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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

World Cup talking points, Day 7: one-man bands, home comforts and Aliou Cisse breaks the internet

All the events that are hogging the conversation after the latest day of action in Russia 2018

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their only goal against Morocco. REUTERS/Carl Recine
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their only goal against Morocco. REUTERS/Carl Recine

One-man bands

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his and Portugal’s fourth goal of the tournament in a 1-0 victory over Morocco, while his Iberian rival Diego Costa notched up his third for Spain, in their win against Iran, making him responsible for 75 per cent of their goals in Russia. With Harry Kane providing 100 per cent of England’s two goals, it looks like the bigger teams are at risk of becoming over-reliant on their key players – it is difficult to see who else will provide goals for the Portuguese, while Kane’s teammates were guilty of some terrible profligacy in front of goal during their 2-1 triumph over Morocco.

No laughing matter: history suggests that Brazil are unlikely to win a World Cup on European soil. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
No laughing matter: history suggests that Brazil are unlikely to win a World Cup on European soil. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Home comforts

After seven days and 16 games featuring European nations, there have been 11 home wins, three draws and only two defeats – Germany and Poland being the unlikely losers. This suggests that the traditional wisdom which says that European teams always win tournaments in their home continent is likely to hold firm again. There has only ever been one non-European winner – Brazil in Sweden in 1958 – and with the two traditional superpowers of south American football both drawing in the first round (Argentina and the Brazilians) against European opposition, it does not look like that 60-year hoodoo will be broken this time round.

Aliou Cisse, head coach of Senegal gives his team instructions during the group H match against Poland. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Aliou Cisse, head coach of Senegal gives his team instructions during the group H match against Poland. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Aliou Cisse breaks the internet

Senegal made a lot of friends after they became the only African team to record a victory in the first round of matches on Tuesday night, but the celebrations of their manager, the 42-year-old former Portsmouth midfielder, after his team’s controversial second goal have seen him become a meme.

Cisse’s fist-pump reaction to the goal were widely shared on social media, as was his clawing instruction to his players during the game in the Spartak stadium in Moscow.

The youngest manager in the tournament, Cisse captained his country during their only other appearance at the World Cup in 2002 in Japan and South Korea, when they made it as far as the quarter-finals after beating the holders France in the group stages.

Just like watching Arsenal

Back in the prehistory of British football, the pre-Wenger Arsenal team had a reputation for grinding out fairly joyless single-goal victories to such an extent that their supporters would self-deprecatingly chant ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’. As the tournament has arguably failed to spark into life by the end of the first full week of games, Wednesday’s three 1-0s has taken the total of such scorelines up to nine – just three shy of the entire total from Brazil 2014. The blame appears to rest with the higher-ranked sides, who have often shut up shop after taking the lead – which occurred in seven of the nine matches.

VAR-watch

The first week of the tournament has seen five Video-Assisted Reviews (VAR) from 17 games – which is broadly in line with its usage during the last year across the world. Four penalties have been given using the system, and it is felt that the overall tally of 10 spot-kicks so far has come from referees giving decisions they may not have in the past, because they know they can afford to make mistakes.

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