El World Cup Diario, Day 5: The end of innocence
It seems to be unanimous. We, the whole world, are in full agreement that this has been the greatest World Cup in living memory thus far (providing your memory of World Cups goes back no further than the year 1999).
Thirty-seven glorious goals in the first 11 games, 19 more than at the same stage of that tedious 2010 affair, that’s what’s done it for us. But it’s been more than just the volume and indeed the pleasing variety of goals. We've also been charmed by the fact that every team seems to have been pre-programmed to go for the jugular, and by the fact that the whole thing is wide open and almost anyone could win it.
Brazil, Germany, Italy, Holland, definitely Germany, possibly Argentina and without question the Germans, well they're all in with a shout. Maybe even Spain as well, despite that opener, but probably not England, although who can say for sure?
Hell, it’s so wide open that even Team USA Soccerball Coach Jurgen Klinsmann thinks they could win it - and who can blame him after their dramatic 2-1 win over Group G rivals Ghana. “I've booked my flight (for) after the final," he said. And although we suspect he wasn't seriously suggesting Team USA would win it, it sounds like he too has been caught up in the feel-good buzz of these first few days. It's been great so far, without question, but are the wheels about to come off.
We only ask because, over the last few days, El Diario has noted, with furrowed brow, that the gay innocence of this World Cup has been replaced by a rising tide of skulduggery.
The red card count is rising, Pepe's being the most preposterous yet, and we've had our first dour 0-0 of the tournament, but there's more to it than that. Several things, in fact...
We all know by now that the French have complained of being spied on during training by a shadowy drone camera that may possibly have been piloted by the Nasris. What we only learned today was that the French team considered taking the matter into their own hands.
"There was nothing we could do to stop it – maybe kick the ball at it," said their gangling goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. "But it’s a big challenge to hit it."
Laugh it up, Hugo, but as well as giving the Taliban some clever ideas and therefore endangering the safety of the western world, this renegade attitude amounts to an act of lawlessness that can not be tolerated. For the sake of all that is right and proper, scrub their three points from the record books and send them home, Mr Blatter.
Photographed bathing in the buff in the team’s swimming pool by two photographers hiding outside the team compound in a bush, Croatia’s players are now refusing to talk to the press. Outraged that the shots were then posted on a website, the players have issued a blanket ban, though a blanket ban may have been the cause of this unsavoury incident in the first place.
The mystery here though is why a bunch of footballers who'd normally find great mirth in flashing their plod and swingers at one another should now come over all coy in the presence of a telephoto lens. Either way, down with this kind of thing.
There have been instances of brazen theft from the very outset of this World Cup, many involving gullible Englishers being pick-pocketed by loveable Brazilian urchins, and one involving a lumbering Brazilian centre-forward named Fred in the opening game. Yesterday though, came news of a new low that will turn the stomach of any law-abiding citizen.
It turns out that when a group of Mexican fans stumbled upon a large, unmanned stash of beer inside Natal’s Stadio das Duna, the light-fingered opportunists grabbed and nabbed the lot. Did their actions somehow counteract the scandalous mark-up on the official beverages sold inside the stadium? Very possibly, but as we all know, two wrongs can never make a right.
'The Argentinians Have Invaded' screamed the headlines of several terrified Brazilian newspapers on Sunday, amid reports that their South American neighbours were having too much fun on the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
In the land of the never-ending street party, it seems the Argentines got carried away, partying for too long and daring to unfurl a flag in a place where no flags are permitted to be unfurled.
The local police force acted swiftly to bring them into line, spraying these hardened football thugs in the eyes with pepper spray and chasing them down the road. Decisive proof that this kind of lawless, freeform fun will not be tolerated.
Back home, here in Blighty, Twitter users – it’s always Twitter users – have reacted angrily to the presence of ‘bloody’ foreigners as BBC and ITV pundits, particularly Juninho Paulista and especially Fabio Cannavaro.
“They should provide English speaking courses and tests for the pundits before allowing them on ITV or even BBC,” tweeted a foaming John Bull. “Cannavaro is struggling.” Cannavaro is struggling, that’s true, and yet his grasp of basic English grammar and sentence structure is still more advanced than Alan Shearer’s. Go figure.
Even England manager Roy Hodgson has helped turn the mood dark, using the build up to Thursday’s crucial game with Uruguay to poke a stick at Luis Suarez. "You can be a great player in your league but to be recognised as one of the all-time greats you have got to do it at the World Cup," chomped Mr Hodgson, quite unnecessarily and very unwisely. Poke that one for long enough, Roy, and he’s liable to bite.
Frankly, after such a positive opening, we're disappointed that things have degenerated so fast. Can we not all just play nice again?