Louis van Gaal said it all with a glimpse of a playful smile. He said in his autograph words that the World Cup draw for the Netherlands was not easy, and they were not so lucky. Instead, it was “colored”. That was a better word. Yellow Ecuadorean sun, rich country chestnut, dark green Senegal and Dutch orange: tinged.
He did his best to hide his joy. After all, he knew that the dice had fallen for him and his team, just as he had expected – in graphic and not entirely serious terms – that it would. Everyone wanted to draw Qatar, the host country, and the gentle Gulf over it. Only his team was chosen.
But Van Gaal is too big to be fooled. He also knows that the World Cup Draw is not just vases, sugary, wasteful, full of substance and Idris Elba; It’s also fictional. They have oracle quality. They often don’t mean what they seem to mean on first reading.
Take Spain and Germany, for example, who tied early in Group E. Their meeting marks the end of the first week of the tournament; It is the only time that two competitors waiting to win the competition meet and be crowned world champions in the opening stages. They both seem to have drawn the short straw.
Then the balls kept rolling and the names kept coming up and it turned out that they both fell on their feet. Japan’s task will not be easy, and whatever fills Costa Rica or New Zealand, the group will not be satisfied with silence. But no one has the resources, quality or pedigree from Spain and Germany, and both will be confident of success.
Or look at England, who reached the semi-finals in 2018 – and the European Championship final last summer – thanks to their knockout victories, at regulation time, against Sweden, turned out to be Germany and Ukraine.
His luck, in relations with Iran and the United States and one with Scotland, Wales and Ukraine, seems to have preserved a richer set of geopolitical intrigues than elite quality.
“I prefer to put the balls in the net over the flowers,” said Dragan Skocic, coach of the Serbia-Iran national team, when asked about the Americans’ meeting, referring to the bouquets that the two countries exchanged when they met. In 1998. The contest. “Football goes beyond politics,” said his US counterpart Greg Berhalter.
But the group stage draw isn’t just a group stage draw: it’s also a roadmap for the entire tournament. If England are going to win – as they think they can, this time with more logic than the logic of a standing clock – the regression begins immediately as soon as the knockout phase begins. Senegal, the most complete team Africa has sent to the tournament in more than a decade, could wait in the round of 16, after which defending champion France could find itself in the quarter-finals. Everything beyond that may not be immediately relevant.
Of course there will be teams that are so happy: France will certainly have few problems with Denmark and Tunisia and one with Peru, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. The two South American contenders, Brazil and Argentina, will also be confident.
Even the United States should not be angry. “We have the youngest team in the World Cup,” Berhalter said. “This is an advantage for us. Men have no fear.” England could be a comfortable candidate to win their group, and there is no reason to believe that the United States – returning after an eight-year absence – cannot finish second.
Of course, there will be teams who regret their fate. Canada, for example, which made it to this stage for the first time since 1986, has a real underweight group, but somehow more difficult: Croatia and Belgium finished second and third four years ago, while Morocco managed to get through the grueling process of African qualifying .
But in the end, Van Gaal was right: eight months in advance you don’t know who was lucky and who was not, what was smooth and what was rough. After all the pomp and circumstance, the video montage and marketing language that seem like big statements, one can only say with certainty that he will be colorful when he comes.
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