Les Bleus France Advance to Quarter-Final

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30th 2014)

Super-Eaglesʼ Jinx Continues 

With just over ten minutes remaining a tight match turned decisively in Franceʼs favour. Lilleʼs Vincent Enyeama flapped at Mathieu Valbuenaʼs corner and palmed it to Paul Pogba. Juventusʼ midfielder nodded it in to give Didier Deschampsʼ team the lead. It was a pity that the last keeper to concede a goal in the first round and jointly led keepers throughout Europe in clean sheets and made important saves in this match made the mistake that cost the Africans champions dear.

Two minutes into injury a different corner routine also involving Valbuena led to the second. A short corner to the Marseille midfielder caught the Nigerian defence out. Valbuena squared it for substitute Antoine Griezman. Enyeama was beaten by a deflection off Super-Eagles captain Joseph Yobo. Shortly after the Fenerbahçe defenderʼs error, Deschamps allowed Valbuena to receive a well earned ovation from French fans and waste a bit of time.

Deserved

On the balance of play France deserved to continue Nigeriaʼs last sixteen jinx and put the horrors of their wretched campaign four years ago firmly behind them. Deschamps chose to deploy Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema on the left and Arsenalʼs Oliver Giroud in the striker role. Both proved ineffective. The introduction of Griezman proved to be the turning point.

Nigeria had been the better side in the first half. After 18 minutes CSKA Moscowʼs Ahmed Musa – the first and so far only Nigerian to score two goals in a match at the World Cup Finals – crossed for the much touted, but so far ineffective Emmanuel Emenike to score his first goal with a deft flick past Tottenham Hotspurʼs Hugo Lloris. Sadly for Stephen Keshi and his assistant Daniel Amokachi it was ruled offside and it was – just.

Turning Points

A mistimed but reckless tackle by Paris Saint-Germainʼs Blaise Matuidi ended Lazioʼs Ogenyi Onaziʼs afternoon. Matuidi was shown a yellow card by American referee Mark Geiger. Matuidi was genuinely apologetic to Onazi, but the midfielder was stretchered off. He would not return.

Enyeama made a couple of important saves, but could do nothing when former Newcastle United favourite Yohan Cabaye picked up the pieces of John Mikel Obiʼs clearance and shot from outside the area. He was very unlucky that it beat Enyeama, but struck the crossbar.

Midway through the first half Pogba surged through the centre, playing a neat one-two with Valbuena before volleying. Enyeama denied him. With just over twenty minutes remaining Benzema and Griezman combined on the left to create a golden opportunity for Benzema. Enyeama took the pace off it and Victor Moses scrambled back to clear.

Eventually the pressure told. France got the goals to take then through to the quarter-final and a tie against either Algeria or Germany.

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Restorative Justice

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30th 2014)

Shameful

Thirty-two years ago a shameful injustice occurred in Gijón. West Germany and Austria played out a disgraceful match to ensure that both progressed to the second round. The fix was as obvious as it was shameful, but FIFAʼs response was even worse. Both Austria and West Germanyʼs teams did what they had to in order to suit their own interests – they cheated the fans and football itself.

Not only was the match fixed, giving both the result that suited themselves, but they preserved energy that their next opponents did not have the opportunity to do. It was as ungentlemanly conduct as could be imagined and Algeria – the victims of the fix – went home. Adding insult to injury FIFA rubber-stamped the fix by dismissing Algeriaʼs complaint about it.

The Previous Fix

FIFA had the opportunity to prevent this shameful episode in its history. West Germany and Austria had the opportunity to engineer the fix because of an anomaly. Algeria had played earlier, so both knew exactly what result suited them both before their so-called match. That should never have happened as four years earlier an even more notorious fix occurred.

Brasil had played earlier, so Argentina knew that they had to beat Perú by at least four goals. They won 6-0. Over the years more and more came out about that disgraceful fix. The then dictator of Argentina – one of the vilest men of the twentieth century General Jorge Videla – visited Perúʼs dressing room at half-time to ʻremind them of their dutiesʼ.

The Condor Moment

There were further allegations that the fix resulted in economic ʻfavoursʼ for Perú and that it was part of the infamous Operation Condor – a despicable agreement where various South American dictatorships tortured, disappeared or murdered political opponents. On May 25th 1978 thirteen Peruvians were the victims of ʻextraordinary renditionʼ before the term became commonly used to Argentina.

Their lives were saved by a journalist reporting their arrival in Argentina. Years later after the fall of Videla and the end of Perúʼs military dictatorship details of alleged deals for Perú to throw the match against Argentina that would allow Argentina to reach the final at Brasilʼs expense – something Videla needed to exploit the popularity of the football to legitimise his tyranny – began to emerge.

Too Little Too Late

Argentinian judge Norberto Oyarbide demanded the extradition of Perúʼs former dictator Francisco Morales Bermúdez over the rendition of the 13 Perúvians in 1978. Perú refused to extradite the former general. Meanwhile, ʻcoincidencesʼ abound. Shortly, after the match secured the result that Videla needed Argentina signed a food aid aid deal with Perú guaranteeing 23,000 tonnes of wheat per year.

The truth about the fix has never been established as FIFA has yet to investigate it. The allegations surrounding the 1978 World Cup remain raw over 35 years later, but one question rarely gets asked. Why werenʼt the crucial matches played at the same time? That would have prevented the shameful fix from happening at all.

Solutions

And even more importantly, in the four years after Argentinaʼs World Cup why had FIFA failed to initiate changes that could prevent repetition. If FIFA had not dropped the ball so shamefully after Videlaʼs interference West Germany and Austria would never have been in a position where they could cheat Algeria and football itself.

Tonight Vahid Halihodžić will have no trouble with motivation. Islam Slimani and his team-mates have already made history this campaign. They have the opportunity to make some more and avenge the injustice of Gijón too.

 

Costa Rica Defy Odds

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 29th 2014)

Making History

Levanteʼs Keylor Navas Gamboa twice made three crucial saves to keep Jorge Pinto Alfanadorʼs Costa Rica in the match and one to bring them to the brink of victory. The match tied at 1-1 after extra time – with an assist from FCKʼs Christian Bolaños Navarro Fulhamʼs Bryan Ruiz González gave Costa Rica a 51st minute lead that lasted 40 minutes before Borussia Dortmundʼs Sokratis Papastathopoulos equalised in added time – penalties were required.

Both Navas and Greek keeper Orestis Karnezis were powerless to prevent the first three penalties each being scored by Celso Borges, Ruiz and Giancarlo González for Costa Rica and matched by Kostas Mitroglou, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and José Holebas. A tired Joel Campbell Samuels scored Costa Ricaʼs fourth, putting immense pressure on veteran striker Theofanis Gekas.

Navas guessed correctly for the only save of the shoot-out. That left Michael Umaña with the chance to surpass the class of 1990 and make new history. He did so to set up a quarter-final against the Netherlands.

Against Type

Both Costa Rica and Greece were forced by necessity to play against type. Greece were more attacking than usual, but still didnʼt totally abandon the habits that had served so well. Portuguese coach Fernando Santos was sent to the stands before the penalty shoot-out. It was his last match in charge of the Greeks.

Whatever caused his dismissal from pitch-side, his opposite number had greater cause for consent as despite being well positioned Australian referee Ben Williams missed a clear penalty when Vasilis Torosidos handled to prevent Bolaños having the opportunity to score while shaping to shoot – another case for using technology. That came a couple of minutes after Costa Rica had taken the lead, albeit against the run of play.

Greece had the best chance of the first half with less than ten minutes of the first half remaining. The left wing-back José Holebas delivered an enticing cross to the back post to PAOKʼs Dimitrios Salpingidis, whose shot was well saved by Navas. Ten minutes after taking the lead Óscar Duarte Gaitán received a yellow card for tripping Holebas – his second. The Costa Ricans tired quickly.

Navas saved well twice to deny Mitroglou before and after Papastathopoulosʼ equaliser. During Extra time the ten men of Costa Rica defended manfully. Lazoros Christodoulopoulos spurned the best opportunity a five against two attack by shooting straight at Navas. The unfortunate Mitroglu was denied once more by Navasʼ leg. Penalties were required and Pintoʼs men scored all five to go through to the quarter-final to play the Dutch. They will be underdogs again, but have acquired an impressive list of conquests already. Nothing will suit them better than being under-estimated again.

 

Africa Gets Ready (Part Three) Security – Archive

Editorʼs Note:

We published this series of articles five years ago. We think they are still relevant, so we are republishing them now.

Derek Miller

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (November 27th 2009)

Dangerous – Perish the Thought

I don’t think that will be a problem,” said the CEO of South Africaʼs World Cup Dr Danny Jordaan boldly. He believes that fans will not come to his country for the World Cup, but that they will be safe. He dismissed suggestions that South Africa is a dangerous country and that visitors to the World Cup will not be safe.

If that is true, how do you explain the fact that there are seven million tourists coming into the country”? he asks. “How do you explain that? How do you explain the fact that every aircraft to Johannesburg from London is full every time from Virgin Atlantic to South African Airways and now British Airways as well? All of them are full – every one”.

Comparison

Jordaan is convinced that South Africa will host a successful and safe World Cup. “We have crime”, he says, “but so do you in Moss Side in Manchester, in Leeds and other places that we read about. We are safe. There is crime everywhere. You see knife murders and gun murders in London”.

Jordaan warms to his theme. “We read about it in South Africa”, he says, “but we have decided to challenge it. If somebody can tell me that there is no crime in London at all then at least we have discovered the British path to heaven, but I think that we have also showed that it is safe in South Africa”.

Safe

Jordaan has no truck with the view that South Africa is too dangerous a place to host the World Cup. “The England soccer team played there”, Jordaan said. “The England rugby team came to play here. Why would it be different if two million people come for a tournament like the World Cup? Why would it be different? I cannot understand that”.

He lists more examples of successfully hosted sporting events in his country. “We just hosted the 20/20 world cup and that was in September 2007, so I cannot understand, because Manchester United was coming here to South Africa”, Jordaan says. “Barcelona was here. Brasil played here. Argentina played here. Germany played here. The Netherlands played here. Sweden played here. Denmark played here and so the list goes on”.

And so it does. “A number of countries have played here so I don’t know why we can have all of these major internationals here, but somehow somebody knows it’s not going to be safe”, Jordaan says. “Yes we have crime. There are socio-economic challenges – the lack of housing, education, all of those and then we are dealing with those things”.

 

 

México’s Curse Continues

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 29th 2014)

Cruel, but self-inflicted

Not even the remarkable heroics of goal-keeping phenomenon Ajaccio’s out of contract goal-keeper Guillermo Ochoa Magaña could deny the Netherlands a late win. For once Miguel Herrera Aguirre – the worst paid coach at the World Cup – got his tactics badly wrong. Leading by a splendid Giovanni dos Santos goal since two minutes into the second half Herrera chose to shut up shop with more than ten minutes remaining.

It backfired as the tenth Dutch corner led to something different. Schalke04’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar nodded the corner away from goal on to Wesley Sneijder, who had been ineffective until then, to strike it sweetly into the corner to Ochoa’s right with just three minutes of normal time remaining. It soon got worse, as México paid a high price for the negative tactics..

After a minute of added time the Méxicans fell to the sucker-punch as the Netherlands’ one influential player this afternoon Bayern München’s Arjen Robben induced México’s captain Rafa Márquez Álvarez into a rash attempt to steal possession in his own area, tripping Robben. It was a penalty. Huntelaar who had replaced a below par Robin van Persie kept his nerve and scored to Ochoa’s right. It proved to late to change the tactics back again.

México’s tactic of wasting time by belting the ball into touch started early – far too early and in the end it cost them dear. Their own negativity robbed them of the chance of matching Colombia’s achievement of making history by reaching the quarter-finals for the first time.

Errors of Judgment

México had the best of the match, creating the better chances. With just over a quarter of an hour played an incisive move on the right flank led to Oribe Peralta laying it off for Héctor Herrera López, but Herrera shot just wide of Jasper Cillessen’s left-hand post. Shortly afterwards Portuguese referee Pedro Proença and his assistant proved the need for the use of technology in football wherever necessary.

Defender Ron Vlaar kicked the ball and Herrera’s head. It should have been a penalty. It was absurd that it was not given and that would have provided México with an opportunity to take the lead. Vlaar wasn’t even penalised let disciplined as such a challenge deserved. Robben was later denied a penalty that should have been given too. Héctor Moreno Herrera plainly tripped Robben after Márquez had an unsuccessful attempt – he missed the winger. The case for technology is becoming overwhelming.

And Robben tripped over a prone defender’s heel in the second half too, but the biggest error was Herrera’s courting pressure with 15 minutes remaining only for his team to buckle at the last minute using a tactic that had been used often and found wanting often too. The Dutch were far from their best and an upset was on the cards, especially after Villarreal’s Giovanni dos Santos individual effort a long-range half-volley from at least 25 yards out to the Ajax keeper’s left.

The Formidable Last Barrier

Ochao’s form has been sensational. Prior to this match he had only conceded once in the tournament. He was the goal-keeper of the first round of matches. His performance against Brasil was exceptional. A free agent after declining to extend his stay at Ajaccio, he’ll surely have attracted the admiration of far bigger clubs then and added to it tonight.

Once again he was immense. Less than ten minutes into the second half a corner was needlessly conceded by Diego Reyes Rosales. Stefan de Vrij and volleyed from point blank range. Somehow Ochoa pushed it onto his left-hand post – an incredible save, but he needn’t have bothered as de Vrij was offside. Over twenty minutes later he repeated it. Huntelaar was denied that time. Again he was offside. Ochoa’s heroics won’t be seen again and that’s a pity – he’s been sensational. Herrera’s done an incredible job considering how short a time he’s been in the job, but the Netherlands are through to face either Costa Rica or Greece in the quarter-final.

 

 

Africa Gets Ready (Part Two) Events and Infrastructure – Archive

Editorʼs Note:

We published this series of articles five years ago. We think they are still relevant, so we are republishing them now.

Derek Miller

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (November 27th 2009)

The Events Strategy

South Africans including Dr Danny Jordaan, the CEO of Africa’s World Cup, realised that sport offered the means to achieve those ends and would engage the new nation as well as unite them. All races love sport in South Africa. Itʼs a similar story in Brasil – well almost. Patience ran out with the cost and corrupt practices that had been tolerated there for years. People had other priorities, especially in such austere times. But few things can advertise a country like a sporting event – the Olympic Games and footballʼs World Cup being top of the food chain.

We decided to follow a major event strategy,” said Jordaan. “We hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1995, the African Cup of Nations in 1996, 1998 the World Athletics Championship, 2002 the cricket world cup to sustain a development consciousness of a united nation in our country. We now had the cricket 20/20 World Cup in 2007. We have the motor-racing and a whole host of events”.

But South Africa was far from content. “We made a bid for 2004 Olympics, but lost out to Athens”, he said. “We made a bid for 2006 World Cup, but lost out to Germany and now we are hosting 2010 and what that has done is two things that is important: one is that South Africa was not forgotten after 1994; secondly and perhaps more importantly, through hosting all of those major events there was infrastructure improvement in our country.”

Infrastructure

Jordaan is not just talking about sporting infrastructure, although there will be new stadiums and existing ones will be refurbished too. “It was not only the stadiums,” Jordaan said. “It was many other things – a number of hotels have been built in our country and investment, direct investment, as well as of course tourism. We have seen an eleven percent annual growth in tourism”.

Encouraging tourism was plainly part of the development strategy, but the events strategy has flaws. Once the event is settled – the bid successful – costs spiral out of control. Construction costs double or worse as there is no choice. You canʼt have a World Cup sub-standard stadiums. Some had to be built from scratch and others brought up to modern requirements.

This would cost. It was budgeted for, but that was before the event had to happen. Afterwards, the stadiums had to be built or refurbished and costs for materials and work rose as suppliers rewrote the laws of supply and demand. They realised they could demand more to supply what was needed and did so.

To make matters worse, the workers actually doing the constructing continued to be exploited and their safety was not the priority it should have been. There were serious accidents – fatalities even – but workersʼ rights still remained a low priority. This is not an issue confined to South Africa. Brasil is experiencing it now and Qatar too has attracted headlines about it.

Ukraine and Poland experienced spiralling costs too. And all hosts face another problem – private enterprise. Market-based economics is incompatible with a sporting-event development strategy. A mark up on prices is expected – inevitable even – but doubling, trebling or more of prices for accommodation is outrageous and short-sighted, especially in tourist-based economies.

South Africa is a beautiful country. So too is Brasil. These are countries worth visiting and to some extent dependent on visitors recommending them. Having visited both countries there is much to love about both, but I went to both during sporting events and also when there were none. The difference in price and also attitude was stark.

On both visits we covered sport too and observed attitudes. There was a marked difference. Prices were reasonable and people more welcoming too, as they knew you had chosen to be there because you liked their country and not because an event meant you had to be there. And this is the events trap. It is a chance to sell the country long term, but that will not happen if visitors feel ripped off afterwards. Nevertheless, Jordaan is having none of it. He believes in the strategy of using sporting-events to induce tourism.

In 2007 we went beyond seven million foreign tourists into our country, so I think that through hosting major events we have been quite successful in keeping the focus on our country, developing South Africa as a country, getting the infrastructure improvement”, Jordaan says, “because in most countries in the period of liberation or democracy there is a decline in the infrastructure, especially those countries that went through the decolonisation process”.

He explains further. “In our case from 1990 to 2008 the infrastructure in our country has improved and is much better”, Jordaan says. “Our economy is much better and we had investment from Vodafone and investment in Standard Bank one of our banks in South Africa and that was over US $12 billion”.

 

 

Africa Gets Ready (Part One) Rotation – Archive

Editorʼs Note:

We published this series of articles five years ago. We think they are still relevant, so we are republishing them now.

Derek Miller

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By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (November 27th 2009)

Despair

There are only a few short months to go before South Africa prepares to welcome football’s élite to the first World Cup on African soil. The Chief Executive Officer of the Local Organising Committee of South Africa’s World Cup Dr Danny Jordaan worked hard to bring the tournament to Africa. He was involved in the bid for the 2006 World Cup, which controversially failed when the late Charles Dempsey, Oceania’s representative, ignored the instructions of his confederation and abstained rather than support South Africa’s bid, which failed by one vote.

Dr Jordaan granted Empower-Sport Magazine an exclusive interview, during which he recalled those hard times. “Well of course it was a huge disappointment”, he said. “It was a technical aberration at that World Cup. South Africa alongside Germany was the two countries best placed to host the World Cup. I think England had tried, but it came down to Germany and South Africa and therefore we had a lot of confidence, but when we lost it was a huge disappointment, but we understood that that was a setback”.

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Elation

After the disappointment, they dusted themselves off and set about turning despair to elation. They set about ensuring that next time their bid would succeed. “We must pursue the ideal that Africa must host the World Cup because now it would be over a hundred years since FIFA was established in 1904 and Africa also had the right to host this event, so we prepared for 2010”, Jordaan said.

He gets a lot of criticism, much of it deserved in the wake of corruption scandals, but some of the good Sepp Blatter did gets washed away as a result. “I think one must acknowledge the support of the President Sepp Blatter in supporting the African cause in making sure that the World Cup will eventually be hosted on the African continent”, Jordaan said and he was right.

FIFA introduced the rotation policy to ensure that Africa got its chance and South Africa emerged victorious. Hosting the tournament was part of Jordaan’s vision to promote his country on the world stage.

It was something that we wanted to do because after 1994 there was elections”, said Jordaan. “In 1990 [Nelson] Mandela walked out of prison. ‘94 we had our first democratic elections and one of the things that we had to make sure of is that we must not be forgotten by the international community – rather that South Africa must be discussed at the dinner tables, the lunch tables of the big business companies and I believe that our aim must be to be discussed at every dinner table and coffee table of the world”.

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