It may be the withdrawal symptoms of a curious gap in the football. It may be a righteous response to Salut! Sunderland’s ever-so-slightly tabloid lapse. But Bill Taylor has been out and about in Toronto again, snapping away at the flags and reflecting on the coming finale of the World Cup …
If he hasn’t been pulled over by the police for the potentially hazardous additions to his vehicle, this Toronto roofer is no doubt now flying his Portuguese flags at half-staff.
But with July 1 being Canada Day, let’s at least hope he still has the Maple Leaf where it belongs.
Or maybe he’s just driven the truck into Lake Ontario and let it sink slowly into the sunset of his team’s hopes.
As for the little white Mercedes (a LITTLE Mercedes? What’s the German for oxymoron?), the owner doesn’t seem quite to know his own mind. He’s flying 19 flags.
Let’s see what he’s got, starting with the far side:
Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, France, Ghana, Switzerland, either Slovenia or Slovakia, and South Korea.
On this side:
Portugal, Greece, Mexico, Germany, Cameroon, Brazil, England, either Australia or New Zealand, Chile and Serbia.
Nothing like hedging your bets. But does he have the winner in that lot? Not necessarily. From the quarter-finalists, he’s missing the Netherlands and Spain.
But I can’t see the Dutch beating Brazil on Friday. Even if they remove the Valium from their training diet, it’s probably too late.
The Brazilian samba has had its missteps and Elano, who’s scored twice, is out with an ankle injury – caused by a kamikaze tackle from Côte d’Ivoire’s Cheik Tiote, who didn’t even give up a free kick for it. (I’m beginning to believe that this World Cup’s match officials were given eye tests and those who passed weren’t selected. Just to stop the games from getting dull, you understand.)
All the same – and taking into account the Netherlands’ unbeaten record this year – Dutch pragmatism won’t overcome Brazilian flair. Coach Dunga van Marwijk came to South Africa saying the team was prepared to play ugly football. And they have. But this is the Beautiful Game and beauty will prevail.
Unless I’m mistaken (it happens), Uruguay and Ghana have never played before, except for an Under-20 match last year.
This could be best game of the quarter-finals. Ghana looked rock-solid front and back against the United States and Uruguay have only conceded one goal in the Cup so far. Both sides are hungry. But I think it’ll be the Black Stars, anchored by John Mensah, making history.
There’s no love lost between Germany and Argentina after the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals when the Germans beat the Argentinians 4-2 on penalties. Players and coaches faced off on the field afterwards, farce with an edge of real malice.
This sort of volatility seems to be written into Argentina’s tactical manual and given the relative youth and inexperience of the German side, could be used to unsettle them. But they can beat Germany without that.
Which leaves Paraguay and Spain. The Spaniards outplayed Portugal on Tuesday but at times their passing and ball control weren’t what we’ve come to expect. Torres was little more than a passenger for most of the time he was on the field. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him sit this whole game out.
Paraguay, on the other hand, didn’t play well against Japan, who didn’t play well against Paraguay. Pete Sixsmith says the Paraguayans were afraid to lose to the Blue Samurais but won’t see any shame in being beaten by Spain and will consequently play a different kind of football.
I hope they do. I hope da Silva and Riveros both play blinders. I hope they go through to the semis. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m very much afraid they won’t.
I think it’ll be Ghana against Brazil next Tuesday and Argentina versus Spain on Wednesday.
Note, by the way, that I’m not putting money on any of this.
But the final? Heart over head, I see Ghana beating Spain (accompanied by a final and louder-than-ever cacophony of vuvuzelas), with Brazil edging out Argentina for third place and giving a consolation prize to all the Portuguese fans who temporarily transferred their allegiance. Maybe the roofer will have hauled his truck out of the lake and mounted a new set of flags.
Meanwhile, in other news, this just in from the BBC: the President of Nigeria – whose name, I kid you not, is Goodluck Jonathan – has suspended the national football team from international competition for two years because of their lack of a single win at the World Cup. It will, he believes, give them a chance to “reorganize” themselves. With this in mind, he’s also dissolved the Nigerian Football Federation.
I wonder if Badluck David Cameron is listening and taking notes?