Confederations Cup Diary: Eto'o's camouflage tux, New Zealand's only journalist and a weird Germany warm-up
The Confederations Cup is in full swing, with the second round of group games well under way and a solid idea building of who is likely to challenge for the trophy.
New Zealand have, alas, become the first team to be knocked out but the fighting quality of their players and the commitment of one intrepid journalist are stories that deserve to be told.
Elsewhere, Cameroon 'Daddy' Samuel Eto'o has been sporting some peculiar outfits and Germany have been trying some uncomfortable-looking training exercises.
DADDY (NOT-SO) COOL ETO'O IS A PROUD FATHER FIGURE
Football in Cameroon owes a lot to Samuel Eto'o. The former Barcelona striker is, almost indisputably, the nation's greatest ever player and Confeds stars Fabrice Ondoa, Christian Bassogog and Andre Onana are all products of the academy run by the Samuel Eto'o Foundation.
Players called him up after their Africa Cup of Nations triumph to thank the man they affectionately call 'Daddy' and he was present in Moscow for their opener against Chile at these finals – on Father's Day, no less.
It's a nickname Eto'o is happy to embrace. "It's a huge source of pride for any father to watch his children grow up and do great things," he told FIFA.com. "I'm thrilled to see kids who passed through my hands in this team. But I'm just an intermediary who gave them a chance to showcase all their talent. I wish them a long career like mine – or an even better one!"
And, like any good father figure, Eto'o knows how to dress to embarrass. Just like socks with sandals or sun hats with Hawaiian shirts, military camouflage tuxedos are never going to be okay – even if you're a national hero.
— #ConfedCup (@FIFAcom) June 21, 2017
POINTLESS TOURNAMENT? TRY TELLING NEW ZEALAND
The Confederations Cup has never exactly attracted glowing praise across the football world and the sight of half-empty venues in Russia won't be helping.
However, given the spirit shown by the team that have travelled the greatest distance and their die-hard handful of followers, perhaps we need a rethink.
New Zealand have, as expected, already exited these finals after two defeats in two but they produced a commendable performance in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Mexico.
Not only did Chris Wood give them a shock half-time lead, sending the tiny group of fans and the one (yes, one) New Zealand journalist into a party mood, but they almost fought back from a goal behind in the closing stages in Sochi to claim what would have been a deserved point.
Such was the enthusiasm of the All Whites that their late pressure sparked a brawl on the pitch that had to be dissipated by the officials. FIFA won't want that publicised much, but it's exactly the kind of competitive spirit they should be trying to foster across these finals.
— #ConfedCup (@FIFAcom) June 21, 2017
GLOBAL GAME LEAVES EMPTY FEELING
Stand outside the Spartak Stadium ahead of Russia's game with Portugal on Wednesday and you could be forgiven for thinking you were at any old game, anywhere in the world.
Yes, the glittering red and white panels on the £400million arena to the north west of Moscow looked magnificent in the evening sunshine, but the atmosphere on the concourses was anything but.
For all the good FIFA does – and look beyond the tawdry headlines and the scandals caused by those in it for personal gain and you will find an organisation full of people solely interested in improving the world's most popular sport – it needs to address the issue of globalisation for it is in danger of rendering much of their good work redundant.
Football is all about individualism, tribalism, the excitement of not knowing what to expect when you go to a game.
At every major international tournament, you don't get any of that.
It's the same global brands flogging their wares outside, the same intellectually deficient bloke on the microphone shouting inanely at a largely disinterested crowd to the backdrop of some lame dance music and the same people walking around on stilts.
It's Russia v Portugal, but it could be Australia v United States or Peru v Ghana. It could be anyone.
Obviously, individualism and tribalism bring issues, but there has to be some middle ground.
It's over to you, FIFA.
Russia fans enjoying the sunshine ahead of today's game with Portugal! pic.twitter.com/PaMhFAuU93
— Jon Fisher (@fisherjon10) June 21, 2017
THERE'S NO 'I' IN 'WHERE ARE THE OTHER REPORTERS?'
A hefty Mexican press pack descended on Sochi for their country's second game of the tournament against New Zealand. In total, there are an estimated 300 members of the media covering El Tri in Russia but it is a very different story for the All Whites.
Michael Burgess of the New Zealand Herald is the only journalist from his country covering Anthony Hudson's side, with the fervour surrounding the British and Irish Lions' pending Test series against the All Blacks one of the reasons for resources being diverted elsewhere.
As well as flying solo, Michael will be flying an awfully long way once New Zealand's race is run here. A flight from St Petersburg to Dubai, a hefty stopover and the long slog from the emirate to Auckland means his journey home clocks in at a mammoth 35 hours. Let's hope Chris Wood and company have made it worthwhile.
— Omnisport (@OmnisportNews) June 21, 2017
GERMANY'S SECRET WEAPON? JUST BAND AT THE KNEES...
Germany against Chile has the hallmarks of being the best game of the competition, even if it is only the second of three group games for each side.
However, there is a pervading sense that the winner of this game could well be the ones to lift the trophy on July 2, especially with Portugal not firing on all cylinders.
Joachim Low's side were hard at work at Kazan Arena in preparation for Thursday's game, with training including one particularly odd-looking exercise involving semi-elasticated bands.
With their knees slightly strapped together, players were instructed to perform a kind of walking tree routine in front of a waiting band of photographers.
Hey, if that's how you win a World Cup, we've got no arguments.
— Die Mannschaft (@DFB_Team) June 21, 2017