- All mod cons
Back in the late 1920s in Russia, Moisei Ginzburg and Alexander Vesnin founded the Organisation of Contemporary Architects (OSA). As the name suggests, they fancied themselves as modern men having gone all avant-garde while at the Vkhutemas School in Moscow. Their thang was function rather than form. The review – being a multi-disciplined self-referential forward-thinking daily journal – has been reminded of them while watching respectively the Belgium and England coaches, Roberto Martinez and Gareth Southgate. In the prelude to their Group G clash in Kaliningrad, both men promulgated the kind of social condenser philosophy so beloved of the OSA. While the OSA lads wanted public spaces as areas where all social groups met and interacted, Martinez and Southgate of the Organisation of Contemporary Managers (OCM) want a tournament team where harmony is enhanced through inclusion which in turn maintains competitiveness. Radical? Yes. Because it breaks with the shibboleth of not changing a winning team. Martinez has employed 21 players in a single tournament for the first time in Belgium’s World Cup history. And why not? If you have the resources, seems ludicrous not to deploy them. Efficient too. Injuries to perceived alphas seem even more futile when the goal has been achieved. Southgate has also used 21. And he resisted the urge to send on five-goal hero Harry Kane to help find the equaliser against Belgium. Both men had the luxury of parading their principles because both of their teams had qualified for the last 16. And the clash in Kaliningrad was just a matter of top and second. Given that neither coach believes there is an easy route from now, little weight was afforded to the prestige of first or second. It will be interesting to see which players the OCM boys select for their impending knockout games. On day 19 in Rostov-on-Don, Belgium take on Japan and the following day in Moscow, England play Colombia. Tournament philosophy may never be the same again.
- Not this time for Africa
We remember Shakira shaking and slinking in the 2010 World Cup theme tune Waka Waka (This Time for Africa). Back then there was an African team in the last 16 – Ghana. Two World Cups later, there’s been something of a continental drift. Senegal were eliminated on day 15 after their 1-0 loss to Colombia in Group H. It means no African sides are into the knockout stages. Though Senegal had the same number of points as Japan, had scored and conceded the same number of goals and the teams had drawn their match with each other, the Senegalese are on their way home because they had harvested more yellow cards: Japan 4 Senegal 6.
- Old-fashioned Belgium
England went into the final Group G game against Belgium as leaders. They, like Belgium, had scored eight and conceded two goals. Belgium, though, were bad boys having collected three – yes, three - bookings in their two games. Saintly England only had two men shown the yellow card. England would have advanced to the last 16 as winners on fair play but Belgium went and did something very old-fashioned like scoring a goal to decide the game. No fair.
- Road to redemption
Adnan Januzaj, the scorer of said goal, has trodden a complicated path to the Belgium national team. There’s been a Will he? Won’t he? spiel because Januzaj could have represented Kosovo or Albania. But he’s in a Belgium shirt and on his ninth appearance he scored his first international goal. It came in the 51st minute and it was a neat piece of skill and finish. It proved to be the winner. “It gives me a lot of joy to score the goal,” the 23-year-old told the review. “But it’s not finished. I have to keep going and keep scoring goals. We showed that even with what people might think is a second team, we have a strong team. England aren’t an easy opponent to beat. We showed that with and without the ball, we are a team that works for each other and that’s the most important thing.”
- Euro zone
Belgium. Only a country of 11 million people but shaking up the world of football. But let’s not forget their male tennis players. For Belgium has reached the final of the Davis Cup – the men’s team tennis competition – twice in the past three years. OK, they lost both times. But that’s not the point. Back in the day, their neutrality was breached and off we tripped into World War I. Fast forward over the ensuing carnage to nowadays and the team leading the squad is a microcosm of a European union. Roberto Martinez, the head coach is Spanish and his assistant, Graeme Jones, is from England. The coach of the forwards is Thierry Henry, a Frenchman. Now, what’s this thing about EU migration