That British media, eh? First the FIFA corruption allegations now the concerted attacks on Luis Suarez, fresh from another controversy of his own making. That there does appear to be evidence of corruption and that there are photographs showing what appear to be teeth marks on Chiellini’s shoulder are neither here nor there; we’re just embittered troublemakers. As Uruguay’s manager Oscar Tabarez had it, this is a World Cup. It’s not about morality.
Now we’re not about to make a sanctimonious plea for ethical play (although the British do hate cheating in football except when we’re doing it). After all, as George Orwell put it, football is a game in which everyone gets hurt and every nation has its own style of play which seems unfair to foreigners. But this ain’t exactly the striker’s first Hannibal Lecter impression and he clearly hasn’t responded to past punishments.
So the question on our lips today: should the serial recidivist be banned for crimes against corn flakes? It’s a chewy question, after all this is his 3rd on-pitch biting incident, possibly because of low blood sugar. But probably not. On the other hand the World Cup powers-that-be are notorious for seeming to defer difficult decisions relating to star players (because it needs those star players to be, y’know, playing); to quote A Few Good Men, “the tooth? You can’t handle the tooth”. On balance, Suarez is extremely talented but, euphemistically speaking, seems a touch flawed; kind of like Wagner without the anti-Semitism.
Anyway, food for thought.
As we approach the end of the group stage we enter a time for reflection. Forests become desert, young love withers and fades away, bands split amid ego and recrimination, kings are deposed; empires crumble and fall into the sea.
I’m talking of course about Jeremy Paxman retiring from Newsnight. But also Spain being dumped out of the World Cup last night (when I wrote this bit) after losing to Chile, because that happened too.
Plenty of people are out there cackling with schadenfreude, pretending like they hated Spain before it became popular, rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon (late) sometime after Euro 2012.
Of the remaining favourites, Argentina has an underbelly softer than brie in a microwave and Brazil has struggled considerably more than you probably expected.
And then there’s Germany.
It’s quite hard for me to write about ‘the old enemy’ Germany because the secret truth is that I am head over heels, blind, punchdrunk, singing in the rain, haven’t felt this way since I first saw Salma Hayek in Dusk ‘til Dawn batshit crazy in love with this Germany team.
It did sting when they tore England apart in the second round of World Cup 2010, mind.
Never saw you looking so lovely as you did tonight, I’ve never seen you shine so brightly as you did tonight… Maybe it’s in the way that Muller looks like a fan in a replica shirt rather than a professional footballer, maybe it’s in the way that Germany 2.0 (2010-) replaced the stolid Teutonic Rammstein of old with something much more hip, willowy and zippy, like an oddly coiffed laser.
Perhaps it’s the cavalier way that the only ‘proper’ striker they brought with them this time around is record equalling goal wizard and all-round Methuselah, Miraslov ‘the closer’ Klose.
Speaking of wizards, do you remember Captain Marvel?
Mario Gotze Billy Batson was a typical pants-wetting 8 year old boy until he hung out with an octogenarian who promised to show him a magic trick. This was decades before anyone had noticed that ‘stranger’ and ‘danger’ rhyme, so apparently it was alright to create a comic that appeared to encourage young children to pass their time unsupervised with much older men who weren’t related to them. Also, Mesut Ozil looks a bit like Freddy Freeman.
So it’s clear, some spectacularly stupid, utterly irresponsible and probably unhinged wizard who clearly knew nothing of the egomania and proclivities of the average 8 year old gave the Germany players godlike superpowers when they were wee bairns.
Or alternatively, the country has invested time and money into creating and properly funding a nationwide string of footballing academies employing a large number of highly qualified, enthusiastic young coaches dedicated to churning out tactically aware, technically gifted players and then giving said players opportunities to play in Bundesliga first teams.
And naturalising players before they could turn out for anyone else.
Or maybe they were all synthesised in a laboratory out of a mix of DNA from hair and skin samples of former greats.
Love is blind of course – the team is no less fallible than any other, they’ve not actually won anything yet to justify their lofty status, and Ghana held them to a draw. To quote Jean-Paul Sartre, in a football match, everything is complicated by the presence of the other team.
Still, if they don’t qualify from the group and magic away their second round opponent with contemptuous ease, Joachim Low should probably eat one of his natty jumpers.
The difference between Disney movies and real life is that real life is only unintentionally cruel.
Even before the World Cup kicked off this seemed to be one of the tighter groups. If not quite a group of death, Ghana and the USA – two tough to beat teams who have improved significantly over recent years – were to face arguably the strongest squad and the best (form) player in the world. And going into the final match, results are finely balanced, with all teams still capable of qualifying.
The self-styled ‘African Brazil’ was one of the surprise packages at the last World Cup, the team winning hearts and minds a-plenty until it ran into sportsmanship’s Luis Suarez in the quarters. One fluffed penalty and inappropriate Suarez celebration later and Ghana were out.
Of course that was 4 years ago; Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight suggested that either you die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
And sure enough the Black Stars have seen their reputation take a hit since their last game, a well-deserved draw against Germany. Their preparations for a showdown against Cristiano Ronaldo were slightly derailed by suspensions for Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng, following allegations of physical violence and verbal naughtiness respectively.
Predictably enough, the background is a slightly tawdry row about money. Following the lead of France in 2010, the players threatened a strike earlier this week. This in turn saw a plane hastily chartered, loaded with cash and flown to Brazil. But the fallout has left Ghana short of 2 of its more experienced midfielders, who might have been expected to make the difference.
One suspects the boys could have done with a hot stone massage, maybe a mani-pedi, something to soothe their aching bosoms; a cocktail at the very least. After all, Ghana has enjoyed a boozy renaissance of late, with traditional liquors being brought into the 1990s – akpeteshie replaces rum for homegrown twists on caiprinhas and mojitos.
You’re not even sure they are a ‘self-styled African Brazil’, but it sounds good. Easy on the mixers in that drink.
With Germany and Team USA in the driving seat for qualification, and Cristiano Ronaldo desperate to make an impact on the World Cup, my prediction is that this is the end of the road for Ghana and its fallen stars.
Port + regular size wineglass + Cristiano Ronaldo = classy.
By reputation, the American people have an insatiable appetite for sport, or at least for watching it on the TV while shovelling cheese into their mouths and going on about how exceptional they are at stuff.
You’ll appreciate what I did with that last bit.
Plenty of – actually mildly offensive – reasons are given for this. They basically boil down to:
“there are already too many sports to keep up with, and Americans are easily bored and don’t like rooting for the underdog, especially when that underdog is their own team.”
Team USA has tended to focus on stout defending and sucker-punch counterattacking, offering little in the way of jinking, mazy runs to get furiously excited about or sneaky digs and diving to get excitedly furious about. For the past decade or so their big superstar has been Landon “Not Jason” Donovan, a man who not only redefines beige but who has never once appeared on Neighbours.
And you’d be forgiven for thinking that that sounds about as much fun as a teetotal stag do.
But the chronically underappreciated side have ditched Donovan and turned up sporting a flamboyant little number in red, white and blue. Their opening game ended on a thrilling note, a flurry of very late goals seeing them nail 3 points on the board. The follow-up 2-2 draw against Cristiano Ronaldo saw a dominant US on course for the win until the 94th minute, Tim Howard making possibly the best save of the tournament.
Jurgen ‘I believe it might be a soft j’ Klinsmann deserves a lot of credit for injecting the confidence into the side to play with a little flair – although the team typically expects to do well in the group stages, they’ve occasionally seemed overawed by more lauded nations. And people are starting to take notice ahead of the group’s denouement: Hulk Hogan Hulkomaniac-ing the internet to talk up ‘The men’s USA soccer team’, making mildly homoerotic comments about them ‘pounding’ the Germans.
Meanwhile Will Ferrell confirmed at an appearance in Recife that he will be playing and fully intends to bite any Germany players he comes across.
But too much excitement isn’t good for the nerves, so follow the lead of the American Midwest and sanctimoniously eschew anything alcoholic in favour of a glass of slightly below room temperature water. You save your drinking for when you’re alone.
Clint Dempsey is apparently going to release a rap album.
Ok, maybe just one drink then.
What do you call someone else’s cheese? Nacho cheese.
Better make that a double.
Next time on Frood: Group H’s Algeria, Belgium, Russia and South Korea fight it out to see who gets to avoid Germany in the next round. And speaking of Uruguay, here’s Albert Camus: All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football. Exactly Tabarez, exactly.