But now for some proper journalism, from Gary Younge.
Given the nature of Europe’s anxieties and the fact that, outside of the criminal justice system and unemployment lines, football teams are one of the few places where minorities are likely to be overrepresented, issues of racial, ethnic and national identity often feature heavily.
Ever wondered which nation has the most highly valued squad at this World Cup? No, me neither, but when this press release landed in my inbox the other day, I found out. It’s France, apparently, based on “estimated transfer values”.
1. France: $1.61bn
2. Spain: $1.55bn
3. Brazil: $1.47bn
4. Germany: $1.39bn
5. England: $1.38bn
For the record, Panama has the cheapest squad.
32. Panama: $14.9m
31. Saudi Arabia: $28.2m
30 .Peru: $54.5m
29. Iran: $67.3m
28. Costa Rica: $68.6m
The Socceroos weigh in at 27th with a total value of $72.5m. So there you go.
This just in from the Press Association:
A major US broadcaster has apologised to viewers over Robbie Williams’s one-finger salute. The former Take That singer marred what had been a vintage performance of his greatest hits during the World Cup’s opening ceremony by showing his middle finger to the camera. Williams made the offensive gesture during his last song, Rock DJ, prompting viewers to complain. A spokesman for the Fox network told the Hollywood Reporter that it was a “newsworthy event produced by a third party and carried live on Fox”. “As it was broadcast live, we did not know what would happen during Robbie Williams’s performance and we apologise,” the broadcaster said.
It’s the question on everyone’s lips: how will the sacking of new Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui impact Spain’s chances of lifting the trophy for a second time? On the face of it, the camp had been thrown into chaos, just two days out from tonight’s opener against Portugal. But Sergio Ramos, the Spanish Greco Roman wrestling champion, is confident “it shouldn’t affect us at all for the tournament”.
“Live rolling coverage, endless BTL comments, none of them as pointless as this one,” writes a very self aware Fifedrum.
Meanwhile, I’ve dug this out from 2014. Nick Evershed writes:
Forget psychic turtles, oracular kangaroos and soothsaying cephalopods – there’s only one organism that has a decent track record predicting World Cup matches. During the 2010 World Cup, neuroscientist Patrick House wrote about a correlation between rates of infection with a protozoan parasite and success in the knockout stages. The parasite – Toxoplasma gondii – is a single-celled organism that causes the disease toxoplasmosis and is usually transmitted to people via raw meat or animal faeces. It’s particularly associated with cats because it can reproduce sexually only within a cat’s intestine.
But seriously, here’s a great story on a great man who genuinely makes a difference, through his football ability and way beyond.
You often hear of how powerful the world game is; how it can unite, it can save, it can power small electrical appliances etc etc. And now, you wouldn’t believe it, but it’s even been able to put smiles on Muscovites’ faces! How about that?
Even marine life appears to have been infected by World Cup fever.
Here’s a nice way to kick things off – the Guardian’s pod squad, as they now appear to be called, on various topics, the most interesting of which is clearly Stalin’s facial hair. Well worth a 40-minute skive off work when you get the chance.
Dull, they said. An uninspiring opener between the two lowest-ranked teams in the tournament, they said. Where’s the entertainment going to come from, they asked? Well, it turns they don’t know everything, and after Robbie Williams’s middle finger had taken centre stage, the entertainment was provided mostly by the boot of Denis Cheryshev, who came off the bench and scored twice in Russia’s 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia that heralded this 2018 World Cup.
Granted, it might not have been the most inspiring full 90 minutes of football ever witnessed, but surely no one can sniff at such a goal-fest to kick things off, especially given the fears of how a Russian no-show at the Luzhniki Stadium might transpire into a more general public malaise at the tournament.
Fear not though, the Russians are still in it! And so it is with a spring in our step that we head into day two, doubly so because today we get Portugal v Spain, arguably the most-anticipated match of the group stage (and one which is therefore surely destined to end 0-0). Indeed perhaps even triply so, because Mohamed Salah’s crocked shoulder will take its bow against Uruguay, for whom Luis Suarez will be looking for some kind of major tournament redemption by simply managing to not to succumb to his baser instincts. Salah’s shoulder could be there for the taking, though.
And then, as if our springy steps weren’t springy enough already, Morocco are playing Iran in the third game – undoubtedly the match of the day, and one which will certainly end 6-5, with three red cards and a ninth-minute stoppage-time winner, because, well because some have already dismissed it given the blockbusting nature of the other two games. And what do they know.
Any hoot, I’ll be with you for the next three hours, before Ben Fisher takes over and guides us through until the first kick-off the day, at which time we’ll have separate liveblogs as follows:
1pm BST/10pm AEST/8am EDT: Egypt v Uruguay – Group A
4pm BST/1am (Saturday) AEST/11am EDT: Morocco v Iran – Group B
7pm BST/4am (Saturday) AEST/2pm EDT: Portugal v Spain – Group B
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