ORANGEY BOOM AND BUST
Mickey Blue Eyes
It was the morning after the footy earthquake the night before, transnational media full of vicarious images of weeping Brazilians after Germany did them 7-1 in Belo Horizonte; which, funny enough, was the scene of England's greatest footy humiliation 1-0 at the hands of the USA in World Cup 1950. I cannot say I felt particularly sorry for the overblown Brazilians beyond normal empathy for anyone in adversity. All genuine long term football supporters have been there, including us, so there is no reason on this small planet why the Brazilians should be spared a collision with reality. You take it on the chin and get on with living. Comme ci comme ça.......Hysterical tears?......Ah grow up will yer, and that includes Brit moron mainstream media.......If you have no life, get one.
Then along came the other delicious semi-final prospect of Holland versus Argentina, as finely balanced a match as you could hope for. Argentina had only one great player, Lionel Messi, while the Cheeseheads had Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder all verging on greatness. The rest were much of a muchness at this level. Thus the scales were even and needed only a slight touch one way or the other. If I was a gambler my money would be on the Dutch, but wary that said Lionel could undo them in the space of a few feint seconds if his genius got loose. Whatever, the margin would be slight, play probably tight and tense.
At home, a beautiful evening, sun streaming through the windows, we opened the balcony doors, lined up the Pinot Grigio, Stella Artois and tapas, settled down on sofas and armchairs in a crowded living room, and switched on ITV five minutes before kick-off. That way we avoided the worst of studio bullshit fronted by an increasingly weird Adrian Chiles swapping insincerities with flat-vowelled Manc Lee Dixon, skew-eyed eerie Martin O'Neill and self-hugging Very Italian Fabio Cannavaro. Unfortunately the unavoidable commentary team was the Manc Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend, a hapless duo more suited to typewriter maintenance than anything football.
São Paulo faded in to the strains of the Netherlands national anthem het Wilhelmus followed by the Argentine Himno Nacional Argentino, the latter apparently penned by a collaboration of Woody Allen and Mozart. Among the players Lionel Messi wore the stony visage of a man on a mission, which could only be bad news for Holland. On the bench, Dutch coach Van Gaal had the perennial look of a man hit in the face with a frying pan, while his Argentine equivalent Alejandro Sabella was a burnt-out teacher in disappointed late middle age.
Alas, if Germany V Brazil was a firework display, this one was a damp penny banger.
The first half was hardly entrancing, though it had its moments. These were limited to Argentine shredding of the Dutch left, two Messi slaloms that brought free kicks (saved), superb Sneijder long passing and first class close interplay by both sides. There were only a few half-chances because both teams looked happy to keep it under control while looking for a decisive break. Had the tempo been any slower it would have been outright boring. If anyone had an edge it was Argentina. Half time dawned as the sun dipped below the yardarm. Tyldesley had managed to mention Manchester United at least four times.
In the studio Chiles said the game was "Fascinating". Plainly Adrian has swallowed whole the ITV sports dictum that you hype even when you look and sound ludicrous. There was much talk of Van Gaal's expertise with substitutes. O'Neill did his usual talk-to-the-table shtick; Dixon said "Olland after geh i' ow t'wings more" - at least I think that is what he said; Cannavaro looked as though he was about to kiss himself. All told the game had been more interesting. John on the sofa said, "That's the kind of fuckn conversation that'll kill television". We all nodded expertly and took a swig. An ad appeared for a World Cup Razor wielded by Messi. Gerry in the armchair said, "That's the worst fuckn razor I've ever seen." We all nodded expertly and took another swig. Still, it could have been worse: in the studio they could have worn Summer Twat kecks.
Except in spasms the second half was awful, extra time no better, both sides exhausted and looking for penalties. Which duly arrived and Argentina won a totally forgettable encounter. Holland had fallen at the penultimate fence yet again. There was no further mention of Van Gaal's ability with subs.
Now the final is Germany versus Argentina for the third time. If it is anything like the second semi-final it will mar what has been a wonderful tournament. Which would be a pity.