The World Cup has seen some superb football, some entertaining incompetence and a largely brilliant atmosphere. However, in the metaphorical heat of battle and the literal heat of the jungle, it's easy for people to lose their heads...
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There was obviously plenty of hand-wringing over Luis Suarez’s bite on Giorgio Chiellini, and to an extent understandably so. It is, after all, weird and pretty nasty to sink your teeth into someone’s shoulder when they haven’t given you express written consent, in triplicate, and signed by a person of authority.
However, the thing it’s easy to forget is that the whole thing was really, really funny, the subsequent fallout and reaction enhancing the hilarity tenfold.
"These are just things that happen out on the pitch. It was just the two of us inside the area and he bumped into me with his shoulder," was Suarez’s initial response, presumably with a straight face.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez reacted angrily to any suggestion that his man may have used the old gnashers in an unconventional manner, and anyway, it was no big deal, saying: “This is a World Cup. This is not about cheap morality.” Uruguay captain Diego Lugano chipped in as well, attacking Chiellini for ratting Suarez out and saying: "What incident? The pictures don't show anything. They show an approximation. You couldn't have seen it because nothing happened. The worst of everything is the attitude of Chiellini. As a man, he disappointed me totally."
Lugano went on to say: “He has committed a crime, but this [ban] is barbarity. Not even a criminal would receive this penalty.” So he committed a crime, but he’s not a criminal? OK…
Suarez was asked to explain himself to FIFA, and boy did he come up with something quite, quite superb, claiming: “After the impact … I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent. At that moment I hit my face against the player, leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth.”
That excuse didn’t wash with FIFA, who gave him a nine-match international ban and a four-month suspension from all ‘football activities’, which wasn’t well received. Indeed, it caused something of an international incident.
"FIFA are a bunch of old sons of b*****s,” said Uruguayan president Jose Mujica. "They could have punished him, but not given him this fascist ban."
And even further afield, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro saw it as an attack on a whole continent: "They can't forgive Uruguay that a son of the people has eliminated two of soccer's big nations, so they invented a whole case. No one denies some corrective measures were needed, but to suspend him for four months from soccer where he shines? Latin America rejects it totally."
— THE INSPIRATION (@_theinspiration) July 1, 2014
It got so serious that even Suarez’s sponsors Adidas – even Adidas – took a stance, removing some unfortunate adverts which showed Suarez baring his teeth and saying they would warn the striker of his future conduct. Presumably him biting two other people before and being found guilty of racial abuse didn’t worry them enough not to sign him up in the first place. Eventually of course, Suarez apologised. Sort of...
Back in 2012, there was a suggestion that booze would not be allowed at the World Cup, because its sale was banned at Brazilian football grounds. FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke wasn’t happy, presumably because one of FIFA’s ‘partners’ Budweiser weren’t happy.
"Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we're going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that's something we won't negotiate," he said. "The fact that we have the right to sell beer has to be a part of the law."
However, after a night on the caipirinhas with Bazza, Dazza, Wazza, Gazza and Smiffy from Croydon branch, he changed his tune at little.
“I’m worried by the alcohol,” he said. “I have been surprised by the amount of alcohol. Perhaps many people were drunk and, when drinking, violence tends to increase.”
Cristiano Ronaldo is good at many things. Football, for example. Or wearing pants. But maths? Not so much.
"I'd like to be 110 per cent, but I am at 100 per cent and ready to help the national team," he said before their game against Germany.
Still at least he showed this 100 per cent with his performances on the pitch. What’s that? Oh.
“In recent days there has been a lot of talk about diving and actually I'm tired of this bulls**t,” said Arjen Robben after his late tumble earned the Netherlands a penalty against Mexico.
Good, well, probably the best thing to do in order to prevent this ‘bulls**t’ is to a) not dive and b) probably stop talking about it yourself, Arjen.
“I must apologise,” said Robben shortly afterwards. "The one [at the end] was a penalty, but the other one was a dive in the first half. I shouldn't be doing that.”
"Pressure? What pressure?” he said. “Pressure is for example when a child is seriously ill in hospital.”
A few days later he was asked about Romelu Lukaku’s relative struggles in front of goal: “He puts too much pressure on himself. I messed up in my first two World Cups because I was obsessed with winning. I was expecting the younger players to handle the occasion less well, simply because they would be thinking about nothing else but the need to win.”
He also spoke of the hype around his team after they had qualified for the second round: "There was a lot of pressure for my players ahead of this tournament in Brazil. I think with this nine out of nine, we have responded well."
And of course before the tournament, he spoke of the expectation on Eden Hazard’s shoulders: "I think for the moment Eden wants to do more. He can do a lot for us, everyone knows that. Now I'm waiting to see it. It's not a question of putting pressure on him as I know he's under a lot of pressure."
So, yeah. Perspective.
"They take your dream of playing the World Cup semi-final and final. I love you my brother Neymar. We'll fight for you," said Thiago Silva.
"It's a big loss for us. We need to find a way to stay together and become stronger after losing our greatest player. We will try to win this World Cup and for sure we will dedicate it to Neymar," said Fernandinho.
And then of course there was Fred’s reaction upon being told Neymar was out of the tournament.
Still, at least it couldn’t get any worse than that, eh? Ah.
6 quesitos para ser técnico da Seleção Brasileira . pic.twitter.com/LRdJSgdIbC
— Wagner Ribeiro (@wagneribeiro_) July 9, 2014
Neymar’s agent Wagner Riberio, recovered from the blow of him being out by giving Luiz Felipe Scolari both barrels, in the form of six bullet points. Over to him:
"One – being Portugal coach and winning nothing," he wrote.
"Two – going to Chelsea and being sacked the following day.
"Three – going to coach in Uzbekistan.
"Four – returning to Brazil, taking over a big team [Palmeiras] and getting them relegated to the second division.
"Five – leaving the club 56 days before the end of the Brasileirao [season] to 'escape' relegation.
"Six – being an old jerk, arrogant, repulsive, conceited and ridiculous."
Ouch. Of course he missed out winning the World Cup in 2002, who has the time to be that thorough about these things?
The last word must be left to Mr Sepp Blatter.
"One day we won't have the World Cup, we will have inter-planetary contests."
Context not really important on that one.
- Sports & Recreation
- Giorgio Chiellini
- Luis Suarez