We are just a few days into the 22nd World Cup in Qatar and we have witnessed one of the all time World Cup shocks in Saudi Arabia beating Argentina 2-1. The Saudi's were as much as 20.00 to win the game and after Lionel Messi put his side ahead after just 10 minutes their price went out to as much as 500/1! One punter won almost £2,000 for a £20 stake although another lost over £130,000 after backing Argentina to win, only to have possibly won £16,000. That is another example of not backing huge odds on 'bankers', football doesn't always read the script.
As for the game Argentina looked like they would cruise to victory after Lionel Messi opened the scoring in just the 10th minute with what looked like a soft penalty. If a tangle in the box can be given then why was there zero reaction to Harry Maguire being wrestled to the ground in England's game with Iran? So what went wrong for one of the tournament favourites who had gone their last 36 games unbeaten? They did have the ball in the net 4 times in the first half, 3 of those would be ruled out for offside. Again they were unlucky in that we were talking just inches and VAR does have a tendency to suck the beauty out of football. Take Lautaro Martinez's quite beautiful chip over the goalkeeper to have made it 2-0. He was allowed to scream with delight, hug his team mates, the fans were elated and that continued and continued as replays were shown. Let that sink in, and then the puzzled look of a referee, the signalling by him of a TV monitor and all joy starts to deflate. Was it the right decision? By the letter of the law it was, however we are talking inches. One would hope that the offside rule can be favoured for the forward where there can be a difference between a few inches, a shoulder, a hand, a foot and obviously being offside to try and gain an advantage, don't hold your breathe though. Officials love the spotlight, the very best shun away from it and one has to wonder if we really have footballing people making these decisions?
However much credit has to be given to Saudi Arabia who in the second half played with more purpose and were like a pack of wolves in that they would not let Argentina dictate the pace of the game and that is when the tide started to turn and the inevitable goals came. The 2-1 scoreline is for sure a shock what is probably even worse is that when Argentina went behind they didn't create wave after wave of attack, in fact they look blunted and bereft of ideas. We were told this was a different Argentina side to the previous talented ones of the past 20 years who had the names but not the back bone, now we can't be sure that this current side are just the same crop who have not learned. However one has to remember another shock result involving Argentina in their opening game of the 1990 World Cup in which they lost 1-0 to Cameroon but still made it to the final.
England were expected to beat Iran in their opening World Cup game but winning 6-2 was a fantastic achievement and the national side who have done well now in the last two major competitions look like they can go far again. There is hunger in the side and youth, and in Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham the future looks very bright. England should have little trouble to qualify from their group and you can see that the players are more than happy to work under Gareth Southgate. There has been hints that Southgate's time is running out and that he may leave after this World Cup but on this evidence that could well be one of the biggest losses and mistakes that could happen to the national side who have taken huge steps forward in the last four years.
To win the World Cup: Brazil 4.00, England 8.00, France 8.00, Argentina 9.00, Spain 10.00
Of course with the World Cup being held in Qatar human rights have been the cloud hovering over the tournament and it was interesting to see how FIFA have contradicted themselves. We have seen the FIFA president Gianni Infantino in a quite bizarre speech before the tournament which included that everyone including gay people were welcome to a country who sees homosexuality as illegal. So why did FIFA make such a fuss over the one love armband that some players including England's Harry Kane were going to wear? He had to concede defeat as FIFA confirmed that he would have received an instant yellow card. Well FIFA now have the German FA to deal with and they want to start court proceedings over the ban of the armband. Alcohol has been another issue and sponsor Budweiser were left shell shocked after being told just days before kick off that their beer would be banned outside and inside the stadium. Now Budweiser had given FIFA a cool $75m in sponsorship and now have cases and cases of the famed beer stuck in a warehouse. The good news for them is that everyone is talking about their product but this still feels wrong. However Qatar does have a ban on alcohol so one could argue that the rule should be respected and it would if we didn't learn that alcohol was actually available in the same stadiums for VIP guests…..
Outside of the World Cup Cristiano Ronaldo's contract with Manchester United has been mutually terminated and of course this is exactly what the Portuguese legend wanted after his tell all interview with Piers Morgan. Ronaldo does have a valid point about being frustrated at not getting enough game time under Erik ten Hag but at the same time it is hard to come away from these type of interviews and not look petulant. It would be fantastic if Ronaldo was able to join another European team, score goals and win trophies again but at 37 maybe Ronaldo doesn't always realise that his best years are behind him. It is not only Ronaldo who is leaving United but so are its owners too. The Glazers are selling up after 17 years and will expect to sell for £5 billion upwards, so its all change once again at the club. What does this all mean for Ten Hag? History tells us new owners, new managers so he will have to have a strong season to justify his position in the dug out.
Cristiano Ronaldo's next club: Sporting Lisbon 2.00, Chelsea 2.50, Any MLS club 4.00, Bayern Munich 8.00, PSG 11.00