JLo’s beginner’s guide to the World Cup: Brazil and Mexico show just how beautiful 0-0 can be
(Editor’s note: I’m posting this from an iPhone via mobile app, so apologies in advance if it seems even more like the work of a deranged 7 year old than usual.)
I’ll be the first to admit, usually there is nothing more boring or dispiriting to watch than a 0-0 draw at the World Cup. A lot of times you can see them coming, as one side will come out with virtually their entire team in the opposition half, content with a draw either for strategic or personnel reasons, and it becomes obvious after a few moments that the opposition has little hope to break through and score, either through lack of invention or motivation. This tactic is often colorfully described as “parking the bus.”
That’s not to say that teams come out with a primarily defensive shape aren’t playing to win or are incapable of scoring goals. Quite often the best way to score is to lure the opposition into committing too many players forward and then breaking out with pace when the ball is won back. See The Netherlands complete destruction of Spain a few days ago for a primary example. The Dutch 5-3-2 (or 3-5-2, it really doesn’t matter – the two wingers on the outside drop back to defend when the ball is in the Dutch half, and move forward to support the attack when the ball is won. Soccer formations are more often about tactics and situation than a generic offensive or defensive “formation.” Just as an American football defense can adjust to play the run or the pass within a base formation, so too can a world football one. Wow, that may be the longest parenthetical digression in a lifetime full of them. My apologies.) sprang a deadly counterattack that produced the highest goal total of the tournament so far.
Anyway, the point to all of this is that 0-0 can often be boring, and are the games that those folks predisposed to disliking soccer in this country point to when they say that they don’t like the sport because there isn’t enough scoring. And, like those people who point to Coldplay when they say they don’t like “new” music, it’s a hard point to argue usually. Except for yesterday, when Mexico and Brazil played to the one of the most thrilling 0-0 draws you’ll ever see. The parked bus was nowhere to be seen, as both sides put sustained pressure on the opposition goal, especially Brazil. Were it not for the brilliance of Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who denied the Brazilians time and time again with a string of excellent saves, one from point blank range that threated to cave in his face, Brazil would have walked away with a victory and clinched Group A.
Soak in the goodness of Hombre Elastico! Senor Fantastico! (How great is that?) here.
(BTW, FIFA is getting pretty vigilant about knocking down unauthorized videos from YouTube, so I’m sticking with the official ESPN highlight vids, which I can’t embed on this page, mainly because I’m too lazy to make it happen. You get what you pay for on this site. So, links only.)
So, not much debate about the Man of the Match in this one. And thanks to both sides for reminding us that even 0-0 draws can be thrilling and intense when the stakes are high and the performance inspired.
The great thing about life is that the gods usually see fit to balance things out when they can. And when I think of gods in this case I immediately Lawrence Olivier, Maggie Smith, and Burgess Meredith clad in bed sheets, gathered around a table and pushing little stone football players around, making them do their capricious bidding. (I love nothing better than a Ray Harryhausen reference – that made my morning.) Such was the case yesterday. After one of the great goal keeping performances in World Cup history, along came Russia v. South Korea. The goal keeping in this match was horrendous, especially on the Russian side, but it didn’t end there. As one friend put it, “I hope somebody is making a highlight reel of this game set to the Benny Hill theme.” I can’t sum things up better that.
Cue the hilarity.
Pretty easy choice for match of the day today, as Spain v. Chile would have been a highlight regardless, but now it is doubly interesting thanks to the first match day results in this group. Anything less than 3 points in this game and Spain is likely out of the tournament, which quite frankly would be a stunning outcome. Chile is a really good side who are more than capable of giving the Spanish a run for the money and they looked very good in beating Australia last time out. I picked Chile to make it out of this group at the beginning of the tournament, so I’m going to stick with them and look for a 2-2 draw, which, combined with an expected Dutch result against Australia, will eliminate Spain from advancing out of the group.
Cheers and happy viewing.