June 23, 2018

The World Cup – Not Again…

Is this the World Cup that will finally settle the Cristiano v Lionel row? Is this the World Cup where England will finally put to rest 52 years of hurt? Is this the World Cup where embarrassingly bad technological errors take over from embarrassingly bad human errors?

The answers you’re looking for are ‘no, of course not and probably’ but every four years we kid ourselves to think it all might somehow be different this year…

Ronaldo v Messi – Once and For All…

At the time of writing, Ronaldo has scored four in two, including a hat-trick and a last-minute worldie into the top bin against 2010 world champions Spain. He’s carrying an average team.

At the same time, Messi has missed a penner against Iceland and couldn’t dribble past Dejan Lovren, a guy with the turning circle of a cathedral who some Liverpool fans would be happy to see replaced by a wheelie bin. An average team are carrying him.

That’s the difference.

Conclusion: The greatest player in the world is Harry Kane and he’s going to lead us to World Cup glory.

VAR – Good for the Game or Not?

Both arguments appear valid on the surface. The Video Assistant Referee is supposed to help the man in the middle make less errors. It’s purpose is to intervene when the on-field officials have made what is being laughably called a ‘clear and obvious error’ in one of four areas:

  • Goals – shirt pulling and other infringements can cause goals to be disallowed
  • Penalties – can be awarded (and rescinded) if there has been a clear and obvious error in the original decision
  • Straight Reds – for knee-high reducers and violent conduct are subject to review but second yellows aren’t
  • Mistaken identity – injustices can be rectified if the ref gets the wrong bloke

The jury seems to be out. It’s worked as it should on a few occasions but according the VAR stewards, it’s a perfectly acceptable part of the game to sumo-wrestle Harry Kane to the ground. Twice. It was both clear and obvious on that occasion that the referee really didn’t properly understand the rules of football.

Conclusion: The greatest player in the world is Harry Kane and he’s going to lead us to World Cup glory.

England 1966, England 2018?

Oh for god’s sake. Do we really have to go down this tedious cul-de-sac again? Every fours years for the last 52, the toilet paper tabloids have given the gullible yet perennially hope-filled nation of ours a lot of waffle, hot air and misguided positivity that this year is gonna be our year and when it invariably isn’t, they will jump up and down on the head of whomsoever they deem to be at fault. Graham ‘Do I Not Like That’ Taylor got it bad when we didn’t qualify for USA ’94; Beckham suffered after kicking out at France ’98 against Argentina; Rooney got pelters when he got sent off for jumping on Ricardo Carvalho’s junk at Germany 2006 and presumably Chris Waddle, Stuart Pearce, Paul Ince, David Batty, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard get reminded of their shoot-out misses more often than they’d like to be reminded of them.

So what’s different this time?

Probably nothing. What’s for sure is that we have a very inexperienced squad (not just at international level but even in the Prem) who seem to play under Gareth Southgate with a freedom of expression we certainly didn’t see under Sven or Fabio Capello.

Looking at the first week or so, it’s wide open. So much so that the stand-out team is Russia who, pre-tournament along with Saudi Arabia, were the lowest-ranked side. Germany got turned over by Mexico, France have squeezed out a couple of decent results when both could quite easily have gone the other way, Brazil just about got a point out of Switzerland and managed two extra-time goals against Costa Rica and Argentina look like a pub side.

The only other team looking strong in the early stages is Croatia. Could Luca Modric be the one to lift the trophy for the Dalmatian Darlings? Who knows.

Conclusion: The greatest player in the world is Harry Kane and he’s going to lead us to World Cup glory.

Whatever happens, we can be assured that in a global tournament attracting players, supporters and officials from all over the world, some of them, at some point are going to do things that are a little out of the ordinary.

Here’s a section that we’re calling…

World Cup Weirdness

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow At the time, one of the world’s best (yet criminally underrated) midfielders was Fernando Redondo. He played in the Galactico Real Madrid side of the late 90s/early 2000s. When the 1998 Argentina squad was in the process of being selected, former national captain and then manager Daniel Passarella banned long hair, earrings and, believe it or not, homosexuals from the squad. Redondo refused to cut his hair. He didn’t get picked.

A Wee Bit Of Luck Staying with the Argentineans, their 1990 goalkeeper-turned-fashion-model Sergio Goycochea had a rather disgusting superstition of urinating on the pitch before he faced a penalty shootout. He was busting before the quarter-final shootout against Yugoslavia but the rules say a player cannot abandon the field. ‘I was very subtle, nobody complained. We won, so when the semi-final against Italy went to penalties I did it again – and it worked!’

Domenech the Daft Batshit crazy Gallic gaffer Raymond Domenech chose his 2006 squad based on astrological charts. He deemed Scorpios as a negative element in his squad and was quoted as saying ‘When I have got a Leo in defence, I’ve always got my gun ready. I know he’s going to want to show off at one moment or another and cost us.’ 2006 clearly wasn’t enough of a lesson for the French FA. They let him loose in 2010 and when he sent Nicolas Anelka home from the tournament after a halftime ‘chat’, the entire squad revolted and basically refused to play. He left in disgrace soon after…

Meticulous Metaphysical Mexican Management The manager of the Mexico team for the 2006 World Cup campaign was (1978 World Cup winner with Argentina) Ricardo La Volpe. A Feng Shui fanatic, he  carries about his person a luopan, a type of compass with concentric rings that determines the precise direction of something or other. He apparently used this device to choose the changing room seats for his players and some say, his actual squad. There are stories of him demanding his players walk back onto the pitch at half-time and leave again because their previous exit was out of balance with nature.

Ronaldo is Today’s GOAT, But In The 50s….. Garrincha, or ‘little bird’ should never have been a footballer. His knees were bent out of shape, he drank vast amounts of cachaça and he had an eye for the ladies, but not always of the human variety… By any criteria in which genius is judged, Garrincha was one. He won the World Cup with Brazil in 1958 and 1962, he was one of the greatest dribblers of all time and is considered one of the top 10 players who have ever played the game. He fathered at least 14 children, was married twice and had affair after affair but in a book written by Ruy Castro called ‘The Triumph and Tragedy of Brazil’s Forgotten Footballing Hero’ it is claimed that one day, aged 12, he was walking around his home town of Pau Grande looking for a prostitute with whom he wanted to lose his virginity. There were none, but he did find a goat…

Yup. You read it right the first time.

Conclusion: The greatest player in the world is Harry Kane and he’s going to lead us to World Cup glory.

Enjoy the football and the beers and the food and your mates. This happens once every four years, make the most of it.

Catch you soon.

The Liquid Team