The first world cup I remember was 1974 and since then I have watched and waited with anticipation and the greatest excitement for every world cup. In 1990 I was even lucky enough to go to Italia 90, I only managed to get tickets for one game, Brazil V Scotland in Turin and had to watch the rest on telly with Italian commentary. I was also living in a house full of Argentineans! After England were beaten by Germany we hitched back to Belgium, watched The Cure at Rock Torhout and then had exactly the right money left to buy a day ticket from Ostend back to Blighty. I don’t think anything will ever beat my memories of that summer.
But hey, Africa 2010, the one we were going to win….er again? Yeah right, no excuses about the altitude, the hot weather or the time of games, no not this time, conditions were perfect and we had ‘The Golden Generation’ fired up and ready. Well England were in all fairness pretty woeful. The excuse this time was tiredness, or was it the wrong type of snow or leaves on the line? But for a number of reasons, a bit like team England, this world cup just didn’t really feel like it turned up. Sure, there were some great games and some great goals, no terror attacks or unbuilt stadiums, but none of the players like Torres, Ronaldo, Messi or Rooney made the mark they should have done. Forlan was voted best player of the tournament and when the Germans are providing one of the more exciting teams, well.
Then there was the constant drone of the vu vu zela, b flat I’m told, the same key as ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, the second saddest of all keys. This constant drone destroyed the atmosphere as it really took the crowd and dynamics the crowd provides to the game completely out of the equation. When a side was closing in on goal or even about to score, you just didn’t feel the vibe of anticipation. Even when the final whistle went you had to double check to see if the game was over. Something else that maybe caused this world cup not to ignite was the Jabulani ball. During the opening rounds I lost count of how many times it flew over the cross bar and into the car park or a cross field pass bounced over the player it was intended for and into touch. Even as a West Ham fan I can make no excuses for Robert Greens guff but it did swerve like a baseball just before it got to the goalie on many occasions.
Maybe one of the good things to come out of this tournament was the Lampard ‘goal’. Not good for us clearly as it went over the line and should have been given, but good for the game as now even the dimwitted ‘nothing to do with football’ suits at FIFA know that change is inevitable. As far as what actually constitutes a goal is concerned we have to look at this philosophically. When is a goal a goal? Well my friends, a goal is a goal when the referee says it is, regardless of where the ball is or what the rules of the game are, it’s that simple. Exactly this is what I have been telling my German friends for years when they bang on about ‘Das Vembley goal von 66’. They won’t accept it, no matter how many times you tell them that Geoff Hurst scored a hat trick that day because, the officials said he did, they just feel cheated. ‘But ze ball never crossed ze line’ they still protest, ‘So what’ I tell them, ‘It doesn’t matter, move on, the ref gave it, it’s a goal, at least he didn’t punch it in.’ After the latest clash my friends from Germany phoned me up to try and commiserate with me about the fact that the goal was not a goal (whilst secretly being as smug as anything for winning). ‘I have no problem with it’, I told them, ‘it wasn’t a goal.’ I wasn’t being chivalrous in defeat, I just want them to stop banging on about being robbed by a Russian linesman in 1966. We won that game in ’66 because we were the better side, stop trying to take it away from us, we’ve been punished enough for it since!! Even Franz Beckenbauer admits that England were the better side that day and he is German, Der Kaiser, he knows everything and his word is Gospel, didn’t you know that? In a way I was glad the Germans gave us a drubbing in the second half because it put the ‘ball over the line’ debate into it’s proper context. If the game had of been 2:1 we would never have heard the end of it, and that England team would have got away with an other excuse. Germany were better and they beat the ‘Golden Shower Generation’, the one that needed putting down and out of it’s world cup misery.
So Spain then, worthy winners with their nice but boring passing game? Yeah, on reflection I suppose so. I wanted the Dutch to win the final before it started but after seeing them hack their way through the first half I could only ask myself why Howard Webb didn’t send at least one of them off, it probably should of been two. He bottled it but in fairness he probably didn’t want to be accused of spoiling the game so early on. How laughable then that he should be surrounded by irate Dutch brats at the end blaming him for losing. Next time Howard just send them straight off, the game was spoiled anyway and then we might at least have seen a 5 goal feast. So, well done to Africa for hosting it nicely, not letting any terrorists spoil it and getting the stadiums up on time. But all in all, for me I think it was probably a fairly uninspiring world cup, I believe we are just a wee bit spoilt by the speed of premiership football though, I think you’ll notice that as soon as the new season starts.