Your be-hated correspondent has been enjoying every minute of this quadrennial festival of thinly veiled tribalism, xenophobia, jingoism, and outright RAYCESSM, oh and also football. How about you?
To-day is the last day of the second of three matches for each participant nation in the tournament. As just the latest of several indignities suffered by Yours Falsely, I will be unable to watch the second half of England’s almost certain defeat at the hands (feet?) of a shower of Swedish bastards, because of something called a “staff meeting”. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?
Oh wellz, I will remain vigilant, not check Twitter, and catch up later using ESPN®’s brilliant WatchESPN™ application for mah iPad. Seriously, if you have a cable/internet subscription through a participating provider, and a smartphone/tablet/laptop/PC, I command you to get this app.
In the meantime, here’s what’s been going on in Group C, which might have rivaled Group B for the “Group of Death” moniker had all of Ireland’s most athletic specimens not emigrated to Australia 170 years ago, for
Spain is sitting pretty, needing only a draw against Croatia to advance to the quarterfinals, where if there is any justice in the world they will face England and promptly hammer them as revenge for that Armada business.
Although the Spanish seemed disjointed in their first match against Italy, playing as they did with six (6) central midfielders, no recognized wingers, and no strikers, it says something when you can afford to attempt radical experiments against a side as talented and organized as the Italians.
That may have been the kick in the pants that Fernando Torres, known hereafter as El Séxi, needed because he came out against Ireland and played like a man on fire until he was substituted after about 70 minutes. When everything is clicking, El Séxi is probably the best striker in the world because there is simply no answer for his pace, strength, touch, technique, movement, and finishing ability. He’s had a rough go of it since about 2009 due to injuries, loss of form, and loss of confidence. Howevah, El Séxi’s presence of mind to chase after the ball when Richard Dunne slipped at the edge of the penalty area in the fourth minute, accelerate around him and Stephen Ward, and then blast the ball into the roof of the net was the hallmark of a predator. Torres is back, and we’re all screwed.
Croatia looks like a lovely place.
Italy is left with a tricky proposition.
To be certain of qualifying for the quarterfinals, they need to defeat the Irish by three goals. This is eminently possible, but your correspondent is unsure that they can pull it off. Ireland only has pride to play for in its last match, and they will be desperate not to go out of the tournament without registering a point. [UPDATE: I misread the tiebreaker rules. According to the Guardian, a 2-2 draw between Croatia and Spain will eliminate Italy regardless of Italy's result. Cue all sorts of conspiracy theories.]
As usual, the Italians haven’t scored or conceded many goals. In Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano, Italy has a strikeforce to rival that of any team at the tournament. They created plenty of chances against Croatia, but their only goal came from a free kick from the ageless Andrea Pirlo. And both of those players, but especially Balotelli, are liable to do something totally bizarre and get sent off.
Your correspondent is torn between watching the pretty football Spain and Croatia will play in their final group match, or tuning in to watch Italian fear and loathing as the minutes tick by and the obstinate Irish, who at this point will be dressed as Knights of the Crusade, arrange themselves in a phalanx in front of their own goal whilst screaming “NONE SHALL PASS” in their best Monty Python affectations.
Republic of Ireland: This was going to be the year where I would cast off the chains of bondage to the England Football Team and instead support my ancestral homeland rather than the nation with which I am superficially associated because of the vagaries of the history of the Irish diaspora.
There’s no shame in losing to both Croatia and Spain; lots of people do that. It has been plain to see that the Irish are just not of the same class as the other members of group C. They were done in by conceding goals at the most inopportune moments, like three minutes into the match (against both Croatia and Spain), right after they scored, just before halftime, and so on. But their most glaring inadequacy was an inability to hold onto the ball and play simple possession football in their own half.
Completing about 70% of their passes, the Irish were fortunate to ever string more than five passes together. That might not have been a problem if they had enormous target men as their forwards. There is something to be said for playing like Norway circa 1994 if you have the physicality for vertical, aerial soccer. Such Irishmen may exist but they play Gaelic sports, not football. Robbie Keane can still score goals against quality opposition but he needs regular service and support, which has been nonexistent.
The contrast between Croatia and Ireland is telling. Whereas they both have the same small population (around four million-ish), the Croats play brilliantly. The Irish, on the other hand, looked against Spain like that “alternative” middle school you played against as a youngster where the children all had emotional disorders, or stunted growth, or oddly-shaped heads. They had the right attitude and tried really hard and all of the parents were so supportive throughout the match, but you, you bastard, you routed them 6-0 anyway and then celebrated with factory farmed, rendered flesh “nuggets”, potatoes drenched in high fructose corn syrup and fried in hydrogenated oil that allegedly came from a vegetable, and carbonated sugar water.
Humanity is a cancer.