THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Part One: Switzerland, Spain and Austria

icon wcrunningcup10 July ~ As the 2014 World Cup comes to its climax with a final between Germany and Argentina this weekend we asked football magazines from around Europe to give their opinions on the tournament. From their favourite moment and worst team to the most impressive "unknown" player, reactions to Brazil's 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany, whether England's poor showing was a surprise and who their country ended up supporting, here are the first three sets of answers – from Zwölf of Switzerland, Panenka in Spain and Austria's Ballesterer.

Silvan Kämpfen ~ Zwölf, Switzerland
What has been your favourite moment of the World Cup so far?
Luis Suárez's performance had all the drama that football is about: moments of genius and lunacy. One player made a very mediocre team a dangerous looking opponent and destroyed it all again by himself. From a Swiss perspective, you can discuss for hours whether that Blerim Dzemaili miss in the last minute against Argentina can be explained by a lack of quality, mentality or is simply bad luck. I'll go for all three.

Which non-famous player you have been most impressed by?
Despite Louis van Gaal, I did not expect much from the Dutch defence beforehand as their league is not a great standard and several of those players were in the Feyenoord  team that lost 10-0 to to PSV a couple of years ago. I was really impressed by Daley Blind especially – his two crosses in the Spain game were brilliant. Speaking of left-backs, I think 21-year-old Swiss Ricardo Rodriguez put in some very promising performances and might end up in a big club if he improves some of his tactical decision-making.

Aside from Brazil in the semi-final, who were the worst team in your opinion?
This World Cup stands out as the first where none of the 32 sides were completely torn apart in every game, which is a great thing. Honduras was probably the team which contributed the least; they played in a very uninspiring 4-4-2 system and committed tons of clumsy fouls. But there are a number of better teams who underachieved in a shocking manner: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Japan and Russia among them – and Brazil could have spared themselves all the embarrassment if they had lost to Chile.

As the free-kick spray has been popular, is there another idea you would like to see used for matches?
We often debate the possible introduction of instant replays as a help for referees. Personally, I am against it as it interrupts the flow of the game and it remains unclear at what exact moment such a "challenge" could be used. And above all, we should make sure that football remains an emotional game played by humans with all their strengths and faults.

Were you surprised by England's failure?
Not really. But then again, their first game was very convincing and it looked like they finally had some good options upfront (especially with Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge) to cause Uruguay enough problems. However, they proved me wrong again with a very static style of play and didn't deserve to go through. I'm not here to hand out any lessons, but the fact that the Premier League has become a global rather than a British league for players (and managers) certainly doesn't help the national team.

What was your reaction to Brazil's thrashing by Germany?
Germany's triumph didn't surprise me as they have arguably the better team (in the truest sense of the word). But of course, no one expected such a result. I feel sorry for the Brazilian people, but frankly, I have no sympathy whatsoever for their FA whose only goal seems to make the big money by transforming football into a travelling circus. In recent years, they organised ludicrous friendly games, for example against Zambia in Beijing, against Iraq in Malmo and against Gabon in Libreville. You can't and you shouldn't win a World Cup this way.

Which teams are people in Switzerland now supporting?
In the German speaking part, which makes up two-thirds of the country, people tend to get very emotional about Germany. Most people want the large neighbour to go out as probably many Irish don't want England to do well. Otherwise, as Switzerland failed to qualify for a major tournament between 1966 and 1994, many Swiss adopted sort of a second team, for example Holland, Brazil or Argentina, and they still cheer for them today.
http://www.zwoelf.ch/


César Sanchez Lozano ~ Panenka, Spain

What has been your favourite moment of the World Cup?
I would say the Germany v Algeria match, to me the best so far in the World Cup. A small team playing with ambition and a big opponent taking them very seriously, with the background of the game between the two in 1982 and the fix later. In the end, there wan't a surprise outcome but maybe this World Cup is showing us that the status quo in the football world is going to be broken sooner than we thought.  

Which non-famous player you have been most impressed by?
Keylor Navas, the goalkeeper of Costa Rica. In Spain we know him from Levante. He was fantastic last season and has had an incredible performance in this World Cup, way better than the Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon or Thibaut Courtois. It's been a goalkeepers' World Cup and he's been the best.

Who were the worst team in your opinion?
I would say Spain, because the hopes of winning again were there, because all the good things those players did in the past and because they even tried to do something different. The team has let everyone down.

Was England's failure a surprise?
I can't say England's failure was a surprise. Again it is the same old story, a bunch of very good players without a very clear strategy and a little bit of bad luck. I feel the problem isn't about the skills of the players or the coach, it is more about the pressure of at least having a good tournament. It was the same in Spain for 40 years till the Euro 2008.

Who was Spain's best player and their worst?
Difficult to pick the best player. I would say Andrés Iniesta, but he's been far from his best shape. And a lot of choices for the worst: Casillas, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Diego Costa...

As the free-kick spray has been popular, is there another idea you would like to see used for matches?
The goal-line technology has very useful. In the TV coverage, I've appreciated the line that showing if a player in in an offside position. On the pitch, I'm very happy that the referees have tried to add a realistic amount of time – a lot of matches have had five extra minutes, which I consider is fair. If I was in charge, I would stop the clock every time there is a pause in the game.

What was your reaction to Brazil's thrashing by Germany?
Here in Spain everyone wanted them to lose because of their lousy playing style, but this was too painful even for those who hated Luiz Felipe Scolari and his philosophy. Besides, Germany were impressive, way better than the best matches of Spain, and they deserved it for keeping faith in their style despite some bad results.

Which team will people in Spain be supporting now?
A lot of people in Spain had supported Colombia or Chile not just due to the South American population here but because both played good football. Here in Catalonia, I'd say Argentina were the first choice, even ahead of Spain, due to Lionel Messi and the local independence movement.
http://www.panenka.org/


Jakob Rosenberg ~ Ballesterer, Austria
What has been your favourite moment of the World Cup so far?
The first goal of James Rodríguez against Uruguay. It was just beautiful – and of course there have been other very nice goals too but Colombia was also a team that you wanted to win.

Which non-famous player you have been most impressed by?
Keylor Navas (if he is not too famous) and the whole Costa Rican defence.

Who were the worst team?
The referees. There have been many wrong calls – not just in big moments such as penalties but also on a range of minor decisions.

As the free-kick spray has been popular, is there another idea you would like to see used for matches?
The free-kick spray might be popular but I am not sure that players moving before the free-kick was taken has ever been an important problem. Even if it continues to happen, I don't think that it changes the character of the game. In terms of other ideas, I guess referees will be allowed to use video assistance soon.

Were you surprised by England's failure?
No. But I don’t think they deserved to be last in the group stage. The games against Italy and Uruguay were okay and they had opportunities to at least draw these games. In this group I was more surprised by the poor performances of Italy and Uruguay. England have some very promising young players – they probably won't win the World Cup any time soon but there is no reason to panic.

Which teams will people in Austria be supporting now?
Tough question. Probably not Germany. Holland were very popular but that changed a bit after the World Cup 2010. I guess most people now will cheer for Argentina – and therefore get disappointed.
http://ballesterer.at/

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