Out of all of the weekend’s games, this one promised to be the most fiery. Two teams who don’t appear to have a defensive bone in their bodies (I mean, David Luiz plays centre-back for Brazil!), some pre-match hype about the pressure on the referee and the fact it was on BBC, which meant we would not have any stupid advert breaks or Gordon Strachen’s bare legs. Chile had surprised many in the tournament so far, easing past Spain to qualify alongside the Dutch. Huge expectations from the millions of home fans would surely put pressure on the home side too.
1. A large block of empty seats – The hottest ticket in Belo Horizonte bar none, with locals lining the streets on the way up to the Estádio Mineirão pleading for any spare seats yet behind the goal (to the left of the TV cameras) there is a large block of completely empty seats. By half time a large number of stewards had appeared to take the seats. I can just imagine a coach, broken down somewhere outside Belo Horizonte with 50 fuming Brazilians standing on the hard shoulder.
2. Colour – Almost every game has been filled with fans wearing the (home) shirts of their nations – makes a fantastic spectacle on TV and one that I cannot remember seeing at any other tournament – well apart from the three largish chaps in the front row on half-way line who had whipped off their tops to reveal some impressive man-boobs.
3. Big decisions – In the run up to the game, the appointment of Howard Webb caused a media storm “We are going to talk about this only once,” Paiva, senior press officer for the Brazilian Football Federation, said. “This is immature at the moment in football and the world we are living in today. This is ridiculous.Talking about this is not just a lack of respect to Fifa and the Brazil Selecao, but the whole of Brazil and the Brazilian people. It is a lack of respect. Brazil does not need a referee to win a match. You are insulting Brazil and the Brazilian people.” Just to show there was no home bias, Webb agreed with his English assistant to rule out Hulk’s second half goal for a dubious handball. He also showed some real inconsistency by failing to book Fernandinho despite 5 or 6 bookable offences.
4. No Mexican Wave – See it is possible to have a game at this World Cup without the spectacle of a Mexican Wave. They aren’t “fun”; They don’t add to any atmosphere…or any sloooooow motion replays.
5. Nicknames – “He has the nickname of the South American Xavi”. Now I have to take exception to you here Mr. Mowbray. Who calls him that? It’s hardly a nickname, is it? Nicknames are “Giggsy”, “Robbo”, “One size” (love that one for Fitz Hall”. I can hardly imagine his team mates shouting across the pitch when he has the ball…”Oi! South American Xavi…over here”.
Beer World Cup
For a chance we’ve gone with a beer to celebrate the officials, which in this case were led by Howard Webb. I have it on very good authority that his favourite tipple is a Timothy Taylor’s IPA so we put that up against his assistant Darren Cann’s possible favourite beer (he’s from Norwich), a Greene King Gold.