Dear Mother, sorry this is late and that I didn’t finish the group write-ups before the World Cup started. Please don’t kick me out again or throw out any more of my things; I’m still trying to get over the loss of my Thomas the Tank Engine bedspread.
Incidentally, you may recall our write-up of Group B suggested that you support the Netherlands and denounce Spain. Your new football friends were doubtless impressed at your counterintuitive (and therefore deep) knowledge of the game of foot.
All nations at the World Cup have their Platonic ideal of a footballer; a mythological being who embodies the nation’s prejudices, fears, personality, needs and desires.
Despite being Argentina’s captain, star player and a bona fide candidate for greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi is not that player.
For Argentina, the ideal is a goblin-faced, mullet-haired, sleazy street urchin of superlative skill and tremendous appetites. A ballerina-cum-bar-room-brawler who’s kicked, bitten and fought to the top. Someone who will dazzle their way through the opposition like they’re so many groupies one minute and punch a ball into the goal the next. Then celebrate by snorting cocaine off your mother’s navel and doing the bad thing with your girlfriend.
Madonna in 1986 was the blueprint, dragging a frankly desultory team to the trophy with performances of Like A Virgin and Hand Of God. My girlfriend reckons she’s never had better, which really helps my self-esteem.
So as we were saying, Messi does not embody Argentina like, say, Garrincha embodied Brazil, or like Carlos Tevez embodies Argentina (except for the coke/mum thing). The Barcelona darling has never quite translated his club level dominance to the national team.
Notwithstanding that he never refused to warm up for Argentina because he didn’t think he should have been a substitute in the first place, Tevez has almost invariably performed equally well for club and country. This alone must make his exclusion from the squad all the more heart-warming for fans of professionalism.
But none of the above really matters, because it just means that Argentina have to make do with a player in Messi who’s more or less the best in the world as opposed to a player who might be the best of all time (or at least make the top 3).
Also, Argentina has a strike-force more stocked than a hypochondriac’s medicine cabinet, with players of the calibre of Lavezzi and Palacio’s rat-tail relegated to the bench. Messi, Aguero, Higuain, with Di Maria and Gago in midfield, hope to paper over the defensive cracks (Romero in goal, Demichelis on the pitch generally).
To be fair, defensive weakness appears to be a feature of pretty much all of the teams at the tournament this year, perhaps why it’s proving to be a vintage competition.
Argentina numbers among the favourites for a reason and you don’t want to waste your hangover on plonk. Crack out a bottle of malbec for the consistency of quality, rich tannins and way it complements a plate of meat with chimichurri on the side.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia’s team is a charmingly disheveled, tactically naïve side that tends to bomb around the place like a cheerfully demented cocker spaniel. When they get really excited, which is every time the doorbell rings, they tend to lose bladder control all over the floor you just mopped. One for the neutrals, then.
The Dragons’ relatively undisciplined, attacking focus is something of a necessity given that centre backs Spahic and Bicakcic lack anything resembling pace and the squad has no natural defensive midfielder, meaning that they will have to rely on scoring more goals than the opposition. Even a genuine top level goalkeeper like Stoke’s Asmir Begovic can’t be expected to keep a clean
floor sheet by himself.
Fortunately, in general terms the winner of a game of football is the one that registers more goal scores.
Unfortunately their opening game is (was…) against Argentina, and all due respect to the most dragon-y of the Dragons (Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko), it’s a mug’s game trying to go toe to toe with Argentina for racking up the goal scores.
You had a crack at making some home-made plum brandy, hence why you’re on the Turkish coffee, unsurprisingly rather popular in Bosnia. You’re hoping that the ćevapi will also help.
At least the brandy didn’t make you blind.
One night back in the ’60s the band Cream was on stage improvising some self-indulgent meandering madness when some unknown, random American dude with a killer ‘fro asked to sit in. He plugged a guitar into a bass amp and fretwanked the living daylights out of an old blues number called Killing Floor. His name was Jimi Hendrix.
The moral of the story is just because no one knows you doesn’t mean you’re no good. And please, no double negatives. Obscure Loaded Weapon 1 reference for you there.
That being said, Monday’s dour 0-0 draw against an unambitious Nigeria suggests that Jimi Hendrix might not be the best of comparisons to make.
Even after watching the game, I know absolutely nothing about Iran save that manager Carlos Quieroz seems to have come to the World Cup dressed up as a 1970s sex symbol. Which must be unsettling for the squad.
Arak: it’s an aniseed flavoured alcoholic drink traditionally mixed with water and ice, which gives it a milky white colour (because the anethole in aniseed is not soluble in water). If anyone asks, you’re drinking milk instead of alcohol in a misplaced stab at cultural sensitivity.
You think it might be a bit off (hence the fermented flavour) but you’re really thirsty.
If you drink enough, you might even start to think unthinkable thoughts about whether Carlos removes that gold chain during… y’know… eeeeww.
Some years ago Manchester United signed an exciting, highly promising young talent who subsequently decided that blue suited his complexion better than red and joined Chelsea instead, because contract law doesn’t apply to football.
Fast forward to today and all involved are still trying to nail down exactly who it was that started the malicious rumours about John Obi Mikel’s alleged exciting-ness and talent in the first place.
For Nigeria, Mikel provides a solid but sluggish presence in midfield, neither particularly adventurous nor much of a destroyer, with the turning circle of your average oil tanker.
On paper, this group was always likely to be a straight race for second place between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nigeria.
In reality, it turns out that paper wasn’t worth…the. paper. it was… written on.
I was in trouble about 3 words into that sentence. Obscure Arrested Development reference for you there.
In reality, Mikel’s pretty indicative of the team as a whole, which didn’t attack Iran with conviction and which seems unlikely to defend heroically against Bosnia and Herzegovina in its next match or Argentina in the final one. Some teams (like Croatia against Brazil) don’t seem to know they’re beaten until the final whistle. We say this more in sadness than in anger, but Nigeria seems to have beaten itself before the first match. Hence why they were so lethargic during the game, badum tish. I promise that wasn’t originally intended as a masturbation joke.
Nothing’s been decided in the group of course, and it may be that a lacklustre display against a team cast as whipping boys is just the kick up the arse Nigeria needs to find some ambition.
Best just to crack open a lager, preferably Star (Nigeria’s first domestically brewed lager), ignore the TV and take a brain trip back to the days when Jay-Jay Okocha was still playing and the Super Eagles were still soaring.
Next time on Frood: Ghana, Cristiano Ronaldo and the USA have a battle royale to see who will finish second behind Germany in Group G.