World Cup

Nike won the World Cup

Monday, 16 July, 2018

When the World Cup reached the quarter-finals stage, we pointed out here on 4 July that the Nike swoosh adorned the chests of Brazil, France, Croatia and England, while Belgium, Russia and Sweden wore the three stripes of Adidas, with the group of eight rounded out by Uruguay, sponsored by Puma. In the end, it was a Nike vs. Nike final yesterday with France the deserving winners over worthy Croatia.

@MuseeLouvre joined the celebrations by kitting out the Mona Lisa with a France top and this tweet: “Félicitations à l’@equipedefrance pour leur victoire à la #CoupeDuMonde2018″. And so say all of us.

Mona Lisa Nike

And then there were six

Saturday, 7 July, 2018

The tournament that began on 14 June with 32 teams is nearing its end on 15 July, but before we reach to the World Cup Final the quarter finals have to be sorted and they began yesterday and finish today. First, a recap.

True to our prediction, France defeated Uruguay in what was an uninspiring affair marked by the absence of the South American’s talismanic striker Cavani and a terrible error by their keeper, Muslera. Adios, Uruguay! What we didn’t predict, however, was Belgium beating Brazil. Big shock, that. The story, here, too, was very much one of striker and keeper, with the Brazilian star Neymar being denied decisively by the Belgian goaltender Courtois. Adeus, Seleção!

And, now, to today’s quarter finals. Candidates: England, Sweden, Croatia and Russia.

England vs. Sweden, Samara. Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (The Netherlands). It’s Captain Kane against the Nordic Giants. The big backs of Sweden are specialists in ensuring that goals are not given away and Harry Kane is all about bagging goals. So, can England figure out a way past the obstacle course, or are they doomed to run and run against the yellow-blue wall until exhausted? On the way to this appointment in Samara, England survived Colombia, while Sweden subdued Switzerland. Both games gave pundits plenty to chew on and our conclusion is that it will be tactical and it will be tough, but football will out. Verdict: England by a foot.

Croatia vs. Russia, Sochi. Referee: Sandro Ricci (Brazil). Croatia have the talent but Russia have the drugs, as one wag put it. The Croats beat Nigeria 2-0, thrashed Argentina 3-0, and crafted a 2-1 win over Iceland to clinch first place in Group D. But they looked ragged grinding out a 1-1 draw with Denmark, to force the game to extra-time and penalties. Despite some wonderful saves by Kasper Schmeichel, Croatia pulled off the win and now face the home side. Anything could happen in the heat and humidity of Sochi. Verdict: Croatia by an inch.

World Cup England

And then there were eight

Friday, 6 July, 2018

What began on 14 June with 32 teams is nearing its end on 15 July, but before we get to the World Cup Final the quarter finals have to be sorted and they begin today and finish tomorrow. The candidates are Uruguay, France, Brazil, Belgium, Sweden, England, Russia and Croatia.

Part of the fun of the World Cup is making predictions, so here goes:

Uruguay vs. France, Nizhny Novgorod. Referee: Néstor Pitana (Argentina). According to the latest reports, Edinson Cavani, Uruguay’s star striker, is probably out of this evening’s game due to injury. If true, it’s a massive blow to the South Americans and his absence would tilt the scales further towards France, who can depend upon Mbappé to run Godín ragged. France, however, are more show than substance at times so it will be interesting to see how they’ll cope with the physical “toughness” (dirt) they’re going to encounter today. Verdict: France by a metre.

Brazil vs. Belgium, Kazan. Referee: Milorad Mažić (Serbia). With Belgium, we were promised another “golden generation” that was going to knock the socks off every team that dared stand in its way. And what happened against Japan? A Belgian winner in the last minute. Brazil, on the other hand, have changed their ways since that 7-1 hammering by Germany in 2014 and they’re one of the most efficient teams in the tournament. Neymar adds that extra element of Brazilian eccentricity, even if it’s mostly gaudy, but he’s usually good for a goal. Verdict: Brazil by a mile.

Tomorrow, the second group of quarter finalists.

France 1998

“Isch over.”

Thursday, 28 June, 2018

Back in June 2015, the former German Federal Minister for Finance Wolfgang Schäuble lost patience with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “Isch over,” he said. The context was the interminable talks about talks about talks to keep Athens funded and within the Eurozone.

Three years later, somethings have changed and more remain the same: “Tsipras Vows to Stick With Greece’s Euro Deal” is today’s Bloomberg headline. One thing has changed dramatically since 2015, however. Germany has lost its nimbus as a football power. Yesterday’s humiliating defeat by South Korea and the terrible performances against Mexico and Sweden mean “Isch over.” Over and out of the World Cup.

Apropos, in the Guardian, the former German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger says, “This was not the Germany we are used to – I feel completely empty.” He also places a finger in a fatal self-inflicted wound by team manager Joachim Löw:

“I’m aware there has been a lot of talk in England about Leroy Sané’s exclusion from the squad following his excellent season with Manchester City and, for me, he is a player who should be reintroduced immediately. He is exactly the calibre of player Germany needs, someone who is young and has raw, dangerous pace.”


Saturday, 23 June, 2018

Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa put two goals past Hannes Thor Halldórsson, the Icelandic goalkeeper, yesterday in Volgograd, to secure a vital 2 – 0 win for the Super Lions. It was a disappointing day for Halldórsson, but he’s got options. Until four years ago, he was a film director who played football for fun. Now, he’s the keeper for Randers FC, which plays in the top-flight Danish Superliga.

In the run up to the World Cup, Halldórsson returned to his old job to direct a commercial for Coca-Cola featuring the Icelandic national team and the famous Huh! chant that has become an anthem for underdogs. Talking of underdogs, Iceland must now beat Croatia on Tuesday and hope Nigeria don’t beat Argentina. That’s a big ask. In the end, goal difference could be critical so Iceland need to win big as Nigeria can still advance to the next round with just a draw. Huh!

Kane is able and quotable

Tuesday, 19 June, 2018

Although he’s a mere 24, the England captain Harry Kane has already a Brainy Quote page devoted to his wise sayings. Example: “Obviously, everyone’s different, but I love just settling down and having a barbecue with my friends at the house.”

Tweet of the World Cup… so far

Sunday, 17 June, 2018

And the award goes to football commentator @MatthewStanger for this gem about that remarkable 1-1 draw between Argentina and Iceland yesterday:


The look: When you score a hat trick against Spain

Saturday, 16 June, 2018

“Vamos família!” is what @Cristiano tweeted following his extraordinary hat-trick performance against Spain in last night’s World Cup thriller in Sochi.


Suarez: The chomp

Tuesday, 24 June, 2014 0 Comments

Google’s toothbrush test in Brazil

Tuesday, 17 June, 2014 0 Comments

When Larry Page returned to being Google’s CEO in 2011, he said he wanted to develop more services that people would use at least twice a day, like a toothbrush. Now that football is in the air, so to speak, the search engine giant has launched its Project Loon balloons in Northeast Brazil to connect an isolated school, Linoca Gayoso, to the internet for the first time. Interestingly, the Loon trial is using LTE technologies, which allow Google’s stratospheric balloons to link directly to smartphones and tablets.

It’s all to play for.

Italy 2 : England 1

Sunday, 15 June, 2014 0 Comments

For commentary on the after-match inquest, let’s turn to Britain’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

The Shirt

Afterwards, I found him alone at the bar
and asked him what went wrong. It’s the shirt,
he said. When I pull it on it hangs on my back

like a shroud, or a poisoned jerkin from Grimm
seeping its curse onto my skin, the worst tattoo.

I shower and shave before I shrug on the shirt,
smell like a dream; but the shirt sours my scent

with the sweat and stink of fear. It’s got my number.
I poured him another shot. Speak on, my son. He did.
I’ve wanted to sport the shirt since I was a kid,

but now when I do it makes me sick, weak, paranoid.

All night above the team hotel, the moon is the ball

in a penalty kick. Tens of thousands of fierce stars

are booing me. A screech owl is the referee.

The wind’s a crowd, forty years long, bawling a filthy song

about my Wag. It’s the bloody shirt! He started to blub
like a big girl’s blouse and I felt a fleeting pity.
Don’t cry, I said, at the end of the day you’ll be back

on 100K a week and playing for City.