Tag Archives: own goal

FOR THE AFRICANS, IT WAS A WASTE OF HEIGHT!!!!

Here is a fun fact for all of you football lovers. The shortest squad in the entire World cup this year was Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had an average team height of approximately 176.2 centimeters. Compare that to the tallest team in the WC, the Serbians, who had an average height of 185.6 centimeters.

All the African teams were snuggly fit within this range with a country like Senegal leading the African pack in terms of average team height.

The Senegalese World Cup squad had an average height of approximately 183.7 centimeters.

The Tunisians had an average height of 184 centimeters.

The Morocco squad had an average height of 182.4 centimeters.

The Nigerians’ average height was 181.2 centimeters.

The Egyptian’s average height was 180.1 centimeters.

With all of this respectable height, why were the Africans hell-bent on conceding goals from set-pieces?

I know, I know, being tall does not necessarily make one a good defender and defending set pieces is much more complex than just jumping and using your body parts to stop the ball from going into the net (or is it?).

However, height does come in handy when you are trying to ward off those pesky aerial balls from reaching their mark within your penalty area. Height gives your team aerial dominance, so to speak.

Having been the shortest squad, Saudi Arabia was at an obvious disadvantage when it came to defending aerial balls from corners and free kicks. For me, it did not come as a surprise when they conceded two goals from set-piece situations (we are only referring to corners and free kicks here). There was the Gazinsky’s goal in their first match against Russia, and then Suarez goal in their 1-0 loss to Uruguay.

However, the Africans fared much better in terms of height and they should have been able to use this to their advantage when it came to defending aerial balls from free kicks and corners. Each team had a good number of relatively tall players, an asset that would have surely helped some of them avoid elimination at the early stages of the competition. Things did not go exactly according to plan.

Take Egypt for instance. They lost their match against Uruguay in the dying minutes of the game because none of the Egyptians could outjump Gimenez. They were so close to earning a point from the match by the way with only a couple of minutes to stoppage time.

In that Morocco vs Iran match,  a defensive blunder against a free-kick during injury time resulted in the Iranians securing all three points. Morocco was also so close to bagging a point in that game against a spiritless Iranian side. I’m sure Bouhaddouz is still having nightmares about that own goal. (Okay, this is more of a defensive miscalculation rather than a height thing, but it still goes to show that the African teams were defending these set-pieces very poorly). Five days later, they lost to Portugal, despite playing very well, because, in the fourth minute of the game, they let in a Ronaldo header from a corner kick.

Nigeria lost to Croatia also because of failing to defend set-pieces correctly. Both goals emanated from set-piece situations, with the first set-piece action resulting in an own goal. Next, the Nigerians were unable to deal with a Croatian corner definitively, resulting in some man-handling, and ultimately a penalty awarded against them.

The same set-piece nightmare visited Tunisia in their match against England. Both English goals scored in that match originated from corner kicks. This was a bad start to Tunisia’s World Cup campaign, and it only got worse from there.

The most heart-wrenching moment for African football came when Yerry Mina rose highest to meet a corner kick and head it into the back of the Senegal net. Granted, Mina is 195 cm tall, more than 10 centimeters taller than the average Senegalese player in that squad, but I feel like the Senegalese could have shown a bit more initiative by marking him comprehensively.

How many times will the African dream be quashed due to carelessly giving away set-piece opportunities? Nimechoka!!!

That Mina goal drew the curtain on Africa’s participation in this edition of the World Cup. I think this has been the continent’s worst performance in the global tournament in recent years. And I think it is quite clear where the greatest weakness in African football teams lies.

Truth be told, almost every team in this WC has conceded a goal from set-piece action, and there have been more goals from these dead ball situations in this edition of the World Cup than in any previous editions. So maybe, it’s not so much an African-specific phenomenon, but that should not be an excuse for our poor performance.

Hopefully, by 2022, all of the African teams that qualify for the WC would have mastered the art of defending set pieces by maximizing on their height advantage and scoring more goals from both open plays and set-pieces. I hope we all learn from the mistakes we made in this edition, otherwise, none of us might win this cup anytime soon.

Anyway….

May Croatia win the World Cup!!

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BAYERN’S DECISIVE LEFT-WING SAVES THE DAY!

Easter Monday football was awesome, but Tuesday was even better with Champions League action where we had Sevilla FC going head to head with Bayern Munich. Sevilla put up a spirited fight against Bayern Munich in their first leg of their quarter-final Champions League draw. I am a Bayern Munich fan, and I take every opportunity I get to watch them play (Germany is my favorite footballing nation as you might have gathered from this article that I wrote). However, we (glorious Bayern fans) did not expect the kind of zeal the underdogs were bringing into this match. Sevilla did not give Bayern much space to control the ball, which is usually the latter team’s modus operandi.

From the get-go, Sevilla were in control of the game much to my surprise. They had some really impressive counters, and their speed was incredible. Their performance in that first half was why they deserved to score the first goal. I almost bit my tongue when Sarabia struck a powerful ball with his left to open the scoreline for the visitors. He had had an obvious opportunity a few minutes earlier but he missed. Luckily, he redeemed himself with his second attempt at goal.

It felt like Sevilla wouldn’t stop coming against Bayern, and I was beginning to think Sevilla might take the match (much to my dismay). Those feelings quickly evaporated once James Rodriguez got into the mix. Vidal had to come out of the game due to an injury, and Rodriguez was his replacement. Minutes into James’ entry into the game, and Bayern’s attitude changed, I could feel it. And, clearly, they could feel it too, because immediately after he came in there was a Bayern goal. A long pass from Bayern’s left wing (Ribery?) deflected off Navas, and went into the net, and we (glorious Bayern fans) all breathed a sigh of relief.

That left wing for Bayern Munchen is the epicenter of their attack. It was quite clear that much of their shots towards goal came from here, especially when Rafinha came in for Bernat. Rafinha showed more confidence in feeding Ribery on the left-wing from the mid-field than his predecessor, Bernat.

Thiago’s goal, Bayern’s second for the night, was also as a result of a decisive long ball towards goal from the home team’s left wing. Thiago caught on to Ribery’s long ball and headed it in into the back of the net. There were suggestions (mainly from one of the commentators) that the goal was as a result of Thiago’s header deflecting from the visitors’ captain, and thus, it should be considered an own-goal (Sevilla’s second of the match). It seemed that everyone ignored this sentiment and Thiago was credited with the goal.

It almost became automatic that the left-wing was where the ball towards goal would come from for the home side. If only Sevilla had taken notice of this and covered Ribery more fiercely especially in the second half. If they could just intersect the passes from Rafinha towards Ribery, they would be able to build up stronger counter attacks that emanated deep within their own half. If only! (Luckily, they did not, otherwise, I would be a sorely disappointed but still glorious Bayern fan).

And Heynckes as well as his men need to know this kind of predictability can harm their attack in the upcoming games in the CL, especially if they beat Sevilla next week and progress in the tournament (be careful, guys!!!!).

Bayern won the match, but credit to Sevilla for putting their best foot forward, and performing much better than people (glorious Bayern fans) would have expected. There is really not much hope for Sevilla after this in the Champions League, but the tide could turn next week.

Let’s wait and see.

PS: If you missed my comments after the match, you can catch them on youtube here.