Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Thoughts about the World Cup in Russia

Thoughts about the World Cup in Russia
(All the goal stats are before the England-Panama match)
by rick olivares

I am thoroughly enjoying the 2018 FIFA World Cup. There have been lots of twists and turns. Super performances and goals galore. Some traditional powers are floundering while there seem to be emerging nations.

Seeming only because in the case of Russia has been lucky with their group and that has masked their talent or even their opposition. In a group with largely inexperienced (at this level) Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The hosts have had two wins and by blowouts.

They only qualified because they are the hosts and previously have had miserable campaigns finishing 18th in 1994, 22nd in 2002, and 24th in 2014. They didn’t qualify in 1998, 2006, and 2010.

But this is good for them. Their strong performances – poor competition aside – will help raise the level of football in their country.

Germany on the other hand has been lucky. They have looked to attack so much that they are oft caught in the counter attack. Their last gasp win against Sweden kept them alive but they aren’t out of the woods just yet. They have to beat Korea and hope that Mexico handles Sweden in their next matches.

I think France is this tournament’s Portugal (based on the last Euros). The French aren’t scoring much but they have had their opportunities. I figure they are quietly creeping in but will peak at the right time.

Argentina… their woes continue. Who would have thought they’d be drubbed by Croatia, 3-nil? After making the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil where they lost to Germany, 1-nil, after extra time, they are looking more and more like they are going to not make the second round. Nigeria is running second in Group D and Argentina will have to not only defeat them and overhaul a three-goal differential, but they also hope that Croatia will oust Iceland in the process.

The second matches of the group stages have only been played and we’ve seen 71 goals!

Here’s how those goals are broken down.

Goals inside the box (not including headers) 36
Headers 10
Penalty Kicks 11
Own Goals 4
Outside the Box Goals 5
Free Kicks outside the box 5

The four own goals quickly put their teams in a huge hole and were game changers. Morocco, Nigeria, Poland, and Egypt all had own goals punish them for a loss.

Save for Nigeria, the others might miss the second round bus.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has made an impact in this World Series but I also thought that there were two questionable calls. The first was Cristiano Ronaldo’s foul inside the box against Spain where the Portuguese striker was awarded a penalty. It was a soft soft penalty. A dive even as the contact was so minimal.

The second was during the Denmark-Australia match where a penalty called on the Danes saw the Aussies level. Really? That was a penalty? Really?

Even with video replay, people still cannot get it right.

So much has happened and we aren’t even done with the second matches of group stage.

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