The Beautiful Game's best tournament has kicked off. I've seen ze Germans and the Pommies battling out against the valorous opposition provided by the Ticos and the Paraguayans and I must say that some little ideas are forming in my mind. I missed out on the Polish defeat at the hands of Ecuador so what I am about to say does not include that match.
The first thing I must whinge about is the damn ball. It was not enough to have the great shift to the physical to the detriment of style and lovely football. In these days of Joga Bonito and lovely ads filmed in the selecao's dresing room, the real game has now got a new protagonist: the ultralight ball that spins and turns in all directions. Yes, we were regaled with two fantastic goals (Lahm and Frings - 1st and last in the German game) but hey... the moment I saw them I screamed cheat.
You had to sympathise with the keeper in most of these cases. Lahm slipped in on the edge of the box in the best of Del Piero styles and then hooked the ball into the top angle of the post. Replays later showed the ball turning and spinning the way the Supertele balls would spin during our beach football matches at Ghadira on a particularly windy day. Then there was Frings' bombshell. Worthy of any Playstation opening sequence, the camera shot from the back exposed all the 'nassty trickery' (as Gollum would say) that has been sown into the ball. It spun away too easily.
Do note how many players are trying their luck from far out now. Paraguayans today tried from all over the place (as did Lampard and the Boro winger whose name escapes me) - only they have not yet mastered the general idea of shooting in the direction of the post. Beckham has however. And his masterful shot ever curling into the Paraguayan defence was further magicked by Gamarra's mishit.
In short it's football but not as we know it. We've seen Germany and England defeat two teams that, to be honest, were not exactly top opposition. My guess is that unless some patchwork in the back is done Germany will not have much of a future. Ericsson's XI have an altogether different conundrum. Who is going to be playing up there next to lanky robot boy? Will a Brasil, a Holland or an Argentina really be as wasteful as Anibal the Paraguayan coach when it comes to taking advantage of such errors of substitution as Svennis is prone to committing? I doubt it.
As for me. I am still waiting for the selecao. I hope that most of them had the favelas upbringing to get used to funnily magicked balls. In a bout of protest at what I have seen until know I went out and bought a replica 1958 football. It's hard, heavy and will go straight in the direction it is asked to fly. No spinning at the speed of light. No unbearable lightness of curving. Just plain football.
The way the guys in the picture used to play it.
picture: for the heretics among you who have no idea, the picture is of the first Brasilian world Cup winning team - 1958 - that managed to finally washed away the sufferings of the 1950 loss.