It’s really been a magical World Cup thus far hasn’t it? Great football, some excellent, high-scoring games, some fantastic goals and even a refreshing lack of play-acting. Even had some gutsy performances from some of the ‘lesser’ nations, I for one have enjoyed watching Australia and the USA give it a go somewhat, but also Iran, Costa Rica, Bosnia-Herzegovina have all put in (from what I’ve seen at least) good performances and troubled the ‘bigger’ teams. It certainly has been one of the best WC’s in living memory…
Unless of course, like me, you happen to be English.
Whilst we all sat at home, pretending that our expectations were rock bottom, that we had never a hope in hell of getting out of our ‘group of death,’ that we were to use Brazil 2014 as a learning curve for our refreshingly young Lions to prepare them for France in 2016. But as kick-off grew closer, the traditional patriotic roar began to stir in every Englishman’s belly. The cries of ‘We can beat these lot’ began to become more commonplace. Indeed, English hope does spring eternal. Yet the hopes are never met, and we head into tonight’s game preparing to bow out of the World Cup. Our only hope is to salvage some pride and inspire some hope for the future.
If I was granted the power to go back and change anything from the previous week, I would go back to that evening in Sao Paulo, and I would reverse the small margins which can govern a nations fate in International football. I would ensure that Wayne Rooneys free-kick fell just an inch lower, with a goal (and scenario) reminiscent of David Beckhams free kick which took us to Japan-South Korea in 2002. I would ensure that his header was again just an inch lower, bulging the back of the Uruguayan net and breaking Uruguayan hearts. Diego Godin would have received his so richly deserved second yellow card and been sent off for an early shower, and I would have pushed the English defence back just a yard or two around about the 85th minute, thus keeping the international dream alive!
There is something special about International football, especially during the biggest tournament in the world. They allow nations to come together, to put aside club rivalries and to bond together to form one voice. Success and failure affects us all rather than an lucky/unfortunate few and it can allow for a sense of escapism from the drudgery of supporting your club side (except if you support someone like Newcastle, as I do). But alas, the dream is over. After tonight the St Georges cross will fly no more outside every pub, the Ant and Dec songs will be put back in the great musical attic for another 2 years, and the footballing behemoth that is the Premier League will return in August. Of course I will still enjoy the rest of this fantastic World Cup first, and it will probably be more enjoyable without any vested interests in it!
Lest we forget, thanks to Costa Rica’s superb performance thus far in the tournament, one of Italy and Uruguay can be eliminated tonight. So hopefully, we’ll all get to enjoy Luis Suarez’s tears this evening, and providing the result goes the right way and with at most a three goal swing, we might not even finish bottom of the group! Every cloud and all that!