Alexis Sanchez is lovely in every possible way
Every time I watch Alexis Sánchez play, I get sadder and sadder that Barcelona wooed him away from Serie A, and then decided to keep him almost entirely hidden for an entire season. That's just cruel. He got much more play this past season, but it's still rumored he'll be on his way once more.
Then you watch him. You start saying things like, why on earth would anyone want to sell this man? What sort of short-sighted morons think this beautiful genius is no longer an asset to their club?
And you look around and you realize you're alone and you feel a bit sheepish because it's only Day Two and you are already sleep deprived but then Alexi does something else spectacular and you no longer care.
Watching Chile's first goal against Australia, at first you're left with the impression that it was simply a bunch of chaos, and the ball is lucky to land in the net. Then you realize it was totally controlled chaos, albeit with the speed ramped up to 100, and Sánchez is at the center of it. Look at the marvelous way he's able to control the ball, through a series of quick yet precise touches, even while two defenders twice his size are standing shoulder to shoulder with him. Then the goal, chesting it perfectly to his right foot, letting fly on the volley. It's sex, and sex sells. Barcelona need to up their price accordingly.
'That Robin van Persie header' is now a collective memory
There are good goals. There are great goals. And then there are goals that, as you see them, you realise is going to be one of those goals. One of the ones that aren't going to need any remembering beyond "Van Persie?" "Aye, van Persie." The World Cup has a small but proud lineage of great headers -- Pele hanging in the air against Italy, Uwe Seeler nicking in with the wrong side of his head, Letchkov, Jared Borgetti flicking the ball the wrong way past a baffled Gianluigi Buffon -- and here was another, perhaps the best of them all.
It's almost impossible to over-eulogise this goal. There's the physical contortion. The arching back. The ensuing faceplant. The sneaking suspicion that he might be the only footballer ever to have actually leapt like a salmon. And he's not a young footballer or a particularly resilient athlete. It's a wonder he didn't snap in half.
But beyond that, there's the cognitive process behind it all. He says -- and by saying so, hints again at that peculiar facility great sportsman have to make time last as long as they need it to -- that he hadn't decided what to do until he saw Iker Casillas take a couple of steps off his line. Which is fine. Wait for the goalkeeper, make your call then, that's decent strike-play. But what kind of ridiculous human being sees the goalkeeper step off his line and thinks 'I'll lob him with my head'? Even the sentence sounds stupid. 'I'll lob him with my head.' No you won't. Oh. You did.
Thank you, Group B
As a football (soccer, if I must) evangelist and someone hoping that the new fans tuning in for the World Cup might be converted into a more permanent sort, I looked at the two opening games with something very much approaching dread.
The footballing veteran would have found plenty to content themselves with in Brazil-Croatia and Mexico-Cameroon -- look at Oscar's pressing! Luka Modric's vision! Rafa Marquez's amusing ability to bollocks everything up! -- but for the newcomer a pair of matches in which the officiating was both vital and monstrously bad must have left a more than slightly sour taste in their first serious encounter with the sport.
Group B matches seemed to be going along the same lines as their alphabetically superior brethren when Spain were awarded an early and mildly dubious penalty, but then Robin van Persie did A Robin Van Persie Thing, the Dutch went at the world champions like a gaggle of insane sporting gods and we ended up with one of the most enthralling World Cup matches of recent memory. Then Chile and Australia followed that up with a blinder as well -- the concentrated, beautiful chaos of the Chileans, a stirring almost-comeback and some wonderful play in between.
Thanks for doing your thing, Group B. We needed it.