Monday, June 30, 2014

World Cup controversial viewpoint: Brazil are over-rated

I'm not sure when I first realised how much I disagreed with the mainstream view that Brazil are the kings of world football, playing the game beautifully in a 'samba style'. Brazil is everybody's 'second team', we are told by the media and the football pundits.

But they aren't my second team. In fact, I was gutted Chile didn't knock them out a couple of nights ago.

So, why am I less than enamoured with Brazil. Here's a few reasons.

The sense of entitlement bugs me. I know it's being played in Brazil but the way the commentators talk about Brazil playing in 'their World Cup' irks me. It's the sense that Brazil somehow has a greater claim on the World Cup than any other nation. It's as annoying as the Arsenal fans bleating on about 8 years without a trophy (thank the maker that's over!) or Manchester United fans carrying on about finishing seventh.

The entitlement overflows in the way they get treated by referees. The opening game of this world cup was notable for the blatant favoritism shown to the host nation. Croatia were unjustly denied the chance to compete on an equal footing with Brazil because the refs were over-awed by the occasion.

I'm annoyed at the way the cloggers get overlooked. Yes, Brazil often have flair players who they give free rein to and that can be excting, but for every genuine world star they always have a colleciton of cloggers backing them up. Ramires is the same sneaky thug for Brazil as he is for Chelsea. David Luiz wouldn't look out of place hacking people down as part of a Uruguay team. Even Neymar got away with a blatant elbow to an opponent's face in the game against Croatia. (Which goes back to the referee's reluctance to take action against Brazil.)

People also overlook the play-acting. Hulk is one of the most guilty of the current crop of players. He seems to be wearing the slippiest boots on the planet given how many times he ends up on the floor. Athough the classic bit of Brazillian cheating was Rivaldo playing against Turkey in the 2002 World Cup. A Turkish player kicked the ball at him. It bounced off Rivaldo's knee and he went down clutching his face, getting the Turkey player red carded as a result. What a toe-rag. (He also made history as the first ever player to be fined by FIFA for simulation - yes, that's right, the first official diving cheat was a Brazilian.)

And finally, there's the simple fact that often Brazil are incredibly boring to watch. The 1994 World Cup Final in the USA is the prime example of this. I remember being told it was going to be the best game ever as Brazil faced Italy. Instead it was a turgid defensive affair that ended 0-0 after 120 minutes. One of those five stars on the Brazil badge is down to Roberto Baggio missing a penalty in the shoot out, not because Brazil were any great shakes.

So, there you go. They win with dodgy penalties gifted by awe-struck referees. They kick and elbow and dive their way to narrow wins and no one cares because of the stars on the shirt above the badge. After all, they are Brazil.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My 21 favourite things about the FIFA World Cup 2014 so far

We are into the knockout rounds of the World Cup and I've yet to blog about it, so here's a quick round-up of my favourite bits so far up to and including the second round game between Holland and Mexico.

1) Robin van Persie's equaliser against Spain. Quite simply one of the best diving headers I've ever seen and if you watch it in slow motion you can see he watches the ball into the net until his face hits the grass. When he scored his second he then ran around celebrating with his tongue out like a loon. I'm not a huge fan of RVP, but he is definitely growing on me.

2) Spray-foam at free kicks. It's simple. Ref marks where the ball should be. Then he draws a line on the pitch in front of the wall and they can't move beyond it. It comes in a neat hip holster and is simply a genius idea. One of the first games the ref sprayed it over a Holland player's boots and he was quite clearly protesting saying "My shoes!!" We laughed at that a lot.

3) James Rodriguez's first goal against Uruguay. Taken on the chest, back to goal, thirty yards out, he spun and hit it so sweetly it was untrue.

4) Spain being rubbish. Hopefully this is the death-knell for soul-destroying tiki-taka.

5) Mario Balotelli posting a picture of the Italy page in the Panini World Cup album filled with pictures just of him. That was a step beyond his normal hijinks into ironic subversion art.

6) FIFA stepping up and banning Luis Suarez.

7) Holland 5 Spain 1. What a game that was.

8) Pepe versus Muller in Portugal versus Germany. I have no idea what Pepe was thinking, but he basically threw the game Germany's way there.

9) Chile almost putting Brazil out in the second round. I was gutted they didn't manage to do it. They were the width of the crossbar away in extra time and then failed in the shoot-out. Also the Chile manager looked like Louie Spence, especially the way he prowled the edge of the technical area with one arm held rigid behind him.

10) Speaking of lookalikes, Cathy pointed out that the Mexico manager looked like Nathan Fillion in a fat-suit. She's not wrong.

11) Tim Cahill's goal against Holland. A moment of beauty.

12) The red, white and blue shirts worn by the USA against Ghana. Even nicer than the German white shirts with the red V.

13) Finding out the Mexican goalie has six fingers on one hand and had to have his gloves specially made.

14) The Columbian team's funky dance moves when they score. Play as a team. Dance as a team.

15) Alan Shearer losing it and finally showing some passion as a pundit, after England's pathetic showing. Gary Lineker said "We didn't expect much..." and Alan practically shouted "We expected more than that!" He looked seriously miffed.

16) But Daniel Sturridge's goal against Italy was one of the best England goals at a World Cup Finals that I remember.

17) Wesley Sneijder's goal for Holland against Mexico. Superb control to keep his team in the game with two minutes to go. Then Klaas van Huntelaar kept his cool under pressure to net a penalty in injury time to send Mexico out. An action-packed last few minutes that kept us on the edge of our seat.

18) The TV shot of a player taking a throw-in where 'WORLD CUP BRAZIL' on the advertising hoardings was cropped down to 'D CUP BRA'.

19) Gabby Logan and Phil Neville's in-ground discussion of the England game while the sprinklers soaked them. Twice.

20) Cathy referring to Adam Lallana as Adam the Llama. It would be a much cooler name.

21) Thierry Henry in his role as studio pundit talking about how a player was "really smelling the game." What?