The knockout stages of the Russia 2018 World Cup started yesterday. The first game was ridiculous, with France winning 4-3 against Argentina, Messi dropping his head while 19 year-old Mbappé turning up the speed. Kylian Mbappé, by the way, was born AFTER France won the World Cup in 1998. Incredible. Messi on the other hand just stood there after the final whistle, while various people came and tried to hug him. Portugal v Uruguay was a tighter affair with some good football – that cross-field pass from Cavani to Suarez, so that Suarez could cross it back for him to head home, was a thing of utter beauty, bettered only by Cavani’s superb second goal. I felt bad for Portugal, and of course out went Cristiano Ronaldo. I like Ronaldo, and particularly love the way he pulls his shorts right up when taking a free kick. This morning, we got up early again to watch Spain vs Russia. These early morning get-ups are getting old fast. I interspersed iot with watching the Formula 1, the Austrian Gran Prix, and somehow contrived to miss the best bits of both events. We did watch extra time, and of course the penalty shoot-out, and to our surprise Spain lost. Now I had originally predicted Argentina to win the World Cup, if you saw my long posts with all the kits, and that obviously didn’t work out, so I switched my prediction to Spain. Mystic Pete strikes again eh. So just to be safe and guarantee an England victory on Tuesday, I am predicting Colombia will win the World Cup, definitely for sure, they are gonna do it. Ok, so for today’s second game I parked myself on the couch and watched as Croatia and Denmark battled it out for a 1-1 draw. I sketched from the couch – see the picture above. In the distance you can see our paper mosaic flags. When a team is eliminated the flag is taken down. Above the TV, the official World Cup poster. And on the couch next to me, the Berlitz Engelsk-Dansk dictionary which I bought in 1995 ahead of my summer picking strawberries in Denmark. Yes I would wake up at 4am and pick strawberries on a farm in southern Funen, so you might say this isn’t the first time I’ve been up early rooting for Denmark. In the end it came down to a battle of the keepers, and though the Danes had the heroic Kasper Schmeichel, son of the Great Dane Peter himself (in case you missed it when the commentators mentioned it like a thousand times), the Croatian goalie saved one penalty more, and Modric and friends go through to meet Russia in the quarter finals. And I got another living room sketch out of it. It’s so hot these days I’m not sketching outside much.
I hope you are enjoying the World Cup. Here I am in my living room, watching Russia beat Egypt 3-1, the big World Cup poster hanging above my TV. On the wall to the right I have all of the flags on the wall arranged by group, mosaics made of paper, my son and I made many of them for the 2014 World Cup, he didn’t help me make any of the new ones though. I like this World cup, I’ve had a lot of 5am wake-up calls for kick-off, but World cups in their early group stages are still full of hopes and maybes, before the rot sets in. Still some room for excitement and apathy. Soooo…my pre-tournament tip of Argentina winning it? Yeah, they drew 1-1 with Iceland and lost 3-0 to Croatia. I think Argentina’s formation was one big sad face, Messi’s certainly was. Time to break out the “Don’t Cro For Me Argentina” headline. (“Messi Argentina Taken to Cleaners.” “Hrvat’s Going On?”). No 0-0s yet, thankfully, but 1-0s aren’t any more exciting. Goals can be overrated, a good contest is much more fun. I’m glad England won their opener, Harry Kane doing what he does. I feel bad for the North African teams all going out early though. Oh yeah, Tunisia aren’t out yet, but they have Belgium next and the Belgians are looking good. I could go on, but I have had two very long pre-World Cup posts already. I’m enjoying this Russia World Cup, teaching us all a bit more about Russian geography, and the hosts have had a good start, less Russian bots and more Russian boots. The TV studios backing onto Red Square with St.Basil’s in the background look amazing. I had a pen-pal from Moscow when I was a teenager, so many years ago. I remember going to see the Hunt For Red October when I was about 14, and not enjoying it, I left before the end because I was bored. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Big nuclear explosions probably. Maybe there were a few last-minute goals I missed, I don’t know. I never watched it again and don’t want to, I like the mystery of not knowing what happened. Also, I don’t remember anything that happened during the movie anyway. It was no ‘Back To The Future 3’.
That was a very good final. No honestly, it was – sure, the second half saw the far and away best team in the world close their grip on – oh my – the very mighty Manchester United like a crocodile and a kitten. But these were two great teams capable of greatness, but with one being really really good at keeping the ball. Almost like a chess player who doesn’t allow the opponent to start any sort of move by closing off every alleyway and keeping all knights on the rim (or at least those knights not all over the tabloid papers). When Rooney hit that magnificent equalizer, I thought it was game on, and the second half would be a titanic battle. The moral of the Titanic however is that the iceberg always wins, no matter how great the ship. Barcelona are the best team in the world and one of the best in history, and deservedly so – they haven’t been cobbled together last minute with a massive chequebook like a Man City or Chelsea, and you really get a sense that any of the players can do something unbelievable. That midfield team of Xavi and Iniesta will go down in the history books, we will tell our children about them, and then to top them off with the ever-brilliant Messi? In a season when Cristiano Ronaldo scored over fifty goals in a season, something not ever done before in Spain, Messi then did the same. Manchester United are the deserving champions of England and Ferguson rightly in place as perhaps the greatest British manager of all time, and it was nice to see him give a smile and congratulations to what is obviously a legendary team in Barcelona. I’ve never ever seen Manchester United have only 30% possession in any game. I remember the great final of 92 (I loved Barcelona back then but Sampdoria were my favourite Italian team too) when Koeman scored at the old Wembley, for their first ever European Cup (and a year after Man United beat them in the Cup Winners Cup final), the ‘Dream Team’, in that great orange away kit. In that team was Pep Guardiola, manager of the current Dream Team. With this final being at the new Wembley stadium, with fate involved there was only going to be one winner. I’m glad I watched it.
Now I’m in footy withdrawal – what will I do all summer? Watch the MLS??
It was a publicity-hungry preacher in Oakland who started all that ‘end-of-the-world’ May 21 stuff. The world didn’t end (as far as I can tell), but the Oakland Athletics baseball team (aka the A’s) have probably been wishing it had after three defeats in a row this weekend by local rivals, the San Francisco Giants. I watched the first on Friday evening at my wife’s mom’s house (big Giants fans in this family), and it went to a tenth inning, which is a bit like extra time but it was more like ‘next goal wins, ‘cos I gotta be home by 11 or I’m grounded’. I’ve never been to a Giants game (the one and only baseball game I’ve ever seen was the Oakland A’s back in 2002, on rootbeer float day – I mostly remember the garlic fries and the sunburn, and Miggy Tejada. Miggy has now left the A’s and joined the Giants. The Giants won again on Saturday, and, since the Rapture got cancelled due to a no-show, the world was still around on Sunday for Oakland to lose late yet again. Since that happened on the same day as the Premier League season ended with a dramatic relegation battle, I was all sported out, so never watched it. I went out and sketched instead.
Coming from the BBC culture of the UK, it’s easy to forget just how insufferable American television can be, whether it be the overblown news shows, the stomach-churning chat shows or the constant stream of asinine commercials.
“Do you have genital herpes? Ask your doctor for ‘Itch-ditch’. Contains acropolyurinothaloethylene. May cause drowsiness or amnesia.”
I’ve sadly been watching a lot of box lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that what I am really watching are commercials with bits of show added in every so often. Channel hopping is impossible in this climate. I’ll be flicking through like a gunslinger from the Old West, and still find nothing but wall to wall adverts. A half hour show such as Seinfeld or South Park will have between three to four commercial breaks, inserted at the most random moments.
“Why am I happy? I just saved money on my car insurance with E-Z-Sure! More money for me to spend on burgers.”
“In theaters this Friday – from the director of ‘The Cop’ – He was a Cop, on the Edge, and he was Back, for More: ‘The Cop II’ – rated N for Not Sure”
It begins as soon as the opening credits are in – break one. A couple more leap unannounced into the show, and then a final one just before the final credits roll in. Adversely, there will very often not be one between shows – gee whizz, folks, that would be overkill. So why are there so many advert breaks? It surely can’t be so people can check what’s being advertised on the other side. So it’s tilme to check the TV listings in the paper. Americans all have cable, so they all have about seven thousand channels, rather than the standard five most Brits have to choose between (or three if you don’t count ITV and Channel Five, which are shite). So what’s on? A mind-numbing stream of comedy repeats, both American and British (including a worrying double-bill of ‘Are You Being Served?’), bloated ego-centric news anchor shows, dire daytime soap-operas (24 hours a day), serious-browed cop and lawyer shows, over-exposed and under-thought-out reality shows, vacuous talk-shows, the odd multi-channel publicised serial such as ‘Lost’ or ‘Desperate Housewives’ – oh, and the US edition of ‘How Clean is Your House’. You cannot escape Kim and Aggie, even here.
“New at Taco Bell, huge stuffed meat beef chicken lamb and bacon burrito with jack cheese, stringly lettuce and too much rice, chili, cheese, chipotle, chihauhauas and chewing gum (ask your doctor about side effects)”
“America’s most trusted urine remover – Urine-Gone (TM) – rids your carpet of any yellow stains – gets your floor so clean you can wipe your bum with it – call this 0800 URINE-GONE now – not available in shops”
And then the movies – Americans watch a lot of films, throughout the day. Now unlike Britain, which seems to air it’s best films after about 11.45 at night, they are shown all day here. And I love how they rate them in the listings – The Godfather, for example, is rated ‘R – contains violence, adult situations, nudity, language.’ Language? What, Italian? The interesting thing is that this exact same description is used for Jerry Maguire, not a film known for its gangland murder scenes. And ‘adult situations’? Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone is listed as containing ‘adult situations’, as does Back To the Future II. Which situations would those be? When Marty flies off on a hovering skateboard? Yet in the same listings appear Platoon, Hamburger Hill and Braddock: Missing In Action III, none of which have any rating. No language, no violence, not a sniff of an adult situation – what sort of soppy friendly war was Vietnam?
“The new Monster SUV – guzzles more gas than the entire population of Bratislava – for when you absoultely positively have to go off road – protect America, buy the new Monster SUV (may cause dizziness)”
At least, after all of this, they still have The Late Show with David Letterman. Half an hour with Dave and you know it’s all been worth it…