1. Club vs Country, episode 3587. (World Cup Prologue)
Real Madrid in the White Corner. Spain Football Association in the Red Corner. Florentino Perez (still miffed at not having the chance to fire Zizou at some point) lands a upper-cut by announcing that Spain’s manager would become Madrid’s next manager in the firing line.
The Spain FA president is rocked back especially with the added insult of being informed only five minutes before the announcement is made. Luis Rubiales responds by landing a jab with the firing of Julen Lopetegui and appointing Fernando Hierro, one day before the world cup kicks off.
The winner of this bout of egos is the football media and millions of neutral fans who feast on this dramatic turn of events. The loser is definitely Lopetegui, who misses the chance to lead his country at the world’s biggest sporting event while also not having the consolation of job security at Real Madrid. Because let’s face it, Zidane winning 3 Champions League titles in a row and resigning isn’t likely to be repeated by anyone else at Madrid in our lifetime.
2. The Russians go rushing in.
The panic about hooliganism, racism and the danger of ‘’mixed bloods’’ after Russian women sleep with foreigners (as vigorously advised against by Tamara Pletneva). Russia and the Emperor Putin, in all his macho glory, opened the world cup after Robbie Williams pranced about
shouting singing hits from a decade ago. However, Russia banging in a lot of goals in their first two games was not foreseen. Putin shrugged in bemusement and looked suitably smug in the stands during the opening game. You would suspect that the Vodka is still flowing regardless of the trashing inflicted by the Uruguayans.
3. VARy nice officiating by VAR.
The teething problems are mostly gone and officiating at this World Cup is displaying a set of new teeth gleaming almost as bright as a Firmino smile. The referees are not leaning on the use of VAR for every other major incident and when they do have to, they use the system much quicker most times. Offsides are not to be flagged if the linesmen are unsure, let the VAR handle it.
The improvement to the implementation of the system has been great to see. More penalties being awarded to punish reckless defenders and penalty decisions being over-turned when drama queens like Neymar fall over. What’s not to like?
4. Messi vs Ronaldo debate (To infinity and beyond)
Messi is better than Ronaldo. No, Ronaldo is better… No, he is not. Yes, he is… GOAT this, GOAT that.. The never-ending saga .. The horse flogged to death and resurrected for more flogging. Sigh.
5. The Boot and the search for the foot which fits.
No, it is not the Cinderella story. It is the world cup golden boot and the fierce competition for it which had already hit fever pitch after the first two rounds of group stage games. Lukaku, Kane, Ronaldo, Costa are among the major contenders putting their best feet forward.
6. Much ado about the Nigerian kit.
The eclectic designs, the hype, the launch, the scramble, the queues, ‘’sold-out’’, the status symbol, the social media fun and fury, the back-lash, the Musa metamorphosis. Ladies and Gentlemen, from the land of the Green/White/Green comes a range of kits with all shades of green patterns that somehow work by being somewhat obnoxious and cool at the same time. You want to spend some major cash on any of those items? Nike says ‘Just Do It’.
7. The greatest non-throw of all time.
Iran are a goal down versus Spain. It is the last minute of injury time. Milad Mohammadi grabs the ball. He kisses the ball, points to the heavens while muttering a quick prayer. His team-mates have loaded the Spanish box and are waiting to batter the throw-in towards goal. Milad prepares for the best throw-in the world cup has ever seen.
He takes a few steps forward, does a forward flip aaaaaaaannnnd… Nah. He quits mid-way and returns sheepishly to the touchline and takes a boring, standard short throw to a nearer team-mate. Cue amusement from the watching world. I reckon even some Iranians would have found it funny after recovering from the annoyance of losing to Spain.
8. Set-pieces- Teams falling to pieces.
The importance of set-pieces is being highlighted even greater in this world cup so far. Many teams (African participants leading the way) have been severely punished for lack of concentration and good marking at corners and freekicks. The curse of the dead-ball has conversely been a blessing to teams like England who have scored from four so far. If a team is not properly set for a set-piece, they won’t last long in this World Cup.
9. Jolly good fellows.
Some teams have showed up at the world cup party with no stomach for partying. Early exits for eight of them after their first two sips of alcohol. However, top marks have to go to Panama for their exuberant celebration of their first world cup goal despite it being a consolation after England had already battered in SIX. ‘Elimination from the world cup? Who cares? We scored a goal. It’s all jolly good… ‘
10. No goalless games, yay!
After the 2nd round of group stage matches, there has been no game with blanks being fired on either side. 34 matches and counting and there has been at least one goal in all games. Long may it continue. Let’s gorge on as many goals as we all can. Attacking football FTW.