Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Germany

So, another tournament passes, and Germany are the winners. That's four times now, making England's paltry effort in '66 look like a fluke, an aberration.

This tourney was a joy though. Goals galore, kamikaze football and defences that only discovered themselves from the QF and beyond (except for Brazil). The final was entertaining and I am glad not settled by penalties. There was not too much simulation, and no great signs of fan violence either - so hats off to the hosts and the fans. (Definitely an argument for hosting the tournament out of reach of discount flight operators).

So many highlights but my favourite bits, in no kind of order, were:

-Excellent world time-zones allowing full viewing 
-the bite (just bizarre)
-Van Persie's header 
-dancing around like a maniac celebrating Sterling's goal v Italy, only to be told it was snagged in side-netting
-Neymar and Messi being pivotal to their teams
-Spain getting a lesson in football
-Awesome stadia
-The Mexican manager dry humping his players in frenzied celebrations
-James Rodriguez's name, oh and his volleyed goal 
-Russia and Switzerland getting knocked out
-The USA v Belgium game, just all out passion.
-The surprise return of Stevie C, quoting A Few Good Men

There's probably many more, but suffice to say that it was a great tournament. I've loved blogging about it and knowing that a few of you have been reading along (over 1000 visits during the tournament). Thanks again and see you in 4 years.


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Reflections

So another World Cup is coming to a close, and while recriminations, inquests and debriefs will continue - the distraction will stop and life goes on. Sometimes, almost guaranteed, that means dealing with heartbreak along the way. I for one hope Mr and Mrs Birchy have had their share and, the future has in store many more good times to balance out the tough. Wishing you both strength at this tough time.

There's no great segue to get us back to the footie, but I talked about distraction and here is my distracting run down on all things Brazil, team by team, with omissions of those that didn't leave an impression : 

Africa: Algeria weren't bad at all. Great game v Sth Korea and gave the Germans a run for their money. The rest made the squabbles for win bonuses the height of irony...

Asia: Sth  Korea: pelted with toffees upon arrival home. Need I say more. I've forgotten what Japan did

United States of Australia: plucky effort team, sum of parts blah blah..., could run all day but ultimately lacking skill. Scored cracking goal.

European new boys: Lots of Bosnians to appear in the premier league, Croatia and Belgium showed promise but lacked tournament nous

The old guard: Spain, Italy, England, Portugal: overrated bollocks of a performance. 

The winners: Germany look great but don't seem to know how to celebrate a goal. Which is strange, they get lots of practice. Columbia: they know how to do it. Smiled their way through and guaranteed lots of people will be called Jam-ez for the rest of the summer; Argentina: Messi magic, Mascherano taking care of the messy stuff; 

The losers: Brazil - unfortunate to host at a time when their team is shit. Players named Hulk and Fred should have been enough warning for us. Holland - never really took to them, but enjoyed their first game. Spoiled by Robben theatrics; The aforementioned old guard, lacked bite; Uruguay - too much bite.

Sure I forgot some, like the rampaging Costa Ricans, but all in all, a great World Cup. 

Final prediction: (well, I already collected on that as I had money on this final from the start) hoping for Messi to leave his mark. Tight 1-0 win for the Argies

Come on Lionel....over to you






Saturday, 12 July 2014

Never give up (unless you are Brazil)

I'm sat watching the world's most meaningless football match, the World Cup 3rd place playoff - two teams who just want to go home, forced instead to play out a dead rubber. Even the Community Shield had more meaning.

This time around, however, we have the morbid excitement and voyeurism of watching Brazil's very public meltdown. They are an object lesson in falling apart once things start to go against them, like the Newcastle of international football.

As things stand they are two goals down and there's no chance I'm switching off as they could easily fold and become a laughing stock, just as they could suddenly find form and claw things back.

Tomorrow sees the final and a surprising amount of people rooting for Germany, probably because they look the best team by some margin. I'm gunning for Argentina (a) because I'd win £50 if they win (b) because I predicted on this blog that they'd win and (c) because I want to see Messi lift that trophy. He's taken loads of bad press for being tired, with the media forgetting that he has almost single handedly hauled Argentina through to the final in any case. 

Enjoy the game.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Tragedy

As the cameraman panned through the Brazilian crowd picking out the shocked and the grieving during their 7-1 defeat to Germany, I was shedding tears of my own, for different reasons. (And this explains the blog tailing off in the past few days). Yesterday I saw my baby daughter, Evie Hope, still born.

Sorry for the shock, those of you reading for a bit of light-hearted punditry probably didn't sign up for that. You may be thinking "why the f*ck is he posting on his blog the day after that"; and the answer is that life really must go on. I was sat yesterday in the hospital, after everything had unfolded with my day, and I found myself put in a room, with a telly, at 8:30pm. I had a choice. Sit there and be sad, or wham on the footy and watch what was the most shocking semi-final in living memory.

Incredible game and Brazil, as I and many feared might happen, were found out against organised opposition. Germany were just brilliant, playing disciplined and simple football, utterly unafraid of Brazil.

Tonight myself and the wife are back home, starting our recovery. She is an amazing person and has been through the most upsetting scenario that any woman can experience, and yet we are sat here, about to watch the second semi-final, happy in the knowledge that we have each other. She wants me to watch the footy, because she loves me. And so I will. I love her and support her 100 times as much as I support football. If we have a sad moment, the football will be paused or recorded and watched tomorrow. We will do what we need to do, and most of that will revolve around doing normal things and enjoying our lives as best we can.

Wow...

.....

Friday, 4 July 2014

Quarters

Well the last couple of nights have been highly unnerving. Last night I had a normal evening in. The night before I took the missus out. All highly regular and not a marathon football-fest in sight. Luckily, normal service is resumed this evening.

As France and Germany played out the early part of their game I was on a boat drinking a few beers with a crowd of Germans. This was inevitably a very real threat to my immaculate 100% media silence record in the tournament to date. As the whoops and cheers rang across the deck, I knew of course that Germany had scored - and so it proved once I'd raced home and got the TiVo into action, Hummels glancing a very nice header, which of course sunk the French. I was disappointed with their efforts, their campaign ending in a whimper after such an explosive start. In truth the game was dull.

The entertainment was seemingly all saved for the late game, which I am watching now. Two South American teams doing what they do best - gung-ho attacking and blatant fouling. It really is carnage. Columbia, as I feared, look to be running out of luck against a Brazil team steadily growing in confidence. David Luiz has just walloped a free kick in to give Brazil a deserved 2 goal lead.

The game of the round tomorrow is Argentina vs Belgium, which is a huge game; and of course everyone assumes that Costa Rica will expire against Holland.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Round of 16 Fatigue

Consecutive nights of extra time, coupled with the natural build up of the TV viewer's equivalent of lactic acid have meant that I'm feeling slightly fatigued at the moment. Don't get me wrong, the football is just brilliant, but even I am looking forward to the 2 day break later in the week, and again on Sunday and Monday. The tournament catches me out like this every time with group stages and round of 16 both being massively intense; followed by a short break and all of a suddenly it is all over.

This second round has been brilliant. When I left you in the last blog post, Mexico were looking good and were robbed at the death by two late goals, first by Sneijder (with an absolute thunderbolt) and then a cajunas penalty from the greatest player who never reached proper fame, Jan-Klaas Hunterlaar. He is such a clinical and consistent centre forward - just gutted not to have seen him in the Premier League.

Costa Rica then played Greece and amazingly made the Quarter Finals, having held on with 10 men for quite some time. It was a cracking game after a slow first half.

Yesterday I saw France set up their QF berth, in a game where they looked lacklustre and could easily have lost; followed by another lunatic match; Germany vs Algeria, which was just carnage. Germany seem to have been infected by the illness of the tournament - poor defending, displaying none of the solidity you'd normally expect. Algeria were brilliant, pouring forward at every opportunity, but ultimately let Germany have too many chances and bowed out. The highlight of that match surely has to be Glen Hoddle referring to Algeria as "Al-Jazeera". Classic TV moment.

Tonight I am watching my nemesis Switzerland in a surprisingly even game. Argentina seem to not want to be there and if anything Switzerland have looked more likely. I'm not sure I can cope with them staying in the tournament any longer.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Stunning games and goals

Last night's games really lived up to their billing. Brazil and Chile was a great game - both teams going at it, the threat of goals ever-present and the threat of red cards also seemingly high. Chile looked the better team on balance, but the home advantage seemed to lift Brazil and they always carried a threat. The theme of course; one which is endemic across the tournament, is that neither defence looked very strong.

In the end, the width of the post denied Chile in the shoot-out, as had the crossbar in the final minute of extra time. A really crappy way to go out of the tournament, but they can be proud of their efforts. Few will be disappointed to see Brazil still in the tournament, as things always go a bit flat once the hosts bow out. I'll also enjoy those anthems carrying on. If anything sums up England's utter failure in big competitions of late, it is the passionless mumblings we do in the anthems, which sets the tone for the game afterwards.

The second game of the evening saw Uruguay do the inevitable and lose without Suarez. His team mates, for want of a better phrase, must be utterly fucked off with his antics. After all of the initial denials, he now claims that he lost balance and only regained it by safely lodging his teeth into Chiellini's shoulder. A common way to regain balance that one, why put your hands out when you can pivot from your molars. He should have got an extra month or two for the total lack of any acknowledgement or acceptance of his ways.

Columbia, by the way, are rapidly becoming a team to watch. To be honest, I've kind of viewed them as the South American Switzerland - largely irrelevant. I'm proving that general media conditioning works, to the point that Columbia and Costa Rica both look awful on paper (by virtue of not having superstar players). Columbia though score two absolute pearlers, and put in a sound performance. It will be interesting to see them play Brazil.

Now I'm watching Holland vs Mexico, which is tough to call. In the heat, there's got to be a real chance for Mexico to progress beyond their customary second round exit.

And later is Costa Rica vs Greece. I'm starting to get a growing feeling that Greece might pull off the impossible. They actually played really well in their last match, and have probably the tournament's best defence. Surely not!?

Saturday, 28 June 2014

It's a knock-out

Right, this is where it all begins. Knock-out football. Win or die. And what a cracker to start - Chile and Brazil. Certainly a great way to get back "on it" after a day off yesterday. I found myself at the end of work getting myself ready for the habitual power-walk home to get on Tivo, only to realise I, for once, had no hurry.

So with Germany, USA, Belgium and Algeria all tucked safely into the tournament proper, I toddled up to Birmingham to see family and have a night-off from the telly-box. All very nice, but my head is back in the game and after a truly rousing Brazilian anthem, I am going to switch off the laptop and watch the game.


Prediction time

Two great games today - a real South American affair.

I really like Chile (and have money on them to get to the semi finals), but I was hoping they'd avoid Brazil at this stage. Almost an England v Germany mental block  - Brazil has beaten them every time they've met in the finals. 

Think Chile will score, but a nervy (maybe even needing extra time) Brazil to win 2-1.


As for the second game, 2-0 Colombia against the siege mentality of the Uruguayans. Feeling bad for the lunatic who likes to eat people doesn't detract from the fact they were undone by Costa. Rica when last without Chewy Luis. Liking the look of Colombia - could be a cracking quarter final vs Brazil