Danish Murder Is Killing Me


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Suited up with a fine collection of knitwear it's the Danish Sweeny

 

Bloody Danes. Just when you think you’ve run out of series to view and you’ll be forced to watch repeats of The Wire or The West Wing, along comes a new series from right out of left field. I mean I never expected to be spending late nights struggling to read 10 episodes-worth of subtitles as I rushed through the entire first half of top Danish crime show The Killing. But I did.

Like The Wire this is a superb slow burn, with both the crime and the lives of the various individuals involved unfolding languidly before your eyes. As you discover more about the crime your suspicions are pulled first one way then another. Small malfeasances are magnified out of all proportion before being instantly forgotten is they’re proved to have little or no connection to the crime. I mean where is the ex-crim poster van driver now eh?

And it has its own Bosche-like descent into madness as lead cop Sarah Lund follows McNulty down the rabbithole of obsession. You watch her home life disintegrate as first her son, then her boyfriend, then her mother are driven out of her house. Not bad considering it’s mum’s house she’s living in. Her life is so dominated by the case that even Meyer, the cop who has been brought in to replace her and who patently finds her irritating as hell, begs her to take a break “as your friend”.

The great thing about The Killing is that Lund’s obsession becomes our obsession. As we trawl deeper and deeper through the lives of the various individuals who’ve been dragged into the the gravity pull of the case, we too become caught. Who will win the increasingly corrupted council election? Is Copenhagen Mayor Poul Bremer really as bad and bent as Clay Davies? Will Theis and Pernille ever move into their new house? And who the hell did the killing anyway?

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What We Learned From Switzerland vs Engerland (1-3)


OK So Switzerland Aren’t Going To Be The Bogey Team

Sadly all the Swiss fans were going to go home unhappy

They might have been the only team aside from the USA (and now Argentina) to have beaten the Spaniards in something like a hundred years, and they might have one of the most impressive international defensive records known to man (accompanied only by an inexplicable inability to actually score at the other end), but the Swiss team that turned out here was a pale shade of their World Cup counterparts. In fact they were so abject that we can only conclude that Montenegro is going to be the bogey team in this group.

The team that once seemed incapable of conceding a goal now seemed unable to actually defend. Sure Engerland were actually good, replicating all the positives of last week’s match with group no hopers Bulgaria, but they were admirably aided by a team that looked beaten even before the kick off. As with the World Cup qualifying campaign, Engerland looked superior in comparison to tawdry opposition, the new shape (Hart, Jags, Gerrard, Rhino, Miliner plus three attacking midfielders/forwards) looks imposing enough for qualification and may, with time, gel to become a dangerous tournament team. Sure they were more tested against a team that has, itself, actually qualified for a tournament, they conceded a goal and found it harder to make genuine chances, but they never looked like they would be useless enough to throw it all away even if Darren Bent eventually got both a run out and a goal.

Are Engerland Actually Developing Strength In Depth?

I say this not because we have suddenly unearthed a new minesworth of brand new English football talent (although the Under 21 side did scrape through to the play offs for the Euro 2011 Under 21 Championships and does contain quite a few interesting players), but because it’s looking like we may have a bit more competition for places. However, it’s a toss up between the strength and poise of, say,  Jagielka and Lescott being an indication of the depth of quality in the squad and it being simply the death knell for Titface and Rio. Personally I favour the latter as that can’t come quickly enough. With Rio basically as fit as Ledley King (and we all know how well that turned out) and trotting on to 32 in November and with Titface slowing down like he’s stuck in one of those ‘running away but marooned in custard’ dreams, I’m hoping Not-Quite-As-Crapello-As-We-Thought will have the strength to tell them that they’re not going to automatically walk straight back into the side. Of much more interest is the growing strength of our wide players, Wallchart, Adam Johnson, Lennon, Miliner and potential new boys like Mark Albrighton. Suddenly friendlies have a purpose again, to allow Crapello to test out new partnerships in a meaningful way rather than just go through the motions. If only we could actually develop some real forwards to challenge Defoe that would be progress.

Boasting Nearly Half The Team Doesn’t Give You The Credit

Much was made of the point at which almost half the Engerland team comprised Man City players (Hart, Lescott, Barry, Miliner, Adam Johnson, with Shaun the Sheep on the bench). How proud Man City must be to have brought along such players. Actually bought along would be more appropriate. Hart and Shaun aside, these players have been purchased not developed by Man City. The credit should go to Everton, Aston Villa, Leeds and Middlesborough. Now if all these players are demonstrably better in 12 months time, then Man City will have something to crow about.

Rob Green Save Of The Day

Poor Spooner Bob. He really isn’t going to live down that World Cup fuck up. However, he might spare a few moments of his time to post this video of Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina playing his first game for Spain for ages against a now Maradonnaless Argentina. It’s better than anything howled up by Green, Carson or even Robinson. No wonder the boy has been kept out of the proper Spain side by Castillas. If Reina was English he’d never play for his club, let alone the national team again. It’s also worth noting the truly cowardly defending that leads up to the hospital pass back to Reina. Sometimes a good hoof is the best policy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoYTHli9bTQ

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What We Learned From Prem Week 2


Still Early Days, But It’s Taking On A Familiar Feel

Difficult to say we learned anything from Arsenal vs Blackpool, except possibly how utterly forlorn Wigan are. Blackpool were completely out of their depth and performed about as well as a bunch of practice ground dummies as Arsenal pretty passed and tikki takked their way around them. Rosicky was commanding in the number 10 role just in front of Blackpool’s defence and Theo Wallchart took full advantage of their lack of pace and understanding. 6 – 0 didn’t flatter Arsenal, but somehow neither did it make them appear totally dominant in a cruel, kill the opposition off and leave them to die sort of way.

Wigan meanwhile were well on their way to achieving their goal of continuing to look even less likely to stay up than Blackpool. Apparently they held their own against Chelsea for a good half hour before being comprehensively run over by the Chelski juggernaut.  Drogba looked back to his old, club self and once they had scored, Chelsea never looked like getting less than a hatful.

Man U proved what we’ve all suspected for a while, that Fulham at home are a tough team to beat. In a man of the match performance Brede Hengerland, who’d previously stated that he didn’t like getting noticed, scored at both ends, his final goal an outstanding header to deprive Man U of two points.

Man City showed us nothing special, there still doesn’t seem to be a coherent team there, but they were still more than enough for them to turn over Liverpool, who look like a team requiring major surgery to get back to their old top four status. I can see both struggling to find a consistent run of form, let alone a consistent team. Liverpool don’t have the cash to invest at present, while Man City have too much to be sensible and with Mancini’s play it safe away from home philosophy, they might have a tough time nicking that top four space from Spurs.

If last season was their breakthrough season, qualification for the Champions League being the equivalent of being promoted to the Prem, then this season is critical for Spurs. They have to get into the group stages and stay in the top four to begin to reap the benefits of last year’s hard work. Based on their defeat of Stoke, they look to be a good attacking team certainly capable of challenging for the top four, but with ‘Arry’s preference for a 4 – 4 – 2 lineup they may have problems in the Big Cup.

Aston Villa by contrast are looking more and more like one of them yo-yo sides. One week they put on a good show, the next they’re torrid. And you can’t put it down simply to the loss of Milner. They were simply awful defensively against Newcastle, who like Blackpool are showing that the best in last year’s Championship can take the rubbish Prem sides relatively easily. You feel that if Villa were to lose against Rapid Vienna and be eliminated from the Little Cup, then their season would effectively be over and it wouldn’t even be the end of August.

Birmingham and Blackburn played yet another one of those Why-The-Fuck-Are-They-In-The-Prem matches featuring two teams whose football is based on ‘character’ rather than any display of skill or attractiveness. Like the ugly girls at the disco, they’re always there being picked up last of all by the Match of the Day crew.

You could say much the same about Sunderland, who look every bit as ghastly as a Steve Bruce team can be, and Wolves, who still haven’t managed to get a competent goal scorer. Admittedly both West Brom and Everton look like they might show a bit of promise on a good day, while bizarrely Bolton look like they might break with their tradition of lumpen prole play and actually pass it around a bit.

Finally West Ham are this year’s Team That’s Too Good To Go Down. They aim to eliminate any credit Avram Grant got for taking Chelski to the Big Cup final all those years ago.

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What We Learned From The Start Of The New Season


Plus ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose

I have to say, following the serious disappointment of the World Cup, where there must have been, oh at least a couple of good games (out of 64), not one of which featured either of the finalists, and where none of the many Prem Stars on show actually did anything to either live up to or enhance their reputations, I wasn’t exactly overawed by the prospect of another Prem season.

I’m not alone. Apparently season ticket sales are down, even if TV revenue is up, up, up and parsimony seems to be the order of the day for everyone bar the Arabian Knights of Man City. So the Sky hype machine has once again focused on the same old, same old ‘stars’, many of whom are showing their age like teddy bears with the stuffing falling out. The Drog, Torres, Cesc, Rhino et al. The outlook is that the Prem has, once again, been devalued, with no real big names coming in and none of the Big Four really doing anything more than treading water, while the Best of the Rest play catch up and the Relegation Dogfighters just slap on the low grade talent like a pile of dirty old trollops from a turn of the century East End flophouse. What on earth could possibly keep us entertained as we wait for the start of the Champions League and some real football (although that doesn’t get going until the New Year anyway)?

Blackpool were unusually stunning against the thoroughly useless Wigan. The predictions were that both of these clubs were going down, but if only one of them gets stuffed, then it won’t be Blackpool. They’re an interesting team, if only because their wage structure provides less money than players could get playing in divisions below the Prem. So you can be fairly sure that every single player is motivated by something other than immediate financial gain. They’ll be an interesting proof of whether team spirit and togetherness really does count. Wigan, by contrast, started the season as they left the last one on the end of a right good thumping.

Sunderland vs Birmingham simply served as a reminder of why the Prem would be better off pruned down without either of these teams. Utterly unmeritorious football, backed up with the kind of agricultural, talent killing tackling that FIFA has been trying to outlaw for decades. Cattermole, the apparent engine of the Sunderland side, lived up to expectations and was sent off for exactly the kind of late, studs up sliding bullshit that kills football. The sooner players like him (and their lickspittle managers who attempt to defend them) are out of the game, the better. Birmingham are just shit.

Stoke have just spent a club record on signing Kenwyne Jones, so they must be delighted that he was scissor tackled  by Wolves’ loathsome Craddock and carted off after about 5 minutes. Still it’s tempting to say it’s just desserts as Stoke’s Shawcross (another of those ‘strong’ players who can’t seem to actually tackle properly) was responsible for ‘doing’ Aaron Ramsey a while back.

Speaking of scissor tackles, Liverpool’s new boy Joe Cole proved that he has all the talent to be the next Paul Scholes by doing one on Arsenal’s new boy Koscielney and being sent off for his trouble. Like Rhino, Cole has been suckered into thinking that you need to spice up talent by running about like a twat and tackling badly. Meanwhile, Arsenal still don’t seem to have learned that simply passing nicely isn’t enough and a bit of bite is required if they really want to challenge this season. Mind you a new goalie and some defenders wouldn’t go amiss either.

Chelski chewed up and spat out the utterly tame West Brom. They looked every bit as dangerous as they did at the end of last season and have shed themselves of some unwanted baggage in the shape of Bollocks (who must be torn between being gutted that he was injured in the FA Cup final and didn’t make the World Cup and being more gutted that Germany did so well there without him), Deco and, possibly, Joe Cole. They were merciless against a suicidally bad West Brom.

Given their manager had left them five days earlier and they have an important Europa League qualifier coming up, you’d have thought it was a perfect time to give Villa a good stomping. Not apparently if you are West Ham, who seem intent on destroying whatever shreds of a reputation manager Avram Grant has. They were pitiful and Villa cut them open.

Now, while there were some really bad mistakes and cock ups – Reina’s Robert Green-like spooning of the ball and himself into his own net narrowly tipping Everton’s Tim Howard’s Gary Sprake-like gift of the ball to Blackburn’s Kalinic for goalkeeping howler of the day – the biggest fuck up of all was at White Hart Lane. How Tottingham failed to muller the overegoed puddings of Man City is a mystery. Sure Hart was great in goal for City, but Tottingham will be killing themselves that they didn’t establish psychological mastery over a team that, once again, showed that Mancini’s default position is to play for a draw.

Man U seem to have started well, even if Rhino is playing like that ringer Sourness bought when he was manager of Southampton. They showed Newcastle what for, while Scholes showed that you don’t have to run about like a nutter tackling badly to run the game. Oh and Fulham started life without Uncle Wroy by drawing miserably with Bolton.

So, not a lot of skill or even entertainment on show (Blackpool, Chelski and Man U aside), plenty of evidence that the Prem is more likely to drown in the shite quality of the Championship rather than rise to the level of the Champions League. And, finally, god spare us from the vacuous sofa-curdling lifestyle magazine bullshit that is Match of the Day 2. It’s hard to imagine a programme more bereft of football or stuffed fuller of preening One Show wannabe featurettes and musical medleys than this. Cut it down to size and just show the bloody football, then stuff all the garbage onto some daytime soap show. Because this is enough to put you off watching football on a Sunday altogether.

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Absolutely The Last Word On That World Cup Hoo Ha


What A Difference A Week Makes

Yes, just over a week on (give or take) and the 2010 World Cup luxury liner (the good ship Taxfree Profligacy) has sailed away from plucky South Africa, taking its bangles, baubles and Jubillana the Hutt balls with it on a magical voyage of discovery which will dock at the free port of Oligarcos somewhere in Brazil in around 2014. There it will stay just long enough for Huttmeister General Sepp and his companions to disgorge themselves like plunderous vikings for another 31 days and nights of footballing carnage. The South Africans, meanwhile, have already mothballed some of the more useless World Cup 2010 stadia, while handing the rest over to a number of popular local rugby clubs, thereby fully embracing the legacy of the World Cup. In truth, they’re all far too excited by one of their own winning the 150th Open Golf tournament at St Andrews over the weekend to recall anything that’s happened in the last month.

The Good & The Wretched, Players Of The Tournament

It was back in 2002 when Engerland’s Sol Campbell was included in the Team of the Tournament, as far as I can recall the last time any Engerland player made the grade. Certainly this time there were absolutely no calls for the inclusion of the various fatally flawed members of our team. Having televisually played my way through the entire World Cup, my selection of players is based, not on copious notes and opta-Capello stats, but on vague recollection of odd moments of the tournament.

The Good – Gamechangers

The Good play an unusual and possibly fatal midfield heavy 0 – 3 – 6 – 2 formation.  While on the attack we have a one man defence and no keeper. But every player here changes games. And you can’t buy that kind of performance (although actually you can if you are Man City, Real Madrid or soon to be bankrupt Barcelona).

Keepers

With teams all playing some form of the Mourinho Discipline and a ball that lent itself better to near earth orbit than accurate free kicks on goal, this was an easy tourney for keepers. You got the feeling that almost anyone could man the sticks and it really wouldn’t matter. That thought was quickly disabused during the first Engerland game when you realised that actually, no it wasn’t that easy, and that anybody except for Robert Green could man the sticks and it really wouldn’t matter. I don’t think that any keeper really made a difference, so my good team doesn’t have one. This could prove to be something of a tactical error, but what the hell.

At the back

Philip Lahm – a great left sided defender playing on the right. Let’s put him on the left.

Sergio Ramos – flouncing diva who proved to be rather effective. Needs some kind of teeth operation.

Carlos Puyol – defended mainly from the centre circle. Nice bullet header against Germany.

Midfield

Kevin Prince Boateng – outstanding and still my player of the tournament (amazingly enough – I know, not even I believe it). The dynamo that drove Ghana forward, one of the few players in the entire tournament who always wanted the ball and usually did something useful with it when he got it. Germany owe him big time for having taken out Michael Bullshit in the FA Cup Final.

Andres Iniesta – had for him an average World Cup, but unlike Zidane in the 2006 final, his best moment both won the game and didn’t get him sent off. Sometimes the ball seemed chained to his feet. Immeasurably better when partnered with Fabregas.

Mezut Ozil – has those bleary amphibian eyes on stalks and plays in the Dennis Bergkamp position between the massed ranks of the defence, his work in Germany’s demolitions of Engerland and the Argies was outstanding.

Bastian Bloody Schweinsteiger – I’ve never liked him. But he was good.

Xabi Alonso – not just for being able to take that Nigel de Jong kung fu kick, but for his simple style that echoed Brian Clough’s maxim of get the ball, give it to someone on your team.

Elano – no idea why only Brazilians should have just the one name, but there you go. Much more so than the unfilled potential that was Kaka, Elano was the creative dynamo of Brazil. His loss to a really horrible tackle against the Ivory Coast deprived Brazil of much of their zest and, ultimately, cost them their place at the tournament.

Up front

Thomas Meuller – Golden Boot winner and Best Young Player of the Tournament. He’s like the German Paul Scholes, an indispensable member of the team whose potency you don’t notice until it’s gone. His suspension against Spain was one of the reasons Germany lost the tactical battle.

Carlos Tevez – Leetle Carlito, he is a terminator, he never gives up, chases every ball and looks like he wants to personally eat every member of the opposition.

The Wretched – Misplaced Potential

Let’s forget for a moment the stunning massed ranks of the merely mediocre who dominated this competition and focus on the slightly less many who conspicuously failed to deliver. Bear in mind here we could have had a list that included all members of Engerland, France, Italy, uncle Tom Cobley and all. Testament once again that tournament football is about teams not tanked up superstar individuals. These were players who either were unable to perform or were so scared of playing that they went all autistic and introverted on us.

Keeper

Spooner Bob – or Robert Green to his mum. There is a theory that after around 10,000 hours of practice at something you actually become quite good at it, not so the Spooner (or one might add the whole Engerland team).

At the back

Pretty much every defender from all of those teams that played the Mourinho Discipline overwhelmed by fear and spinelessness. Once it was clear that the Jubillani the Hutt ball made free kicks insignificant, these guys were more than happy to bring attackers crashing to the ground.

Martin Skrtel – a man whose name was made for Scrabble, but should not be allowed near a football pitch, Skrtl (that ‘e’ is really irritating don’t you think) epitomised everything that was wrong with the tournament, leading his team of nit-shaven, sunken-eyed wretches through battle after battle of attritional trench warfare football in dogged pursuit of the one-niller. Probably happiest when covered in blood, knee deep in mud armed with an axe.

Midfield

You could argue that this should include much of the Dutch and Spanish teams, neither of whom fulfilled their potential, but some other players stand out.

Messi – no goals, no real influence on games. Sure he had some nice little runs, but Argentina’s success disguised Messi’s spectacular non-appearance at the tournament.

Kaka – sent off (sent off!!!) against Ivory Coast, Kaka looked laboured and uninterested. Like Messi he came and went and no one left any the wiser.

Steven Gerrard – hard to say if he really was disappointing given I didn’t actually expect much. But on balance he was rubbish.

Marek Hamsik – possibly my least favourite player of the tournament, he epitomised the uselessness of style over substance. He seemed far more interested in his rubbish haircuts and tattoos than in actually playing football. I can’t remember how many times I was told that he was a great, gamechanging attacking midfielder, yet I can’t recall him actually making a single coherent pass. Unlike Messi and Kaka, whose talents simply didn’t fit into a tournament of tight marking and even tighter defences, I’ve never seen any indication that Hamsik has any talent at football. There is a special place in hell reserved for people like this (next to the Sam Allerdyce memorial graveyard).

Up front

The Rhino – this, like Euro 2008, should have been his tournament, but while he missed the Euros as Engerland didn’t even qualify, here he might as well have done for all the effect he had on matches. Given his potency when he emerged in Euro 2004, it’s amazing that Rhino has evolved into this almost undead creature incapable of even receiving the ball, let alone doing anything creative with it. It wasn’t that he looked like he really didn’t want the ball as that he looked genuinely bewildered as to what to do with it should he be unlucky enough to get it. Needs to learn that taking charge of a game isn’t the same as running recklessly all over the pitch chasing the ball.

The Diva Ronalda – again, Ronalda is a player who can change games, but there has long been a suspicion that he goes missing on really big occasions. Certainly his effect on serious games, cup finals, Champions League knock out stages and the Euros support this conclusion. Here he wasn’t able to boost a Portuguese side that was strong in defence and all but invisible in attack (strange given they scored 7 against the North Koreans). Not even he could control the Jubba ball, so one of his primary weapons, devastating free kicks, was completely neutered.

And It’s Curtains For Paul The Psychic Octopus

Thank god for that. Isn’t Oldboy just excellent?

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Also What We Learned From The World Cup Finals


Statistically The Least Worst Team Of The Tournament

Crazy but true. Only one team left South Africa undefeated. And they didn’t even get out of the Group Stage. Yes, dour, plucky little New Zealand ground their way through three draws in one of the easier groups in the tournament. They even scored two goals, almost as many as Engerland. And they kept the might of Paraguay, Slovakia and former World Champions Italy at bay. And, unlike Engerland, they can be pretty certain of an invitation to Brazil 2014.

Getting The Fear

Aside from a strange dedication to the Mourinho Discipline, the teams seemed to be obsessed with one thing, fear. Apparently the majority of teams in the Group stage were crippled by what can only be described as performance anxiety, which inevitably made them introspective, defensive and unable to seize the game. Now, you would have thought that most of these players, who have considerable Champions League and international experience, would be able to deal with pressure without turning into quivering jellies. Apparently not. None of the Engerland team rose above the thoroughly mediocre, France, Italy and others simply imploded and all cited ‘the fear’ as a major factor. The mind boggles.

Balls To You Award

Adidas’ new super-spherical ballon de merde, the Jubba the Hutt, was an unmitigated disaster for anyone not in the business of marketing a load of old balls stitched (or probably seam welded under some highly patented child labour friendly process) somewhere cheap and profitable. It slipped and slid when you didn’t want it to, but was somehow impossible for anyone to actually master when it came to the vital moments of free kicks, long range shots or simply passing to teammates (or was that just Engerland?). Now, it’s the same ball for both teams, so why should it matter? Well, if you’re not Japanese or Diego Forlorn (who could only hit the bar with any regularity with this ball, but could at least keep it down), it mattered a lot. Not being threatening from free kicks means defenders are happy to pull down dangerous looking attackers outside their box safe in the knowledge that they won’t be able to take advantage of the resulting free kick. So bad was the ball that by the end some teams weren’t even putting walls in the way and many others resorted to clever movement and passing from free kicks rather than going the direct approach. It also mattered if you were Robert Green, whose international career, if not his club one, won’t survive his desperate spoon of the ball into his own net. Like Gary Sprake’s own goal against Liverpool in 1967, or Paul Robinson’s miskicked divotbouncer against Croatia, this one was a career killer.

Strategic Winner In The Philosophy Stakes

Not a load of competition for this one either. Sure a last minute flurry from the ‘Playing badly and losing’ philosophy espoused by both North Korea and Engerland did manage to spice up the running for this, but fundamentally this was a battle between the stark defensive Mourinho Discipline and the more free-flowing post-Total Football football. Now Germany aside, pretty much every team played with a defensive Mourinho-minded philosophy. This extended from Switzerland, who have almost elevated this to an international standard, right the way to ‘championes’ Spain, who effectively played a Mourinho style game of attrition with a little bit of passing flair once they’d gone one up and the other side was winded and effectively out of the game.  Sadly no one, Germans included, really found a way around the massed ranks of defensive tedium. Which isn’t to say that the Mourinho Discipline is the way to go, rather that its defensive mindset is more about the fear of losing rather than the chance of winning. It’s no surprise that, more than any previous tournament, the first goal was the killer. It’s clear that this philosophy of not losing will inevitably infect next season’s lower range Prem teams – it certainly has resonance with the likes of Allerdyce, Bolton, Birmingham, Stoke etc etc – and will almost certainly leech its way into the Champions League – look for its omnipresence during the rather tedious Group stages from the likes of, say, long term losers Madrid as well as an unnamed new team from eastern Europe. The challenge will be, how can the likes of Man U, Arsenal, Barcelona et al defeat this carcinogenic anti-football.

Can We Not Do That Again Please…

64 games, of which about half a dozen were really watchable and of these most of them featured the Germans, which is kind of hard to take. A ‘Best of the Free Kicks’ video which includes both of the Japanese free kicks and, er, Diego Forlorn hitting the bar and, well, that’s it. A final that included a ton of yellow cards and one red but precious few moments of footballing creativity. A ball that was somehow both rounder and more rubbish than every other ball ever created, this was the World Cup that wasn’t. Like the dog that didn’t bark, this was the World Cup that didn’t deliver. A tribute to both FIFA’s marketing averice and the teams’ overwhelming fear of success, this World Cup served up a dire prison food diet of football intersperced with occasional moments of footballing class. However, the very few moments of class floated like crumbling crutons on a thin patina of filth. Next time let’s find way to make more matches interesting and worth watching eh.

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