A pity about England’s early farewell but the party must go on
Time to catch our breath after a hectic couple of days attending the farewell parties for England, Bosnia and Iran.
England's final game against Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte was a strangely subdued affair in football terms. England fans hoping that Roy Hodgson's team would go out in a blaze of glory were sorely disappointed. They were plodding and predictable and that they never looked likely to worry a Costa Rica team who did not have to get out of first gear spoke volumes about England's continuing problems competing at tournament level.
Still, England fans were determined to enjoy themselves and, with little to cheer about on the pitch, amused themselves by singing “Always Look On the Bright Side Of Life”, “Football's Going Home” and adapting their “Roy's Taking Us To Rio” chant to “He's Taking Us To London”.
All of which bemused the Brazilians who could not understand why England fans were not angry, especially given the expense of travelling to the tournament. “If Brazil had played like this, they wouldn't have dared show their faces,” said one of the desk clerks at our hotel.
We tried to explain that, after so many years of disappointment, we have just become indifferent.
Also the disappointment has been tempered by the unfailing friendliness of Brazilians, who seem genuinely sorry to see England, still revered as the “Home of football”, head home.
Even so, I hope the England players were as embarrassed as they looked when, at the finish, they stood and applauded fans they don't deserve.
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Next, it was a late-night flight to Salvador, Bahia, to see if Iran could produce the goals against Bosnia that would help them to squeeze into the round of 16. I'm not sure what they have been putting in the water in Salvador, but Bosnia's 3-1 win meant that the Arena Fonte Nova has been host to a staggering 21 goals in four games.
Given that they had to win by at least two goals to edge out Nigeria from group F, Iran's conservative tactics were puzzling, to say the least. Unlike England, though, Bosnia were determined to end their first World Cup on a positive note and were far more convincing winners than the scoreline suggested.
It certainly gave the raucous “Hardcore Bosnians On Tour” plenty to cheer about as they bounced and sang from the first minute to the last. Fifa's pedantic stewards and the police soon gave up trying to tell them to sit down and stop waving their flags and, by the end, so many local fans had crushed into the Bosnian section to join in that it made a mockery of any security and seating arrangements.
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Not surprisingly, the ban on Chiellini-chewing Luis Suárez has dominated Brazilian media as it has elsewhere, although there is maybe not quite the same moral outrage as in other parts of the world.
While Brazil are certainly happy to see the back of a player who, if both teams win their second-round games, could have proved a handful (or should that be mouthful?) in the quarter-finals, there is more of an acceptance of this type of gamesmanship and street-fighting mentality.
Under the headline “Dente Por Dente” (A Tooth For A Tooth), Brazilian website Globoesporte quoted psychologist Dr Mauricio Pinto Marques, as saying: “For Suárez, football is a question of survival. It was how he saved his life. It's an unconscious act. When the pressure is on, in the middle of the battle, he does it again and again.”
And to be honest, Brazilians are more worried about getting bitten by Chile.
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Next live game for us is the round of 16 here in Salvador on Tuesday, featuring Belgium, the group H winners, against the United States. We can't wait.