With the World Cup “kicking off” in Brazil this evening, everyone is going all misty-eyed over those Halcyon days in 2010 when we enjoyed Philip’s visit here. I’ve chosen to mark my memories with a photo of a free kick from the worst game I think I’ve seen since moving to South Africa – England’s bore draw with Algeria at Cape Town Stadium.
England’s chances this year seem slim (not like in 2010, when they had a superb qualifying campaign), but perhaps because of that, they find themselves free of the weight of expectation. Or rather they did.
Up until about two weeks ago, everyone back in Blighty had completely accepted that this wasn’t a tournament in which England were going to go far; expectation – traditionally an albatross around the teams’ collective necks – was at an all time low and that was a Good Thing.
Sadly, about a fortnight back, someone in the papers noticed this and remarked on it, probably saying something along the lines of:
Without the fans’ expectations on their minds, England could actually do quite well in Brazil.
This in itself, raised expectations and thus was a self-defeating prophecy. But then again, maybe if people see that the low expectations of success have raised the expectations of success, and that that approach will, in turn, increase the pressure on the team and thus lower the expectation that they will do well, maybe they will do well.
Not that I want to raise expectations of that.
The other thing that has made the British press is the state of some of the stadiums going into the tournament, most specifically Manaus, where England play Italy on Saturday. Now, we saw some scare stories from hysterical journalists all over South Africa 2010, but it does seem that we were a whole lot better prepared than Brazil is:
Carlos Botella, head groundsman for the Royal Verd company which is responsible for the turf at Manaus and six other World Cup stadiums, has conceded that the game on Saturday, which will take place in severe heat and humidity, will be played out on a desperately inadequate surface.
“Frankly, Manaus is in bad shape,” Botella told the Associated Press. “We’ve started to implement an emergency plan to try to save the field and improve it as much as possible, but I don’t think it’ll be in good condition by the weekend.”
No worries, Carlos. You’ve only had several years to prepare, so yes, get that emergency plan into operation 72 hours ahead of the first game. We’d been playing football and rugby in our stadiums 4 months before the 2010 World Cup got started.
Worryingly, while I’m looking forward to having some footy back on the TV, I’m rather unexcited about the whole World Cup. Maybe it’s the time difference. Maybe it’s the fact that last time around was Just So Good.
I just hope that I can get into it soon. I’d hate to not enjoy the whole 4 weeks.