After all the politics, the soccer finally takes center stage. Let’s face it Qatar are not going to win the world cup. But like any other fan I expect a strong showing from the hosts. Judging by this performance they are not going to get out of this group barring a miracle. I AM A GUY WHO SEES LIGHT when others see darkness so let’s see the positives shall we. The second half showing was much stronger than that nervy first 15 minutes. One can understand, first world cup , spotlight too much for the young side. They are a good passing team, no doubt the influence of players like Xavi Hernandez and their Spanish coach Felix Sanchez have had on the soccer.
The end product is non existent. Qatar’s front two of Ali and Afif never had a sniff. Part of the reason why is that there is more to forward play than just waiting for the ball to arrive at your feet. You got to give the playmaker the target to aim at IN THE BOX. Check out what happens when you don’t do that, on minute 75. Afif(number 11) forced to go deep to get the ball and try his fortune from way off the goal with no result. Best chance(more like a half chance) came as late as 85th minute. Ecuador no doubt deserved the win. Came into this tournament with a mix of experienced players and young players. Ener Valencia played in Brazil 2014, Moses Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan and Sarmiento represent Brighton in the Premier League so for me they are favorites to get out of Group A(Senegal sorry). Both goals were well taken by the former West Ham man Valencia although in truth he should have had a hat trick. His second minute goal was supposed to stand (I can tell VAR will have a BIG SAY in this world cup),the foul on the keeper call is more like “we don’t want to embarrass the hosts”type of call.
When a country wins the right to host the FIFA World Cup it is a moment of pride and achievement. Yes, the dirty bidding process somewhat takes away the gloss, but no doubt hosting this event ranks up there. The host nation provides the Stadia and the hotel but the official WORLD CUP SONG is still weirdly the responsibility of FIFA. Whilst this should really be the preserve of the host, FIFA has done remarkedly well in choosing the best songs for the tournament all these years. Today I want to dive into the best five world cup songs since the tournament’s inception in 1930. This is a mix of all genres of music and is very painstaking to leave out some of my favorites. So let’s kick it off with a pop singer who has sadly gone slightly off the pop culture radar in the last decade or so, but she is super talented.
No one divides opinion in tennis like Novak but no doubting the man’s ability. Finals appearances in each of the last four tournaments he entered, including against Tsitsipas in Israel, shows he is ending the season well above expectations. Tsitsipas’s third rank isn’t by any means a fluke. He has had strong showings in the minor tournaments although the only blemish is his performance in the majors with only a semi in Melbourne to show for it. No one gets defensive tennis than Novak.
Watch 1-0 first set Djokovic 15-0. To get down so low and get the angle on the forehand volley has to take some doing, first to open the racquet face adequately, two to get there in the first place(he is 35 mind you). The break in the first game of the set did Stefanos in , Novak wasn’t in the mood to give anyone breaks. Stefanos has a strong forehand although his backhand let’s him down more often than not. 3-2(30-15).Now, getting to the grit end of the set, no one flinched on serve. Djokovic has never been the type of player to get a million aces in a match but boy he hits the right areas at the right time. Check out 5-4(40-15). Tsitsipas desperately challenges to no avail, Novak went down the line no doubt scouting Stefanos chink in the amour.
Second set was even closer, no breaks of serve but the must watch points kept rolling in. 2-2(30-15). Stefanos had to be patient here. Nole is the type of player that would rather wait for you to commit a mistake then pounces. So staying in the point long gives you better chances of winning, Tsitsipas choosing the right time to attack the net. Back to the Tsitsipas backhand again. Although he struggles to get winners from it, in the few occasions he gets it right it is a spectacle. Check out 5-4(0-40). Not to be a buzz kill, Tsitsipas gets the footwork all wrong on this one but Nole hitting a curiously short forehand did him a world of favor. To everyone the backhand looks good doesn’t it. Backhands again, this time in the tie breaker, 2-1 Nole. A near perfect one this time from Stefanos(you know it has to be more than perfect to get a point off Djokovic), then the follow up backhand not so great. Tsitsipas can have no complaints as Nole punishes him with a cross court backhand of his own. That swung the breaker in the direction of the Serb from whence he never looked back. Tsitsipas’s challenges had a air of desperation about them, but hey there is never a right or correct time to challenge hey. Nole leads GROUP RED of the season closer which includes from Russia with love, Rublev and Medvedev.
What was every Man United’s genie wish at the start of season 2022/2023? I bet it was that Cristiano Ronaldo gets back to the CR7 of old banging them in whenever he likes wantonly. Judging from their performances without him, the Red Devils are doing just fine. It doesn’t bode well for the all time great that United simply now have better options, Martial is a better number 9 now and Garnacho seems to have the world at his feet playing in the old Ronaldo position, winger. Facing such competition makes Cristiano’s interview with Piers Morgan’s timing all the more wrong. Never been a fan of airing team laundry in public domain especially when you say things against the very guy who holds the future in your hands, Erik Ten Hag. Back to the match United, Casemiro has given United the edge and bite in midfield they lacked last season, even though his passing needs polishing, he has stabilized that part of the pitch. That has freed up Bruno Fernandes from tracking back to protect a vulnerable back 4. Check out the United goal and tell me that wasn’t created in BRAZIL and FINISHED off in Denmark. Eriksen(another player who transformed the Red Devils) getting his first for the club, the second Dane to do it.
Ten Hag has more often than not got his substitutions right this season. But his decision to pull Elanga for McTominay seems to cause a lot of confusion for his team. With the loss of shape following that change, Fulham took over. Joao Palhinha(Ronaldo’s Portugal teammate) started to dominate the mid was a case for man of the match with his all action box to box style. What Ten Hag got wrong , Marco Silva(Fulham coach) got absolutely spot on. Dan James coming on , injected pace on the right flank against a slow Luke Shaw and Lisandro. It just had to be him who scored against the side who sold him last season. So you get the drift that this was a game of who has the best subs. In the end it was the away side who had the last laugh. Alejandro Garnacho is not a player who is afraid to take on defenders, his success rate at dribbles is telling. For his goal, Eriksen actually overplays the pass. The Fulham defender was favorite to get there(in fact there are two who should be dealing with it). Fatigue at the wrong time I think, with a minute to go it was a terrible time to be tired. Garnacho the next big thing? Absolutely, United will have to use all their financial might to keep this gem away from the powers of club soccer. Whilst his idol Ronaldo is looking for relevancy using the wrong platforms, Garnacho is letting his soccer do the talking. Well played Garnacho, way to go to spoil your legacy Ronaldo.
Israel Adesanya has been a fighting champion, no question. His bout with Alex Pereira is his sixth defense but all things have to come to an end. It’s cliche’ to say this but it aptly applies to Izzy. He is why? Alex has a similar kickboxing background to him. It is much easier for a kickboxer to beat an old fashioned grappler than it is for him to beat a fellow kickboxer. Kickboxers like Izzy like to put a distance away from the MMA style specialist, but just within punching distance. My play of the week is from Alex Pereira who played his chess game well conserving his best for the last round when it seemed Adesanya was on his way to another routine victory(check out the strikes landed by Izzy in Round 2).
Let’s break down the TKO now picking it up on 4 minutes left in the bout in round 5. Izzy kicks Alex in the calf but loses balance. He does the right thing rolls up back to his feet to snuff out trouble. Then this is where Izzy makes the mistake. He goes into a defensive posture handing the impetus and the momentum to the Brazilian. Going for the takedown would have been the tonic for me. The fact that Izzy only had one takedown out of 4 the whole bout is telling. The Nigerian was no match for the volley of punches unleashed by Alex for a stunning victory. Some UFC schools of thought say ref Marc Goddard was slightly overzealous and stepped too early. The truth is stopping a bout is discretionary and subjective, the same guys would have been on Marc’s case if he hadn’t stopped and Izzy got badly hurt.