Where is Leo Messi?
He is back, scoring against Mexico with a strong performance and putting Argentina back in contention to progress to the second round. Argentina’s fans need to thank the Saudi Green Falcons for waking up Messi and Co. with the mother of all footballing upsets.
The Saudi vs. Poland match showed up one glaring difference between the two teams. The Polish players were “poles apart” with their height and weight, as well as aggression, but the Green Falcons were no pushovers, and were nippy and quicker on the flanks, although losing out in the aerial duels.
Herve Renard’s Saudi twin brother?
Watching Renard’s team talk to the Green Falcons, one cannot help but notice Mohammed Ameen, who is translating every word of the Saudi head coach to the players. Ameen is like an identical twin, minus the looks or size, and serves as the voice who cajoles, coaxes and gestures exactly as Renard does from the sidelines and in the dressing room for the Green Falcons to fly higher, faster and stronger.
Not sure how many coaching translators there are in Qatar, but it is no easy job to send the right message across at the right time with all that tension around. They are in good company, though — Italian club AS Roma coach Jose Mourinho began his career in top-flight football as a translator for Bobby Robson at Portuguese clubs and then at Barcelona for Robson and Louis van Gaal, the current coach of the Netherlands. I am now going to keep an eye out for Mohammed Ameen.
The phantom Rolls-Royce gifts
It turns out that the “news” of Rolls-Royces being gifted to Saudi players was just a phantom. Not sure who spread that rumor, but they should know footballers usually have a taste for faster cars in the range of Lamborghinis and Ferraris.
Samurai Blues lose, Morocco tames the Red Devils
The upsets continue in Qatar. After beating Germany 2-1, the Samurai Blues were slain unexpectedly by Costa Rica, which is great news for Germany. And Morocco dished out a humiliating 2-0 defeat to the Red Devils of Belgium, with the North African team’s Abdelhamid Sabiri arguably scoring the goal of the tournament so far. Morocco’s hopes were not looking that great when their first- team goalkeeper apparently “dizzypeared” just minutes before kickoff and was withdrawn. For foodies, it is like the harissa packed too much spice for fluffy Belgian waffles.
South Korea’s Asian Tigers falter against the Black Stars of Ghana
South Korea staged a comeback to level at 2-2 after going down 2-0 in the first half, but all it took was one momentary defensive lapse to lose the game 3-2. It looks increasingly hard for South Korea to match the achievements of 2002 when Dutch coach Guus Hiddink guided them to the semifinals. Twenty years later, their chance of progress looks bleak. And my plan to use them as a good case study on underdogs is looking weak.
Brace for the green wave
A massive green wave is expected on Wednesday in Qatar as thousands of Saudi fans make their way to cheer the Green Falcons against the El Tri of Mexico. If you are in the Kingdom, you can feel the excitement and energy counting down to the game. Go Falcons!
• Nesa Subrahmaniyan works in Dhahran at Saudi Aramco.