Argentina Pip Netherlands

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 9th 2014)

Drab Spectacle

Louis van Gaal is no Felix Okey Emordi. Hailed as a genius for substituting Ajaxʼs Jasper Cillessen for penalties hero Tim Krul in the quarter-final van Gaal left no room for repetition when he replaced an ineffective Robin van Persie with Schalke04ʼs Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – his third and final substitution.

A drab 0-0 draw meant penalties and Cillessen had never saved one in 13 attempts. Argentina won the penalty shoot-out 4-2, scoring all four to bring Cillessenʼs record to 0 for 17. He got hands to Maxi Rodríguezʼ final spot-kick, but could not keep it out. Sergio Romero, who had spent a season on-loan with Monaco, but confined mainly to the bench in France was the hero. Defender Ron Vlaarʼs penalty was poor and Wesley Sneijder saw his well-saved.

Missing in Action

The match – billed as Lionel Messi versus Arjen Robben in advance didnʼt turn out that way. Bayern Münchenʼs Robben was shackled by a masterful exhibition of defending by Barçelonaʼs Javier Mascherano. Extra time was largely forgettable although Newellʼs Old Boysʼ Maxi Rodríguez should have had an assist when he put Interʼs Rodrigo Palacio through with just Cillessen to beat. Palacio nodded it into the grateful arms of Ajaxʼs shot-stopper.

Cillessen may not be a penalty stopper, but he certainly doesnʼt lack confidence or ball skills. Both Gonzalo Higuaín and the Napoli strikerʼs replacement Sergio Agüero were left with egg on their faces by the same back-heel and turn to find space to start a counter-attack. FIFA did at least learn a lesson from yesterday. A minuteʼs silence or applause was observed for the great Alfredo di Stéfano. Argentina will play Germany at the Estádio do Maracanã on Sunday while Brasil and the Netherlands will meet for third or fourth in Brasilia – the final that should have been if the thuggish Argentine dictator General Jorge Videla Redondo had not been allowed to bully his way into getting the result that he wanted in 1978.




When Cheating Prospered


by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 4th 2014)


Tonight Joachim Löwʼs Germany must face another of the victims of the 1982 West Germany teamʼs win at all costs mentality. They beat Algeria in an entertaining and sportingly contested match – just. This afternoon they face Didier Deschampsʼ France in the first of Brasilʼs World Cupʼs quarter-final at Rio de Janeiroʼs Estádio do Maracaña – Estádio Journalista Mário Filho. Löw knows that yet another shameful injustice will loom large tonight.

Germanyʼs victory over Algeria – played in a sporting way – laid the Shame of Gijón of 1982 to rest. West Germany reached the final through disgraceful lack of sportsmanship – match-fixing in Algeriaʼs case and wanton thuggery in Franceʼs case. West Germany had fixed the result against Austria in the first round in order to ensure that both reached the second round at Algeriaʼs expense.

FIFA shamefully rejected Algeriaʼs complaint. Both teams made no effort as they swindled paying fans and football to secure the disgraceful result. Both should have been sent home in disgrace and banned for at least the next tournament, which West Germany also lost in the final. If FIFA had had the morals or courage to do the right thing then one of the sportʼs most disgraceful so-called challenges would not have occurred.

Schumacherʼs Assault

On July 8th 1982 France and West Germany met in the semi-final of the World Cup at Sevillaʼs Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pijuán. It proved to be one of the most infamous matches in the history of the World Cup Finals thanks to the vile cheating of West German goal-keeper Harald Schumacher. Dutch referee Charles Corver and his linesmen Bruno Galler and Robert Valentine missed one of the most blatant and outrageous fouls ever seen on a football pitch – one that broke not only the rules of the game, but of France too.

Schumacherʼs shoulder charge left Patrick Battiston unconscious. He had only been on the pitch seven minutes and French manager Michel Hidalgo had to bring on his last substitute. Corver claims that he was watching the ball and did not see the foul. If he missed that he had no business refereeing and even if he failed to see it – a disgrace of a challenge – what about the linesmen?

Battiston was stretchered off with current UEFA President Michel Platini accompanying the stretcher off the pitch trying to comfort Battiston.


Not only was Battiston knocked unconscious he lost teeth and had vertebrae damaged. He still carries the scars, but Battiston generously forgave Schumacher. He still believes that Schumacher did not do it on purpose – he was just incredibly pumped up. Battiston was not impressed with Schumacherʼs comment that heʼd pay for Battistonʼs crowns.

Schumacher was not punished at all for the horror-challenge. Corver gave the French nothing – not even a free-kick., let alone the red card that disgraceful assault deserved. Schumacher may not have intended to injure Battiston, but he did. It was nowhere near a fair challenge, or a mistimed one.

Battistonʼs outrage is reserved for his country. He believes that Corverʼs refereeing favoured West Germany. Two years later France hosted Euro1984. West Germany were defending champions. They failed to reach the knock-out stages. France, including Battiston, went on to win their first major trophy.


France Eliminate Ecuador and Top Group

by Valery Villena © Valery Villena (June 25th 2014)

France Progress

France could not find a way to breach Ecuador’s defense even though the South Americans played with only ten men since the 50th minute after their captain Antonio Valencia was sent off in this intensely contested match which did not produce a winner – it was a 0-0 draw, but could have easily ended in a French victory or even an Ecuadorian triumph, as both teams had good chances to score. The result saw France advance as group winners and Ecuador was eliminated.

Prior to this encounter Didier Deschampsʼ French team was viewed by some as serious contenders in this exciting World Cup – already considered by most to be the best tournament ever – after destroying Honduras (3-0) and Switzerland (5-2) in their first two matches.


In the sixth minute French defender Mamadou Sakho was extremely fortunate not to be sent off by the Ivorian referee Noumandiez Doué after delivering an elbow to the face of Ecuador’s midfielder Oswaldo Minda. The tens of thousands of Ecuadorian fans who packed the Estádio do Maracanã felt aggrieved and showed their disgust and disapproval by jeering the referee who did not even book the offender.

The game was evenly matched with France enjoying a little more possession. In the 37th minute les Bleus had their best chance when Morgan Schneiderlin’s excellent cross resulted in Juventusʼ midfielder Paul Pogbaʼs header which was heading for the opening goal, but a spectacular save from ʻman of the matchʼ Ecuadorian goal-keeper Alexander Domínguez. Three minutes later it was his French counterpart Hugo Lloris’ turn to save a point blank header from Enner Valencia.

Game-Changing Incident

Almost immediately at the start of the second half, Antonio Valencia saw red for a studs- showing tackle on Paris Saint-Germainʼs Lucas Digne, who laid on the pitch injured and received medical treatment. It was a well-deserved red card that the Ecuadorian captain could not protest in the least bit.

Following the sending-off, France saw most of the ball and came close to scoring a few times through Blaise Matuidi, Karim Benzema, Pogba and Oilivier Giroud, but Domínguez’s spectacular play in goal kept his team in the game. Ecuador also enjoyed a few chances to score, but Enner Valencia, Renato Ibarra and Michael Arroyo’s shots were well rebuffed by Lloris.


Ecuador kept defending heroically and counter-attacking at every chance, looking for the goal and the victory which could give them a spot in the next round. The game opened up with chances galore for both teams, but both keepers were superb. However, in a bizarre move, in the 82nd minute, Ecuador’s manager, the Colombian Reinaldo Rueda, removed forward Michael Arroyo and brought in defender Gabriel Achilier.

It seemed a bizarre decision as if he thought Ecuador would progress to the next round by hanging on to the 0-0 draw. Seven minutes later and almost into stoppage time, Rueda brought in striker Felipe Caicedo, who had been a starter until today’s match, but it proved too late.

An intense and exciting 0-0 draw meant Ecuador had once again failed to reach the last sixteen. The result means that France as group winners will be joined by Switzerland –who crushed Honduras 3-0- as the two teams from Group E that advance to the Round of 16 where they will meet Nigeria and Argentina respectively.