2018 FIFA World Cup – Group Stage matches #mytake

28th June: Brazil Vs Serbia #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

Watched partial match and #mytake is based on the first 60 minutes

1. As the tournament is progressing, Brazil improving as a team. While defending, having 5 men minimum and another defensive screen of 2 on top of their last line of defense. While attacking, they are having 3 men around opponents back line while chasing with 4-3-3. Attacks are now quite compact with swift passing amongst themselves. Variety of attacks also seen – passing through the middle, quick movements on top of the box, probing centers – we are getting everything.

2. Also Brazil is not a single person dependent team. To me, Coutinho’s performance is much better than that of Neymar. He is the key game maker and was instrumental in giving that defense breaking pass for Paulinho to just tap in for the goal. This makes the Brazilian team stronger than the others.

3. For Serbia, 4-4-2 formation while defending and going for 4-2-3-1 during attack. But struggling against the pace and swift attacking of the Brazilians. And Serbian attack does not have that amount of pace to disturb Brazilian defense . Difference in quality quite apparent. Only chance for them to score is through long balls or dead ball situations like corners or free kicks.

4. The main difference between Brazil and the other big nations is the pace and swift attacks. It’s not the predictable slow possession and slow rotation of the ball. Even with other good performing teams in this world cup like Belgium, France, Spain, etc – all of these teams do not have the pace that this Brazilian team has. The only thing that is not tested is how the Brazilian defense will react against long balls and dead ball situations.

Against stronger teams in the knockouts, I would always prefer to have a defensive midfielder like Fernandinho in the first eleven – just to strengthen the defense. This will also enable Brazil to do a high press near the center half and not just on top of its own box.

However, Brazil is now really becoming a true favourite to win this world cup.

27th June: Germany Vs South Korea #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. Well, well, well – the writing was on the wall. Again lack of pace, too many square passes without any penetration, looked totally over confident. Never looked they wanted to win this match. They did not have any hunger
2. Koreans are not that tall compared to Germany. And you had Hummels, Mueller, Gomez in the penalty box. If passing was leading to no penetration, why did they not bombard with crosses and try the aerial route that much ??????? God knows !!!!
3. Germany started with 4-2-3-1, that too resting 3 players who played against Sweden. This showed their overconfidence at the very beginning. It was a kind of a must win match for them and I was expecting the same team with at least a 4-4-2 which can be switched to 3-5-2 during attack. Further, against Sweden, they faced taller players and hence aerial balls were not effective. Against Koreans, the situation was the opposite and hence should have played the taller players of Mueller, Gomez, etc from the beginning. And probably the strategy should have been playing the passing game and try break the defense from middle. However, should not have predictability in the game – so parallels bombard opponents defense with fast crosses from both sides.
4. I had hoped that Germany will be doubly aggressive and go all out today to win comfortably against the Koreans. But absolutely no hunger, same mistakes over and over again ….
5. Kudos to the Koreans for their resolute defending, specially their goalkeeper. He had made a couple of astounding saves which could have been goals in any other day.

What a shame !!! Germany was a real shame this world cup … Did not think that such a great tradition footballing nation will keep on repeating the same stuff again and again .. they deserved to be kicked out

27th June: Argentina Vs Nigeria #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. It was such a contrasting performance by Argentina in two halves. Started with a 4-4-2 formation which was moving to 4-3-3 while attacking. This brilliantly countered Nigeria’s 3-5-2 formation. Fantastic movements in the first half and it looked like Argentina has found its mojo. Then I don’t know what happened, entire formation and touch disappeared in second half till they conceded the penalty. Leo Messi was holding the ball little long than desired ? Maybe because of drawing 3 – 4 defenders so that others can have more space to capitalise upon ?
2. Brilliant pass by Banega and a more brilliant finish by Messi. World class indeed. Further, Messi was unlucky when his freekick did not go in after hitting the post. And Rojo must have surpassed his own expectations with the quality finish for the winning goal
3. Nigeria should have continued its strategy of 3-5-2. Instead they went into a shell after they got the penalty. That time they were almost playing with 5 defenders, 3 additional screen on top of the defense and 2 strikers also trying to play high press like defensive midfielders. That way, it was again a question of time when some defense splitting cross or pass would turn into a goal for Argentina
4. VAR is good, but FIFA and the referees should be more consistent in making similar decisions. It cannot be that in one match a incident will have one decision and in another match an exactly similar decision will have a different decision. FIFA should wake up quickly to save VAR !!!!
5. While Argentina lives for another day, they really need to show consistency in their formation, passing, crossing if they have to move further in the tournament.

PS: I think Sampaoli s say has reduced on strategy and team, as was evident by the tunnel talk of Argentina team, when Sampaoli was sitting on the bench. That’s good for Argentina

24th June: Japan Vs Senegal #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

Disclaimer: I saw the match only from 75th minute

The Japanese second goal is an outcome of a big goalkeeping error from Senegal. I don’t know whether there was a communication error between the stopper and the goal keeper, but a goalkeeper should come out of charge only when he is confident of reaching the ball. This time the ball was near the inside box – so quite near to the goalkeeper. Even with that distance, the goalkeeper failed to reach the ball which was a big mistake. Japan needed to just had to calm themselves and pass it to Honda, who slotted in confidently.

24th June: Germany Vs Sweden #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. Though Germany pulled this match through a last minute beauty, the performance of Germany was much below par. Their game has become predictable – lot of high pressing, lots of slow passing, then passing through the extreme wings, sharp inside throughs hoping someone can flick one home. All corners are taken quickly with short passes and then same mode. Really becoming predictable
2. Again surprised by the amount of high press football Germany is putting in their strategy. How can you have two stoppers always in opponents half ? And then hope opponents won’t be successful through fast counters ? Unable to digest this strategy ! At one time, I saw Boatang on the penalty box of their opponents!! That too, not in a dead ball situation
3. Trying extravagant flicks in such a crucial match should be penalised by team management. Werner trying extravagant stuff when a simple tap should have resulted in a goal. You should play for the teams cause and not for individual glory!!
4. Germany was lucky not to concede a penalty in the start of the match. Does makes me wonder what is the VAR kept for ? FIFA should answer on these issues surrounded usage of VAR
5. I am also looking for answer to the question of why Sweden withdrew in the 2nd half and lost the plot quickly. They were so effective in the first half and yet they went into a defensive shell so much that it was clear Germany will definitely score at least one goal, a matter of time
6. Finally, the class of Tony Kroos goal was absolutely brilliant. Changing the angle with a short free kick and then aiming the inswinger to the side of the net. That too under so much pressure … Simply brilliant !!

23rd June: Belgium Vs Tunisia #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. One of the most oiled engine in display in this world cup is no doubt Belgium. There is a great fluency, flair and quality across goal, defense, mid field and attacking line.
2. There was a big mismatch of quality between the two teams, but that does not negate the great victory today. Probably Belgium could have scored a couple more as well
3. Playing with a 3-4-2-1 formation, again the midfield controlled by De Bruyne with quality attack through Hazard and Lukaku. Great conversion rate for Lukaku so far – the trademark for an in-form striker. But I was impressed with Toby Alderweireld, the Totenhum defender playing in the left back position. He has more than 70% successful tackles in defense while also overlapping successfully and helping in the attacks. Perhaps one of the unsung heroes so far.
4. Belgium has the capability to move to the last four. But remains to be seen how this team reacts against a strong time in the knockouts

22nd June: Brazil Vs Costa Rica #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. My prediction was a comfortable victory for Brazil, but the fact that it took to injury time for the first goal to happen speaks of dogged defending by Costa Rica
2. Big gaps in Brazilian defense exist – with Marcelo and Fagner (side backs) spending most of their time in opponents half, very often they were with 2 stoppers in the back. Costa Rica did not have that horsepower to trouble on counter attacks. I would prefer Fernandinho to play against strong nations as you need him to play the role of a defensive midfielder to block attacks midway, the role that Dunga had played during the world cup winning team
3. I personally believe that if you have to defend big time, you should start blocking around your midfield line and not just on top of the box. Because if you do the later, it becomes very difficult to absorb so much and if there is one mistake in the defense, you don’t have another line to take care of that. Costa Rica unfortunately tried to defend on top of your box and it was clear that keeping the pressure throughout the match will not happen
4. Navas was outstanding today under the goal for Costa Rica. He denied probably 2 or 3 sure goals. He certainly enjoys big stages like the world cup.
5. Final point for today is that play acting to get penalties are likely to get caught with VAR. Neymar was lucky not to get a yellow card for that play acting

22nd June: Croatia Vs Argentina #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. Given this was a kind of do or die for Argentina, was expecting something different. In their previous match, with 4 men defense, Argentina was struggling in defending. And today what did we see ? Argentine starts with 3-4-3 system !! They cannot defend with 4 players and today they decided to defend with 3 players ?????
Now even with the 3 men defense, they are playing square passes on top of their own penalty box along with their goalkeeper with Croatian players sniffing their backs. Is this a joke ???????? This joke of a strategy caused the goal as the Argentinian keeper made a mess of a situation !!!!
And again no planning in attack, no off the ball runs – same kind of play without any plan B s in place !!

2. Even though I am personally a big fan of Messi, I don’t think he was at all interested to play at all !!!!! Rubbing his forehead when national anthem is being played, strolling on the pitch, not attempting to run or take positions – what’s this Messi ???? Totally disappointed with Messi … You cannot be the greatest any more !! The least we could have expected is to at least give your best !!!

3. Croatia was the better team today. And Modric goal was a beauty. They deserved the win because of their hunger to win. They were pressing Argentina from the beginning – not giving space from the very first minute, chasing even the Argentine defenders so that they also don’t get any space. Total domination by them in this match.

4. The quality of football was scrappy and often was going physical. The referee today was struggling to control and also made bad decisions as well.

5. Finally Croatia has the potential to go to the semi finals. A very balanced team, excellent defense, good midfield and a decent striking power.

21st June: France Vs Peru #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. Finally got to see an entertaining free flowing football, played at a good pace.
2. Though it was a must win match for Peru or at least a draw, I would have preferred a defensive strategy for them till about 60 minutes. The gamble was that if Peru can frustrate France by that time and then quick counter attacking football could have surprised them. But instead France scored early and hence was not under pressure any more.
3. Pogba distributed well for France in the midfield. But still I would say that he is quite slow in this world cup. The slowness might negate his passing advantage
4. Overall, France improved considerably and as they move towards the next round, they are likely to pick up momentum more. Probably one area where they are lacking is genuine striker with a physical presence. Giroud can do that role, but he is the sole player. Would have preferred Benzema in this side as well, knowing very well he could have missed a lot of chances. But he being strong physically can disturb opponents defense
5. Peru deserved at least a point in this match. Again genuine strikers was missing from their side. In spite of that, they created chances and if luck was with them, they could have scored at least once.

20th June: Uruguay Vs Saudi Arabia #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. Disappointed with Uruguay. Was expecting more openings against a team like Saudia Arabia, but very few quality openings. Did not see quality mid field play at all – so strikers like Suarez and Cavani were often cut off with any supply. Now Uruguay need to lift their game in the knockouts
2. Uruguay defense was ever solid. Even the ageing Godin was like a rock, but occasionally being beaten by pace.
3. Fundamental mistake by Saudi goalkeeper. If you are leaving the charge, you have to get contact with the ball, come what may. If in doubt, stay on the line as probability of a save increases. Basic elementary stuff – isn’t it ? But the keeper failed on this and the goal became a very easy one for Suarez
4. Otherwise a decent performance by Saudi Arabia, specially after the drubbing in their previous match against Russia. I think if they had one quality striker, they could have easily drawn today’s match
5. Finally, when VAR will be called in and when it will be not is still confusing to me. Also, even if VAR is doing a review and communicating with the referee, how does the spectators know ? I am big time confused

20th June: Egypt Vs Russia #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. The defense of Egypt that stood tall in the previous match against Uruguay fell apart today. Too many space allowed by the back line inside their penalty box allowed the 2nd goal, a messed up basic final tackle allowed the 3rd goal.
2. The Russians leveraged their physical presence – both body strength and height advantage. Shows why that is so important in modern days football. Impressed with this Russian team, specially when they were termed as “potential embarrassment” as the host team before the start of the tournament so much so that the Russian players were not reading any news at all !!
3. Lack of control of the midfield by the Egyptians. There is lack of quality in their midfield line up. Probably that’s one of the reason why Salah was not getting good balls which he could have tried to convert
4. Overall I liked the match as that was played at a good pace and it was quite a open football with both teams trying to score goals. A pleasant change from the 8-10 men defending their own goals as seen in many earlier matches
5. As the commentator mentioned, we had 5 own goals in this world cup (with just the start of the 2nd round of group league) whereas the entire 2014 world cup had 5 own goals. Does this number speak of an untold story of the defenders unable to handle such pressure any more in world cups ?

#mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

19th June: After the end of the first round of all group matches, I thought the following trends are appearing in this edition of world cup:

1. The so-called big footballing nations are starting quite slow with lack of creativity against weaker teams. Of course, it is natural that weaker teams will play defensive football against them, but it is expected that the bigger teams can overcome the crowding near the penalty box. Unfortunately, in spite of controlling the matches with mid field play, bigger teams are choking up once they reach the opponents penalty box
2. The importance of speed and doing counter attacks in lightning speed is more than ever. However, did not see much of that from the bigger footballing nations. That is kind of surprising – are they having “older” and / or “tired” players who can’t do that or they were kind of over confident in the first round ? Time will tell …
3. In earlier editions, the big defenders sometimes got away from fouls on the penalty box (specially against dead ball situations) as the referees were unable to spot them. This time they should be careful because of the VAR system in the place. One mistake, one penalty can change the outcome of the match !
4. Having ball possession of around 70%, controlling the pace of the match by square passing, rotating the field through effective passing is all good, PROVIDED you can finish the game with quality through passes, individual dribbling brilliance, effective crosses, etc. Otherwise, you might control the match, but that might not mean winning the match
5. Finally, yet to see individual brilliance in most of the matches. Yes, there was those occasional free kicks, but it’s high time that the superstar footballers live up to their names, prestige and stardom they enjoy

18th June: Belgium Vs Panama #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. The difference in quality between the two sides was evident. And that was reflected in the final result
2. De Bruyne was the main player who was making the play with maximum number of passes while playing as a withdrawn half. It will be interesting to see how Belgium will respond if he is bottled up and not given any space to move against strong opponents
3. First half pace of Belgium did not look good to me with attacks happening quite slowly. Start of the second half was with good pace which resulted in the first goal.
4. Overall I believe Belgium is truly rated as the dark horse of the tournament as they have the talent, the fluidity of play, good striker to score and an excellent goalkeeper. Remains to be seen how far this Belgium team can go in this world cup

18th June: Brazil Vs Switzerland #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. Brazil’s nightmare on defence continues. While they performed well throughout the match, what were they thinking in that moment. One corner, two stoppers standing like statues, opponent get a free header (with a small push) inside the little box !!
2. Neymar should release the ball much faster. He is trying to hold the ball too long only to attract big tackles from the opponent team. That way his strength is getting neutralised.
3. Switzerland defended well and really came back strong in the second half. No wonder they are at FIFA world number 6
4. Firminho probably should be coming in 1st eleven. He is quite fast and might make Brazilian attack more menacing
5. Wake up calls to footballing giants – Brazil, Argentina, Germany all stumbling in their first match. High time they pull up their socks now or never

17th June: Germany Vs Mexico #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. I think the first difference between the two teams was speed. Germany was too slow in the attack while holding the ball too much. Last time, one of the success factor for Germany was reduce the average holding time of the ball from 3.4 seconds to 1.1 second. In this match, I think it should be up to the 4 second mark, if not more. The midfield of Germany (which was their strength last time) of Ozil, Kroos, Khedira, etc was very slow. I think if they don’t pick up their pace, Germany will struggle big time. Probably time to give more chances to their younger generation
2. Second difference was Germany trying to put the press play near the midfield. If their stoppers are almost in opponents half to do the pressing, then you are likely to keep big gaps to be exploited. Plus both Boatang and Hummels are quite slow. And that was exploited best by the speedy Mexicans
3. Too many square passes on top of the penalty box by Germans. Neither did we see fast throughs nor did we see speedy crosses to disturb the Mexican defense. Again, very slow attacking
4. Mexicans excelled in counter attacks, with speedy forwards picking up big holes in German defense. In fact, if they had more maturity in passing the final pass accurately, Mexico could have won by at least 2 – 0, if not 3-0
5. It’s one way good that footballing giants like Germany, Argentina getting wake up calls at the start of the tournament. They can still go to the last 4, if they make effective changes and show some more speed, better strategy and more intent.

16th June: Argentina vs Iceland #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. Argentina looks like to be an unbalanced team with very weak, disorganised defence and lack of alternate strategies when it comes to attack.
2. Messi was way below his own par. I felt he has lost some of his pace as well. Missing the critical penalty probably affected him as after that I thought I saw signs of him giving up through his body language
3. Argentina enjoyed 78% ball possession. Yet, what they tried was always going down the middle and break open the defence, which Iceland managed brilliantly. What I felt was when this strategy was not working, they did not have any plan B, like go through the wings more, bring in tall striker like Higuain from 70th minute and test through probing centers.
4. Iceland played brilliantly well within their ultra defensive strategy. They were not afraid to push in numbers when they attacked through counters.
5. Unless Argentina lift them up considerably, I feel that they might get eliminated in the group stage itself as this is the toughest group with Croatia and Nigeria the other two teams.

16th June: France vs Australia #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. Disappointed with the French team. With so many talented players in their midfield, I was expecting much more pace when they were attacking. However, the pace was so slow that it allowed the Aussies to regroup everytime the French attacked. If France has to reach the semi s or beyond, they need to pick up their pace definitely
2. I would have thought that Australia would push for more attack when they got their goal as France was slightly in disarray during that time.
3. Australia s defence was really composed and played great soccer in their 4-4-2 formation
4. Finally we saw both VAR and goal line technology in use today.

16th June: Portugal vs Spain #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. What a match !!! Unbelievable Iberian classic !!!
2. Spain’s defense looked slow, specially the two stoppers. Would be interesting to see the age of the Spanish defense and compare with rest of the teams
3. Again, seen a blunder by one of the best goalkeepers in today’s world
4. Ronaldo in dead ball situation is brilliant – proven again
5. Spanish substitutions of Iniesta, Silva was little surprising to me, as both of them along with Isco was pretty much controlling the game. Don’t know what was the logic of replacing them when they were leading just by a slender margin of one goal

15th June: Iran vs Morocco #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. First half was very entertaining with Morocco dominating with fluent football, Iran with quick counter attacks
2. Was really wondering whether both teams can maintain the same pace in the second half. My worry became true as the pace dropped considerably in the 2nd half
3. Iran was out of play in entire 2nd half. At one stage they had 6 players in last line of defence, 3 players just in front of them and the lone striker in their own midfield. Dogged defending.
4. Morocco’s young forwards lacked experience and that was showing clearly when they tried shots from angles which just could not yield a goal. Also, lack of quality final pass was very evident
5. Match probably was moving towards a draw when the disastrous own goal happened. I felt that header was having wrong technique. Why on hell would you even try a side flick header to clear the ball when you could just head back straight to get the same result of a corner ???? Iran could not believe their luck to get 3 points from this match. Before that goal, Iran could not do a shot on target in entire second half !!!

I would suggest to reduce Asian teams in world cup as it’s a sin to not have quality teams like Netherlands not in world cup and yet teams like Saudi Arabia qualifying !!!

15th June: Egypt vs Uruguay #mytake #FIFA #WorldCup

1. Disappointed with absence of Salah. That probably made a big difference
2. Most of play from both sides limited to midfield. Lack of penetration or imagination when it comes to the final third
3. Egypt effectively defending with 8 players and compacting on top of their own penalty box. Uruguay unable to break that compactness. Did not see any fast counter attacks to create space in Egyptian defense. The young midfield of Uruguay failed today – finally it was the old timers who started to make the impact for Uruguay
4. Out of 3 goal scoring chances, Suarez should have scored at least once
5. Finally it was a dead ball situation that made the 3 points for Uruguay. And what a perfect header !!! Anyways, they were a better team today and deserved to win.

14th June: Russia vs S. Arabia #mytake #worldcup #fifa
1. Ordinary match
2. Difficult to believe how Saudi Arabia had beaten Japan and topped over Australia in the qualifiers
3. Worst defending by Saudi Arabia – too many unforced errors, basic covering in dead ball situations completely missing
4. I strongly believe that if a weak team wants to score goals, you need 2 strikers. You can play with 1 striker if you have quality players who can overlap up and down fast. If they want to play for a draw, play with a strategy of 5-3-2-1. Did not understand Saudi Arabia s strategy of 4-1-4-1 when they did not have any quality player to make this formation effective
5. Russia’s 4th goal was a beauty.

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