After a whole existence of international football futility, Spain won three tournaments in a row: Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, and Euro 2012. The team with the spine of Carles Puyol and Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, and David Villa and Fernando Torres swept aside all challengers and dominated the international game. And then Spain hit a rough stretch, underperforming at the World Cup in 2014 and the Euros last year. Now, Spain are dominating their World Cup qualifying group, and with new stars to lead the team like David De Gea, Isco, Thiago, and veterans such as Iniesta and Ramos still contributing, Spain’s ready to compete with the best in the world again.
For a team going in the completely opposite direction of Spain, turn your eyes to Argentina, who eked out a draw against last-place Venezuela in qualifying on Tuesday. Argentina currently sit in 5th place in CONMEBOL, which is the playoff spot, but Chile is only a point back and Paraguay only three points behind. It’s difficult to see how they got to this point, with Argentina having such talented players such as Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Mauro Icardi, Angel Di Maria, the list goes on and on. But with a bad defense and an inability for all those attackers to gel playing together, Argentina is facing the serious prospect of missing out on next summer’s World Cup.
FIFA is ordering a qualifier between Senegal and South Africa from last year be replayed after it was discovered that the referee awarded a non-existent penalty in the match, which was initially won by South Africa 2-1 back in November of last year. The referee, Joseph Lamptey was banned for life. The replay could have big implications, as a Senegal victory would put them top of the group, and eliminate South Africa (and it’s the same group that Orange County SC forward Wuilito Fernandes is playing in, with long shot hopefuls Cape Verde). This is a pretty crazy story, and let’s hope this example discourages any other officials from attempting to throw games like this.
Sir Alex Ferguson is arguably the greatest soccer coach of all time, a great tactician who was always able to get the best out of his players, and was able to reinvent his teams when it was necessary to adapt. But Sir Alex wasn’t perfect, and this was on display in the mid-2000s when he coached the Brazilian twins Fabio and Rafael Da Silva. According to Rafael, Ferguson frequently confused the twin defenders in practice. “Was there ever a time when Ferguson got us confused? It happened many times,” Rafael laughed as he did an interview with FourFourTwo magazine set to come out next month. Rafael made 169 appearances at Manchester United as opposed to Fabio’s 56, so it appears that at least when it came to game time, Ferguson knew who he was putting in the game.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!