Some thoughts on the World Cup

Something unusual is happening today. No football. The World Cup is taking a one day break between the end of the group stage and the start of the last 16. This gives time to take stock – which I’ve decided to use to share some thoughts on the World Cup so far.
An interesting article by Scott McDermott appeared in the Daily Record last week in which he claimed that nine of the thirty two teams in Brazil were “glorified pub teams” and they shouldn’t be there. Thee nine countries in question are Honduras, South Korea, Ghana, Nigeria,Japan, Cameroon, Iran, Australia and Costa Rica. He also claimed that the nine automatic qualifying places for Europe are “too few” and that even though four play off places mean 13 out of 32 countries in Brazil are European “I’m still not having it”. But the facts prove him wrong. Of the nine countries he says are not good enough two of them are still in the competition (Costa Rica and Nigeria) one drew with Germany (Ghana) one was only beaten by Argentina because of the genius of Lionel Messi (Iran) and one gave the Dutch a fight in one of the best matches of the competition (Australia). That only leaves four that looked out of their depth – and three of them (Cameroon Japan and South Korea) have reached the knockout round – or better – at past World Cups. Only Honduras were both poor and had no past World Cup pedigree.
Let’s look at the European teams then. For the second World Cup in a row the majority of the european teams (seven out of thirteen) haven’t even got out of the group stage. Some big nations – England, Italy Spain and Portugal – have flopped horribly. Russia were even worse than Capello’s England were in 2010. Croatia were poor and only Bosnia – robbed against Nigeria – can claim to be unlucky. in fact europe are lucky to have six teams still in Brazil. But for two late goals Greece and Switzerland would be out as well. And frankly, no one would have missed them – especially boring Greece (only useful as a cure for insomnia).
Yet incredibly McDermott claims that european nations not good enough to qualify – Scotland, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland – would have contributed more to the World Cup than the likes of Costa Rica and Australia. He is talking nonsense. If more than half of the european teams that are in Brazil are not good enough what on earth would the non qualifiers be like? McDermott’s views are typical of a UK/eurocentric superiority mentality. A habit the UK and europe must kick. Some people might argue that Europe doesn’t deserve thirteen qualifying slots for Russia 2018 on the evidence of this year’s World Cup (to say nothing of the last one). While it is true that one of Holland Germany or France – the three impressive european teams so far – could well win the World Cup as Spain did in 2010 – the truth is most european teams aren’t as good as they think they are.
Finally a brief word on Luis Suarez. Why haven’t FIFA insisted he is not allowed to play until he has counselling? He has now bitten three players. It is highly likely that if he is not given help he will just offend again. After his last ban the English players’ union the PFA offered him help but he turned it down. He must accept this time or he should not be allowed to play again. And Uruguay’s attitude is a disgrace. Why can’t they accept that Suarez is “bang to rights” as they say in UK criminal slang. Apologise accept the punishment and move on. But that never happens in football does it?

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