Skills & Strategies (World Cup Quarters Day 2)

Argentina vs Belgium

Messi & co saved their best game till now. They showcased all the right tricks that I have always expected from them and which anyone other than Messi have not shown till now in this tournament.

Their passing was deft and fast, their ball control was exemplary and defensively they did show lots of maturity than previous games. Never in the entire game they seemed to be letting loose that focus on the cup which we could not see in their previous encounters with weaker opponents.

The goal from Higuain was also an embodiment of the Argentinian trait of instincts & Messi’s unrelenting strive in awesomeness in ball control.

Messi is a true source of inspiration & his tackles with multiple Belgium players at a time was kind of a glowing motivation for the rest of the team. His swift 180 degree turns & accurate teammate marking pass from pressing situations were a treat to watch.

Belgium on the other hand seemed in awe of the Argentinian flamboyance. Their game was average and they seemed really uncomfortable penetrating that reinvigorated Argentinian defense.

Few chances in the dying minutes gave some shimmer of hope to the Belgians, but not enough to stop Argentina moving to World Cup semifinals after 24 years.

This might be their time of glory.

Netherlands vs Costa Rica

While the previous game was on individual skills & tactics, this game involved calculated strategies from outside. By outside I mean one person in particular - Holland’s manager Van Gaal.

Throughout the tournament his composure & executive stature produced a kind of enigma around him that’s opposite to other physically & emotionally active managers on the ground. He is always noting down points sitting under the roof and never be seen shouting or inspiring his players from the sidelines. He uses the half-time (& cooling time in few matches) to lay down his notes & further plans. His silent demeanor is not be taken for granted. Coz his interesting & highly unexpected strategies has produced favorable results till now & need further study.

Holland were lethal in their ball possession & continuous surge of attacks all through the game. It’s the Costa Rican Lady Luck, some amount of stern defensive opposition & few daredevil saves by Navas denied Holland at least 3 goals. Overall Costa Rica concentrated more on their defense and could never put pressure back on Neds with their attack.

Once the game went to penalties, it was a rendition of another trait of the sport - mind games. Krul, the replacement goalkeeper of Holland dived to the correct side of Costa Rican player’s shot five out of five times. And that is coz he made them disclose their intentions by insinuating himself into their mind. His ways - short talks with Costa Rican players approaching to take the shot & reprimanding figuratively their failure to deceive his diving attempt after the shot. In the process he saved couple of those shots and ensured Costa Rican exodus out of this World Cup.

Such a display of gamesmanship was hardly ever seen before - evocative & effective.

Football is not only a physical sport, it’s an immensely tough mind game as well.