Dispatches from a Casual World Cup Observer: June 24 – June 25, 2014

Suajaws

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is here, and I have a novice’s degree of knowledge as to what’s happening, as well as a small amount of sentimentality for the event. This is me traversing through work, drunken weekends, and Spotify with the World Cup either in the fore or background

Tuesday, June 24th

Luis Suarez’s reputation as somewhat of a heel was revealed to me before I headed into the tournament with a wide-eyed freshness of the characters on each team. The Men in Blazers podcast hinted at this during their 2014 World Cup preview with references to Suarez’s previous biting incidents. I investigated this further after Suarez’s masterful, trolling performance of England where there is, in fact, a section dedicated to his previous misdeeds on the pitch. One of them occurred when he was playing in the Dutch league for a team known as Ajax where he dug his teeth into someone and received the nickname as the “Cannibal of Ajax”. This set the wheels in motion for Luis to land in Liverpool but even after a punishment for what was seen as a visceral, knee jerk reaction Suarez struck again in the English Premier League.

In a match resulting in a 2-2 draw with Chelsea on April 21, 2013, Suarez bit Chelsea player Branislav Ivanovic. Suarez was fined then suspended for ten games by the Football Association (the FA) in England. In almost a year without incident and a year where Suarez racked up the distinction of being the ‘player of the year’ within the Premier League, the narrative was that he was on the road to redemption (or, at least an end and understanding to his past behavior). This World Cup would be one of a recovered Suarez, both literally and figuratively given his knee injury, but instead, Suarez emerged once again as a crazed Bond henchman.

In the 78th minute of the match between Italy and Uruguay, Italian Giorgio Chiellini and Suarez were bumping each other around when Suarez appeared to lodge his head down on the back of Chiellini’s shoulder. Chiellini and Suarez both went down. Chiellini was grabbing his shoulder in pain and shock while Suarez lifted himself off of the ground, grabbing at his teeth. The Italian lifted himself up then lifted his jersey around his bare shoulder to show the official the bite marks. A fellow Uruguayan player tried covering up the marks by lifting the jersey back over the injury. Suarez was hit with a red card and an uncertain future on the biggest stage in international soccer.

With both teams down a player (Claudio Marchisio received a red card earlier in the match), Uruguayan Diego Godin deflected a cross from Gaston Ramirez on his back to advance the Celeste to the Round of 16. Now, with Suarez’s future in the balance, it seems uncertain whether or not Uruguay will be able to hang with a Colombian team that would later annihilate Japan in a 5-1 to match. If Suarez is somehow able to return, the chances for advancing are great but with Costa Rica’s stunner of Uruguay without Suarez it seems unlikely if the team can perform without their star villain.

The drama of the Italy v. Uruguay game seemingly could not be topped especially with matches like Colombia – Japan and Greece – Ivory Coast. Greece has looked so lost throughout the entirety of the tournament. Their national soccer team is a greater representation of the problems that Greece is facing. The civilization that gave us Plato, the inspiration for O, Brother Where Art Thou, and the Hippocratic oath is now in a state of great disarray and dystopia. As such, their soccer team is a mess. They were beaten senselessly by the Colombians then managed a draw with the Japanese mostly because the team is as lost as Greece. Yet, like the country, the Greeks were given a huge penalty kick to put them over an Ivory Coast team that was fighting off elimination with all of their might. I think this tweet sums it up perfectly:

As someone of Greek heritage, there’s a part of me that wants to celebrate the victory of my fatherland. But, it just feels icky. Especially after I predicted their downfall in a previous post. If you ever want to know what pastitsio tastes like, watch the game on repeat. There’s a little bit of flavor but the after taste is dry and unsatisfying. The Round of 16 will be without Didier Drogba, the most visible player of my teenage years due to all of my peers’ interest in Chelsea. It will also be without a guy named Bony Wilfried which is one of the greatest baseball names that never was. So, without further or do, this is the part where I will be indignant that FIFA is, in fact, as corrupt as the fans who have been following this sport say it is. Kick rocks, FIFA.

Diego Maradona, founder of the Cult of Albiceleste

Wednesday, June 25th

What is there to know about the Argentina national team other than Lionel Messi? Well, a quick Google search will give you the results of the Albiceleste’s previous World Cup efforts. Argentina has a total of two Jules Rimet trophies enshrined somewhere within their country from 1978 and 1986. The most important and defining of the two being their second in Mexico that was encapsulated with Diego Maradona being designated as the player of the tournament. It was here that Maradona’s illegal yet valid “Hand of God” goal spawned a national team identity that is forever wrapped in divinity. This image has been exacerbated ever since Argentinian Jorge Mario Bergoglio was designated as Pope Francis. Their hype commercial is essentially Pope Francis blessing those in the sky blue and white jerseys to carry out God’s will for them to win.

With Lionel Messi and God in their ranks, Argentina ran through Group F by throttling upstarts Bosnia and Herzegovina then shutting out Iran. Their last obstacle to be at the top of the group was in the form of the 2013 African Nations champions, Nigeria. The result nullified my previous assertion about the Netherlands in their match against Australia last week. That game now looks like 2013 Georgia at Clemson compared to how these two teams squared off.

The feed on my internet connection was not working at the start of the game. When the feed went live, the score was 1-1 underneath the five minute mark. Uh, what?! The first goal was scored by #10, Lionel Messi at the three minute mark. He was then one-upped by Ahmed Musa within the next minute. It was like being thrown into the middle of a Black Friday shopping event. The crowd was uproariously in favor of Argentina and they indicated as much when Messi scored in stoppage time to end the half after he was awarded a penalty kick.

When it seemed like the Nigerians would face an uphill battle for the remainder of the game, Musa struck within the 47th minute to equalize. The match just went insane at this point with strikers and midfielders running around, creating utter chaos. It was like watching a controlled riot. But the scoring ended on Marcus Rojo’s goal in the 50th minute. Argentina, Heaven’s Team, now advances as the winners of Group F. Meanwhile in Salvador, Bosnia and Herzegovina upended an Iranian team that could have squeaked their way out of the group stage had they beaten the team with the worst record. The Nigerian Super Eagles, despite losing to Argentina, are now graced with the distinction of being the second best team in the group. The Cult of Albiceleste blesses all especially when it’s latest opponent could have delivered a few blows to their ideology.

Group E’s elimination games included a match between Ecuador and France that was a matter of distinction for France and life or death for the Ecuadorians. The Swiss, on the other hand, were fighting for supremacy in the group with Honduras on the schedule. I watched the French play because I thought it would be more interesting to see a slaughter rather than a snooze fest. I got the opposite.

The entire match was full of opportunities for France to score from a number of players. Olivier Giroud, Paul Pogba, and especially Karim Benzema. All of them were eliminated by Ecuador’s Alexander Dominguez who was deflecting shots left and right. In total, there 21 shots for France who maintained 60% of possession throughout the entirety of a game where Ecuador played with ten men due to a red card on Antonio Valencia. The match went scoreless and Les Bleus looked miserable. The Guillotine seems to have some rust on it. Their result still keeps them at the top spot.

The Swiss were playing like their heads were on fire and that each goal would give them the top spot. Earning the top spot in Group E would have placed the Swiss against Nigeria. With France’s draw against Ecuador, the Swiss now have to face the Cult of Albiceleste on Tuesday in the Round of 16. I would say that this is where Switzerland makes their exit but crazier things have happened (*cough*, Luis Suarez, *cough*). France should be very concerned with their performance against Ecuador as they head into a game against a Super Eagles team who looked like their were out for blood against Argentina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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