(Doha) First round is over. What do I remember? Huge surprises on the pitch and serious political crises behind the scenes. Who are the winners and losers? An envelope, please.
FIFA timed out. So every second a player loses on the field, a long substitution or a stretching celebration is now compensated with action time at the end of each half. This provided the longest first round matches in World Cup history. Now, who’s going to complain about five extra minutes of actual gameplay instead of five wasted minutes on Tatooineage? Not you, not me.
Defeating the Germans was already an achievement. Beat the Spaniards too? It was unexpected. Even more incredible: in these two games, the Japanese did not touch the ball. Only 26% of the time against the Germans, and 17% (!) against the Spaniards. This is the lowest possession rate by a winning team in a World Cup game. Not only this year. In the whole story. A lesson in opportunism.
One of the best defensive formations in the tournament. She only scored one goal, and that was a cross that one of her own players headed into her net. The Moroccans are the last representatives of the Arab world in this competition, after eliminating the Qataris, Saudis and Tunisians. Their fan base here is passionate, vocal and…