Tag: World Cup

The sixth post of pre-Christmas 2018: June

Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Football didn’t quite “come home” after this year’s World Cup but England did reach the semi-finals and lost, valiantly, to Croatia, who were beaten in the final by a superior French side. Our review of the year has reached the month of June.

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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 were 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.”

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Since June, Löw has sobered up and Sané is now a regular fixture in the German team, where his ability and agility are beginning to add sparkle. Tomorrow, here, the seventh post of pre-Christmas 2018 dwells upon the new Empire of Evil: China.


The fifth post of pre-Christmas 2018: May

Monday, 17 December, 2018

Our review of the year has reached that month the Romans called Maius in honour of the Greek Goddess Maia, who was associated with the Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea. Anyway, the day dawned bright on 26 May, but by the time the three alpinisti, as they say in Italy, had reached the peak, it was shrouded in a fog that was both numinous and perilous. Still, we lived to tell the tale.

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The translation of the Gaelic Seán Sa Cheo means “John in the Fog” and it’s the title of a famous reel. The John here is John O’Rourke and, along with Tom Breen, he summited Galtymore today. Despite the fog, the hikers returned safely to base.

Seán Sa Cheo

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Tomorrow, here, the sixth post of pre-Christmas 2018 is from June and it’s all about the consequences of Joachim Löw’s fateful decision to exclude Leroy Sané from the German World Cup squad.


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


Time Trial in France

Wednesday, 11 July, 2018

When it comes to sport these days, all eyes are on Russia, where the World Cup is approaching its climax. For those who aren’t that into football, there’s always tennis and Wimbledon right now offers a more genteel alternative to the mania in Moscow. If neither small ball nor big ball satisfies, the Tour de France ticks the remaining boxes.

Today’s stage from to Lorient to Quimper glides past the citadel of Fort-Bloqué and through Pont-Aven, the city of the painters Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. The focus will be on Ménez Quélerc’h, a famous climb in Breton cycling, and the last 35km includes the medieval village of Locronan and the challenging côte de la chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.

Couch-based Tour fans are treated daily to spectacular landscapes steeped in history but what’s usually missing from the picture is the pain of the participants. Finlay Pretsell, the award-winning Scottish filmmaker, places pain at the centre of his film, Time Trial, and his anti-hero is Scottish-born David Millar, a Tour stage winner, who was suspended for doping in 2004. If the World Cup is ecstasy and Wimbledon is elegance, the Tour de France is human, with all the heroic and horrible facets of humanity exposed. Time Trial is a valuable contribution to our understanding of sport.


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


George Ezra: No. 1 with a Shotgun

Tuesday, 3 July, 2018

Can the chart success of George Ezra be regarded as a good omen for England tonight in their World Cup contest with Columbia at the Sparktak Stadium in Moscow? Shotgun has become Ezra’s first number one single in the UK right in time for summer soccer celebrations. Hat tip to Ian, who expects, tonight.


“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.”


Huh!

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:

Iceland