As I write this from the pilothouse of my steamboat moored precariously on the Amazon River slightly downstream from Manaus, gameday 3 of the 2014 World Cup has finished its march to mayhem. I have watched all 8 games so far and here I am, with the sounds of the jungle; and the powerful tenor tones of Enrico Caruso singing “Vesta La Giubba” from Pagliacci; and the sounds of jubilation and dismay from the opening 3 days of the 2014 World Cup tumbling around in my head and slowly fading into these words you are about to read.
I might not cover every bit of ground from all the matches, but there is enough fodder from them all….from the referees, to the losers, and the underdogs to write 10 times as many words as I eventually will.
So I better get at this before I’m whisked away on some capricious, Fitzcarraldoesque Amazon current.
The 2014 World Cup kicked off on Thursday at the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo following an opening ceremony which I thankfully did not watch. Obviously, this was a must watch game pitting the 2 teams I figured to move on from Group A.
Croatia started brightly and took an early lead. The goal, however, was charged to Marcelo as on own goal. His look of dismay was priceless. It went in off his foot….but it would have been a goal either way. Everyone on this swirling planet trumps up Neymar as the best of the Brazilians, with good reason, but if Brazil is to win the World Cup, it will be more because of Marcelo and his usual superhuman efforts at both ends of the pitch than because of anyone else. Every time I’ve seen Marcelo in International matches. I’ve always been impressed with his play.
The match was much closer than the final score would suggest. Brazil did not play up their potential ((or in the minds of some cynics,their alleged potential)). Neymar was good, but not great. Actually, Oscar outplayed him for good stretches of the match.
But the star player for Brazil was not wearing the yellow and blue. The best player for Brazil on the day was the referee, Yuichi Nishimura. Nishimura-chan was an utter bellend of a ref on the day. And his top play for Brazil was to penalize Croatia’s Dejan Lovrin when Lovrin and Fred tangled in the area. Fred went diving and Nishmura-chan pointed to the spot. It was NOT a penalty…and I’m quite even Fred knew it was not a penalty. But Nishimura-chan gifted Brazil the lead, and the win, as Neymar slotted it home just over the hands the sprawling Stipe Pletikosa. There were plenty of other dodgy calls as well. Neymar, by all rights should have been shown a straight red after he deliberately elbowed Luka Modric in the face….Nishimura-chan showed him a yellow. Croatia scored what should have been an equalizer, but Nishimura-chan disallowed it, saying that Ivica Olic fouled Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar ((hint: He didn’t foul him)).
All in all, it was disappointing opening game to open the 2014 World Cup. What should have been good, hard fought game was spoiled by an idiot referee. Brazil did not win this one fair and square. They know it. The whole world knows it. And that’s a real shame.
Bloody HELL anyway!! Who saw this coming?? No one. That’s who.
Uruguay took a 1-0 lead into halftime on an Edinson Cavani penalty kick ((no controversy here, it was a penalty)). Even with Suarez on the bench with a knee-knack, it seemed that Uruguay would take this and move on. Costa Ricsa is a decent team and all….they qualified as the 2nd seed from CONCACAF, but really, this should have been all three points for Los Charrúas.
But Uruguay forgot to pray for snow during halftime. Costa Rica came out of the break and pulled Uruguay’s shorts down to their anklse and bit their knees ((ha ha….Luis Suarez pun intended)) and in a span of three minutes took the lead on goals by Joel Campbell and Óscar Duarte and never looked back. Their third goal by Marco Ureña on 84 minutes sealed the deal and condemned Uruguay to their surprising and stunning doom.
Bloody HELL anyway!! Who saw this coming?? No one. That’s who. Well…..no one perhaps except for the Dutch Uncle himself, Louis van Gaal.
Strange as it may seem, I’m almost at a loss for words. I had Netherlands pegged to not make it out of Group B, and now from the run of play, it looks more likely that Spain might no make it out.
Spain looked horrible even with the help of the Dutch. They played horrible. Time has slowly and subtly worked it’s dark and evil magic on what was once a magical Spanish side. They no longer seem to be a force to e reckoned with.
Netherlands, with it’s aging balding Arjen Robbin, it’s not so young any more Wesley Sneijdar, and it’s ofttimes gimp Robin van Persie, along with a collection of young no-names, have gelled into a cohesive team. I was stunned by their performance and pleasantly surprised by the result.
I know Spain lost it’s opening game in the last World Cup and then went onto win it all, over the aforementioned Netherlands in what was the ugliest game of football ever played. But I’ve been thinking for sometime now that Spain is played out, just as Barcelona is played out, and needs to rebuild, retool and take a different approach. The Dutch, after a horrible performance in the 2010 World Cup have taken that task to heart and while I don’t see them going too far at the 2014 World Cup, I think they do well in the knockout rounds.
This match, though, was stunner. A thriller. I just hope that the Dutch Uncle doesn’t have ManU(re) playing like this next season.
My wife was surprised that I was rooting for Italy to win this. After all, I’m a big Premier League fan, and there are several players on the England squad that I actually like. She also has this idea that I’m some sort of Anglophile, when I’m actually not, but that’s a tale for another time.
If I were to sum it up, the reason, or the main reasons that I don’t root for England is that they are more of a mere squad and less of a team. Also, the prevailing attitude surrounding the England squad is one of entitlement….they can’t stop living in and believing that it’s still 1966 when they won it all on home soil. England thinks that they are somehow entitled to win everything because, well, they’re focking England and they invented the game., and they won it all in 1966.
But the world of football and the times have left the domestic squad lagging behind. They melted down in 2010 in South Africa, and as I said then, they were all bunch of spoiled self-important super-star EPL prima-donnas and twats who really didn’t like each other or like playing with each other very much. Their 2014 World Cup squad is a bit of an improvement in that regard as they now have some younger players who are going to be very good as they gain more international experience ((though I still can’t and won’t stand Daniel Sturridge)).
Italy has won more World Cups than England quite likely ever will. But what I like about them is they don’t carry around an attitude of entitlement. They have superstar players, Mario Ballotelli, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele de Rossi, Gianluigi Buffon (possibly the best goalkeeper in the world, who was out injured for this opening match). They have players who hate each other during the season as they duke it out in Serie A. But when they put on the blue shirt, they come together as a team, and play as team, and don’t expect their past success to bring them success today.
They worked hard and smart against England and deserved all 3 points.
England has flashes of brilliance that bode well for the future. Raheem Sterling is only 19 and yet he played like he’s been playing at the World Cup forever….very poised for a kid who can get a bit hot-head and emotional ((like a certain Azzuri who was once caught by Italian police sneaking into a women’s prison just because he was curious)). Sterling has speed that England has needed since forever. And though I don’t like Danny Sturridge ((read some of my old Chelsea posts)) his play on the day was of a high level. Other young players who have tons of promise are Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana, and Luke Shaw. Even Jack Wilshire if he can ever figure out how to stay healthy.
What England needs to is get over their bad ass selves. It’s not 1966 anymore. And it never will be again.
Ray Hodgson is good and decent man and a good coach. But he’s not the man for the job that needs to be done. I’m not sure that an English coach can do it. What has to be done in England is what Jurgen Klinsmann is doing with our USA team. Retool the squad. Reinvigorate the the youth and academy programs, and even though it’s painful and unpopular, put an end to the sense of entitlement.
Klinsmann left Landon Donovan off squad. Hodgson should have done the same with Wayne Rooney. IF you cling to the old, you can’t rebuild with the new. If England ever finds the guts to do that someday, then I’ll be all in.
And now, it’s off to the races. Assuming I can get this steamboats chugging down the Amazon and over to Brooklyn, Michigan in time. If not, in the time-honoured tradition of The Muppets, I’ll just go by map.
There is, after all, more to the sporting life that the 2014 World Cup. I keep trying to tell myself that as I miss Switzerland beating Ecuador 2-1. So…no France v Honduras and Argentina v Bosnia either, not even to check out Leo Messi duking it out with Eden Dzeko.
I’m even missing the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is an utter outrage in any season.
So I guess I better trot for to Firehouse and watch Jeff Gordon, or someone else, win the Quicken Loans 400. And if you can tell me who scored the winning goal in last night ‘s Ivory Coast 2-1 win over Japan, I’ll buy you a can of HAMMS. I might even put it on my tab.