Where have all the strikers gone ???

That is the theme song that every Brazilian fan should be singing now !!! Infact they would have been singing the same for the last 5 years !!!

The forwards in the squad in Fifa 2010 were Robinho, Nilmar, Luis Fabiano, Grafite

The forwards in the squad in Confed Cup 2013 were Jo, Fred, Neymar, Hulk and the same guys were there in the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil. Neymar is the only standout name in those squads spanning 5 years. For a country whose previous forwards in the last 20 years of the world cup include Careca, Romario, Bebeto, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and of course Ronaldo, its a matter of collective soul searching. And when you factor in all the other Brazilian forwards who could not make it to the national squad in those days but plied their talents across the globe, the seriousness of the problem gets a better perspective. (I mean Jose Barretto rocked Indian football for a good 10 years !!!)

 The Confed Cup victory of 2013 was the undoing of Brazil in 2014 when it really mattered. This was not my original thought but I have started to believe it. I see good reason to.That victory ensured Scolari was immune from criticism and he ran the show the way he thought was right rather than experiment or look for options and a plan B.

The strategy was pretty clear, pack in goons in the form of defensive midfielders to defend dirty and hope that the individual brilliance of Oscar or Neymar will get you goals.

That is where the problem starts … Lets face it … To win the Confed Cup, you needed to beat 2 good teams … thats it … And Brazil beat Uruguay and Spain … 2 matches can be won on the back of brilliant individual performances backed by maniacal home support or even the opposition having an off day. And thats what happened. Those 2 matches formed the blueprint of Scolari’s plan to win the 6th World Cup !!!

The fact is to win the World Cup you needed to win 4 matches in the knockout stages and 1 match in the group stage. The 5 matches that are must win would have atleast 4 very good teams. So simple maths suggests that winning the World Cup is twice as tough than the Confed Cup at least !!! But our man Scolari did not think so !!! Pass it to Neymar and hope for the best seemed to be the strategy of Brazil in the world cup. Not a bad strategy considering that their arch rivals Argentina also had the same strategy … Pass it to Messi and hope for the best. Argentina atleast had a good defense and could hold on a 1 – 0 lead. Brazil had a one man defence who was suspended against the best team they faced.

Infact in my predictions, made before Suarez went chomping on Chiellini, I had a QF line up of Uruguay vs Brazil and was sure that Brazil would be eliminated then. I got the other half of the draw right as early as 22nd June predicting a Argentina vs Holland semifinal.

But i digress … the standout mistakes on Scolari’s part … not taking Marquinhos or Miranda as a 4th centre back. Thiago Silva is a world class centre back. David Luiz is a brilliant footballer extremely misfit to be a first choice centre back. Dante is a liability who has looked good in bits and pieces. Take Thiago Silva out and you are in major trouble.

Wingbacks have been Brazil’s thing. Memories of Cafu and Roberto Carlos galloping up and down the wings still give me goosebumps. In 2010, Dani Alves was at his best but had Maicon ahead of him in the pecking order. This time Dani Alves was a shadow of himself. And Scolari decided to take Maicon as his backup. The same Maicon who had since the 2010 WC been destroyed by Gareth Bale and hardly got a minute to play in Manchester City and grown 4 years older. No call up for a younger guy like Rafael. Left back Marcelo is great going forward and i say this sincerely … I really hope the guy scores more goals than he does because he gets into some amazing positions and has an awesome shot and plays with a lot of heart … but is a defensive time bomb … No wonder Mourinho and Ancelotti often opted to play Fabio Coentrao behind him. And surprise surprise … the defensive team of the year Atletico Madrid had a Brazilian left back by the name of Filipe Luis !!!

Oscar and Willian were the only 2 creative midfielders in the Brazil squad. Both play under Jose Mourinho so they are being trained to decrease their creative output and instead focus on tracking back !!! Where was Phillipe Countinho ? Instead you had hard men like Ramires, Paulinho, Fernandinho running amok. A Brazil team going out in the semi finals is acceptable but a Brazil team committing the most fouls is not !!! And a midfield packed with 2 destroyers will only do that !!!

Hulk is known to disappear from games and has been on the fringes for long without really ever having a breakout season … at least a season in line with the hype around him … he was a major threat when he and Oscar combined but those moments were for 10 minute periods in a match. Not enough to win against quality opposition.

And Finally Fred … If I was an opposition coach, I would instruct my centre backs to ignore him … let him be … he is not going to do anything … so why bother ? focus on Neymar, Oscar and Hulk instead !!! Seriously in the entire world of brazilian footballers there is no centre forward better than Fred and Jo ??? Is this what the world has come to ? Is this what Brazilian football has come to ? Atleast with regards to West Indies and fast bowling there are some logical explanations in terms of waning popularity of cricket or big guys looking towards more lucrative sports careers like basketball but no centre forwards in Brazil !!! How can it even be ??? If Scolari had spent 6 months looking for a centre forward better than Fred and Jo, we would have seen a better performance by Brazil.

In the end none of what i wrote above mattered when faced with Germany on a day like that … missing Thiago Silva and Neymar were not Scolari’s faults but having no back up plan was his fault alone. Brazil would have still lost had Germany even played half as well as they did but aleast it would not have been a humiliation … And thats why Mr Scolari I am glad for you to be sacked !!! (However going by recent history watching him making a comeback is not to be ruled out)


What brought you to the top, may not keep you there !!!

Spain are eliminated from the World cup in Brazil. Thats the simplest way to put it.

One could add other unwanted statistics to convey more pain like this being the quickest exit from the tournament by a defending champion or only the 5th defending champion ever to be eliminated in the 1st round.

There will be a lot of analysis on what went wrong for them … focus will be on Diego Costa, Xavi & Casillas mostly. But the fact is that this was a loss of a philosophy rather than a team … And for that the blame lies on the doorstep of the Spanish Federation and Del Bosque.

Barcelona brought the last big change in football philosphy … their tiki taka possession game … meticulously drilled though La Masia and perfected to an art form under Pep Guardiola was the cornerstone of the Spanish dominance of the last 6 years … The core of the team was Barcelona … Pique, Puyol, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta … add the best of Real Madrid to the same in the form of Casillas, Ramos, Xabi Alonso … a few more brilliant outsiders like David Silva, Mata, Torres, Villa  … and you had a team that could compete with any all time Best World XI … and in the 2008 to 2012 period as the all conquering Barcelona team went about their business , Spain put together a run that included the Euros 2008 & 2012 and the World Cup.

And its this period that saw the events that in my opinion culminated in what happened yesterday …

Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, the 4 clasicos in 15 days … the mindgames … the 1st victim was Guardiola who had to take time out to recharge his batteries … And as he left … Tito was possibly the best guy to carry forward the philosophy but his health unfortunately gave way … And these two events combined to bring about the decline in Barcelona’s play.When you have players as awesome as Messi, Iniesta still performing their best , the decline is not evident because results still go your way due to moments of individual brilliance.  The nadir was the Bayern Munich match, the previous PSG match had all the right indicators but once again Messi had pulled them through. But Bayern were something else … they outclassed Barcelona. Never before had Barcelona looked so lost, never had they been defeated without even a hope of a win … never … not even for 5 mins in those 2 matches was Barcelona better. And the 2 positions that were crying out for fresh blood were midfield and defence … Xavi, Puyol were on their last legs … yet surprisingly Barcelona has managed to sell the 2 players who were supposed to replace Xavi. Thiago Alcantara in the last year and Fabregas this year !!! And if you see their performance in the matches in the world cup, defence and midfield are the 2 places they lost the plot.

And Mourinho’s disruptive influence only added to the problem and if the reports of him trying to create a divide based on Spanish and Catalan identities in his Madrid players are true then we can see the seeds of trouble there. That maybe an IF … but his role in Casillas’ decline is definite. Whether Casillas’s ability was declining and therefore Jose decided to bench him or his decision to bench him caused his lack of form and confidence is debatable but the fact remains on current form Casillas shouldnt have been in the world cup squad. It was Saint Iker who was in the squad rather than Iker Casillas. David De Gea, Pepe Reina or even Diego Lopez (had he been in the squad) should have started against Holland. Apart from the well documented blunders in the Holland match, the punch to save the free kick yesterday was a fault by Casillas that directly led to a goal. 

And then Del Bosque … have never followed him closely but my perception of the guy is a of a wise old man who has seen it all and done it all … a father figure … and there was a moment in the Holland match when the camera panned to the Spain substitute bench while they were losing and Del Bosque was walking in front of the players and gently stroking their heads … it did show his caring side but also it seemed that he was more interested in making the players feel less bad than firing them up … When the team was winning and the players were playing their best, Del Bosque only had to ensure there was no dressing room strife and superstar egos did not come in the way of the team which he did admirably. This time in the world cup, things were different. The best players of the previous team were playing from memory, their abilities significantly declined. However Del Bosque kept faith … hoping for a miracle. The La Liga season was a major indicator that was ignored … None of the players who lit up La Liga this year were automatic selections with Del Bosque except Iniesta and Ramos. Barcelona had forgettable season with only Messi pulling them through. Real had Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale, Modric, Angel di Maria and Ramos playing really well, Atleti had Godin, Gabi, Koke, Courtois and Costa doing the same. And somewhere Del Bosque missed the plot in continuing with tiki taka and the Barcelona/Madrid core. Younger Hungrier players like Isco, Koke were needed. Gabi was an inspirational leader for Atleti and hungry for success. Fabregas’ premier league experience and directness was an option that needed to be explored. The alarm bells should have rung after the Confed Cup defeat and were ignored even after the Bayern Barcelona match or this years La Liga !!! A Philosophy change was needed because what had taken Spain to the top of the world of football was not going to keep them there !!!


Come on Moyes … Play like Fergie’s boys !!!

Well this is a continuation of the previous post and have to thank dad for pointing out areas that i had not touched in the previous post …

The players … slowly as the leaks come … its becoming more evident that the players are far more culpable for David Moyes sacking than previously thought … there really is only one source from where the Phil Jagielka video story could have come out … the relentless tweeter himself … but then its actually a bit of a conundrum … I am good … i have the record to prove i am good … would i listen to someone tell me my mistakes … specially if that someone’s individual record is not as good as mine ??? you couldnt argue with Sir Alex for he simply was way too powerful for that and had the record to back it up … but if i was Rio, RvP, Giggs, Vidic, or even Evra … wouldnt i believe myself to be superior to David Moyes ??? And i have seen more than enough of the same in my office to realise that human psychology remains consistent … probably the problem is far more exaggerated in the rarefied world of sports stars … given that those people thrive on success and have egos bigger than the Old Trafford … So if i think i am better than my manager , would i give my best for him ??? The thing that has got my attention the most about the way Man Utd played under Moyes when compared with Fergie’s boys is that the drive seemed missing … that relentlessness was just not there … and its not about high pressing … the players seemed to be drifting … noone to really drive them on the pitch … the few good performances of the season were on days when Rooney seemed to be playing for the team … Rooney is exactly the sort of character that drives a team … After Roy Keane , CR7 pulled the team by virtue of his brilliance but sadly the team has lacked that character who could look into the eyes of Patrick Viera in the tunnel … Rooney has that ability … surprisingly as i saw old videos of RvP … i realised that he was a mean chap too … and maybe that mean streak along with his goals were what got us over the line last year … And clearly with RvP not interested in pushing himself under Moyes … Man Utd lost that edge … On a side note , RvP’s leap into the arms of Sir Alex last year after that goal was the moment i became a fan of RvP !!!The players just seemed less driven … maybe the hairdryer was really that important !!!

This post isnt as organic as it should primarily because the trigger of this was more external than internal … I really need to internalise those thoughts to bring out a more well articulated piece …

Yup … will continue this …


Its all about the money !!!

I did not want the man gone … not so soon for sure … And yes the defeats hurt … hurt badly in the beginning , hurt little less as the season went on … but the way i look at it now is that it was a non footballing reason to sack the manager of a football club. And thats what hurts more. The fact that David Moyes was a nice guy makes it worse. The fact that we still do not know for sure who is the replacement going to be only adds to the worries.

Sir Alex Ferguson made the mistake of appointing David Moyes … in hindsight it seems so … did not see it then … and the mistake was in the reason why Moyes was chosen … he was chosen for longevity , old school ethics on the job, hard work. Those were qualities that Sir Alex admired. The problem is that what made SAF successful were not those qualities alone … He had more than that … surely those were the bedrock … but there was a X factor beyond that … and though there are egomaniacs who believe they are the best there ever will be … I do not think that SAF fully realised his own strength … He did not realise what a freak of nature he was … And thought that since David Moyes was as hardworking and loyal as he was , DM would be the next best bet after him … Well we will never know how it would have turned out if he was given time …

Why do i think SAF was a freak of nature ? because as you look around you will realise that other than Arsene , there is no other manager who has spent more than 5 years as the manager of a club which has consistently been in the top 4 of any of the top European leagues !!! Man Utd did not get all the success they did because they stuck with one manager … they got it because that manager was Sir Alex !!! And therein lay the road forward … Man Utd shouldnt have chosen someone based on the idea of him replacing Sir Alex … they should have chosen someone who followed the footballing philosophy of Man Utd … someone who hated to lose … someone who chased games till 94 minute at least … someone who loved to go all out … a gambler … a positive manager … someone whose instinct was to attack … someone who loved to use wingers … And these are an awful lot of boxes that David Moyes didnt check !!!

Two negative things stood out in the record of David Moyes’ career … his record against big teams , his lack of medals … the problem with both is that basically you have become used to being second best … “we tried our best but … ” … while thats perfectly acceptable considering the conditions within which Everton were operating , that just doesnt cut ice with Man Utd.

And that brings me to the non footballing reasons … the problem is that today Man Utd is not a football club … its a corporate organisation whose primary business is to play football and in doing so, attract commercial investment in the form of sponsorships and also get television revenue. The drop out of Champions League will hit the owners where it hurts … not only will they lose out on Champions League TV revenue (in the range of 30 million pounds or more per year) , their sponsors will not want to put money on a club that is not winning a lot and hence less visible … Add to that the problem of attracting top talent who wouldnt want to play for a club that is not in the Champions League … you have a vicious cycle … you lose money , players and with that your ability to get back in !!! This financial loss is the reason why David Moyes had to go … The owners and the club’s commercial machinery cannot afford to be seen as a mid table club, even for 1 or 2 seasons since the impact is exponential. Considering the scenario that Man Utd face now … they simply have to come back really strong to get back in the Champions League … to do that they obviously have to buy big names in the summer and overhaul the squad significantly … And at the same time have a coach whose pedigree is far more impeccable than David Moyes and can assure the owners of an immediate return to Champions League.

Its all about the money … anyone who follows sports and loves it .. knows that winning and losing is a part of it … sadly the business owners seem to forget that and believe that its their birth right to only win !!! Moyes deserved time to do things his own way … this year the signs were there that maybe given time , he would have still struggled … but getting rid of him in 10 months was no way to treat him. Specially considering that none of the players bar DeGea, Januzaj and Rooney can walk with their heads high individually !!!

The most succesful sports franchisees have actually found a way to negate the pain of losing … The US professional sports industry does not have relegation, has salary caps, lottery drafts only to make the playing field so even that even if you lose …. you only lose a game … European football however has a far more painful blow for losing !!!



Nokia X – continued …

Some comments i wrote on wpcentral …

Always that WPCentral was much more than a fanboy site … This article makes me doubt that … just as the articles in TimesofIndia announcing Nokia ditching Windows for Android are off the mark …

If India is a target market , one key behaviour specific to India is that its a handset driven market and not an operator driven one so upgrades are difficult to control … plus i strongly believe that the market segment these phones are after … those people do not really change handsets that frequently so the stepping stone to Lumia argument looks weak …

Considering that these phones are positioned between Asha and Lumia , what i would like to know is that were there any significant issues with scaling up Asha ? From a feature perspective , what functionality will these phones bring that couldnt be developed on the Asha line ?


So a new smartphone buyer walks into a store … Nokia sales guy at the counter shows him 2 phones … one is cheaper than the other by $ 25 to $ 35 (Rs 1500 to Rs 2500) … the cheaper one has higher number of apps and the flexibility of sideloading apps … Why would the guy buy the more expensive phone considering both handsets are by the same OEM ??? 520 is in trouble !!!

A young person with a budget walks into a store … sees 2 phones … one cheaper and the other more expensive … the cheaper one has greater option of games since it does not have RAM limitations … both by the same OEM… which phone will the person buy ? 520 is in big trouble !!!


Lets look at it simplistically … today Nokia has the less than Rs 3000 phones (feature phones), the range between Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 phones (Asha) and then Rs 10000 and above from which Lumia takes on … However Samsung, Micromax have a lot of devices in the Rs 5000 to Rs 8000 range which are Android phones with lower specs … the Nokia X range is trying to hit there …

My point is … you have loads to ecommerce sites selling the 520 in the Rs 8500 range … push in some more marketing funds there … bring that price down to Rs 7500- Rs 8000. And upscale the Asha with larger screens and address the Rs 5000 to Rs 7500 range …

The big problem is the perception that this move creates … howmuchsoever we try to spin it … this is basically Nokia agreeing that they want to win the entry level smart phone market with an Android device … Let me give you an example … Would Apple ever ever EVER allow their iOS on a non Apple device ? iOS is also losing marketshare , they do not have a presence in the sub Rs 30000 space … So did they armtwist any other OEM to use their iOS and make a cheaper phone ??? I am sure brands like Karbonn, Micromax would give their right arm if they could license iOS … Apple tried the 5C and it didnt work … the latest rumours are that they are pumping up production of earlier models like 4 and 4S to address the lower price segment.

Coming to your argument that this holds on to users and delays their Android adoption … how ? the user is buying an Android phone made to look different. He does not have access to Google Play but still can sideload apps … This move just gave users one more set of choices when it comes to entry level Android phones.

Plus as i said earlier … India is not an operator driven market … every sale of a phone here is a new unique one time transaction … 2 years later … the person looking to upgrade will once again evaluate all options before him … and the bet is on , having liked Nokia & MSFT apps , he will choose the same … entry level phones are known to have issues … if the user has had a bad experience with the X range , the greater chances are he will stay away from Nokia for quite some time !!!

Nokia X

I know i am not the only one … I am unhappy with the Nokia android line of devices …

I have been a fan of Windows Phone since i got one from Msft … and that was way back in 2006 …

Things that i do not like about today’s launch …

1) It will undercut 520

2) In India , i do not think people change phones very often and hence the argument of this being a launchpad of users onto Lumia devices does not hold true.

3) With THE OEM behind Windows Phone shipping out a forked Android device, how will you attract newer Oems who were anyways scared to join considering that Nokia sold its handset division to Microsoft ?



Mental Strength – David Moyes !!!

Not really sure where to start from … but its about Manchester United and David Moyes …

From the moment he was appointed till even now I do support him and wont stop supporting Man Utd because of him … However would I have loved it had Jose been made manager … No … thats for sure … Guardiola … Yes … Klopp … Yes … Ancelotti … Yes … going back on the path that brought Sir Alex to Man Utd … would Neil Lennon been ok … maybe …

The things about David Moyes that worry me are … and i am talking from personal experience … are mental … the psychological aspects of the game …

Lets be clear … Sir Alex did not win all the titles that he did on pure footballing grounds … not always did he have the best team , not always did his team play better football than their opponents but his team won because they were mentally stronger than their opponents … they were mentally stronger because of various reasons which include mind games played by Sir Alex … and psychological strength is thing that grows with time … as time progressed and the Fergie time factor became more well known … not only did Man U players start believing in it more , it started playing in the minds of the opponents as well … and teams leading against Man U till the 80th minute of a game , started playing nervously knowing that hell was coming … and more often than not , that psychological edge made teams make mistakes … in fact the corollary to the Man U mental strength was Man City’s perceived weakness … typical City … as the phrase goes implied self imploding teams … till the oil dollars came flowing in …

looking back at the time I was good at something … quizzing … which was all about presence of mind and remembering stuff at the right time … it was always more psychological than anything else … my biggest rival was Ayon and LFS … and other than the last Wheels , i never lost a quiz to him and we would have met in atleast a dozen quizzes … there were 2 quizzes where i felt that we won it coz Ayon was too nervous in the end and was trying too hard since he was fighting mental demons apart from the questions thrown at him … specially the science one in Chinmaya Vidyalaya where he goofed up on mercury’s state of matter … and the vaguely remember something similar in the Maruti quiz in Bistupur … however it could be just me wanting to feel glorious about myself and hence giving myself more credit than what actually happened … things could be explained by a more simpler explanation of him making a mistake at a crucial time !!!

With Sir Alex gone , Man U players seem to have lost that belief and their opponents have no fear of them … while that is not a slight on David Moyes , since anyone replacing Sir Alex would have had a harder time replacing the aura rather than the man himself …

The problems with David Moyes are in his history … He did a phenomenal job with Everton … making them punch above their weight consistently … but the fact remains that he won nothing with them … he did not win a single away match with the big 4 … and his team would be praised if they won against a big club , but would not make headlines if they drew against a mid table club … or even lost occasionally to a smaller clubs … either ways … his team was never really open to stinging criticism … and that does numb your sensation of hurt to an extent … if you dont really feel miserable after every bad result , the ability to fight back in the next match goes down … and as you get used to bad results , you lose part of your ability to really pick yourself up for the next match … Already we are in that zone where Man U losing or drawing is not an aberration, its becoming common place … and so if the players are not hurting badly after results like Stoke , Fulham , Swansea , they will find it harder to raise their game in the next match … and that is treading dangerous territory … David Moyes in his time in Everton did get used to such losses and i have my doubts if losses like one to Stoke , Swansea boil his blood as much as it used to do Sir Alex’s !!!

Again from a personal standpoint … that last academic prize i won in school was 6th std , after which it was nothing … in the 7th std , seeing others score more than me pinched me … but by the end of 8th std and 9th std …. i knew my position and was content with it … it did not hurt me to see Abhinav, Bhishma, Sumit Basu , Subhrangshu do well in the exams as i stayed in the 5th to 10th range … which i maintained in the ICSE results as well … but the pain that could propel me further simply stopped … again i may be wrong in my assessment since being as lazy and laid back as i am , maybe the pain wouldnt have made me do anything more than what i was doing … but I am sure with people like elite football players who thrive on pressure and the high performance environment , such pain from losses surely pushes them … Similarly … with Vikas Tank tuitions … tests every month with marks in single digits made me immune to feeling pressure of exams and failing … and that is not a good thing if you really want to stay competitive.

Will i continue supporting Man Utd ? Of course yes … Will I read the football section of every british paper every day … perhaps not !!!