1. Now accepting donations for a flight to Rio
Hands up if your expectations for 2014 have been raised? Even ITV managed to make the Maracana and surrounding Rio sights look spectacular under the narration of one bumbling Brum. Of course, we know that the Brazilians are mad for the beautiful game – not to mention a bit party mad anyway – and the atmosphere at next year’s World Cup looks like it’ll be absolutely electrifying. The revamped Maracana looked stunning, if a little unfinished, but Brazil now have a stadium fit to welcome the global audience. Ironically, the crowd played the villain on this celebratory occasion, jumping for joy at Fred’s goal after half time, before jeering the substitution of Oscar for Lucas Moura. The vibes were strange. A little on edge, but passionate nonetheless. Bring on July ’14!
2. FIFA world rankings are pants
Nothing new to see here, keep moving please. FIFA rank England as the 7th best team in the world, while Brazil sit way back in 19th. Twelve places separate the two according to Mr. Blatter, with Ecuador, Greece, Switzerland and Russia intersecting them. That just ain’t right. The system is flawed, and it’s just one of many things FIFA need to sort out in order to save face and avoid becoming a ridiculed organisation.
3. Is Wayne Rooney undroppable?
A lot of column space has been afforded to Wazza these past weeks and it seems set to continue with his future at Manchester United far from certain. While Sir Alex could afford to drop Rooney for the likes of Hernandez and Van Persie at the Premier League champions, England simply can’t.
Since his remarkable arrival in 2004, it’s not quite gone Wayne’s way on the international stage. He had a miserable World Cup in South Africa, was banned for all but two of the Euro 2012 games, and was largely anonymous in Wednesday’s draw with the Republic of Ireland. He hardly covered himself in glory tonight, either. Again, throughout the first half, Rooney was a passenger in the game thanks to a combination of the 4-3-3 formation and constant attacking pressure from Brazil. He was isolated, alone against the imperious figures of Thiago Silva and David Luiz. Hodgson had clearly instructed Rooney to remain as the spearhead of the attack, as he rarely dropped deep like he so often does at domestic level. Even with the ball at the feet of the Brazil defence, Rooney almost looked uninterested in chasing down and hassling his opponents. But then a piece of magic in second half to give England the lead beggars the question. Is Rooney undroppable for England? Certainly a few years ago he was being bandied in the same bracket as Ronaldo and Messi, but these days he leaves much to be desired on the pitch. Yet still he shows these flashes that remind you of his brilliance. Can you see Welbeck, Sturridge, Defore or Carroll scoring that kind of goal, albeit through a deflection? The answer 90% of the time, is no. And it all comes down to the old adage, are England pumping enough into the development of youth to ensure that we have several world class players at our disposal? Rooney, as frustrating as he is, still walks into the team over any of the other candidates for his position. Unfortunately, I would say that at times Rooney’s name precedes his on-field contribution, but who else do we have?
4. Joe Hart and his distribution
On a night when Big Joe was right lauded for his performance, his distribution was dire. In the first half, he kicked six balls straight out of play. And for that, there’s no hiding away. Johnson and Baines/Cole could have created more of an angle to offer a different option from kicking, but in general the team need to avoid the predictable backpass to Hart. So many attacks broke down because of it. Sort it out.