Thursday, July 11, 2019

CAN 2019--Day Thirty-Three Recap

Your “Syndicate Hangover” is proudly presented by “Perrier”

Your friendly bookie remains more of a San Pellegrino man, but we’ll accord the hosts some respect for their second-rate club soda. Along with La Croix, it’s an acceptable option when the only other alternative happens to be Seltzer Water.

Day 33: Recap

Bookie’s Stats—
Spread: 52-73
Straight up: 72-36-16

Bookie doesn’t give a good damn if the Sandmänchen advanced tonight, he’s still awarding the day to the gallant and gutsy Barea of Madagascar. Ridiculed by the bookie from the outset of this tournament, they played their hearts out until the very end. 

Somehow I think we’ll never get a chance to discuss this country or their fans in the Sportsbook again. We wish them a pleasant trip home. May you ride only the finest of camels..  
 S.S.S. Tactical Breakdown 

Two North African neighbors advance to the semis on opposite sides of the bracket. Are we in for a Berber-Border-Battle in the Final next Friday?

Bookie thinks not. The performance of one group of Berbers vastly exceeds that of the other. Let’s break it down for the desert-dwelling Bedouins.

 Lineup—Algeria—Match Five (Projected) (4-4-2) (7/9/2019) 

  Baghdad Bounedjah    Youcef Belaili                     
 Mehdi Abeid                         Riyad Mahrez                  
      Sofiane Feghouli  Ismael Bennacer
R. Bensebaini                        Y. Atal                                                                              
             Aissa Mandi  Rafik Halliche 
                         Rais M’Bohli 

 Lineup—Algeria—Match Five (Actual) (4-4-2) (7/11/2019) 

    Baghdad Bounedjah    Youcef Belaili                     
 Adlene Guedioura            Riyad Mahrez                  
      Sofiane Feghouli  Ismael Bennacer
R. Bensebaini                       Y. Atal                                                                              
           Aissa Mandi  Djamel Benlamri 
                        Rais M’Bohli 

Not exactly a tactician’s affair, this one. Such a hard-fought enrapturing match leaves one considerably less interested in the tactical aspects of the contest. Over the course of 120 very active free-flowing minutes, a great deal of the fixture’s notable moments came from sparkling individual performances as opposed to any collective shifts. So it goes in football sometimes.

There remain nevertheless several salient points to illustrate as we ahead to the Semis. First, this 4-4-2 very often reverted to a 4-5-1 with no real flank presence other than Benebaini on the left. As predicted, Feghouli spent most of his time central with Bennacer. Guedioura drifted central early and stayed there to pick off balls for most of the evening. He got that very attractive twenty-five touch possession spell going that led to the early goal. 

Next, Bounedjah spent an awful lot of time as far back as the fourth axis. Mahrez and Belaili took turns, but didn’t strictly alternate on the charge. Bookie had previously criticized this scheme for the manner in which it relied too heavily on Mahrez. Fennec manager Djamel Belmadi did well to arrange for Mahrez to play something more of a short-striker role, calming play down and directing a patient build-up whenever he got the ball. 

This system led to some very fetching periods of prolonged possession. Bookie noted that the foxes took pretty much uncontested control of the tempo for ten-minute-plus stretches at a time, most memorable from the 16th to the 30th, the 50th through the 62nd, and the 110th until time. Many other shorter episodes were equally impressive. Bookie really likes this system.

We’ll also take note of defensive midfield effectiveness. While there were some obvious dirty fouls, Mandi, Zeffane, and Benlamri closed ranks in an excellent orderly fashion. Guedioura and Bennacer were often back helping. The former even made an essential defensive stop by completely sacrificing the body with that horizontal leap.  Overall very intelligent football from the foxes today. They out-organized their opponents, unquestionably deserving the win. 

All subs a factor in grading, even Delort who came on only to take the final free kick and penalty.

  Grades—Algeria (Match Five) 

Djamel Benlamri
Andy Delort
Adam Ounas
Riyad Mahrez
Islam Slimani
Sofiane Feghouli
Adlene Guedioura
Aissa Mandi
Ismael Bennacer
Ramy Bensebaini
Medhi Zeffane
Youcef Belaili
Toucef Atal
Rais M’Bolhi
Baghdad Bounedjah

One of those days in which it’s difficult to ascribe anyone perfect marks. We simply saw too much of them. No one was perfect. We’ll have more on Bounedjah in the riffs section. As much as he may want to grade himself harshly, he played well enough to avoid D Marks. 

We really do have an excellent team here; highly capable of capturing the crown if they continue to work well together within the framework of the system we saw today. At present, bookie wouldn’t change a thing heading into Sunday’s encounter with the Super Eagles. Have the players do their regular drills and polish up the finishing somewhat. That’s really all that’s needed. 

 Lineup—Tunisia—Match Five (Projected) (4-5-1) (7/9/2019) 

                     Youssef Msakni
 Naim Sliti      Anice Badri    Ellyes Skhiri
       Ghailene Chaalali  Ferjani Sassi        
Oussama Haddadi                   Wajdi Kechrida              
            Dylan Bronn Yassine Meriah
                 Farouk Ben Mustapha     

 Lineup—Tunisia—Match Five (Actual) (4-5-1) (7/11/2019) 

                      Youssef Msakni
 Ferjani Sassi  Wahbi Khazri   T.Y. Khenissi
       Ghailene Chaalali  Ellyes Skhiri        
Oussama Haddadi                   Wajdi Kechrida              
            Dylan Bronn Yassine Meriah
                       Mouez Hassen     

Here we’ve got some systemic issues. Bookie still doesn’t like what he sees. Giresse just toys around too much too late in the game. Despite some nice early warning shots from Sassi, there were gaping pockets of space on the Tunisian left from the outset. Skhiri also had trouble shifting in tandem with Chaalali as the Malagasy strikers were all too easily able to switch their way into dangerous attacking opportunities. 

Bookie almost found himself wishing we’d see that 4-4-1-1 again. It would have been vastly preferable to the jumbled rabble we witnessed from the Carthaginians tonight. In stark contrast to what their westward neighbors were able to produce, we didn’t see a team truly capable of holding on to the ball and quickly closing down attacking lanes. 

One has to give them props for some kick ass ranged efforts along with some real set-piece jewels from Whabi Khazri, but none of the three goals truly bespoke championship potential. Sassi’s 52nd minute tally really should have been listed as an own-goal off of Thomas Fontaine. Msakni demonstrated great perseverance in finishing off the Malagasy defense to double the advantage eight minutes later, but there wasn’t much marking from the three defenders in his vicinity. 

In terms of the way Khenissi, Khazri, and Sliti worked in that third one at the death….sure it was very pretty, but there were so many Madagascar players committed forward at that point that one would have had to work hard NOT to score on the counter. 

All subs get a grade in this one.

 Grades—Tunisia (Match Five) 

Wahbi Khazri
Naim Sliti
Taha Yassine Khenissi
Youssef Msakni
Ferjani Sassi
Ellyes Skhiri
Wajdi Kechrida
Yassine Meriah
Karim Aouadhi
Mouea Hassan
Mohamed Dräger
Dylann Bronn
Oussama Haddadi
Ghaylen Chaaleli

Not wholly terrible stuff from the semi-finalists, but mostly mediocre stuff from the spine of the team…if indeed we can say that this team has a spine. The central midfield partnership still isn’t sorted out after five matches and all of the attack rotations leave one wondering where Msakni will turn when he wants the give-and-go. 

There’s more than enough talent in the kader to beat the Senegalese and advance to their first final since they won as hosts fifteen years ago. Bookie simply needs to think long and hard as to whether they have enough fluidity in open play. Khazri also won’t have a night like this against a better coached and prepared team. Gomis will put a stop to it.

“Riffs of the Day”—Day Thirty-Three

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Reader: Rais M’Bohli is just too badass.

Vicey: Philly contingent members can’t get enough of their former club keeper. The half-Congolese giant has received more than his fair share of coverage in this Sportsbook. He wasn’t too badass on that Kodjia. Pure complacency from probably the tournament’s best keeper. He expected way too much from his defenders there. 

Reader: BEIN sports still can’t match up the Madagascar names with the right picture.

Vicey: Haha. Cut them some slack, 45-M. It’s easy enough to get guys from France’s sixth division mixed up.  Bookie himself thought the blonde hair dye might help, but both Andriamatsinoro and Nomenjanahary are sporting the look. Pascal Razak’s most liklely the trendsetter

Reader: Seeing the stretcher in use at AFCON makes me happy we’ve retired it everywhere else.

Vicey: Well said, 56-M. there’s absolutely no reason that even the most severely injured players can’t walk those scarce few yards out into touch with the assistance of their colleagues. It’s a relic of a bygone era, like those golf carts they used to use to bring baseball pitchers in from the bullpen. 

Reader: Now I understand you “Gijon Game” reference.

Vicey: Excellent, 172-M. We’re all about the education here at the Syndicate. The manner in which the West Germans and Austrians totally cheated a deserving Algerian side out of advancement in the 1982 World Cup is the reason that all Round Three tournament matches must kick off simultaneously. Fucking cheating Krauts.  

Reader: How many shots of Baghdad Bounedjah must we endure? Forgive yourself, man!

Vicey: As he so often does, 23-M furnishes us with an opportunity for a metaphysical interlude. In the event you have no idea what we’re talking about, Algerian striker and Al-Sadd man Baghdad Bounedjah threw himself the mother of all “pity parties” on his team’s bench after missing a crucial penalty early in the second half that would have given the foxes a two-goal advantage. 

He was subsequently subbed off in the 78th. The cameraman couldn’t stop focusing on the completely dejected striker for the fifty minutes after Cote d’Ivoire equalized and the match went into extra time and eventually penalties. He held his head lower than your friendly bookie ever has during his numerous fuck ups in life. For some reason, he couldn’t forgive himself for his error…even though he had helped his team so much in qualifying and the run up to the tournament.

Why is it so difficult to forgive oneself? The “easy” answer pertains to the fictitious Abrahamic God so heinously instilled in all of us. Whether one is Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, this is a mythical concept that venerates suffering; albeit in different tribal ways. Jewish history is defined by suffering. Christians believe their savior’s sole purpose on earth was to suffer. The very advancement of political Islam has always depended upon members of the tribe making the ultimate sacrifice. Suffer first. Virgins later. 

So we have the “easy” answer….but there happens to be a much more uncomfortable reason we humans prefer to allow ourselves to be paralyzed by guilt and shame: Because it's easier. Ouch. Sometimes what we really want to avoid is the painful process of making things right. Turning one’s attention to the present and effecting change isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. First one has to beat back all the regret, pain, “could ofs”, “should ofs”, and “would ofs”. 

These are by no means easy obstacles to overcome. Time is an irrecoverable resource. It only flows in one direction. The past can never be changes. These facts attack your mind from every angle. The longer you’ve been wallowing sedentarily, the more your mind wishes to convince you that you’ll never get back up and running again. It’s too late. Sit down. Give up. Don’t forgive yourself. Don’t change. Don’t try.

A harsh, yet strangely hopeful fact is that self-forgiveness isn’t even really possible for those productive people who honestly seeks to learn from their mistakes and improve. The introspective individual never forgets their mistakes and never truly forgives themselves for them. One shouldn’t view this as necessarily bad, considering that many people seemingly go through life rarely admitting that they’re wrong, constantly making themselves out to be the victim, always projecting their insecurities onto to others to, and generally making everyone around them miserable.

The evolving and mature individual does not literally forgive themselves. They do, however, find the courage to at least attempt to think and act differently. Others may spend some time displaying guilt and shame, but then go right on doing the same old shit once they’ve gotten a bit of sympathy or had a good cry. Some others stay in the prison of regret and shame forever, unable to break the chains. Still others don’t bother with the issue at all. They just whine about never getting the respect they deserve and do a fantastic job of ensuring that everyone around them remains as miserable as possible.

Back to Baghdad Bounedjah on the bench. What could the man do? He let his team down with a mistake. To make matters infinitely worse, he could do absolutely nothing to atone for it. From the sidelines he could only watch helplessly as the boys fought heart and soul to dig themselves out of the hole he had created. What could he do?
Well….paralyzing pain or no….he could have gotten up. He could have uncovered his face, dried his tears, put his shirt back on, stood up by the sideline and let his boys know he believed in them. One can still influence the game even from the sidelines. One can still cheer one’s teammates on with valuable vocal support. 

No one hesitated to welcome him back on once the shootout was over. 

He’s the one center. 

The elated foxes bid you an exasperated adieu until the next Round of Lines ; )