June 29, 2018

Horse 2432 - And How Could I Ever Refuse? I Feel Like I Win When I Lose

England 0 - Belgium 1
Januzaj 51'

Never before have I been so completely calm with an England loss. Rather, never have I been so happy to see an England loss. In fact, this whole match is a case of perverse incentives producing perverse actions.

Both England and Belgium had qualified for the round of 16 before a ball had even been rolled in this match. From the outset, it was always in the best interests of the managers to play a completely different lineup to their previous games; for fear of both injury and/or red and yellow cards which would take players out of future games. England made 9 changes to the previous lineup and Belgium made 8; so already this dead rubber was being treated as such.
Further to this, the reward for coming second in the group was a comparatively easier draw in the competition, based on the results of other groups. From that perspective, it was actually preferable to come second in the group, and that either meant losing or losing on other stats like fair play. The commentary denounced this match as a race to get yellow cards but that never eventuated and instead we got a very placid game, which may as well have been the local derby in the Southern Counties Combined Division, between Vanilla City and Vanilla United. It was kind of fitting that England were playing in lily white and Belgium wore a red kit which was accented with plaid.

The first half made so little impact on me that the only note that I made was 45' 0-0. Both sides were playing so slowly that they would have lost a race with a plastic bag that was blown around by the breeze.

The second half resumed in a similar fashion and Belgium shocked the world by actually bothering to do something. Six minutes in, Fellaini made a break, dinked  the ball to the left and Januzaj forgot that coming second in the group was actually desirable, and slotted home a fairly boring kind of goal.

From this point, the Three Lions awoke from their slumber and prowled around a bit. They didn't really make much of a go of it and the best of their opportunities came when Loftus-Cheek opened up Belgium's back four as though he had parted the red sea and Marcus Rashford had a strike which happened to take a deflection off the hapless Belgian keeper and didn't go in.
Belgium had a few halfhearted attempts at scoring again but England's back four were equal to the task. They came close to scoring twice more but the first was cleared off the line by John Stones and the second bounced around in the six yard box like a pinball with ADHD before Rose put a boot through it and enough postage on the ball to make sure that it was sent and wouldn't come back.

England 0 - Belgium 1, kind of means that Belgium have given England the better outcome for the rest of the competition. England will face Colombia in the Round of 16 and probably Switzerland in the match after that. Never before have so many been so not disappointed by such banality.

Aside (because this match was so relaxed):
It has really bothered me from a design perspective that this tournament (and indeed every World Cup to date) hasn't applied the letters and numbers of the font for the tournament on the players kits. I know that companies like Nike and Adidas like to have their branding everywhere but right down the sides of the field, the ad boards have consistently had 2018 World Cup Russia branding in both Roman and Cyrillic scripts.
Since the invention of television, Football has its own visual historical record. Effort is put into the transitions between camera shots (wipes and sweeps) and as of the information graphics including the score in the corner is branded; so why not the kits?

The kit manufacturers and the respective football associations generally don't appear to be all that worried about the look of the tournament; as evidenced by the fact that so many kits of various nations are all off the shelf kits with pallette swaps. The England kit looked simple but not in any way distinctive and if the three lions shield wasn't there, it would have been impossible to guess which country was playing; likewise, if it wasn't for the plaid device on the front of the Belgium kit, and the completely nondescript Belgium shield (when viewed from far away), you would think that Spain was playing. Since the kit manufacturers don't appear to be worried about the look of these things, and they will adopt central branding at league level, then why not do it for a World Cup?

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