The BBC pundits regretted hyping up the Brazil Portugal match today, but who could have blamed them? Two of the top teams battling it out for first place in Group G? How could that turn into a “turgid” (Linker’s reassessment) and scrappy stalemate during which neither side showed its true colours and in fact spent most of the game either committing fouls or pretending a foul had been committed against them. There were enough yellow cards to make a life-size Brazilian player and put it on as a substitute.
Yes, it was pretty threadbare stuff – certainly not worth knocking off from work early – and some boos were heard towards the end from a previously up-for-it sea of blue and yellow. Alan Hansen pretended to have nodded off when we returned to the tangerine-bathed studio at full-time. Shearer, who I am now convinced is Stewart Lee, bemoaned the fact that he could have been on the treadmill back at the hotel. Still, that – as I have come to understand every two years – is football.
I actually do think we could have expected a little more than a goalless draw from a team who scored seven a few days ago. But Portugal, although for me, with my lack of knowledge and context, were the better side, spent most of the time lying on the floor clutching parts of their bodies in fake agony until it was clear the ref wasn’t going to award a free kick and then got up and carried on playing. And that, to repeat a cliche, is football.
At least a rubbish match gave Mick McCarthy something to sound dour and unimpressed about. It was as if the Brazilians and the Portuguese got together and agreed to provide a match that fitted his general outlook. Good on Ivory Coast for beating North Korea 3-0, while still failing to qualify. I see that North Korea ended on minus 11. Perhaps they will literally minus 11 when the squad returns to North Korea and faces the dressing down of a lifetime. Raymond Domenech should go and manage them.
I must admit I love this stage of the tournament, when you’re all comfortable with the pundits and the commentators (on which note, please spare me ITV’s Chris Coleman, whose Welsh accent is not the problem, it’s his technique of muttering off-mic and, one assumes, forgetting he is broadcasting, live, to millions of people), and your Guardian World Cup Guide is being gradually filled up with numbers and names. Yes, I’m excited about England Germany on Sunday, which I shall watch without xeonophobia, but I’m equally excited to see who will play Brazil on Monday? Spain or Chile? One hopes they will play properly either way.
Still, good news: after two weeks of wondering but failing to follow through and actually look it up, we’ve found out who Mahimbra Satyam are. Their name keeps scrolling up on the electronic Blade Runner-style advertising hoardings, and, unlike Castrol, Emirates, Tellkom and African Road Safety, I had no idea what it was advertising. I hoped it was a satnav shaped like a yam. It’s not. It’s the official IT provider of the World Cup, based in India, and they are very proud, as they might be: