Soccer

Paul Merson likens Argentina and Germany’s World Cup defeats to Arsenal upsets

I could not believe what I was watching when Saudi Arabia defied the odds to beat Argentina earlier this week. For me, that's among the greatest upsets of all-time.

I know exactly what it's like to be on the receiving end of one after losing at Wrexham with Arsenal in the FA Cup in 1992. But I can put my hand on my heart and say we played well that day. It wasn't one of those games where people can say we didn't fancy it or that we shied away.

It was a bit like Argentina really, we missed chance after chance and then bang, wallop, crash. You're behind and you're beaten. Argentina conceded two goals just after half-time but we conceded right at the end of the game and still had a disallowed goal after.

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I've always said 'fair play to Wrexham' because we weren't bad that day. They stuck in there and got their luck right at the death. Argentina had 30 minutes left to score a goal and turn the game around but they never looked like doing so.

I really thought we would be looking at a cricket score after they went 1-0 up inside 10 minutes. I was adamant Saudi were the whipping boys in Group C, with all due respect.

There's not many teams around that get beat like that when they have one of the best players in the world playing for them. Argentina aren't great and to the people that say they are one of the favourites, Messi never won the World Cup at 27 and he never won it at 31. He's not going to win it at 35 in a worse team. I really just don't see them winning it at all.

I still fancy them to go through because I watched the other two teams, Mexico and Poland. They were dire. The problem is, it becomes pressure football after losing your opening match. If you don't win this game you're out. That's the problem Argentina have now, I think they're up against it.

They only seem to look good on paper now. Angel Di Maria was pure class once upon a time but he's getting older now. They're now a one-man team, it's virtually impossible for Messi to do it all on his own.

You need players around you and the prime example of that is watching Poland. You're talking about one of the best centre-forwards in the world in Robert Lewandowski but it's pointless him playing. It's just a waste of time.

It doesn't matter where you play – from the World Cup down to park football on a Sunday morning – you're only as good as the players around you. Messi is now a one-man band and he wants space. But if he isn't going to get that, I don't see what he is going to bring to the party.

Germany shocked

Sometimes as a manager, you don't want the half-time whistle and that was the case with Germany against Japan.

I've been a manager before – not at that level but I've managed in the Championship and League One and it's hard coming in at half-time when you're that dominant, what do you say?

You don't want to start shouting at the lads as they're playing well but then the 15 minutes in the dressing room becomes lackadaisical.

I remember playing at Yeovil, we were 1-0 up at half-time and battering them. I was thinking 'well, what can I say, it's one of the best performances I've seen for ages.'

We went out in the second-half and got beat 2-1. It then eats away at you. Germany didn't need half-time, they were so good. Japan are not the worst team in the world, they work hard and will have a go on the counter-attack.

But Germany were masters of their own downfall. They couldn't kill the game off and it cost them dearly when they took their foot off the gas.

Magnificent Spain

Spain were mesmerising in their 7-0 demolition of Costa Rica. The two teenagers Pedri and Gavi were just streets ahead of everyone else on the pitch. I know it was only Costa Rica but it was still impressive.

I've seen teams that are not bothered before but I've never seen teams not be bothered in a World Cup. Let's be honest, if that was a league game, the Costa Rica manager is getting the sack. One million per cent. If you're watching that, it's crystal clear he has lost the players. That was worrying.

Spain's passing and movement was exceptional. They also had quality from the bench. Their depth is not as strong as England's because we can bring on four forward players but they're still very solid.

It's a good start from Spain but I still think it's going to be a hard game against Germany, who have to win that football match. But I really like Luis Enrique, he reminds me of Pep Guardiola.

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