“The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in Life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
- Baron Pierre de Coubertin,
founder of the modern Olympic Games.
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
- Vince Lombardi,
American football player, coach, and executive in the National Football League.
World Cup Items:
I have previously mentioned that the World Cup doesn’t interest me as much as it stirs other people. That is not to say that I don’t read the news items.
Two items caught my attention in the last couple of days, both being regarded as being at the lesser end of the scale of sportsmanship:
Japan v Poland, 2018:
Japan was losing 1-0 in its match against Poland in the knowledge that Poland would not advance, Poland having already lost two games.
Elsewhere Colombia defeated Senegal 1-0. This meant that Senegal and Japan would both finish on the same amount of points with the same goal difference. An earlier 2-2 draw between the two sides meant they couldn’t be split by their head-to-head record. So, for the first time in World Cup history, Fair Play rules came into effect, where the team with fewer yellow cards would advance. Senegal had picked up six yellows in the tournament while Japan only had four, so it went through to the next phase.
Both matches were being played simultaneously and once word filtered through to the Japanese that Colombia had scored against Senegal in the 74th minute, they knew they had done enough to advance even though it was losing late in its match. At that point Japan gave up playing attacking football and simply passed the ball amongst its players, back and forth in little triangles in its own half. By not bothering to press forward, Japan ensured it could focus on keeping possession and staying compact in defence so that conceding a second goal — which would have knocked it out — was out of the equation.
“My decision was to rely on the other match,” Japan coach Akira Nishino admitted after full-time. “I’m not too happy about this but … I forced my players to do what I said. And we went through.” He summed it up as: “I am not too happy about this, but . . . It’s the World Cup, and sometimes these things can’t be avoided.”
Belgium v England, 2018:
Belgium defeated England 1-0 to finish top of Group G.
Both countries were already assured of advancing to the next stage so that it did not matter who won. Both countries fielded what were largely second-string sides.
Before the match there was much discussion about whether it was better to finish first or second in the group. Whichever team finished second in Group G goes into what’s considered an easier side of the draw with countries like Russia, Denmark and Switzerland, but whoever finished top goes into the other half of the draw with sides like Brazil, Portugal and Uruguay — considered a tougher route to the final.
Commentators have described the match as resembling a friendly more than a World Cup clash, lacking intensity and killer instinct.
Belgium earned two yellow cards in the first half — giving it five for the tournament compared to England’s two. A draw would have put both sides equal on points, goal difference and head-to-head, meaning whoever had the most yellow cards would finish second. It has been suggested that the earning of the yellow cards was deliberate.
To be fair, the second half had more intensity and Belgium scored, perhaps motivated by the expressions of displeasure of the spectators during the first half.
England will play Colombia while Belgium takes on Japan in Round 16.
The above events reminded me of a football encounter that was not only shameful but farcical, that has been featured in Bytes previously, as has the one which follows it. Here are reprints of the Bytes items regarding the first two, plus some additional low moments.
Barbados v Grenada
1994 Shall Caribbean Cup:
The Shell Caribbean Cup was the football championship of the Caribbean.
The following is a Wikipedia report on one game in that competition, the surreal 1994 match between Barbados and Grenada:
Grenada went into the match with a superior goal difference, meaning that Barbados needed to win by two goals to progress to the finals. The trouble was caused by two things. First, unlike most group stages in football competitions, the organizers had deemed that all games must have a winner. All games drawn over 90 minutes would go to sudden death extra time. Secondly and most importantly, there was an unusual rule which stated that in the event of a game going to sudden death extra time the goal would count double, meaning that the winner would be awarded a two goal victory.
Barbados was leading 2-0 until the 83rd minute, when Grenada scored, making it 2-1.
Approaching the dying moments, the Barbadians realized they had little chance of scoring past Grenada's mass defence in the time available, so they deliberately scored an own goal to tie the game at 2-2. This would send the game into extra time and give them another half hour to break down the defence.The home goal scored.
The Grenadians realised what was happening and attempted to score an own goal as well, which would put Barbados back in front by one goal and would eliminate Barbados from the competition.
However, the Barbados players started defending their opposition's goal to prevent them from doing this, and during the game's last five minutes, the fans were treated to the incredible sight of Grenada trying to score in either goal while Barbados defended both ends of the pitch.
Barbados successfully held off Grenada for the final five minutes, sending the game into extra time. In extra time, Barbados notched the game-winner, and, according to the rules, was awarded a 4-2 victory, which put them through to the next round.
In a press conference after the game, Grenadian manager James Clarkson said:
"I feel cheated. The person who came up with these rules must be a candidate for a madhouse. The game should never be played with so many players running around the field confused. Our players did not even know which direction to attack: our goal or their goal. I have never seen this happen before. In football, you are supposed to score against the opponents to win, not for them"
Ultimately Trinidad / Tobago defeated Barbados and went on to defeat Martinique in the final.
The scoring rules were not used in the Cup after 1994.
The following account is from Siom Gardiner's 2005 book Sports Law:
Needing to beat Grenada by two clear goals to qualify for the finals in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados had established a 2-0 lead midway through the second half and were seemingly well in control of the game. However, an own goal by a Bajan defender made the score 2-1 and brought a new ruling into play, which led to farce. Under the new rule, devised by the competition committee to ensure a result, a match decided by sudden death in extra time was deemed to be the equivalent of a 2-0 victory. With three minutes remaining, the score still 2-1 and Grenada about to qualify for the finals, Barbados realised that their only chance lay in taking the match to sudden death. They stopped attacking their opponents’ goal and turned on their own. In the 87th minute, two Barbadian defenders, Sealy and Stoute, exchanged passes before Sealy hammered the ball past his own goalkeeper for the equaliser.The Grenada players, momentarily stunned by the goal, realised too late what was happening and immediately started to attack their own goal as well to stop sudden death. Sealy, though, had anticipated the response and stood beside the Grenada goalkeeper as the Bajans defended their opponents’ goal. Grenada were unable to score at either end, the match ended 2-2 after 90 minutes and, after four minutes of extra time, Thorne scored the winner for Barbados amid scenes of celebration and laughter in the National Stadium in Bridgetown.
To be continued.