So we’re into the business end of the World Cup and it’s certainly been enthralling, so, what exactly have we learned….
That punditry is big business and it’s only a matter of time before we have pundit cam available on the red button where we can see Roy Keane headlock Slavan Bilic for touching his shoulder repeatedly.
That, according to the unofficial Goalkeepers Union, all pundits who are ex professional outfield players and in some cases former and current coaches, shouldn’t have an opinion on goalkeeping issues and don’t really know what they’re talking about when critiquing goalkeepers.
That, if you’re English, football’s coming home unless the media say otherwise.
That Mo Salah isn’t superhuman and was in fact still injured. Everyone knew it but we all believed in vain that he’d recover and stuck him in our dream teams just in case.
That you’re credibility as a great player is questioned if you haven’t scored in the knock out stages of a World Cup.
That football isn’t, as we all assumed, a team game and the games greats should somehow carry the other 10 players at all times or face conclusions, as in the case of Ronaldo and Messi, that you haven’t had a great World Cup and need to do more (that hatrick against Spain must have been a dream).
That female ex pro footballing pundits are knowledgable about football (surprise, surprise) and the media’s fascination of reporting that point at every opportunity is somehow important for gender equality and any alternative view is deemed sexist although they’re probably being paid less than their male colleagues who fear not, are still fair game for criticism and caricaturing).
That you can always rely on World Cup cameramen to seek out the most attractive female spectators (Ah, the hypocrisy).
That Gareth Southgate should rest players until he does just that and then he should have played his strongest team or vice versa but really, he’s damned either way.
That Russia isn’t all bad and all pre tournament concerns seem unfounded and largely OTT.
That France are going to win the World Cup hands down despite conceding 3 against a team largely described as “in disarray”.
That Pogba is now world class after having his first dominant display against the old men of Argentina.
That Mbappe is only 19 (I mean, let that just sink in, the guy is awesome).
That every player can be, at any time, compared with a player of yesteryear.
That VAR has been largely successful and everyone hates that this is the case.
That footballers will appeal for anything and everything to win and VAR can go fuck itself (unless it’s in their favour).
That Phil Neville seemingly doesn’t do a lot of homework before rocking up for live punditry/commentary duty and that generally, there is a certain ignorance towards the capabilities of some lesser known nations until they pop up in the knockouts fuelling some serious backtracking.
That England should be practicing penalties but when it’s reported that they are then there’s no point as there’s no way of recreating the environment of a high stakes penalty shoot out (damned if you do and damned if you don’t seems to be a theme regarding England preparation).
That allowing the media into your camp doesn’t guarantee positive reporting (a bit like sleeping with snakes and being surprised when your bitten).
That Germany are human but handled defeat with the grace of true champions unlike the reporting that circulated in the aftermath of their exit.
That African teams never really match expectation.
That Panama’s performance should be the reason to abandon FIFA’s proposal to expand the World Cup format.
That the level of play acting is certainly rising to Rivaldo’s BAFTA nominated peak of 2002 and needs addressing.
That it really is anyone’s World Cup with more twists to come.
and most importantly….
That football is bloody great and I only wish that Ireland had qualified but only on merit and in the current format (although we’d probably be out by now, sick to death of reliving the Saipan incident and moaning that the players are crap, management haven’t a clue, VAR fucked us and we need a restructure of our whole football development strategy but our fans were great all the same).
Let’s enjoy the rest of the show.