I loathe when soccer is explained with American football analogies. But I just can’t help thinking about Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku in football gear. He has the look, the bulk, and the freaky size and speed combination that suggests he would be a mid-level performer at the combines.
In yesterday’s Belgium 3-0 win over World Cup debutant Panama, Lukaku ran past Panama’s Roman Torres like he was lawn furniture. Torres, at 217 pounds of slabbed muscle, is the heaviest player at the world cup, and is built like an NFL halfback. Lukaku though has the twinkle-toed grace of a ballerina hitched to his massive frame, and was the key man putting Panama to the sword and inserted himself into a hotly contested race for the top scorer in the tournament.
WM to MM?
Soccer formations are fascinating in that they are proactive and reactive depending on which team has possession. Lots of teams show a three-man formation, but effectively play five at the back. Belgium played a true three yesterday, with Boyata holding the middle for the injured captain, Vincent Kompany. The Belgian 3-2-3-2 was a true “M-M” that I think came off with mixed results. If they want to make a real run at the title, they will need to get Kevin De Bruyne pushed further up the field to interchange with Mertens, Hazard, and Lukaku. For most of the M-M yesterday, he was deep in midfield, often glommed up with the other holding player Axel Witsel.
After five minutes, England looked like a lock for the Jules Rimet. All the potential was on display: speed, ideas, and finishing. There was a lot to like about England, but if every dead ball is assigned to Kevin Trippier, you have to doubt the quality of the side. Joe Henderson is earnest but more of a water carrier than maestro, and Raheem Sterling appears to be in “bad” Raheem mode: dazed and confused. England coach Gareth Southgate brought in Marcus Rashford in the 70th minute. That leaves 69 minutes playing without an electrifying talent who, given the chance, would be one of the great stars of the tournament.
(Fake) Soccer News
The US and Italy kicked off Group I with a thrilling 2-2, Christian Pulisic netting a brace for the Americans. Chile showed why it is a contender with both its superstars, Vidal and Sanchez scoring to edge the Dutch in the other game in the “group afterlife.”