Surely this must be some kind of mistake.
Which is roughly the sound the ball must have made as South Africa’s first World Cup goal in their history, rattled the roof of the net, in the opening game of the tournament against Mexico. Not as though anyone could hear it mind, what with the vuvuzelas and the sound of commentators whining about the cold.
Of course, for anyone who has suffered a 24 hour serenade of those offensive weapons, the misery must count double, when they consider that the Scottish failed to qualify. Because surely, having terrorised the planet with the sound of the bagpipes, since god only knows, an orchestra of vuvuzelas outside an hotel full of hungover jocks, would have surely been seen as a minute portion of reparation for the Scottish nation’s past offences against the human ear, without even mentioning Sheena Easton.
For those who believe in an interventionist god, it must seem strange that he missed out on such a chance for demonstrating his acclaimed liking for irony.
But for the rest of us who have only had to endure the attenuated hum through our TV sets and possibly the irritating worry about whether there is a swarm of blue-bottles in the room, intent on laying waste our KFC family bucket, it has added a unique flavour to the event and given us a new word to use up the two V’s in Scrabble, when perhaps we might wish to avoid ‘vulva’ for reasons of good taste.
The South Africans opened the competition with all the fervour of a nation newly in from the cold, played the sort of open exuberant football their Brazilian coach would approve of, scored a superb goal and then the first week of the tournament seemed to go down hill, just a wee bit.
The TV production proved as bothersome as expected, with Adrian Chiles causing confusion by swapping sides and Emmanuel Adebayor requiring subtitles for his analysis, while the golden tonsilled Jonathan Pierce sounds and looks more like Judith Chalmers every time he appears. And, never to be seen in the same room together, I understand.
ITV had more than their fair share of problems and Robbie Earle got the sack for giving his tickets away. Rumour has it he’ll be joining Big Ron on one of the minor satellite channels, and early guests are expected to include Frank Bough and David Icke.
Even the BBC suffered an aberration when they started including Roy Hodgson on their panel of analysts. It was totally contrary to the traditions of the BBC’s football coverage, to include someone who actually knows what he’s talking about. This contrasts egregiously with the tradition established by Jimmy Hill and gallantly continued by the Liverpool’s own Statler and Waldorf, prompted by the chirpy crisp salesman.
Surely this must be some kind of mistake.
England brought the flag-wavers down to earth with the sort of performance which would have depressed both St George and his horse, as the American dragon refused to be slew. The nation’s Italian Maestro suddenly seemed less than perfect as he played James Milner in a position he’d already proven, was not his best, and chose Lennon and Wright-Phillips ahead of Joe Cole. Luckily Robert Green dropped a clanger and we could direct our collective dismay at him, rather than at the rest of England’s shortcomings, while questions about Rooney’s world-class status were avoided.
The only consolation for Villa fans, was that Heskey played like a hero, despite missing the one chance, which would have covered St George’s blushes and raised Ivanhoe to the status of national treasure, at a single bound.
And, then to make it worse, the Germans turned up and with the Wunderkind Özil running the game from midfield, they made the antipodean shackle-draggers look worse than hopeless, with enough Teutonic luck to make their opener the usual damned shoo-in, once Cahill was sent off.
But we were consoled by being informed that the USA had beaten the Aussies three-nil, with eleven men, which maybe implied that perhaps they were rather better than we had been led to believe, and didn’t they beat Spain comfortably in the Confederations Cup?
So by this stage, English hopes were not exactly soaring but they were still intact.
The Swiss then turned up and killed all hope of football spectacle and their two banks of four proved too much for Spain to play tippy-tappy around, and not even the terrified-looking Torres could do anything about it.
It took the Brazilians and then the Argentineans to add a bit of verve to the passing-game, even if against lowly opposition. The French proved gutless and the Portuguese, totally unambitious, which brought the number of outstanding teams in the tournament to two or three, and plenty of hope that another might improve enough along the way.
Even Holland looked disappointing and by the time Germany’s dream start had been interrupted by an ordinary display against Serbia, things began to look less daunting for England.
With Slovenia drawing against the USA, a decent win against Algeria is the minimum requirement.
By the time most people would have read this, we will all know if England blew it or not.
England are approaching the banks of the Rubicon.
Keep the faith!