WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Ronaldo needs to accept reality
‘We’ve been friends for many years’ – Santos downplays idea of Ronaldo rift
8 HOURS AGO
Now, the sample size is, of course, too small to definitively conclude whether the abandon with which Portugal played with in attack, and the diligence they harried their opponents when without the ball had a perfectly linear relationship to their leading scorer’s absence. However, it is without doubt that this was their best performance of the tournament, and by some distance. And it is probably fair to say that Ronaldo’s absence was a contributory factor to that excellence.
Yet, as Ian Wright said after the match, Ronaldo could work this situation to his advantage. But, first he needs to accept reality. It is difficult to imagine a scenario where Ronaldo reclaims his position in the team for the quarter-final showdown with Morocco on Saturday at 15:00. Ergo, he is no longer a guaranteed starter at the elite level.
But if Ronaldo can reel in his ego, accept his new status and fully and dutifully commit himself to the role of finisher, Portugal will take some stopping at this World Cup.
Morocco ready to continue swinging at wide open, chaotic World Cup
Portugal’s performance in their last-16 encounter announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with at this World Cup; they finally produced the sort of statement win that a squad with their weight of talent should produce regularly. Yet, do not rule out Morocco turning them over in the next round.
Why? World Cups are rarely won by the best team. They are won by the least dysfunctional, generally. They are won by teams who minimise chaos.
The reason for this is the nature of international football means that coaches do not have enough time to coach intricate attacking patterns or sophisticated pressing triggers. Thus, conservative, basic football offers the greatest chance of success at this level. Attempts at overly open, expansive football without the required time on the training ground can lead to chaos. For evidence of this see much of this World Cup and, most notably, Germany.
The football at the Qatar World Cup has been thoroughly entertaining due to this chaos – the Warm-Up posits – owing to the, even by World Cup standards, scandalous lack of preparation time afforded to international coaches ahead of the tournament.
Good international teams minimise the chaos. It is why the clamour for Gareth Southgate to take the handbrake off, as it were, is misplaced. Morocco are evidence of the fruits of very much keeping the handbrake in place. They have conceded one measly goal – an own goal scored by Nayef Aguerd in their 2-1 win against Canada – thus far in this tournament and their reward is a spot in the quarter-finals.
Ahead of the Spain game, boss Walid Regragui said that they would come in swinging.
“We will come in with a winner’s attitude,” he said. “We will come in swinging. We want to hoist our Moroccan flag well up high. The great nations are still here and it is up to us to give them a run for their money.”
WAYNE ROONEY WITH THE HONESTY
They say you should never meet your heroes. And so it proved for Wayne Rooney, who went from idolising Duncan Ferguson and Alan Stubbs to thinking they were awful. Brutal.
WHOLESOME CONTENT ALERT
The original – and arguably the best – Ronaldo with some wholesome behaviour here with Richarlison.
There is absolutely zero World Cup football. Zero. However, fear not, the only advantage of this shambles occurring during the season is there is other football: most notably Women’s Champions League football – Arsenal, Barcelona and Bayern Munich are all in action.
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