WC2014 Brazil 1 – 7 Germany

Relief for world as Brazil declare the World Cup officially closed almost a week ahead of schedule

Relief for world as Brazil declare the World Cup officially closed almost a week ahead of schedule

End Of The Line As World Cup Closure Achieved 6 Days Ahead of Schedule

Brazil finally managed to put the nightmare of its inadequate World Cup preparations behind it by successfully closing the entire tournament a whole 6 days ahead of schedule. After years of criticism for its ballooning costs and inability to meet any kind of construction deadline, the Brazilian organisers were delighted to be able to shut the whole thing down prior to their final, final, I really mean it this time final deadline.

“Ever since we won this bloody thing, people have been trying to put us down,” said one local organiser jubilantly. “They’ve given us nothing but gyp for our catastrophically wasteful, spendthrift ways, our managerial incompetence, rampant corruption, and general stereotypical South American slaggardliness. Now, thanks to our magnificent team and the hard work of millions of ordinary Brazilians, we’ve been able to wrap up the World Cup many, many days before anyone could possibly have imagined.”


WC2014 Germany 4 – 0 Portugal

Thunk! David Attenborough  goes into overdrive as two Wolrd Cup heavyweights go into premature mating ritual

Thunk! David Attenborough goes into overdrive as two World Cup heavyweights go into premature mating ritual

The Wonderful World of Nature

Check out that extending baton finger. It looks like something out of one of those Terminator movies, where the sexually ambiguous T-8Million kills its victims by overextending its forefinger into their brainpan. Who would have thought that Portugal’s self-styled ‘most hated footballer’ would be able to assassinate his opponents so post-modernly? And by the way we’re talking about Pépé, not any other Portugeezer.


Euro 2012: Day 18

Caught By The Catenaccio: Germany 1 – 2 Italy

If the first semi final was dull, then this was like a Jerry Lewis movie. You see the joke coming a mile off, you get a reaction shot, you pan back to the joke (now merely a hundred yards out), repeat reaction shot, pan back (50 feet) and there it suddenly is right in front of you. The joke. Cue drum roll and curtains.

Now Germany had had the chance to watch the Amazing Pirlo Show, not once (against Engerland), not even twice (against Ireland), but right the way through the tournament. They’d even seen the way Croatia managed to put the brakes on him. And still they let the funny man with the frying pan beat them about the head with abandon.

If the first semi final saw the varying philosophies of Spain and Portugal cancel each other out to result in stalemate, this saw the exemplary defensive play and midfield distribution of the Italians overwhelm the midfield mastery and attacking power of the Germans. And in a way the Germans were beaten at their own game as the Italians first sucked them in, then punished them on the break, rather as the Germans had done for Engerland at World Cup 2010. Only where Germany were helped by some tragicomic defending from Terry and the boys, they were outdone by two fabulous strikes from Ballotelli, who atoned for his inexplicable miss against the Spanish in their group game.

Once Germany allowed Pirlo to begin pulling the strings there was no way back and although they laid siege to the Italian goal in the final minutes and scored a nice consolation penalty, they never really looked as if they had got any degree of control over the match. What with Bayern’s defeat to Chelsea and now this, maybe the Germans are developing an air of defeat about them.

Euro 2012 Day 14

Med Nation In Euro Bailout: Germany 4 – 2 Greece

After the rather predictable tedium of Portugal v Czech Republic, this was the first real knockout match. Indeed, it was the first real grudge match of the tournament (we can comfortably ignore Germany Holland, France Engerland and Italy Practically Anyone). Greece, angered by Germany’s apparent success in everything and their own corrupt ineffectiveness, were on a mission.

Their first aim, to stultify the Germans with a Thermopylae defence, a massed rank of heftily bearded Greeks lined up, arms linked just in front of their goal, was initially successful. The Germans tried to push, pull, romance and roughhouse the ball into the net with consummate failure until captain Lahm simply decided to muller it into the net from 25 yards.

After that the Greeks changed tack. They broke fast and clawed back a goal. Possibly the most bizarre thing about this Greek side has been their reticence to actually attack, especially if you consider how effective they have been when they did. You think back to some of their attacks against Poland, which contained great movement and guile, and this excellent counterattack and then wonder why they should go two down in 6 minutes against the Czechs.

And once they were level, what did the Greeks do? Why fall back into their defensive shell, that’s what. Not a great move when you’re facing the Germans. Cue a couple of really nicely struck goals and it was game over. Not even the softest of soft penalties would prove consolation for the Greeks. For them austerity beckons.

Euro 2012: Day 10

The Run And Ronnie Show: Portugal 2 – 1 Holland

Up until now Ronaldo had always been damned with the faint praise that he’d been alright in the big games. He’d been the outstanding player at Man U and then Real Madrid for years. His goalscoring record is almost unbelievable. Messi aside he is the seminal player of his, our, age. Yet the same criticism has always dogged him and it is strangely valid, he goes missing in the really big games. You think of his first Champions League final, where he had simply no impact on the game, or those early games at Real Madrid against Barcelona. Or Portugal’s various exits from previous World Cups and Euros. That was Ronnie in a nutshell.

Not anymore. Today Ronnie made himself big, finally erasing the single, long term doubt that has surrounded him. He was simply sensational. Almost single handedly he dominated the Dutch, continually threatening their goal, scoring both Portugal’s goals and fundamentally destroying any last vestiges of hope the Dutch had of leaving the Euros with any credibility.

One moment when he won the ball on the edge of his own penalty area, passed it and ran the full length of the pitch for the return, summed up his contribution. Even more so than Real Madrid, this is a team standing on the shoulders of a single player. And for the first time they played like a team who were capable of supporting him. Doubly ironic that they should be playing against Holland, a team which is so much less than the sum of its parts and has been falling apart throughout the competition.

Yup, Ronnie was terrific, he mullered the Dutch and this was the game of the tournament so far.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho… Germany 2 – 1 Denmark

Given that there was a moment when the Danes could conceivably have sent the Germans out of the tournament, this was a match with a very subdued atmosphere. One of the real issues with the whole both matches starting at the same time thing is that you have to choose which match you want to watch and, inevitably, during the match you learn what happened in the other game. All of which makes the second game far less compelling.

Once you learn that the Danes have been defeated everything becomes a little less interesting. Despite a fightback by the Danes and the possibility of a penalty to take the lead this game never had any tension.

Euro 2012: Day 6

The First Genuine Disappointment: Denmark 2 – 3 Portugal

After five days of pretty exhilarating, if not necessarily quality, football, today was the day things came down to earth with a bump. Amazingly it wasn’t the superficially tedious Group A (Poland, Russia, Greece, Czech Republic) that brought our first glimpse of football tedium, but Group B, the Group of Death, which hasn’t been so much the Group of Death as the Dearth of Interest. Thrown a lifeline by the Danes’ unlikely win over the Dutch, this group has stagnated, with the Danes unable to build on their victory, while the utterly tedious Portuguese were able to move on from their unlucky defeat to the Germans.

The Danes, like the Irish, are a classic North European team. Good enough to get through the qualifiers, but (their win against the profligate Dutch aside) fundamentally unable to compete at this level. I increasingly wonder what the point of enlarging the competition from 16 to 24 teams is, if the additional teams are simply going to be as dull as the Danes. Then I realise that UEFA is more interested in the increase in TV revenue from the additional games than any genuine improvement in footballing quality.

And while the Danes may be hampered by an abject lack of genuine quality (are there any players other than Ajax’s Eriksen who you think even might improve your team in any way whatsoever?), the Portuguese are simply annoying. While there is definitively no ‘I’ in ‘team’, there is an ‘I’ in Selecção das Quinas, the nickname given to the Portuguese side. And it’s a big ‘I’ – Ron-I to be exact. And it’s abundantly clear that while Real Madrid might have been set up to accommodate the various needs, desires and fripperies of Ron-I, the Portuguese team hasn’t quite got the same coherence of mission. So while Ron-I is still surrounded by his chou-chou pets Pepé and Coentrao, the rest of the team isn’t quite as keen to actively indulge his every whim and caprice. And that’s what riles about the side.

It’s not that they aren’t good. When he can be arsed Pepé is a great defender, but too often he’s a niggle-fouling, card taking arse. It’s not that Ron-I isn’t talented, it’s just that too often he’s a petulant, spoilt child diva. And with the rest of the team having the skill level of Helder Postiga (who? Exactly), they make for a side that really gets my back up. They haven’t really dominated matches, they haven’t played particularly interesting, let alone good football and they’re not going home yet. Here’s hoping the Dutch can teach them a lesson and book their plane tickets fast.

Not Quite What It Was Cracked Up To Be: Holland 1 – 2 Germany

The Dutch, discuss. World Cup finalists only two years ago, this Dutch side is so much less than the sum of its parts. You would have thought that a side that contained the combined skills of Robben, Van Persie, Schneider, Afellay, Huntelaar and Van Der Vaart should have enough attacking threat to put any opponents to bed. But apparently not. What is clear more than anything is that while the loss of Van Der Saar may have been tough for Man U, it’s been a disaster for the Dutch. They say a good keeper is worth 10 points a season, but they’re the kind of points that you don’t notice ’til they’re gone and boy are the Dutch noticing them now. It’s not that his replacement Stekelenburg is a liability, rather that Van Der Saar’s departure has caused the entire Dutch defence to collapse. Even so, if the big name heavy attack could have made more of the six shots they had on target (or actually had more shots on target), maybe the failings of the Dutch defence wouldn’t be so significant.Oh and if Robben had actually passed the ball to one of his teammates just the once, that might have helped too.

And maybe if they’d been playing a side that was less complete than the Germans (like say the Portuguese) they would have come through OK. And yet it’s not as if the Germans were anything special. Just calm, effective and methodical. This was no blitzkreig, rather a deadly slow press against the wall that squeezed the life out of the Dutch. Gomez gave everyone a lesson in finishing. His first, set up by a beautiful Schweinstiger pass, involved a fabulous turn just inside the area before he slammed the ball into the net, while his second, also from a Schweiny pass, was a great strike from the corner of the box. And while Van Persie’s consolation strike was good, it was very much too little too late. The Germans are beginning to get into gear, the Dutch are beginning to pack.