I love the World Cup, and contrary to the experiences of some, I’ve loved this one just as much as any other. Who can argue with three live games of football a day?
Sure, the ball is an aberration but what do you expect from a tournament that is at least in part about Fifa’s bottom line? There’s no need for a new World Cup ball but we have one so that someone, somewhere, can make themselves a bit of money.
I understand that the commercial deals struck before the tournament are key to financing it, (in fact, Fifa are expected to make themselves a tidy $1bn profit from it), but the zeal with which they enforce the rules has been way over the top, as usual.
Prosecuting two Dutch women for organising this harmless stunt is ludicrous, and has in fact done far more than the stunt itself to promote the Dutch beer company that organised it. Talk about a ham-fisted reaction.
Maybe if Arsenal scheduled something along these lines to happen 60 seconds before the end of a dull league game – for example “Spot Perry Groves in a wig and win £100”, we’d have fewer empty seats at the final whistle.
Anyway, small digression there. As I was saying, I’ve enjoyed watching wall-to-wall football, even if England appear to have imploded under the pressure. I have always found the psychology behind the game incredibly interesting, even if I don’t fully understand it.
It’s mystifying to the public how very competent footballers can wilt so badly, but we always underestimate how much matters of the mind can affect football.
A great example is, of course, the majestic 49-match unbeaten Invincibles. With every unbeaten game that passed, they would have considered themselves harder and harder to beat. It helped that they were all exceptional footballers of course, but confidence plays a huge part in performance. That’s why, when they were eventually beaten at Old Trafford, there was an inevitable decline. You could say things have never been the same since, though that is perhaps over-egging things slightly.
The truth though is that winning breeds winning, and confidence breeds confidence, and that a team in the middle of a good patch where both things are in evidence will play much better than it ordinarily would. England thrashed Croatia 5-1 in September last year, and looked the part. Since then they have declined and that’s where we are now. The pressure that accompanies playing for England has exacerbated that.
Of course, it doesn’t really explain how other teams have managed to throw off the shackles and get cracking in their second games – but to me there’s no other explanation. For good footballers to turn in a display that bad, there has to be a collective case of the heebie-geebies.
I hope they can find the solution by Wednesday but like the players themselves, my confidence has drained out of me and my glass is now half empty.
It might be time to change the tune of the England vuvuzelas to this:
(To be fair, the above clip won’t mean much unless you grew up on a diet of crap British telly in the 1980s)