TV View: George unimpressed with Spain’s plastic cutlery
No cutting edge, was Hamilton’s verdict. It was all a far cry from the glory of Saturday
Spain’s Andres Iniesta looks dejected after losing the penalty shoot-out to Russia. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters
To think some people chose the beach on Saturday over watching France versus Argentina. These World Cup slackers may well have ended up with a tan, in contrast to the pasty-faced rest of us, but that’ll fade soon enough, unlike the memory of those 90ish glorious minutes.
Still, though, your heart would have to go out to any of the sun worshippers who were afraid they would miss another classic come Sunday, so sat in and watched Spain versus Russia. Any colour they had built up would have drained from their faces over the course of those 120 minutes.
They were, though, generously compensated for the mind-numbing monotony of it all with the first penalty shoot-out of the World Cup and scenes of celebration so lovely you couldn’t but feel a bit euphoric for the hosts.
Before the penalties, though, when Spain had about 110 per cent of the possession and passed the ball to one another 1,029 times, the afternoon just crawled by in an excruciating kind of way.
“It’s just the same over and over and over, it’s just pass after pass after pass,” said Richard Dunne come half-time in extra time. Richard was 38 when the game started; by now he felt he had entered his eighth decade on Earth.
His panel-mate Damien Duff had forecast that Spain would “pass Russia to death”, but Russia were still breathing, it was just us at home who were losing the will to live.
George Hamilton, in a moment that should earn him a lifetime commentary achievement award, summed it up quite perfectly. “Spain have had the possession but they haven’t had the cutting edge, a bit like the cutlery you get in an airport, the plastic version that is not incisive at all – that’s been Spain, plastic.”
This might have been the first time in football history that a team was compared to plastic airport cutlery – we’ll need to use the Google to be sure – but it conjured up images of, say, Ronnie Whelan trying to carve through his chicken Kiev at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, the plastic fork snapping and spraying George with garlic butter. That might have explained the angry edge to George’s plastic airport cutlery analogy, but we’re only speculating here.
“I’m speechless, to be honest,” said Cesc Fabregas to Gary Lineker, but fortunately he wasn’t, otherwise it would have rendered his presence on their punditry panel pointless. “I think Spain are a much better team than Russia. Russia’s plan was to go to penalties and pray.” That wasn’t gracious, but at least he was humble enough not to point out that if he had been in the squad, Spain would now be preparing for a quarter-final.
Anyway, it was hard to absorb the fact that the sport Spain and Russia played on Sunday was precisely the same one France and Argentina engaged in on the Saturday, the realisation that you knew even less than you thought you did dawning when, a nanosecond after declaring that Angel Di Maria was playing like a drain, he scored a goal so delicious it was nigh on edible.
But the game’s high point was still to come with Benjamin Pavard’s goal, the one whose slow-motion replays should be set to Mozart. Or, better, The Undertones. “The summer’s really here and it’s time to come out, time to discover what fun is about: like Benjamin Pavard’s slicey volley from the edge of the box.” That doesn’t rhyme, but who cares? It was pure poetry.
Kylian Mbappé, though, was the star of the show. “His pace is just raw pace, unbelievable,” said Martin Keown, “he is a chariot of fire, this fella.”
Mind you, Martin thought Benjamin’s wondrous strike was kind of a mishit, like those evil people who suggested that because Ronnie’s Euro 88 strike against the Soviet Union was a shinner, it lessened its beauty, so bad cess to Martin Keown, may his chariot smoulder.
Uruguay march on
Meanwhile, Uruguay. On they march, having ousted Portugal. “Ronnie tipped them as dark horses before the World Cup,” said the Duffer. “I thought he’d had a heavy night the night before. Fair play to Ronnie.’”
And fair play to Brian Kerr for introducing a bat out of hell to the World Cup while adjudicating Kasper Schmeichel’s goalkeeping against Croatia. “The first save was good, he batted it away well from the goal; the second wasn’t good, but with the third he rushes out and does enough ... I suppose two out of three ain’t bad, as Meat Loaf said.”
Our second penalty shoot-out of the day.
Poor auld Kasper, he’ll be gone when the morning comes.