2022 World Cup – Friday 09 December 2022

After a rest of a couple of days, the action resumes with the Quarter Finals split over two days. Both games evoke different memories from encounters of the past.


Croatia v Brazil (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Croatia will be underdogs going into this game and history isn’t on their side either, with the Kockasti (Checkered Ones) losing their last two World Cup exchanges with the five-times World Champions. They met in 2006 in a group game during the tournament in Germany, with a second encounter 8 years later when Brazil were the hosts. The game against Croatia was the opening match of the competition and history was made when a Marcelo own goal became the first to be the opening goal in any World Cup. Sadly for Croatia despite a decent display they ended up on the end of a 3-1 defeat. My abiding memory is of Neymar and his histrionics which put this viewer at the time firmly against Brazil. As we know the hosts would reach the Semi-Finals only to be humiliated 7-1 by Germany. Some will say that was karma.

Whilst the Croatians have gone about their business in an understated way, they needed to penalties to overcome Japan in the last sixteen and the feeling is that Brazil will have too much for the Europeans.


Netherlands v Argentina (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

For me whenever these two teams meet, I’m transported back the 1978 Final in Argentina, and mas as a sixteen year old more interested in football than revising for my O-levels. As now the tournament was surrounded by controversy, with allegations of match-fixing by the military junta government and suppression of any political opposition. At times it felt like one big exercise in propaganda.

The final itself saw the hosts line up against the Dutch without the legend that was Johan Cruyff, having retired from international football in October 1977. The fixture was played at the River Plate Stadium and the tickertape that rained down from the stands was an incredible sight – and was so great in volume that it littered the pitch throughout the game. In a highly charged atmosphere Mario Kempes gave the home team the lead on thirty-five minutes. It looked like that might be enough but with eight minutes remaining Dick Nanninga leapt highest to head home to take the game into extra-time. However, it was to be disappointment for a second successive final for the Netherlands as a second goal for Kempes goal and one for Daniel Bertoni sealed a 3-1 win and Argentina’s first World Cup success.

Genuinely not sure how this one will go. No fan of Argentina so more than happy to see Messi retire from the international scene without a winners medal. I’d like to see the Netherlands progress but they have been less that convincing and perhaps their best chance of getting through is penalties. Reality though is probably an Argentinian victory.

2022 World Cup – Wednesday 07 December 2022

Yesterday I reflected that there hadn’t been a shock in the last sixteen fixtures to date and then it was delivered in the first game of the day.


Morocco 0 (0) – (0) 0 Spain AET. Morocco win 3-0 on penalties (Stadium 974, Doha)


Many teams find the weight of expectation or the ghosts of winning teams of the past too much to handle. Look at Brazil in 2014 when hosting the World Cup. They were trying to put to bed the loss in 1950 to Uruguay but instead were humiliated by Germany 7-1 in the 2014 Semi-Final. For Spain, La Roja, any side now has to deal with the team that swept all before them between 2008 and 2012 when they won two European titles (2002 and 2012) and the World Cup (2010). Like that great squad back then, Spain would dominate possession but had the finish to go with it. In the Morocco game, Spain had 77% of the ball (1.109 passes) but only one shot on target and that was what cost them dear the good old fashioned ability to ensure possession is converted into goals. Credit to Morocco who defended superbly but still managed two shots on target. Overall it wasn’t a great watch even into extra-time when so much was at stake. The drama inevitability came with penalties, when heroes were made, and villains marked for life. Goalkeeper Bounou proved to be the Moroccan hero as Spain couldn’t find what they were looking for – a converted penalty. And so it proved to be a beautiful day for Morocco as Madrid born Hakimi stepped up and scored with a ‘Panenka’ to send the African side through.


Portugal 6 (2) – (0) 1 Switzerland (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

Portugal scorers: Goncalo Ramos (17′, 51′, 67′), Pepe (33′), Guerreiro (55′), Rafael Leao (90’+2’). Switzerland scorer: Akanji (58′)


The trouble with anything Portugal related is that it always seems to come back to one man – Cristiano Ronaldo. For this game following his tantrums after being subbed in Portugal’s last outing he was dropped to the bench which became the story along with the continuing saga of where his next club will be. Thankfully there was a bigger story to be had that, being the destruction by Portugal of a strangely out of sorts Swiss team. Ronaldo’s replacement, Benfica youngster Goncalo Ramos scored a well taken hat-trick with the best of the goals for Portugal saved to last from Rafael Leao. Portugal a better side without Ronaldo? One thing though Portugal showed their Iberian cousins Spain how to do it – 48% possession, 9 shots on target.


That game in Lusail concluded the last sixteen ties and leaves us with the following Quarter Final games which begin on Friday, as the action takes a couple of days rest.

Croatia v Brazil (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Netherlands v Argentina (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

Morocco v Portugal (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha)

England v France (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor)

Book Review – The World at Your Feet: One Man’s Search for the Soul of the Beautiful Game by Tim Hartley

There is within the book a chapter titled, The Football Family, in which the author takes a tongue in cheek look at the range of fans, from the armchair variety concerned only with the Premier League and Champions League to those whose passion is seeking out the most obscure leagues, games and teams from around the globe. As Hartley says, “there’s no single kind of football supporter.”

And indeed through the 24 chapters of this eminently enjoyable and thought-provoking book, Hartley shows himself to be a fan of many facets. From the off readers get to understand how he came to be hooked on the game whilst attending the Wales v Yugoslavia European Championship Quarter-Final game in 1976, so beginning his love affair with the Welsh national team. Following the Y Dreigiau (The Dragons) has seen the author travel the world, sharing the high and lows with fellow supporters and his son Chester, even pulling on the red shirt as part of the Wales Supporters team. Whilst Hartley is a fixture at home and away with the national team, his club allegiance is with Cardiff City, following the Bluebirds as they moved from their spiritual home of Ninian Park to the Cardiff City Stadium. Hartley is no glory hunter, he understands what it is to be a fan – the hurt of defeat and the unbridled euphoria of victory. This is a man who has done the 92 and reflects on the completion of it at Barnet (when they were in the EFL) in the chapter Doing the 92.

He is also a supporter with a political and social conscience and with a story to tell, using a reportage style within the various chapters to explore with honesty narratives that lie just below the surface. So amongst the pages, readers will read how football is used as rehabilitation for inmates at HMP Prescoed in 90 Minutes of Freedom, discover how unification in Germany did no favours for clubs in the East in, One Game, Two Nations and how the political situation impacts the experience of watching football in North Korea and Hong Kong in the chapters, Kicking Off in North Korea and Red Star Over Hong Kong respectively. Hartley’s honesty in relaying his experiences is refreshing and his chapter on the 2014 World Cup Bem-vindo Ao Brasil (Welcome to Brazil) is a very telling one on FIFA and the legacy of tournaments such as this and others such as the African Cup of Nations (see chapter 16, First Clear The Goats).

This is an excellent must-read for anyone interested in the game and it is neatly rounded of with an Epilogue in which Hartley demonstrates his understanding as a journalist that “football is part of the globalised entertainment network” but “there is still much good…from bringing communities together and creating friendships to rehabilitating prisoners.” However, his final word is as a fan in that despite all that maybe wrong with the game and the people that run it, “if it weren’t for our support they wouldn’t exist. It’s we who put them there no matter how big they are.”

(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2021. Paperback: 224 pages)

Tim Hartley is a journalist, broadcaster and author. He is a former vice chair of Supporters Direct and the Cardiff City Supporters’ Trust and a director of the Wales Football Trust. He is the author of Kicking off in North Korea – Friendship and Football in Foreign Lands and edited Merci Cymru  


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Review: Obrigado – A Futebol Epic by David Kilpatrick

If you wanted to look back on the events of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil you might check out the internet, look at some video highlights, read some articles on-line or maybe lookup some of the books written about the tournament.

How many of you though would have thought of poetry as a source of reflecting on the world’s biggest sporting spectacle? Presumably not many. However, that it exactly what David Kilpatrick has done in Obrigado – A Futebol Epic.

As a form poetry allows the writer a great deal of freedom, so for instance some examples have a strict rhythm and meter, whilst others are more abstract in structure. However, unlike longer forms of writing, such as novels, poetry is generally smaller and demands that words have to work harder and therefore have a greater intensity in order to impart their meaning and imagery.

Kilpatrick details this collection as, “64 games (total played in the tournament), 32 teams (total participating in the tournament), 30 days (duration of the tournament), 65 poems (a poem for each game played plus an introductory poem), 1 epic”.

The interesting term to note in Kilpatrick’s summary is “epic”, in that the definition of the term as classic or grand, could be applied to the tournament as a whole. However, there can also be another interpretation in that it refers to Kilpatrick’s collection as a homage to Greek epic poetry.

Indeed this idea is reinforced within the opening poem “I. Futebologia: Towards a poetics of sport”. Here Kilpatrick presents a poem which references the Roman poet Martial, the Greek writer Pausanias and in deference to Aristotle’s elements of poetry, contains the line:

Muthos, ethos, dianoia, lexis, melos, opsis

The poems that follow are an offering to the football gods, a thank you (obrigado in Portuguese) for the games, its players and the tournament as a whole. Within each one the key incidents and results are referred to in a creative manner, but Kilpatrick is also not afraid to express his opinions with in particular hosts Brazil and its players coming in for his displeasure.

Within “II. Brazil v Croatia”, Brazilian golden boy Neymar is dubbed “The Hyped One”, whilst fellow forward Fred is chastised for a dive in the following lines:

And then one ugly moment

Halts beauty’s heritage

The cynical, the crass, the dishonest

A dive, a disgrace, as Fred flops

Brazil’s ignominy is completed by Kilpatrick’s damning words following their 7-1 defeat to Germany in “LXII. Brazil v Germany”:

The gods of futebol exact bitter revenge

For Brasil’s betrayal of jogo bonito

As a review of the World Cup it is certainly different, but like all good poetry makes you want to go back and read it again so that all the nuances of the words can be explored.

Brazil 2014 will be remembered as a great World Cup and this collection of poems should please the football gods too.


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Book Review: The Country of Football – Politics, Popular Culture & the Beautiful Game in Brazil, edited by Paulo Fontes and Bernardo Buarque de Hollanda

When many people think of Brazil, they conjure up images of a joyful mix of football, samba, carnival and beaches and therefore maybe puzzled by the demonstrations that have occurred in the preparation and build-up to the World Cup. The reality is that Brazil is a complicated country which as the introduction to The Country of Football says, “…stems from its explosive growth, and the struggles to adapt economics, social and political institutions to the new realities of the country…”.

This book explores how the country has developed and provides an insight into why there has been unrest from some of the Brazilian population and an understanding of the importance of football to the country. These nine essays look at the links between football and the country in a social and anthropological context.

Make no mistake this is no ‘run of the mill’ football book. You’ll not find any, ‘the boy done good’, football clichés. The writing is unashamedly academic with contributions from historians, professors and those with PhD’s; so be prepared for a style and language that is more thesis than terrace banter.

The nine chapters follow pretty much a chronological flow and include the formation of football in Brazil in the late 1890s by Anglo-Brazilian Charles Miller, the professionalism of football in Brazil (1930 – 1950), Amateur Football Clubs in Sao Paulo (1940s – 1960s), ‘Dictatorship, Re-Democratisation and Brazilian Football in the 1970s and 1980’s’ and bringing the story up to date with a chapter on the impact of the 2014 World Cup on Brazil’s football stadiums and culture.

The three stand-out chapters for me are, ‘The People’s Joy Vanishes: Meditations on the Death of Garrincha’, ‘Public Power, the Nation and Stadium Policy in Brazil: The Construction and Reconstruction of the Maracana Stadium for the World Cups of 1950 and 2014’ and ‘A World Cup for Whom? The Impact of the 2014 World Cup on Brazilian Football Stadiums and Cultures’. The reasons? Well, Garrincha is acknowledged as one of Brazil’s greatest players and this chapter highlights the difficulties he endured in his career, the obscurity of his death, but which ended with a national outpouring at his funeral. In terms of my other favoured essays, they both have a connection to the impending World Cup, which makes them more accessible than some of the earlier historical pieces.

Nevertheless, it is a book that gave me a greater understanding of how football in Brazil has developed, its links to politics and the class structure, where the sport lies in the countries sporting psyche and goes some ways to explaining the stance of the working-classes in the recent demonstrations; I will certainly will be revisiting all the chapters of the book in the future.

Finally, the writers maybe academic, but they understand football too, a point perfectly illustrated in the final essay which looks at the impact of the 2014 World Cup:

Financed with public money and controlled by public interests, World Cup stadiums will be worlds of consumption isolated from their urban and cultural contexts.

The accepted business wisdom of football suggests that this is the only way forward for Brazilian football. The private sector has undertaken no risk in developing the World Cup and the public sector has overachieved in its desire to put forth a ‘positive image’ of Brazil to the world. The wanton destruction of historic stadiums has been accompanied by a lack of transparency and accountability on the part of tournament organisers. Football’s institutions have not recognised the very real threats to traditional football culture in Brazil. To the contrary these very institutions have worked closely with private interests to change the form and function of Brazilian stadiums as well as the ‘kind’ of people that go there. These processes have the potential to permanently alter an essential element of Brazilian cultural identity. Ironically, it is the cultural weight of football as created and sustained by ‘o povo’ (the people), that has made possible its saleability in the global marketplace’.

Read The Country of Football and see the 2014 World Cup in a different light.

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