Upstart Takes on the World (Cup): Day 25

5 July 2010

Written by: Evan Harding

After the hectic opening, a brief respite was welcomed. But with only four more matches in the can, another two days off is almost a chore, especially when there’s not even much news. This can be a tough gig.

Speaking of tough gigs, coaching a South American team can’t be easy. Take Brazil. Not only must the team win, they must stay true to the jogo bonito myth which has supposedly defined the team’s play since the year dot. With Dunga having achieved neither, his reign in charge of the national team came to an end. The Brazilians returned home to a ‘mixed’ reaction, in much the same way the man who killed Bambi’s mother would have received a ‘mixed’ reaction.

Their co quarter-finalists Argentina also landed in Buenos Aires to a more positive response, presumably because playing eye-pleasing football against inferior teams and falling in a hole against a decent one is infinitely preferable to efficiently destroying quality lineups before one half of madness ruined it all. Diego Maradona may still have been feted upon returning but he also had to deal with idiotic captions for every photo taken of him during the tournament.

As for Paraguay, Gerardo Martino has called on FIFA to apologise for the two decisions that went against his team in their quarter-final loss to Spain. Notwithstanding the dangerous precedent set by Sepp Blatter’s apology to England and Mexico – is he going to apologise every time an official errs? –  those were clear errors rather than judgment calls. Having a goal ruled out for offside and having a soft but legitimate penalty decision go against your team (one which was missed anyway) is hardly making Nelson Mandela think 27 years on Robben Island was a walk in the park. On the other hand, you cannot blame him for attempting to deflect the blame for keeping Larissa Riquelme clothed.

The only South American team to make it out of the quarter-finals was Uruguay, who are now in a lose-lose situation. Even in the unlikely scenario Oscar Tabarez’s team lifts the trophy, there will be the feeling that it was a tainted win. But no longer shall we dwell upon that handball – after all, Ghana only died by the same sword with which they lived.

Remember the opening match? Serbia had a man sent off and a penalty for handball. What about the contest against Australia? Same. Regardless of the goodwill backing them, Ghana was fortunate to have gotten as far as they had and their luck simply ran out.

MUST-SEE: Commentators are often accused of being overly parochial. Then there’s Camacho, whose reaction when David Villa secured the lead against Paraguay was something to behold. Of course, as someone who had played and coached the national team, you can at least understand it.

EYEBROW-RAISER: Even the cocaine dealers are getting into the spirit. Columbian police seized a World Cup replica trophy made of the stuff which was on its way to Spain. ‘Gold paint in “bad condition” on the trophy’s surface aroused the suspicion of investigators,’ says the article. So if they had painted it better, the drug cup would have made it through? Sophisticated methods indeed – this is more like the bumbling cop somehow catching the even dumber criminal.

TONIGHT: It’s late, you’ve already settled in, right? Early night, kids!

Evan Harding is co-producer of The Contenders Daily Bite, a daily World Cup short which can be seen on Tribal Football. A Master of Global Communication student at La Trobe University, he is an upstart editor armed with a month’s supply of coffee and a Spanish chance to still make back the money lost on an ill-conceived bet. Previous World Cup columns can be found here.