Here on Saturday the Suarez affair was bubbling under a bit, but quietly. It appeared Liverpool had not had any documentation from FIFA so didn’t know how or if they could proceed, although they have been told they are not eligible to appeal against the ban. That strikes me as unfair, given that they are innocent this time and FIFA’s action hurts them more than it hurts Uruguay.
I do wonder if England’s stance against alleged corruption was playing on anyone’s mind when the decision was made. If Suarez played for Real Madrid would the decision have been the same? I’m not convinced it would.
However, I can’t say anyone in Liverpool has sympathy for Suarez. Even Terry McDermott is quoted in the Echo as saying he doesn’t think the ban is particularly harsh and he’s one to talk. (If you can’t remember Terry McDermott’s behaviour from 1977, when there were no repercussions, have a look at http://www.lfchistory.net/Articles/Article/853).
Meanwhile, over in Brazil, the strike-delayed stadia haven’t collapsed as the competition reaches the mid-point. Well done USA and Algeria for getting through, and let’s not forget Iran, who didn’t but scored their first World Cup goal on the way to earning as many points as us. One of my idle speculations during the early stages was that having some of the minnow teams competing could detract from a tournament that is a showcase for the best the world can offer. How wrong I was. Loads of countries have done themselves proud. Even Australia, who finished with three losses and no points, contributed with a never-say-die attitude and some lovely goals.
So it’s a knockout, as Stuart Hall might be thinking as the door is locked behind him, and I’m still watching. The second half opener, Brazil-Chile, was good for the neutral observer. I’m old enough to remember Pele, Garrincha and some stunning flowing football. The current Brazil don’t get anywhere near this but they seemed to grow into the game and handled the strong, running, long ball game of Chile well enough. Keir’s assessment of Chilean strengths was spot on and it’s a pity they had to go out but it’s nice to see we’re not the only ones who blink when it comes to penalty shootouts. Next through were Colombia, not quite as attractive to watch but good enough to take care of a Uruguay side who, as my missus said, were like us in the group stage.
By Sunday Suarez had opened his gob again, this time to tell the world it wasn’t his fault. For this he wins the “when you’re in a hole stop digging” award. The Echo on Sunday carried loads on the implications of his ban for Liverpool as well a list of transfer targets but there wasn’t any mention of Borini, despite (or maybe for reasons related to?) what ALS might have said later in the day.
And with that it was back over to the TV once again, this time for Holland v Mexico and Costa Rica v Greece.
I thought Holland had looked OK in the group stage and that they would be good enough to overcome Mexico, and so it proved. That said, they ran it close, didn’t they? Apart from an excellent goal and a reflex-cum-lucky save (maybe two) the Mexico performance wasn’t anything special yet Holland struggled. Yes, their first goal was excellent but their second was a dubious penalty. I can’t see them winning the World Cup this time round.
On to Cost Rica and Greece, where a moribund match was brought to life in injury time as a lethargic Greece equalised against a ten-man side that had gone ahead through what was surely a mis-hit shot. I was impressed by Joel Campbell’s ability to keep going for 120 minutes despite having chunks kicked out of him. And well done Navas at the death and in a penalty shootout that showed us how to do it.
It was during the Costa Rica-Greece game that I’d come to the conclusion that the World Cup games meant little to me because they did nothing for Sunderland. In the premiership, most weeks, there will be a few games that are important because they can affect our position. Rivals gaining points, dangerous players getting booked or coming back from injury, even new managers bedding in. There’s an emotional side that just doesn’t exist in Brazil.
Even so, next week might bring some tasty games. Monday night looks interesting with two in-form teams playing underdogs. Then comes Argentina and later on Tuesday the one we’re all waiting for, USA v Belgium.
Will Jozy get a game? Will he get a goal? I hope so. I’d love to see him give Fellaini what for. If he plays well he’ll come back confident and ready to do a job for us. Or maybe someone will put in an offer for him and we’ll get our money back. I’d prefer the first possibility. I can remember the Arsenal game from last season – the first I saw – when we got beat but Jozy and Fletch looked good together. I still think that, fully fit and on song, they could combine to do the business for us.
But who can do the business for England? Despite our disappointing results some of the forwards showed promise and I’d expect the team to qualify for the Euros. However, a total of two goals in three games when other countries were rattling them in speaks for itself. Remember what the Mrs. said about Uruguay without Suarez? England are desperately short of a sniffer, a Jimmy Greaves or even an Alan Clarke (of Dirty Leeds, who gave us the “sniffer” nickname). You know what I mean. The aforementioned young England players look pretty on the ball, can bob and weave and work their way into the box and can create opportunities. But not one of them can consistently warp the space-time continuum of the six yard box so that player and ball coincide at just the right place for the probabilities to coalesce into that one defining moment. Is it a lack of talent? Is it coaching? Is it agents and media conspiring so young players don’t take risks? Or is it something else? I’ll leave you to ponder on that one.