Posted: 6/18/2018
Title: WATCHING THE LONGEST DAY

Blog:                                                                                                                         

      No, No, I am not bored with the footy and catching up with old war movies. In fact I am addicted to the FIFA World Cup..the 16th that I have watched on TV or been to personally. It's a bit like being hooked on video games or gaming, neither of which interest me. Four matches on Saturday , The Longest Day so far,plus  three on Friday and Sunday and much more to come.

        We had the thriller from Sochi on Friday, the Iberian Derby, with the star being CR 7 with his magnificent hat-trick performance. Love him or hate him,  Cristiano Ronaldo, you cannot but admire him. The most intriguing result-so far- was Mexico's 1-0 win at The Luzhniki Stadium against defending champions Germany with many household names having retired from Die Mannschaft.

        Their last first match defeat was 1-2 against Algeria in 1982. I missed that but was in the same El Molinal stadium in Gijon for the third match v Austria, the infamous SHAME OF GIIJON, where they both conspired to advance from their group with West Germany beating their neighbours 1-0. The day before I had  been in Oviedo to see Algeria beat Chile 3-2.  My friend Bob Valentine was the referee in Gijon. Austria advanced on goal difference. FIFA then announced that in future tournaments all third group matches would kick off at the same time.

      Hirving Lozano of PSV Eidhoven scored the only goal in this Group F thriller past the world class Manuel Neuer, who had been out for months with injury. He turned forward,  Mesut Ozil, who had raced back to defend, inside out then drilled a low shot into the corner. However El TRI gave a team performance. Lots of history here.39 year old Rafael Marquez was playing in his 5th World Cup equaling the record of follow countryman  Antonio Carabajal and  German Lothar Matthaus. I once had the privvilege of being invited to the Mexican goalkeepe'rs birthday many years ago at his estate outside Mexico City.

       One of my favourite players is Javier  Hernandez Balcazar who shows such passion and skill as a striker. He played for  Guadalajara, my favourite Mexican City,  and later Manchester United, Real Madrid and lately an unhappy spell at West Ham United. At the end of the match he was on his knees in tears. He is a UNICEF ambassador and 8 years ago at the age of 22 he scored for Mexico v France in Polokwane, South Africa. His father Hernandez Gutierrez also played for Guadalajara and for Mexico at FIFA World Cup 1986 32 years ago. He had green eyes and was called  PEA' , and his son Chicharito,' Little Pea', which he wears on his jersey. 

         64 years ago grandfather Tomas Balcazar, still alive, played for Guadalajara and El Tri at the 1954 Switzerland World Cup. He also scored age 22nd  v France in Geneva in a 3-2 defeat after losing 5-0 to Brazil in the same venue. That year teams only played 2 of their first round group opponents, so they didn't play Yugoslavia. Chicharito also scored age 22 against France in Polokwane 8 years ago at the South African World Cup.

          Boss Juan Carlos Osorio is an intriguing figure. The Colombian has been an assistant coach at NY Metrostars and Manchester City and boss at Millionarios, Chicago Fire, Red Bulls, Puebla and more. While studying at Liverpool's John Moores University he once hired a room overlooking The Reds Melwood training ground to study their methods.

      What about Brazil, five times champions?. After a 7-1 thrashing 4 years ago in the semi final by eventual champions Germany they opened on Sunday in Rostov against Switzerland. Glad to see Neymar fit again but it was a frustrating day out for him. A stunning opening goal by Philippe Coutinho flew past Yann Sommer and it looks as if it could be a rout, but the Swiss were stubborn.  Xherdan Shaqiri curled a corner to the near post where Steven Zuber of Hoffenheim climbed high and mightily to head home the equalizer, despite protests of pushing and shoving.,  

        MUCH MORE TO COME !!!

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