Glasgow 2014 – Athletics, 28 July

Another fantastic evening’s sport at the Commonwealth Games was had at Hampden Park on Monday evening.  I had been excited about this evening since receiving the email from Glasgow 2014 to confirm that I would indeed be in Hampden for the mens’ 100m final. There might be no Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake, but that event is always one of the highlights of any athletics programme. I couldn’t wait.

A nice iPhone panorama shot of the Hampden athletics set up (C. Kennedy)

A nice iPhone panorama shot of the Hampden athletics set up (C. Kennedy)

As for Hampden itself, it looks absolutely glorious as an athletics stadium. It is no longer ideal for football with its shallowly sloping stands and huge playing surface – to me it looked absolutely ideal for athletics. No doubt it will be converted back into a football stadium after these games as planned. For the track to remain and this facility to stay in place would be fantastic and potentially provide the kind of “legacy” that is often talked about. Our seats were a lot better than those ones I was complaining about at Ibrox in a previous post, about 20 rows back at the opening bend with bags of legroom. They were also in the aisle, which meant easy access for a few cheeky bottles of Heineken through the evening.

Hampden looking great in Commonwealth Games mode

Hampden looking great in Commonwealth Games mode

The action itself was also excellent. The undoubted highlight of the evening was Libby Clegg’s gold medal in the womens’ T11/12 100m (for blind or partially sighted athletes), the Scot winning by more than a second, something of a chasm in sprinting terms. The subsequent singing of “Flower of Scotland” was also pretty special.

Libby Clegg and her guide runner Mikhail Huggins celebrate gold (to the left of that big camera pole)

Libby Clegg and her guide runner Mikhail Huggins celebrate gold (to the left of that big camera pole)

In the end the womens’ 100m final, despite my previous eagerness, was probably the more world-class event than the mens’. Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria stormed through to win with a rather good time of 10.85, a new Games record. In the mens’ race, Jamaican Kemar Bailey-Cole snatched gold from England’s Adam Gemili, Bailey-Cole winning with a time of ten seconds dead. Gemili was given a raucous welcome and support from the crowd, but it wasn’t quite enough for him to take first.

Blessing Okagbare is pretty happy with her gold medal

Blessing Okagbare is pretty happy with her gold medal

The other stand out event of the evening, for me, was the womens’ hammer throw. The fantastically named Sultana Frizell won that with a throw of 71.97m. Although a long way short of the World Record in the event, it was clear that Frizell was the closest to a good-standard athlete in that field; she also broke the Games Record.

IMG_1831

Bit of hammer

The Hampden crowd was also fantastic. Clearly the Scots on the track or in the field were given the greatest ovation. Indeed, any home nations athlete, be they from England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Jersey, were given a similarly loud welcome by the crowd. The “Hampden Roar” was back, but for folk running round an athletics track rather than for football. As well as those from the home nations, though, every athlete was given their due and, as with the Rugby, the crowd was also able to pick a favourite or two for the evening. For this Monday night it was undoubtedly Grenada’s Kurt Felix in the Decathlon, who was far and away the best high-jumper in the field to the point that his 400m heat had to be swapped so he could warm down. When he cleared 2.12m, 44,000 folk in the Southside of Glasgow belted out their approval.

An absolutely packed Hampden Park

An absolutely packed Hampden Park

The evening ended then with the thought of what Hampden could be in the future if the SFA dared to move away and take the national football side round Scotland instead, and indeed if Glasgow put in a bid for the 2021 World Athletics Championship. What we had certainly witnessed was a wonderful evening of sport, in a great venue, in what seems to be the ideal city for these Games.

Glasgow 2014 – Rugby Sevens, 27 July

South Africa and New Zealand face off against one another in the gold medal match

South Africa and New Zealand face off against one another in the gold medal match

 

Another day, another event at the Commonwealth Games. On Sunday, Clare and I attended the final session of the Rugby Sevens at Ibrox, where the medals were dished out. In the end, gold went to South Africa, who shocked New Zealand 17-12 in the final. The All Blacks’ defeat was their first in 5 editions of Sevens at the Games. The Springboks completely deserved their victory, however, playing some wonderful running rugby throughout a match that at times verged on the brutal. In the bronze medal play-off meanwhile, one of many crowd favourites Samoa lost to Australia by 24 points to nil.

What of the home nations? All three had been knocked out in the quarter finals earlier in the day, and as such were contesting the Plate competition in the evening. Scotland, having lost to South Africa, faced England, whom Samoa had snuck past in the quarters. The first half seemed to draw many similarities between the Sevens side and the Scotland XV – lack of penetration in attack coupled with silly errors in defence left Scotland 15-0 down at the break. During the two minutes, compere Des Clarke (who was very good despite my being determined to dislike him) led the 50,000-strong crowd in a I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) singalong.

The Scotland side thank the home crowd for their support

The Scotland side thank the home crowd for their support

The desired response came in the second half, but not quite enough of one. Scotland scored two fantastic tries in the second seven minutes to reduce arrears to 15-12. The hooter went with the ball still in play, and Stuart Hogg found a gap and ran for the line. Ibrox rose to roar him over the line… except he came up just short, England turned the ball over and booted it out of play to end the game. The home seven were devastated, as were the majority of the Ibrox crowd. Wales then played England in the plate final, losing to a final second try from the English who took the plate and thus fifth place.

The other undoubted highlight of the day was getting to see the previous afternoon’s crowd favourite, the mighty Uganda side. Although they were hammered 32-0 in their bowl semi-final against Canada, the crowd was again completely behind them. A Sevens tradition I wasn’t aware of, and really enjoyed, is that once a side is knocked out, they do a lap of honour of the stadium. Unsurprisingly, the Ugandans were given an absolutely thunderous cheerio from the crowd for their lap, particularly when they did “Klinsmann” dives at the Broomloan Road end on their way round.

The Ugandan Sevens side says cheerio to the Glasgow crowd

The Ugandan Sevens side says goodbye to the Glasgow crowd

My only gripe would be the legroom in the Main Stand at Ibrox. For a ticket that was supposedly the second most expensive, I had to sit either with my knees jammed against the seat in front, or go for a one leg squinting out the way to stretch it a bit. Either way, I have a modicum of sympathy with any Rangers supporter who has to pay £600 for a season ticket in the seat I was in.

In all though, another fantastic day of sport in front of a raucous and generous crowd. The atmosphere started on a high, was kept well stoked by Mr Clarke and then reached a crescendo with the final. Certainly rather different from the usual Ibrox experience. As well as the Ugandans, the crowd got right behind any side it determined was an underdog in a particular match – the Cook Islands and Samoa were also well supported. There is talk of the Scotstoun 7s being relocated to Ibrox in the next few years. 170,000 people through Ibrox in four sessions suggests there may well be an appetite for that.

Ibrox. in wholesome Commonwealth Games mode

Ibrox. in wholesome Commonwealth Games mode

 

Glasgow 2014 – Squash, 25 July

For the second day of competition at the 20th Commonwealth Games, I took a trip to Scotstoun for some world-class squash action. Squash is not yet an Olympic sport – that makes the Commonwealth Games, along with the World Open (effectively the sport’s world championships), the most high-profile squash event going.

After a very pleasant walk down from Scotstounhill station, with a smattering of jovial volunteers showing me the way to go, I found a seat at Scotstoun Sports Complex and got set for four hours of utterly engrossing sport.

Come on Chinappa!

Come on Chinappa! (right)

First up were New Zealander Joelle King and Joshna Chinappa from India in the women’s singles. Despite a good fight from the Indian player against her more highly ranked opponent, King came through in the end to win by three games to one. As the underdog, the crowd got right behind Chinappa, with one particularly enthusiastic spectator’s cries of “come on Chinappa!” heard pretty much on every point as the match reached its conclusion. Despite the Glasgow masses being with her opponent, King, the 3rd seed, triumphed 11-3 11-8 8-11 11-5.

World number 1 Nicol David (on the right) eased fairly comfortably past Megan Craig

World number 1 Nicol David (right) eased fairly comfortably past Megan Craig

Up next it was Megan Craig, again from New Zealand, playing world number 1 Nicol David of Malaysia. David had been top of the rankings for 99 weeks and it showed as she clinically dispatched of 21-year-old Craig in three games, with the Malaysian displaying some magnificent touches. David won through 11-7 11-6 11-5, and she was the first of two number one seeds playing that afternoon.

The second came in the third match of the day in the form of Englishman and reigning World Open Champion Nick Matthew. His opponent was Scottish number 1 and occasional reader of this blog, Munlochy’s Alan Clyne. Bizarrely, it was both players’ birthday so they both got a raucous “happy birthday” shout from the crowd before proceedings began. This match was undoubtedly the main event for the 2,000 or so people seated round the show court, the Scottish crowd being particularly enamoured with the game of squash after Clyne’s incredible two hour slog the night before to come through and beat India’s Harinder Pal Sandhu.

Scotland's Clyne (left) v England's Matthew

Scotland’s Clyne (left) v England’s Matthew

In the first two games, Matthew was utterly clinical against his Scottish opponent and despite some fantastically partisan home support, the Englishman won 11-4 and 11-5 respectively. In the third game, Clyne, the number 9 seed, really came into the match, grittily pulling a 4-10 deficit back to 8-10 despite every point being the match ball, before Matthew eventually clinched victory 11-8.

Mr Clyne appeases a few autograph hunters

Mr Clyne appeases a few autograph hunters

It was another fantastic match and the crowd acknowledged both players well at the close, with Alan giving out a few autographs to some appreciative young squash fans as he and coach Roger Flynn dissected the match in its immediate aftermath.

The final match saw Clyne’s fellow Invernesian Greg Lobban play Australian number 5 seed Cameron Pilley. The announcer gave the crowd the lovely pre match stat that Pilley had the fastest hit of any man on the PSA World Tour, clocking 176mph. Lobban, the Scottish number 2 and 16th seed, seemed to have the measure of his Aussie opponent in the opening few points but Pilley pulled away to take the first game 11-6.

Pilley (left) v Lobban

Pilley (left) v Lobban

The following game saw Pilley demonstrate his class winning 11-4. In the third, again the young Scot seemed to have the measure of his opponent initially but the more experienced Pilley again fought back and won through 11-6. I did like the fact that at one point, when Lobban threw his racket onto the court floor out of frustration with himself, he was instantly given a conduct warning. Squash umpires do not take that kind of thing lightly, it would appear, unlike their tennis-officiating cousins sometimes do.

With the end of Lobban v Pilley came the end of a great 4 hours of sport. Squash is strangely mesmerising, the long rallies raising the tension as you wonder which player is going to break the other down or find that impossible angle, as Matthew and David managed on a few occasions, and take the point away. What is particularly unclear to me, after yesterday’s wonderful action, is why squash is not an Olympic sport.

Between matches, the fantastic Glasgow 2014 volunteers did some serious court cleaning

Between matches, the fantastic Glasgow 2014 volunteers did some serious court cleaning

The arguments for it being one are easy. A squash Olympic gold medal would be the pinnacle of achievement in the sport. Squash lends itself easily to spectating, both live and on television. And, more fundamentally, despite being a complete novice who understands only about 60% of the rules, squash is utterly gripping and clearly requires supreme fitness and mental strength which any knowledgable sporting crowd respects. What more do the IOC need, I ask you. Squash’s next shot at being an Olympic sport comes in 2024 – it absolutely deserves to be on the list.

As for me, it’s the Rugby Sevens medal matches tomorrow evening at Ibrox. To go into that stadium with an entirely friendly crowd in attendance will be quite something.

A Few Final World Cup 2014 Thoughts

The end is here. My last blog post of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in association with Marfrig and Yingli Solar. Now that I’ve done all the player and team assessment stuff, I thought I’d end with a few observations, in no particular order.

Officials

Firstly, the vanishing spray for free kicks is just a fantastic idea and was a revelation at this World Cup. The fact the English Premier League has rejected its use for next season is utterly baffling; it will though, I understand, feature in the Champions League. The best inventions are often the most simple and this is definitely one of them.

In all I thought the standard of refereeing erred on the overly lenient, sometimes to the point of idiocy. How Thiago Silva didn’t get sent off against the Netherlands I’ll never know, while Neymar should have been sent off in the opening match. Fernandinho completes that Brazilian triumvirate having kicked James Rodriguez round the park in the quarter finals and not even getting a yellow. It wasn’t just Brazil who benefited from that leniency though, and while FIFA tend to go a bit mad before World Cups and encourage referees to give cards for nothing, this tournament has gone too much the other way in my view. Skilful players need to be protected.

Speaking of which, the attitude taken by officials and coaches to player concussions in this tournament was incredible, and potentially life-threatening. FIFA need to sort this out and right soon, issuing some kind of edict that players with a suspected concussion must be substituted. Otherwise the potential for long-term damage is huge. Why Christoph Kramer played on for a few minutes last night when he was clearly about as self-aware as a Kardashian is an utter mystery, and there have been previous incidences involving Javier Mascherano and (particularly) Alvaro Pereira which were similarly absurd.

Media

I’ve gone on about this previously, but once again the British media’s coverage of this World Cup was inconsistent to say the least. Undoubtedly the most unwelcome presence in the BBC line-up is Mark Lawrenson who in his co-commentary for the final, as Bob Mortimer so beautifully put it, “sounded like he’d have more fun repairing a photocopier in his loft” than getting paid to watch the World Cup in Brazil. Alan Shearer I also still can’t be bothered with, his main style of punditry being of the “say what you see” variety. I did think Rio Ferdinand was by and large very good (and I quite liked his double-breasted jacket last night…), providing some proper defensive insight and speaking to what he would have done and the challenges he could see from a particular situation.

The inclusion of Tim Vickery was an obvious step, but such a welcome one. The man’s wealth of knowledge, charisma and eloquence are practically unparalleled in modern football journalism, and it was fantastic to see him being unleashed on a mainstream BBC audience, having listened intently to him on the World Football Phone-In for the last seven years. Tim was also well used on Five Live, and the BBC did try its best to include expert journalists as well as former players, with Fernando Duarte, Sid Lowe, Rafael Honigstein and Mina Rzouki on various BBC things over the last four weeks.

ITV, meanwhile, continue to hack me off. Fabio Cannavaro was fine and pretty handsome, Gordon Strachan’s rant about football having no morality was a breath of honesty and Martin O’Neill having a go at Cannavaro and Patrick Vieira for not knowing who he was despite his two European Cup wins was hilarious. Again though, Adrian Chiles has all the charisma of a broken fridge on a piece of urban wasteground, while Andy Townsend is just a waste of language. As for their “beach cafe” which forced us to watch Chiles sit about in his sandals while Glenn Hoddle’s 2010s era mullet flapped about in the wind, the words “Tactics Truck” leapt to mind.

FIFA

Finally, to the guardians of the beautiful game. As in 2010, FIFA have taken billions of dollars in revenue from a country which is still developing. Brazil could have developed its infrastructure as well as building some stadiums – in the end it just has some stadiums, some of which will prove to be largely useless. One would at least hope that the feel-good factor remains till at least after the 2016 Olympics in Rio (where a few of the World Cup stadiums will be used in the football tournaments).

Where FIFA did get one thing largely right was in their treatment of Luis Suarez. A 9-game international ban and a 4-month ban from football feels about right. Biting is weird, but it won’t end a player’s career, nor would it be likely to get him banged up in the real, non-football world. However for a third offence, the suspension meted out feels right.

Finally, it was heartening to hear Mr Blatter being enthusiastically booed while the trophy was being given to the Germans. FIFA’s goal is to make money and keep its sponsors happy, not really look after football. Sensible rule changes (like goal-line technology) move at a glacial pace, efforts for internal reform move even more slowly, while the news that Blatter intends to “do a Havelange” next year and go for a fifth term is soul-destroying. If that happens, continue to expect players and associations to receive bigger fines if they promote the wrong solar panel provider, rather than if they or their supporters have been responsible for racial abuse. FIFA needs leadership and reform – Blatter will not and will never provide it. That’s all from Brazil 2014 from me – normal service is about to resume as we all try and work out what to do with our lives without the World Cup.

World Cup 2014 Review

After 4 and a bit weeks, 64 mostly entertaining matches and an utterly farcical trophy presentation ceremony, it’s all over. Germany have won their first World Cup since reunification in 1990. The fact Mario Götze, a player born after Germany reunified, scored the winner made it all the more poetic on the night. This has been one of the more enjoyable World Cups of the recent past, and certainly better than 2010’s drudgefest. The group stage in particular provided so many goals, and so many talking points, that Russia 2018 will have to go some to live up to Brazil 2014. Here are a few of my thoughts on some of the best teams, games and players we saw in Brazil.

The Maracana, home of the 2014 World Cup Final (from the stadium’s Wikipedia page)


The Best Teams

Football is a team game. 11 chaps who all have a job to do in the hope of gaining a result for their collective unit. This seems to have been forgotten somewhat in recent times with the rise of the FIFA-box-covering superstar footballer. In this tournament, however, a number of sides showed that a collective, 11 man-unit working together can very much overcome a side with a superstar or two in it. For me the greatest exponents of this were Costa Rica. In Keylor Navas they had one of the outstanding goalkeepers of the tournament, with him marshalling a defence which had an absolute gem of an offside trap. They were unlucky to go out to the Dutch and Louis Van Gaal’s goalkeeper-based penalty mind games in the quarter finals, with a starting 11 made up mostly of MLS and Scandinavia-based players. I also really enjoyed watching Chile too although the memory of them has faded a little. Although Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez were outstanding individuals in their four games, it was so clear that Jorge Sampaoli had his players playing exactly the way he wanted to, and they were happy to do so with everyone easily fitting into the way he had Chile playing. Sanchez tracked back selflessly, Gary Medel was a 5 foot 7 inch rock at centre-half and again that whole back line, despite being a little makeshift, knew exactly what it had to do and how to support the attack.

Obviously, the best team in this World Cup was Germany, and they proved that last night. Despite losing Sami Khedira in the warm-up and Christoph Kramer to a head knock after half an hour, the Germans still had the gumption and the collective nous to see themselves through and deservedly take the World Cup back to Deutschland. Again obviously the Germans’ outstanding performance was in that mad semi final win over Brazil, though they showed their resilience in last night’s match and against the French in the quarter-finals in particular. Best Matches Staying fairly Germany-centric, to my mind the game of the group stages was Germany v Ghana. After Germany took the lead early in the second half, the Ghanaians came back with swagger and verve, with Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari in particular seeming to remember what this football malarkey was all about with two wonderful performances. There was no little poetry in the Germans’ equaliser either, being scored by Miroslav Klose to equal Ronaldo’s World Cup goals record. It was one of those games which you were sad had ended. Another of those came in the knockout stages, in the shape of Belgium v USA. The opening 90 minutes provided, as this World Cup has done on a number of occasions, a very entertaining 0-0 draw with Tim Howard making an extraordinary number of saves to keep the admittedly poor-finishing Belgians out. Extra time of course only got better,with the Americans roaring back from two down at half time to get back in the game via a Julian Green goal. It was not to be, however, with even that wonderful training groud free kick routine unable to provide the US with an equaliser. And then of course, there was Brazil v Germany. But I’ve already said plenty about that. In short the match was just absolutely unreal, and in my view the game of the tournament, simply because it’s a result that’s never likely to be seen again between two nations of that calibre. Best Players Firstly, I want to get out of the way the fact that I think Lionel Messi as player of the tournament is an appalling decision. He may have scored four goals in the group stages but he did not a lot in the knock-out phase and was clearly knackered as the tournament wore on, though he is patently an outstanding player. My player of the tournament was James Rodriguez who scored six goals, at least one in every game he played, played beautifully throughout, was the attacking fulcrum of his side and scored the goal of the tournament against Uruguay. Other mentions have to go to Toni Kroos, Manuel Neuer and Arjen Robben. Messi wasn’t even the best player in his team – Javier Mascherano had an outstanding tournament, capped by his wonderful performance against the Dutch in the semi-finals. My team of the tournament (playing the now-traditional 4-2-3-1), then, would look something like this: Neuer; Lahm, Garay, Vlaar, Blind; Schweinsteiger, Mascherano; Rodriguez, Kroos, Robben; Müller Personally I wouldn’t give Messi a starting berth in my fictional eleven. Though clearly he has been very good at this World Cup, he tailed off as the tournament progressed, while I feel the 11 I’ve picked started well and kept up that form. Paul Pogba as young player isn’t much cleverer than the Messi either – for me Memphis Depay would have been a far more deserving choice. Some final thoughts to come in a separate post. Two for one!    

World Cup Final Weekend

And so, the 2014 World Cup has almost reached a conclusion. There are two matches left – one so meaningless that the very concept might as well be abolished, the other being the match that determines football bragging rights for another four years.

Dealing with the meaningless first, the third and fourth place play-off sees the Netherlands play the hosts Brazil. The Dutch have not scored a goal in four hours of knock out football, while Brazil, you might be aware, lost 7-1 to Germany in their semi final.The match itself is utterly pointless, largely being played out between two groups of squad players and involving sides who generally wonder why their flights home or back to Europe (as is the case for most of Brazil’s squad) have to be delayed for this nonsense.

As for the result, I have a funny feeling Brazil will win the bronze medal and restore the barest modicum of national pride. They will have Thiago Silva back, so sorely missed against the Germans, and have that pride to play for as they try to convince their public that $11bn and some stadiums that will hardly ever be used again was worth it to host a World Cup on home soil while their health and education systems go unnoticed.

This chap might be a little happier come tonight

This chap might be a little happier come tonight

The Dutch seem to have got their excuses in early, meanwhile, with Louis van Gaal stating that the game, as I propose above, should be abolished given its ultimate pointlessness. Last time the Netherlands played in this match in 1998 they lost to Croatia – I imagine the Dutch’s motivation has gone while Brazil still have some in hand despite their appalling play through the tournament.

To the main event then. This will be the third World Cup final to be contested between Germany and Argentina. The first, in 1986, was a five goal thriller; the second in 1990 needed a dodgy last minute penalty from Andreas Brehme to provide the game with a goal.

I have a feeling tomorrow’s game will err on the side of the latter, and that Germany will play in a similar manner to their fairly convincing 1-0 win over the French in the quarters to see them through. Germany’s midfield in particular is and has been excellent, with Philipp Lahm’s switch to full back and the consequent pairing up of Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger in defensive midfield making Germany simultaneously look more solid and more dangerous going forward. The Germans, as Chile and Costa Rica have shown in previous rounds, have and will in my view provide the ultimate demonstration that success in football is reliant on 11 players working together, not one chap who happens to appear on a FIFA box.

Have a feeling there will be a million very happy Germans on the other side of this on Sunday night

I have a feeling there will be a million very happy Germans on the other side of this on Sunday night

The Argentinians meanwhile, as ever, will have to rely on Lionel Messi to see them through. He is due a stellar performance, having been kept fairly quiet during the knock out rounds. If he does turn it on, as he can, in the final the Argentinians may have a chance.

Where things may fall apart for the Argentines is in defence. Germany showed their utter professionalism and ruthlessness in that win over Brazil, and Argentina’s defence proved to be fairly simple to penetrate during the group games – though they have kept three clean sheets in the knockouts. Regardless of that more recent record, I think Ezequiel Garay and Javier Mascherano will have to be at the absolute top of their games to keep their other less disciplined team mates in order and prevent the concession of a few goals. If they can’t, the Germans could find pickings as easy as they did against the chaps in sky blue and white in the 2010 quarter finals.

The last weekend then – and another four years to wait till next time. I really hope and wish that the final is a lot better than last time’s cynical foulfest. One point I had wondered about was if a new World Cup trophy would be commissioned on a Germany or Argentina win. However, and slightly boringly, FIFA’s website informs me that the current World Cup trophy cannot be won outright, as Brazil did with the Jules Rimet trophy (which was subsequently stolen and melted down) in 1970.

Brazil 1-7 Germany

Well, I had been planning to do a quick final and 3rd place playoff preview in time for the weekend. But I couldn’t let this incredible result go by without some more detailed thought on it.

For one, I am very pleased Brazil are out. Scolari’s side have played with a cynicism and misplaced arrogance that few Brazilian teams have demonstrated previously. The stereotypical “samba” stylings have been replaced with functionality and an over reliance on Neymar. This cynicism was particularly displayed in the 2-1 quarter final win over Colombia. In that match, Fernandinho was given a mission to kick James Rodriguez into ineffectiveness, a task he largely succeeded in. The refereeing in that game, and throughout the tournament, had erred on the side of lenient towards Brazil and allowed that cynicism and malice to shine through.

Their overwrought and overplayed emotional state has also caused me to take against them, and that state was somewhat responsible for their hammering last night. Tears before and after the penalty shoot out against Chile; tears during the now cliched a capella second verse of the national anthem- these have given the impression of a side more interested in their emotions and their “narrative” than actually playing the game. This mawkish approach was particularly exemplified during last night’s rendition of the Brazilian national anthem, as the absent Neymar’s shirt was held aloft between David Luiz and Julio Cesar. Never mind that Neymar’s injury was ultimately a by-product of his own side’s cynicism against Colombia – Brazil saw themselves as victims in this instance and wanted to make the most of it. That this was probably David Luiz’s most positive contribution to the match tells its own story.

This chap's presence wouldn't have made a huge difference to the scoreline last night.

This chap’s presence wouldn’t have made a huge difference to the scoreline last night.

Until the first goal was scored, the game had been reasonably even with both sides looking dangerous on the attack. That first goal was arguably the worst and certainly the simplest of the seven Brazil conceded – a corner which found Thomas Müller completely unmarked at the back stick to side foot home. Luiz, who was ostensibly marking Müller, threw his arms down at his side in a slight tantrum.

From that moment on, it was clear that Neymar would not be the big miss for Brazil. Rather, it would be Thiago Silva, their captain and Luiz’s central defensive partner. What was obvious as the second, third, fourth and fifth goals were clinically knocked past Julio Cesar in that crazy 6-minute spell was that without Silva, Brazil’s back four and their two defensive midfielders might as well have not bothered turning up, given their abject positioning and continually being caught in possession, ncluding for the goals. It says a lot about this Brazil team that lacking one, admittedly exemplary, defender’s discipline and organisational skills turns their defensive unit to something as useful as mulch.

One man is exempt from that criticism, even as goals six and seven were Schürrle-d past him. Julio Cesar was arguably a bit at fault for Klose’s goal (Germany’s second), palming the ageing forward’s shot back to him, but he otherwise kept the score from being utterly comical and cut a relatively lucid figure while all around him were depositing their heads a reasonable distance away. Cesar is a fine keeper who deserved a better sign-off from his long international career than what he got.

My Brazil diatribe is not to take anything away from the Germans, however. They were utterly clinical, played some beautiful counter attacking, passing football and completely owned the midfield. Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira were particularly excellent, while Schürrle looked a different player from the man who could be rather passive in a Chelsea shirt last season.

Brazil 1-7 Germany. I still can’t quite comprehend that scoreline. Just to demonstrate how bad it was, only Haiti and Zaire have previously been 5 down in a World Cup finals match at half-time. It equalled Brazil’s record defeat (a 6-0 reverse against Uruguay in 1920), and was their first competitive defeat on home soil since 1975. Having enjoyed Brazil’s performances in most of 1994, 1998 and 2002, while understanding that those sides were rather more functional than the 1982 vintage I could see on YouTube, I was glad that this poor excuse for a selecao had been so ruthlessly dispatched.

As for tonight, if the Argentina v Netherlands match gets anywhere near the excitement and uniqueness of last night’s game, I will be delighted. And rather surprised.