- Simultaneous translation
The great thing about the third-round of matches is the need to have two TVs. In Ekatarinburg, Sweden went 1-0 up against Mexico after 50 minutes to leave Group F looking thus: Sweden 6 Mexico 6 Germany 4 South Korea 1. That was after 50 minutes and so it stayed that way for 10 minutes until Sweden went 2-0 up. That changed the complexion of the group because the Swedes had a +2 goal difference and the Mexicans were down to 0. It meant that in Kazan if Germany scored they would go through in second place. And you felt even then the Germans would pull off something against South Korea because it’s the Germans and they do this kind of thing all the time. Only not this time. The Koreans did a Germany and scored two goals in stoppage. The final Group F standings: Sweden 6; Mexico 6; South Korea 3; Germany 3. Wunderbar.
And thanks to the goals from Young-Gwon Kim and Heung-Min Son, Germany followed a well-worn path of defending champions failing to emerge from the group stages. It happened to France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014. More specifically to Joachim Low and the squad, this is the first group of players not to reach the second phase of the four yearly Fussballfest since the second World Cup in 1938. Once you look past the horror of elimination and the catastrophe in Kazan, that is rather impressive consistency. Germany have never not been in the World Cup. Not many countries can make that boast.
- Emergency on planet earth
On day 13 the review remarked that Lionel Messi had been beamed down from a distant nebula far, far away but quite near the Ozil distillation. Messi scored a marvellous goal and was a general menace as Argentina saw off Nigeria 2-1 in St Petersburg to reach the last 16. Mesut Ozil, dropped for Germany’s second Group F game against Sweden, was restored to Germany’s starting line-up for the must-win third match against South Korea. The 29-year-old failed to inspire the side à la Messi and Germany lost 2-0. It wasn’t obviously all his fault. Nevertheless, Arsenal fans and new coach Unai Emery can only be hoping a passing bolt of energy brings his genius back to earth - and even better still north London - for the start of the 2018/2019 Premier League season.
- Penalty slops
There’s an awful lot of rubbish around penalties. When one is awarded players from the penalised team feel that it is their right to delay and then mumble stuff to the penalty taker. Presumbaly they’re not saying: “All the best with the kick, mate!” When Sweden were awarded a penalty during the second half of their game against Mexico, Andreas Granqvist was waiting to take it and there was a veritable passagiata. Eventually, the referee Nestor Pitana cleared the road and Granqvist thrashed it into the top right hand corner of Guillermo Ochoa’s goal. That made it 2-0 and Sweden went on to win 3-0 and claim the group.
- I know what I like ...
“And do I not like that,” as a former England manager Graham Taylor once remarked in a documentary about a poor pass in midfield that led to a goal for the oppostion. Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio came across as somewhat Tayloresque following his side’s 3-0 defeat to Sweden. When asked by a Swedish reporter about the match Osorio said: “You identify with one idea of playing football, very respectable, and, believe me, I deeply respect that way of playing. I don’t agree with it because they never play from the back. Everything is from the goalkeeper to the attackers … but that’s the way you feel that football should be played and that’s respectable.” But clearly, it’s not right for Osorio who has taken Mexico to the last 16. “You have got very good results so far and I think it’s amazing you can play in the same manner every game and compete and beat teams that play in a different way.” Osorio’s boys sent shockwaves through the tournament when they turned over the Germans 1-0 in the first Group F game. We now know that wasn’t that good as the South Koreans beat them 2-0 on day 14. Obviously, the Germans had been softened up. Osorio was asked if anyone from the Swedish team had stood out. “No, I don’t think so,” replied Oforthrightio. “If there is something that Sweden has is the collective effort. Everybody competes in the air. Everybody is 1 metre 80 or 1 metre 90 tall and you compete with what you have and I think you did very well. But as far as playing talented football? I don’t think so.” Maybe he is more nuanced in Spanish.