Categorized | Barcelona

World Cup Rules! Part I: The Wingman

imagesAn American soccer fan lives a lonely life. It’s not as if Americans didn’t love them some organized sports. I live in a town, for instance, where middle-aged people ask perfect strangers to “teach them how to Bucky.” Prosperous landowners paint their barns kelly green and yellow. And it’s not as if my neighbors were provincial yahoos. Why, they travel all the way to Milwaukee to see the Brewers, and enjoy bier, wurst, and fromage, preferrably al fresco in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot.

So there’s no reason for us to sit alone in our cubicles or squished on the subway or  upright in bed while the person next to us snores through Iran vs. Nigeria. No! We have plenty of potential bar buds, tailgaters, and the-wavers right here in the old US of A! So what if ABC insists on broadcasting Antarctica versus Bora Bora on prime time? We don’t need them anyway!

Average American.

Average American.

BFBers, if we want someone to tip over that police car with us on July 14th, we’re going to have to talk them into it ourselves. Now, it will take some planning. It will take lots of effort. But I have a plan, so all you need to provide is lots of effort. Follow the following, and footy will have a red-blooded, blue-starred following in no time!

I know. Still, no.

I know. Still, no.

Your first step is to find an Average American to introduce to soccer. The AA ought to be an open-minded, good-natured guy. No girls. Sorry, ladies. No offense, me. Girls will spend the entire match checking out the AA, checking out you, checking out the players, or texting their friends. Maybe option “B” does not sound so bad, but we are not trying to help you score, are we? No, we are here to help you help other people care when your favorite player scores. In a match. You can always watch the hotties on the jumbo-tron.

Not him.

Not him.

If you’d like support, you can invite a fellow soccer fan as well. Emphasis on “fellow” (cf. options A-D, above). The purpose of the Fellow Fan, like all wingmen, is to make you –and, by extension, Leo Messi – look good. The FF should be someone you would be friends with in real life, not the lonely nerd in the office break room or the pretentious jerk from your junior-year study-abroad program.

You might find that many FFs are foreign-born and most AAs are xenophobes. So be sure that your wingman has a nice, pronounceable name so as to get everyone off on the right foot. Pablo, Hans, and Aziz are good names. Chip, Chet, and Chadsworth are immediately off-putting.

Otherwise, you'll be stuck with this guy.

Not this guy either.

Beware, however, of assuming that a foreign-born fellow fan is a soccer fan. Too many AAs have interpreted inflected English as an invitation to hold forth on the 4-3-3 versus the 4-5-1, only to blurt out moments later, “Oh, yeah? Isn’t that kinda like baseball, but with … sticks?” or “No kidding! Isn’t that like football, but without helmets … or something?”

By now your Average American is hunting for a triple-jalapeño chicken wing to stick in his eye and thus distract himself from the pain of being stuck with a pretentious jerk and his weirdo co-worker somewhere with no girls during the Red Sox game … and it will be another four years before you get another chance to convince him that he is actually having the time of his life.

BFF.

Just give him a day or two.

 

So find a guy who is attractive to women without hitting on them; willing to buy a round without suggesting the brew; a buddy to all but best friend to none; and has a nice, friendly, pronounceable name, like … Andy. Yeah. You need to find yourself an Andy.

Stay tuned for Part II: The Venue. Coming soon to BFB.

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209 Responses to “World Cup Rules! Part I: The Wingman”

  1. dl says:

    SoccerMom! Something about your posts always seemed familiar, and now you let it out that you’re from Wisconsin. I grew up in Sheboygan. Ya hey, ya hey. Get me a beer once, while yer up yet.

  2. PrinceYuvi says:

    SoMa, plz come on twitter.

  3. the time wasting tactics have been incredibly cynical this world cup. or is it just me?

  4. Peter says:

    What is a Bucky?

  5. dl says:

    The badger is the state animal, and Bucky Badger is the mascot of the university. The ‘Bucky’ is a dance he (someone dressed up as the mascot who romps around during football games) does.

  6. ciaran says:

    Cuadrado’s performances for Colombia are surely going to increase his price, that’s two really good matches after a great season.
    Even if we buy him for an attacking position and sell Pedro I’d be happy. Still, his place at right back with a more defensive midfield and stronger central defense would provide a great outlet for breaking down defenses.
    The ability to beat a defender in a one on one is one of the biggest advantages a team can have. Currently we have Messi and Neymar who can do it almost at will and Alexis and Iniesta to a lesser extent to do that. All of those players could potentially be playing centrally if the system changes but Cuadrado at right back would give us another dimension.

    • Inamess says:

      If Pedro goes it looks like the two teams interested are Arsenal and Liverpool. He would be great for both, but I would hate for him to go for cheap because of Spain sub-par World Cup. On the other hand, some of our big targets may be really expensive after the WC particularly if we are really going for Cuadrado or Higuain.

  7. Inamess says:

    Here is a great interview with Sid Lowe a few months ago when he was promoting his “Fear and Loathing” book:

    http://www.howlermagazine.com/dummy-1/

    For me, it puts a lot of things this season and Spain’s World Cup into perspective including:

    1) The self destructive infighting and politics of the board, particularly the pro and con Cruyff factions within the club over the last few decades. Lowe also suggests that the players are just sick of it after what was surely a season marked by
    instability, scandal, and politics.

    2) It also made me look at many Real Madrid moves over the last few years as a direct reaction to F.C.B. especially Pep’s treble and the 5-0 defeat. Were Modric, Isco and Illarramendi attempts to try to beat Barca at their own game as now they have some of the better Spanish youth and young midfielders?

    3) Is VDB more a diplomat than a manager? His job prior to this World Cup seems to have been to get Real and Barca players to work together and then let the experience in the side prevail while he just got out of the way. His response to the decline visible in last summer’s loss to Brazil seems to have been to go on a mission to take advantage of a rift Costa had with Brazil. An interesting diplomatic coup, but not exactly the changes that needed to be made.

    Also, I am not so sure that Valdes would have started in goal against Holland because of VDB’s loyalty to his veterans and preference to have at least a few Real players on the pitch. Then again, maybe he thought his veterans were his best chance to get out of a really difficult group, and then he would have switched things around a bit afterwards.

  8. Inamess says:

    What SoccerMom’s post also suggests is how great it would have been to have the World Cup in the U.S. instead of some very curious choices for 2018 and 2022. Nice to have Americans talking about a different kind of football. How exactly does Putin get the Olympics and then the World Cup in a matter of a few years ?

    • G6O says:

      While it makes absolutely no sense to have the WC in Qatar (as the place has no football tradition, will never have it as it is way too small, and the climate is absolute hell), none of those arguments apply to Russia. The former Soviet Union was a real football power (even if a lot of its strength derived from the inclusion of Ukrainian players, raised in the Dynamo Kiev tradition, and of players from the Caucasian republics, who provided the flair) and had it not fallen apart it would have surely deserved to host a WC at some point. In all likelihood Russia got the WC through less than legitimate means, but it is very far from an improper place to have the tournament.

    • Peter says:

      What’s so curious about Russia? At the moment of winning the following bids were proposed:

      Spain+Portugal(both in a real crisis)
      Belgium+Netherlands(umm, where was the 2000 Euro again?)
      England
      Russia

      The Dutch-Belgian bid proposed mainly expansion of existing stadiums to the minimum capacity allowed(40 000).
      The English bid involved 11 already built stadiums. No wonder the English bid got a total of 2 votes
      The Russians proposed sixteen stadiums, of which 13 to be built anew, later downsized to 12, of which ten to be build new. Russia is also in a very convenient time zone for the whole of Europe, Africa, Middle East and supportable zones for the two Americas. Russia/Soviet Union is also one of the few major European nations to never host a major football tournament, something which has been rectified.

  9. ian_percival says:

    MD on suarez,We’re after him,i’v always liked suarez,i prefer him to hig and agu,I think if we push to sign him,we have the better edge on him more than any club.First he has family in Barcelona,2nd his agent is a cule and catalan Pere Guardiola,i hope we get him,i cant stand him playing for EE,he’d be a thorn in the flesh,plus he likes Barca.Did anyone watch Cuadrado?the guy’s a speed demon

    • G6O says:

      What I saw was Suarez for 40M + Alexis. It would be a big gamble, but it may work. However, there are lots of questions about formation and tactics to be answered.

      Of course, this is in all likelihood a false rumor as it appears right after he scored 2 on England.

    • ciaran says:

      The strangest thing about the Suarez rumour is that it was a headline of Marca’s as well saying that negotiations were advanced. Marca’s editorials are garbage but their news articles are often on point.
      I’d be more than happy to have Suarez but I still don’t like the idea of selling Alexis. Pedro is probably only worth €10m less than Alexis but for me is no where near the same class. I’d prefer to give Liverpool an extra €10m and Pedro than give them Alexis.
      In reality, players plus cash offers rarely happen. There are too many people negotiating and in our history only Ibra and Deco were purchased in deals like that to my knowledge.

      • KEVINO17 says:

        Suarez -why on earth would he want to play servant to messi? Having to scurry around to find the ball while messi waits for it?

        • ciaran says:

          I don’t know why you would think like that Kevin017. Rumours from outside the camp suggest that Messi is a dictator but no one that has ever played with him has ever said anything to that effect. All say that he is incredibly humble.
          The best players want to play with the best players. It has always been like that and I don’t see Suarez as any different.

          Suarez is a very hard worker and a great player. He has always been very ambitious and given the opportunity to play with our players for us I think that it’s safe to assume that he would jump at the chance.

          • Hilal says:

            Agreed. Even Zlatan who has never been one to hold back, had nothing but good things to say about Messi after he left. For me the team tends to play for Messi because Messi is the best player in the world and its natural that all the other players will try to get the ball to him as much as possible. Same thing happens at Argentina with Aguero and Di Maria. Its not that Messi is a dictator its just that he is so good every player is going to want to get him in the game as much as possible.

            Suarez would be ridiculous at Barca and the only player I think I would be willing to include Alexis in a swap deal. As much as I would love both, with Messi, Neymar and Suarez I just dont see much play time for Sanchez and a player as good as he is should not be sitting on the bench.

            Anyways, it is all just silly speculation at this stage. He had an amazing game yesterday and now all of a sudden we are well advanced negotiations. Hmmm. Sounds fishy to me, especially since we have not really been linked with him before this. All the noise has been about Reus, Aguero and Higuain. Who knows though, could be possible. One thing is for sure, a front 3 of Neymar, Messi and Suarez would be out of this world insane.

          • Kxevin says:

            I will be the next Barça president before we buy Luis Suarez. MD drummed up that story about negotiations being “advanced,” and Marca picked it up to keep from being left out.

            Suarez will leave Liverpool eventually, but it won’t be this season, and I can’t see us winning a bidding war against the teams that would want him, which is pretty much everybody with at least 50 million to rub together.

            I would guess that the story was drummed up to get clicks and sell papers.

            And I sure as hell wouldn’t do it for Sanchez+cash.

            Suarez had a banner year last season with 31 goals and 12 assists. The year before, 30 goals and 5 assists. 16/4 the year before that. So Suarez is coming into his own and hitting his stride, or just played out of his mind the past couple of seasons.

            Sanchez notched “only” 21 goals and 11 assists last season, but is another player who seems to have turned a corner. His work rate is prodigious, as the rare quality attacker who also loves to track back and defend. He can make the steal, lead the break AND score the goal. Not sure what kind of a price tag you can put on a player like that, but a makeweight in a Suarez deal isn’t that price.

          • Peter says:

            I’m with Kxevin, Bernabeu will freeze over before Suarez comes. Liverpool are looking for ways to strengthen their team. They have the shining example of Tottenham before them, so no way will they sell their star, even more so in the year when they qualified for The Champions League in a long time. For me it seems to be a part of something else: the news about Luis being the target appeared after his performance vs England, and in the same period when the news about Higuain being the target, Napoli and Barca playing a friendly and Napoli being interested in Song appeared.

          • KEVINO17 says:

            Im not criticising Messi. Im just saying that when messi sits at the table he gets the best cuts because hes the best

  10. Kxevin says:

    Seems that Xavi is definitely out. Made the decision weeks ago, and the club will announce it soon.

  11. PrinceYuvi says:

    From the twitterverse – Apparently Miguel rico from MD suggests that Pedro could be converted into a Full-Back.

    Makes perfect sense.
    Really wish this comes to fruition.

    • Archie says:

      Dear Yuvi,

      Can you make converting Pedro into a fullback make sense to me?

      Thanks,

      Archie

      • ciaran says:

        His only argument is that Alba done it so why can’t Pedro. Well Alba did it before he had developed as a footballer and Pedro is about to turn 27. He also suggests that Pedro could be like Cuadrado at right back but if you have watched any Italian football over the past two seasons you will see that there is a gulf in quality between Pedro and Cuadrado. Better this idea left to a training pitch or a video game.

      • PrinceYuvi says:

        Should’ve said, ‘Makes perfect sense to me’ instead.

        I’m on the ‘Let’s not sell Pedro for Peanuts’ bandwagon,
        so that statement is entirely my personal view.

        Surely, Pedro is not incisive enough to live up to sky-rocketing expectations from a Barça winger (19 goals, mind you)

        But, his workrate, stamina, masia first touch, ambidexterity & unselfish attitude is good enough to play as Wingback.

        Instead of buying an Unknown Entity for 35 M, then converting the said RW to RB ; Why not use a RW already familiar with the system ?

  12. ciaran says:

    I like rumours but I don’t trust them until something shows up on the official site. Even the Bravo signing that is done and dusted apparently make me wonder why nothing as been officially announced if it is.
    I sure wish there were more solid rumours about sales though. If we end up selling some more starters and lose all of Valdes, Puyol, Cesc & Xavi and replace them with what is currently lower quality then it will be disappointing but made even more so if any of the likes of Sergi Roberto, JDS, Cuenca, Tello and Affellay are still around.

    I hate the idea of making our starting XI stronger while weakening our squad. The talk of Alexis leaving ahead of Pedro is a huge example of this. In three seasons getting accustomed to our system he has played less and scored & assisted more than Pedro and has shown up in more big matches than anyone who isn’t Argentinian.
    Replacing Alexis with someone ‘better’ in the starting team is one thing but if we looking at the bench to change things and only have Pedro and Deulofeu it won’t be promising, no different to this season.
    I love Rakitic but he isn’t a better player than Cesc; different yes but not better. Again, you imagine that Rakitic won’t be an automatic starter but still. Rafinha is a very good player but not nearly a finished product so how much to expect from him? He started 27 league games for Celta this season and was their primary playmaker but still contributed only a handful of goals and assists.

    I am also the type to prefer a smaller more competitive squad. The places that were given to all of Oier, JDS, Cuenca, Sergi and Tello could all be covered by Barca B next season. Having a squad of 25 isn’t depth if you wouldn’t consider them for playing a big match. I’d prefer to have Masip playing regularly on the B team that picking up dust on our bench as 3rd choice. Let him train often with the first team but no point just watching football matches every week.

    A competitive 20-22 man squad is ideal.
    Bravo and ter Stegen as keepers.
    Alba, Adriano, Montoya and maybe Cuadrado as fullbacks.
    Pique, Bartra, a young and an older defender with one able to cover a fullback position.
    Busquets and Masch as the primary DM.
    Rakitic, Iniesta and another physical central midfielder.
    Messi with Rafinha as an understudy.
    Alexis, Neymar, Deulofeu and a striker.

    The likes of Samper, Adama, Dongou and Munir can play minutes in the earlier rounds of the Copa and CL matches that are settled but the core of the squad would all be potential starters.

    • Kxevin says:

      Bravo’s father said that everything is signed, and it will be announced immediately after the WC.

    • bhed says:

      I just don’t see why you don’t include Montoya in the list of 2nd stringers who should be offloaded. Can you point to a single good performance this season?

      I agree that it looks like we’re taking a step backwards in many positions though.

      • ciaran says:

        Montoya is a curious one. You ask me to point out a single good performance but there were a few.
        His last match of the season vs Granada he was probably our best player and could have gotten a couple of goals. That match we played with Busi & Masch as the central defensive pair and he bailed them out on a few occasions but was unable to prevent the goal when the forward ran in behind Busi.
        *https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBL2Gcah47I

        He played well defensively in the few opportunities that he was given but he needed to be played more and Tata never did it. I don’t think that he’ll be world class or anything but as I’ve said many times before, you don’t need to have world class players in every position to have a world class team. And anyone who watched Puyol in his early years wasn’t any better than Montoya is now.

        • bhed says:

          Funny, the Granada game was one of the only ones I missed this season – holiday. I do recall hearing he did well though. Every game I’ve seen him play this year, he’s been poor – offensively, defensively, with decision making, when crossing – in short, just bad overall. Then again, I think all of the babies have been bad this year – Montoya, S Roberto, Tello – all of them. Don’t know if that’s down to Martino or Eusebio, but that fact troubles me to no end.

      • Peter says:

        As a matter of fact Montoya progressed very well. His first games were all “just one more touch”, a second too long to decide, which drove Tata nuts, but by the end of the season he had improved a lot. He lacks experience, of course, but his problems seem to be more about lack of confidence.

        We can’t expect him to be Dani Alves overnight, of course. Dani Alves has the benefit of being a starter for the majority of his career, and he also has the benefit of what, seven years of perfecting his trade?

        • ciaran says:

          There aren’t many top quality right backs in Europe and none on the market. Lukasz Piszczek is a good player, Danilo is unproven, van der Wiel? De Sciglio? None are anywhere near Dani and most aren’t even better than Montoya.
          Cuadrado is a different type of players altogether and if we sign him his play at right back would be very attacking. Montoya and Cuadrado give us different tactical options, add to that Adriano can easily play right back if one of the two centrebacks we sign (Mathieu or Rojo) can also play left back as cover for Alba.
          A back four with Montoya at right back and say Mathieu at left back would be very solid. One with Cuadrado and Alba would be very attacking.

    • Peter says:

      I agree with what you say, although we should be thinking in terms of injuries as well. Injuries will come.

      Ideally I would have another pivote, probably promoted from the B team, to train as often as possible with the rest, and maybe Sergi Roberto to start as many as not entirely essential games as possible. Rotation needs to come back, especially if Lucho wants to implement lots of running and pressing. Young and physically stronger players like Roberto, Deulofeu and Rafinha, as well as Electric Sanchez, Pedro and Neymar(yes, Neymar after the World Cup) have more than enough stamina to press like Klopp’s Dortmund.

      However, I believe that what Lucho should instil again is the sense of enjoyment. One of the best games I saw this past season was against Sevilla away. Especially the second half, Iniesta, Messi and the rest looked like kids. I almost expected to see them roar with laughter every time one got soaked by a ball landing in a pool of water. “Your mom’s gonna kill you when you get home!”

  13. Kxevin says:

    Holy crap. Costa Rica. England can now pack its bags and return to recrimination and disdain.

    • ciaran says:

      As a proud Irishman I can’t say that I’m sad that England are going home but I didn’t expect it. Costa Rica were impressive and Keylor Navas is again proving his worth as a goalkeeper. Levante sure wish his buyout was more than €10m now.
      Either Uruguay or Italy will be following England home. Plenty of surprises so far.

    • Ryan says:

      It’ the magic of the World Cup! It’ll be a huge win for CONCACAF if Costa Rica, Mexico, and the US all progress from their groups.

  14. Holy crap is right! Who would have thought that Costa Rica would be the first to progress in that group! They looked really tight in both matches. It was also nice to see a team play the full 90 without faking time wasting injuries. Time wasting is fine, but there have been a few games where the milking of injuries is really starting to annoy me. Sort of reminds me on the last minute in a NBA playoff where one minute lasts for 4 or 5 commercial breaks.

    Way too many rumors this week. I can’t put stock in any of them. Suarez? Ashley Cole?!?! We have seriously been linked with 50 or 60 different players this month. I mean, I think I am just going to ‘turn off’ my transfer antenna until after the cup.

  15. norden says:

    Well done, Costa Rica!

  16. morph73 says:

    Costa Rica have really outdone themselves… Kudos to them…

  17. bhed says:

    Sorry, stupid phone!

    French and Italian anthems put all others to shame, irrespective of relative football prowess.

  18. ciaran says:

    Giroud certainly didn’t mean to injure Von Bergen but dangerous play doesn’t need intent for a yellow card. It should definitely have been a yellow.

  19. ciaran says:

    Speaking of liking Giroud, great header

  20. bhed says:

    Wow, a Colombian Counter.

  21. bhed says:

    And another! Lightning counters are apparently the new tiki taka.

  22. 86ed says:

    Well at least the Swiss had most of the ball in the first half. A moral victory, right Xavi?

    • petog4realz says:

      Like Xavi cares about what you think

      • 86ed says:

        Great comeback. Can I borrow it?

        It’s a joke. Xavi’s too rich and too successful to care what anyone says.

      • Inamess says:

        For what it is worth, I thought your comment was astute. Possession for possession’s sake is not always a virtue.

        Also, I wonder how many Barca fans were thinking about Chelsea 2012 in the Japan vs. Greece match.

        • ooga aga says:

          So, you are claiming that xavi believes in possession for possession’s sake? Do we really need to go there again? Do I really need to explain all that is wrong in your short comment? Truth is, I can’t be bothered. But stop bashing xavi already. It’s getting old.

          • 86ed says:

            Nobody here knows what Xavi believes in. What we do know are some of his statements. He’s wont to say that possession of the ball is key to victory. Results are proving him wrong.

          • Jim says:

            You know even among my footballing friends who aren’t always the most astute they understand the importance of keeping the ball. Of course, it’s not the only thing but it’s a platform for everything else which Xavi does equally well. All we seem to hear is vague criticism which anyone can throw out there. Care to point to any actual example , even from the current WC where Xavi cost Spain. Truth is, for me, he was one of if not their best player in the first half when they had control. None of the goals could be laid at his door ( happy to debate this in detail if you wish) although a serious argument could be put for the same not being true of the RM players in the side. He also created chances which were spurned, yes by moving the ball forward when he saw the chance. Any fool can kick a ball forward at any time, that’s actually not hard. Want to talk about the lack of control and utter shambles in the second game when the offending Xavi was removed and Spain went vertical – or at least I assume that’s what they were trying to do.

            If you’re going to slag one of the best midfielders I have seen in my lifetime at least have the class to put forward an argument using real situations.

            On a related note, this myth that Barca’s downfall is due to anything other than organisation ( mainly numbers) in defence and lack of movement ( read bodies) in the box is starting to worry me. I’m looking at our mids for next year and not thinking they’re going to be any improvement on what we’ve sold/ let go. Still, well see.

        • Inamess says:

          I didn’t mention anyone’s name in my comments but thanks for the feedback. Straw men arguments are facile and unfair. People need to read comments instead of attacking a straw man.

          From Wikipedia: A straw man is an informal fallacy based on the misrepresentation of an opponent’s argument. To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument.

    • ciaran says:

      Guys, if you can’t find humour in a joke then the Internet is not the safest place to spend time.
      Xavi has often come out after a loss and stated that we controlled the game and played better when we only had more possession. If you don’t remember or don’t agree then do a bit of research.
      Otherwise you are just trying to argue for the sake of it.

      • Jim says:

        I both remember the statements and agree with the sentiments. Neither of those are incompatible with not getting a result. I’m also not sure that I’d agree mocking one of our own player constitutes humour. I’d rather an argument was put forward in defence of a view, which is completely acceptable. Sneering just isn’t classy in my book, no matter your views on the player.

  23. fotobirajesh says:

    All those praise about Swiss defence being excellent….
    However, for me, the most interesting goal from this match was the Swiss freekick goal. On the ground shout from about 25 yards, perfectly placed, so that Benzema will lift his right leg, and the ball passes through. Incredible.
    If it was an India – Pakistan match, there would have been accusations about cheating..

  24. KEVINO17 says:

    Most disappointing thing about Englands performance was the lack of pressing. England seemed to me a more mobile side than Italy and Pirlo cant do much with players standing on his toes. So why not compress the field and look for cheap turnovers. However, as usual, there was a lack of belief. Australia had nowhere near as much talent as England, but caused a hell of a lot of trouble pushing forward.

  25. santapelota says:

    Hi, folks,

    Apologies if anyone has already linked to this, but Marti Perarnau published a piece (in Spanish) written by someone close to Xavi with a view to clarifying his position on whether he’ll stay or go.

    I don’t want to be naive by discounting the possibility that this could merely be Xavi’s side of the story, and hence loaded with interest and misinformation. But so what, isn’t he entitled to his side of the story?

    – To sum up the piece, it goes:

    Xavi isn’t keen on Qatar: of all the places he could go, why there? ‘Cos the board say so. ‘Cos the board have fed this “interest” to the press and want to give the impression of a player being at the satisfactory end of an illustrious career and hence being quite receptive to the prospect of a golden, petro-dollar retirement.

    Xavi doesn’t expect a starting place at Barça next season: if he does stay, it’s because he wants to be useful, to play a role in the transition of the team. But he wants Luis Enrique and Zubi to be absolutely clear about that, no bullshit, no euphemisms: just tell him face-to-face and explain what kind of role (even if diminished) he might have. Thus far, he hasn’t been given the courtesy of a meeting and has received no indications as to any meeting being scheduled, hence he feels he’s being frozen out.

    Xavi’s remaining ambition is to retire at Barcelona, the club of his life. If they’ll allow him.

    What do you reckon, guys? At the very least, I think he deserves the courtesy of being told in clear terms what his role (or non-role) can be.

    If he does stay, and remains an option on the bench, plus a mentor-figure for the kids, I would be happy. If he is to leave, I just hope it is of his own regret-free, unpressured volition and without any two-facedness from the Board.

    But hey, this board couldn’t sink any lower in my estimation, so don’t be surprised if Xavi leaves on a sour note …

    http://www.martiperarnau.com/firma/e-pistolario-xavi-no-quiere-irse/

    • ciaran says:

      My thoughts are that no one knows what Xavi is thinking except for the man himself. You say that he hasn’t the courtesy of being given a meeting with Lucho and Zubi but he is at the World Cup and his Barca future wouldn’t really have been in the forefront of his thoughts.
      For anyone, even someone ‘close’ to the player to say what he thinks is nothing but a rumour. Journalists use words like ‘close to’ or ‘our sources’ when they want to make it look like they aren’t just making up stuff.

      Whether he can continue playing an important part in our squad is for only Luis Enrique to decide. We can’t give him free reign only to ensure that X or Y player must still feature.
      In my opinion if Lucho doesn’t want him to be an important part of the squad then he should be sold as it would be disrespectful to have him stay and not be used. Real Madrid moved Raul on when they thought that he wouldn’t be useful anymore and he still had a couple of productive seasons with Schalke.

      • santapelota says:

        Perarnau is pretty irreprochable as a journalist; knows the Masia inside-out, and yet doesn’t apply himself to transfer rumours or get involved in polemics, preferring instead to analyse things from a sports-science perspective.

        On his website, he was giving space to another journalist who is known to be close to Xavi, and that journo in turn writes the piece in the form of an open letter addressed to Perarnau. I’m not naive: of course these weren’t the private musings of a disinterested party. I just think it’s interesting that instead of engaging with the sensationalist mainstream media, or engaging in a war of leaks which would be unsightly and might tarnish the club (just imagine in Marca or Mundo Deportivo: “Xavi complains that Luis Enrique is snubbing him!”), Xavi chooses this outlet so that his story can be expressed. I reckon Xavi has too much respect for Lucho and the image of the club to respond to the board and the coaching staff via the mainstream media.

        You say he’s occupied at the World Cup, but Xavi’s objection appears to be that his request for a meeting to be scheduled (before or after the tournament) has fallen on deaf ears.

        • ciaran says:

          I don’t think you get my point. Journalists make stuff up. You say that it’s interesting that Xavi chooses this outlet so that his story can be expressed but there is no proof whatsoever that this is his story. I just don’t believe it because it’s not coming out of his mouth.

          You also say that Xavi has too much respect for Lucho to respond in the mainstream media and I agree. He wouldn’t hurt his legacy in anyway including this. I am 100% convinced that he would broach the subject in an open and honest conversation with Lucho in which they both explain their stances.

          Lucho is an honest guy and said that he hadn’t spoken to Xavi but would after the world cup and discuss what both parties want. If he chooses not to move forward with Xavi then I will respect his decision and I’m sure that Xavi will too.

          Finally, any decision about Xavi’s future cannot be blamed on the board. It will be a footballing decision.

          • santapelota says:

            Ciaran,

            I did say in my original post that I wouldn’t take this as gospel.

            Like yourself, all I want is for Lucho (who is our new manager and whom I back fully) and Xavi to decide on what’s best, and for things to be handled with a touch of grace.

    • Peter says:

      Xavi hasn’t gotten the courtesy of a meeting because he’s currently preparing for the third Spain game in Brazil, half the world away from Barcelona.

      On the other hand, may I suggest that blaming the board for everything is not exactly deep, profound or even logical?

      • santapelota says:

        “Xavi hasn’t gotten the courtesy of a meeting because he’s currently preparing for the third Spain game in Brazil, half the world away from Barcelona.”

        Which is what I have always assumed – and hey, maybe that still is the case.

        All I’m bringing to the table is this piece which disputes the above statement. And, yes, it’ given me food for thought.

        I’m not blaming the board for something which has not yet materialised. I was merely expressing my concern that Xavi’s future be resolved in a dignified manner, and that unfortunately, past conduct has shaken my faith that this might be assured.

        “Deep, profound” analysis? I wasn’t aiming for that – indeed, if I aspired to that, I wouldn’t bother entering this site in my condition as a Barcelona fan, not as an impartial analyst.

    • Inamess says:

      Hey I hate the board as much as anybody but that piece borders on libel. So many ridiculous arguments. I can go through them but to say that Xavi’s position now is the same as in 2008 when Pep took over is absurd.

      Also, it is not that he is being pushed out the door but his agent and Laporta have reached a sweet deal with a Quatari club.

      Why there has to be so much drama and recrimination about the club and Xavi’s plans I do not know, but I know that the unnecessary infighting among the club and fans are part of the problem. Are we going to have the same Sturm und Drang when Iniesta moves on in a few years. Players age and then they are not as good anymore nor can they play as many games at their best, it is a sad fact of life.

      For a fascinating and sensitive look at a similar issue, have a look at this Steve Nash documentary: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-finish-line-episode-1/

      • santapelota says:

        Odd, then, that Perarnau would choose to publish it.

        Why would he bother with some crap that would sit better among the pages of MD or Sport?

        • Inamess says:

          What I got from the piece, and I read the imperfect translation, is that Xavi did not want to leave and Lucho did. If that is true, then it is what it is.

          What I objected to was the attempt to castigate everyone at the club as complicit in some sort of conspiracy to ruin Xavi’s reputation. I particularly didn’t like the convenient story that the team’s decline was because of an inept coach. That to me was classless because it is blaming a party that no one particularly has any interest in defending at this point. You can blame Rosell too and no one would care to defend him either.

          So in that way it seems to be a tract by a person with the agenda of hurting the board and the club, which I guess is fine but a hatchet job should be recognized for what it is.

  26. Davour says:

    Argentina can’t break Iran’s bus, it seems. Does not look all that impressive at the moment. The way Higuain’s first (and second) touch in this game makes 55m sound ridiculous, not to mention 70m… he set up Aguero nicely with a little drop, though. Messi?

    I don’t know if the game is changing, or if I’m growing old, but the way they waste time at EVERY opportunity (already early on) & question the ref ALL the time, really tests my love for the game. Sure, I understand Iran’s position (as all the other underdogs), but still. There must be a limit. *feeling grumpy*.

    • barca96 says:

      Lol me and my brother were talking about it too. We thought it was just teenagers who were like that but the professionals are like that too. I had a friend who used to complain for literally every single thing, throw ins, petty things. I was shocked when I first moved into the school. My school consisted of 40% Iranians.

      But actually don’t most footballers complain a lot?

      I guess it’s not a good thing after all to play against a weak team. You’ll face an ultra defensive side. Catch 22 situation. Weak team, you won’t have space in the final third and no space to counter but might get caught out and lose by a miracle. Play against a strong team, it’s an open game. Can lose if you’re not the better team but at least you’ll have space to be creative.

    • Inamess says:

      I agree. I like Higuain but have many of the same reservations as you. I also resent these Italian sides that think that if Barca comes calling then its their turn for a windfall.

      Argentina’s fortunes are probably going to depend on who they match up against as they move through the knockout rounds, which could be Eqauador, Germany and Brazil as their path to the FInals. Not an easy road to say the least.

  27. norden says:

    Sometimes, all you need is Messi

    • Davour says:

      Yes. I asked, he replied. But Argentina does look shaky as a team. Gago is trying his best, but a Riquelme he is not. Now it’s Messidependency galore; Aguero’s not doing anything to change that, is he. Di Maria is at least trying to. Rojo had a great game. Masch did well, too, without excelling.

      • ciaran says:

        I have very much liked what I’ve seen specifically watching Rojo. He’s good in both boxes too which is a nice advantage and looks very comfortable at left back considering he plays CB for Sporting.

  28. barca96 says:

    Messi has been carrying Argentina for 2 games now.

    It is rather strange how no player offers himself for a pass when Messi is on the ball. Everyone is just waiting for Messi to do something, by himself.

    They should come closer and do a 1-2.

  29. Inamess says:

    I think one of the underreported stories this summer is how our upcoming transfer ban might be impacting our moves. If the ban goes through, then probably no transfers will be available until the summer of 2016. With a new manager and still an uncertain side in place, I wonder how this may have figured in Cesc’s and Sanchez’s choices. Both might have been on the fence about staying given their mixed success, but their future with the club was or is still very much in doubt.

    I like Higuain for the very reasons most have said: he’s a more conventional striker, links up well with Messi, and won’t resent playing a secondary role to Messi and Neymar. However, getting him seems like it would be very pricey, almost 60 mil if you put any credence in some of the press rumors. Also, the guy seems pretty injury prone, and let’s remember he had to miss almost a full season a few years ago due to back surgery.

    With that said, I do not know what the alternative is. Alexis is a really hot property, and I think he wants to leave the club. Hence all the rumors linking him to at least 5 teams. Also, why does Alexis stay if he knows that many Barca fan want to see Deulofeu on the right wing in one or two years. So the question is who is our big signing this summer? I don’t see us getting one without vastly overpaying.

    The candidates I have seen so far are Cuadrado, Higuain, Koke, Suarez, Aguero. All are going to be ridiculously overpriced, provided, of course, that their teams are even willing to sell them.

    • Peter says:

      First of all, if the ban is upheld in its original sentence it would allow Barcelona to sign players come January 2016.

      Second, if the ban is reduced, Barcelona would be able to sign players next summer.

      Third, if the ban is upheld in its original form, the court may decide that Barcelona have defacto served one window already, since the decision was made in November, and the next winter transfer window is the only one during which Barcelona cannot sign players.

      Fourth, if the ban is reduced to one window, Barcelona may have been judged to have served the sentence.

      Fifth, the decision could be reversed entirely.

      Sixth, the decision could be reduced just to a fine.

      Alexis Sanchez has made no choice as far as I know. Everything we have seen/read so far have been journalist equivalents of neighbourhood gossip. As for mixed success, Alexis has had a fabulous season. If Barcelona’s fans were less spoiled or the Catalan press less chauvinistic, or if Alexis was born not in Tocopilla but in Igualada, Juventus wouldn’t even dream about showing up to ask for him, lest they are chased by an angry mob.

      I don’t know who’s going to be Barcelona’s big signing this summer. I dream about at least one defender. I would be glad with both Mathieu and Marquinhos, or another young defender to provide Bartra with competition.

      • Inamess says:

        Peter, I don’t disagree with much that you said, but almost all the info that I see points to an Alexis exit:

        1) The team is looking or has looked into signing Huguain, Aguero, Reus, Suarez.

        2) Alexis has been liked with many clubs including stories of a personal agreement with Juventus and concrete offers from teams including Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal, Juventus among others.

        3) It would be difficult to say that Alexis has enjoyed his stay in Barcelona. So while no one can say that he is gone, I would be surprised if he is on the team next year.

        4) The transfer ban and the new coach may also play into things as it adds more uncertainty about his future at the club.

        Let say he was willing to give it a shot for next year and didn’t want to stay then. The possible transfer ban might mean that he has to stay anyway which is not good for the club or player.

        • Levon says:

          Nobody knows what Alexis wants. He hasn’t pronounced himself one way or the other. It would be nice if he made it clear he wanted to stay, though.

        • Peter says:

          1. The press has been writing about the team looking into signing Higuain, Aguero, Reus and Suarez. Big difference. Of course Barcelona would want to sign a taller striker. As a matter of fact I’ve been saying that this might help Alexis, giving him more space and withdrawing him from the right corner area.

          2. Alexis has been linked with clubs as an exchange coin to bring the likes of Vidal or Suarez. Exactly why would Liverpool or Juventus let key players go at a moment when what they are looking for is actually bringing together stronger squads these journalists don’t exactly explain.

          3. It wouldn’t be difficult to say Alexis hasn’t enjoyed his time in Barcelona if you want him gone in order to bring the next awesomest player, which is the desire of quite a few culers and card-holding “journalists”. His main deficiency is that, like Fabregas, Alba and Song, he was brought after Wembley. But this season Alexis has scored vital goals, not to mention scoring lots of them. Alexis has been looking better with each passing season and this season apart from scoring goals and assists his workrate has been absolutely amazing.

          4. The new coach loves dedication. The new coach loves fighters and players who run until they drop, then change their t-shirt and run and press some more. And that’s the main problem. If the ban is enforced and Alexis actually continues his form, he may drive away genuine Catalans like Tello and Deulofeu in search of playing time.

      • “…or if Alexis was born not in Tocopilla but in Igualada.” = hilarious

  30. Kxevin says:

    Rumors that Fabregas was kicked out of practice by Del Bosque for attitude problems. Yikes.

  31. This is a great world cup! The US win versus Ghana looks a lot better. Would be great to see them beat Portugal.

    • ooga aga says:

      Well, the US performance vs Ghana was about as drab as Iran’s vs Argentina. Will be sad if Ghana doesn’t go through. They’ve looked fantastic.

      This coming from an American…

  32. norden says:

    Klose has scored on 4 World Cups. That guy is a legend. I hope he scores one more to break the Ronaldo’s record.

    • G6O says:

      I don’t

      It’s just not right for a player like Klose to be the WC all-time topscorer.

      Do I need to list all the incredible technical and physical qualities of the original Ronaldo and compare him to Klose?

    • 86ed says:

      Has Klose ever scored a goal from outside the six-yard box?

      Genuine question. Every time I’ve seen him, he scores a tap in.

      • norden says:

        Don’t get me wrong. His skills are nowhere near Ronaldo’s, but I still like him. He knows where to be at the right time and never gives up. And yes, I support Germany :)

  33. Kxevin says:

    Our women just won the Copa de La Reina over Athletic, in penalties. Massive ups. NOW maybe the club will put their names on backs of their shirts?

  34. Xavi6 says:

    People , Do you think that Argentina LB Marcos Rojo could fit well at Barca ??
    He is tall , quick , good in the air , and can play both CB/LB

  35. KEVINO17 says:

    Watching the Iranian player complain about the first yellow card was hysterical. A couple of them should have already been in the showers. Made Messi’s goal all the more satisfying.

  36. KEVINO17 says:

    If Ter Stegen had known that Barca were going to sign Bravo, rather than a true understudy, would he have signed?

  37. Inamess says:

    OK, so how does video review make any difference in the Nigeria-Bosnia game. You can’t call a goal good after it has been ruled offsides.

    What about the goal the other way? An official either makes the call or doesn’t. How is looking at video review going to matter?

  38. 86ed says:

    The one and only thing that I dislike about football is the praise heaped by neutrals onto reactionary and ultra defensive teams. I can understand cheering for the underdog. I can even appreciate limited teams’ having to defend deep and hoot it upfield hoping for the best.
    Neutrals call this discipline, toughness, defensive rigidity. Reactionary nonsense is what it is.

    With the praise Iran received you’d think they had played some fantastic football. They had not. To praise Iran but (rightly) abuse Greece for doing essentially the same thing is hypocritical. Iran needs a victory vs an already eliminated Bosnia. I wager Quieroz will still field them with 9 men in their own box.

    If Argentina had taken their chances in the first half, all we would be saying now is how poor Iran were.

    • Kxevin says:

      But understand that those same neutrals might say that they dislike attacking, open football being held up as the avatar for all that is pure and holy, right? It just depends on your worldview.

      I enjoy a team playing its heart out, whatever the style it has to play to win a match. Iran was defensive, but they also had 3-4 excellent chances to score. It’s safe to say that two top-drawer saves by Romero kept Argentina in it for Messi’s shot to win it.

      For the overall level of the players on their roster as well as their FIFA ranking, that match from them was an extraordinary accomplishment.

      The difference I think that some are finding with Greece is that they aren’t at all positive, but just defend and send someone out on a counter foray from time to time.

      • 86ed says:

        Actually all the chances in the first half were Argentina’s. Iran hardly passed the halfway. We recall now Romero’s save, but that was only the culmination of a 10 minute period. Argentina was trying to win and left themselves exposed. It would have been easier on them had they tried, say, to keep the ball in their own half. It would have been 0-0. Can you imagine the criticisms they would have endured? Pressure is always on the attacking team, not on the reactionaries. They get a patronizing pat on their back for getting such a great result.

        It’s hypocritical and condescending.

        • Kxevin says:

          Again, to play devil’s advocate, is it naive of people to expect a team to play in a manner that isn’t conducive to achieving the best possible result?

          Barça sees that a lot, and culers scoff and snarl about bus parking and coming out to play, but why would they?

          I think that there are many styles of play, and a team chooses the one that best suits its ambition. Romero’s two saves, off the header and the attempted lob over him, both came in the second half, and saved the match for Argentina.

          If Iran were truly as negative as so many allege, they would have just booted the ball away, and not even bothered venturing forth on any attacks.

          There is no one way, or one true way, to play this game we all love. There is only the way that will get your team the best result.

          • 86ed says:

            But what did Iran’s defensive style really do for them? They had the same exact tactic against Nigeria, resulting in a boredom only the Greeks and Chelsea fans might have enjoyed outside of Iran. And, ultimately, they have only one point, zero goals for and one against, leaving them with a do or die game vs Bosnia in the last day. That’s the best tactic they could come with? That’s why they pay Quieroz? I can give them that advice for free.

            I do not think think for a moment that Iran were set up that way to get the best result possible. I think Quieroz set them up that way to avoid humiliation. That’s the crux of the matter. For teams like Iran and Greece winning a game at the World Cup is only tertiary. Of paramount importance is not to lose, then not to be humiliated. Everything else is collateral. It’s the problem with having 32 teams at this summer tournament.

            The most satisfying thing I can imagine happening to ultra defensive sides is their losing to a fluke goal in the 94th minute. That to me is bliss. You played like that to get a result and still didn’t get it. So what was the point? It is cruel but then again they should have done more to earn the three points.

            I’m not exonerating Argentina in any way. They were horrible, but they were horrible because Iran had 8 guys packed in a small area at all times. L

        • agar2515 says:

          Amen, I have zero sympathy for the ultra-defensive sides. Coming to a 1 every 4 year tourney to play for a bunch of draws or to nick a goal, trying to replicate Greece’s fluke Euro win. Awful football. Argentina were piss poor but Messi stepped up thank god. Also not fair how everyone already had the critical articles ready to deride him. The rest of the team was awful besides Romero.

        • Peter says:

          We are blessed/spoiled to be able to watch and support a team of truly exceptional players who can afford to both play beautiful attacking football and win.

          However, do not ever forget that for many other teams victory is not an option. The choices they face are resounding defeat, or selling their skins as expensively as possible.

          Iran is a prime example – their national team is comprised mainly of players who play in Iran’s not really professional league, with two of their stars playing in England’s second division(since Fulham is now relegated). They are playing not for victory, but for pride. Their victory would be increased interest in football in their country, increased funding for the national team and football in general, and recognition for the efforts.

          As such, I have more respect for them than for Greece. Sorry, neighbours, and good luck against the Ivory Coast. :D

          • Jim says:

            I have no problem with teams playing that way. However, as Souness once said, be in no doubt that they only play that way because they aren’t good enough to play another way. Scotland went through a spell playing with virtually no forwards under Craig Levine as our manager. The fans didn’t care about the results. The Tartan army were just embarrassed that we were reduced to that situation and he justifiably got the heave. Now, with no better players, under Strachan we are stringing together some good results.

            Bottom line for me is let them play the way they want but don’t try to tell me it is good football or that it doesn’t rely on the other side being willing to attack , otherwise there is no game. It’s the football equivalent of me a few years ago playing The Medal of Honour computer war shootemup. I was that sniper who sat at the window of a building a mile away and shot you with my high powered sniper’s rifle as you attacked, then hid again. Did I deserve praise? No wonder both sides used to cheer when I got zapped :)

          • Peter says:

            In my MoH/CS days I was the guy that shoots the enemy sniper, then grabs an assault rifle and charges forward. :D

          • Jim says:

            Ah, but Peter, possession of the gun was the factor which gave you the platform to kill the sniper. Without possession of the assault rifle for the duration of your attack you would have died ….

            ….. And if you didn’t have anyone to aim your rifle at you’d have been struggling to achieve that victory.

    • raj says:

      ^this!
      I understand that a team like Iran has to play like that against Argentina to avoid humiliation and have any chance of points. But for once I would like to hear it being called for what it is. Saving face. Just because ther are underdogs doesn’t change the fact that they played with 10 men in the box. And you can put all of messi iniesta neymar ronaldo and arjen robben there in one team, but there is no guarantee that they will break through with all their brilliance. Not to say that Argentina played any better.

      Heck, Iran may have won yesterday with a 90 min goal but that doesn’t make their game any better than it is in reality – reactionary and conservative as said by 89ed. They didn’t deserve to draw yesterday, messi’s magic notwithstanding. And it has to be said so, as much as Argentina sucked, they were the ones playing.

      Just like Chelsea’s champions League title, this would still have been a fluke if iran drew. Again, to be fair. they didn’t have a choice. To use an exteme analogy, just coz someone is hungry doesn’t make it right to steal. Maybe he didn’t have a choice for survival and maybe there will be sympathy but the fact remains that it is an act of stealing nevertheless and the theif knows there will be consequences if he is caught. Sorry about this example. I don’t mean to say that defensive football is stealing but you get what I mean!

      I just guess the underdog story almost always sells.

  39. barca96 says:

    Jnice must’ve been happy

  40. Inamess says:

    I don’t get all the animosity against Iran. Seems like they were using the only tactic that gave them a chance to progress in their group. The Chelsea wounds still run deep, but I don’t even begrudge Chelsea for parking the bus against us in 2012. What I really objected to were the tactics that involved time wasting and gamesmanship that were used by Chelsea in their home leg against us and this year in Mou’s disgrace against Liverpool.

    Iran’s strategy was to play the way that was best for their team’s chances. I don’t know if their are moral victories in football. Had they beat or tied Argentina, then they would have been favorites to progress to the next round. I am not sure why people would have expected them to play differently. Most of their team consisted of players who were judged to not even be good enough to play for even bad teams in any of the top football leagues.

    Parking the bus is not against the rules and as far as I am concerned it’s not anti-football. If Barca don’t want to lose to parked buses in the future, then they have to find the best way to combat it. What way that is, of course, is for people much smarter than me to figure out, but it must at least involve getting better at scoring and defending on set pieces and crosses. Look how teams are able to come back or improbably win because they can do both.

    • Jim says:

      Would you have felt the same way if Argentina had sat back in their own half and done the same? And then the same happened in the next game, and the next … How long would it take to make you change your mind ? 6 scoreless draws? More ?

  41. PrinceYuvi says:

    More and More dictator, bully, lazy bastard stories keep circulating about Messi.
    The world is out there to wrestle him into the dirt.
    I feel sorry for the guy.

  42. ian_percival says:

    Personally I think Marcos Rojo is very good and complete,he can play CB and LB perfectly,he’s tall,quick,good header of the ball and young,plus he will be cheap.What else would we have asked for

  43. ciaran says:

    Where is the pride that would come from Iran playing 4-3-3 and losing 6 or 7 goals against the best attacking players in the world cup?
    What would be the glory in saying that they tried to play like Barcelona if their Leo Messi is Dejagah who doesn’t always start for Fulham?
    Why would anyone expect them to use a game plan that doesn’t give them the best opportunity to progress?

    It is arrogance to assume that every team has to try to have 60% possession to win a match. France played defensively against Switzerland. They played 3 defensive midfielders but managed 22 shots with their 40% possession. 4 defenders and 3 DMs is parking a bus by most people here’s estimation but were the best offensively in the competition so far.

    For the record, Iran had 3 shots on target to Argentina’s 4 with 23% possession to Argentina’s 77%. Argentina only won the match because of Romero’s saves and Messi single moment of magic… Now who had the better game plan?

    • Peter says:

      Exactly.

      In La Liga there’s an example of a team that plays attacking football with lots of possession no matter what. Whether they play Real or Elche or Granada or Atletico, they play a free-flowing attacking football.

      That team is Rayo Vallecano, with a combined goal difference from the two games vs Barcelona of -10(0 goals scored, 10 conceded).

      The objective in the end is winning. Beauty takes a second place, because if you lose it doesn’t matter whether you played beautifully, had more possession or had more shots. You still lost – and they don’t give points for style. This isn’t figure skating.

      • Kxevin says:

        Further, as with the Champions League final, a fatigue-based moment of not doing the right thing cost Iran. Had they closed down on Messi as they had been doing all match, that goal wouldn’t have happened, and people would instead be discussing how poor he and the rest of Argentina was, instead of piling on the accolades.

        Because make no mistake, they were all crap on attack.

        And Messi becomes MOTM for one match instead of Romero, who is the reason that Argentina even had a chance to get the victory.

        Whether arrogance or naivete, the dual realities of tactics and pragmatism are generally unappreciated by football supporters, who misunderstand “pretty” football and invariably want an opponent to play in a way that gives the team they support the best chance of winning.

        It doesn’t work like that.

        • 86ed says:

          Ah yes. Ifs and buts. If Higuain and Rojo had taken their chances… But who’s counting.
          Interesting that pragmatists (!) heap praise on Iran for not doing what Argentina did, viz. score, and heap ridicule on Argentina for not defending like Iran, because we all know 0-0s are the most perfect of results.
          I’ve said it and I’ll repeat it. The best remedies vs catenaccio are taking your chances when you have them, and not attacking a defensive opponent unless you have to. I told my wife Argentina should just keep the ball in their half, pass it between the defenders like that old Simpsons’ episode. Somehow I do not think they would not have been called tactically astute.

      • 86ed says:

        “Victory is the illusion of philosophers and fools.”

        The objective is winning. Ok. But whose objective is it? Yours? Mine? What do we gain by it when we are not, you know, on the pitch.
        The only gain we fans can possibly have from football is its entertainment value, its ability to make us forget the exploitation of daily life. What’s the point otherwise? I win nothing personally if Barca wins a game or the Champions League.

        A live jackal may be better than a dead lion, but a live lion is better still, to quote Heinlein, a rather conservative man himself.

        Tell me, what do you think the chances are of people knowing who won the World Cup in 1974 without checking it out first? My friends don’t remember it was Germany. All they remember is the Dutch played football nobody had seen before. Ibid for ’82 with the Brazilians.

    • 86ed says:

      Ok. I’ll bite.

      This attitude is precisely the problem with international tournaments. Fans think footballers ought to play for the pride of their respective nations, that football is an extension of nationalist fervour. It isn’t. It’s a bloody game whose result will be largely forgotten within a fortnight. What did Iran gain by actively not trying to win the game?
      It gave them the best opportunity to progress? Nonsense. It gave them zero points, is what it did. The best way to gain victory is to try winning, not trying not to lose. It saps football of its joy, this attitude. Not losing is in no way better than winning

      And your first words are, I think, condescending. You think if Iran’s had opened up they’d have lost 6-0. On what do you base this? Because you think they don’t have quality? They may not, but they didn’t even try show you or me otherwise. Even against mighty Nigeria they did the same. Vs Bosnia they’ll try to attack (I should hope) but it will be too late. The only chances they had came when Argentina was actively trying to win. So now Argentina (a mediocre team by any stretch of the imagination) are the villains and Iran the heroes. It boggles the mind. Football is the only sport I know whose fans think that way.

      • ciaran says:

        If you honestly think that if Iran played attacking football that they have a snowballs chance in hell of beating an Argentina team with Aguero, Higuain, Di Maria and Messi then you have more faith in the likes of Dejagah than I do.
        They had no hope of winning by leaving space in their defensive third. They have easily the worst squad in their group but now if they beat Bosnia they’ll probably go through against all odds. Bosnia have a much better squad and have lost to both teams that Iran played.

        Costa Rica have played two matches and won two matches by playing a 5-4-1 formation and taking their chances on the break. They have better players than Iran do but still played very defensively.

        Look, I’d much prefer if everyone tried to win every match by taking 20 shots and throwing everyone forward but that would be as boring as watching Chelsea eventually.

        • 86ed says:

          Of the teams that will make the next round, Argentina have, by some margin, the worst defence. They have the easiest group of the big teams and have struggled.

          Iran committed professional suicide by not trying to exploit that weakness. For that reason it is likely they will be eliminated.

          I don’t understand how you’d find attacking football boring to watch eventually. Every game I’ve seen that’s had attacking teams has been exciting. Every game that it has not has been boring. I understand the need to have the bad to appreciate the good, but normally at the World Cup we have 10 bad games for every good one.

        • Jim says:

          Sorry, Ciaran, I can’t believe you mean that last paragraph. Is that not exactly what we do want ?

          • ciaran says:

            The problem is that if everyone played the same system then only the team with the best players would win and there would be hardly any contest and it would be boring. As Peter said with Rayo, they played a system very similar to ours but without the quality of players and failed.

            For football to be truly entertaining there has to be different variations of it and I accept them. Would I watch a match Greece vs Iran? No. But would I watch Barca v Barca B every weekend either? No.

            If Argentina done their job and put 3 or 4 goals against Iran then the style aspect wouldn’t come into it but they didn’t do their job and Iran came an awful lot closer to doing theirs.

            Only two teams in the world can call on the talents of Leo Messi. For the rest they have to make do with what they have. Iran are in a position that they could potentially qualify from their group going in to the last game. Spain cannot, England cannot. That is to be commended given their resources.

          • Jim says:

            Not sure why you think good team against good team with both going forward could ever be boring. I’d be interested in how long you would keep this view of valuing all styles if Barcelona sat back and parked the bus every week. That’s why I watch the EPL. Not an England fan but you do get exciting matches and you NEVER get parked buses.

            Also, you can have a variety of different styles which don’t involve one team with an overriding desire to snuff any entertainment from the match.

      • Peter says:

        I would like you to not start putting words in my mouth, thank you very much. :)

        There is a reason why Barcelona face ultra-defensive football from teams ranging from Segunda-bound teams to past Champions League winners, because on a day when the team is in form few teams can try to beat it by opening up and attacking.

        Rayo Vallecano are an awesome team that is all about attacking and possession. However, the reason I brought them up was to show what happens when you try to out-attack and out-possess Barcelona.
        If Iran had tried to attack Argentina, not counter-attacking but attacking and building up from the back, they would’ve been eaten alive – and journalists would be talking about cruel Argentina bullying the small guys. Why didn’t it go that way? Because Iran was being pragmatic.

        Anyway, Iran are not at the World Cup to play for your or my entertainment. Iran are there to play for Iran.

  44. PrinceYuvi says:

    ^What 86ed said.

    Also, Rayo aren’t a bad joke. They’re known and appreciated for their way of playing.
    I can’t say the same for rest of the Bus addicts.

    Besides, Argentina not exactly drowning in accolades. They’re still being called Piss-poor.

    Leave us some links where Journalists are busy saying, ‘Hey, Argentina’s attack is out of this world, they completely demolished Iran, What fun !’

    Sad to hear this from you Ciaran.
    But the later match, where Ghana and Germany both attacked aplenty wasn’t at all Boring !
    Maybe that’s just me.

    P.S. Romero is being called Argentina’s unlikely World cup hero.
    So, ‘Messi is a Proper Villain to steal all the credit from Romero’ version doesn’t hold much water.

    • ciaran says:

      I don’t know, I don’t like defensive football per se but I don’t appreciate a team playing suicidal attacking football either. Would I have enjoyed that match more if Argentina won 5-0? I can’t say.
      With Argentina’s 77% of play they managed only 4 shots on target. By contrast, Netherlands when playing Spain had 10 shots on target with 36% possession. Netherlands were playing defensive football and their attacking was limited to giving RVP and Robben the ball. Iran don’t have van Persie or Robben to give the ball to.
      Spain had 64% of play, playing what some here consider to be a superior style because they controlled the ball, but only had 4 shots on target.

        • ciaran says:

          Nice article. Chile are the new Spain in terms of the aggressive, relentless press. The last world cup they were all out attack but this time around there is a maturity in their game that wasn’t there before.
          There are little to no similarities between the other so called favourites and the Spain of the past 8 years though. Brazil are a one man team, Argentina the same. Germany are just a slightly more expansive version of their usual organised selves with a bit more flair. Netherlands and France are counter attacking teams.

    • fotobirajesh says:

      ^What 86ed said. – me too

      I love Iran, its music, food, people, movies and their incredible passion for football. But, the football they are playing under their Portugeese coach is kind of a step back. Remember, they even beat USA in one the recent world cups.
      It is a good arguement that they played to their strengths and unlike a Chelsea, they are a small team facing a big team. Still, I wonder, what this would bring them at the end? Their coach is saving his face and soon their will be another coach, who will want to play a different kind of game. How would this help their football future.

  45. ciaran says:

    I think I should try to summarize my points above.
    Having possession doesn’t make you an attacking team and that’s what Barca and Spain have become to a degree; teams who merely want possession. The goal of attacking football must be to create chances and score goals. Except for a while in the first half v Netherlands Spain have looked very poor and deserved their two losses even with their greater possession. By contrast both Netherlands and France have looked very good in attack despite playing defensive styles with significantly less possession.

    This past season only one team averaged more possession than we did but 6 teams took more shots than us including Chelsea (who for the record averaged more than 10% less possession per game than we did). We don’t play the best football in Europe anymore and we don’t play the most exciting.
    1/4 of our shots were taken by Messi. In fact, every team that has taken more shots per game than us have a better spread of players taking multiple shots per game than we do. If Real Madrid who rely very heavily on Ronaldo have 3 players who average more shots per game than Neymar who is second on our team.
    I’m not saying that we play bad football but we are not nearly effective enough in our play, often merely recycling possession. We are very predictable and that isn’t exciting. I don’t claim a moral high ground because we have the ball. If you analyse our game this past season, we held possession in order to limit the amount of chances we gave away and ended up conceding less shots per game than anyone in Europe.

    The Argentina-Iran match disappointed me but I don’t blame Iran for it, I blame Argentina. Messi had a bad game but has the ability to win a game and did. The rest of their players all under-performed and it looked like it would cost them but luckily for them it didn’t.
    The fact that Iran didn’t go gung-ho and lose big doesn’t bother me in the least bit. I respect them more for trying to win than I would had they lost 6-0. It’s a sport, one in which the goal is to win. It wasn’t a friendly. And goal difference matters. Their is no prize for how well you fail.

    • Jim says:

      When you say under performed which teams have you seen recently demolish a parked bus ? The effectiveness of the tactic stems from the fact it’s a great leveller. Even top teams don’t have the space to play between two banks of five and even Messi always has an extra set of legs to throw themselves at him. Once you get to the two banks what else do you do other than to move the ball as quickly as you can from side to side and involve more and more players ( although I would argue you always keep your defence intact )

      I’ll say again, when it comes to breaking down defences Barca are pretty good, better than any other side I’ve seen, largely due to Xavi and Iniesta’s phenomenal ability to keep the ball on the edge of the opponents’s area while surrounded by opponents. With a better presence in the box and wingers who drive at defenders and aren’t bothered about losing the ball we’d be even better.

      • ciaran says:

        I simply hold better players and better teams to a higher standard. If Barca decided to sit back and defend I would be disappointed and there would be uproar but thankfully it will never happen. I do appreciate the premiership as you mention above because of the attempts most teams make to win matches although I would argue that what Stoke do must be considered a parked bus. Also Chelsea’s inferiority complex at times leads them to field buses on occasion against teams they should be able to beat in an open contest.
        Growing up watching Jones’ Wimbledon side of the early-mid nineties made me appreciate most forms of football depending on a team’s attitude. They used to flat out bully some far superior teams and no one liked facing them. They were defensive but they would get forward and cause you trouble as well.

        We were the best team at breaking down buses but this season we failed at it when it counted most (v Atletico on numerous occasions). We have most of the tools to do so as you say but we could be more efficient, having a better presence in the box as you say but I disagree about the wingers as you can as Messi’s skill set doesn’t best facilitate the use of wingers in my opinion.

        I am in no way trying to say that I admire what Iran done against Argentina but are there any reasons whatsoever that they should have played attacking football with the players that Argentina have at their disposal. As I’ve said, there are no prizes for how well you fail.
        They have a shockingly bad team, they play poor football and I’d have no interest in watching them play. I merely understand why they set up to play the way they did. They have never gotten beyond the first round of the world cup and the last time they won the Asia cup was in ’76. Every point they get is a bonus as they expect to lose every match.

        • Jim says:

          I can completely understand that as well but I’d never think of praising them for such an attitude. I suppose I have more issue with the likes of Chelsea etc doing that because they don’t even have the excuse of a rotten team but I find it hard when fans give Barca a hard time for not managing to break down a packed defence when in fact no other team can do any better – it’s just that they don’t face them as often.

          We’ve also got the recent notion that our mids are failing to break down defences by not hoofing the ball forward at every opportunity whereas we bring in the latest new thing who will fare better against these same defences despite the fact that no matter how quickly we break we will still be facing large numbers because the opponent just doesn’t push many forward.

    • Inamess says:

      Every country has their own objectives going into the World Cup and almost none have even one of their objectives of pleasing neutral fans. Had Iran beat or even tied Argentina, their fans would have remembered the result for the next 20 years and celebrated Quieroz as a world historical figure on par with Caesar and Hannibal.

      For all the praise of Spain’s style in 2010 and 2012, the truth is that many neutrals found it boring. In the 2010 WC, for instance, Spain scored a total of 4 goals in the last 4 games and their opponents 0, which is the identical result of Euro 2004 for Greece when they won. They had their David Villa figure too in Zagorakis.

      To emphasize the point, Rod Stewart was not crying because his team only had 16% possession:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIGvmhsjWZ0

      • ooga aga says:

        Why hold up the misdirected displeasure of “many neutrals” — those who dislike watching spain, calling them boring — as something we should take into consideration? Who cares about that? The fault does not lie with Spain, barca, or xavi for that matter. It is the other team(s) that park the bus and make it a drab affair. Those teams do so because they are up against one of the most potent attacking forces the world has ever seen. Not begrudging them that…but it is ridiculous for so-called neutrals to blame Spain for the state of affairs. More, it is just hate towards a superior team.

        Ask said neutrals to explain why, even with a lead, Spain and barca always continue to take the initiative and look for more goals…it’s not because they are boring.

  46. agar2515 says:

    I love the hyperbole lol^ So many people trying so hard to defend Iran and Chelsea’s of the world. Why? When we’re all fans of a team that constantly had to deal with ten behind the ball
    And the eyesore/ frustration that results. I can like or dislike whatever I choose.
    It doesn’t make me any less lacking in football knowledge or appreciation. You want to appreciate “pragmatic” ok then, I’m sure you’re really going to watch replays of the performance Capello’s Russia just put out.

  47. Jamal102 says:

    The arguments above really boil down to entertainment value vs pragmatism.

    86ed made a great point in reiterating that the only thing fans gain from football is entertainment. We do NOT get a small portion of the player’s wages or a signed replica of the cup.

    With that being said, all sports, not only football are geared towards winning at any cost. Thus I can understand the counterargument in support of bus parking teams like Iran.

    Barcelona was such an astonishing team because we were able to be pragmatic in our approaches to different teams (ie. World Cup Final vs Estudiantes) while also entertaining our fans with free flowing, unique football.

    Contemporary teams that possess these qualities are semioccasional.

    • Inamess says:

      I agree and I think what is happening is that people are arguing two different points and neither is listening to the other side. As Barca fans, I assume all of us like attacking football, so I don’t think that there is any disagreement on that front. Also, it would be rare to see fans of a team that wins attack the team’s performance unless it completely underperformed against an vastly inferior opponent.

      Was Iran’s style attractive? No, and no one I think would claim that it is. Its fans can appreciate it at some kind of romantic defense against a superior force like at the Alamo or the Spartans at Thermopylae and that makes the game exciting to them.

      The other question is whether it is a team’s job to employ the tactics that give them the best chances of winning? If someone thinks not then they should make an argument for that. So far the best argument that I heard is based on aesthetics (i.e Holland of the 70s or Brazil of the 80s or Rayo this season). Those teams might be appreciated in retrospect, but I doubt their supporters did after their losses. No one can deny that Barcelona have captured so many fans because they were able to win and also play an attractive brand of football.

      Was Spain’s style equally attractive? I personally didn’t think so, but I liked them because they had so many Barcelona players. I think any brand of football that wins is exciting to their fans because of the nature of the game and immense passion fans bring to it.

      Also, I did not read one comment in the last few months that admired our brand of football after a loss. Some may say that we lost because we weren’t true to our style, but that is circular reasoning. Most of our losses came because our opponents were able to successfully combat our style or we just were not good at taking our chances at goal. Similarly, I don’t think any fan bemoaned a victory despite us underperforming.

      I understand that Argentina fans may not be happy with the Iran game because it raised many concerns about the team against an inferior opponent, but had they lost it would have been completely different.

      One goal even if gotten my completely random or less than legitimate means changes everything and that is what makes analyzing results in retrospect so problematic. We know the conclusion and afterwards we create a narrative that makes that conclusion seem like it was inevitable when it was often anything but.

  48. Lord Eddard Stark aka Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one says:

    All these rumours make me feel deeply uneasy.
    I am quite confident that the management will do all it takes to improve the squad significantly, especially in light of the departures of key members. But the constant talk of Alexis being sold or used as makeweight infuriates me.

    There is really no player in the world currently like sanchez. A guy who can play many roles, score, assist, hustle and defend is something that is unavailable in any other player. As long as we get sanchez to stay, I’d think that we did our business well.

    now reports surfacing that we are after suarez for a sanchez + 45M Quid! are you freaking kidding me. Luis suarez is good, but he is older than sanchez (yet to hit his peak) and does not defend as much. Are we really going to pay 100M for a player right after a summer where we paid 86M for neymar?astounding.

    The only deal I’d make for suarez is 45M + Tello.

    • agar2515 says:

      So that would be Suarez, best ST in the world, at his peak for 55m? Hahahahha come
      on now. Don’t think it would happen but if it does
      I assume Lucho has plan. Alexis gets to go somewhere
      where he’s THE key man as opposed to just another cog in the machine and we see a forward line of Ney-Suarez-Leo-Rakitić-Iniesta and excuses
      I just fell out of my chair…

      • ciaran says:

        I agree, Suarez is the best striker in the world but I also agree that Sanchez is a very unique player who should be vital to us for next season. Having a number of world class players with different traits would be the best scenario and we have already saved a fortune in salaries this summer so financials should be the last consideration.
        Picking a front thre from Messi, Neymar, Alexis, Suarez, Rafinha & Deulofeu would be ideal.

  49. ciaran says:

    Non-Barca related but great news for La Liga… Carlos Vela is reportedly signing a new contract with Real Soceidad. He was easily the best forward in Spain outside of the big three and had his second great season in a row for Real. Very underrated player in my opinion; scores creates and works hard.
    By all accounts Arsenal tried to exercise their buy back clause but the player refused. Apparently Griezmann is hoping to do the same which also will be good news for the league.

  50. Jafri says:

    If Suarez comes, what do we do, shift Messi to RW again? He’s going to go on strike if that happens. And if we play him behind Suarez as a true 10 then our formation becomes

    Neymar – Suarez – ?pedro
    Iniesta – Messi
    Busquets
    Backline

    I dunno. That looks a bit weird. Can someone ‘splain this to me?

    • Peter says:

      That’s because you think in 4-3-3 terms alone.

      ———-Suarez———-
      Neymar—–Messi—-Alexis
      -Rakitic/Masche–Busquets

      Neymar—Suarez———-
      ———Messi———–
      Iniesta-Busquets–Rakitic

      -(Alba)–Suarez—Alexis
      ———Messi———–
      Iniesta-Busquets–Rakitic

      Neymar—–Messi——Suarez
      Rakitic—Busquets—-Iniesta
      ———-Mascherano———
      Alba—-Bartra—–Pique—-

      Or even a seriously hostile line-up, with Mascherano, Busquets and Rakitic in midfield and three CB+Alba or Adriano in the back and Suarez, Neymar and Messi up front. Then on the hour mark you put Iniesta for Mascherano and Alexis for Neymar and just carry on pressing and pushing until a crack appears.

    • petog4realz says:

      “Go on a strike” Sorry,but what the hell does this even mean?

      • barca96 says:

        Perhaps Messi doesn’t like playing on the RW which I won’t find surprising. And remember when Ibra was here? Messi was moved back to RW and you know what happened. Phone-Pep= sulky Ibra

  51. Peter says:

    Not Barcelona related or World Cup related, but just to show an example of absolute insanity that can involve football:

    The local team, Las Palmas, was playing the finals for promotion to Primera Division with Cordoba. After a goalless draw in Cordoba, Las Palmas led 1-0 in front of 32 200 screaming “canaries”(the warcry is “Pio Pio!”), with almost two minutes of the three allocated gone, Las Palmas controlling and actually pushing Cordoba for a second…

    …when about 200 fans decided to jump from the stands and stay on the pitch so that they would be closer when the celebrations started. The ref stopped the game and for the next ten minutes ref, policemen, Valerón, who´s the Xavi of Las Palmas and the club president tried to put the pitch invaders back, while the rest of the 32 000 shouted at the minority to get the f*ck out of the pitch. After ten minutes the ref allowed the game to resume…

    At which point Cordoba scored and went to Primera on away goal.

    Tomorrow we’ll find out how many have been arrested in the following three-sided pitch battle between police, angry ultras from the minority and the overwhelming majority trying to get through to the dumb@sses who invaded the pitch.

  52. Jim says:

    Great singing of the anthem by the American fans. Keep it up and you’ll be running the Tartan army close at the next finals :)

  53. Peter says:

    Awesome game by the USA, but exhaustion was too much apparently. But really, This USA team impressed me. Making amateurish mistakes, but lots of heart, lots of guts. Fantastic performance.

  54. Jamal102 says:

    I thought I saw 4 minutes of added time on the board not 5 but maybe my eyes are acting up.

  55. 86ed says:

    See? Isn’t this much better than the ‘heroics’ of XI men behind the ball?

    • Jamal102 says:

      For fans maybe. But if the US had gone ‘ultradefensive’ and were not to concede, they would have secured automatic qualification.

      Now the group is uncertain for everyone involved except Portugal.

      • Inamess says:

        I disagree, U.S.A. fans can now take a victory lap of honor for not playing ultra-defensively at the end of the match. They have now gained the respect of Portugal and the rest of the world.

        What USA fan is going to remember whether they won tonight or not anyway? I just hope the neutral fans in Iran enjoyed an exciting game of football tonight.

        Message Received.

  56. Inamess says:

    So here is an interesting scenario. Let’s say Germany and the U.S.A. both play ultra-defensively in their last match of the group. Would this be an example of “match fixing”? Both teams are playing for the result they want and a draw sends both through with Germany on top. Germany gets nothing for a win, so a draw is good for them. Would it be “scandalous” for both teams to do what is in their interests to do, neutral fans be damned?

    http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=313855

  57. Lord Eddard Stark aka Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one says:

    The problem with the Suarez purchase is in the timing of it.
    Barca always suck when it comes to timing with regards to Transfers.
    The only case where they seem to have done fairly well with timing is with the acquisition of Neymar Jr.

    David Villa was bought a year or two too late. Zlatan was sold away too early. Buying of Defenders have been ignored for almost half a decade now. And now, Suarez. Suarez is indeed a very good player, but I suspect that he has peaked already, at the age of 27. The perfect time to buy him would have been, when he was literally whoring himself out to Barca while at Ajax in 2010 – 2011.

    Now, We have Alexis Sanchez, who has spent a vital 3 years of acclimatization at Barca and is really coming in to his own. He is yet to peak. Would you discard all that away for the sake of a marquee signing? That is bad timing and bad business. Can’t deny the drool worthiness if all of them play for our colors – the best of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile all attacking for one club. But that’s again way too many captains for a ship and is a certain recipe for disaster.

    Really hoping Chile go far in this world cup. Wouldn’t mind seeing them knock out Brazil too.

  58. Lord Eddard Stark aka Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one says:

    http://goo.gl/DynrFr

    Can a formation (with suarez) like the link above actually work?
    Or is too weak defensively?

    • ciaran says:

      Within a particular match I could see it happening but more of a change in tactics than a starting line up although it isn’t that dissimilar to the Pep line up very Villarreal a couple of seasons ago

    • Peter says:

      Too narrow and actually too short for my taste. Pique is slowish and there’s entirely too much space on the opponent’s left wing. A combo of Ronaldo and Di Maria would run riot, and Mascherano would be at a disadvantage if he has to face a tall striker.

      Personally I would prefer to see Mascherano in midfield, where he can put out fires before they spread. If you play him in defence that means constant lobbed balls that overfly the midfield.

      If you have a point hitter like Suarez one very good suggestion would be to play ball-playing strikers like Neymar, Messi and Alexis a little withdrawn. In theory the opposing CBs would have to honor the threat, which would stretch the defence and actually give more space to Messi. Of course, in practice what it may turn out to be would be the other side’s pivotes drop further back in order to stay in front of Messi, but still it may give him, or Neymar or Alexis the vital extra bit of space. Furthermore, with a point striker you constantly have an option to cross the ball, then press back into possession and cross again. With a point striker crosses and corners become more dangerous

      In any case, if you want to play Alexis, Suarez, Messi and Neymar in the same starting eleven, something’s got to give – and it shouldn’t be the defence. Instead I would surrender a bit of passing precision and play a 4-2-3-1 with say Rakitic next to Busquets, or you can play 4-3-3, but put Alexis in the Xavi spot.

      That, of course, envisions a Barcelona in which Messi runs and presses, Neymar runs and presses and tracks back, and only one rushing wingback at a time. Can it work? Well, Busquets wouldn’t have to stay back, he could stay in his zone. Alexis would have more of a playmaking role, but would be available for runs and hits from the second line.

      It is my firm belief that Barcelona alreadu have enough quality to maintain possession if needed. At the same time, the increased directness and stamina in midfield would shorten the transition time. Messi, Neymar and Suarez, and even Alexis would profit from that because they are players who have lots of speed and acceleration.

      • Davour says:

        I completely agree with Peter on the 3-3-3-1-formation. I have little faith in the Suarez rumors, and would much rather spend money on a proper CB – but it is a fun thought experiment, of course. With him (or someone of that quality) on the team, and assuming Alexis remains, I would also think 4-2-3-1 would be the preferred option. I don’t really see Alexis in the Xavi-position, as his (ideal) game is too based on taking risks.
        What would have to give in this formation is, to my mind, Iniesta’s given spot in the starting 11. He would rotate with Rakitic as a holding midfielder against weaker teams/buses, and with Neymar when we want more possession and, possibly, Messi when he needs a rest (yeah right…). If Messi would humbly agree to play RW at times, Iniesta could also rotate with Alexis (which otherwise Deulofeu and Rafinha would do).
        But, as Peter also points out: it would require some tracking back on the part of Messi or Neymar. Exciting thought-experiment, though.

        • Peter says:

          Before his injuries Neymar did track back and did press. The question of course, is that in order to need to track back and press the opponent must be trying to play from the back and attack, and the majority of teams that play Barcelona do not do that.

          In any case, I am not suggesting that Alexis plays as a controlling midfield, but rather that he plays on the right of Busquets.

          Here’s an idea:
          http://lineupbuilder.com/?sk=3sy5m

          Alexis starts on the right midfield, behind Suarez. In attack Alexis can start forward, while Suarez drifts center and Messi holds back. If Alexis is allowed to continue unopposed, he has space and can cross to Suarez in front of goal or Neymar at the back post, or to Messi just beyond the edge of the box, or even to the other side, where Rakitic/Iniesta could try shooting from distance.

          If Alexis dashes inside, Suarez and Messi can exchange positions, allowing Alexis to have reflecting nodes both left and right. With good timing the defence would have to keep their attention on Suarez and Messi, both of whom would be moving in across their field of vision and in contradicting directions, not to mention Neymar ghosting at the far post in their peripheral vision.

          In transition the midfield has enough pace to move the ball fast, with Suarez leading the attack and drawing the CBs, while Messi can run in space, accompanied by Neymar on the left.

          Note that the key to this is the conservative and tall (By Barcelona standards) backline and the increased height and stamina of the midfield and striker teams. The backline assures that Busquets doesn’t have to cover so much ground, while the presence of Rakitic and Alexis on both sides allows him to have active pressers both left and right, which shortens the zone which he has to cover even further. The conservative and taller backline provides less incentive for opposing teams to rely on high balls to the CFs, meaning build-up from the back and bypassing the midfield, which means the ball remains closer to the strikers(who can press) and increases the possibility of robbed balls and passing them to the striker team.

          What it also means is six players either 6 ft or taller(Suarez, Rakitic, Pique, Bartra, Busquets & New CB) which is good both for defence against corners and for offence during corners and set pieces.

          • Davour says:

            I see your point. In a sense it could morph into a 4-2-3-1, according to the runs your arrows indicate. But it would also be a mighty attacking left flank, and I don’t think Rojo will be ‘CB enough’ to hold that space, in this scenario. Perhaps with a more conservative Iniesta/Rakitic, or a more defensively minded Alba.

          • Peter says:

            Alba’s runs can be used either to add more presence in midfield or to overlap with Neymar. However, this is basically a “reverse Alves”. When Alba runs, the three remaining defenders all shift left to maintain cover, which precludes the need of Busquets to slot between the two CBs or drop back to take the ball. Busquets remains in the center, where his contribution can be maximized.

            Of course, Alba can be used defensively, meaning he doesn’t put a toe beyond the center line, but at some point he should be available for a sprint down the left flank, especially if the opposition forgets about him. ;)

            Rojo is just a suggestion.

            The beauty of the 4-3-3 is that it can morph into a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1, 4-2-4, 3-4-3, 4-3-1-2(asymmetric), 4-3-3(false nine) or even a 4-4-2(diamond), or in the extreme case of 3-5-2 or even 2-3-5.

          • Davour says:

            Yes, I understand this is a reversed Alves-situation, but this basic tactic, with Alexis in midfield, seems a bit more attacking than our former midfield trio. Though a right back who does not attack regularly (like Bartra, here) might balance that a little in comparison to the double wing back of last season, at least.

            Also – of course I realize Rojo is a suggestion; I just wanted to point out the demands this position would have in this scenario. What I really do like about your suggestion, despite my reservations, is the attempt to enhance the importance of Alexis. I believe this will be central for Enrique – to instill confidence in Alexis and allow him to fail some risky moves, despite a Messi who calls for the ball, swarmed by defenders…

  59. Kxevin says:

    Another GREAT day of World Cup football. Interestingly, looks like the initial pass on the second U.S. goal had the man indeed offside. Ref missed that one, though justice in the sporting sense was done, as the U.S. was clearly the better side. Portugal missed Pepe quite a bit. Doubtful that second goal is scored with him in the back line.

    Funny that like Messi, Ronaldo pretty much did feck all the whole match, until about 10 seconds of excellence. That cross, like the Messi goal, was stupefying in its quality, particularly given the moment. As with Messi essentially putting the ball into a space not much larger than the ball itself, that Ronaldo cross was perfection. Credit where due.

    It also makes for a fascinating final match day in that group. U.S. and Germany could play for a draw to have both advance, and Germany tops the group on goal differential. Or Germany says to hell with that, plays to win, Ghana beats Portugal by 2+ goals and the U.S. goes home. There is even a scenario through which Portugal can quality, which is completely bonkers.

    • Peter says:

      Impossible is nothing, as the Adidas ad said once upon a time, but Portugal needs for their goal difference with the USA, currently at -5, to become +1. That means USA conceding something like 3 more than Germany, and Ghana conceding 3 more than Portugal, all the while Ghana knowing that if they win by two and Germany wins by one, they will go through. It will be interesting 90 minutes all right :)

      • 86ed says:

        I thought Ghana was eliminated because they lost to the States.

        I guess they could go through if they beat Portugal by 4 goals and USA defeats the panzers.

        • Peter says:

          Yeah, that’s the awesome thing about this group, it can still end with Germany and Portugal catching an early flight, but requires USA and Ghana to beat Germany and Portugal with a combined score of +6 in favor, because goal difference is what counts first. Now, in case of say Ghana and USA/Germany having the same goal difference it would come to head to head results.

    • norden says:

      This Wold Cup has been generally pretty good so far. Lot of fun matches, interesting results, goal line technology, set-piece spray and no vuvuzelas :)

  60. Spain shud have started with Villa, he is much better than everyone. At least he is trying to make thing happen. By the way Iniesta’s form is a major worry.

  61. Lord Eddard Stark aka Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one says:

    How old is Neymar again?
    Dayumm

  62. Jim says:

    Another great display from Rafa !

    • Ryan says:

      It was fun watching Mexico try to rack up the goals and pass Brazil for top of the group – it’s too bad they had those 2 goals vs. Cameroon chalked off!

  63. ian_percival says:

    Rafaeal Marquez is a great man,leader and humble,him scoring that header reminds me when barca used to score with corner kicks

  64. ian_percival says:

    Did anyone see that rakitic assist

    • ciaran says:

      Very nice indeed. He was wasted playing solely defensively.
      He is a much better offensive play maker than Modric is. Modric should have been asked to play deeper and Rakitic more freedom. It may not have made a difference to the end result but it would have given them a better chance.

      • As excited as I am about Rakitic, I’m not sure he is better than Modric. Modric had a pretty bad game, but against Brazil he was immense. That being said, if we could have one or the other I’d still take Rakitic. Modric is too much of an Iniesta copy.

  65. ian_percival says:

    Suarez rumour is turning out concrete,and I think its a very good idea if we sign him,a lot of people worry about our finance as if we will have a say in the money,I believe this club is rich,and they can pay whatever they choose for any player.Getting suarez will be a milestone.Again,it will be dangerous if he joins EE,i can’t stand him week in week out,plus he will be more effective for us than EE. If we really mean this ”new era project” then getting him will be perfect,I think its time we put a different dimension to tiki-taka

    • raj says:

      You do understand that signing Suarez will mean that the club sees no future for Alexis and Pedro with the team. We will have three players in three slots who have to start irrespective of form and efforts because of the price tag. The advantage with Alexis and Pedro is that they are willing to fight for a spot and do the hard work even if they don’t get it. Maybe pedro will still stay but Alexis will definitely not. And Suarez is not worth ‘Alexis and more’ whatever talents he may bring.

  66. PrinceYuvi says:

    Ha. Thanks :)

  67. PrinceYuvi says:

    Mathieu, Saurez, Kroos, Marquinhos – everyone we’re linked with are more than 182 cm. (except cuadrado 176 cm, not bad)

    If this transfer turns out to be a success, won’t have to worry excessively about silly set pieces and losing balls.

    With the likes of Messi, Neymar, Sanchez in squad- the aim should be to create waves and waves of scoring chances.

    ‘Do what you will, but don’t you dare lose the ball’ motto is merely making our trio impotent.

    • Peter says:

      For quite some time it’s my belief that the real commandment of the successful Barcelona should be not “Thou shalt not lose the ball” but rather “Thou shalt run to recover the ball”

      Crackovia’s ‘Tata presser’ included not just gems, but real diamonds like this one:
      Q: “How did you manage to motivate the players to run and press again?”
      A: “I just simply told them ‘The sooner you recover the ball, the sooner we will have it.'” :D

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