WC2014 Iran 0 – 0 Nigeria

Rescuers are overjoyed as they discover lone survivor of Iran Nigeria disaster.

Rescuers are overjoyed as they discover lone survivor of Iran Nigeria disaster.

Millions Left Scarred As Disaster Looms

One of the great things about this World Cup is that it almost makes you forget how turgid some of the so-called football we’re regularly served up actually is. Sadly this match jump cut us back to horrible Monday nights in November when someone on Sky is trying to convince you that Coventry v Norwich has any kind of attraction. Yes it really was that disasterous.


What We Learned From Group B Eliminators

Football, That’s Messi – Argentina 2 – 0 Greece

Happy, happy, joy, joy as Ren & Stimpy would say. We couldn’t be happier if, say, the entire French team imploded, went on strike and left South Africa in ignominy. Messi and his band of merry chaps (none merrier than Cheat of the Year 1986 Maradona on the 24th Anniversary of both the Best Goal Ever Scored In A World Cup and the Hand of God), spent the best part of 90 minutes teaching the Greeks an object lesson in footballing technique. Set up to deliberately frustrate and stifle the Argies, the Greeks were the abject personification of the Mourinho Discipline. They man-marked Messi, set up their two banks of four as their most attacking option, two banks of five being their defensive version, and generally showed all the ambition the Swiss and Ukrainians did in their Round of 16 at the last World Cup. Yet all that did was allow Veron to shine. He was outstanding and basically ruled the pitch for the entire first half.

Ultimately, the Greeks had to fold and once the Argies had scored it was game over. Then Maradona introduced his latest talisman, his sixth (yes sixth) striker, the 36 year-old Martin Palermo, whose international career had been over for 10 years before Maradona brought him back to face Peru in the Qualifications, where he scored a vital goal. Here he played in Messi’s second serious attempt on goal and he couldn’t have been happier. “Hey Greeks,” he seemed to be saying, “I haven’t played international football for a decade and I’m still better than you are.” We just enjoyed the suffering of the Greeks. They were super shit and paid the price. Argentina will face Mexico in the next round.

South Korea 2 – 2 Nigeria

South Korea got the luck and Nigeria paid the price for their indiscipline and useless performance against Greece. You have to admire the adventure and spirit of the Koreans, just as you have to expect their early exit in the next round against Uruguay, because for all their adventure, they are woeful at the back, kind of the opposite of the Mourinho Discipline.

So Bye-Bye Greece And Nigeria

You were too useless, too cautious, too miserably defensive or too inept to continue. Your planes await you. Good to know all our Group A and Group B predictions have come true. Here’s to the impending calamity that is the Engerland Slovenia match. God help us all.

36 Down 28 To Go 25 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 Greece vs Nigeria (2-1)

A Win Is A Win, But The Greeks Are Still Shit

Only the unbelievable implosion of the Nigerian team, whose self-immolation hasn’t been seen since Rafa Benitez went on his “that is a FACT” rant when Liverpool were still a team with a realistic hope of winning the Premiership, saved the Greeks from looking like the miserable, bankrupt losers that they are. Only when their opponents were down to 10 men (thanks to a thoroughly mindless Beckhamesque kick out at your opponent) did the Greeks appear to even bother to get back into the game and even then they needed a deflection to gift them an equaliser. They are thoroughly shit and should be sent home immediately irregardless of how many points the get.

Samaras Is Like A Shit Butch Wilkins

Like ‘The Crab’, Samaras seems only capable of movement in the horizontal direction. Now for a midfield player the horizontal option might be alright, for a forward it is tantamount to suicide. And even when he’s crawling horizontally across the pitch, he’s ineffective.

You’ve Got To Make The Breakaways Count (pt 2)

2 – 1 down and defending their own goal, the Nigerians manufacture a fantastic, free-flowing break very reminiscent of Man U, Arsenal or Chelsea at their best, the kind of break that gets the adrenalin rushing and leaves you screaming, “Pass it, pass it”, and they do and there’s a one-on-one with the keeper and… they fluff it. At this level, you’ve got to take these chances.

The ‘Green’ Strikes Again

As if opting to go down to 10 men and then gifting your opponents a jammy deflected goal wasn’t enough, the Nigerians decided that imitation was the sincerest form of flattery and basically duplicated the Rob Green howler to gift the Greeks with a tap in. All of which doesn’t excuse the cack-handed Engerland goalkeeper, who deserves all the opprobrium that is obviously coming his way.

19 Down 45 To Go

What We Learned From Argentina vs Nigeria (1-0)

Handbrake On

This wasn’t the overall footy fest everyone anticipated as Argentina did what they needed to without overexerting themselves. Once they got a goal up, they spent their time tippy-tapping the ball about without ever really looking that threatening. Even so, without the excellent Enyeama in goal for Nigeria, Argentina would have won by a handful. You sense that if this had been a knockout round match Argentina would have gone all out for more goals. Certainties to top the Group.

Nigeria Aren’t Out Of The Group Yet

Although they had a few chances right at the death, Nigeria really never looked like getting anything out of this game and based on their performance I’d say they could even be held by the Greeks and well-beaten by the South Koreans. If I was a South Korean, I’d be smiling and not just because they’re topping the Group on goal difference.

Group B Is Better Than Group A

Not a great challenge I have to admit, but at least we’ve seen a glimmer of quality football. Only the rapidly approaching Engerland debacle (sorry that should read match) has any chance of overfootballing us today. Bring it on.

4 Down 60 To Go