WC2014 Ivory Coast 2 – 1 Japan

Late night World Cup football reduces fans to ever more ingenious ways to stay awake.

Late night World Cup football reduces fans to ever more ingenious ways to stay awake.

Get Ya Motor Running

Just no.  No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Or as the Brazilian commentators so beloved of TV and radio outlets everywhere might say, “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” Once again we can blame the corrupt filthpigs of FIFA for forcing us to remain awake, watching football for over 8 hours. That’s almost an entire working day, but in the middle of the night. And that’s just not on.


What We Learned From Group G Eliminators

Group of Death My Arse – Brazil 0 – 0 Portugal

When the Group of Death was originally announced, everyone thought that it would be the usual Group of Death malarkey, with teams rushing out of the blocks to inflict maximum pain on the small usually African or Asian nation unlucky enough to have been drawn with the three Big Boys. However, in this Group the only danger of death is of me dying of boredom, so vacuous and tepid was this encounter. Admittedly it wasn’t quite up to the thoroughly reprehensible standards set by the two most boring teams of all time Switzerland  and Ukraine in 2006 (and fuck me was that boring, by the end I was the only person left in the pub including the landlord), but it was way up to the standards set by the likes of Bolton, Blackburn, Hull etc. Quite how Brazil (Brazil for god’s sake) can be this unimaginative is a mystery, although they were without both Kaka, who was harshly sent off in their match with the Ivory Coast, and Elano, who wasn’t so much sent off as taken out of the game by the Ivorians. And, yes they were up against an extremely well-drilled Portuguese team, whose defensive record is pretty exemplary and whose version of the Mourinho Discipline is certainly a great deal more exciting than that of Switzerland. So you could say it was a stalemate of a game that was essentially a dead rubber to start with, the Portuguese destruction of North Korea meaning that Ivory Coast had to score approximately 10 to have any chance and still needed the Brazilians to beat the Portuguese. So, in some ways it was more predictable that this match should be a nil-nil than the Mexico Uruguay game. It’s just a shame that what could have been a classic turned into a turkey.

Meanwhile In The North Korean House Of Pain – Ivory Coast 3 – 0 North Korea

How disappointed are we in both these sorry excuses for teams. The North Koreans had the virtue of being an unknown quantity and were determined and plucky against Brazil, but then fell apart against Portugal, who could have spanked them for a hell of a lot more than the seven they put past them. Unfortunately for North Korea the tactics of unrestrained totalitarian dictatorship don’t translate very effectively from the gulag to the football pitch. Unfortunately for the Ivory Coast the joys of military dictatorship don’t inspire the best in a football team. You have to feel that this is probably the end of the road for the World Cup hopes of the Drog, the Toure brothers and the rest of this generation of Ivorians.

So Bye-Bye North Korea And Ivory Coast

For you, this was the group of death.

46 Down 18 To Go 17 Teams Remaining

Extra Extra What We Learned At The Halfway Point

The Competition Has Kicked Off

Yes, the Second Round of Group matches were certainly better than the First Round. Most teams understood that they couldn’t simply defend all the time and play for a draw, even the Swiss, whose adoption of an almost ‘Neutral Country’ option has seen them regularly top both the Haven’t Conceded and the Haven’t Scored tables, realised that at some point they’d have to come out and have a shot, although to be fair they did have something that vaguely resembled a shot in the First Round and it paid off handsomely. The games got faster and more meaningful as we saw Matches That Mattered and teams realised that there was a very real danger of their World Cup ending later this week.

The Goals Are Coming

As teams threw off the shackles of defensive cowardice and started attacking we began to see more goals. Few teams were content to sit on a one goal lead and continued to press their opponents. Some goals were even good, although few of them were up to the Tshabalala standard. However, I distinctly remember exclaiming, “What a goal” more than once during Round 2.

The Cheating Has Started

Grab and Dive, with or without pirouette, is the order of the day. Compulsive penalty box wrestling at every set piece. Not that much deliberate diving, but plenty of subtle blocking and writhing around. All in an attempt to cheat your way to a free kick or some colour of card for the opposition, or both. Not good. I think if it continues, we will see some kind of tv replay system introduced on the fly, if only because the whole world is watching.

Lots of Empty Seats

Now that it’s getting serious I suspect we won’t be seeing too many empty stadiums, but I’d lay money that there will be empty seats at the Uruguay Mexico match, where both teams need only to draw to go through (0 – 0 anyone?). However, too many venues have been conspicuously less than capacity.

Who Has Been Naughty?

It’s goodbye to South Africa, France (very naughty), Nigeria, Greece (very bad),  Algeria,  Oztralia (awful), Serbia (painful). Cameroon, New Zealand (rubbish), Slovakia (tedious), Ivory Coast (unlucky to get Group of Death for the second World Cup in a row), North Korea, and Honduras. You are all officially too crap for the World Cup. Book your flights now.

Who Has Been Nice?

And it’s hello to Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, South Korea, Ghana, Germany, Holland, Paraguay, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, and Chile. Nicely done South America.

And Who Is Bricking It?

Group C is totally up for grabs with two of Engerland, USA and Slovenia, the permutations are excruciating, but basically all teams have to win to be sure that they will qualify. In Group E Japan and Denmark will duke it out, a draw being enough to take the Japanese through. Group H is so complicated that Spain, Chile and Switzerland could all end up with 6 points and theoretically identical goal differences and goals scored, in which case as Spain will have beaten Chile, who have beaten Switzerland, who have beaten Spain lots would have to be drawn.  Makes penalty shoot outs seem tame by comparison.

And Who Is Really Bricking It Most?

Has to be ever-optimistic no-hopers Engerland, who just seem utterly unable to cope with the pressure of having to play a few matches away from home in front of large television audiences. Basking in unwarrented media acclaim and with performances getting more inadequate by the day, Engerland are a disaster waiting to happen. And while the French are imploding with a farcical degree of hilarity, Engerland can’t even manage an effective internal coup d’etat. One thing is clear, Wednesday could be the most excruciating game of football ever played.

What We Learned From Brazil vs Ivory Coast (3-1)

Ivory Coast Are The New Croatia

It’s now well accepted that Slaven Bilic’s dive to get Lauren Blanc sent off in the 1998 semi-final was the most cynical bit of cheating in recent World Cups. However, the bit of Ivory Coast cheating to get Kaka sent off in this match has elevated cheating to a new high. Keita, who dumped himself to the floor having run into Kaka, has effectively lied to the entire planet and cheated his way into the record books. Like Croatia, let’s now hope that Ivory Coast get everything they so richly deserve and are consummately dumped out of this competition. You could argue that Keita is merely aping the floppy diving style of renowned primadonna Diveba, whose writhing on the floor is legendary, but it’s not acceptable here.

Brazil Are Beginning To Turn It On, Ivory Coast Turn It Off

3 – 0 up and Brazil start to play some nice little passing things, but they were given a bit of licence in that Ivory Coast failed to play the Mourinho Discipline. You have to suspect that, like most of the African teams here, they don’t have the inclination or the managerial instruction to do this. You would have thought that a team that boasted both Toure bothers and Zakora would have the nous to be able to play a more accomplished defence (or indeed a more adventurous attack). I recall the Ivory Coast from the last World Cup and they were just a fantastic dynamic attacking side, whose progress was only impeded by being in the Group of Death with Holland and Argentina. This World Cup, in addition to giving them the kind of draw that would make you feel that FIFA is against you, has seen them become less adventurous, interesting and turned them to the dark side of football.

Brazil Are Going To Explode

And not just in a footballing sense. They will be a bit grumpy about Kaka’s sending off and will be pretty insistent that FIFA rescind it. In some ways it doesn’t matter, Kaka will only be suspended for one game and Brazil have all but qualified – their match against Portugal is something of a formality. But you would like to see some kind of justice done. Also it is an indication of the pressure that the refs are going to come under in the latter stages of the tournament, where grabbing and manhandling in the box are likely to be rife and every incident is going to be viewed from multiple camera angles in high definition. It will only take one really bad decision for FIFA to be getting out the video replay machines.

29 Down 35 To Go 31 Teams Remaining

What We Learned From Portugal vs Ivory Coast (0-0)

Them Vuvuzelas Are Magic

Now I might have previously expressed the notion that the Vuvuzela has all the charm of a broken kazoo with a limited octave range, but here it was matched with a pile of african drums and produced the kind of rampageous clumpy housey housey ‘call and response’ disco beat not heard since The Good Men and their ‘Give It Up’ track from back in the day. Class.

That Pedro Mendes Is A Dirty Plotte And He’s Not Alone

Ho ho. We thought the Paraguayayayayans were dirty little so-and-sos, what with their studs up approach to personal contact, but Pedro runs them close. There were some really nasty stud rakes and quite a lot of ‘afters’ coming in from both sides in a match that was suffused with the reek of negativity. Fundamentally, this was a match that both sides had to win in order to have a realistic chance of getting through this group. However, once again, both sides approached the game with no sense of urgency and the kind of defensive mindset that is best left in medieval castles. If football is indeed a game of chess, then both sides castled early and surrounded their kings with pawns, while making no attempt to reach the other side.

It’s A Team Game Stupid

Both sides could be described as being built on individual genius, the Portugeezers built on Ronalda (the flouncing football diva), while the Ivorians build theirs around The Drog. What this match clearly showed is that individual talent is easily stifled by grimly efficient man-marking and a tediously organised defence.

Are You Engerland In Disguise?

Built around the promise of a ‘Golden Generation’ (now tarnished by age into a more inadequate lead or brown coloured), and the fading talents of one skilled individual, this is a side that has elevated disappointment into an art form. No we are not talking about Engerland and Rhino, but Portugal and Ronalda. They once promised much, have failed to win anything and are but a fading shadow of themselves, held together only by the nostalgic vision of a once-great talent. At last Portugal know how we feel. Revenge is sweet.

13 Down 51 To Go