Well done the Fatherland!! Congratulations on winning the World Cup and being the best team int the whole competition. That was a handsome game to finish proceedings too: pass and move v hold and break, with the right team nicking it.
A German victory is always the cue to reviving some well-worn cliches. Efficient, organised, ruthless... there's an insinuation behind those words that we all understand - in other words, a footballing version of what Adolf Hitler wanted to do.
All right it doesn't help when Joachim Low says his team will rule football for years to come but... Enough already! This a team that despite its talent fell short in every tournament since 2002 (when they overachieved). Far from vorksprung durch technik - although a damn sight better than our lot. It's been a while a-coming but they have fostered and trusted their youthful talents, brought through intelligent players capable of interchanging and thriving in the process: look at Lahm, Muller, Schurrle, Gotze... thrilling, inventive, and - even in the midst of totally humiliating Brazil - respectful and humble.
They've been a great team in the making and we'll have to put up with them being this entertaining for a quite a while to come.
So, before a defeatist melancholia kicks in and we're left to pick over the debris of British sport for signs of life, let us dwell a little longer on an utterly brilliant tournament. I have enjoyed every minute of it, save for Iran v Nigeria and that bloody awful tentative semi-final between Argentina and Holland.
So here are the genuine winners of the awards that count:
Player of the Tournament: James Rodriguez. Obviously. Six goals, one a minor masterpiece, the other utterly sumptuous. Relentlessly positive, even during the Brazilian bundle he withstood in the quarter-finals. Not Lionel Messi. We know what Messi can do and it's a lot more than what he did. It's like rewarding Sir Christopher Wren for designing a garden shed. There was so much more he could've come up with!
Goal of The Tournament: I dunno James's goal was magnificent but for sheer pictorial wonder I still love Robin Van Persie leaping up like a Great White Shark pouching a seal to drop that header over the hapless Casillas. Staggering.
Golden Gloves: And here I have to agree with Mark Lawrenson - this is the worst trophy I have ever seen. It looks like it's been snapped off the arm of C3PO. Neuer the rightful winner although again I will remember more the saves of one Guillermo Ochoa, who I swear saved at least two point blank efforts with his bollocks.
Team of the Tournament: Neuer; Lahm, Thiago Silva, Hummels, Blind: Mascherano, Kroos, Rodriguez, Messi; Robben, Muller.
Runner-Up Team of the Tournament: Ochoa; Zuniga, Gonzales, Vlaar, Vertonghen; Schweinsteiger, Schurrle, Neymar, Rooney (heh-heh-heh... sorry, I've just made myself laugh too much... gimme a moment....) Not Rooney... ermm, Cuadrado, Sanchez, and oooh, I dunno, Muller again given the bloke can play wherever and it's like having two men on the pitch any road.
[NB Okay it might be tricky to have Zuniga and Neymar in the same side, plus there are better times to consider making Neymar part of the spine of your team but hey this is my B team.]
A side chockful of hopeless nanas who really could have done with some aversion therapy pre-tournament to avoid some of their dopier moments.
Iker Casillas - a career full of glitter slides down the shitter. Del Bosque was horribly guilty of the crime of blind faith. Or loyalty if you want to be kind. As Iker made howler after howler Del Bosque failed to turn his old basset-hound jowls in the direction of his substitutes, in particular David De Gea, who David Moyes had ensured had had a busy and effective season. Madness.
Glen Johnson - probably a tad unfair but he's not up to it is he?
David Luiz - all the positional sense of a kitten in a dog pound, the appearance of a startled sheep, and the calm composed rationale of Justin Bieber. Luiz is an accident waiting to happen. Indeed the reason Thiago Silva makes my team of the tournament is cos of the way Brazil played without him. Luiz was the skipper who kept on sailing that boat into the rocks. PSG (Perhaps Sanity's Gone) are paying £40 mil for him.
Pepe - which is Portuguese for 'short fuse'; no one much like Muller's play-acting but when you could wind a bloke up this easily why not try? I use to have a p[air of Pepe jeans a while back and if I remeber rightly I used to get irrationally angry every time I put 'em on. Twerp.
Marcelo - Another muppet from Madrid. Yes, he gets up that flank and causes a 'real threat' but it's almost always to the people cover his over-adventurous arse. A terrible tumbler and play-actor too. Cack.
Steven Gerrard - look I like the bloke too, and I'm sure the younger lads in the squad can learn a lot from him but he was pretty bloody awful in is pitifully brief stay and he needs to stand aside. I mean, thanks and all that, but enough already.
Alex Song - Wasn't there a time when this bloke was half-decent? He spent the tournament trotting about like a demented cyborg, screws coming out of his ears. Maybe watching all that tika-taka has driven him hat-stand n all.
Xabi Alonso - perhaps responsible for one of the worst central midfield displays of the competition against Chile. When a skilled craftsman like this loses his bearings you can see just how desperate Spain were.
Gonzalo Higuain - another of these blokes who seem somehow to have been bracketed amongst the best without really ever having been any good. His glaring miss in the final was entirely predictable. He runs around like someone has chained him to a post.
Fred - fuck me where do you begin? They could've put a cardboard box upfront and you wouldn't have noticed the difference.
Luis Suarez - ah what does he care? He could eat his way through the Spanish Royal Family and he'd still get a gig at a huge club on a massive wage. I think - and I'm absolutely serious despite the mocked-up humorous pics that did the rounds - that Barca should make the bloke wear a mouth guard or a scold's bridle or some such to stop him from harming others.
Honourable mentions go to Hulk (footballing wardrobe, minus the subtlety) Paulinho, Palacios, Djourou and the blokes running Ghana's shambolic campaign.
But these freaky sideshows can't detract from the best World Cup ever. The hosts have somehow mustered a triumph from the powder-keg formed by mixing social unrest with abject footballers. And for that they deserve great credit. What's more it was a torunament where fans of opposite persuasions nestled side by side in hassle-free enjoyment. It was, like Gotze's immaculate Bergkampesque winner, almost unreal in its glory.
Wednesday, 9 July 2014
What do they call it? Jogo bonito? The beautiful game? Well last night the well-past-it mother country lifted up her skirts and the truth made really rather unpleasant viewing.
When Germany tonked us 4-1 four years back, we could always point at Lampard's ghost goal and say 'Who knows?' When Holland hammered Spain in the first game here, the Spaniards could always point out that had David Silva stroked home a second then Spain might still be in with a shout of four out of four this weekend.
Brazil don't even have the tiniest wisp of solace in this defeat. Nada. As that great language mangler Glenn Hoddle might have put it "They've been left clutching at the final straws in the wind." (Why Glenn has such an awkward relationship with English is difficult to fathom although I'll hazard a guess that it's got something to do with poor behaviour in a previous life).
I really didn't want Brazil to win this tournament. Not cos I've got anything against the nation itself, or the way they've hosted the tournament in neglect of its poverty-stricken (hell, every nation does that when hosting a big tournament). Indeed the pre-match singing of their wonderfully preposterous operatic chorus of an anthem, the overwrought emotions the players have shown, notably when holding up the shirt of the one player capable of maintaining the national traditions of their football - all of this almost made me want them to go all the way.
No, it's only when they started to actually kick the ball, and their opponents, around the park that I actually realised I wanted them to lose. They've been bloody awful. Really bloody awful. Their journey to the semifinals seems like a work of fiction now, or a cruel delusion that a fine German side took 29 minutes to shatter. The team looked like a happy drunk who woke up in a ditch to find he was being pissed on from a great height.
So, good, a crap team have not won the World Cup. But it's a terrible shame that that team should have carried the name Brazil. There's a poetry to those great names from the past: Zagalo, Garrincha, Vava, Pele, Jairzinho, Rivelino, Socrates, Eder, Zico, Falcao, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho... This lot have been personified by Hulk, Fred and Jo - lumpen, blokey names you'd give to the regulars down a local pub in Doncaster. Except them boozers might have played better.
I know German supporters who started to look away, who couldn't even begin to gloat, as Khedira rolled in the fifth. Every time they started to enjoy it, the camera would cut away to another crying child, looking for all the world like a promotional campaign for the NSPCC, and all the triumphant Germans could feel was guilt.
But hey, you can only beat what's put in front of you - or in the case of the Brazilian defence, some way behind you - and Germany did it with class and elegance. I know there are commentators still encumbered by watching too many war films who saw their performance last night as 'clinical' and 'ruthless'. Shut up, now. It was utterly beautifully brilliant was what it was.
Of course, as many suspected, the biggest miss was Thiago Silva, not least cos when consigned to the stand with a ridiculous, if sincere, baseball cap on his head he looked less like the second best central defender in the tournament and more like an over-sized kid on a jolly at Disneyworld Florida.
Juninho, and by the way little man it was never this bad at the Riverside, said there may be some out there who will never wear a Brazilian shirt again. Well here's a list, mate:
Julio Cesar (he came, he swore, he got conquered);
Maicon (he sounds like an enemy of Dan Dare, plays like a friend of Dandini);
Marcelo - a joke of a player, like somehting created by Pixar - diving, whining and easier to avoid than Bulgarian jazz-funk. Hopeless;
Paulinho - the epitome of what a Brazilian midfielder has become, pedestrian, clumsy, witless;
Fred - Here's what he's good at [ ] He's the worst Brazilian I've seen since the wife took up a two for one offer with her sister fro a beauty parlour that shall remain nameless in Stockton-on-Tees. I thought that rash'd never clear up.
Hulk - big, strong, shit.
Jo - No!
I don't much for Dani Alves either. And as for David Luiz, well he's a conundrum isn't he? Great passer, great passion, great free kicks, but Great Scott what is the bloke doing halfway up the pitch when the Germans have just gone 4-0 up?
So how do Brazil proceed from here on in? Look at your opponents - promote the next generation as soon as possible, retain Neymar - who I'm beginning to think broke his back because of the strain of carrying the rest of the team around the country for five games - and keep em together until they can ally their flair with a calm game-playing authority.
Because for all that Brazil were pants, Germany were faultless for 90 minutes - and Neuer was furious that Oscar nabbed a late consolation in the 91st minute (I say 'consolation' but given that Oscar was inconsolable afterwards that's completely the wrong word).
They have the best keeper, right-back, centre-half, centre-midfielder and roving false number 9-cum-winger in the tournament. And that's a conservative estimate. Clearly they are favourites for the final but who might they have to beat on Sunday?
One carefully aimed De Jong patella in the small of one Lionel Messi's back might be all it takes for Holland to win. It's certainly going to be a much tighter affair, with both teams thriving off good defensive organisation. Word is that Van Persie has gut-rot which means that the Dutch might be over-reliant on the tripping slaphead trickster, Robben. And that might be enough.
So I'm going for an Argentina win, somehow. 1-0. After a bit of a grind for the neutral. A proper semifinal in other words. With two evenly-matched teams. As they say in Brazil it will be a case of the 'Jogo Feia'. (I think).
And yes, Germany to win the final, whoever makes it. And for once I won't be remotely unhappy about it.
Monday, 30 June 2014
Arjen Robben has looked like a fleet-footed sixty-five year-old ever since he arrived at Chelsea a decade ago. A mazy, tricksy, old-school winger he was, in the last Jose Mourinho team that could ever have been called entertaining. Some of us were hugely impressed with everything he did, and at the time Chelsea's designated diver was Didier Drogba so we hadn't seen him at his worst.
But no player spends ten years in the game without learning a thing or to. Arjen is now just about the most terrifying attacking player any defender left in the World Cup can face. Only Messi is as dangerous running with the ball at his feet.
However, there's an additional peril when Robben comes bob-bob-bobbing along the edge of the penalty area. Will the scrawny dancing pensioner throw himself to the floor like some hoodlum has just knifed him and swiped his shopping trolley? Erm... yes. Yes, he will. Almost certainly.
Robben's simulation is so ingrained now I wouldn't be surprised if he's the only man on the planet who could successfully fake an orgasm. Referees are of course wise to his skulduggery, but unfortunately he is the sort of player who is likely to get fouled by defenders struggling to contain his pace and footwork. So it's hard for the officials.
Indeed the winning penalty against Mexico probably was a foul, although not one that deserved the now ubiquitous chest-out, arms flailing, Munck's The Scream-faced histrionics that go along with every infringement against the Lying Dutchman.
This time the perpetually fallen idol has admitted that yes, he did do a dive in the game and that he can only apologise for it. Which, given this bloke's track record, is like stealing a million quid and admitting to £10 worth of it.
Regular readers will know this is a HUGE FUCKING BUGBEAR of mine and has been since the Gelled Tumbler of Madeira stumbled onto the green fields of England - actually since Francis Lee hurled his tubby frame into the quagmires of Maine Road and the Baseball Ground in the 1970's.
The debate rages as to what we can do about this. The most facile argument put forward by pundits - particularly those of the forward variety - is the conclusion that if after viewing the slow-mo footage from thirty-seven thousand angles it becomes plain that 'there was contact' then the forward is, apparently, entitled to go down.
In other words, no one can blame you for pretending that a waft of an eyelash has deprived of the ability to behave normally. It's like the response of some particularly neurotic wife during divorce proceedings. "He had his hand on her arm, so I'm entitled to deduce that there was a full-blown affair going on."
Another way of looking at this, and Marquez is being accused of being dim-witted in the Holland-Mexico game, is that 'if you leave your foot in, someone will go over it'. So as a defender your best bet with Robben when he's in the box is to get the fuck out of the way and hope he misses (either the goal or your innocent withdrawn tootsies).
If you do get lazy about this, you defenders, then, well you know, even though most able-bodied people learnt to walk when they were fifteen months old and have coped pretty well ever since, you can't expect a footballer to remember this fact once he moves into that treacherous place we all know as the penalty area.
On behalf of 90% of viewers I hereby say this to any Costa Rican centre-back. As far as I'm concerend tou are ENTITLED to make as much CONTACT as you damn well like on Arjen Robben cos it doesn't matter whether you get him or not, he's going down.
So with all this mealy-mouthed excusing of what is essentially a determination to buy a decision from the ref using years of cynically obtained nous, it's now over to FIFA to try once more to apply some sort of moral code to the situation. Yep once again football is caught between the cross hairs of FIFA and Fair Play. (Hilarious, isn't it? If the bidding procedure to host their bloody tournaments could operate fairly that might be a start.)
Any hoo, as I've said TOO MANY TIMES before, there is one thing the overseers of the beautiful game could do immediately. Retrospective bans for divers. Every serious incidence of cheating or foul play that officials miss during the actual game can be punished retrospectively. Only simulation seems to have a special place in the administrators foetid hearts.
Oh we can all tell nasty biting gauchos to take four months off: eating people is wrong, and certainly not part of the fabric of football. But diving...? Well, you know, everyone does it, don't they? Yes, they bloody well do, but let's not let them. All right you can't change the result of the game that's gone, but you can at least mitigate against it becoming the way to win the next one.
Here's option 1: (the cowardly option)
Robben starts the next game with a yellow card to his name. Even the remotest bogus stagger and he's off. job done.
Option 2: (a better option)
Give Robben a retrospective red card for the dive he admitted to. And ban him for three games. He'd be out of the tournament. Holland would be scuppered. Job done.
Option 3: (I've touted it before and I think it might be the best of the three)
If a player is proven to be, or admits to being, a diver, they should dress like a diver - wetsuit, mask, snorkel, flippers, the whole nine yards... and then they still have to play the next game. As my old man used to say, there's nothing wrong with that lad that a bit of public humiliation couldn't put right.
And of course, the biggest sadness is that, if you took the falling over out of Robben's game he'd be the best player in the tournament up to now (yep, including Lionel and the Baby-Faced Colombian). The fact that he so regularly cheats makes him one of the worst.