The Warm-Up: A good night for Claudio Bravo's save statistics
Jack Lang salutes the Chile goalkeeper, pretends he read the FIFA report and digs up some old Karim Benzema action...
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
Claudio with a chance of meatballs
Over the last few years, Chile have provided neutrals with plenty of reasons to love them. The madcap attacking, the swarming press, the stirring lack of fear. Alexis Sanchez, Edu Vargas, Arturo Vidal, Gary Medel. Jorge Valdivia, for the romantics. Marcelo Bielsa and his 3-3-1-3 formation. Jorge Sampaoli’s touchline histrionics.
In normal time, he brilliantly kept out a close-range André Silva effort with one of those sprawling, handball-style saves that Peter Schmeichel used to make. There was also a sharp stop to thwart Cristiano Ronaldo. Mainly, though, there were the penalty saves.
Ricardo Quaresma: denied. Joao Moutinho: denied. Nani: very much denied. You don’t miss three kicks in a shootout and live to tell the tale; Chile, having ended the game the stronger and having hit the woodwork twice, were into the final of the Confederations Cup.
Bravo had a tough year at the Etihad, what with those dodgy save percentages and rumblings from the Joe Hart lobby. But he is only the second goalkeeper ever, after Paraguay’s Justo Villar in the 2011 Copa América, to go through a penalty shootout unbeaten in a senior international tournament.
Bravo, Don Claudio. Bravo indeed.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before
Coming in at a sleep-inducing 349 pages, the full version of Michael Garcia’s report – not to be confused with the teaser EP, released in 2014 under the cloud of creative differences with lead guitarist Hans-Joachim Eckert – into the voting process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups surely had hundreds of junior reporters and sundry content providers cursing yesterday.
In truth, there weren’t any especially stunning new revelations, just more details of tawdry goings-on at FIFA Towers: a spot of vote-trading here, a ‘culture of expectation and entitlement’ there.
The much-contested award for Best Expense Claim goes to Ricardo Teixeira, who racked up $23,900 of charges to his Qatar hotel room in four days – and we’re guessing the room was probably fairly well stocked before he walked in, given it cost him $5,490 a night.
2012 Brasil Ricardo Teixeiradpa
Arsenal transfer rodeo
Is it us, or has the transfer window suddenly turned very… Arsenally? Other teams have signed people and there are deals in the pipeline elsewhere, but it’s all gone very red and white in the last couple of days.
The Kylian Mbappe rumours have faded a touch, but Alexandre Lacazette remains a likely target and the Gunners apparently had a bid turned down for Thomas Lemar on Tuesday. But one of the existing French contingent could soon depart, with L’Equipe going big on the chances of Olivier Giroud returning to Ligue 1.
What does it all mean? The Warm-Up has no idea, but it’s Arsenal, so stop fretting and enjoy it.
IN OTHER NEWS
Sad news for people who like watching glassy-eyed former Italy defenders play sports other than football: it looks like Paolo Maldini’s professional tennis career could already be over. The 49-year-old, who lost his debut doubles match at the Aspria Tennis Cup on Monday, admitted as such yesterday, citing wear and tear.
“Ironically, on the very first point of the match I pulled a muscle,” said Maldini, whose understanding of irony appears to rank highly on the universal Morissette Scale. “It was like writing a poem after studying years of maths. Also, I don’t have much time available.”
Paolo MaldiniGetty Images
While writing something else, The Warm-Up was going through some of Lyon’s Champions League campaigns of a decade or so ago. Now, having posted a long compilation of all of Juninho Pernambucano’s free-kicks in a previous Retro Corner section, this seems like a good opportunity to spread the love.
Karim Benzema only really came to prominence at the tail end of that long period of dominance for Les Gones, but by heck did he make an impression, even as a teenager. He has had a fine, fine career since then, but there is surely something of the Wayne Rooneys about the Frenchman: he has played second fiddle to You Know Who throughout his time at Real Madrid, when it once appeared that he would be the main man wherever he pitched up.
You’ll doubtless recognise a lot of the images he has dug out, but even for the long-time spotter there are a few treats. Personal favourite: the football covered in bank notes like they were some papier-mâché shell. Magnificent stuff.
Chile will be watching with interest when the other Confederations Cup semi-final kicks off at 7pm. Germany will be favourites against Mexico in Sochi, but El Tri have lost just two of their last 39 games and gave Portugal a run for their money in the group stage.
The Europa League also kicks off, with roughly 834 matches between teams you’ve never heard of. Well, OK, a few you might have: Rangers, Bangor Town, Derry City and Cork City are among the representatives from the British Isles in action.
Tom Adams will be here on Friday with a deeply witty take on the big match between Mladost and Gandzasar in Podgorica tonight.