Zigi Played Qatar: A West Ham World Cup Notebook

An enjoyable World Cup has entered the business end of the knockout rounds. How are the individual Hammers faring as the clock ticks down towards a return to Premier League action.

A talent that I share with the West Ham owners is the art of procrastination. If gongs were available for services to procrastination, we might each be in line for a lifetime achievement award. Any distraction will do to delay difficult decisions or put off doing those unpleasant jobs around the place. What better than a World Cup to take our minds off the spiralling decline of West Ham?

No matter what your thoughts on the idea of a winter tournament in Qatar, and the murky shenanigans that led to its award, the entertainment on the field has been some of the best I can remember. Shocks, jeopardy, and excitement are what makes cup football special and the levelling-up between confederations has been the perfect antidote to the predictability of domestic competition.

In 2018, fourteen of the last sixteen teams were from Europe and South America, while this year it was down to ten. We may still be a very long way from an African or Asian champion but at least they are getting within shouting distance. The approach of the African teams has been particularly refreshing. A carefree spontaneity replacing the well-drilled, tactical stodge that too often stifles and dominates club football, where outcome often outweighs entertainment.

In fact, international managers don’t get the luxury of working with their players over extended periods. No opportunity for them to instruct each player where on the pitch they need to be at any given moment or in any particular set of circumstances. Especially with such a short break between the domestic seasons stopping and the first group games starting. For me, the spectacle has more than made up for any perceived tactical imperfections.

So, what of our World Cup Hammers?

Tonight, the apparent soon to be ex-Hammer, Declan Rice, will be central to England’s plans to overcome a tricky Senegalese obstacle. Rice really should have avoided answering questions about his club future in the middle of an international tournament, but his position is not surprising. His desire is not specifically to leave West Ham but to be at a club capable of competing for top honours. No sign of that happening anytime soon at the London Stadium.

Rice’s world cup performances have been decent enough although the role assigned to him by Southgate – protecting the back four and playing short, simple balls forward – is criminally misusing his array and range of abilities. A Hammer in the England line-up always ramps up my interest in the national team which at times has been ambivalent. It might not by Moore, Hurst and Peters but there’s still an element of pride.

It has been a good tournament so far for Nayef Aguerd, and the admirable Moroccan side, despite his own goal being the only one conceded to date. Morocco did noticeably wobble when Canada put them under late pressure and thy will need to show greater resilience when they face Spain on Tuesday. Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina) has impressed in the midfield anchor role – would make a decent Rice replacement – but is already said to be on the radar of both Liverpool and Tottenham.

Lucas Paqueta has featured in the first two group games for Brasil before missing the third through sickness. He has made a solid rather than spectacular contribution to his side’s progress without providing any clues as to the best way of using his talents in the Premier League – apart from getting a new manager, that is. As favourites to win the World Cup, with an added twist of poignancy given the sad news about Pele’s declining health, Paqueta is likely to be out in Qatar until the very end.

The same cannot be said for Thilo Kehrer who may already be laying out his towel at a Florida beach resort before heading back to Rush Green. His contribution was limited to 70 minutes against Spain before being replaced – or hooked off, if you prefer – in a multiple substitution as Germany looked for an equaliser. Kehrer has come in for plenty of criticism in certain parts of the media but there is far more to the abysmal showings of West Ham and Germany than his own performances.

Completing the line-up is seasoned bench warmer, Alphonse Areola. As well as being forced to play second fiddle to 37-year-old Lukasz Fabianski at West Ham, Areola was also overlooked in France’s dead rubber encounter with Tunisia in favour of 37-year-old Steve Mandanda.

Rounding up the other Hammer’s connections. Nikola Vlasic once gain proved what an underwhelming, peripheral player he is and has not featured since Croatia’s opening game with Morocco. Edmilson Fernandes – remember him – has been given a couple of run-outs as a substitute for an over-achieving Switzerland.  And Qatar-based, Andre Ayew scored one and missed a decisive penalty as Ghana tumbled out of Group H. I was sad to see the departure of Zigi, the flamboyant and exuberant Ghanaian keeper.

Meanwhile, back in Blighty, David Moyes will have been carefully plotting for a narrow defeat when the Hammers return to action against Arsenal on Boxing Day. I’m confident a poll of West Ham fans would have shown a sizeable majority in favour of replacing the manager during the enforced break – the timing would have been perfect. In their wisdom, the board have opted for the n number of games to save your job strategy, in the hope that the manager can ‘turn things around’ and delaying the eventual pay-offpackage.

Has a manager ever returned from the brink like that? Not just as an act of survival but to go on to greater success? I doubt it! It’s not as if there have been signs of a plan that is just about to come together. It’s been more of the same low budget football, just with more expensive actors. Perhaps, we will be surprised and the new shoots of turnaroundability will be on show in the upcoming friendlies. More likely it is a case of putting off the inevitable; kicking the can down the road to the point of desperation where the club is in an even more perilous position.

Winter transfer speculation has also started to heat up. So far, reporting covers a complete spectrum of scenarios from there is no money/ it’s only loans to splashing copious amounts of extra cash on extravagant overseas signings. And still no sign of the lauded Red Bull model starting to emerge. Would you be inclined to back Moyes with additional funds? It would make about as much sense as providing the finest ingredients to a chef who only knows how to make beans on toast.

Good luck to England tonight. An extended run helps take our minds off the resumption of the Premier League in three weeks’ time. Can’t help feeling there will be a mighty World Cup hangover. COYI! COYE!

9 thoughts on “Zigi Played Qatar: A West Ham World Cup Notebook”

  1. Hi geoff, thanks for the input, very good.
    I see the Germans are not happy at being knocked out, by the over the line ball in the japs game.
    very deserving i think, after cheating England out of a win a few years ago, via a Lampard goal off the crossbar, what goes round comes round.
    The German media laughed it off, by drawing a new goal line 1 meter behind the real one, with headlines claiming the ball had not crossed the line, horrible bastards. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Yes, a touch of karma there for the Germans. I remember watching that Lampard strike and I guess there was no technology being used back then. It would still be interesting to know how they decided that ball had stayed in for the Japan goal. Looks like all of the ball’s surface in touch with the ground was over the line, but maybe not its diameter. Don’t know what the rule is.


      1. Thanks for confirming. It makes sense but don’t think I have seen a birds-eye representation of where the ball was. Maybe I missed it. from the camera angles (and perhaps what an on-pitch official would see) the eyes get drawn to the part of the ball that is in contact with the ground. Could have been clarified better by the officials, I think


  2. From the pitch angle I guess it’s more likely to look ‘out’. From behind the goal it looks more in. But they had a camera right above it that showed no gap between the ball and the line, and called it in. I believe these marginal calls should favour the attacking team. I’d also like there to be a gap rule for offside, in other words if the attacker is in any way level then he/she is not offside…though it wasn’t a problem tonight 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi john, my idea on offsides would be judged only on feet position, thereby cancelling any call for offside by a player simply leaning further forward, so a shoulder or head would not be offside.
      It would be judged only on feet position.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agree with that Paul, was having that conversation just the other day. No idea why any other part of the body other than foot position should be considered in an offside decision..


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