More important than football, which of these two has the best scran? Argentina’s Asado vs. Saudi’s Kabsa feels like a local food derby.
And Argentina gen here:
Saudi gene here:
What is the optimal World Cup experience for players coming back into shape? Presumably those who don’t walk or walk and don’t play aren’t fit to play; those who go out in the groups and have the last 16 will also have too much free time; and those who leave the semifinals and finals have played too many emotionally demanding matches. So I’m aiming for a quarter-final elimination, which would be good news for teams with a lot of English players etc.
Keane also said that the World Cup has nothing to do with Qatar, which is difficult to dispute. Apart from the human rights aspects, I can’t understand the football aspects: players who have worked their whole lives for the right to play but can’t because they haven’t had time to recover from injuries and then those who reach the final don’t have time to process the biggest and worst moment of their lives, but instead have to trek back to European winter and Leeds or whatever.
Getting serious: “We’re talking about decency – how you treat people,” says Roy Keane, absolutely spot on how to respond to someone who uses “woke” or “political correctness” as an insult. Things can be difficult, varied and complex, but compassion, especially for the weak, should be at the heart of everything.
Decent player imo.
E-mail! “Irish Saudi fan here in Jeddah,” says Ger Clancy. “The whole country has just half a day to watch the game and there’s an epic rush to get home. Luckily I left earlier and ate some dates on my couch and watched the build up of the ITV bootleg. Watch out for Kanno, Al Shehri and Al Dawsari. I don’t know much about the other people…!”
ITV has an article on sportswashing and Saudi which is heartbreaking to say the least. I actually wonder if we really see that or if their involvement in football is more about ego, money and power. I also hadn’t seen the clip in which Eddie Howe was asked about human rights abuses and replied that he was “bitterly disappointed” at the loss that day. It really puts football in perspective.
something to read while scribbling the teams on paper: What makes the perfect World Cup and what are our responsibilities when we enjoy it?
I wonder about Argentina as potential winners, I wonder if they will have control of midfield in the biggest games and if the better sides could use the space behind their full-backs. But here’s a reason to hope they make it, from RDP to his tatts:
Many of them have a specific meaning: my daughter’s, my wife’s and my mother’s names… I think I’ll stop. Unless I become world champion, then I’ll have the World Cup tattooed on my chest.”
That, from Paredes on Messi, was good too:
If we win the World Cup I would be happier for him than for myself.”
I love the reverence the players have for the best – listening to Stephen Hendry comment on Ronnie O’Sullivan is one of my dearest pleasures – and I remember there was a tradition in Argentina that you could hear from your debut to his top Maradona sent, where it was kept in the so-called “room” where all his memorabilia were kept. I know this because my best buddy was there. I’m sitting in a closet in north London.
Speaking of Fernandez, I loved this from his Guardian profile:
Former Primeira Liga coach Jose Peseiro told A Bola: “He’s a bit like Zidane with his passing and vision. Enzo is only 21 years old? Either that’s a lie or he’s a genius.”
So Lionel Scaloni has Otamendi and Romero at centre-back, which tells us how highly he rates them as Martinez is also available. In midfield he has a genuinely interested mix of solidity with Paredes, all-purpose activity at De Paul and unpredictability at Gomez – although I wonder if Fernandez could eventually force his way into billing. I hope so because he is very special. In attack, on the other hand, things are going as expected – although I wouldn’t be surprised if Julian Alvarez influenced this tournament from the bench.
I turn it into six minutes of reporting before ITV started pounding across England.
Argentina (4-3-3): Martinez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico; De Paul, Paredes, Gomez; Messi, Martinez, DiMaria. Subtitle: Armani, Rulli, Foyth, Montiel, Pezzella, Acuna, Palacios, Rodriguez, Mac Allister, Fernandez, Alvarez, Correa, Almada, Dybala.
Saudi Arabia (4-3-3): Alowais; Abdulhamid, Altambati, Albulaihi, Alshahrani; Kanno, Almalki, Alfaraj; Albrikan, Alshehri, Aldawsari. Subtitle: Alyami, Alaqidi, Madu, Alamri, Alburayk, Alghannam, Aldawsari, Alnajei, Alhassan, Otayf, Alabed, Alobud Bahbri, Asiri.
Referee: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia)
Good news for all the preamble writers out there: Lionel Messi starts for Argentina.
Juca Kfouri, the Brazilian football writer, was once told that Zico never won the World Cup. “Well,” he replied, “that’s the bad luck of the World Cup.”
And in a way, Brazil’s failure to lift the trophy in 1982 – and 1986 – actually increases its standing and cements it in our hearts, because tragic heroes are easier to identify with than heroic heroes. Or to put it another way, because, as always when we think we’re thinking of someone or something else, we’re actually thinking of ourselves. But they are also easier to identify with because they stood for something important: “Beauty comes first, victory is secondary – what matters is joy,” as Socrates put it.
Which brings us to Lionel Messi. Our relationship with him is partly different because Argentine football culture is different from Brazilian football culture, which focuses on winning by any means necessary. But it’s also a personal thing – while Messi may be the greatest player of all time, he was so adept at hiding his essence that we only know the genius we see on the pitch, meaning it’s not personal connection there. So from our perspective – there we are again, dot to the heart of things – he could be cheering for a famous win here for people he neither knows nor cares to find a bloke no less good with 487 goals in 559 club games and 91 in 165 at international level; was awarded seven Ballon d’Ors; and won 10 La Liga titles as well as four Champions Leagues.
But actually it has nothing to do with us: Messi has to win this for himself, so he ends his career with no regrets. And the good news for him is that he has a good chance: Argentina have strong defence, solidity and creativity in midfield and serious firepower up front. The bad news for him is that he may have a stroke, but reports say he will be fine.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, was good in qualifying but less so since then. They’re solid in defence, though: in 12 games this calendar year, they’ve conceded just six goals, kept clean sheets against Australia, the United States and Ecuador, limited Colombia and Croatia to just a single goal and only allowed more than once. Here we go!
Kick-off: 13:00 local time, 10:00 GMT