Profound quote of the tournament so far
Came from the Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov at yesterday’s press conference. «You would be hard-pushed to get around the labyrinth of the Russian soul,» he said when asked about low home expectations of his side. He looks like Yosser Hughes after a fight with a sheep shearer, but has the soul of Pushkin. Pity he hasn’t got much of a team.
Ninety minutes’ ebb and flow can be a bit of a distraction for some. If you’d like to know the final score now, have a go on the Telegraph’s ingenious predictor:
The 2018 World Cup starts here
World Cup opening games have traditionally been a specialist taste, enjoyed by people who remember the sight of the Queen and Tony Blair holding hands to sing Auld Lang Syne under the Millennium Dome as 1999 turned into 2000, and Prince gave way to Pulp, when all that anticipation and expense dissolved into the dampest of squibs in the English rain. England vs Uruguay in 1966, Mexico vs USSR in 1970, Brazil vs Yugoslavia in 1974 and Poland vs West Germany in 1978 were all goalless stinkers. Argentina vs Belgium four years later at least gave us a goal, and scores of fouls, while Italy vs Bulgaria in 1986 was prosecuted for passing off by the makers of Temazepam.
But fear not, for that endurance test was followed in 1990 by one of the most astonishing games in World Cup history, Cameroon’s 1-0 victory over holders Argentina at San Siro by virtue of Francois Omam-Biyik’s winner and such extraordinary reckless tackling and conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm that left several world champions sporting saucer-sized bruises and two Cameroon players with red cards. Suffering for 24 years was worth it solely for the joy of such a spectacle.
While it may be true that the subsequent game reverted to type — Germasnooze vs Bolivyawn — Brazil vs Scotland was pretty entertaining even if you were wearing trousers, Senegal’s duffing up of France, Germany’s 4-2 victory over Costa Rica and Brazil’s 3-1 victory over Croatia, albeit because of farcical refereeing, were watchable, intriguing, broadly compelling. The lack of expectation over today’s game between the two lowest-ranked teams at the tournament, the hosts, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, in the oligopoly vs theocracy, petroCroesus, time for you all to end this disastrous democratic experiment derby, threatens to inflict upon us another South Africa vs Mexico without the infernal horns but, as Paul McCartney says to critics who say The Beatles’ eponymous 1968 double album would have been better had it been pruned to one disc: ‘F— off. It’s the Beatles’ White Album.’ It’s the World Cup! And, referencing track one, side one of that very LP, ‘you don’t know how lucky you are boys*’ …
If you like opening games, check out Charlie Eccleshare’s subjective ranking of the previous 16 or so whereas the above is demonstrable fact.
* And girls, it was 1968.