Wilson Palacios is basically the worstHonduras are a hard-nosed, physical team, and the face of their team is Wilson Palacios. It's unfortunate that he's become the face of their team, because the other midfielders and forwards that he plays with generally try to play football and show some degree of footballing skill. It's a bit of an insult to them that he's what pops into the heads of most fans when they think about Honduras.
Palacios rapidly improved technically each season of his career until around 2010, when he somehow started to go backwards technically. Now he can barely control a ball and makes a living beating the hell out of people like Paul Pogba, whose calf he stomped on twice on Sunday. Not content with getting away with violent conduct, he decided to shove Pogba in the back and get sent off.
That means Palacios is suspended for Honduras' next game, which is wonderful. It'll be nice to watch an actual footballer take his place.
Messi is here, so now it's a party
The performance of Lionel Messi at this World Cup is matter of global importance. Not just to the people of Argentina -- though they doubtless care more than most -- and not just to Iran and Nigeria, whose national teams will be meeting him shortly. But to everybody watching, to the wider sweep of football. The World Cup's audience is mostly neutrals, after all, and their needs should be considered.
He matters because he's really really good; so good that he is the player most likely to do a Baggio, a Maradona, a Garrincha. To turn in a string of tournament-shaping momentum-seizing performances; to take the World Cup, give it a shake, and force it to do as it's told, and in the process upgrade himself from 'one of the best players ever' to 'one of the best players ever -- man, do you remember him in Brazil?'. Argentina don't necessarily have to win the whole thing -- Baggio didn't in 1994, and Zidane didn't in 2006 -- and neutrals don't necessarily have to want them to. But if Messi fires, then it won't just be his own country that gets to enjoy something epochal, something era-defining. It'll be all of us.
So yesterday, when he capped an indifferent hour by lifting a rubbish free-kick ten yards over Bosnia and Herzegovina's crossbar, a tiny groan ran around the world. And then on 64 minutes, when he exchanged passes with Gonzalo Higuain, danced his way past three defenders and skelped a shot into the net off the post, it was followed first by a sigh of relief, and then a frisson of excitement. He's here. It's on.
Deus ex Machina
France scored the first ever World Cup goal presided over by a human; Les Bleus also ushered in the era of our robotic overloads by scoring -- well, kind of, since it ended up being ruled an own goal -- the first goal decided by goal line technology. GoalControl, the system FIFA put in place after Frank Lampard's equaliser against Germany was controversially ruled out four years ago, tracked Karim Benzema's sumptuous volley as it left its boot, cannoned off the far post, made its way back along that vital line and was carried millimetres over it by Honduras keeper Noel Valladares.
The process was as smooth as one could possibly have hoped for. The referee was alerted fast enough that Benzema barely had time to wonder whether or not he should be celebrating, we quickly had a nice computerised replay of the moment the ball crossed the line, and controversy was kept to a happy minimum. The only serious problem was that the goal GLT decided was so difficult to track that it might just have been the wrong call.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a technological Luddite. I'm all about our robot overlords (I see you reading this, Google). But as anyone with familiarity with these systems will tell you automatic camera systems aren't infallible, and this decision was so close that there remains a real question over whether or not the call was right, one which will probably never be answered.
GLT will never 'prove' one way or another whether or not a ball crossed the line -- it's got margins or error (much tighter ones, mind), just like our eyes. At some point, it'll come down to a guess; at some point I'd guess a calibration error in a minor game will see GLT get a call badly wrong. It's making a guess given the information it has available. But it's a better guess than the guesses we've seen before, and so if the referee wants to blindly accept it, that's probably a good idea.
Now about all of those awful offside calls...