July 6, 2018, Day Twenty-three
In Russia’s 2018 FIFA World Cup, France met Uruguay in the first quarterfinals match. The match was a bit uneven from the get go as France had too many stars on its roster and Uruguay was without one of its main ones—Edinson Cavani. The first half saw France exert its dominance while Uruguay showcased its mix of caginess and outright cynical fouling but with the rare dose of attacking inspiration. At the 40th minute a picture-perfect, how you draw it on the board, prepared set-piece French goal took place.
Antoine Griezmann stutter-stepped his way to a free-kick cross and that simple move made the Uruguayan defense react early. Then, as the right to left cross came in, Raphael Varane ran left to right to simply flick the ball in the same direction Griezmann had sent it in only six inches higher and about two feet further left. The ball nestled in the lower left corner of the goal where Fernando Muslera had no chance. France went ahead 1—0.
At the 45th minute French keeper Hugo Lloris made the save of the tournament more for the import than the spectacular finger-tip dive save that it was. The header, from Martin Caceres, found the exact same spot by the post, if the opposite side of the goal, as Varane’s header had previously. Only this time Lloris had time to see and react to it and his big save allowed the half to conclude with his team a single goal ahead.
The second half saw a repeat of French dominance as the young team has been asserting itself as the one to beat at this tournament. Uruguay was reduced to a shadow of itself as they sorely missed Cavani’s offensive punch and then came the nail in the Uruguayan’s coffin.
At the 61st minute Griezmann was allowed to take a 25-yard shot unmolested, without a defender within a shadow of the striker, and he opted for a booming knuckle ball that both wrong footed Muslera and made his two-handed attempt to block the shot ineffectual. The ball bounced off the keeper’s hands, making it seem more a mistake than it was, and the score sealed the match. France 2—0 Uruguay.
The best team in the tournament now gets to see who will step up to attempt to derail them in the semifinals.
Brazil met Belgium in the second quarterfinals match and a 13th minute own goal by Fernandinho (the eleventh of the cup) set the tone for the first half. Brazil seemed demoralized by the fact that the ball went off their man’s shoulder without a Belgian nearby and that the ricochet wrong-footed Alisson. The surprised Belgians were given an instant jolt of energy that they rode for the ensuing 33 minutes including stoppage time.
Brazil, who had mustered three goal scoring chances around that own goal with several players muffing shots in the box, seemed unable to get a consistent set of attack going and at the 31st minute a nice counter by Belgium gave Kevin De Bruyne a perfect chance to shoot uncontested from just outside the box and the ensuing shot found side netting leaving Alisson without a chance for a 2—0 lead.
At the 35th and 37th minutes Thibaut Courtois needed every inch of his full size to cement his team’s lead. On the first save, done as much on his feet as on his knees, he just cleared a deflected ball that was going into his top right corner. On the second, Phillipe Coutinho took his patented curler from outside the box, in traffic and with several Belgian defenders blocking Courtois’ view and the keeper just got to the ball, at full stretch, to deflect it away from goal. Thereafter the Belgians controlled the Brazilian’s surging attack and managed the last nine minutes to the first half whistle.
The second half began with the changes Brazil coach Tite should have made games ago and Roberto Firmino (45th) and Douglas Costa (58th) finally came in. Over the course of the ensuing second half of the game Brazil had direct and open shots on goal (similar to the De Bruyne one) from Renato Augusto, Coutinho, and Neymar. The first two simply shot wide of goal, way wide of goal. While Courtois made his third game-changing save on Neymar’s.
But the story also included two disallowed or missed penalties, one clear kick to Costa’s calf in the box as he progressed toward goal and the other a hand to the eyes on Neymar when he was about to head a ball from close-in also in the box. FIFA officiating was not at its best in this match.
One can only be left to imagine what would have happened if there had been no generalized FIFA and Mainstream Media bias against Neymar—but there was, and he was judged to be faking on the hand-to-eyes penalty, even without any rolling or dramatics, and no penalty was called.
One would then be forgiven to hope that if only we had a FIFA VAR, maybe the replays would show how Costa’s leg was kicked directly on one missed penalty and similarly show how Neymar would not have been able to see the ball he was trying to head due to the Belgian defender’s hand covering his eyes. Oh, wait, we do have a FIFA VAR—but the referee review that should have taken place either never happened or was somehow done while missing the video all of us fans on television saw, twice.
At the 76th minute, Augusto received a perfect lofted pass from Coutinho and headed in what would be Brazil’s consolation goal. So, after two water breaks and countless fouls, and several players having to be checked on field by their medical staffs, and five substitutions, one would think the ref would have added the nine minutes so many of the “other” favorites had received. But the ref added five. During those five the Belgians were allowed to waste three so one would assume the ref was paying attention and would add at least one back. But at the 95:04 the whistle blew.
Brazilian fans might believe, that just maybe there is some karma at play here and this untoward treatment is retribution from the gods for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in which Brazil should have never gotten to the semifinals. But in a cup where Neymar was injured nearly to the point of paralysis and Germany managed to humiliate the hosts 7-1 in those semifinals, one would think the gods had already gotten their pound of flesh. So? Oh yeah, this is FIFA, and we are in Europe, and we wouldn’t want any “other” favorites from outside the hosting continent to progress, right?
Sorry folks, but what was done to Brazil in this cup,
and in particular to Neymar,
by both the media and FIFA,
was simply disgraceful.
Congrats to Belgium, though, their play in the first half earned them a rightful place in the semifinals, Belgium 2—1 Brazil.The second best-playing team in the cup will thus meet the first with the knowledge that the winner of their semifinals clash will be the favorite against any team coming out of the other side of the bracket.
Futbol Papa’s World Cup 2018 Diary today chronicled that the England team felt they had been clever in the way they played Colombia. That cleverness, though, referred to the way they “handled” the fouling situation.
Futbol Papa’s World Cup 2018 Diary found that Neymar and Media Bias seems to be a thing. To which we can add FIFA’s bias as exemplified by the officiating of Milorad Mazic, from Serbia (you know, from UEFA, and specifically from the country whose team was eliminated by Brazil, that Serbia).
With VAR being so poorly used in its inaugural World Cup Papa will keep track of the manner in which infractions and unsportsmanlike acts decide games throughout the cup. The two missed penalties against Costa and Neymar in a 2-1 game wound up being the difference maker in the quarterfinals between Belgium and Brazil.
Futbol Papa’s World Cup 2018 Diary will continue to keep tabs on the tournament’s scorers to see if the initial goal scoring tendency continues, as so far, of the 140 goals actually scored in the cup (11 more have been own goals for a total of 151 tallies) 26% (36) have been converted by La Liga players while 22% (31) have been scored by Premiership stars. The remaining 52% have been scored by all other leagues combined.
On Saturday, Sweden and England will meet at 10:00 AM EST in Samara, while at 2:00 PM EST Russia and Croatia play in Sochi.
Futbol Papa’s World Cup 2018 Diary Predictions
Fifty-nine games played. 64% correct calls
Right calls–(37)—Correctly called 30 group stage matches and seven knockout matches.
Papa made an “push (no call)” on the Iceland-Nigeria game, but called it for Iceland after the cup began, so this prediction is not credited as right or wrong (1).
Wrong calls–(21)—Incorrectly called 18 group stage matches and three knockout matches.