Later this evening we have the group stage draw for the World Cup finals in Qatar. Spain are in Pot 1 which gives us some peace of mind. In these draws, and given that two teams will qualify from each group, it’s always the team who emerges from the third pot which worries me more than the rivals in Pot 2. In Pot 4, with all due respect to all of the teams in that section, there is little to be afraid of. Poland and Serbia are in Pot 3, or to put it another way, Lewandowski and Vlahovic, two of the finest strikers on the planet who would test our centre-backs to the limit. There’s also Senegal, who booked their place with a certain amount of controversy.
Their game is something I would like to focus on. I was horrified by the excessive use of lasers during the game against Egypt, and particularly during the penalty shootout which determined which team went through. It’s true that fans had lasers in the first leg in Egypt, but not on the same massive scale which we saw in the second leg. You reap what you sow, I guess… The brutal use of lasers, en masse, during the penalties was scandalous. Because both the taker and the goalkeeper are sitting targets - they’re static, and it’s easy for a high number of fans to take aim. The image of Salah, who missed his spot-kick, his face bathed almost entirely in green light, deserved action from the authorities.
But what could they do? Maybe the referee could order that if lasers are aimed at players then there won’t be any penalties, but given the circumstances that might well have been asking him to do something both heroic and suicidal at the same time. And besides, the Egyptians didn’t complain. Perhaps because, as Axel Torres noted on Carrusel, those laser beams don’t have any real effect unless the observer looks directly into the beam, which wasn’t the case here. That must have been the reason why. That the players didn’t protest (although the Egyptian FA and Federation did later) says a lot. But even after questioning the validity of that penalty (how and where could it have been repeated?) it’s something which has no place in football and tarnishes its image.