I usually have to have the remote surgically removed from my hand on rest days, but I’m welcoming this first pause in play since World Cup 2018 kicked off. Perhaps I’m getting old; the emotional investment I make into a particular team prior to kick off is fine in a league season when I’m watching a few fixtures a week but doing it three times a day for two weeks takes its toll. My brain is a frantic mess of mathematical equations pertaining to how teams will or won’t progress, whether VAR is a good thing or not and various other neurotic and unnecessary extrapolations of data.
Despite all this, I still feel like it’s the best major tournament I’ve watched for years. England are in unprecedented (for the 21st century) territory insofar as not having made an embarrassing error, it’s true, but I’ve thought about it and can confirm this is not the reason for my bold statement. It’s more than that.
The big boys flubbing their first round games helped. I don’t buy into the post-ironic ‘Wahey, the enemy are out‘ narrative which emerged after the world champions were beaten by South Korea and sent home, but that final Group F round of fixtures was Kanchelskis-esque, the way it dinked and swerved its way to an entirely unexpected conclusion. A vaguely depressed looking Sweden overturning a thrilling Mexico side? Alright, but South Korea beating the *hushed voice* Germans 2-0? They should suspend Son Heung-min’s military service for that last gasp goal alone.
Embed from Getty Images
The Ronaldo/Messi Complex is trundling along quite cheerfully now that Argentina have somehow snatched the initiative from under Nigeria’s noses, although the expression on Crispy’s face when he thought he might get a red card vs. Iran was worth a thousand missed penalties. The tournament needs this rivalry, although we all know it’s a media driven invention designed specifically to collect page views and make us hate ourselves.
Colombia have been thrilling and a joy to watch, although I’m hoping in the next say… four days or so, they suffer an unfortunate collapse in confidence that no one saw coming. If the Narrative is truly flexing its muscles, Neymar will dive his way into obsolescence, Mexico will put Brazil out, Pepe will bite Luis Suarez and France will take advantage of the distraction and bloody nick it.
This is why it’s tiring. Once upon a time we were dealing in data. Football was a results driven business. Now there’s so much information that all have to be fed into the machine before it will spit out a palatable scenario – character arcs, curses, the roles of VAR, the officials, supporters, national governments and Maradona’s ‘antics’, it’s no wonder we don’t know what the hell is going on.
I’m knackered. And yet somehow I know that by the time 1900 BST rolls around, I’ll be frantically downloading podcasts and watching reruns in the vain hope of getting my hit.
We never bloody learn, do we?