Spotkick's FIFA World Cup 2018 Review

Monday, 16 July 2018 11:45

And so the curtain has fallen, the fat lady has sung, the last rites have been read. Forgive the ending cliches, we’re just finding it hard to say goodbye to the 21st World Cup and wondering what to do with ourselves. But with the tournament having reached its conclusion, Messrs Not Moony, Not Wormtail, Not Padfoot, and Definitely Not Prongs, Spotkick’s finest, gave their conclusion on the Mundial.

Player of the Tournament

Ola Fadahunsi: Luka Modric. Nobody comes close. He was phenomenal all through and he's one of the guys that had the most minutes at the World Cup - Modric is a complete work of art.

Trust Inonse: Who else for me than the Golden boy of the tournament - Kylian Mbappe. At 19 his confidence and determination is next to none. I don't think I have seen a better player at his age.

Kunle Ajao: Luka Modric, without a shadow of a doubt. Sometimes he felt like the solo act in this World Cup orchestra. Always a delight to watch on the ball, he even adds superb work rate off it.

Shehu Idris: Unarguably and undisputedly Luka Modric. Prior to this tournament his name wasn't even mistakenly mentioned amongst those worthy of the FIFA the best award but only sprinkle of people will wave his inclusion now. How he managed to lead Croatia into the Final and outshine the glorious Class of '98 with extra ounce of work-rate and non-human voltage of creativity is a paper for another time. FIFA got this call right, Modric was head, shoulders and knee above everybody else in Russia. 

Goal of the tournament 

OF: Ahmed Musa’s second goal against Iceland. That set the entire nation bouncing.

TI: The goal that got me thinking - Benjamin Pavard. Coming to the world cup as a rookie and still had the audacity to speak to the ball to get France their second goal against Argentina . Borrowing the word of Etim Essien- it was a slapping NASA

KA: Benjamin Pavard’s volley against Argentina is the kind of the thing you dream of, but 100 times out of 100, you thump that wide. He didn’t.

SI: Pavard!!! A technique that can make the ball spin and float like a balloon that isn't entralled with the wind, that sort of technique, with the outside of boot. That sort of technique, read me well and loud, is out of this world. If there wasn't a net there, that ball would still be floating happily like a hot air balloon in the sky of Russia. 

Match of the tournament 

OF: Germany vs Mexico.

TI: A match I won't forget in a hurry would be Portugal v Spain. What a thrilling encounter that was, as Cristiano Ronaldo showed the world why he is the present world’s best footballer. It was great watching Spain's champagne football against a Ronaldo-inspired Portugal.

P. S, A match I won't use a nail clipper on my nails for is the France against Denmark's horror.

KA: It was only Day Two when crisis-hit Spain played unconvincing Portugal in Sochi. A six-goal thriller that had everything, a free-kick, a penalty, a goalkeeping howler, a routine goal and a howitzer from a right-back. It set the tone for such an incredible tournament.

SI: Spain vs Portugal. The match, you'll agree with me, came dashing into us really early. We weren't ready for such an action-packed match after the tepid opening day of the tournament. Ronaldo's hattrick. Nacho's sumptuous half-volley. David De Gea's unusual gaffe. Diego Costa and Pepe rekindled old animosity. This match had a healthy bit of everything a match of the tournament should have. 

Best surprise 

OF: England. You might say they played lesser oppositions, but how these set of young guys were able to curtail the pressure always put on the Three Lions prior to every major tournament was a surprise. I give them credit for that.

TI: Best surprise? Which other team comes to mind but the Croatian national team. I bet even the best magic practicing priest never saw a final for the blazers.

KA: It’s easy to say England, and why not, a first semi-final in 28 years for them. But if their journey to the semis was a surprise, their path certainly wasn’t, and they lost the three games where they faced quality opposition. Plus, no one saw Croatia as finalists before the tournament, so it’s them for me.

SI: Croatia of course. They surprised everyone including themselves. That they made it to the final wasn't the actual surprise but the jarring fact that they made it there playing gruesome extra 30 minutes after each of their knockout games and they didn't roll around the pitch in agony of cramps and fatigue is the biggest surprise. If Superman was real, he'll definitely be a Croatian.

Biggest disappointment 

OF: Germany summed up the whole disappointment for me.

TI: it's difficult to look away from Germany and Argentina but permit me to give this plaque to the Spanish national team. Who puts together over a thousand completed passes and still loses? That's ridiculous to say the least.

KA: I’ve watched German teams that have played underwhelming football, until this World Cup I’d never watched a German team that was complacent. It looked like they’d recovered after that late winner against Sweden, it turned out to be a false dawn. Watching Germany crash out of the group stage, it was almost like football broke.

SI: Germany. For the first time since Euro 2004, they crashed out of a major tournament in the group stages. For the first time ever in the history of Die Maanshaft, they bowed out of World Cup in the group stages. For the first time in my life, I saw a German team that's almost always vunerable to opposition breaks. Let me stop my "For the first time" game here. This German side were woeful and should be thankful for the mercy of that early exit.

Verdict on VAR

OF: As much as I loved VAR, I think it's doing more harm than good. Making football so predictable, the penalty given to France was evident, no referee in the world would have given that. To top it all, VAR is taking emotions away from the game; that is bad.

TI: Well! I have never been in support of the VAR and the World Cup test hasn't convinced a strand of my hair that it is needed. It kills the vibe of the game and for the fact that it wholly still depends on the discretion of the referee, in my opinion, it's not a solution if it's not solving the problem in totality.

KA: VAR is meant to correct clear cut errors, which means: (a) If the referee is called to look at it, then it’s supposed to be a clear cut error (Nigeria v Argentina). (b) If it’s a clear cut error, it shouldn’t take four minutes to decide (the final itself). That VAR is ultimately subject to human interpretation means it will be ludicrous in my eyes.

SI: Obviously it is here to stay and no amount of campaign launched against it will get it out. Moreover, it had a successful debut in Russia. Except for some little doggedness from referees to overturn their initial wrong decisions, it showed it can make this game a lot cleaner and a little more transparent. However, people still need to get used to this machine. We complain about how long it takes before a decision could be made but does it matter the amount of time for the best decision to be made? Football lover are finicky bunch who scavenge for errors like someone picking beans, VAR won't end football controversies. 

Most excited about

OF: Prior to the tournament, the issue of racism and fans violence seemed inevitable; how Russians were able to nip that all through the Mundial created so much excitement for me.

TI: The unexpectedly peaceful World Cup. Against all odds, Russia hosted one of the best tournaments in recent times.

KA: Watching Belgium’s counter-attacks, particularly against Brazil in the last eight, was a sight to behold.

SI: Kyllian Mbappe. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's era of dominance, either we like to admit it or not, is fast dissolving. Several names of successors have popped up over the years and it looked like these successors will make the claim after the early exit of the aforementioned juggernauts but these guys didn't have the previously thought impact on the tournament. Except Mbappe of course. At 19, with just a season and a half of top-flight club football under his blurily quick feet, he transformed the Mundial into another playground just has he's done with Ligue 1. It looked really easy for 'Donatello’ as his pace fuelled by his youthful exuberance proved harder than Advance Physics test for every defender he faced. His physical precociousness has shrouded his cold-eyed finishing talent. This boy's imminent dominance on football will mirror Messi and Ronaldo's but sadly, his won't have an almost equal rival to battle with.

Least excited about

OF: African countries.

TI: The shambolic performances by the African contingents, it was pitiful to say the least. Although a glimpse of fight came from the West Africans - Nigeria and Senegal- their best could only buy them three matches in Russia.

KA: The constant Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo comparison after each player plays. It’s the World Cup for goodness sake, not El Clasico.

SI: Tiki Taka or Tiki Taxi or Taka Tiki or Kati Kati or which ever name you've given the boring act of caressing the ball endlessly across the pitch without urgency or a sharp edge. It used to be orgasmic when Xavi was still in the Spanish team with his eagle vision but now, it's just excruciating. Iniesta has passed his prime. Isco drives opposition near madness with his dribbles and not his passes. David Silva loses himself and his creativity in the incessant passing drills. Spain should fold up the paper containing the Tiki-Taka blueprints and reach for another approach now. 

Note on Nigeria's World Cup

OF: So many people have been calling for Rohr's head after tournament - different strokes for different folks. In my opinion the Nigerian team to Russia was the best I've seen in recent times.

TI: Although disappointing from a Nigerian perspective, it's definite that this Nigerian team is the best in recent history. Just a little bit of trimming and a little bit of additional quality would make the team a world beater.

KA: Our World Cup may have ended after three games, but their was a sense of what might have been, rather than a sense of disappointment this time. Despite the early exit, there’s more than enough cause for optimism. A fair amount of stability right now will go a long way in helping. Not that we’ll have it.

SI: Although we crashed out in the group stages, it still hasn't stopped us from dreaming about what this band of young talents can achieve if they remain banded together with Gernot Rohr as the sheepherder. Stability is just what this team needs. Stability in players, coaches and administrators but the latter appears like it won't be getting the required stability as some destructive critters are already tilling the ground and unperturbed if the tree tumbles and all the goody birds bound off.

 

 

Published in International Watch

Nigerians have took to their various social media handle – reacting and savouring the Super Eagles’ commanding victory over Iceland on Friday afternoon

A drab first half, which the three time African champions had the larger share of possession, but could not have any shot on target was improved on in the second half – with two goals from Ahmed Musa deciding the tie.

The win meant that if Nigeria could get at least a draw in their next game against the Albicelseste of Argentina, and Croatia could force Iceland to a draw, or lose by a margin not more than three, the Super Eagles will move to the next round of the Mundial.

Savouring the moment, Nigerians in their usual fashion have taken to the social media spewing out different shades of opinions, jokes and so on.

A Twitter user with the name DADDY THE FATHER @SemilooreAkoni has likened the joy in the country aftermath the Eagles' triumph to that that was witnessed when Abacha, who has been dubbed as Nigeria’s worst ever dictator died on June 8 1998.

@SemilooreAkoni wrote: “The last time Nigerians were this happy was when Abacha ate apple and died.

 

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Another Twitter user also joked that the improvement in the second half from the players could be as a result of the coach threat to arrest the players with the Nigeria Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).King of Ikorodu @OtunbaBillz: “See them playing like Rohr threatened them with SARS at halftime.”

Jeffrudeen @VillageParrot also wrote: “In less than 90 minutes,Ahmed Musa has made Nigerians happier than Buhari has in 3 years.

Also, Nigerian musicians were not left out of the party, with Olamide Adedeji, aka Badoo full of confidence - saying all that is left for the Super Eagles is to defeat the Argentines in their next game.

Olamide Adedeji @olamide_YBNL wrote: “Na to chop Argentina eyes remain now ! Nigeria issa goal !!!

Michael Collins better known as Don Jazzy, who was proud of the Super Eagles’ performance wrote on his twitter handle @DonJazzy: “We did thissss. If I catch any geh this night. Na belle straight.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Akpoborie has warned the players not to get carried away with the victory over Iceland.

The former Nigerian international wrote on his Twitter @ Akpoborie: “Job is not done yet, there is still plenty of football to be played against Argentina.

Published in Awa Football

Mediocre, Mediocre, then Musa. Up until that point the game was dour, the first half a contender for the least exciting in this World Cup. Then Nigeria broke forward. Victor Moses found Ahmed Musa, whose control was as immaculate as his finish was unerring.

Nigeria needed a win to keep their hopes up in this tournament. A draw would be of little good, a defeat would signal the end of the road. Perhaps the anti-defeat mentality caged the must-win one in the first half, as the Eagles barely threatened: no shot on target, the crosses weren't working, and neither were the long balls. Nigeria shaded the possession stats, but Iceland were the more threatening, Francis Uzoho denying Gylfi Sigurdsson on two occasions.

Something had to give after the break; someone did, Brian Idowu coming off for Tyrone Ebuehi before the second half began.

The switch didn't seem to add any plus up front, in fact nothing did; until three minutes into the second period, when Moses broke forward, and Muka broke the deadlock. Then the Eagles had the wind in their sails, Wilfred Ndidi stinging the palms of Hannes Halldorsson with a fierce drive, while Moses fired one effort wide.

Balogun was next to come close, heading a Kelechi Iheanacho corner wide, then Musa hit the upright. But the Leicester forward would offer retribution soon after. This time the long ball was right, a touch to take him past Ragnar Sigurdsson, then another to round Halldorsson, the goal was gaping, and, seconds later, bulging.

With less than 20 minutes to play, Gernot Rohr's side had a margin for error, and victory was in sight. There was a slight scare with 10 minutes left when Ebuehi brought down Alfred Finnbogason, and the referee, after consulting with VAR, awarded a penalty. But fortune smiled on the Eagles Gylfi Sigurdsson skied the resulting spotkick.

It was just Nigeria's day.

Published in Awa Football

The former Kano Pillars winger has revealed that the Eagles harbour no fear over their World Cup group stage meeting with Argentina.

Nigeria were drawn in Group D alongside Croatia, Iceland and Argentina and ahead of the meeting with the latter billed for June 26 at the Saint Petersburg Stadium, Ahmed Musa in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com said the Eagles are not petrified by the quality of the Albiceleste of Argentina and that of other countries that will be at the World Cup.

Musa scored a brace when the two sides (Nigeria and Argentina) in Brazil but a Lionel Messi’s brace and a goal from Marcus Rojo ensured the Albiceleste maintained their winning records over Nigeria – making it four wins in four meetings at the Mundial.


Musa celebrating his second goal against Argentina at the 2014 World Cup (Getty Image)

According to him, Eagles’ failure to book a place at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations motivated the Eagles during the qualifying series and the team is well prepared to face any team at the World Cup.

“When we realised we weren’t going to make it to the Africa Cup of Nations (last year), we decided that we were going to fight for the people of Nigeria.

“It doesn’t matter who we come up against; we’ll be giving it our best shot at the World Cup.

“We’ll be trying our hardest in every match, no matter the opposition.”

He added, “We need to set our sights high. Nigeria want to do more than just get pass the group phase.

“We want to make the quarter-finals and even the semis. Why not.”

The winger who has been warned by Gernot Rohr to look for a new club to be in a good position to make the World Cup squad has been reported to have agreed a temporary deal to leave Leicester City to join former club CSKA Moscow till the end of the season.

Musa spent four seasons with CSKA Moscow – scoring 53 goals in 169 appearances for the Russian based club.


(Getty image)

He expressed hopes of making his second appearance at the World Cup – describing the World as a very important event.

“I hope I get selected. The World Cup is a vey important event for any player,” he concluded.

 

Published in Awa Football

Super Eagles technical director, Gernot Rohr has fired warning to the duo of Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho to dump Leicester City for club where they would find regular playing time.

Musa and Iheanacho have been out of favour at the King Power Stadium, the former appearing in just a game in all competition and the latter in just 12 games in all competitions.

And in less than six months to go before the World Cup, the Franco-German has warned that fringe players in their respective club sides must found game time to bolster their chances of making the team that would represent Nigeria in Russia.

“My plan is to execute the World Cup with the players who are regularly with their respective clubs,” Rohr told SuperSports

“How do you expect a coach to jet out to Russia with average players who lack playing time?

“… I’m sad the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho and Ahmed Musa lack playing time at Leicester City.

“I and my scouts took time to pay their coach a visit but we realised their case are getting worse.

“I hope they keep fighting for shirts to get a playing time or quit the club for a better team willing to give them playing time to showcase their talent.”

The former Niger man also added that Super Eagles stood a very good chance of making it pass the group stage in Russia.

Nigeria was drawn in Group D alongside Argentina, Croatia and Iceland but Rohr believes with good preparation and no injury, his side will advance to the Round 16.

“We have the chance to move out of the groups to the Round of 16.

“For the basics I know that with good preparation and no injury to players we will advance,” Rohr added.

Published in Awa Football