- Failure to finish is fundamental to failure
- Peru and Morocco deservedly out
- France have the cutting edge
Amid all the talk of “performances”, the only thing that matters at a World Cup is progression. Central to that is the ability to turn good performances into points – and to do that you must adhere to one of the iron laws of football: take your chances.
Morocco and Peru are cases in point. Both sides put in good “performances” but both fell down like a drunk at a wedding when it came to finishing off the pretty approach play and turning the aesthetics into cold hard goals. Both are now, in the harsh reality of World Cup football, deservedly eliminated – found out as deeply flawed, if sympathetic, teams.
Poor Christian Cueva suffered a personal meltdown when missing his penalty in the pivotal match with Denmark. But teams that miss penalties are always likely to suffer in such a low scoring sport as football.
Lionel Messi also flunked his lines against Iceland. His Argentina are so poor that such profligacy will always exact a heavy toll.
Finishing is central to the ruthless logic of the game. You can get yourself into winning positions any way you like – from Tiki Taka to Big Sam gravy and chips pragmatism – but you simply must score more than the opposition to win.
Pretty triangles are mere aesthetics. Without the cold hearted beauty of the ruthless finish, it’s all moot. Peru and Morocco infuriated their admirers by failing at this fundamental skill.
Germany will also suffer for the lack of a marksman unless Timo Werner can get himself involved in the play more than he did against Mexico.
By comparison, France have Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe – both dynamite strikers. They’ve already got their six points while every other main contender flounders. There is every possibility that this clinical reliability will be the difference in the end.