Uma carnaval of futebol
This is it then, no more sleeps left and the carnaval of futebol will start later tonight when Brazil kick us off against gate crashers Croatia.
My hopes as they have always been is that we see plenty of exciting games and that the world’s very best players shine on the biggest stage.
To that point, it has been a great shame to see some of the qualifiers’ best players fall to injury in the past couple of weeks. The absence of Franck Ribery, Falcao, Marco Reus, Riccardo Montolivo, Christian Benteke, Kevin Strootman and Roman Shirokov are all big losses to the tournament with Ronaldo, Suarez and Neymar all in Brazil but struggling to be fit.
Nonetheless within the next few weeks kids in the playground will be wishing they never got rid of the nobody panini sticker as new stars and heroes are lauded, whether they are from Colombia, Belgium or Iran.
I have never been to a World Cup finals and it remains on my bucket list, but the next best thing is to immerse oneself in the television coverage and attempt to watch as many minutes of every game as possible. In fact in Bermuda the timings of the games are perfect – lunch times, late afternoon and early evening’s.
It is hard to see beyond the South American and European powerhouses of Brazil, Argentina, Spain and Germany as the final four. As Gary Lineker said last night on the box, the dark horses have been so roundly talked about that they are not dark horses anymore but for many reasons I am still hopeful that Belgium have a great competition.
Colombia and Chile will deal with the conditions better than many and will be countries to watch with the Ivory Coast carrying the hopes of a continent deep into the tournament. Pele famously predicted that an African team would win the World Cup before the year 2000. How years off will he be?
England for the first time for as long as I can remember carry zero expectations and noticeably houses and cars in the parts of London, the M25 and East Sussex I saw yesterday are much less draped in St George’s than they have been in the lead up to previous competitions. Pizza restaurants should fear less for their windows if we lose Saturday than they would’ve sadly done in the past.
Yet, as we have got nearer to today I have felt more positive about our chances. Expectations low, but enthusiasm high.
Watching England for the longest time has been as dull as dull can be. Tactics have consisted of squeezing the lifeblood out of games and hoping for a goal out of nothing, whilst parking a handful of London buses along our own penalty area.
If anything it is our defence that is now our weakest link, and I think we might struggle to keep a clean sheet, but conversely going forward the squad carries more threat, pace and spontaneity than we have seen for a long time. All this should lead to more exciting and open matches involving Roy’s team, something that naturally he doesn’t like, but has embraced picking a nice mixture of experience and youthful exuberance.
In saying that Saturday’s game has 0-0 written all over it, judging by the Italian’s history in the competition and the natural fearfulness of losing the first game.
However I am looking forward to seeing Sterling, Sturridge, Henderson, Lallana and Welbeck worry sides with their directness and for Rooney, who unfairly seems to be getting stick for reasons I don’t understand, have a tournament that etches his name onto a list of greats of his generation.
Rooney could start Saturday by marking Pirlo out of the game and give the youngsters a base to trouble the Italians.
There are 5 (five) games before England kick off though including Spain v Holland tomorrow night in Salvador.
Tonight I will be in a pub in Sidcup with mates with a beer and the opening game of the World Cup. I can’t wait. Let the carnaval begin.