Sunday, July 25, 2010

In retrospection..

I completed one year in office life two weeks ago. My thoughts on office life, and other things I learnt in the last one year..

- I need to thank all my team mates and friends made in office. Before joining the industry, there were the usual doubts which everyone has, how different is it? Is there peer pressure? Can one be thyself without facing any politics and so on and so forth?

I am happy to put all those doubts to rest. I found that people are friendly, helpful and great human beings. I could be myself without having any thoughts of all of the above mentioned things at any point. Or it may be the case that I am too blind to notice anything wrong (which may not be actually bad). I have been able to transition from college life to industry without any glitches; I can still play sports, still talk nonsense most of the time, still make people smile and still hopefully not be judged too much (not sure about the last part :-) ). This part of the post is a testimonial for all my office mates.

- Something I learnt about people in the last one year. Most people are good, if you choose to look only at their positive traits. Something I learnt about myself. It is worth investing the effort to try and look at the positives when you are talking to someone. It changes the dynamics of how the conversation occurs.

- Another thing that I learnt that is staying aloof and not talking too much is the worst thing you can do when you are already down. It formulates a vicious cycle in your mind, and coming out takes more effort than it would have been if you had shared your thoughts.

- The next thing I learnt, is that how one sees thyself is of paramount importance and that ultimately makes all the difference in self-confidence irrespective of however highly or indifferently one is perceived by peers or friends.

- Ok, enough of serious things. On another note, I joined facebook a few months ago. While I haven’t become an avid follower as yet, what I seem to see most is that some ‘friend’ or ‘friend of friend’ is getting married/engaged daily. Depending on my mood, it either worries or delights me :-). More often than not, it is the last of those. But there are signs of change amongst my peer group. Instead of updates, someone going on trips etc etc, as it was up to a couple of years ago, there are more messages of ‘got engaged’ types.. Times are changing..

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Spain are World Champions !

This post didn't appear earlier because there wasn't much to write about the final. All one could say is that the game was a poor advertisement for football. There must have been millions of people who were non-football followers but just watched the finals; and they would have been disappointed. Many must have wondered why this is the most popular game on earth. And that is a pity, because the tournament was played at a really high quality, and mostly in good spirit.

So Spain did the double with the Euro Cup and the World Cup. Deservedly so. Netherlands, to their credit tried their best, kept Spain at bay for all of 117 minutes before a weak clearance undid all the good work. Such are the small margins which decide high stakes.

The only point worth mentioning is that how a number of people feel that Spain play only possession football and have won just because of that. I beg to differ. What I would say is that the quality of Spanish players is such that they are the only team in the world which has the ability to keep possession for long periods of time. No other team in the world would be able to play short, clean passes, even when they are being harried and closed down by the opposition.

Sneijder, De Jong, everyone tried their best; and were successful largely because for most part Xavi and Iniesta didn't have much of an impact. Two clean chances for Robben, both created beautifully by Sneijder; and Robben might be left ruing all his life, that the world cup was in grasp. Ironically, for a player who has been much maligned for diving, Robben chose not to go down when Puyol tackled him. Had he gone down, Puyol would have almost certainly been sent off, and that too might have changed the course of the game.

Sneijder had a great game and would be my man of the match despite ending on the losing side.

The World Cup has come to an end. A small word of appreciation for the hosts who did an apparently great job w.r.t all arrangements. Lets forgive them for the vuvuzelas :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

SF2 : Efficient Spain shut out Germany 1-0

Spain did what they usually do. Pass the opposition to death. Germany tried to do what they did against Argentina and England. Counter-attack. Unfortunately, they faced one minor problem in this game. To be able to launch a counter-attack, you need to get the ball first. Also they got an early goal in both the previous games, which drew the opposition out and made it easier for them.

One of my hunches before the match was whichever team scores the first goal would win. Although this match ended up having only one goal, things turned out as expected. Spain passed and passed and passed, when they finally scored late in the 73rd minute, they shut out Germany after that with some more passing. Had Germany scored first, things would have been more interesting. That would have drawn Spain out allowing the much-famed German counter-attack.

For the purists, this one was a lesson in football. Spain showed tonight why they are the rated as the most technically fluent team in the world. Tonight, one major quality which Spain possesses was on display, something which isn't so obvious and usually gets hidden behind the brilliance of Villa or the passing by the trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso.

'Off the ball running and closing down the opposition!' This is something the entire Spanish team does so efficiently and so brilliantly that often it doesn't allow the attack-minded opposition players to even come into the game. The same reason caused Ronaldo to cut a forlorn figure in the pre-quarters, and tonight again, Klose and Podolski were barely allowed a touch of the ball.

For all the beauty, the technical ability that Spain have, they work together as a unit and close down the opposition players superbly. Force the opposition player into making a mistake, give the ball away, and then the whole probing cycle of Alonso, Xavi, Aniesta, Xavi, Alonso, wide to Ramos/Villa starts all over again.

Man of the match : Carlos Puyol. While he had a very poor game against Paraguay where he was caught out by Nelson Valdez's pace, tonight he displayed great mental strength to come back with a strong showing and showed the positive trait of his defending - dealing with high balls with strong dominating headers. To cap it all, he got a goal with another of those powerful headers. A rare direct goal by Spain.

For Netherlands, they can only win against Spain if they accomplish one task. Outrun Spain. Paraguay tried it to good effect in their first half, but couldn't sustain it. Close down, don't allow the fab two, Xavi and Iniesta, time on the ball. Yes, Spain will still have majority of the possession, but if allowed to pass, they will just pass Netherlands to death. Just as they so neatly and efficiently, wrote the obituary of an upto-so-far rampant German team tonight.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

QF4: Spain vs Paraguay 1-0

So Paraguay found out what must be done to contain Spain. Run, run and run. Close down, work hard and fight for the ball. Leave Spain on the ball and they will murder you. As I write this at the end of first half, it seems Paraguay know the formula and indeed look the likelier of the two teams to score. In fact, they have had a goal ruled out incorrectly for offside. Puyol has struggled against the pace Nelson Valdez and another striker might have made more use of it.

The two Xavis', Alonso and Hernandez have done extremely well with their inter-play and intricate passing, as always; but most of it has been sideways and in front of the stubborn Paraguayan defence.

Paraguay is aware of the formula, all they have to do is the minor task of implementing it.....

A dramatic second half which saw two penalties, and two misses all in a span of less than 3 minutes spiced up a drab encounter. Spain were a touch lucky, with a couple of decisions going in their favour; one the earlier disallowed goal, and the second where the Paraguay penalty should have been retaken. It would have been really interesting had Paraguay scored.

But, notwithstanding those decisions, when a dull game needed a bit of quality, a bit of finesse, a bit of crispness, in cometh Andres Aniesta. The man who was unlucky to miss the Player of the Year award in 2009, showed what a class act he is, yet again. Driving at the heart of the Paraguayan defence, he cut past a couple of defenders, to lay a perfect pass to Pedro who was unlucky to hit the bar. Who does the ball fall back to? Yet again, the Spanish talisman, David Villa. If you ever need someone, with the ball at his feet; the opposition defenders diving desperately in front of him; and all you want is someone with composure, calmness and the ability to slot the ball in the net; you couldn't ask for a better person than David Villa. Had the same composure been shown by Roque Santa Cruz a few minutes later when he was one-on-one with Casillas, the match would have been back in the balance. That is all what differentiates a good striker and a great one.

Did Spain deserve to go through? Not sure. Paraguay were definitely unlucky; and one must say that it remains to be seen if Spain can come back from a losing position, if they encounter such a situation in the later stages.

Man of the match : Andres Iniesta for his moment of magic.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

QF3 : Germany trounce Argentina 4-0

So the much hyped match, touted to be a virtual final after Brazil's loss yesterday turned out to be a mismatch. And that seems surprising, judging by what had been written about Argentina till yesterday. In hind-sight of course, it is easy to take Maradona and his boys to the cleaners and talk about the beautiful football played by Germany.

Interestingly the teams that have won in the later stages have quality midfielders who have the ability to stamp their class. One of my beliefs is that a midfielder or a defender has to do far more than what is expected of him to be talked about in the same breath as a forward. A forward, however all he has to do is his job, score goals and he is labeled a hero. So when the world sits up and pays attention to midfielders or defenders, it means they are special.

And that has been the hallmark of the two quarterfinals. You talk about Sneijder and Robben in the same breath, but you don't do the same for Kaka/Fabiano and Gilberto Silva. You watch a poetry in motion when Messi gets the ball, but are unmoved when Mascherano is on the move. However, for Germany Schweinsteiger and Klose are talked about in the same breath and the same is true for Spain where the diminuitive Xavi and Iniesta are talked about as much as Villa or Torres.

So it proved to be difference today. Argentina for all their class, needed the supply. When that was cut out because Schweinsteiger and Khedira dominated Mascherano and co, Tevez and Messi had to often come back deep to get on the ball from the halfway-line. Even if Messi got past one,two defenders as he did on a few occasions, there was the giant frame of Mertesacker to snuff out any danger.

To be fair to Argentina, the scoreline as in the case of England doesn't really reflect the true state of the game. Germany were just more clinical. They were deadly in counter-attack, dominated the midfield and solid in defence.

Man of the match : there could be many really. Schweinsteiger, for his drive (similar to Sneijder yesterday), or even for his single handed creation of the third goal; Mertesacker, who stood his ground against the likes of Messi, Tevez, Higuain, or even the skipper Lahm, who was his usual best, strong in defence (totally nullified Maxi Rodriguez), and rampaging while going forward.

However I would like to nominate Joachim Low as today's man of the match, because nowhere was the faith shown in his young side more sweetly proven until tonight. The Germans were swift, speedy in closing down, had the energy to counter-attack at a swift pace in both matches vs England and Argentina. The reason - they had age on their side and the legs to do it. That alone was the single point of difference between two quality sides today. And how !

Friday, July 2, 2010

QF 1 : Holland vs Brazil : Tenacious Holland keep European hopes alive

Prior to this match, both teams knew that winning this match may effectively give them an entry into the final. With all due respect to Uruguay and Ghana, both Brazil and Holland must have been licking their lips on seeing the draw after group stages. They both saw off Chile and Slovakia clinically and this was the main hurdle in their paths.

The first ten minutes made it look almost as though it was men vs boys. Brazil took the game to Holland, had a beautiful move which culminated into a goal ruled out (correctly) for offside; and then went ahead by a superb through-ball and a first time shot by Robinho while the Holland defence had gone to sleep. Brazil continued to dominate, keep possession, draw fouls, and amidst all this, Kaka had a beautiful curling shot saved in a move which had originally been created by Robinho's industriousness down the touchline. In another flowing move, Maicon had a thunderous shot saved down the right flank.

Brazil, probably playing their most attractive football all tournament went into half-time 1-0 feeling pretty comfortable. Holland huffed and puffed, and for all the hard work by Sneijder and De Jong, and the threat posed by Robben, they were unable to impose themselves on the Brazilian midfield.

All great football coaches, the Mourinhos, the Fergusons are known by what they say to their team at half time. Whatever Bert van Marwijk, the Holland coach did say to his team, it had a tremendous impact. They came out looking sharper, began to close down Brazil far more swiftly and Sneijder began to show his capabilities. Much like Xavi Alonso or Xavi Hernandez, the play-maker; he began to influence the game.

The goal when it came had a touch of fortune, where a decent cross into the six-yard area caused confusion and the Brazil goalkeeper collided with Felipe Melo inducing an own-goal. Communication (which was lacking in this case) is often to key to handle such situations.

The situation changed dramatically thereafter. Not having to chase the game anymore, Holland looked more comfortable while Brazil tried to regain the earlier dominance. However, Sneijder, Van Bommel and ever-hard working Kuyt did not give an inch of space this time around. Another innocuous corner for Holland, led to another goal, this time surely through something that must have been rehearsed in the training ground. One touch header, nodded on goalwards, another touch - goal. Simple, effective and for all its predictability, still a goal worth its weight in gold. Holland lead, suddenly Brazil looked insecure, panicky and tried to press forward, but the Holland midfield kept them superbly in check.

A red-card to Felipe Melo for a spiteful tackle further changed the complexion of the game. Was it a red card offense? Yes. Period. To give credit, Brazil continued to press forward and earned a few corners in quick succession, but the closest they came was Kuyt safely diverting a header away standing 2 feet in front of his goal. For all the quality of Kaka and Robinho, there were no clear-cut chances and the no-nonsense Holland midfield and defence stood stubborn.

Did Brazil deserve to go out. The purists might disagree, but based on Holland's second half performance, they definitely deserved to go through. They may not have the flair that South American teams have but they have the tenacity and the stomach to fight, something which is typical of European teams. And for flair, they can look to one man - Wesley Sneijder.

Man of the match : easily Wesley Sneijder, and not because he scored the winner, but primarily because of ability to dictate the play against the likes of Gilberto Silva, Maicon and co.

Journalistic tendencies..?

From now on, I have decided to write my opinions on the soccer world cup matches I watch. One more voice amongst the thousands that are out there expressing their views.
There are 7 matches remaining (I may not watch the Uruguay-Ghana match).

So here goes ...