Day 15 of the World Cup and enough is almost enough . . . goodnight, John Boye!
‘With a line-up like that there was always going to be trouble – or boredom – and both teams were happy to settle for the latter’
What a thrill it is to be here once again gazing glaze-eyed at a slowly oscillating green trapezoid populated with a selection of nondescript stick figures that interact enthusiastically with a white dot. Today (yesterday) the remaining four teams are chosen (by themselves, as it is up to them to put in the effort to win) to proceed to the final 16 where essentially the same old thing happens, except with fewer possible configurations.
In other words, this is where the men are separated from the boys. The men separating from the women part seems to have happened already as so far this World Cup appears to be an all-blokes affair, with little or no women allowed to compete. It is possible there are a few females lurking on the subs bench from time to time but they’re kept well away from the camera; an unsavoury undercurrent of inequality sullying soccer’s wholesome, inclusive image. Who knows, maybe Klinsmann has a few Americanised surprises up his stars and stripes-festooned sleeve, perhaps he’ll shake things up by shaking out a sassy all-female 11 for his first match in the final 16. (Apologies, forgot to tack on a spoiler tag re the US team’s qualification – looks like that’s the skilfully developed arc of suspense in the next couple of paragraphs ruined – just ignore the next two and skip to the one after.)
USA have proven without doubt that they are hungry to win, so hungry in fact that no one in the management team has had the heart to tell the bros that the World Cup trophy, despite looking like a cheap prop from an Indiana Jones flick, is not actually an oversized foil-covered Hershey’s chocolate. If they go all the way it will be a bittersweet, enamel-removing moment for sure. Sadly their childlike dreams filled with novelty chocolate wonder were yesterday crushed, melted, and mixed into rice crispy cakes for a bunch of undeserving Augustus Gloops, for they suffered a cruel 0-1 defeat in stark contrast to Germany’s 1-0 win (both eventualities occurring unexpectedly in the very same game).
Assuming that a) you for some reason started reading this article at the previous paragraph, and b) you rely solely on this infrequent and unreliable column to supply you with updates on the World Cup – SURPRISE! - that wasn’t quite the end of it for the Americans. As in all the very best Hollywood movies, there was a happy Hollywood ending for the US team. No sooner had the match finished, the numbers men wheeled out their enormous, comically old-fashioned computers and after a montage of intense pie chart analysis, clipboard waving, and endless reams of mystifying statistical printouts, the resulting data processed from the Group G table showed that the united soccer-playing guys of America had seized a partially-chewed victory from the jaws of defeat, finishing second ahead of Portugal. Ok, in a certain light, that mention of Portugal could be viewed as another spoiler but read on. Please.
Prior to the other Group G match, a spot of backstage squabbling amongst the Ghanians led to the booking of two flights – one outgoing containing two important members of their team and one incoming containing loads and loads of cash. One can only guess that the guys in charge had been swayed by a shady late night TV advertisement - “Who needs star players clogging up the pitch when you can sell them instantly - for CA$H!”. As for the rest of the Ghanian team that remained unsold, over the full duration of the game their minds were sharp, clear, and doggedly focused on that suitcase filled with moolah waiting for them back in the hotel.
Guest player for Portugal John Boye took some time away from his busy schedule attending Waltons conventions to score the first of the game. Also joining in the fun was famous soccer celebrity Cristiano Ronaldo who duly obliged when the Ghanian keeper gamely set him up with a nice scoring opportunity. In truth, the goalkeeper may have mistakenly felt the spectre of extra time looming so he made sure the winning goal went to the Portuguese, clearly worried he might be late for the hefty line of caipirinhas waiting on the bar in the residents lounge (pre-ordered before the match, natch).
Russia V Algeria - with a Turkish ref!? Honestly, where would you get it? With a line-up like that there was always going to be trouble – or boredom – and both teams were happy to settle for the latter, for the most part. The briefly thrilling exception was an equalizing Algerian attaining equilibrium and the slowly waning flush of fervour from both sides in its wake.
Yet there was still one last pairing to be made before bidding farewell forever to the group stages – and what a corker! Korea Republic V Belgium proved to be an unlikely candidate for game of the tournament. A dizzying cornucopia of goal attempts, corners, red cards, and other footbally things dispensed in rapid succession. Remarkably, without so much as a Powerade-fuelled pause at half time, the second half kept up the breathless pace and the final whistle blew after less than five minutes. I definitely felt something. Perhaps, at a push, this was nearly the kind of soccer game I could almost vaguely tolerate a little bit. Maybe.