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From 2nd Place to 3rd Place to No Place

Total Football’s total mess is over…but only briefly.

The Dutch blanked Sweden 2-nil in Amsterdam ArenA today in the final game of World Cup qualifying. However, as a consequence of a massive goal differential shortage entering the match, the Oranje finished tied for second in points. But because goal differential is the first tie-breaker, the Dutch technically finished in the non-qualifying position of third place in their group behind Sweden and France. Therefore, the Dutch will miss the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

As a lifelong fan of the Netherlands, it’s tough to see this team not playing in a World Cup. Without diving too deep into the weeds right now (failure of a youthful, next generation of footballers to develop at a world-class level), what’s even more depressing is what was said after the final whistle blew.

Arjen Robben (33), my favorite soccer player, declared he is retiring from international competitions with the Dutch National Team.

This move was predictable, as it was either going to be announced this year or after the World Cup next summer had the Dutch qualified. Still, to know that Robben won’t put on a national team jersey again is jarring. One of the leaders of a golden generation of players for the men in orange (Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie) was excruciatingly close to winning his country’s first-ever World Cup on multiple occasions. The Dutch finished second in 2010 and finished third in 2014.

Now, as this disastrous World Cup cycle has proven, the Dutch will not be serious contenders for a long, long time. There is a very concerning talent gap for such a historically influential and talent-rich soccer nation.

Returning back to Robben’s breaking news, three pieces of immediate solace are:

  • He will continue to play for Bayern Munich.
  • His two goals today (especially his second) were classic Arjen Robben moments.
  • He retired from the Dutch National Team in front of his home fans.

Speaking of his classic second goal today against Sweden…

Ironically enough, the Netherlands won today’s game with the worst lead in soccer. And 2-nil proved, once again, to be the worst lead because they needed a much higher goal differential to miraculously qualify for next summer’s World Cup. It was a loss disguised as a win.

As opposed to Arjen Robben’s legacy with the Netherlands, which was always a win-win situation.

Thank you for all the memories playing for the Oranje! 

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It’s Time for Wesley Sneijder to Widen His (Soccer) World

Two people walk down the same street together and see something happen. Incredibly, it’s entirely possible that these two people will have vastly different reactions and, therefore, reach two vastly different conclusions to said event.

Ready, set, go.

“Galatasaray have terminated the contract of Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder.”
–Goal.com

What does the statement above mean?

The initial response indicates bad news for Dutch superstar Wesley Sneijder. Has to, right? When contracts are terminated, regardless of profession, that isn’t good news. However, having followed Mr. Sneijder’s comments recently, the opposite is actually true in his case. As a matter of fact, the “termination” was a mutal decision made between Mr. Sneijder and his now former Turkish club Galatasaray.

After making his 131st cap for the Netherlands national team (a record) during a revitilizing (and desperately necessary) 5-nil win against World Cup qualifying foe Luxembourg last month, signs emphatically point towards the 33-year-old #10 preparing for a third consecutive World Cup run next summer in Russia.

What does this projection mean?

Galatasaray is a good club, but not the one that will best condition the undervalued world-class veteran for what could possibly be the last best chance for his home country to try to win its first World Cup for a generation. Along with Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie (also 33 years-old), this explosively dynamic golden trio still have what it takes to hoist the greatest trophy in soccer. But the youngsters/next generation of the Oranje have to dramatically step up their game just to qualify for next summer’s competition.

It’s still an “if” at this point in qualifying, but possible.

Wherever Wesley Sneijder takes his talent to next, that club will have one of the most creative and dangerous #10 playmakers in the world. He can pass with precision and vision and score at seemingly any moment.

Here are a few examples of the now free agent finding the back of the net throughout his career for both club and country.

And Wesley Sneijder has Turkish club Galatasaray to thank for permitting him to build on his career once more at a critical juncture. Plus, Wesley Sneijder should get to fly on Turkish Airlines at least one more time…

Any chance to listen to Morgan Freeman’s voice, I’ll take it.

Arsene(al) is Done

Those on the inside, as well as fans on the outside, may finally be united in declaring the following:

Arsène Wenger’s reign over Arsenal is (unofficially) over. And as of right now in 2017, Arsenal is (at least temporarily) done as a world footballing powerhouse.

Why “unofficially”?

Despite the chronic problems Mr. Wenger, the 67 year-old Frenchman, has managed (and reinforced) during the past several years as the club’s head coach, he did deliver many great seasons and players in the years prior. Moreover, if Arsène Wenger was going to be fired mid-season, then he would have received his walking papers during the second half of the Champions League match against Bayern Munich earlier this week. Mr. Wenger will, it appears, be given the respect to finish out the 2016/2017 season. The 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich this past Tuesday in London (the second 5-1 loss in the two-game Champions League series against the German giants), again, “unofficially” ended the Wenger Era at Arsenal.

(Press Play, then click “Watch this video on YouTube” and then RETURN to read the remainder of this blog post!)

After this season ends, however, Mr. Wenger and Arsenal have to part ways. This moment is unambiguous, even to the painfully reluctant owners of Arsenal with the power to hire and fire the manager.

But there is a significant risk to giving Mr. Wenger the managerial elasticity to finish the current English Premier League campaign. Arsenal is currently in fifth place, having a dreadful past few weeks. If Mr. Wenger can inspire his players unlike games prior (seriously doubtful), then the new Arsenal manager (TBD) will have the potential for immediate redemption in the 2017/2018 Champions League. But if Mr. Wenger can’t inspire his players to find that missing greatness on the pitch (seriously plausible), then the new Arsenal manager will have to sit-out of the Champions League for the 2017/2018 season.

The Gunners are engaging in the tricky dynamic of Risk v. Respect. Both options are understandable.

Moving forward though, what good is a canon if it only shoots blanks and completely fails to intimidate its targets?

Happy Monday

This blog post will forever change your perception of the phrase, “putting your own spin on things.”

Individually, we all have something unique to offer. And once we discover and understand this distinctive gift within ourselves, then we have the potential to change things in substantial (even unforgettable) ways.

Okay, enough with the ambiguous set-up.

Check out this impossible free kick that Brazilian Roberto Carlos, somehow, made possible against France back in 1997.

Yes, Roberto Carlos owns the crazy surreal free kick. True story. However, there are plenty of other incredible things we can do that can spark the same kind of awe and amazement…

like disproving gravity.

Well, you’ll never know what you can do unless you try (not disproving gravity, but something equally awesome).

Have a Better Week Than Last Week.