Sunday, July 08, 2018

More Fascinating Football

The match between Sweden and England yesterday was a tense affair at least for the viewers in the UK.  Local streets were far quieter than usual as both the tennis in beautifully hot and sunny weather and football took people's minds away from politics and shopping. As for the latter I wondered passing by Pizza Express in Wimbledon Village, whether the sign there at 2:30pm apologising for its unexpected closure for two or three hours, was related to the football or the tennis.

Enough digression; the football watched at home by maytrees min and myself, mrs maytrees does not find football, unlike badminton, particularly enjoyable to watch, was very tense at least for the first 25 minutes or so while both teams were so to speak, "finding their feet." 

However England  during the final  20 minutes of the first half, began to outclass their Swedish   opponents and their  first goal then before the whistle at c.45 minutes, was at that time, really not unexpected. The team had had chances to  put themselves two or three goals up by then, which perhaps would have been taken if the team was not so new and young, despite which description, they have surpassed many an English team's achievements in previous World Cup years, going back almost to 1966.

The second half of the match against Sweden produced a second goal for England although considerable efforts by the Swedes thereafter nearly led to a goal or two for the English opponents. 

Jordon Pickford, the England goal keeper about whose slightly shorter height than some regard as ideal for goal keepers there had been a little media concern, made some brilliant saves both quashing such concerns and ensuring that England proceed  to the semi final, which match takes place in Moscow on Wednesday. 

Croatia will be England's opponents and some suggest that that team will still be tired from its 120 minutes hard slog followed by penalty shoot outs with Russia.  Young professional footballers  will in my view though recover in say 48 hours from such matches. Their semi final match with England will be tough for both teams and far from a walk over for either.

Interesting looking at some of the match stats. Croatia won two penalty shoot outs against Denmark and Russia in their progression to the semi finals and England who overcame their usual poor showing in penalty shoot out taking, won one. Belgium beet England 1-0 earlier in the tournament so it would be interesting so see what a rematch in the final might bring. That is too far ahead to contemplate at this time however.

What is true and surprising in my view, is that whichever teams win the semi final matches this week there will be an all European final as all the semi finalists represent European countries. Bearing in mind the strengths of other continents in team sports more generally, such as Rugby and  Cricket and the history of outstanding talent in football by the South American teams, I suspect that the luck of the draw has had a larger than usual effect on the  continental mix in Russia 2018. 


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