Argentina, somehow, some way, through all the drama and bad performances, beat Nigeria 2-1 to advance to the knockout round on Tuesday. It’s become a cliché at this point, but this game really did have everything. A good Lionel Messi goal, a handball against Argentina in the box that probably should have been called but wasn’t, Javier Mascherano was bleeding for what seemed like the whole second half. Also a spectacular winning goal by Marcos Rojo, coach Jorge Sampaoli leaving the field after the win and not celebrating with his team, and whatever it was that Diego Maradona was doing in the stands. Argentina’s problems were not all fixed, and they might just be delaying the inevitable, but they will still enjoy what this victory brings them in the moment.
If you have been covering Nigeria or Senegal in the World Cup, and you did not default to their “pace and power” as their reason for victory, congrats, you are one of the few. This is the typical and lazy stereotype thrown around about African players and teams (mostly western and Sub-Saharan African teams, North African countries seem to escape this stereotype). This, sadly, is a stereotype that has endured for some time, that African players are strong and fast, but not as intelligent or tactically aware as European footballers. It helps explain why there are so few black coaches of National Teams. Aliou Cisse of Senegal is the only black coach at this World Cup. And though his teams victory over Poland was the result of superior technical and tactical ability, to many it was simply a result of their “pace and power.” Hopefully this is a stereotype that is retired soon, because it’s as lazy as it is just plain wrong.
England and Belgium have both clinched the knockout spots in their group going into their game against each other on Thursday. They also find themselves tied on points, goal difference, and goals scored. The way that the bracket has played out this time, it’s actually better to finish second in this group. The team that wins the group would be on the Brazil side of the bracket, while the team that gets second in England’s group will most likely be on the Mexico and Switzerland side of the bracket. Here’s where things get really interesting. Most of the tiebreakers for who win the group involve goal difference in some way, of which England and Belgium are completely tied on. So, if their game ends in a draw, the next tiebreaker is FIFA fair play, basically how many yellow and or red cards has your team gotten. England would currently top the group, with two yellow cards to Belgium’s three. So, we could be in a situation where a team trying to finish second in this group does so by trying to accumulate as many yellow cards as possible, without actually having anyone pick up a red card. We’ll see how the game plays out, but as for me, I am all about Team Chaos.
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