From Russia With

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia style…

And, in the words and style of Robbie Williams in a red snakeskin suit, it is time for you to let me entertain you with a bit of the good, the bad and the ugly.

The World Cup is in full flow and by the time you actually get to round to reading this, there is every chance England will have removed the belief of even the most positive of fans. But what has happened so far?

The Good

Russia: Hang on a minute, 5-0? Was this fixed? I mean, there was one hell of a lot of handshaking going on between Big Bad Vlad and his Saudi Arabian counterpart in the posh seats. Or, more controversially, are Russia actually not as bad as we all expected? Meh, probably the first one.

Peru: Hey, it’s not all about winning you know. Peru might have lost their opening game against Denmark, mainly because Cueva hit a bum note from the penalty spot, but they have lit up Russia with their crazy stories of how fans managed to get to Russia (including one man attempting to double his weight so he would qualify for one of the fat seats on the plane, therefore guaranteeing himself a seat), beautiful kits of the ages and wonderfully care-free football.

Ronaldo: Yes, I am going there. Whether you are #teammessi or #teamronaldo you cannot deny the fact that the Portugueser responded in the only way he knows how to being given a suspended jail sentence earlier that day. I mean, what were the actual chances of that court ruling happening a mere matter of hours before kick-off? To score a hat-trick, including his first free-kick on target in years, was a little bit special.

VAR: Yes, I do have this on the right section of this list. I will say this loud and I will say it proud. I LIKE VAR! So far it has seen several decisions end up going the right way. Yes, it also made a mess of the France penalty against Australia (nobody can convince me that was a clear and obvious error so therefore worthy of being reversed) and it probably should have given Messi a second chance from the spot against Iceland, but nobody actually wanted Iceland to lose, did they? We also need some kind of FIFA directive as to what it is meant to be called. Gary Lineker is going VARRRR yet almost everyone else is going V-A-R. I don’t often disagree with Gary, but…

Javier Hernandez, Rafa Marquez and Mexico: Rio Ferdinand nailed it before the game. “You’ve scored goals at Manchester United and gone to Real Madrid and scored goals. And then you are on the bench at West Ham? Yeah, he is upset!” The Little Pea made David Moyes look a bit daft (again) by putting on the kind of performance that made it possible for Mexico to shock Germany 1-0. And then, to cap it off, they brought on the ancient Rafa Marquez for the last ten minutes to become the first man to captain a team in five different World Cups. That’s quite a lot.

The Bad

Spain: OK, maybe not all of Spain but certainly their Federation President Luis Rubiales who put his ego and his made-up belief that things in football should be done the right way to harpoon Spain’s chances of winning the tournament 48 hours before kick-off. OK, OK maybe Real Madrid were flexing their muscles but if the players are prepared to accept the fact that Julen Lopetegui had his next gig lined up then so should their president.

David de Gea: “He doesn’t make many mistakes like that!” proclaimed the so-called experts. Hang on a minute, he dropped a clanger in a warm-up match and one in the battering of Argentina a couple of months ago. That’s three for Spain in recent memory, so maybe he isn’t the “best goalkeeper in the world” after all? Still, he made Loris Karius feel better about his lot in life.

Mark Lawrenson: How on Earth is he still getting taken to these tournaments? I presume he isn’t doing them for free or out of the goodness of his heart. So is it completely outlandish to ask that maybe Lawro at least pretends that he likes football? The France right-back? Not for Lawro, clearly. Pogba? Well, in Lawro’s eyes he is no Graeme Souness. VAR? You can guess what he feels about that. Life? No, not a fan of that. His lead commentator? You cannot hide the disdain in Mark’s voice for whoever he is couped up with. Still, he’s not as bad as Martin Keown.

The Curse of the Holder: Argentina 1990. France 2002. Italy 2010. Spain 2014. And now, Germany 2018. Did anyone really think that Germany’s poor form in the warm-up match would carry into the actual tournament? Not at all. But let us not get too excited. They will probably still win it.

The Ugly

ITV: Oh, hello ITV. You do realise that it is summer time, right? Not December? Oh, you do? So what on Earth is that World Cup music about then? Swan Lake is hardly the sound of summer at the best of time, but if you add in a few sleigh bells you are practically waiting for Rudolph to ballet his way on to the screen. And the set for their studio? Roy Keane has never been much of an elf but he is certainly looking like he is working in Santa’s Grotto for the next few weeks.

Full Kit Wearers: It is bad enough seeing grown adults out and about in the real world wearing a full kit. But, to see actual VAR officials in a studio 300km away from where the match is taking place actually wearing a full kit, well that is just wrong.

The Opening Ceremony: Never, ever have I been so happy to hear the Saudi national anthem. Granted, if the opening ceremony was too good then there was always the chance that it would overshadow the fact that neither Russia or Saudi Arabia were meant to be any good at football. But Putin’s speech? That lasted longer than the Russian number nine. And as for Robbie Williams, I’d love to know how he landed that gig. My guess is that the Russians forgot they had to organise an opening ceremony and Gary Barlow wasn’t available. Still, many expected there to be 11 idiots dressed in red for 90 minutes. Instead, they just got one from Stoke for 10.

Flicking the V: If you missed it, Robbie Williams actually thought it was 1997 and flicking the V at the camera was something that would endear him to the Gallagher brothers. The problem is, that act is highly illegal in Russia and there is talk that Robbie might end up with a criminal record. And no, we are not talking about a re-release of Angels.

Neymar’s hair: I don’t care how much he gets paid, he needs to reinvest some of that into some fashion advice.