Are you tempted to re-evaluate your World Cup runners and riders Rio?
11:19 17 June 2014
Time to be honest – the World Cup is starting to drain. Not the actual football; that’s been brilliant. The games have been a minimum of intriguing and at their best, entrancing. So far, Brazil is delivering the tournament we all hoped it would.
"Growing into a tournament is the art of champions. Spain have proved it before, but not from under a tonne of the finest Dutch soil..."
(Yes, this column was written before Nigeria’s abysmal showing against Iran, who weren’t much better).
Really, it’s really my own fault. Staying up to watch Ivory Coast and Japan do battle on Sunday morning was too tempting, but I expected I might be paying for the 4am finish for as long as there are group games being played into the early hours each night.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint. It’s a World Cup – you can’t go wrong, staying up late to watch a game between two sides you’ve barely seen play together.
The list of teams yet to express themselves in Brazil is now almost scrubbed, and it’s usually interesting to see how some countries enter the World Cup with one level of expectancy – only to make a mockery of it once the action starts.
For example while Brazil’s opening night performance left a lot of people questioning their credentials, Argentina seemed desperate to go one better in the Maracana against Bosnia Hertzegovina.
A moment of brilliance from an otherwise sloppy Lionel Messi was enough and while they won’t be able to rely on that each round, they’ve got the players to avoid that anyway. They just need to turn up.
The important bit of course, is the fact both Brazil and Argentina won. Growing into a tournament is the art of champions.
Spain have proved it before, but not from a position as low as the one facing them now. It’s probably hard to grow when you’re stuck under a tonne of the finest Dutch soil.
Curiously the biggest positive for England from Saturday’s defeat was the potential for that growth – something Italy may well also look too.
We all know about the – admittedly only slightly – tender age of Roy Hodgson’s team, as well as their potential. But while there was a naivety and lethargy in some of their play, that game should do England’s players the power of good when they come to take on Uruguay on Thursday, and then Costa Rica.
And as for Andrea Pirlo, pictured, and Italy, it may be worth contemplating how good they were on Saturday – not as an apology for beating England, but in terms of their experience, tactical balance and comfort in the game.
The expectation on England, for once, should remain the same – with an added dollop of enjoyment from the knowledge Hodgson hasn’t brought the shackles this time.
But Italy, who were on a pretty shocking run heading into the World Cup, may well deserve a bar raise.
• While it wasn’t such a great result on Saturday night, there was a great occasion in front of it on the screens at Carrow Road.
Former Norwich City star Jeremy Goss put the wheels in motion for a charity gala night at the stadium, with well over 100 football fans taking in the drama between England and Italy. They even put up with my bumbling attempts at playing compere for the evening.
Best of all, the night raised £5,000 for the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind. By far and away the best result of the night for everyone involved – even if Uruguay’s defeat to Costa Rica wasn’t too far behind.