Germany, Brazil setbacks have stirred FIFA World Cup 2018 into life, writes Bhaichung Bhutia
The shock defeat of Germany and Brazil’s draw against Switzerland has made the FIFA World Cup 2018 even more interesting for the neutral fans.Updated: Jun 19, 2018 15:03 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The world champions lost and the neutrals’ favourites were ‘Swiss-knifed.’ The World Cup came alive on Sunday but not in the manner most expected.
The way Mexico surprised Germany will be talked about long after the carnival ends in Russia. Being meticulous is a way of life for Germans and it influences how they run football.
They overhauled their programme after the disaster of Euro 2000 with Joachim Loew himself being an integral part of that change.
Their society becoming increasingly multi-cultural too influenced how they played football; it blended flair to discipline and made them an even more potent force in the sport.
They went to the Confederations Cup to give a bunch of young ones game time and ended up winning it. Their World Cup qualification was a breeze and they arrived in Russia looking like football’s Roger Federer. Only to be sucker-punched.
Mexico beat them on speed, stamina, technique and concentration. They made Germany look ponderous by overrunning them in midfield.
Sami Khedira looked older than 31 and his mates in the middle, Toni Kroos and Mesut Oezil, didn’t tackle as well as Mexico. Mexico also showed they knew how to exploit Joshua Kimmich’s love of going forward by playing the out-ball to their speedy winger.
The match typified that modern football is about penetration and not possession.
Most statistics from the game were in Germany’s favour save the one that matters most: goals scored.
So, I think it is time we devote attention to how the game is run in Mexico because players such as Hirving Lozano don’t fall from trees.
In six touches, they have landed the World Cup’s most telling blow so far. They have a strong league, they beat Neymar’s Brazil to win the 2012 Olympic gold and have been world under-17 champions twice.
I know Germany’s results in the recent friendlies haven’t been good --- the 2-1 win against Saudi Arabia now looks worse than it did then --- but they shouldn’t hit the panic button. They need to look beyond Khedira though.
Brazil may justifiably claim to Gabriel Jesus being denied a penalty and Steven Zuber did nudge Miranda, something that happens all the time inside the box during set-pieces, but they will need to introspect why they couldn’t unlock Switzerland’s defence.
There was a plan to the way the Swiss frustrated Neymar and it didn’t help that Brazil couldn’t exploit the attention on their star to find space for others. But Brazil have way too much quality and I see them topping the group.
About Germany, I am not that sure. But I think they will get out of the group. And that could set up a Brazil-Germany pre-quarter final!
NOTE: Former Indian football captain Bhaichung Bhutia is writing exclusively for Hindustan Times
First Published: Jun 19, 2018 07:49 IST