So it’s pretty late at night on Friday night, 12:30 to be exact so I guess it’s early morning on Saturday in fact. This was a blog I kind of wanted to write around Wednesday, but the last few days I’ve not felt great, and doing something as cliché and well…common as writing a blog about the World Cup is totally not hipster enough for me, and I just didn’t have the passion, or creative energy to do it.
So why now? Well as I’m typing I’m watching the last twenty minutes of the Spain v Holland game, for the more observant of you who are wondering why I’m watching the last few minutes some two or so hours after it finished, I was being a good husband and making a sacrifice, instead of watching the football all evening, I was killing nether beasts with my wife, and thus recorded it.
And it was a sacrifice, I am English to my very depths. I even call myself English instead of British whenever I can, and while I would love my country to do well, doing well is very much getting out of our group as I see it. However my second team, in international stakes, has always been Holland. I still remember watching the ’95 Champions League final…although it was probably called the European Cup still at that point…and just being utterly mesmerised by the Ajax team. As a twelve year old, still really searching for my identity as a football fan, there was something about, not just their style of play, but the energy, youth and skill of the team, triggered something in me. I am a Derby County fan, and a proud one, yet when you support a team like Derby, a team that epitomises the highs and lows of following a football team, you sometimes need a second team that can (usually) put a smile on your face, and that, since that evening in ’95 has been Ajax
So as Ajax was my second club team, the Netherlands became my second international team, a team that usually, even when England went out early, still gave me someone to root for, and watch football not as a neutral, but as someone invested. A team that I could complain about when they picked PSV players instead of Ajax players. And as I type this they’ve just scored their fifth against Spain. Which just makes it even sweeter, the sight of Sergio Busquets looking happy, just lights a little fire of happiness in me, I’m just surprised he didn’t fall over, and cry holding his ankle. I feel a little odd as I’m sitting in my Derby Shirt watching this, but I know my wife won’t be too appreciative if I sneak into the bedroom just to grab my Ajax shirt!
I would love England to win the World Cup, and I actually think there is potential for them to do well, I like the squad, I actually like Roy Hodgson as an international manager, and I like the complete lack of expectation there is. But if England go home early, I am desperately hoping the Dutch do well.
Now a few other World Cup related thoughts…
The officiating so far has been awful. I’ve seen the entirety of the Brazil v Croatia game, and am about five minutes from finishing watching the Dutch win. I didn’t watch the Mexico v Cameroon game, but I’ve not heard good things about it. Usually you expect the first few games to be a bit rough and ready, but this has been awful. Enough has been said and written about the Japanese referee from the Brazil game, but as far as I’m concerned if anyone else had looked at Luka Modric, then thrust their forearm into his throat, would have been sent off. Neymar should never have been on the pitch to score, and that’s even before you comment on the penalty. Luckily for Croatia I’m pretty sure they should have enough to beat both Mexico and Cameroon. The referee tonight hasn’t been great, a few dodgy yellow cards, and I’m still not certain about the penalty that Diego Costa won.
The highlight of the Brazil v Croatia match, however was no doubt the incredibly effective, and worthwhile use of Goal-line technology. Croatia score, the ball bulging the back of the net, and then, ten minutes later as my brother pointed out to me on Twitter, they show that yes indeed, the ball did cross the line, thank-you FIFA, it’s OK to be proud, but you don’t need to show off.
Now seeing as I’m effectively criticised Fifa twice in two paragraph, I expect Sepp Blatter will be accusing me of racism soon…what? Too soon?
Everyone seems to be picking the Belgians as their dark horse, which as someone I was reading pointed out this week, they can’t be dark horses if everyone’s picking them. I think the Belgians have an abundance of talent, right through their team, as well as easily the best centre back in world football at the moment in Vincent Kompany, but my dark horse would be Japan. They’ve got some incredibly skilled players, with a good mix of youth and experience, and I think they could surprise a few people. Guarantee now that they lose all three games, and I look like an idiot.
The final whistle has blown, Holland has beaten Spain, and as far as I’m concerned NOW the World Cup has started, bring on the Italians!