Some great points throughout, as always, by Michael Cox.
A lot of European clubs, not just the big boys, want to play stylish, attacking football. Or, at least, they want to present the idea that they can. The 1-0 game between Atletico Madrid and Arsenal did seem boring in comparison to the Champions League semis but it was simply a matter of excellent defending by Atletico. The idea of the club’s brand playing a part in that decision is very interesting and makes even more sense when you compare to international football.
Each continent certainly has stylistic similarities in terms of play but, ultimately, each international teams approaches the game differently. What makes the difference at the club level is that players spend months together learning each others patterns along with being constantly drilled in a specific style by their coach. There is much less time for international teams even during tournaments.
Perhaps that’s another reason the upcoming 2018 World Cup is yet to fully excite. There are sure to be some painful games early on as players, coaches etc get accustomed to each other again after exhausting seasons. Hopefully enough quality shines through and it doesn’t become a case of playing not to lose instead of playing to win.
My piece for the Boot Room on the pressure on Vincenzo Montella at AC Milan next season.
I haven’t done a post like this in a while hoping to get back to doing it regularly. If’ you’ve read Soccernomics you know about Simon Kuper. There’s definitely some interesting thoughts in there. I can see the rise in analytics continuing but I don’t know about managers becoming less vital or Western Europe losing it’s dominance. If the latter happens it won’t be for a while yet.
The final international break of the year has plenty of interesting story lines to look out for. World Cup qualifying will be on the agenda in all confederations and there will be some intriguing friendlies as well.
Some confederations, like CONCACAF, are just getting started but they do so with a bang.
Mexico vs USA is the big game to start CONCACAF qualification and while it won’t be a death sentence for the loser it will leave an extremely bad taste in the mouth. If that side follows that up with another bad result then panic will set in but we shall see. Mexico, the US and Costa Rica are the favorites to progress but we’ll see what happens when things get started.
Qualification from Asia seems like a given for certain teams but, as of right now, Japan and South Korea area headed for the playoff where one, and possibly both, may not make it to Russia 2018. Of course, they’re only four games into a 10-game group so there’s plenty of time.
Things got really interesting in South American qualifying before the second half of qualifying even began. ESPN FC reported that Bolivia were forced to forfeit two results for fielding an ineligible player. That bumped Chile into the last qualification spot, the playoff one to be fair, with Argentina dropped to six. Brazil and Uruguay are well-placed at the top of the group with Colombia and Ecuador sandwiched between the quartet.
Things will shift even further with some big games in the next round. Colombia v Chile and Brazil v Argentina are the must watch games with both away sides needing a win. Uruguay host Ecuador as well, meaning all the top six play each other so that will be fun. Things don’t get any easier for Argentina as they play Colombia and Chile play Uruguay. (The major thing for Chile especially is Alexis Sanchez possibly missing out due to injury)
No offense to the Oceanic Federation but it is pretty much New Zealand’s to go through.
African qualification is pretty much just getting started as well and there are plenty of intriguing possibilities. DR Congo and Tunisia are off to a good start in Group A. In Group B, two of either Nigeria, Cameroon or Algeria will miss out. Ivory Coast are favorites in Group C as are Senegal in Group D while Egypt and Ghana will fight it out in Group D. The rounds will be halfway done by the time the international break is over so we’ll see whats what.
There’s still plenty of time for things to change in Europe but there are some interesting games in these next rounds. England v Scotland and France v Sweden, Croatia vs. Iceland and Austria vs. Iceland are among those. Apart from that there are few teams already running against the wind such as the Netherlands, Ukraine, Denmark, Scotland, Wales and Austria. Group D is especially interesting with Serbia, the Republic of Ireland, Wales and Austria all fighting it out.
FIFA’s new boss, Gianni Infantino, definitely picked up some tricks from his predecessor.
It’s a given that campaigning in for any form of office comes with promises that are highly unlikely to be filled, right? One such promise that isn’t going away as far as Infantino is concerned, as reported by the Guardian, is the possibility of expanding the World Cup. In that sense he’s definitely taking things further than Sepp Blatter who seemed to mostly filled with talk when it came to this topic.
Sure, it was nice to see teams like Iceland and Albania perform admirably, or really well in Iceland’s case, in the recently expanded Euros but the flip-side was the overall level of football was very watered down. That was mainly due to team’s eyeing results with a microscope to navigate their way to the knockout rounds in a tournament that f$*#(@g Portugal won. I wasn’t a huge fan of the CONMEBOL/CONCACAF mashup in Copa America either but it was at least more entertaining. (Admittedly, I think Iceland is no fluke as their start to 2018 World Cup qualifying has shown and that’s down to how they’ve built their program from the ground up in recent years).
Of course, the promise of expansion helps win a few more votes from countries that would very much like the chance to trot out in the world’s biggest sporting event besides the Olympics. At what cost though? Certainly the level of play, issues with scheduling etc. and the small fact that the current proposed deals would see a majority of teams play two years to take part in one game to fly back home. Would those playoffs bring plenty of interest? Yes. One could also argue that the countries new to the experience will get better the more they come up against top opposition. Would that really be the case if the majority of them are playing one-off games to even make it into the tournament proper? I doubt it but Infantino doesn’t.
“Whether it will be 40 or 48, it was a positive discussion. I don’t agree it will dilute the quality,” Infantino said. “I would like to remind you that in the last World Cup, England and Italy were eliminated by Costa Rica. The level of football is increasing all over the world.
“In a 48 team format, the quality would be higher because the 32 teams would have a play off. The quality would improve and not decrease in any way.”
The quality wouldn’t be higher because of one-off games though ratings probably would and FIFA’s pockets may bulge a bit more. And, to be honest, there’s only one expansion that makes sense. If you want more teams, Infantino, and more games and more money(which is what you really want) why not just go to 64 teams and rename it June/July Madness with the same top 2 from each group going through and then a knockout round of 32 onwards? I’m sure one of your successors will bring that up so let’s just get straight to it. Except, we’re forgetting one thing. Increased workload for the players after grueling club seasons would undoubtedly drain the competition of its increased quality.
Let’s not forget that some of these teams already play in playoffs to get to the big show. They may not mind the possibility of an automatic spot but that really wouldn’t be the case as they are likely to be first in line for one of those playoff spots. So what’s the difference?
I should be happy with the idea of more football every four years but seeing as I’ll probably be sneaking to watch those games at work or, staying up late/waking up early, I’m not sure my schedule can take it. I think 32 teams and a month-long tournament is enough, and especially so when we’re talking about a one-game playoff.
I’ve said my piece but the articles below offer some interesting, and contrasting, views on the proposed changes and its something we’ll continue to hear about until a decision is made.
Some interesting suggestions here.
Some are highly unlikely to happen, like making wages etc. public or lessening the amount of games. Others, such as “safe standing,” and paying attention the Club World Cup are kind of meh suggestions. The suggestions about ending the Europa League, reformatting the Copa America and having 10 players are definitely ways to change football but not really good ones to put it nicely.
The two most interesting ones for me were the regional leagues and changing the international break. The idea of regional leagues may be further along than you think, as per the Guardian’s initial look here at a possible “Atlantic” league in Europe. If a European Super League is coming then why shouldn’t other clubs assess things. I don’t think it would happen nor do I necessarily want it to happen but it is interesting to think about.
The changes to the international break would be huge though, and hopefully well-received. Instead of the stop start beginning and end of seasons annoying the majority, I think most parties would be fine with two prolonged longer breaks with friendlies, qualifiers etc. One would think a lot of countries might benefit from the increased time together, I’m looking at you England.
What do my fellow former college soccer players think?
Aand, we’re back. Just going to ignore the fact I haven’t done shit for about 6 months.
Figure this is a decent way to start. Nice look at some of the future young talents in world football. Interesting to see the updates on the 2014 and 2015 lists.
I’ll be doing a lot more writing both here and other sites but posts like this will still be on here occasionally.
Huge Euro 2016 preview here. Some really good articles. Looking forward to a good tournament. Copa America has been decent so far.
Might be the last post for a while.
Always a good read from Gabriele Marcotti and some great points throughout. I don’t think many supporters mind the big boys fighting it out for titles season after season but they don’t want repetition. We do like it even more when a Leicester City or Atletico Madrid surprise happens but I think most have already accepted the status quo. Not that that’s a bad thing.