Posts Tagged ‘world cup’
It’s been a better World Cup than four years ago. Nobody has died this time. Nobody has been wrongly accused of murder. Nobody has been wrongly accused of being murdered.
The cricket has been marginally better. Hardly the grandest boast. The ICC could have squeezed more entertainment out of a month of me mindlessly twatting a tennis ball against a garage wall than what transpired in the Caribbean. To be fair wall-twatting kept me amused for hours on end as a child, if not getting the neighbours flocking over to watch the action. That wall proved to be a tough but respected opponent but also became a cherished friend. Perhaps my only friend.
The greatest distinction between the two tournaments lies in that ring of people gathered around the edge of the pitch. They make noises. Wave a flag or two. Get a bit shirty if they can’t get a ticket. They care.
It definitely adds a little something to the atmosphere when the referee has to toss the coin again because no-one heard the call over the crowd.
I find amusement in overlaying national footballing stereotypes onto cricket teams. Thus the Dutch were pioneers of ‘total cricket’ in 1970s in which batters and bowlers were interchangeable and in so doing created the concept of the ‘all-rounder’. After a long period of underachievement, the Dutch have recently favoured a more prosaic, belligerent style executed by borderline psychotics in the middle order called Nigel. England have been warned to strap on their chest pads in preparation.
In actuality the Netherlands side have no chance of following their footballing compatriots up the road to the World Cup final. To do so they would require eleven Doeschate in the team. Sadly they only have ten Doeschate.
England will attempt to kick their vexatious habit of only being able to perform to the same level of whichever opposition pitches up that day. Judging by speed at which they shuffled to victory against Canada on Wednesday, they’re still wearing their patches.
England by 5 wickets.
Given the deleterious effect it may have on his magnificent hair, Joachim Loew has probably never worn a spiked helmet. So I have no idea how he might look in one. But we’ll probably find out this week when The Sun publishes its unique interpretation of the German manager amid a gallery of goose-stepping bratwurst and possibly David Hasselhoff in lederhosen.
Despite the tabloids’ most strained attempts at whisking up the xenophobia, it’s definitely more difficult to hate the Germans now. And it’s not really because of the war. We’ve been laughing about that for yonks. Since ‘Allo ‘Allo that is.
But mainly because German football has changed. It’s been a sustained period of mutation since 1990, when they were thoroughly disagreeable largely because they were really good. During the European Championships in 1996, when their powers just began to pass their sell-by date, they substituted in a grittier wilful arrogance which simmered throughout the tournament and came to the boil in that hellish peacock walk executed by Andreas Moller on sending England out.
And then they turned bad. Laughably bad. So bad they lost to Keegan’s England. So bad they were thumped by Sven’s team. So bad that when they reached the World Cup final in 2002 the rest of the world giggled and sighed at their ludicrous durability in the face of total incompetence.
And at their nadir Jurgen Klinsmann and Loew applied the final spin on the revolution, liberating the team from the defensive shackles that bound their predecessors. Joyous yet fragile football that has inched them closer towards the summit again. And since they’ve gone onto the offensive they’ve become less, well, offensive.
So if like me, you’re struggling to summon up the bile from your innards to aim at Germany, then here’s a little aide-memoire for you:
I don’t really like John Terry. I don’t think many people do. He is admired mainly by small children in Chelsea replica shirts who choose to concentrate on his strengths as a footballer and ignore his manifest failings as a man. It’s probably easier to gaze at the poster on the bedroom wall and not consider a career polluted by self-interest and tawdry off-field escapades.
But watching Terry fearlessly launch his head towards a three-way collision with the Jabulani and the Port Elizabeth turf this afternoon, I was able to forget his patent unlikeability too. Heroic to the point of self-parody, there are few more stirring scenes in football than a defender attempting to head a ball mere centimetres off the ground.
If only there was some way we could keep Terry in captivity on the pitch. If after every game a secure van could wait to transport him to the next stadium where he’d be forced to wait in confinement in the hospitality suites until the remainder of his team-mates pitch up days later. Then we wouldn’t haven’t to listen to him or read about him or speculate on whether Wayne Bridge will ever shake his hand again.
Then I might like him.
Of all the nauseating possibilities that could transpire tomorrow, there is one that stimulates the vomit reflex more than most. England are a couple of plausible results away from handing their fate to the drawing of lots.
I’m not really sure what a lot looks like. I presume similar to a straw. Straws are meant for slurping strawberry milkshakes. You wouldn’t want your progression in an international tournament to depend on one.
Last time the evil lot wormed its way into the World Cup story was in 1990 when Ireland and Holland finished up their group with identical records. But it represented a scene of only moderate peril. Both teams had already qualified, the draw was to discover second round opponents.
I can’t recall how the result was advertised to a world without internet and rolling news, but you would suspect that coverage would be more intense this time around.
Particularly if Sky Sports News start sniffing around. Without live footage the network has been watching the competition at the same distance of a henpecked husband through the window of Dixons on his wife’s shopping trip. Attempts to piece together the scraps to create something resembling excitement have included broadcasting newsflashes to tell us that there is some news. It’s the televisual equivalent of mad cow disease.
The Sky producers will be gurning with anticipation at the action leaving the stadium and heading towards some office. No-one films admin like Sky Sports. Hospital appointments, disciplinary hearings, they are superb at pointing cameras at people leaving buildings. If a draw does eventuate then we can expect lengthy profiles of the onlooking officials, analysis of the straws, and Alan Mullery holding forth on Sepp Blatter’s face.
I sort of hope it happens now.
Half-times have evolved. In the olden days it used to represent a window for Jimmy Greaves to perform his redoubtable ‘Rudd Gullet’ impression.
But the tone has been raised during this tournament by television producers who have judged that it would be near-sighted to intrude on this newish nation and fail to represent some of its evident growing pains. So segued into the usual half-time conversation we are shown sombre but hopeful footage of Alan Shearer pacing around a local township rapidly learning the extent of the poverty of its inhabitants. Or chipper Dan Walker from the Football Focus sofa visiting wide-eyed children orphaned by the rampant scourge of AIDS. The written press has also grasped the opportunity to relate darker issues of violent crime and road safety.
But easily the most harrowing story to be revealed is that of 23 millionaires incarcerated in a prison camp and tortured by being forced to play endless pub games against their will. They are only released from their confinement three or four times a week, either to visit a nearby golf facility or to be herded towards various stadia so that they can do the job which they are paid thousands and thousands of pounds to do. Naturally they are unable to do this, having had their normal talents sapped away by grotesque amounts of snooker. It rather puts all the other troubles into perspective.
Group C is the next in our increasingly tiresome preview of the Twenty20 World Cup, which has actually had the effect of diminishing my enthusiasm for the tournament.
South Africa have certainly been handed a raw deal with this ongoing player exchange programme with England. Apparently the scorer is English though. The squad still look pretty strong however, but if past performances are anything to go by then expect them to train on strongly in the early stages before bottling it in comic style somewhere around the semi-final. That said, it would be typical for the Proteas to finally bag a trophy at a time when everyone back in the homeland is too busy putting up the bunting for the World Cup to notice.
Playing India is like taking on your granny at backgammon. She gains an advantage because she plays a lot more than you, so your main hope is that she’ll get tired . She might also struggle against the short ball. The Indians will hope that Yuvraj Singh will have woken from his parlous IPL sulk, and are Sehwagless again, but with MS Dhoni at the tiller anything is achievable. Just ask a Chennai Superking.
Whatever happens to Afghanistan, I’m sure the film of their story has already been pitched somewhere. A sort of Cool Runnings conceived by Khaled Hosseini. If only John Candy was still alive.
If injunctions were enacted to prevent tedious reportage then the one that John Terry’s lawyers used would remain robustly in place. He is a footballer, they teach you these kind of indiscretions on your first day at the soccer academy. Terry did not sign up to the unwritten charter of probity that politicians do for instance, if he wants to commit wilful acts of unloveliness then it should have no bearing on his ability to captain his country. In fact his skill for relaxed duplicity may be requisite for the role, he does have to tell his troops that they’re capable of winning the World Cup after all.
The fact that he was bonking the mother of Wayne Bridge’s child is also a red herring. The credo that “you shouldn’t go there with a mate’s ex” should only form opinion in Croydon nightclubs and Grange Hill. Besides, if we were to scratch every potential England captain from the list on the grounds of dubious moral integrity then we would end up with Gareth Southgate as skipper. And no-one wants that. Particularly not in a World Cup year.
I will never begrudge a wedding invite even though the seven I have received for this summer may have inflicted heinous collateral damage on my sports viewing for the period. So it was that I wincingly cross-checked my diary against my sporting calendar fearing the worst. Imagine my relief when the World Cup schedule made it home unscathed. Like a man who has survived getting caught in a meteor shower without an umbrella.
The producers, stage managers and runners working on the televised leadership debates that are being broadcast as part of the election campaign may not be so fortunate. Since Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth accidentally disclosed the election date yesterday, it has become rapidly clear that a potential clash is brewing between these political showdowns and the semi-finals of the Champions League. I suppose in a society with a robust respect for democracy, there really isn’t an issue here. But we all know that football is more important than politics, so it may be that it’s Brown and Cameron that are shunted across the TV listings.
There could be a solution to all this: cart the great triumvirate of party leaders up to Old Trafford or the San Siro or wherever, and combine the two extravaganzas. Steve Rider has proved himself a versatile performer and could stand in for Dimbleby; they share the same fluffy gravitas. The interval could be separated into segments of football punditry and political debate. Admittedly Gordon Brown’s beloved Raith Rovers fell a little short of Champions League qualification, but I’m sure he would venture forth an opinion on the game if pushed, he does on most things of spurious import. Cameron has probably only ever played the Eton Wall game in terms of sporting endeavour, but he’d clearly relish the chance to boost his ‘everyman’ qualities.
And then into to some hardcore political sparring. I’m sure I speak for the nation in looking forward to Andy Townsend put forward his forthright views on ‘broken Britain’ and the planned cuts in public spending. Now there’s an event to get in your diary.
If you are one of the many people who love films about rugby then here’s some exciting news for you. Invictus, the story of Nelson Mandela and the South African World Cup-winning team in 1995, is coming to a cinema near you. It’s directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Morgan Freeman as Mandela.
And Matt Damon is playing Francois Pienaar. Presumably he’s been cast because he’s got a fat rugger head. And Dolph Lundgren can’t do a South African accent. And the only homegrown actor there is, Charlize Theron, was busy. Either way, it’s a bit weird.
I could make some more predictions about other casting choices in the name of weak comedy. Like Jackie Chan as Rory Underwood, that sort of thing. But I’m not going to. Damon as Pienaar is unsurpassable.
Check it out for yourselves: