World Cup diary 2018 – Tuesday 03 July

Brazil (2) – (0) Mexico

No matter how good this side is (or thinks it is) I really have no time for the Brazilians and it is all down to one player – as I can’t call him a man – because quite frankly his antics are embarrassing. Yet again we had another exhibition from the self-proclaimed best player in the world, Neymar, showing the petulance and over-acting that are more likely to be associated with a five-year-old child.

There is an inevitability about Brazil’s progress to the Final that frankly fills me with dread.

Belgium (3) – (2) Japan

If the antics in the Brazil game showed the downside of the game, then it was a mighty relief that Belgium and Japan showed why football is so loved. The game was in the balance at the break with the score at 0-0, but within seven minutes of the restart Japan had scored twice through Haraguchi (48′), and Inui (52′) and it looked like another upset was on the cards. Then on sixty-five minutes, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez made a double substitution with Chadli and Fellaini replacing Carrasco and Mertens. Within four minutes Belgium were back in it, somewhat fortuitously as Vertonghen’s header looped into the goal. It was the spark the European team needed and on seventy-four minutes they were level, as Fellani outmuscled the Japanese defence to head in the equaliser. Japan though simply kept going and just when it looked like Extra-time was on the cards, Belgium broke superbly from a corner and in a devastating move swept in the winner courtesy of Chadli. Breath-taking stuff. So, so cruel on Japan, but what a comeback by Belgium,

Today the final two games in the last sixteen phase takes place and by this evening the full Quarter-Final line-up will be known.

Sweden v Switzerland

These two have never met in a Finals tournament, but have played in the Qualifiers on five occasions. The first of these was in Group 1 for the 1962 World Cup in Chile, when in May 1961 Sweden beat the Swiss 4-0 in Stockholm. In the return game in Bern, Switzerland turned the tables winning 3-2. Both sides finished with six points and it meant a play-off was required to see who would progress to the Finals. The game was played at a neutral venue, the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, and the Swiss came from behind to win 2-1 and take their place in Chile. The sides were next to meet in the Qualifiers for the 1978 World Cup, in Group 6, which also contained Norway. Switzerland hosted Sweden in October 1976, It was the same score-line in June 1977, when the side met in Solna, as Sweden topped the group and take their place in the Finals in Argentina.

A cagey European encounter given what is at stake? I’ll go for the Swiss given their strike force, but it may take Extra-time to separate the teams.

England v Colombia

1998 World Cup (France) 26 June 1998 – Group G

England (2) 2 – 0 (0) Colombia

Anderton (20’), Beckham (29’)

David Seaman, Gary Neville, Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, Graeme Le Saux, Darren Anderton (80’ Rob Lee), David Beckham, Paul Ince (83’ David Batty), Paul Scholes (73’ Steve McManaman), Michael Owen, Alan Shearer (captain)

It’s the only time the two countries have met in the Finals and all I respectfully ask the football gods is that they can deliver a similar result tonight. It’s an evening for keeping a clear head and in true football cliché style, just take one game at a time. Yes we know how the draw pans out, but please, please let’s get through tonight first.

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: Neymar: My Story – Conversations with my father. Neymar Jr and Neymar Sr with Ivan More

NeymarThis book is released as ‘the official autobiography’ of Neymar Junior and is the English translation of the version published in Brazil in 2013.

The term ‘official’ can be be a good thing and also be less so. On the positive side it is used so that those buying officially authorised products know they are of a certain quality, that they have been sanctioned for release and that there is no financial gain for those producing pirate goods. What it can also mean though, is that there is a great deal of control over what is produced and in the instance of a book, can compromise the content in that it can become very sanitised.

This book in terms of format is 150 pages long and consists of 30 small chapters. These alternate between Neymar Junior and Neymar Senior focusing on a specific theme and a style and tone that attempts to reflect a conversational answer to a question.

As readers we learn that Neymar Senior also played football professionally in Brazil, although not at a level achieved by his son and has for a number of years managed the affairs of the current Brazilian No. 10. As you would expect Neymar Senior expresses his love for his son and the pride he has for what Juninho (Neymar Junior’s family nickname) has achieved. Neymar Senior also covers such areas as family life, Neymar Junior’s progression into the ranks at Santos and subsequently playing on the international stage with Brazil, as well as the aborted transfer to Real Madrid.

In his chapters Neymar Junior talks about the positive influence of his family and especially his father and in addition, how he feels now that his is a father. Juninho like his father talks about his career to date and the highs and lows he has experienced since making his professional debut as a 17 year old including his recent move to Barcelona. He expresses his pride in playing for Brazil and how that nothing less than winning the World Cup in 2014 will be good enough for the Brazilian public.

On the one hand there is a warmth to the personal insight that the two men provide in terms of their relationship and if you know nothing of Neymar (Senior and Junior) this book provides a useful introduction. However, because the chapters are so brief there is the feeling that topics are not fully explored. There is the impression too – and this comes back to the idea of ‘official’ being constraining or sanitising – that as a reader I was left with the feeling that it was all a bit ‘nice’ and lacked a bit of an edge.



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