Steve Braunias' World Cup Diary: day 6
WHAT WE CAN SAY ABOUT NEW ZEALAND
It could have been New Zealand out there playing Brazil this morning
Yes, that would have been the All Whites taking on Brazil today, but for the fact of their narrow 9-3 loss to Mexico in the qualifying rounds. Instead, it was the Mexicans, and they did what no one thought possible: they made Brazil look as static as the Phoenix.
The game finished 0-0 but it could have been, you know, 1-1. Both sides had their chances, which is to say Mexico had their chances and Neymar had his chances. It’s not exactly a one-man team but the only time Brazil come alive is when Neymar has the ball. He’s good, really good, a joy to watch – he doesn’t quite take hold of the game by the scruff of the neck but he gives it a quick comb and tries his best to hurry it out the door.
All the skill in the world and only 0-0. Holland, Germany, Italy, even Argentina and France would have watched, and thought: “Brazil are pants.”
Here’s a thing about Group B. What if Mexico beat Croatia by three clear goals, and Brazil beat only Cameroon 1-0? Answer: Mexico would head the group, and Brazil would be drawn in the next round against… the likely winners of Group A, Holland.
Pants down, that soon?
Team USA! Portugal!! Belgium?
Jurgen Klinsmann’s Americans were all heart as they beat Ghana 2-1. Portugal were all at sea as they capsized to Germany 4-0. But there was nothing emphatic to say about Belgium as they laboured to beat Algeria 2-1.
Belgium are cursed by colours. Their far-fetched nickname is the Red Devils; and everyone on Planet Football has called them the dark horses of the 2014 World Cup, thanks to their so-called golden generation. Red, dark, gold – but they were beige against Algeria. With their high expectations and low returns, are Belgium the new England?
The old England
England go into their crucial game against Uruguay on Friday morning with the same kind of dilemma that faced them in 1966: what to do with their star player?
England manager Alf Ramsey, at the 1966 World Cup, dropped the great goalscorer Jimmy Greaves – and went on to win the tournament.
The media are screaming at England manager Roy Hodgson, in Brazil, to drop Wayne Rooney. But the latest word from the England camp is that Hodgson will not only keep Rooney, but move him from his isolated position at left-wing, and play him where Rooney is most at home – at the centre of the attack, the big man on campus.
Rooney is often portrayed as a dope, an idiot, a moron. But he’s an astute student of the game, and has been studying film at the World Cup of goals scored by… Jimmy Greaves.
African teams have the best haircuts
Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria – some of those guys look like 50s jazzmen, cool and bohemian, carefully whiskered and beautifully groomed. They have the cleanest fingernails. Few of them daub their skin with tattoos; they prefer soap.
But all three teams have been pretty useless at the World Cup. Africa’s best performers so far are the Ivory Coast, who huffed and puffed to beat Japan 2-1. Japan’s best performers so far are their fans who stayed at the stadium after the game was finished to pick up litter.
There’s an idea for All Blacks fans at Eden Park! Lol.
This new World Cup thing with the referee spraying a line of white foam to mark the defensive wall
Kind of professional.
This new World Cup thing with players wearing different coloured boots, usually one red, one green
A photo of Julian Assange wearing an Ecuador shirt
He looks really good.