World Cup 2014: For football’s sake, it has to be Germany

On one hand, people want Lionel Messi to cement his place in footballing history as one of the true greats with a World Cup win, on the other, those that value the qualities of teamwork will want Germany to lift their fourth title on Sunday. While Brazil showed us what happens when a team degenerates into a pathetic rabble, Germany reminded us that in the ultimate team game, the whole is invariably greater than the sum of its parts. Quite often, the teams that seduce us do not get to the World Cup final. We were in danger of having … Continue reading World Cup 2014: For football’s sake, it has to be Germany

World Cup 2014: Beware the locust

In the Bible, the locust is a symbol of bad luck or punishment, or so they say. Was the appearance of a huge cartoon-like locust on James Rodriguez’s shoulder a sign that good fortune was about to run out on the host nation? With Thiago Silva and Neymar now sidelined, it would seem that Brazil have been deprived of their two key players at a vital stage of the tournament. Sometimes, you just know that when so much expectation or publicity is heaped upon an individual that it’s all going to end in tears. It doesn’t just apply to football, … Continue reading World Cup 2014: Beware the locust

World Cup 2014: Tremors to hit Brazil?

The nerves are starting to show in Brazil. Scolari looks like he’s getting hot under the collar, Neymar’s fitness becomes national news and there’s the omnipresent threat of violence if things go horribly wrong for Pentacampeões against Colombia. Having predicted that Chile would beat Brazil in the last 16 – actually, they very nearly did – we are going to have another bash at making bold statements. Colombia will beat Brazil tonight in Fortaleza. Why? Because Colombia have looked very good throughout the competition, they have some sparkling talent, Brazil are nervous and, in many quarters, uninspiring. It will be … Continue reading World Cup 2014: Tremors to hit Brazil?

World Cup 2014: Jeux sans frontieres

And so, two weeks into the greatest show on earth, 16 teams have gone home and the rest go into the business end of the competition. It’s been a good World Cup so far, not a great one, despite the plethora of young hacks claiming it’s the best since 1970 and in their lifetime. It’s partly been good because five of the last six have been [mostly] dire. It’s comparable to 1998, yes, but it is not a patch on 1970, 1978 and 1986, arguably the better tournaments since 1966. There is a pattern emerging. Modern World Cups in Latin … Continue reading World Cup 2014: Jeux sans frontieres

World Cup Day Nine: A nation mourns and places faith in Italy

“And remember, expectation is low,” said one of the BBC pundits – I think Gary Lineker, before England ran out against Italy. Five days later, the chickens came home to roost, probable elimination at the group stage. So why the long face? It’s not the end of an era, because there was never an era to begin with and this has been a long time coming. The gradual erosion of England as a credible international force has been getting stronger in recent years. Today, group elimination, tomorrow the struggle to qualify for the finals. England have become “specialists in failure”. … Continue reading World Cup Day Nine: A nation mourns and places faith in Italy