2022 World Cup – Sunday 04 December 2022

Netherlands 3 (2) – (0) 1 USA (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Netherland scorers: Depay (10′), Blind (45’+1’), Dumfries (81′). USA scorer: Wright (76′)


And so the business end of the competition begins. Draws now not an option, only victory will do whether within the ninety-minutes, extra-time or indeed the lottery that is penalties.

First up were the Netherlands and the USA. These two had never played each other in a competitive fixtures, with just five friendlies previously. The last outing saw the USA beat the Dutch for the first time way back in 2015 when they came back from 3-1 down to win 4-3. However, despite the Dutch being less than convincing so far, they were expected to overcome the Americans, joint hosts of the 2026 World Cup.

Statistics have become a major thing in football analysis, but they don’t win you games. The USA had more possession, shots, shots on target and corners than their Dutch opponents but the vital statistic was that Netherlands won 3-1. Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic had an early chance, but his effort was well saved by Dutch ‘keeper Andries Noppert and the Americans were made to rue the missed opportunity when on ten minutes a 21 pass move was finished off by Memphis Depay. The USA though then dominated much of the first half but were then dealt another blow as in time added on, Daley Blind finished from a swift Dutch break. Into the second period and the USA searched desperately to get back into the game, which they did with fourteen minutes to go, as Haji Wright got something on a  Pulisic which lopped the ball into the net. Was there a surprise yet? However, the Dutch wrapped the game up five minutes later as an unmarked Denzel Dumfries volleyed home to set up a Quarter-Final tie against Argentina.


Argentina 2 (1) – (0) 1 Australia (Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Argentina scorers: Messi (35’minutes), Alvarez (57’minutes). Australia scorers: Fernandez (77′ og)


This was Lionel Messi’s 1,000th career appearance and he produced a Man of the Match performance to see Argentina through to the last eight. Australia were dogged for the opening thirty-five minutes, but the deadlock was broken by an excellent strike from Messi. If their first goal was all about a classy finish the second was all about an Australian howler. Socceroos ‘keeper Mat Ryan was at fault as he tried to clear his lines, losing possession and leaving Alvarez to roll home into an unguarded net. Despite being second best all game Australia got a lifeline with thirteen minutes to go as substitute Craig Goodwin’s shot took a massive deflection off Enzo Fernandez. And it could have got worse for Argentina as the Aussies had two late glorious chances to level. The reality was though that Argentina were worthy winners, and a draw would have been an injustice. Messi and his charges now take on the Dutch in a re-run of the 1978 World Cup Final.

2022 World Cup – Thursday 01 December 2022

Group D:

Tunisia 1 (0) – (0) 0 France (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Tunisia scorer: Khazri (58’)

France had already qualified going into the final round of games, with Australia second on three points and Tunisia and Denmark bringing up the rear with a point apiece.

Tunisia knew that only a victory would give them any chance of progressing to the last sixteen and they would have been heartened by the rotation to the French squad that saw players like Lloris, Griezmann, Giroud and Mbappe on the bench. In what was to prove an emotional and highly charged atmosphere given the historical and political links between the countries. Despite a lack of possession. Tunisia held their own and then struck just before the hour mark, winning the ball in midfield releasing ex-Sunderland player Khazri to advance on the French defence before slotting into the corner. Didier Deschamps the French coach reacted by throwing on his big guns in search of an equaliser, but it was not to be with Griezmann having his late strike disallowed for offside. Tunisia had secured the win they required, but with Australia beating Denmark it was the Socceroos who took second spot and a place in the last sixteen.


Australia 1 (0) – (0) 0 Denmark (Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah)

Australia scorer: Leckie (60’)

The equation was a simple one for both teams, win and progress. The Danes dominated possession but didn’t convert this into shots on goal and when they did they couldn’t find a way past Mat Ryan in the Australian goal. The vital goal came on the hour, as Australia broke with a lightning-quick counterattack finished off by Mathew Leckie.

For the Danes their Semi-Final spot at the Euros seems a lifetime away as they struggled in Qatar, gaining just a point. For Australia, progressing equals their best tournament in 2006 when they lost in last sixteen to a Italian penalty in time added-on.


Group C:

Poland 0 (0) – (0) 2 Argentina (Stadium 974, Doha)

Argentina scorers: Mac Allister (46′), Alvarez (67′)

Going into the final round, Poland topped the group (4 points), with Argentina second who were level on points with Saudi Arabia and Mexico last with a solitary point.

Yet again VAR and those who adjudicate to be frankly embarrassing. The awarding of a penalty to Argentina on 39 minutes was simply comical. Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny has his eyes on the ball as he attempts to punch/palm the cross away, the contact between his hand and Messi’s face is an accident…and then the acting from Messi for the ‘contact’ – well don’t get me started. Thankfully justice was done as the ex-Arsenal ‘keeper clawed away Messi’s spot-kick. No goals at half time – jeez how many times have I typed that during this World Cup.

Within a minute of the restart though they had their goals with Mac Allister’s shot going in off  the post. When Alvarez scored with twenty-three minutes remaining to make it 2-0 and the score over in Lusail, having started top the Poles were in danger of missing out on second spot. Indeed they were ragged in the last quarter of the game and can be grateful for Argentina’s profligate finishing which could have sent Poland home. Argentina recovered from the defeat against Saudi Arabia to finish top of the group and finding a bit of a groove.


Saudi Arabia 1 (0) – (0) 2 Mexico (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

Saudi Arabia scorer: Al Dawsari (90’+5’). Mexico scorers: Martín (47′), Chavez (52′)

Mexico despite victory missed out on the last sixteen on goal-difference. They were ahead 2-0 after fifty-two minutes, the second a stunning free kick from Chavez. And as they went in search of more goals, the situation though in the group took some understanding (and believing). With Argentina beating Poland 2-0 and Mexico leading by the same score-line at Lusail Stadium in the fourth minute of time added on, El Tri (The Tricolour) needed one more goal to prevent them from going out according to FIFA’s fair play rule for having more yellow cards than Poland. However, this didn’t come into play as Salem Al Dawsari’s goal in the fifth minute of time added-on sent Mexico home on goal difference instead. Some drama at least in a World Cup that has yet to burst into any sort of life.

2022 World Cup – Wednesday 23 November 2022

GROUP C: Argentina 1 (1) – (0) 2 Saudi Arabia (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail)

Argentina scorer: Messi (10’ pen) Saudi Arabia scorers: Al-Shehri  (48′), S. Al-Dawsari  (53′)


GROUP D: Denmark 0 (0) – (0) 0 Tunisia (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)


GROUP C: Mexico 0 (0) – (0) 0 Poland (Stadium 974, Doha)


GROUP D: France 4 (2) – (1) 1 Australia

France scorers: Rabiot  (27′), Giroud (32′, 71′), Mbappe (68′). Australia scorer: Goodwin  (9′)


Four games, two goal-less, a win for the current World Champions and the first big shock of the tournament.

In a day of four games, it was an early start for those in the UK with the Argentina game starting at 10:00 and La Albiceleste quickest out of the blocks. Messi had an early effort after two minutes saved but had put Argentina ahead just eight minutes later. Again you have to question the VAR decision. From a free-kick, Leandro Paredes was pulled down and the spot-kick awarded after a check. Please can someone tell me how this was different to the Harry Maguire incident in the England v Iran game…Anyway Argentina didn’t capitalise on their first half dominance with VAR doing its best to ensure it was 1-0 at the break. Out came the Saudis who were level within three minutes of the restart and ahead on fifty-three minutes with a superb strike from Al-Hilal  forward Salem Al Dawsari. The South Americans huffed and puffed and even with fourteen minute of time added on couldn’t find an equaliser. Credit to Saudi Arabia, but don’t write off Argentina just yet.

Group C’s other game between Mexico and Poland ended 0-0 where the crucial moment came on fifty-eight minutes as Polish captain Robert Lewandowski had his penalty saved.

Group D also saw a 0-0 with Denmark and Tunisia with Danes having the best chances in the second half.

The final game of the day for anyone still gorging on the fourth fixture saw Australia give World Cup holders a bloody nose with a Craig Goodwin goal after nine minutes. Two quickfire goals after twenty seven minutes and thirty two minutes saw the French go 2-1 ahead. First Rabiot headed home and them Oliver Giroud scored his fiftieth international goal after Australia gave the ball away at the back. France could have been out of sight at the break as they created further decent chances. Into the second half and the French eased to a 4-1 win with the ever busy and creative Mbappe heading in on sixty-eight minutes and then turning provider three minutes later as he delivered the perfect cross for Giroud to score with a header, equalling Henry’s record of 51 France goals in the process. France looking ominously good.


GROUP F: Morocco v Croatia (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor)

Morocco qualified as CAF third round winners so making it to the finals for the sixth time. Nayef Aguerd (West Ham), Ilias Chair (QPR), Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea) and Anass Zaroury (Burnley) will be familiar to English fans and are part of a squad who didn’t concede in their last three games before Qatar with wins over Chile (2-0) and Georgia (3-0) and a draw with Paraguay (0-0). Croatia of course put pay to the Three Lions hope of a final appearance in 2018 winning 2-1 in the Semi-Final clash. The side is led by the mercurial Luka Modric supported by the vastly experienced squad members Domagoj Vida, Dejan Lovren, Mateo Kovacic, Ivan Perisic and Andrej Kramaric. I really can’t see anything other than a victory for Kockasti (The Checkered Ones).

GROUP E: Germany v Japan (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Four-times World Cup winners strolled through qualification from UEFA Group J with nine wins and a surprise 2-1 loss to North Macedonia. Die Mannschaft like England were far from convincing in their recent Nations League campaign and at the 2018 finals in Russia failed to make it out of the Group Stages, whilst at the Euros exited in the last sixteen to England. Will this be another tournament of frustration? Certainly their opening game against Japan will be a tester. Previous to 2022 the Blue Samurai have appeared at the last six finals reaching the last sixteen in 2002, 2010 and 2018. The Japan forward line looks short on goals at international level and this will be a concern.

GROUP F: Spain v Costa Rica (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha)

Spain had a fairly comfortable passage to the finals as UEFA Group B winners, whilst Costa Rica were the last side to qualify back in June after beating New Zealand 1-0 in the CONCACAF–OFC play-off final held in the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Qatar. The Spanish side looks light on goals as this level with only Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres in double figures, 27 and 13 respectively and the feeling is that it is a side very much in transition. This is Costa Rica’s sixth appearance at the finals, reaching the Quarter Finals in 2014 before going out on penalties to the Netherlands. They have an experienced squad with four players over the 100 caps mark, including, Keylor Navas (107), Celso Borges (155), Bryan Ruiz (146) and Joel Campbell (119). This could be a stalemate, although don’t be surprised if Spain pinch it by a single goal.

GROUP E: Belgium v Canada (Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Belgium won UEFA Group E going unbeaten with eight wins and two draws and were third place winners in the 2018 World Cup. A vastly experienced and talented squad, the criticism of Belgium teams down the years is that they have always underachieved. Certainly 2022 will be the last chance of World Cup glory for a number of the squad echoed in a recent interview by captain Eden Hazard, who also reflected that his own level is not what it was. Canada qualified as CONCACAF third round winners and last appeared in the finals in 1986 losing all three Group games to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union. They are coached by John Herdman an Englishman who moved to New Zealand in 2001 and coached the New Zealand women (2006–2011), the Canadian women (2011-2018) and the Canadian men from 2018. Within their squad is St Johnstone’s David Wotherspoon and Reading’s Junior Hoilett and eleven squad members playing in the MLS. Belgium to get off with a win must be on the cards.

Book Review: Anna Black – this girl can play by Texi Smith

Texi Smith has brought readers three books so far, Introducing Jarrod Black, Hospital Pass and Guilty Party, featuring the central character, successful fictional Socceroos player Jarrod Black. In his latest offering from his ‘unashamed football novel’ series Smith brings readers Anna Black – this girl can play, as we are introduced to Jarrod’s younger sister, Anna.

Whilst the Jarrod Black books are set predominantly in England and in real-time, the Anna Black story takes place mainly in Australia, and looks to the future with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup at the heart of the plotlines, which incidentally will be hosted in two years’ time by the Antipodean neighbours of Australia and New Zealand.

Format-wise this book follows those of the first and third Jarrod Black stories, with fifty short sharp chapters keeping the readers attention and the action moving along at pace, as the football career of Anna unfolds. As with his other titles Smith displays his own love, knowledge and experience of the game through his writing with the plots and situations strong with their usual convincing credibility thanks to his research, aided by those who he acknowledges provided insight and guidance into the life of elite players in the women’s game down under.

Whilst this is a football-tale, Smith hasn’t been afraid in this book to touch on sexuality within women’s game and he deals with it in a sensitive manner, engendering a positive message about football being an inclusive game.

There is also a nod to how technology can be used in modern-day publishing with QR codes dotted throughout for the World Cup matches. It’s a nice touch and for those unable to access the codes a dedicated page on the web has been provided at https://www.annablackbook.com/

This book is undoubtedly a celebration of the women’s game and hopefully will be inspirational to young girls who want to take up the sport. Anna Black – this girl can play well Texi Smith – this boy can write.

[Note: The QR code that appears on page 206 should have sat between pages 215-216. This should be rectified in later copies of the book.]


(Popcorn Press. March 2021. Paperback: 254 pages)


Book Review: Jarrod Black – Hospital Pass: An Unashamed Football Novel by Texi Smith

Hospital Pass is the second novel featuring Jarrod Black, an Australian footballer plying his trade in the English professional game. At the end of the first book, Introducing Jarrod Black, the central character was about to begin pre-season training ahead of a new campaign. This second novel picks up the story as that season comes to its climax.

Indeed, the twists and turns of the league finale provide one of the two major plotlines of the book. The other is a family related narrative which is a significant part of the book and provides an interesting play on the oft-quoted phrase from the legendary ex-Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.

As a reader this family related plotline conveys the feeling that the author Texi Smith is talking with an authenticity, gained through personal experience and therefore is an influence on the title of this second book, both in its double meaning and indeed is a challenge to the subtitle, An Unashamed Football Novel.

In looking to make comparisons with the first novel, Hospital Pass has a number of subtle differences. For instance, with the reader getting to know more about the Black family, including Jarrod’s wife, children, parents and in-laws, the story is set more in the present than the past. Also, interesting to note is the change in composition of the second book. Both novels to date are of a similar length (250-260 pages), with Introducing Jarrod Black, split over thirty-three, often very short chapters, with Hospital Pass delivered over eleven parts.

However, readers can be assured that this does not detract from this second novel providing a similarly captivating follow up from Smith’s debut novel. Both books have an easy style in terms of story and character development, one that could easily translate into a television mini-series.

Despite the more serious nature of parts of Hospital Pass, the feel good factor still remains and at the end of the book the audience is left with some unanswered questions that hopefully herald a third instalment of the Jarrod Black series.

Book Review: Introducing Jarrod Black – An Unashamed Football Novel by Texi Smith

When you think about team sport in Australia, what generally comes to mind is a country where Rugby League, Rugby Union, Cricket and Aussie Rules Football dominate. Soccer has had a fight to establish itself within the sporting consciousness of the nation.

The Australian’s national soccer team (nicknamed the Socceroos) qualified for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, but then had to wait 32 years before their next appearance in 2006 in a now unified Germany. Since then Australia have qualified for the subsequent tournaments in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

This change in fortunes can be in some way attributed to the formation of the A-League in April 2004 and a golden generation of players, some of whom who appeared in the English Premier League such as Tim Cahill, Brett Emerton, Harry Kewell, Lucas Neil, Mark Schwarzer and Mark Viduka.

Just as soccer has had to work to establish itself in the country, so author of Introducing Jarrod Black – An Unashamed Football Novel, Texi Smith, is looking to make a breakthrough. In speaking to Football Book Reviews (FBR) he said, “the Australian football fiction scene is definitely in its infancy, and I’m keen to help make it a thing.”

His first book tells the story of an Aussie-boy who makes his way from his homeland to England and begin a career in the professional game. In terms of timeline, the novel switches between the teenage years of Jarrod’s life in England and the present day in which the player now in his thirties is at a crossroads in his career.

The author provides a convincing glimpse into the life of a footballer, with this feelgood fiction having a feel of Roy of the Rovers at its heart. It is an engaging novel, which ensures the reader wants to know more about the characters. It is as its title suggests an introduction to Jarrod and accomplishes that, whilst at the same time having an entertaining plotline that sees resolution.

Appetite wetted? Then you won’t have to wait long for the next instalment as book two Jarrod Black – Hospital Pass is already published with a review here on FBR to follow.

Five-a-side. Quick fire questions with Texi Smith – October 2019

Football Book Reviews (FBR) caught up with the writer of two football novels, Introducing Jarrod Black and Jarrod Black – Hospital Pass to get a bit of background on the author, Texi Smith.

1. FBR: Where does your love of football come from?

Texi Smith (TS): Despite coming from a town where there was no organised sport until under 9s, I was always surrounded by football. We played every night after school with the kids in the street, down the park or with a tennis ball in the street.

2. FBR: What team do you support?

TS: I’m a Newcastle United supporter first and foremost. After twenty years in Australia, I’m also a Sydney FC fan – it is common knowledge that Sydney is Sky Blue. That’s where I get my live football fix.

3. FBR: How did you get into writing?

TS: I was match reporter for the football team at University, then for teams I played in and coached. Additionally, I did a stint as newsletter editor for the local club here in Australia, which gave me an audience, and then made the progression to novels.

4. FBR: In your first novel, ‘Introducing Jarrod Black’, its setting is the North East of England, do you have connections to the area?

TS: Yes, I was born in Ashington (like Newcastle United legend, Jackie Milburn and the Charlton brothers, Bobby and Jack), and lived in Morpeth.

As a result, I followed the Toon around the country. All my immediate family all still live in the area, I left England when I was 18 – a reverse journey to Jarrod Black in the first book.

I get back once every couple of years, craftily timed to be when there’s a game on!

5. FBR: Both of your novels have “An Unashamed Football Novel” in the title. What’s behind that?

I guess it’s a tip of the hat to fellow novel writers who choose to write about what they love.

Also, if someone chooses to read one of these books, I don’t want them to say “…it’s just all about football.” – let’s call it a warning message before the reader makes that choice! Like the warning message on a packet of cigarettes.

For further information on Texi Smith, visit https://www.fairplaypublishing.com.au/texi-smith

World Cup diary 2018 – Wednesday 27 June

Going to be honest and say that the first batch of games from yesterday which saw Group C conclude, passed me by. I’ve nothing against Denmark, France, Peru or Australia (well maybe Australia, as an Englishman it’s great to see the Aussies lose at any sport), but my focus was on the evening games in Group D involving Iceland, Croatia, Argentina and Nigeria. As a result I merely picked up the final scores in early evening that saw Denmark and France go through after a 0-0 stalemate, with the French topping the group and Australia finish bottom of the table after a 2-0 defeat to Peru in the other game.

So to the events in Group D and my match of choice involving Iceland and Croatia. I have a friend working for Iceland in their media team, so firmly nailed my colours to the mast of the Vikings hoping they would beat the Croatians and the result of the other game went their way. However, it was not to be despite the Iceland side giving it everything that they had. Chances came but in the end they looked a tired side and when you consider that in a good summer temperatures can reach 20-25 degrees Centigrade in Iceland, yet had to perform in temperatures of 30+, were the weather conditions a factor for their exit? Ultimately though they slumped to a 2-1 defeat which left Iceland with just a point from their three group fixtures.

With the game finished I switched channels to catch the last seconds of the Argentina and Nigeria game, where a cracking finish from Marcos Rojo just four minutes from time saved the two-times World Champions from exit of the 2018 tournament at the expense of Nigeria. For all the brilliance of Messi’s first-half goal and Rojo’s winner, the abiding image was of Maradona in the stands celebrating the second Argentinian strike by standing and displaying offensive hand gestures. I can’t share the opinion of those who consider him a ‘great’ since his image during his playing days will forever be tainted by the ‘Hand of God’ incident in 1986 and his banning from the 1994 World Cup for drug use. His antics since the conclusion of his playing days have reduced him to a laughing stock and embarrassment to his country.

Back to events on the pitch and those results from yesterday lead to the following last 16 ties:

June 30 France v Argentina          July 01   Croatia v Denmark

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Tuesday 24 June 2014

The early games yesterday saw Group B played to a conclusion and in all fairness didn’t hold a lot of drama, given that Netherlands and Chile were already through and Spain and Australia were out. Of course there was top place to play for and at the other end avoiding the wooden spoon.

In the end it was the Dutch who took top spot with a 2-0 over Chile. Both goals came in the second-half from substitutes Leroy Fer and Memphis Depay. In between the goals though, Chile might reflect that they were unlucky not to get a penalty. From a corner, Dutch defender de Vrij appeared to hold back Jara and to compound the issue then made contact with the ball using his arm. It wasn’t to be and the Netherlands took the points leaving Chile as runners-up in the group.

Australia ended up with the wooden spoon in what was a pretty comfortable 3-0 win for Spain. The Spanish dominated from the off and it was a surprise that it took until the 36th minute before they scored. Juanfran got behind the Australian defence and his cross was cleverly back-heeled home by David Villa. It was much the same in the second-half as Australia got pulled apart at the back, with Torres and Mata completing the scoring.

The only fun to be had was in Group A. Cameroon were already out and were up against Brazil who were all but through. So it was the Mexico v Croatia game that was the one to watch. The Mexicans knew that a draw would be enough for them, whilst Croatia needed a win to progress.

Given the importance of the game it was no surprise that the game got at times a little physical with players all too willing to square-up to each other at times, handbags et al. Despite Croatia needing to win to progress, it was Mexico who had the better first-half chances, although the game remained 0-0 at the break. This World Cup has seen the officials be very good with the spray cans, but I would have like them to have been better at the ‘real’ elements of their job during the games. Here in the second-half there was another glaring mistake from an official, as Srna blocked a cross using his arms denying Mexico a penalty. However, it wasn’t long before the Mexicans went ahead when Marquez headed home. Within three minutes they went 2-0 up, as Guardola fired home. Croatia were now looking ragged and they were exposed once more on 82 minutes as a cross found substitute Hernandez for an easy finish. The Croatians though had the final word as a well worked goal saw Perisic finish cleanly. However, there was one last incident in what had been a frantic last fifteen minutes when substitute Rebic was sent-off for a nasty challenge on Mexico’s Carlos Pena.

In the other Group A fixture, the game was won 4-1 by Brazil, which sealed top spot, with Neymar Junior getting two goals.

Following those results it means that the fixtures for the next round are as follows:

Brazil                     v              Chile

Netherlands       v              Mexico

FIFA World Cup 2014 – Thursday 19 June 2014

Well what a night that was…

It all kicked-off with a bit of a thriller between Australia and Netherlands. When Jedinak scored from the spot to put Australia 2-1 early in the second-half, the mad world that has been Group B looked to have another unforeseen story to tell. However, van Persie quickly brought the Dutch level and sealed victory with a goal from Memphis Depay. It could have been so different for the Socceros, as minutes before the Dutch winner Mathew Leckie had a glorious chance to put Australia ahead which went begging.

Netherlands through, Australia out.

The drama continued as we watched to see if World Champions Spain could get their tournament back on track. Was the defeat to the Netherlands just a blip? Well by half-time Chile were 2-0 ahead with goals from Vargas and Aranguiz and Spain were looking devoid of ideas and seemed resigned to defeat.

Chile through, Spain out.

To round off the evening it was back to Group A and Croatia against Cameroon. The Africans imploded in this one, going behind early to a goal from Olic and had Song sent off making it an almost impossible task to get back into the game. Croatia strolled to a 4-0 win with second-half goals from Perisic and two from Mandzukic. As if that wasn’t bad enough, two Cameroon players, Moukandjo and Assou-Ekotto, ended up in argument, with the later seemingly head-butting his teammate.

Cameroon out. Croatia still in the mix to qualify to the knock-out phases.

And so to today…

Group C has Columbia take on Ivory Coast and Japan take on Greece. However, squeezed in between those games is the torture and agony that will be England against Uruguay. Up and down the country we’ll gather round our televisions like moths to a candle to see whether we’ll crash and burn in defeat or bathe in the warm glow of victory.