The FIFA World Cup Halftime and Postgame Thread For 6/18/14: After Cameroon's Catastrophic Exit
Team Of Day 7
This was by far the toughest team to call this tournament, as Australians Tim Cahill and Mathew Leckie, along with Dutch explosive wingers Arjen Robben and Memphis Depay, would have been in this team had it not been for consistent excellent play from Ivica Olic, Mario Mandzukic and Alexis Sanchez.
Particularly hardest was Mandzukic and Cahill, as the Red Bulls forward produced the co-goal of the tournament with that amazing strike. It proved to be a bittersweet World Cup goodbye for Cahill, as that was his last match in the global competition after picking up his second yellow in as many games. A sensational player throughout his career for both club and country, Cahill showed that at least in MLS and CONCACAF play that he has plenty of quality left in him.
Jara, Mena, and Isla probably had their best defending day as a group for Chile, with great last ditch defending, organization for most of the match, and just that bit of luck on giving the clear chance for Busquets, only for him to miss at four yards out.
Aranguiz, outside of one bad ball, was the difference maker in both Chilean goals while Marcelo Diaz provided the best harassing in the midfield to be in Xabi Alonso's dreams for the rest of the short time he's in Brazil.
Coverage of Day 8 will start today with the exciting Group D clash between Colombia and Ivory Coast at 11:30 AM ET, 12:30 local time. Stay tuned for that.
FT: Cameroon 0-4 Croatia
Today was the utter catastrophe that completed Volker Finke as the worst manager of the tournament with a completely undisciplined and tactically inept setup.
Compare Finke's handling of Samuel Eto'o with Ivory Coast manager Sabri Lamouchi, the youngest manger of the tournament, with Didier Drogba. Despite Drogba being far closer to his old great self than Eto'o, Lamouchi made certain to the Galatasaray forward that his starting spot was not guaranteed. That should have been the way Finke, a manager with far more experience than Lamouchi, handled Eto'o.
Instead, Finke chose Eto'o to start over rising Vincent Aboukabar against Mexico and the rest is now history. Giving Aboubakar the nod today against Croatia was too late to make up for the idiotic decision not to even play him in the opener. And it perfectly represented how Finke lacked the iron grip or pertinent common sense required to at least get the best out of this Cameroon side.
From Alex Song's back slap assault on Mario Mandzukic to Benoit Assou-Ekotto headbutting his own teammate in Benjamin Moukandjo, "The Indomitable Lions" once again resembled on the global stage more like "The Dominated Kittens."
With developing offensive talents and Joel Matip in the back, Cameroon still have a good wave of players certainly capable of getting the side back to Russia 2018 and at least remain a CAF power as Eto'o retires. But they have to find a manager who has a full iron grip on the side and not allow out of control veterans the full dominion of the team.
Eto'o, Song, and Assou-Ekotto needed a manager to not allow any shenanigans or ego explosions in order to get the maximum performance from this Cameroon side. Instead, they got a pedestrian coach who lacked the aura to produce that necessary mentality.
Halftime: Croatia 1, Cameroon 0 (Cameroon down to 10 men)
Alex Song rivals Pepe for stupidest red card of this World Cup, as his moment of nuttiness could see Cameroon go right out.
And it's a shame, as the CAF side had shown some life after a listless display against Mexico. Song was apart of good buildup play with Vincent Aboukakar, Benjamin Moukandjo, and Stephanie M'bia, but the latter is just not comfortable delivering final key passes at right back.
Now down to 10 men and needing a goal, the tasks looks impossible for Finke's men. Although they did show to be a threat at the end of the half with the man disadvantage. Cameroon will have to do that in a second half where Kovac will have a full 20 minutes to see how Croatia could get more goals.
FT: Spain 2-0 Chile
Photo from FIFA.com
The end of the era for Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas, David Villa and maybe Fernando Torres and David Silva were on few display at the Maracaña.
The decline of a core nucleus, apart of their three major tournament triumphs, was apparent for all to see. Now Spain will have to untap their great youth development to get back quickly on top.
Sergio Busquets looked older than Andres Iniesta, while the latter also lacked any of his usual burst and continued on his shaky form from the end of his club season.
Del Bosque wanted to give Casillas that chance, but if he placed Pique and Xavi on the bench, then why not drop a keeper who just isn't in the form he use to be? Unfortunately for Del Bosque he couldn't replace Casillas with David De Gea since the Manchester United goalkeeper was unavailable.
Chile meanwhile, despite a few usual moments of giving up clear chances (most notable Busquets missing from point rage that could have turned the game around) were the best I've seen them in defense since the England friendly last summer. Medel and Jara were organized and never allowed Diego Costa to get any space. Even the fullbacks, Mauricio Isla and the much maligned Eugenio Mena, performed at an organized high level that will give Sampaoli confidence in his back four going into their group decider vs Holland.
But back to Spain, and once again, they didn't lose these World Cup Finals in the last five days. They lost these World Cup Finals, however, by playing last year.
Halftime: Chile 2, Spain 0
The clock is ticking on Spain's golden generation.
Alonso, when placed into great positions, didn't produce. And when placed into awkward positions, lost the ball, and Aranguiz became the man of the match.
It's just disastrous from Spain. After constant playing the last two years, it has gotten well into their legs. Busquets is nowhere near able to track in the midfield, while Iniesta even looks heavy legged as well.
Disaster, disaster, disaster, while great happiness for Chile.
(More to come after this game, in a bit....)
FT: Australia 2-3 Netherlands
Photo from FIFA.com
It was a tactical masterclass for Ange Postecoglou over Louis Van Gaal, along with seeing the Dutch defense that most thought would be the reason why they just wouldn't go as far as their great offense could take them.
Playing the same 5-2-3 formation in their triumph over Spain was a disaster, as Australia out numbered them in the center of the field for most of the first half with McKay, Jedinak, Bresciano, and Leckie coming back to flood De Jong and De Guzman. The two "De's" could barely get the ball as it lead to Leckie having a great creative day in the midfield. Martins Indi, before his unfortunate injury, was getting dominated by the Frankfurt winger throughout the opening 45 minutes. De Vrij also was a mess at the back, with both Janmaat and Vlaar not that much better.
Either Depay or Cassie had to come on for one of the three centerbacks from Van Gaal, and Martins Indi's unfortunate injury lead to the switch that had to be made. Depay made the difference with his assist for Van Persie's equalizer and then took his chances from distance against Ryan. The rest is history:
For all the massive hype after the Spain pasting, consternation will creep back in about this Dutch's side ability.
They simply will not go far in this tournament if Van Gaal doesn't get a true defensive cohesion with his backline. But he maybe firmly powerless to stop that.