We’re in the thick of it now. The opening ceremony is but smoke in the breeze and the unpleasant migraine caused by Robbie Williams’ suit has now passed. Three games a day is ‘normal’; in fact you’ve comprehensively rerouted your entire schedule around three games a day and have accepted the fact that you will suffer nervous collapse when the group fixtures are over. When you go to bed and close your eyes all you see are balls being pinged and Pepe’s deeply embarrassing but entirely unsurprising dive.
But what have we learned? What’s it all for? Will it all have been worth it when we’re sitting in a circle, rocking in unison, in a hastily convened Effortista World Cup withdrawal group?
Far be it from me to put the mockers on it, but if one ignores Uruguay’s contribution to the tournament entirely, Russia 2018 has been a bloody belter to date. In fact, you called almost say that Uruguay are providing a service to we obsessives, their grinding slowness allowing the viewer to grab some much needed shut eye. Yesterday’s 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia was ground out with the kind of joylessness one might normally associate with Sisyphus but at least if they don’t perk up by the last sixteen they’ll be knocked out by someone more interesting.
It would be a shame, if only for the fact that we’d miss out Martin Caceres’ burgeoning interest in fashion, but these are the sacrifices we make in the name of entertainment.
Group A is over bar the shouting, what with Russia’s entirely unexpected but quite cheering goal rush vs. the unfortunate Saudi Arabia and then Mo Salah’s Egypt. Since the Liverpool man’s adventures in the Champions League concluded courtesy of The Ramos™, The Narrative was very much poised for Salah to lead his country out of the group, win the World Cup and secure peace for future generations but apparently someone else owns the rights to that screenplay, at least for this year.
It’s hard to hate Cristiano. An incredible achievement for the bloke given that it feels like his every waking moment is dedicated to finding ways to be even more of a prat. But despite the increasingly elaborate variations on his already annoying goal celebration and his new goatee, you have to be a person who posts things like this on Facebook or Lionel Messi to remain unmoved by his plans for the next three weeks. Iran are top of the table for now after their 1-0 defeat to La Roja but we have no reason to believe that anyone but Spain and Portugal will progress from Group B.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) June 20, 2018
Assuming that Pepe survives the impact of water jets hitting him in the shower, obviously.
Unexpected collapses haven’t been limited to Neymar’s hair or Germany’s new inability to play football either. Colombia conspired to lose 2-1 to Japan – Carlos Sanchez picking up the tournament’s first red card for handling the ball in the area – while Poland shipped two against Senegal, prompting some lovely touchline work from the youngest manager in the tournament, Aliou Cissé. It should be noted that both the Senegal and Mexico victories took the roof off Effortista HQ, so any donations for repairs will be welcome.
It’s hard to imagine what will have happened next time we meet. Will die Mannschaft find their form against a pumped looking Sweden side? Can Australia assert themselves in the tournament vs. Peru? Are you in space if your ticket is in the frankly terrifying temporary stand in Ekaterinburg? If Argentina lose to Croatia will Messi quit (again)?
All this and more next time. I’d clap you on the back in a friendly manner but you’re not allowed any more. It’s called grievous bodily harm these days.