition of the German team. I have seen the Confederation's Cup last year, where Gemany won the Cup with a B team, which was very, very impressive. And in my humble opinion, they have played better than on Saturday. But I am sure this team will improve and pass to the next phase.

Magd said...

Yes he is gifted in that sense :)

Magd said...

The only big team that lived up to expectation is Belgium. They have the most talent of any team in the cup. If they manage to play well as a team they’ll be a serious contender

Magd said...

If Egypt plays with the same spirit and organization against Russia, plus Salah, they have a strong chance to beat Russia who weren’t that impressive against a nonexistent Saudi team. The danger is that if Salah plays, his teammates would feel pressured to pass him the ball even when there are better choices which would drain confidence and make the Russian defence job easier. The other concern is that, thanks to Ramos, Salah hasn’t played with the national team since October 2017. Lack of chemistry would be likely.

Magd said...

One of the biggest mysteries to me is: why do coaches like to give playing time to Raheem Sterling of England. He plays most of the matches, wastes many scoring opportunities, then gets replaced by a better player in the last 20 minutes and they win :)

Ulrich said...

I have the same sense about Russia. It seemed to me that they beat the Saudis so decisively only because they (the Saudis) let them do it.

About Germany/Mexico: The team and managers seem to be in shock--they went into seclusion the day after the match. This by itself may be one clue why they did so poorly: Overconfidence. The Mexicans surprised them, big time, and they could not adjust during the match, which is also a failure of the coach. But even then, it's a mystery to me why no one, except for Neuer, played up to form--and I'm talking about world champions like Müller, Özil, Boateng (shows lack of practice due to injury), Khedira (a particular disappointment), Kroos (was successfully put on a leach by Vela).

I felt already before the start that they sounded too boastful--it has never done a team any good, in my experience.

Safwan Aly said...

hope the Egyptians today play with the same spirit the Icelanders or the Mexicans.... With Mo on the field we should play a better game ofgivensively than the last one.

kidbrother said...

Jogi Löw hat sich zu sehr auf die alten Männer verlassen, die ihm vor vier Jahren den Titel erspielten. Aber diese Leistungsträger von damals wirken alle überspielt und "kaputt". Kedira, Boateng und Hummels haben KEIN Laufduell gegen die jungen Mexikaner gewonnen. Auch Kroos ist müde und ideenlos. Özil bereut vermutlich, sich von "seinem" Diktator vor den Werbekarren hat spannen lassen. Er bekommt zu spüren, wie nun jede misslungene Aktion in den social media (er hat mehr als eine Million Follower) vernichtend kommentiert wird. Das deutsche Mittelfeld war so schlecht wie nie, es ließ sich beliebig überlaufen, so als sei es gar nicht auf dem Platz. Zumal der rechte Verteidiger Kimmich als Rechtsaußen nur funktioniniert, wenn Kedira hinter ihm den Raum dicht macht. Was er nicht getan hat. Nicht konnte, denke ich. Auch ein austrainierter Neuer in Normalform hält den Schuss zum 1:0. Ter Steegen erst recht. Es wird spannend. Denn wenn sich nichts Grundsätzliches an der Fitneß ändert, fliegen wir raus. Der Vorteil der jetzigen Situation für uns Fans ist: Nun ist für "die Mannschaft" jedes weitere Spiel ein bruatales, neunzigminütiges Endspiel - ohne Verlängerung und Elferschießen. Beide kommende Spiele MÜSSEN gewonnen werden, und dann wartet Brasilien im Achtelfinale, das heiß darauf ist, die 1:7 Schlappe zu rächen...

Ulrich said...


Translation of my brother's post (he knows more about soccer than I do) about Germany against Mexico:

Jogi Löw relied too much on the old men who gave him the title four years ago. But these leaders from then appear all played out and "kaputt". Khedira, Boateng and Hummels didn't win a single sprint against young Mexicans. Kroos, too, appeared tired and without ideas. Özil probably regrets to have let himself get hitched to the campaign wagon of "his" dictator (1). He now has to endure how every failed action is being lambasted in social media (he has a million followers). The German midfield was as bad as never before; they were outrun any which way, as if they weren't even on the pitch. And the right back Kimmich succeeds as right winger only if Khedira closes the space behind him. A fully-fit Neuer in normal form also will save the 1:0 shot. Ter Steegen even more so. It will be interesting. Because if nothing fundamental changes in terms of fitness, we will be eliminated. The advantage of the current situation for us fans is that for the "Mannschaft" every match is now a brutal, ninety-minute final—without overtime or penalty shoot-out. Both of the upcoming matches MUST be won, and then Brazil will wait in the round of 16, who are eager to take revenge for the 1:7 loss.
____________________
(1) When Erdogan visited London during his election campaign, Özil and Gündogan were photographed presenting him with the jerseys of their respective teams. Gündogan, who doesn't even have a Turkish passport, had written on his "for my president". This was interpreted by the German media and fans as an endorsement.

Pedro said...

About the Portugal vs. Morocco:
Happy with the result. Not so happy with the exhibition.
This was the type of matches that is harder than it seems. I remember a match, which was frequently referred here during this week, in Mexico 86, that after a victory of ours with England, Morocco beat Portugal which led to not passing the groups in that WC.
In this match, Portugal started well in the beginning of both parts, and scored in the first part, but through the game showed some difficulties in keeping the ball. It is true that the Moroccan team had to win to stay in the competition. The good news for us is that we are very close to pass the groups and go to the next phase.

Ulrich said...

The Egyptians may be out of the tournament, but they get first prize for costumes--I'll miss those pharaos.

And hats off to the Iranians for showing a courageous performance and losing to the odds-on favorite Spain only by a freak goal!

Safwan Aly said...

Nigeria showed some courage today... especially after Island's outstanding performance against Argentina. ..hope Nigeria can maintain this against Argentina

Ulrich said...

@Safwan: I'm with you!

I have to go back decades for a World Cup loss by a German team that drew the kind of blistering criticism the loss to Mexico generated (see my kid brother's comment for an example). A loss can happen to the best of teams. But the Germans didn't just suffer a loss--they managed to underperform so badly, and at every position (with Neuer a possible exception), that they weren't even recognizable as the side that won the last world cup and every match during the qualification rounds. My brother even thinks a fit Neuer in full practice would have saved the goal Mexico scored.

And so, German fans are looking towards tomorrow's match against Sweden with great apprehension--if we don't win, we're out. The question is, can a team that showed such shortcomings be turned around in a week? Was the Mexico match a freak accident, or was it an indication of a deeper malaise, one that cannot be corrected in a few days? We'll find out tomorrow...

Ji-Hyun said...

Belgium vs. Tunisia game is quite interesting. Normally soccer does not have a lot of goals, but even now is only about 20 minutes, the score is alreay 2:1~

Ji-Hyun said...

Wow, very fun! 5:2~~

Safwan Aly said...

The German team delivers at the last second..... unbelievable

Ulrich said...

Yes, the Germans say "Wahnsinn!" (madness!) in such situations...I'm still trying to get my breath back and slow my heartbeat down.

Ulrich said...

@Ji-Hyun: What do people in your country think about the upcoming match SKorea/Germany?

Halil Erhan said...

The two teams in this group must have studied German plays well, regardless of the pyhsical superiority of the German team, they manage to come back with surprising attacks. This actually makes the games more interesting. I am sure Koreans will shake Germans, let’s see if they will be able to beat them. if this happens I won’t be surprised.

Magd said...

The German team managed a miraculous comeback yesterday. How many times did we see them do that? They didn’t play very well but as usual the kept trying until the last second, literally. This throws the group wide open with two excitIng games at the end. Thanks Germany for the excitement :)

Magd said...

The most impressive teams so far are Croatia followed by Belgium because of their relatively week defence. I think they will introduce Kompany into their defence which needs some experience. But the Croatians are flawless, if they’re spared injuries since they don’t have a deep bench like the Belgians.

Magd said...

So far I’m really enjoying this cup. It’s the most unpredictable in years. Although big teams tend to manage to reach the finals regardless. I hope to see some fresh faces this time.

Magd said...

One last thought for today: Muller has lost his touch and is no longer an asset to the team. He should be benched. The coach made a grave error by not including the Manchester City star Sane. His speed and creativity would have made a difference

Georg said...

"... and in the end the Germans win". This was a great nail biter, and Toni Kroos' goal was unbelievable! Never mind that his bad pass in the first half - he is known for almost superhuman passing accuracy - lead to the Swedish goal. Both teams had enough opportunities to win. The German defense was weak. Will they be able to fix their problems?

Jörg said...

Germany-Sweden was the first game I saw full length. I stopped Argentina, because it was boring. Without ideas by the Argentinians. The other games I saw were not particulary entertaining. I missed the game Spain - Portugal! During the whole playtime I switched off the commentary. This was helpfull. I am not impressed of the German game. Each player seems excellent, but there ist no fire in the team. It seems to me that they played like they learned at school. They played not with ideas, but only with the ratio in their heads. But they had no idea of how to break through the Swedish block. I think Löw has to come up with a new concept. I hope they will remember this very old concept "aus der Tiefe des Raums" (out of the depth of space). I think about chip passes. The Mexicans played it sometimes.

Ulrich said...

@Magd: I agree about Croatia, haven't seen the Belgians yet--—the games are at awkward times here in the US, and I cannot spend mornings and afternoons watching soccer: I have a construction project going on at our house.
About Sane: I actually understand why Löw cut him. He has not arrived at the national team, yet. I found his play in the test matches positively maddening: Time and time again, he retrieves the ball deep in mid-field, has an impressive run over 20-30 meters, but then misses the right opportunity to pass and runs instead into 2-3 defenders or ends up with an errant pass. The result: No goals, no assists in any of the matcheas he played.
About Müller: What happened to Müller is a question asked across the country.

@Georg: The defensive problems must be fixed for sure. To use a German term, they "stand very high", leaving a huge gap between the last defender and the goal. As a result, a single bad pass in mid-field can have catastrophic consequences because it leads to a counter with not enough defenders in place to stop it. Both goals against Germany in the 2 matches Germany played happened that way. Which is to say, the defense must get more help from the mid-fielders, and their positioning must be rethought.

@Jörg: I think the Germans showed in the second half the fire you talk about—-they showed, to me, that they wanted to win, even with a man short-—that was impressive. At the same time, they exposed troubling weaknesses both on defense (see above) and offense. I believe a Ronaldo or Messi would not have missed all the chances the German forwards missed.

So, yes, it's an exciting Cup, where the established powers are being seriously challenged by up and coming teams.

Ulrich said...

Just watched the better part of Poland/Colombia. The precision combination play of the Colombians was a delight to see. After they fell behind, the Poles had to open up, giving Colombia the chance to dazzle us with what the Germans call "steep" passes, i.e. long passes forward right into the feet of a speeding forward.
Is Poland the first of the group heads to be eliminated?

kidbrother said...

(after I had asked him what he thought of Neuer's reaction when the Swedes scored their goal): Neuer and the two defenders all looked bad, but it was an unbelievably lucky goal for Sweden. It happens only rarely that such a botched, re-directed shot falls in an arc into the goal in back. The scorer did not score a single goal for his club last season!
But the morale was good, I agree. Hector and Rüdiger enlivened the game. After Boateng was sent off, it looked like the end, but they did it somehow, although up-front there's still not enough punch. Müller is, like at the last EuroCup, again a total failure. One should use Brandt, Reus and Timo Werner up front, and behind them give perhaps Goretzka a chance.
I'm delighted, of course, that we'll have on Wednesday another "final". Because--and although I always thought that the better team should win and the Germans quite often were lucky to advance--the prospect that it could already be over was not particularly appealing. I really want to see a match against Brazil ;-)
But generally, one has to say that after this Cup, a new start should be made and players like Khedira, Müller, Özil, Gomez, Hummels and Boateng step aside for the hungry next generation.

Safwan Aly said...

Morocco played a great game against Spain today...

Pedro said...


Portugal qualified !
In the same game we were first in group, went to the second place, and by a few moment were almost out of the Tournament, but fortunatelly, did not happened, and Portugal ended with the same points as Spain, although second in the group.
About the game itself (Portugal-Iran) although it was a draw, I think the team played better than with Morocco and its improving. I think Portugal's team is not at its best, yet.
For the Portuguese, this was an odd match because both managers were Portuguese, Fernando Santos (actual) and Carlos Queiroz, who was Portugal's national coach in the WC 2010 (S.Africa), and in 89 and 91 won the Junior World Championsip twice (the start of the generation of Figo, Rui Costa, João Pinto, etc.)
It was not a good day for Ronaldo (but we forgive him), but it was a good match for Quaresma, who scored in his style of kicking the ball (we call these a "trivela" kick), and he does that very well usually. Personally, I like very much this duo, although Quaresma is not young anymore and generally does not play the whole match.
And now, the match with Uruguai.

Ulrich said...

@Pedro: Congratulations!

Ulrich said...

I'm sure that in countries with teams competing in the World Cup, just about every soccer fan becomes a would-be team manager with strong opinions about which player should or should not start, preferably in opposition to the actual manager's decisions. In Germany, this obsession seems to have reached new heights in response to the Mannschaft's sub-par performance so far.
There is the conservative wing, represented, for example, by the chief editor of the soccer magazine kicker, who wants to make as few changes as possible and leave Khedira, Özil, Boateng and Hummels in place, based on the argument that they have the experience and should, by now, understand what's needed. This view has been criticized, and I think correctly so, as a vague promise backed by no apparent evidence. And then there is the radical wing that wants to give the Confed Cup winners a much bigger role and initiate already now the re-start my kid brother has advocated.
The majority, if the comments I have read on the web are in any way representative, restrict their suggestions to a few key positions, with focus on Müller, Özil, and Boateng. Especially Özil's role is hotly debated, with many arguing for his replacement, in part still because they haven't forgiven him the photo-op with Erdogan.
I, for one, consider Boateng the prime candidate to be replaced. In his present (non-)form, he is a moving hazard—two of his ill-executed tackles in the Sweden match should have led to a penalty in one case and led to his eviction with a yellow/red card in the second case. He hasn't regained the speed he was famous for. Missing also are the long diagonal passes to the wing backs that allow them to get behind the opponent's defense, which once were his trademark. I would replace him with Süle.
We'll be wiser in a couple of hours!

Georg said...

After all that has been said, Germany's exit is not surprising. Austrian TV experts say that the Germans were too complacent and physically not fit enough going into the tournament. As Ulrich said, Boateng looks like a good example. This should trigger a thorough rebuilding of the team, hopefully with a new coach.

Now the Swiss find themselves in the most unusual position to defend the honor of the German-speaking part of Europe in the round of 16!

Ulrich said...

@Georg: I agree completely, including the new coach. My brother just wrote in an e-mail that he expects Löw to resign tomorrow.

Pedro said...


@ Ulrich: Thank you! I was counting that Germany would pass the groups as well.

I haven seen the matches of Germany with Mexico and with Sweden. I have not seen the match with South Korea.

The best eulogy I could say is that I would not be sincere if I did not say that Germany was the team I would not prefer to play against Portugal in an ellimination game. Although when one has ambiton of winning, can not be affraid of any team. I hope my players do not fear, but I am speaking as a mere spectator.

Ulrich said...

Quote of the day: "What you're seeing, ladies and gentlemen, is not slow motion. It's really that slow." German commentator during the SKorea/Germany match.
I had hoped that after the second half against Sweden, when Germany played with real fire and indicated that they absolutely wanted to win this one, that fire would carry over into the next match, which the Germans had to win by 2 goals to advance with certainty. But alas, they fell back into just going through the motions. I don't know what happened to the team that it was so devoid of any spirit, given how good the players were by themselves. Something happened, or did not happen, during the preceding month(s), and it had to be psychological.
@Pedro: One of the German players (I think it was Neuer) said after the match, "Everybody wanted to play against us", meaning that everybody had figured out that the German offense was incapable of overcoming a well-organized defense that gave the quick German wingers no space.

Safwan Aly said...

Senighal is out by the fair play rule... really a decent team. I thought they are better than Japan.

Ulrich said...

It's strange that the fair play rule comes into play when two teams have equal goal diff. and goals scored (instead of the direct comparison, which used to be the case), but not when it's three teams. I can't figure this out--I mean when you want to motivate teams to avoid cards, why not apply the rule across the board?

Pedro said...

Portugal out of the World Cup.
About the match Portugal vs. Uruguai: In my opinion, ironically, it was Portugal's best match in the Tournament but unfortunately, lost the game. I believe that if Portugal would have scored a 2nd goal and get a tie in the 90 minutes, then in the Extra time, would have turned the result. But that did not happened. Uruguai played very well.

In the Euro2016, the Portuguese defense, which was rarely beatten, I think was the team strongness. During this competition, I felt that our defense was not the same. In this game this was more visible.

About the result of the Portuguese team in the World Cup, I am disappointed, although I think the team did their best.I truly believe that a team that wins the European Cup can also win the WorldCup. Portugal was not a favourite team, but the Portuguese as well as the team had the ambition and a certain hope of reaching the final, or even, winning the WC. I think it is not unreallistic to think, even more when you have a player like Ronaldo. What is sad for us, is that a Country of the size of Portugal does not offen have a Ronaldo in every generation, and he is not young. And I am affraid this was probably the last WC at his best level.

Despite the result, I am proud of the Portuguese team at the World Cup 2018.


Ulrich said...

@Pedro: I was able to watch Portugal only once, against Spain. Match times here are during the best working hours of the day, which makes me miss matches I would like to see, like today's France/Argentina, which must have been a real spectacle. And unlike you, I am not proud of my team (to put it mildly).
To make the best of it anyway, let's lean back and enjoy the rest of the tournament. I wouldn't be surprised if it was won by a country that was on nobody's list at the start--Croatia anybody?

Safwan Aly said...

Croatia today was not convencing.... I believe Belgium, France, and Brazil are top candidates. England, Urgway and Sweden are also strong teams but I m not sure they can make it to the final. The rest will be out either tomorrow or next round.

Ulrich said...

Yes, I had expected more from Croatia.

The Cup also has lost some of its initial lustre for me. Games in which a ball-possession team meets a team of what the Germans call "stone masons" (Maurer), who build a wall in front of their goal, can be incredibly boring, Spain/Russia being a prime example--I walked out because I couldn't watch anymore. I wonder what happens when two stone mason teams meet each other--endless kicking around in mid-field?

More importantly, it bodes ill for a world cup with 48 teams as planned by Infante: We'll get to see more stone masons, and who wants to see those? I can't really blame the teams, like the Russians, who explicitly admitted that they played for the penalty shoot-out from the 2nd half on--it's their only hope of surviving. But it will have consequences for the reputation of the Cup, which ultimately will be noticed by would-be sponsors.

Ulrich said...

Belgium/Japan answered my prayers (couldn't watch Brazil/Mexico): No tiki-taka, no stonemasons--that's how it's supposed to be!

One has to admire Japan for playing soccer and not giving in to the temptation of standing with 11 men in the goal area, defending, which many expected. But kudos also to the Belgians for their morale, which allowed them to overcome a 0:2 deficit!

Pedro said...


I have also watched Belgium vs. Japan. The second part was one of the most exciting halfs of this Cup. And Japan was an "electric" surprise to see.

But for me, the best game so far has been France vs. Argentina. A game with plenty of goals and hope for both parts.

To answer your question, the teams I consider at this point to be the favourites of winning the Cup are Uruguay and France. I am aware they will face each other next Friday (probably a final before the date). Those two are the ones which still are in competition and played better so far, in my opinion.

Ulrich said...

We know now that Löw will not resign, which I had hoped he would do. I have defended him for the longest time against a very vocal minority that never liked him. Especially, I always railed against the stupid meme that has been around for years, that Germany won the 2014 cup not because of Löw, but in spite of him. But I also believe that the way he handled the preparation for and management of the current Cup showed that he had no sense of the mood in the team. Inexplicably, he started for the all-important match against SKorea precisely those players, Khedira and Özil, that were complete failures in the matches before, instead of given the players a chance that accounted for the only (somewhat) convincing half the team played during the competition, the 2nd half against Sweden. Apparently, it never occurred to him that something could go wrong, and he had no plan B when one was needed. I just do not believe, right now, that he is the right guy to initiate the fundamental restructuring the German national team now needs.

If the comments on the web are any indication, there is a deep rift developing between the team and its management on one side and the fan base on the other. It will be very interesting to see how the fans behave during the first match scheduled for after the World Cup, a friendly against France.

Georg said...

@Ulrich: The German FA made a mistake to extend contracts before the World Cup. Now each game could be his last one. This lack of 'resignation culture' (Ruecktrittskultur) is well known in Austria but surprising for Germany (or not, see recent political events).

Switzerland lost a boring match against Sweden today. They blew a big opportunity, and they know it. Key players Shaquiri and Xhaka were ineffective, and the defensive substitutes for banned Lichtsteiner and Schaer did not contribute much to offense. I wonder what big mouth Ibrahimovic has to say now that Sweden has advanced further than they ever did with him...

Ulrich said...

@Georg: Why the German FA (DFB) extended Löw's contract before the Cup for another 2 years until 2022 remains a mystery for everyone who commented on it. I think they just couldn't imagine that something could go wrong, very much like Löw could not imagine that his team would not get far in the Cup. Reporters commented on the almost provocative way in which he indicated how relaxed he felt before the tournament--he clearly had no clue about the real state of the team. And that's why I'm so skeptical about his ability to orchestrate a new beginning.

As to Rücktrittskultur, I think Germany has a decidedly mixed track record (I'm talking here about politicians)--some mean it when they say "I assume full responsibility (for some debacle)" and resign (like party chairmen when their party loses an election), others refuse to leave ("stay glued to their seat", as the German idiom goes). I must say, though, that the farce we're treated to right now by the Secretary of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, beats everything I have seen.

As to the Swedes, I have nothing personal against them, but I do hope that they do not get past England--I watched two of their matches, and that's at least one too many! I happened to find a Swiss stream of the match today, and it was interesting to listen to the commentator, who simply could not believe that they would lose to Sweden.

Ulrich said...

Watched Brazil/Belgium--Boy, am I glad I didn't root for either team: The suspense during the last 15 min. would have been unbearable.

Safwan Aly said...

England in the second half against Sweden played decent soccer... they may make it to the Final.. still think Belgium or France can beat them.

kidbrother said...

An interesting World Cup! Of the five teams rated most highly by the bookies at the start only France reached the semis; Germany, Spain, Argentina, and Brazil are out. Italy and the Netherlands didn't even qualify. Croatia and Belgium are no underdogs, though. They feature players who occupy key positions at European top clubs.
England was my own personal tip. Russia was a crashing underdog, but lost only in a penalty shoot-out to Croatia, who had tremendous luck already against Denmark in this kind of "lottery" (as the Spanish coach called it after their loss to Russia). No matter—tournaments are like that.

Only France and Belgium won their matches without penalty shoot-outs. They are also the two best teams--I agree with @Safwan Aly. Their semi will be a knock-out, and I'm looking forward to it. England will win the second semi. Croatia appeared often helpless in their last two matches. But luck always plays a role: If Brazil had converted on some of their great chances, nobody would talk about Belgium now. That's how it goes with such tournaments.

Even with the German side no longer participating, TV ratings are sky-high here and pubs with public viewing are bursting at the seams. That's great!

Ulrich said...

@kidbrother: I want to add re. Brazil/Belgium that Brazil was denied what just about every commentator considered a clear penalty--had they converted, we could have had a completely different outcome. Which is to say that Brazil was a class above other odds-on favorites like Germany, Spani, and Argentina that were eliminated earlier than expected.

kidbrother said...

One more thing about the German side: I'm surprised that players like Özil, Khedira, Gomez, Müller, Hummels, even Neuer don't voluntarily resign from the team. What more do they want? To make amends at the next European Cup (in two years)? To preserve their market value? I hope the German coach will not fall for such an obvious ploy.

Pedro said...


This post of mine has nothing to do with the teams of the WC but about how the World Cup is being seen in America.

I remember the WC 2002 held in S. Korea and Japan, where the Portugal was in the same group as the United States. In fact, they played and the US beat Portugal. At the time of that WC, although I was studying in the US, I was on Summer holiday in Portugal and watched that WC here. But in before the Cup started, when in the US, I rarely heard about the Tournament, and after the event I also rarely heard any comment about the US team performance, of winning (over Portugal), and they pass the groups (overall a good peformance). I remember that at the time (in 2002) there was usually a small news on CNN about the World Cup. Now, I notice that tthe WC is clearly more coovered by CNN (at least). Since there has been some years, I am curious and I have to ask,

@Ulrich: Since you are watching the WC in the US, do you feel it is being followed ? Do you feel that football is growing in America ?



Ulrich said...

@Pedro: I do not know the latest statistics, but I remember reading a while ago that soccer is by now the most popular team sport in high school--parents love it because it is far less dangerous than American football. This is important because it creates a knowledgeable audience--soccer is a very technical sport requiring tremendous skills, which are more easy to "see" and appreciate by people who have played the game themselves. That is to say, there is a generation growing up that is ready to watch soccer and enjoy it.

On an anecdotal level: When I tell people that I'm watching the FIFA World Cup, I'm no longer met with bewilderment--more often than not, there is someone who is watching, too, and eager to engage in a discussion. I have no knowledge, though, about the popularity of the professional league MLS--it seems people are watching the English league more than the MLS.

As to te media: Fox and its affiliate FS1 show every match and give the Cup the full treatment--four(!) experts in various constellations discuss every match from their studio on Red Square. In addition, 2 live commentators cover the matches in the stadiums--even American football doesn't get more resources allocated! I'm watching the matches Fox shows via a live stream, which they make available on the web for free; for the matches on FS1, I have to find another stream, which so far has produced no problem.

Of course, all of this would have an additional dimension if the US had qualified. And so, I don't know if Fox is going to make a profit because I have no information on ratings, yet. I would have gone to a sports bar, just go get a feel for the reception the World Cup is getting. But I have seriosu digestive problems right now so that bar hopping is out of the question.

Anyway, I do get the sense that soccer is here to stay.

Ulrich said...

@Pedro: I remember the situation you describe very well. In 1992, there was a pub in Squirrel Hill that could get the feed for the final of the Euro Cup via satellite, where I watched Denmark beat Germany among an international crowd with few Americans inbetween. In 2004, I had to go to a Portuguese bar here in New Haven to watch the final and see Greece beat Portugal, undeservedly. As the saying goes, we've come a long way.

Pedro said...


@Ulrich : Thanks for the descriptive answer. You had told me once (I think in this blog during Euro2016) that you went to a Portuguese Bar in New Heaven to see that final of 2004. That is very nice to read !
The US are not in the Tournament and that is completely different in approaching the WC - in the interest of people and media about the WC that is taking place. -specially in a country used to win (for example, the US performance in the Olympics which is allways excellent). I think it is good news that the Tournament will be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico in 2024.

Ulrich said...

How's that for determination: In every ko-match, you fall behind 0:1, then you come back and force the match into overtime. And then you win it--either outright or through penalties. Highly unlikely? Yes, but Croatia showed it could be done.

Still, my advice to Croatia for the final: Try not to fall back by 0:1!

Pedro said...


As we are very close to the emd ans the final, I have this opinion and remarks about the World Cup.

As the worst points, I refer that:
-There has been some games between Countries of the same Continent. - e.g. Danmark vs. Croatia, Sweden vs. Switzerland. And in my opinion, fewer matches between different continents - e.g. Belgium vs. Japan. That is explained beacuse of the number of countries allowed, from each continent of course. But I always appreciate to watch teams I do not have the opportunity of see playing against the ones I am used to follow.
-All the big names - Salah, Messi, Ronaldo - have been out very early. I think this has not bring spectacle to the event. I regret that Salah only played in two matches.

As the good points, I would refer that:
-There has been a lot of surprises. Uruguay (if a WC Champion might be considered a surprise), Belgium, Switzerland, Croatia.
-There has been overall even results. With the excemption of Russia vs. Saudi Arabia (5-0), the majority of results have differences of 1 to 2 goals between teams.

Let us see what the two last matches, including the final, will be.


Ulrich said...

@Pedro: I think the reason we saw more matched between teams of the same confederation is that no team from Africa or Asia made it past the group phase and that the S. Americans were out after the quarter finals. In past world cups, we could expect at least one team from Africa in the ko-round.

Anyway, I find it very hard to predict a winner for the final. My money is still on France, but since this is the World Cup that will be remembered for its surprises, a win by Croatia would be a fitting finale.

Ulrich said...

Great final--I mean, can anyone remember one in which 6 goals were scored? The Croatians were unlucky in that they spotted the French two goals, one as an own goal and one by a penalty kick on account of a hand ball--you cannot get away with this with a quality opponent like the French side.

About the hand ball leading to the penalty: It has to be intentional, and one may debate if Perisic really intended to play the ball with his hand. But after looking at slo-mo replays several times, it seems to me that the ball not only struck his hand, but that he actually opened his hand. This also may have been unintentional, but it did make him look as if he played the ball, and the ref reacted accordingly.

Safwan Aly said...

the second goal for croatia was also a lucky one that does not happen often in a world cup final.

the idea of intentional vs not was applied differently in various games in this world cup... some penalties were called for clear unintentional handballs.

Ulrich said...

@Safwan: I agree on both issues.

But this takes nothing away from the fact that it was an exciting final. The Cup, too, but I have to qualify my judgment by admitting that I was abel to watch only 50% of the matches in the group phase.

Pedro said...

For me, France was a fair winner of the World Championship. In my oppinion, they showed to be a very good team from the beginning, and I think, in this final, France disearved to win. Forgive me this thinking of mine, but I think they learned the lesson from the Final of the Euro2016 two years ago, that in a final, there are no winners before the start of the big match. But now, France has deservedly won.

My good-bye to Ulrich, to All , and hope to blog with again, in two or four years !

Ulrich said...

Bye Pedro et al!

Safwan Aly said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/16/sports/world-cup/winners-losers.html