So that’s that. The international break is over. Millions over the world will be breathing a huge sigh of relief on the return of club football, without a doubt the more popular form of the game. We at Football Paradise however linger on just a little while more to focus on what all turned heads this time around.
- England are still a Quarter-Final team : A thumping victory over San Marino at home and a hard-fought draw away at Poland. The former was merely a formality. When you host a team that has conceded more than 100 goals in their last 25 odd games, you know it’s time to rack up the stats. Credit to Hodgson’s men for being ruthless and scoring five past the hapless San Marino team. Poland were always going to be a challenge, and so they were. What turned out was a spirited show by the Polish team and some listless stuff from their English counterparts. Rooney has found his hunger back but lacks the panache to make a difference consistently. The central-midfield puzzle is still to be solved. Gerrard and Lampard are experienced and accomplished players whereas Carrick and Cleverley bring a certain freshness and bite to the team. Who does Roy choose for the starting line-up? Who can add that little extra from the bench? Ashley Young and Jack Wilshere return to full-fitness soon. Once that happens, Roy has a lot of decisions to make. England can take heart from the number of youngsters making the cut, but Roy needs to find the right combination soon. Else it’ll be another under-prepared England team at a World Cup.
- Brazil need Kaká : Neymar, Ganso, Lucas Moura, Romulo, Oscar, Hulk, Damiao. That’s quite a talent pool to play around with, and a young one at that. Where does a 30-year-old, ex-World Player of The Year fit-in? Right at the heart of the team. Friendlies against Iraq and Japan might not give a good perspective at the strength of a team, but it sure did tell us how improved Brazil are, once Kaka steps onto the field. Mano Menezes may or may not stay till the World Cup in 2014. On account of these two friendlies, Kaká surely is. Neymar was suddenly not having to worry about picking up the ball from midfield. Oscar had someone to share the play-making load with. Ramires and Paulinho had more than just Oscar to combine with. Suddenly, Brazil looked so much deadlier. You could term Iraq as minnows, but not Japan. They way Kaká and Oscar linked up with Neymar and went about destroying the opponents , Menezes would’ve chuckled to himself in raw admiration of the talent he has it his disposal. He’d be foolish to leave Kaká out from his plans unless injuries show up.
- Argentina finally have Messi at his best : 14 goals in 14 games under Alejandro Sabella. The little boy from Rosario is finally showing his true colors for his national team. Batista, Maradona and Peckerman were all keen on deploying Messi in a playmaker role, behind Tevez and Higuain. It impacted his natural playing style and restricted him to the midfield for most of the game. Sabella has allowed him to play as a ‘false 9’, the same role he plays for Barcelona. The results are there for everyone to see. Two goals against Uruguay and one against Chile would surely have given the nay-sayers some food for thought. If Sabella can keep this up, there might be a small matter of a single-handed domination at the World Cup in two years time.
- Ronaldo is the new Figo : Euro 2004 : Finals. World Cup 2006 : Semi finals. When Cristiano Ronaldo was polishing his talent as a teenager for Portugal, there was one man who single handedly guided the team to glory they’ve seldom tasted. Luis Figo, part of the Portugese team which won the U-17 Euros in 1989, carried the whole team on his broad shoulders and made them a formidable force to reckon with. Yes, there was some support from Rui Costa for most parts of his career and Ronaldo towards the end of it, but in his defense, it wasn’t enough to pull a team through. Ronaldo could sit down with Figo for a drink one day and discuss how he feels exactly the same now. The Portugese national team are scarily dependent on the showman, despite the presence of some solid players like Joao Moutinho and Nani. The support, as with Figo, is never enough. A captain’s display at Euro 2012 led them to the semi-finals and in two years, you could expect Ronaldo to turn it on again for his national team. Will they bite the dust again? Your guess is as good as ours.
We aren’t surprised if you’re looking for something on the Germany-Sweden game. Was it a talking point? Well, the result was. Especially how the game panned out. 4-0 to 4-4 isn’t something that happens in every other game. Here’s why one wouldn’t read too much into it. Germany are a fantastic team. And they’re young to boot. One bad half an hour doesn’t make the team any worse and it shouldn’t be giving Joachim Low too many sleepless nights. He knows his defense-line is good and this result will be a big learning experience. Sweden, on the other hand, are a great team who can be tough nuts to crack. The defense has always been a worry for Eric Hamren’s men, and conceding four goals in an hour will add to the worry. The last thirty minutes put paid to any German hopes of this being a cakewalk. Nothing additional to note down for either team, we suppose. Wow, for a non-talking point, that was quite a lot of talk about it.
The remainder of the international break didn’t throw up anything that we’d like to feature in this article. We’ll sign off and let you enjoy the prospect of club football this weekend.