Well, thank you, Argentina. I had some ‘excellent’ headlines and puns lined up when it looked like you were crashing out of the FIFA World Cup 2018. ‘God 1 – 1 Moses’ was on the list after Lionel Messi had scored a fine goal to open the scoring and Victor Moses had scored the coolest penalty ever to level up proceedings.
Considering the part that the video assistants had to play in more penalty shouts, ‘Don’t cry for me VARgentina’ was likely to get an airing.
Jorge Sampaoli had clearly put the entire Argentinian squad in a hat and pulled out names pretty randomly as he tried to find the combination that might keep Maradona out of the dressing room for the knockout stages. Out went Big Willy and Little Kun. In came Giorgio Armani, a curious selection at the best of times, and Gonzalo Higuain who has absolutely no past form of missing massive chances in big games for his country.
The game itself was only entertaining in the fact that Argentina, even when winning, were on the ropes. They were on the brink of elimination with only minutes remaining. And then, Marcos Rojo did something that even woke up Maradona from his quite possibly drug-induced coma.
Rojo, and let us be honest he is far safer in the opposition area than his own, appeared with two minutes remaining to smash home a weaker-right-foot volley that left Higuain wishing he could do that when wearing light-blue-and-white.
The fans went crazy, understandably. After all, they had put in more of a shift over 90 minutes than the players themselves.
As for Maradona, well we were never left in any doubt what he was thinking because the sodding camera panned to him every three minutes. We had Maradona praying to the gods (or his dealer). We had Maradona asleep. We had Maradona flicking a double bird to the fans below (who seemed to be Argentinian curiously) after Rojo had netted the winner. I mean, poor Robbie Williams. He won’t even be remembered as the man who stuck the middle finger up in Russia. Maybe it is time that Maradona’s ‘minder’ accidentally let go next time the fat-former-great is balancing over the balcony shouting obscenities? Unsurprisingly, he needed ‘medical attention’ after the game. He ‘hurt his neck’ apparently.
Either way, Nigerian hearts were broken as they went from having booked a Saturday date with France to booking a flight home. Argentina, still on that performance, won’t be far behind them.
We had gone well over 30 games before we finally got the 0-0 score that can blight an international tournament. Neither France nor Denmark seemed particularly worried about troubling the opposing goalkeeper, even when one of them was Steve Mandanda. As a result, Denmark face a tough game against Croatia, who beat Iceland 2-1 last night.
Peru, oh Peru. Why did you wait until it was too late to match up a thrilling performance with a win? You are leaving us too early. It hurts, oh it hurts.
Harry Kane has convinced Gareth Southgate that he should start against Belgium tomorrow. Kane is believed to have told Southgate it would be very embarrassing to the coach and the squad if he was to appeal every single goal scored by someone else starting in his place so it would make more sense just to pick him. Gary Cahill and Danny Rose have managed to get the call as well, albeit with far flimsier reasons.
Finally today, Brazil coach Tite has come up with the tactical advice which explains why he is the man in charge of the destiny of the world’s most famous football country. “Neymar cannot win this on his own,” he said. Indeed.