We’ve only had four days of it but Russia 2018 is already consuming my every waking moment (that’s ‘waking’, dirtbags). Life now solely exists of watching football, waiting to watch football, eating and toileting (if I remember), and occasionally having a bit of a wash.
There’s no point in hanging around and waiting to decide who the tournament’s heroes and villains are though – so let’s round up the most notable characters from the first few days…
It’s not too hard to be a fully-fledged CR7-denier. There’s so much about the bronzed footballing mandroid to be irked by – the self-adoration, the on-pitch moaning and of course, the statues.
But against Spain on Friday night, we saw him in his absolute pomp. Aided by the bit of luck that all greats need (a slightly dubious penalty and a Karius from de Gea), nevertheless his hat trick prevented what could have been a costly defeat in the opening match.
Contrast his brilliant match-saving free kick goal right at the death with Messi’s tame, wall-whacking equivalent in Argentina v Iceland when a piece of magic was needed.
Not a player at this World Cup but a fan, of Peru – and possibly one of the most devoted. Undeterred by the fact that there were no standard tickets left for any of Peru’s matches, he acted quickly and smartly.
In an interview with a Spanish TV network, Miguel said: ‘The only tickets left were for people with reduced mobility and one of the requirements was to be morbidly obese. I had a body mass of 30, when it needed to be up to 35, so I had to gain 25 kilos in weight.’
‘I bought the tickets and then I started to get fat: I ate everything, but especially carbohydrates. I had just three months to present my certificate of obesity and fortunately I was able to succeed.’
It’s almost on par with Robert de Niro, who landed an Oscar after gaining 27 kilos for his role in Raging Bull, so surely FIFA can give Miguel some kind of equivalent World Cup award…
Maybe they were buoyed by being awarded a chunk of the 2026 World Cup a few days earlier, but Mexico went full tilt at the Germans on Sunday and got their just reward, a 1-0 win and a golden opportunity to progress out of Group F.
It was a game of two halves – fearless, swashbuckling attacking in the first half coupled with a solid rearguard action in the second, as the Germans pushed to get back in the match, fruitlessly in the end. Jalapeno!
It’s been refreshing to see some of the stars of the women’s game appearing as pundits, and there’s no doubt that they’re there on merit. With 102 England caps, Juventus forward Eni obviously knows her stuff, but sadly Patrice Evra showed that there’s still some condescension from the men that needs to be wiped out.
THE BIG TEAMS
Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Portugal and Spain – all widely fancied to win this thing and none of them without three points on the board after their opening fixtures. At least Portugal and Spain provided us with what might turn out to be the match of the tournament, so they’re excused, but the other three were all severely underwhelming and at least one of them could be on an early plane back home to face the derision of their fans.
Is the ‘who’s the best?’ debate at an end? While Ronaldo grasped the Spain match by the scruff of the neck and stamped his cocky authority all over it, Messi timidly under-performed in the blue and white shirt yet again.
Yes, he was tightly marked throughout, and yes, his talented attacking team mates didn’t do enough to draw Iceland’s stoic defenders away from him and create some space for him to play in, but a sniffing, cigar-smoking Diego Maradona in the crowd seemed to be having much more fun.
Miguel F’s carbo-loading story is just one of the nuggets of brilliance associated with the Peruvian effort at Russia 2018. If you’re not already a little bit in love with them, then have you even been paying attention properly?
It’s their first World Cup since 1982 and their fans are very, very bang up for it indeed. Plus, they were desperately unlucky not to get something against Denmark, partly thanks to Cueva’s stupid penalty effort. The halt in the run-up and the jittering dance showed that he was overthinking the situation.
You’ve got love his post-match ‘look over there!’ deflection technique though, as he pointed out that Lionel Messi had missed a penalty as well.
Baffled by goal-line technology during France v Honduras in 2014, the BBC’s robot correspondent went one further on Friday as Luis Suarez screwed a shot into the side netting during Uruguay v Egypt.
At first he thought it had gone in and been disallowed for some reason, but his careful studying of the replay proved otherwise. Easy mistake to make – you often see goals scored that then bounce out of the net on the outside of the post…