I have been a bit slack on the blogging front due to much traveling and general ennui. So it is time to pick up from where we last left and catch up with the Octopuses. It would seem that all our bookmakers, forecasters, predictors, prophets, etc etc need to develop octopus brains. The amazing precognition of the species octopus vulgaris has made even the most hardened black swan statistical gurus faint and throw up their white back of the envelope sheets in surrender. There are of course German, English and Argentinian sushi lovers who have a more drastic interest in a particular member of the species.
One good thing about this has been that Paul the Octopus has diverted away the junta out of the football creating a nice quiet space for those who are deep students of the game to discuss. The 2nd semi-final between Germany and Spain was probably one of the best games of the tournament and it had nothing to do with the number of goals. There was just one. But what the match demonstrated was the value of cerebral planning. Spain did see that Germans preferred fast runs down the wings through counter attacks or long balls cutting through sloppy defence (John Terry for example). In response, the Spaniards decided to keep the ball to themselves. With 5 Barcelona players in the middle and forward field and 2 in the central defence area, they just got into a neat possession game with short error free passes with regular jabs, pokes and winks at the German penalty area. What this achieved was a complete disoriented German midfield (Oezil had less than 1/3rd of his passes completed), the German defence playing the entire game at a high stress level (80% of the match was played in the German side of the field both halves) and allowed Spain to play almost at walking pace. When the goal came, and it was inevitable that Spain would score given the sheer drowsiness of the German defence by the fourth quarter of the game, it was Kay-O time. The remaining 17 minutes were simply a wild flailing of arms and legs and frantic gasps for oxygen.
In a bull fight, there is just one deathly blow between the eyes. But that happens much later. For most of the fight is about a choreographed teasing, poking, jabbing and bullying of the aurochs by the entire team of picadors and torreadors. The bull simply loses all sense of balance and runs around disoriented, and almost lends himself to be killed. We saw something like that in Durban on Wednesday.
Personally, I can do a bit of chest slapping – Spain was one of my pre-tournament picks along with Argentina and Italy. They may well go all the way.
BTW “The Curse of Diego” continues. Since 1994, whoever has beaten Argentina in the knockout stages has lost the very next match. It has happened twice now for Germany in two successive world cups.