Five things that make the World Cup special:
- It’s the only global football contest. Quality and coverage of the continental championships is patchy and there are too many competing fixtures to follow everything in the Champions League. The World Cup is the only chance to see some of the best players on the planet go head to head.
- Great games. Granted there was some rubbish as well but this World Cup had everything – stunning goals, big shocks, huge injustices, game-changing controversies, star players and pantomime villains. You know it’s special when the opening match and the third-place play-off are both cracking games.
- Ghana. Personally I wasn’t bothered whether an African team won the World Cup or they all got knocked out in the groups. If and when they’re good enough one of them will win it. But Ghana definitely stood out as being fantastic to watch – bright, pacy, inventive and not short of skill or organisation even without Michael Essien. It was a combination no one else could offer.
- It’s football. Watching football is more fun than not watching football and without the World Cup we wouldn’t have had any competitive games between the end of May and the first week in August.
- Cheap beer. When a World Cup comes round the big supermarkets slash their beer prices for weeks on end. It’s a great chance to squirrel some away for when the prices go back up. Just don’t drink it all at once.
And five World Cup frustrations:
- England. If you’re English you’re fed up of the team under-achieving. If you’re not English you’re fed up of the media obsession with analysing England’s under-achievement. And with the ludicrous notion that having an English ref in the Final rather than the England team is any sort of consolation. Things may change now. I have a theory that England’s dramatic and often comical World Cup exits since 1970 are all down to the curse of 66. Now England have had a legitimate, crucial goal chalked off in a winner-takes-all World Cup tie against the same team who think we cheated them 44 years ago the fates may consider the slate wiped clean.
- The vuvuzela. For the simple reason that we were unable to enjoy the excitement and antics of the travelling fans. The Dutch, Danes, Swiss and even English are usually good value. Apparently the Mexicans were fun, but I couldn’t hear them. And my vuvuzela iPhone app nearly got me chucked out of the school sports day.
- The Jabulani. In the World Cup A-Z, J is for Jabulani… and joke. Decent players were made to look like beginners by FIFA’s official beach ball. Keepers fluffed catches, defenders missed headers, midfielders hit long-range passes into touch, strikers fired shots into Lesotho. The manufacturers who designed a ball for a World cup in South Africa blamed altitude for the problems. Would they design one for a World Cup in Manchester that shrinks when it gets wet?
- FIFA generally, but specifically for over-commercialising the whole show. Am I the only person to be surprised that Japan were allowed to select a player called Honda for a tournament that was sponsored by Hyundai?
- It’s all over. What to do now? England against Bangladesh at Edgbaston just doesn’t have the same appeal.