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Steve Braunias' World Cup Diary: day 21

Jul 4, 2014 Sport


Herr Low

“The moodiness and agitation of Joachim Low,” Twitter savant Philip Matthews has observed. Germany’s dark, brooding coach talks of light and shade, wears black from head to foot, his skin as pale as winter in Munich; he looks like a novelist, with much on his mind, nothing light-hearted, everything directed towards a serious purpose.

But his characters keep ruining the plot. There was a moment of high farce against Algeria this week when the Germans were awarded a free-kick, and took their places for a move that had been choreographed in training – you can picture Low sizing up the angles, perfecting the arrangement.

It was quite possibly a sublime idea but the execution of it was slapstick. Podolski ran over the ball, and Muller was about to do the same but he tripped over his own feet and fell on his knees. The crowd roared with laughter. Low seethed on the sideline.

Germany vs France is this weekend’s first quarter-final. Two grand old powers of world football, one capable of winning the tournament, one very relaxed in their attitude – France play like guests at a banquet. Let them eat cake. Germany, uptight and blundering, will snatch at anything.

The orange coffin

That new stretcher contraption they use to cart players off the field at the World Cup looks like an orange boat shoe, with those stupid white laces, but it also looks like an open casket. As such it’s a lurid reminder that death is one of the World Cup’s enduring themes.

All the talk of What Happened in 1950 – Brazil’s shock loss to Uruguay in the final – is framed as a weepy and rather pathetic melodrama. It broke hearts, a heavy pall of sadness hung over all of Brazil, etc. But the reality of it was the grim business of removing dead bodies.

Four people reportedly died at the Maracana Stadium that day, three from heart attacks, and one poor devil who took his own life.

What if Colombia beat Brazil on Saturday? Will Rio go up in flames? Looting, acts of random violence, the unstable moved to a final despair, gunshots and stabbings and beatings? Panic on the streets of Fortaleza, Salvador, Manaus.

Is it possible Colombia, so adroitly coached by the grave, all-knowing Pekerman, can beat Brazil, in Brazil? They have better players. They have a better team.

Their only problem is the fact they’re Colombians; most of the stadium will be howling at them every second, filling the air with scorn and loathing, with the fear of death.

About Sanchez and Messi

Chile were entertaining but the good thing about their departure is that we don’t have to see that thing their striker Alexis Sanchez does with his pants.

It was an even creepier sight than the wretched Fred’s creepy little moustache.

Sanchez was forever hitching his pants up then folding them over, and tucking them in, so that his pants looked like nappies. They got higher and higher around his thighs. It was as though he hated his pants, and wanted rid of them. If Chile had played one more game, he probably would have got his cock out. Dirty Sanchez!

Argentina’s Lionel Messi made the late goal that beat Switzerland this week – but spent most of the game idling, twiddling his thumbs, looking the other way. It was deliberate. He was testing Argentina’s faith in him.

The whole idea of Argentina is that the team operate as Messi’s disciples; they are there to see him walk on water, and raise the dead – they are the dead, as in a dead loss, a team of bunglers and knaves, brought to life by their god.

Argentina will need his miracles when they play Belgium on Monday morning. Belgium are quite good, and getting gooder. The tournament’s dark horses, with their so-called golden generation and their nickname of Red Devils go into the match with their colours – gold, red, horse-dark – blazing.

But Messi is the way, the shining light. Argentina just have to follow it.

Questions of food

The only problem – the insurmountable problem, the problem that won’t go away – with the official restaurant of the World Cup is that McDonald’s don’t do home deliveries.

The thought of all those tantalising burgers and fries with that is all very well but no use when you’re at home watching the World Cup at 4am.

What to make at that time of morning? What hot, quick, refreshing snack? I put the call out on Twitter.

Adam Wright: “Hash brown, scrambled eggs and HP sauce in a wrap. Get in!”

Joe Foale: “Bacon sarnies and beer.”

Guy Southwark: “Beer.”

I emailed Otis Frizzell from The Lucky Taco. His advice: “Get a cooked supermarket chook and some jalapeños. A bit of cheese and BOOM!”

I emailed Len Brown. His tip: “Anything you can get your hands on at that time of morning.” Well, he would say that.

I emailed David Cunliffe. His suggestion: “Toast and Milo.” Wow. Party at yours.

Nick Firth, via Twitter, came to the rescue, and linked to Nigella Lawson’s ideas for hot snacks while watching football. I tried out her simple recipe for a tortilla filled with ham, jalapeno peppers and cheese.

Verdict: BOOM! I loved it, and will go back to it this weekend for the games at 4am and again at the 8am kick-offs.

Holland vs Costa Rica is the last of the quarter-finals, at 8am on Monday. What a prospect. The fruity Americanos, with their verve and their resolve, against the experienced, astute Dutch, inspired by Arjen Robben, perhaps the greatest player at the World Cup – actually, it could be a flop.

The World Cup, sometimes, is boring. We must not say so. The official, blaring narrative is that every game is thrilling and dramatic. In fact many of the second-round games this week were shockingly dull for long periods of time. The football was poor. The goals were scarce. It was toast and Milo.

It couldn’t be like that at any of the quarter-finals. Could it?


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