The FIFA World Cup crescendo is reaching feverish pitch. From who will be the best to who are the best? The debates that started in the beginning, are now taking shape. The NAVHIND TIMES met with players who proved themselves on and off the pitch, to get their take on the World Cup.
Lloris has the last laugh
Great goalkeeping was part of the FIFA World Cup show in Moscow during the two semifinals. I think from amongst the four goalkeepers Hugo Lloris from France stood out for his excellent display under the bar. France are in the finals because of their goalkeeper. Not that Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was the second best. Both goalkeepers played their best and were the two best goalkeepers of this World Cup.
France goalkeeper Lloris made three outstanding saves – first in the 12th minute, then in the 17th minute and in the 80th minute. It was his save in the 80th minute that actually gave his team the entry to the final. Had that ball gone in, the complexion of the game would have changed .
Credit to Samuel Umtiti who scored the only goal because it was a hard or impossible ball to stop that ball from from entering in. There was little Courtois or for that matter any goalkeeper could have done with such an attempt.
Both goalkeeper had good height and therefore made it difficult for their opponents to break their defenses with long passes into the danger area. Their aerial collection was good and it was because of their height and athletic built.
The story was not similar in the semifinal between England and Croatia. England played well for thirty minutes and Croatia played for the rest of the match, even the extra time and so they created all the chances to score.
Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was better of the two. He was confident in his collections and in his judgment of when to go for the ball and not. English goalkeeper Jordan Pickford should have asked his colleagues not to pass the ball back to him time and again. England resorted to defensive play by making the goalkeeper a key element of their game and Croatia exploited this loophole well.
This world cup has seen a lot of new faces guarding the horizontal and that was a good sign. Gone are the days of Peter Shilton. A majority of teams had young goalkeepers and most of them did well. Except for two games, I did not see any goalkeeper making mistakes. It is nice that youngsters are taking over. The teams with younger goalkeepers advanced into the tournament in comparison with teams who played older goalkeepers. Most teams with senior goalkeepers were knocked out of the tournament early. (The author is former goalkeeper of Salgaocar Sports Club and now manager of the team)
Midfield is about speed
France had a more subtle defense in comparison to Belgium and it was the speed employed by the French that left their opponents gasping. The midfield that releases the ball and does not hold the ball for too long is the best.
A good midfield is one that gets the ball to the opponent’s territory fastest and I think it was this element that separated France from Belgium and many other teams in this World Cup.
Look at the games that Brazil and Spain played. They tended to hold the ball for long in the midfield with their short passes. Short passes makes football look attractive but it does not always deliver results. Teams that tended to hold on to the ball for long in the midfield were the first to bow out of this World Cup.
See what happened to teams like Brazil, Spain and Portugal. They tended to keep the ball in their midfield possession for long while their opponents bothered about scoring.
This World Cup has given promise that there is going to be a change in style of midfield play through the years to come. Football is going to be faster and for that to happen a lot of emphasis will have to be laid on the fitness of players. (The author is an international football player and former coach of Dempo Sports Club)
Planning without a sound defense
France was the team with the best defense in this World Cup and that is why they managed to outpace Belgium to the finals. France has the strongest defense and that is why they were able to hold Belgium – the team with the best strike force– at bay during their ninety minute game and that by itself is a huge achievement.
Holding Belgium for ninety minutes is not a joke because Belgium has an attack which is hard to crack. Belgium are strong on the ground and with the high ball. Yet Varane and Umtiti did a wonderful job to nip the Belgium attack.
Defenders have added a new colour to this World Cup with many scoring goals during this tournament. Varane and Umtiti were two outstanding defenders of this world Cup and if France have reached the finals it has been because of the contribution of these two.
Defense is the best form of attack and I have always believed in this .
Croatia proved to be the fitter team in the second semifinal. Despite playing three extra times before their semifinal clash, Croatia proved that their fitness was better than that of England and that is one reason they were better and beat them in the semifinals.
I personally did not appreciate the way Croatia played their semifinal. I found they did not play clean football and used other tactics to kill the playing instinct of the English. But, that is the part of the game and it does not take any credit away from them for reaching the finals for the first time.
England did not have a class player – as usual – and they tended to depend on Kane who did not impress me at all. They did not field Vardy and their technical team appeared a little confused of whom to give a chance and who to substitute. The Croatian defense was all over the English territory and played a great role in helping the rest of their team mates in attacks. Croatia had a more prodding defensive line.
There were some teams in this world cup that laid little evidence on defense and I think that was their undoing, because I believe you cannot plan a game without a good defense. You need a good defense to be able to plan a game, otherwise it is useless.
See what happened to Germany. They laid little emphasis on defense and had to bow out of the tournament before the knock out stages. This was because their defense was not well thought of. You cannot plan without a sound defense. (The writer was a former international player with Sesa Goa and director of Sesa Football Academy during its peak.)
Good strikers score against best goalies
Antoine Griezmann was the guy who took France to the finals of this World Cup. He changed the game for France and had his hand in how France got past an otherwise strong Belgium team. Griezmann orchestrated the game for France.
The France defense also played a big role by not allowing Romelu Lukaku to have his feet on the ball. Lukaku was nailed to the ground by France and was give no room at all to play.
Griezmann , on his part , played all over the ground and was responsible not only in quashing Belgium attack but instrumental in his team’s goal and many assists. No doubt both teams had two very good goalkeepers to beat, but the job of a striker is to score, irrespective of who the goalkeepers are. A good striker is one who beats the best goalkeeper.
Croatia got their equaliser because walker was waiting for the ball to come to him instead of going for the ball and he did not anticipate his opponent would beat him for the ball. Walker should not have been watching the ball.
Mandzukic’ s goal was classic. It is what we call a strikers goal.
England had their chances but they never made the most of them. Had they taken the 50-50 chances that they got, the story could have been different.
When we go for inter village tournament, we normally yell at strikers when they miss scoring and shoot way away from the goal. There were many occasions when striker missed open chances in this World Cup and therefore missing goals is a part of football. If the best can squander such easy chances why not our players, especially when we are played peanuts compared to what these players are.
There is no doubt that player for clubs are paid big and therefore are seen to make fewer mistakes. Missing is part of football. (The author is Arjuna awardee and Director of coaching SAG)