Thursday, July 24, 2014

La Liga - is Gareth Bale correct?

Times are good at Real Madrid, they have just lifted La Decima and over the Summer have added two of the shining stars from the World Cup.

First Toni Kroos and now the 80 odd million Euro capture of James Rodriguez. Barcelona too have added Luis Suarez to their already glittering array of attacking talent.

Gareth Bale, who himself joined Real last year for a world record fee has stated that this proves that La Liga is the best league in the world, such is the concentration of the world's elite players.

The question is, is he correct?

By several measures he most probably is. A straw poll of who global football fans think are the top few dozen players in the world would certainly include Messi and Ronaldo every time.

It is probably safe to say that a majority would also pick several from names such as Bale, Neymar Jr, Iniesta, Di Maria, Benzema, Khedira, Busquets, Ramos and now Kroos, Rodriguez and Suarez.

The names ooze quality, class and in most cases a whole lorry load of silverware to back up those claims.

The only issue with all of the above names is that they play only for two teams out of the twenty that contest La Liga.

Andy Whitelaw posed the question on Red Card Sports Radio this week as to whether La Liga was just a (far more) glamorous version of the Scottish League and it is a very valid question to ask.

Atletico of course pricked that bubble to a degree by winning La Liga this season. A collective sigh of relief was heard from all corners.

Many people - including myself - love the football on show in La Liga but find it slightly monotonous watching Real and Barca rack up huge wins week in week out. Atletico's triumph restored some faith in the product. But what happened next?

Barcelona have since recruited Luis Suarez and Real have snapped up Kroos and Rodriguez as they celebrate La Decima whilst Atletico have simply been decimated.

From 2010 until last season, the points totals for first second and third were '10 - 99, 96, 71, '11 - 96, 92, 71, '12 - 100, 91, 61, '13 - 100, 85, 76, '14 - 90, 87, 87.

If we are trying to argue that it is a competitive league then these are some pretty tough numbers to digest until last season when Atletico's presence put pressure on the big two as all three stumbled towards the line in the last few rounds of fixtures.

However, if you consider European success as a measure of a competitive league then Spain offers some more compelling numbers.

Barca (3) and Real (1) have won four of the last nine Champions Leagues. Had Real not won last year's final then Atletico would have done keeping the trophy in Spain and diversifying from these two serial winners.

A look at the Europa League however offers an even more compelling argument. Spanish clubs (Sevilla 3, Valencia 1, Atletico 2) have won six out of the last eleven finals. Spain's current European coefficient far surpasses that of anyone else.

Yes one can argue that English clubs do not always prioritise the Europa League but it is nevertheless a hugely impressive performance by the Spanish clubs showing that spending huge swathes of cash is not always a better way than sound coaching and shrewd scouting.

So where does all of this leave the English Premiership in comparison?

Well by several other measures it is of course the biggest and best league. It has unrivalled global television audiences, is awash with money throughout the game (with accompanying levels of debt to match the Spanish it should be noted) and often produces exciting football and close fought title battles involving several teams.

Or does it?

Since the inception of the Premiership, there has been one single dominant team, Manchester United. Blackburn and Newcastle offered resistance in the 90s before Arsenal again rose to their rightful place at the summit of the English game under the fresh stewardship of Arsene Wenger.

As Arsenal lost their way, new money arrived in the English game in the shape of Chelsea and then Manchester City. The emergence of this nouveau riche changed the face of English football as the two clubs short cut their way to success (as did Blackburn).

The establishment of course did not like this and one suspects that these upstarts (add PSG to the mix) are the ones responsible for the birth of FFP rather than the clubs that imploded such as Fiorentina, Leeds United and Glasgow Rangers.

The irony being Chelsea would have almost certainly joined that list had Abramovich not appeared on the scene.

The point to all this is that whilst the Premiership appears as a highly competitive league with frequent close title races, the reality is that in the absence of what many call 'financial doping' and with Arsenal distracted by building the Emirates, we may have faced a United procession for several seasons now.

All of this of course has been played out at a time when the overall quality in the Premiership looks to be on the decline with arguably its' best players being cherry picked by either Real or Madrid several times over, Ronaldo, Bale and Suarez have all headed South.

Manchester United supposedly dropped their interest in Toni Kroos or so we are told. Here is a team with almost limitless resources (we are again told) in desperate need of a top quality midfield general of which a stand out performer (and World Cup winning one) in that very position is available for around 20M.

Can someone tell me why exactly they dropped their interest?

One could of course come to the conclusion that Kroos' agent told United that he didn't fancy the Britannia on Wednesday night in January and fancied hooking up with Bale and Ronaldo with a bit of Champions League action thrown in.

United are a huge draw and arguably the biggest club in the world, but it appears that the likes of Ronaldo, Bale and Kroos prefer Madrid and the weather can only be part of that equation.

Where the Premiership does trump La Liga soundly is in the incredible marketing of its' product and in its' massive advantage in Asia of the English language.

Throw in Spanish stubbornness on kick off times and you have a huge TV audience paying handsomely to tune in to see Danny Wellbeck instead of Neymar with revenues far outweighing the paying audiences in the Americas.

Real and Barca of course compensate for this disparity in television revenues by creating their own imbalance by taking the lions' share of Spain's media revenues.

A more equitable split would ensure a more competitive league by bringing up the rest and hampering the big two's ability to hoard the world's very best. Or would it?

Spain's Europa League results and the success of Atletico in the Champions League last year would indicate that the quality of team on offer in La Liga is anything but inferior, just ask Chelsea who were seen off by Atletico and have looked to dismantle them for their own benefit this Summer.

Is it just that the big two in Spain in these days of globalisation are simply too hot to handle for the Premiership? It is of course not United's fault that they have Mancunian weather and not that of Madrid or Catalonia.

Spain's big two have for the most always been dominant domestically and have regularly employed the world's best, Di Stefano, Puskas, Maradona, Michael Laudrup, Romario, (the real) Ronaldo, Zidane, the list is too long to even contemplate.

They and Spain however had endured a seriously lean period in the previously known European Cup. After Real won it in '66 it would be another 26 years before Spain triumphed again when Barcelona won their first title. In that period, a single Spanish team (Barcelona) only once even made the final.

During that period, there was a huge English dominance preceded by periods of both Dutch and German lordship. Heysel ended the English period as Serie A became the dominant league accompanied by the rise of one of the great AC Milan teams.

All of this proves that football moves in cycles of course and even in the face of rising globalisation that should always be the case.

The Bundesliga is not often mentioned when discussing which country has the best league yet it boasts economically viable clubs. Full, vibrant and modern stadia and a league that can boast no less than five separate winners in the past eleven seasons.

Yet, other than Bayern and the odd season from Dortmund, progress in European terms has proven tough for the German clubs.

The fact that Bayern have been able to take so simply both Mario Gotze and Lewandowski from its' closest rivals in the past two seasons also renders the competition poorer.

Again however you could point to the same happening in England where Arsenal have lost several high profile players to both the Manchester clubs. Most Spanish clubs are also rendered impotent when Real or Barca come knocking.

None of which really helps us decide on whether Gareth Bale is right or wrong.

For the time being, nothing looks to be able to stop Barca and Real collecting the world's very best players. The Premiership in turn will continue to pay huge salaries and transfer fees sometimes indiscriminately - are Luke Shaw and Adam Lallana really worth a combined 55M?

This season's La Liga looks to be almost certainly a two horse race whereas whilst both Chelsea and City look very strong in the Premiership, Liverpool, Arsenal and possibly even a resurgent Man Utd will wish to have a strong say in matters.

The Premiership may have the greater overall marketing glitz and saturation television coverage but one thing is for sure, record numbers will be turning in for El Classico this season - No Nonsense.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The EPL - so who's winning the transfer war?

The EPL, the mundane old transfer season, remember that?

I'll preface this piece by stressing 'at the time of writing' as the transfer market is a fast moving animal which provides a fix for us football fans struggling to cope with the end of the World Cup and the weeks until the new season starts.

As seems to be the way, clubs seem immune to any kind of financial austerity and we are yet to see to the long term implications of FFP although PSG and Manchester City have certainly felt its' teeth in the short term.

For the English clubs, a couple of factors are working in their favour again in European terms. A few years ago Spain did away with the tax breaks that footballers enjoyed meaning only really Barca and Real can afford to pay the 'net' that the top players thirst for.

France also has issued an exorbitant tax rate for earners above 1M Euros meaning that whilst Britain which also has a pretty high tax rate (maybe not quite Aussie high......!) is at least on a level playing field again.

Another factor is that the Pound has regained much of the losses it suffered against the Euro and although still some way below it's pre GFC levels, it is around its' strongest for 5 years meaning the English clubs have more buying power again relative to their European neighbours.

Throw in a new EPL deal and some huge sponsorship numbers such as the ones Manchester Utd have just posted with Adidas and General Motors and there is plenty of loot for the clubs to spend. So who's splashing the cash best?

My own club Chelsea, appear so far to have stolen the march. Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa both look quality signings and two that were required by the club.

Fabregas is a proven player in the EPL even if Barca (and apparently Spain at the WC) deem him surplus to requirements.

The balance in Chelsea's midfield looked all wrong last season with a disconnect between the holding and the attacking players leading to some very pedestrian football at times. Fabregas should bridge that gap and up the tempo of play.

Diego Costa is for me a slightly less clear cut home run but nonetheless an important signing.

Looking at his record up until last season and it was far from spectacular although the same could be said when Mourinho signed Didier Drogba. The Portugeezer has again clearly seen something that he likes.

Costa scored a lot of goals last season but the vast majority came in the first half of the season and he appeared to fade badly as the months progressed.

He is however a hugely physical and street wise centre forward who should thrive in the Premiership. Chelsea will certainly hope so as they simply cannot afford another high profile striker who turns out a turkey.

The signing of Filipe Luis is possibly the highest risk of the signings given his fee and age. The days of Chelsea's carefree spending appeared to be gone with the club sticking to signing younger players with potential or being on the cusp of their peak, i.e. with higher resale value and longevity in these times of FFP.

The Brazilian left back is a fine player but he turns 29 next month and will have little resale value. Not all players who come late to the Premiership in their careers prosper, just ask Andriy Shevchenko.

It is however undoubtedly a further signal from Chelsea indicating a full scale assault on the Premiership title.

One wonders however whether the 60,000 a week deal that Ashley Cole just signed at Roma may have offered far better value. He is still a fine player.

Manchester United have spent big so far but one must really ask whether they will see immediate returns.

Luke Shaw looks a fine prospect but United have spent a huge amount of money on a teenager with only one season's Premiership experience. Whether he will prove an immediate improvement on Patrice Evra is up for debate.

Ander Herrera has again arrived for big money from Atletic Bilbao. He is undoubtedly a good player but he is moving to a far bigger club and an entirely different environment in the NW of England.

United clearly believe he will work out given their investment and lengthy pursuit but it is not without risk. A central midfielder was however an absolute priority for the club.

Manchester City have FFP constraints to deal with but it has not stopped them from being quick out of the blocks securing the transfer of Fernando to bolster their central midfield. It looks a shrewd move as it will give them far more tactical flexibility and free up Yaya Toure if he indeed stays at the club (remember his birthday cake this year guys.....).

Eliaquim Mangala is strongly tipped to join the club in the coming days for a big money move. A central defender was another priority for the club but it looks a lavish deal to say the least. Sagna will provide competition and back up at full back and looks a tidy free transfer.

Arsenal as ever have been slower than most but the capture of Alexis Sanchez looks a fabulous one. He is undoubtedly a player that should flourish at the Emirates, he has pace, technical ability and is wonderfully flexible on where he plays. He is top class addition.

He should link up very well with the likes of Ozil and it is a transfer that has certainly caught my imagination.

Mathieu Debuchy is another fine player who must have been wondering how he ended up on Tyneside in the first place. Whether he is a level up from the departing Bacaray Sagna we will have to wait and see.

Arsenal's squad still lacks numbers and quality so expect to see more action and the rumoured transfer of Sami Khedira would be another major coup for the Gunners.

Whilst it baffles to a degree why Real would sell (his partnership with Toni Kroos looked a fabulous one at the WC) it would catapult Arsenal toward being genuine title contenders.

If Real do look to offload the wonderful German then it also sounds like Chelsea may have something to say about things, we will watch this space.

The most complicated story so far resides on Merseyside with Liverpool. They moved early in the market for both Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana.

The biggest story of course is the outgoing Luis Suarez. There is little doubt that Liverpool wished to keep the player but given his World Cup ban - the English press would have savaged him relentlessly on returning - and a whopping 75M bid from Barcelona, they had little choice but to sell him.

The Lambert transfer on face value looked to raise the odd chortle but it may prove a shrewd signing for a team which had no Plan B last season and lacked numbers.

Lallana is a decent player but Liverpool have like so many before paid a huge premium for an English player. Given that Fabregas is only a year older and cost only 5M more does Lallana represent good value and is he markedly better than the players Liverpool already have?

It is hard to really pin down Liverpool's prospects next season. Both Emre Can and Lazar Markovic look exciting prospects but their success in the Premiership is not assured.

Many people looked on and admired Spurs' squad last Summer after they finally agreed to sell Gareth Bale and signed a host of fresh talent.

There is little reason to criticise Brendan Rodgers given he is coming off the back of an excellent season but one area where he has experienced mixed success is in the transfer market.

Liverpool did not want to sell Suarez but regardless of this fact, without him and even with these new players, it is unlikely they can turn out a first eleven better than last season's whereas the same cannot be said of the clubs around them.

Liverpool's central defence was also considered their Achilles heel and that has not as yet been addressed.

Spurs it must be said have been incredibly quiet and this may be a good thing. Their squad was a complete mis-match last season and Pochettino so far has kept his counsel as he assesses the squad other than a muted attempt to recruit Lallana.

The addition of one or maybe two quality players would not hurt but additional squad numbers are not the priority.

Further down the table there are a plethora of transfer ins and outs featuring an entire host of misfits for undisclosed or free transfers.

As always with Newcastle United, it appears to be feast or famine. The departure of Debuchy has been offset by the arrival of several continental players. Newcastle's scouting has been relatively shrewd of late it must be said so there may be cause for optimism again on Tyneside after last season's travails.

Both Southampton and QPR have lost many players and in Southampton's case a couple of their very best ones. Both clubs need to invest wisely if they are not to face a long hard season.

Everton also have effectively gone backwards with only the permanent move of the ageing Gareth Barry being transacted so far and the loss of Romelu Lukaku.

Funds as ever will be tight at Goodison and with a stronger challenge expected from Old Trafford and White Hart Lane, Everton face a tough season to challenge at the sharp end again.

Aston Villa's transfers look rather scatter gun and uninspiring other than the capture of Kieran Richardson which may prove a shrewd one. West Ham have added numbers but it is impossible to garner whether any of those signings are an improvement on what they already have.

Stoke have added some Premiership know how in the shape of Bardsley and Sidwell and Hughes is slowly moulding them into his own team.

I have to admit to not being a fan of Steve Bruce in any shape or form but they look to have bought well with the permanent signing of Jake Livermore and the additions of Robert Snodgrass and Tom Ince. 

They may well have another season after this in the Premiership to look forward to, there are certainly worse teams than they.

We still have around 6 weeks until the transfer window 'slams shut' as Sky Sports love to remind us so we can expect much more, especially possibly at United where Louis Van Gaal is now in place to survey his squad and surely cannot like much of what he sees.

Impossible therefore to pick a winner so far other than the agents of course - No Nonsense.

Monday, July 14, 2014

My World Cup in review

I'd written previously about my desire for a World Cup to re-ignite my passion for the event and I surely got one.

One caveat I would add is that I have watched the past two Western hemisphere events from Asia and to be honest it's a slog that people in this part of the World (Australia I feel your pain) will understand perfectly.

This time however I was lucky enough to spend around 3 weeks out of 4 in the European time zone and there is little doubt that watching the World Cup in a social environment and with a beer in your hand makes it a far better experience than in the middle of the night and on your TV at home alone.

That aside, I think this was a tournament to remember for a myriad of reasons. Clearly it's still fresh in the mind but I think this WC is one for the shelf along with my other favourites, '82, '94 and '98.

The group stages were exactly what everyone wanted. Upsets, goals, drama and controversy. We had woeful performances from England, Italy and Spain, Brazil stepping on to their rollercoaster (those always finish at the bottom), Suarez's teeth and magic from Messi.

What was very interesting was how the tournament took shape. The European teams looked to suffer in the opening round with only really Holland (with France and Belgium looking good against lesser opposition) convincing as even the Germans were run close by Ghana and USA.

The pleasing displays came from Colombia, Chile, Mexico and even the excellent Costa Rica came to the party. Adding to the Latin beat was the belief that just maybe Messi or Neymar was going to attempt to win the tournament on their own.

Spain's exit looked to be the big story early on as they were thrashed by the Dutch in their opening game before being dumped out of the tournament by the excellent Chileans.

Luis Suarez of course then took centre stage demonstrating the two traits he has been recently famous for, scoring against English defences and biting opponents.

His punishment was swift and severe but he has a 75M transfer to Barcelona to cheer him through his extended holiday.

Everyone expected the goals to dry up once the knockout stages began and they duly did. The drama however increased with game after game providing bitten nails aplenty.

First Brazil edged past Chile in the most tense of penalty shoot outs. Brazil appeared to be existing in a bubble containing adrenaline, hope, nerves, euphoria and Neymar.

France and Colombia were relatively comfortable but Argentina, Germany and Holland all toiled before securing passage to the quarter finals.

The quarters again saw Brazil living on their nerves as they saw off Colombia courtesy of David Luiz's howitzer but unfortunately losing Neymar in the process.

Germany were far more comfortable against a timid France than the 1-0 score line suggested.

Louis Van Gaal has been embraced by the English press (nothing to do with him joining ManYoo....) as a tactical genius. Of course, after a tedious 0-0 they required penalties to see off  Costa Rica. There would be little respite in the following match.

Argentina beat the much fancied and vaunted Belgians as they continued their progress in unspectacular fashion courtesy of Gonzalo Higuain.

It was the semi final between the hosts and Germany that of course produced the most shocking result that at least I think I have ever seen given the context and venue of the match.

Thinking back to the game, I still find myself shaking my head at just how badly Brazil lost the plot.

There is little doubt that this was a limited Brazilian team and that Scolari felt the need to galvanise them in any way that he could.

It's hard to know what was really going on inside the Brazilian dressing room but the air seemed to be one of desperation rather than some kind of steely resolve that you would expect from a well fostered siege mentality.

I would never criticise anyone for whichever way they wish to display their own faith - unless it involves hurting others - but I cannot help but think that Brazil's players took things far too far. The Neymar shirt waving was possibly the last straw.

They looked like a team with no plan and no structure tactically. I am sure the discussions in the German dressing room prior were mainly of a tactical nature making sure everyone knew their roles.

Given what I saw in that match, I cannot for one moment believe that anything like that went on within the Brazil changing room.

Faith and prayers were not going to stop Kroos and Mueller, organised defensive tactics were what was required to effect that.

The other point to make was of the fragility of the Brazilian mentality. They played in such an expansive manner in the first ten minutes only to utterly implode on conceding Mueller's goal.

The second goal instilled blind panic even though they had ample time to regroup, tighten things up and get back in to the game. Maybe deep down they knew how poor they actually were, especially without Neymar and Silva.

Professional football teams at this level are not 5 down after half an hour and lose 7-1 (it could easily have been 8-0) unless there is something far wrong at the core.

Such was the destruction, it is almost impossible to tell what was German brilliance and Brazil being entirely abject but I lean towards the latter even if feels harsh on Germany.

The last 14 shots on target in the tournament against the hosts yielded 11 goals. That's quite staggering and shows the ease of the chances they allowed.

The other semi final was very different with another extra time 0-0 involving Holland, this time without even a shot on target from the Oranje. Argentina held their nerve in the penalty shoot out to come through to contest a third World Cup final against Germany.

The final itself was not a classic - they rarely are - but it wasn't a bad one either with the first half in particular very entertaining. Argentina's finishing was woeful and they eventually paid the price with Goetze's wonderful extra time winner taking the trophy for Germany.

Argentina will point to challenges from Neuer and Howdes that maybe deserved red cards but it would be churlish to suggest that Germany were anything but worthy winners.

On the subject of refereeing I think the whistlers at this World Cup deserve a mention. There were of course a plethora of bad decisions and there always will be in a sport played at that pace without recourse to the technology that the watching world has.

But I do think that the directive that I presume was given to let the games flow was welcome and made the matches and football far more enjoyable.

It was definitely a tournament of two halves with an almost care free group stage of matches followed by an incredibly tense and tight knockout stage (Brazil's spanking aside).

It is also worth noting that Europe has just won its' third tournament in a row (they don't win in Latin America remember) despite their earlier woes in the group stages.

Unfortunately, both Africa and Asia seem to be going in the wrong direction right now and one must hope that this trend reverses to keep it a truly World Cup. Come on lads, the talent and passion is there!

The USA it should be mentioned are also showing that they are starting to take a real and genuine liking to the World's tournament and their progress from here will be interesting. They performed admirably in Brazil.

As always it is over too soon and it is far too long to the next one but that's also why we love it so much. Time and reflection as well as personal opinion will decide whether it becomes a 'classic' but for myself, I enjoyed it thoroughly - No Nonsense.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Heavyweight clash to dispel the national stereotype

When the World Cup comes around, national stereotypes tend to abound in terms of footballing heritage and how the various teams play.

The Dutch will of course play technical possession based football, The African teams will be big and strong, the Italians will regularly win 1-0,  England will be a bit naff (ok, it's a cheap shot), Brazil will dazzle and of course the Germans will win.

How times have changed.

Should Germany fail to win in Brazil, they will go to the next Euros without a major tournament win in twenty - count them - years.

For someone who grew up with them winning tournaments in my lifetime in '74, '80', '90 and '96 as well as seemingly being the losing finalist in most other occasions, it feels a little difficult to compute.

Of course, Europe has gone through a paradigm shift politically since the Berlin wall came down and Germany has been at the centre of all things.

It is hard not to feel that the entire character of the German team has changed to reflect the new reality of modern Europe. 

The Brits in particular - I am one - love a German stereotype, that of a robotic (think Arnie in the Terminator movies) footballing powerhouse, showing no emotion as it steamrolls team after team on its' way to yet another inevitable victory.

What is much more endearing about this current German team is the football that they play but also a sense of vulnerability which I had never sensed in bye gone times. 

The Germans have endured their own period of introspection  and national sorrow as their team has come up short time and time again including on their own patch in 2006. These are very different times for Germany.

There is no doubt that the opening of borders in Europe has helped several teams to change their identities. The likes of Ozil, Khedira and Boateng for instance, whilst I'm sure feeling not one iota less German than any of their compatriots undoubtedly bring new and different gifts to what was an already very strong footballing nation.

Looking at the midfield and seeing the likes of Ozil, Goetze and Kroos in tandem, it can border on footballing porn when they get it right. Add in the likes of the steel of Schweinsteiger and the hugely talented Thomas Mueller and you have a team to both fear and enjoy.

This is the strongest German team since Euro '96 and it is one that is much easier to like and to follow.

And so to Brazil, hosts of the best finals in years even if the goals have dried up a bit in recent matches, that was to be expected.

One of the let downs at this tournament however is well, Brazil themselves. They are of course both eternally blessed as a footballing nation but also cursed by the ghosts of '70 and '82. Even their '02 victory had Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho in tandem, not too shabby.

That a team that has reached the semi finals and has not been knocked out yet can be seen as grossly inferior to a team that failed such as the '82 team shows the impossible standards they have to live up to.

Personally, I like this Brazil side, even if it just for the emotion and drama that they bring. The team however is far from great. A decent keeper, fullbacks who can't defend, a highly combustible centre back paring, unspectacular holding midfielders, a below par Oscar, a now injured talisman in Neymar and of course the hapless Fred up front.

Did anyone mention they're in the semi finals?

Most fans would give their right arms to have a team to support as bad as Brazil supposedly are. They have of course lost their leading light in Neymar and it is a shame for the tournament that he will not be there for the climax, everyone loses from his absence.

Scolari is of course a wily old fox and will use this to foster even further the siege mentality he has been unashamedly building in his squad. They have lost their greatest hope but will gain even more togetherness.

Brazil have looked short of energy up front and it is possible that some tweaks to the line up and possibly the introduction of Willian could cause problems for the Germans. Losing Neymar doesn't have to mean the end.

The other question is what is up with Oscar? He had a poor season after Christmas for Chelsea and his form has continued despite plenty of rest later in the season. He may be carrying an injury, but if it simply loss of form, then it is both long lasting and concerning.

Brazil of course carry the hopes of their nation like no other given their status as hosts and their unrivalled World Cup history. The prospect of Messi lifting the trophy at the Maracana next Sunday must be one that is causing sleepless nights throughout this mighty nation.

Many predicted they would not get past Chile and then said the same about Colombia game and now of course Neymar is gone, they should pack up and head to the beach.

Except of course that Brazil keep winning. 

They have developed a steeliness, not quite the Teutonic stereotype - it is far too full of emotion for that - but they have found a way to win whilst not playing great football or being at their best. The Germans and possibly more so the Italians would be proud.

So, here we have a slightly fragile yet wonderfully technical and gifted Germany team and a big strong Brazil team with tough centre backs scoring all their goals it now seems.

All change?

Tuesday will be a night of high drama, that is for sure but in a world that appears to have gone full circle, no one can predict the outcome - No Nonsense.