Now that every team has played at least once, we are in a good position to look back at the World Cup so far, and look forward with the biggest of smiles on our faces.
Brazil opened the tournament with a bang and dodgy World Cup song aside, the opening night was a good one. Marcelo scored the first goal of the tournament (albeit in the wrong goal) but his blushes were spared by a Neymar brace with a little help from the referee.
Yuichi Nishimura caused uproar by giving Brazil a very dubious penalty and making a few other interesting decisions causing Croatia manager Niko Kovac to declare his side might as well pack up and go home.
Fixtures saw one or two more refereeing decisions being called into question (Robin van Persie’s aerial assault on Iker Casillas comes to mind) but the biggest highlight from referees is of course the shaving cream. The new vanishing spray the marks where the wall stands and where the ball is to be placed at a free kick has been the hit of the tournament so far. However, some poor players have been frustrated by it ruining their brand new boots.
With the Boys In Green not featuring, Irish eyes were always going to follow England with interest and they did just that as they took on Italy in their opener. Wayne Rooney dominated the headlines but it was the elder statesman of Italian football that dominated the pitch. Whatever about the result, whether you were elated by the Italians victory or disappointed, people marveled at Pirlo’s midfield masterclass. And even more marveled at his magnificent beard, and not for the first time.
Elsewhere people drooled over Arjen Robben’s frightening pace as he joined forces with van Persie to humiliate the Spanish and cause many to claim that tiki taka should have been left at home. There was some Messi magic to help Argentina see of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Germans rocked up against Portugal and let Thomas Mueller off the leash as he buried a hat trick to help claim a 4-0 win. Cristiano Ronaldo was left dejected and wishing he had kept Pepe on his leash…
And of course, for the very many of us not currently in Brazil, there is the TV punditry. What would a World Cup be without Bill O’ Herlihy? We’ll find out next year as this is going to be his last time keeping Messrs Giles, Brady and Dunphy in check. Dunphy has been starring on the RTE panel with sweary choice of words and interesting pronunciation (Lucouko leading the line for Belgium). Richie Sadlier and Didi Hamann offers some quality when the antics of the Senior Trio get too much and of course, you could always flick across the pond.
BBC and ITV are sharing duties and while Adrian Chiles may not be everyone’s cup of tea on ITV, some interesting comments come from Lee Dixon and their superstars Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro are always good. But there is a Roy Keane sized hole in ITV’s coverage so the Beeb is perhaps leading the way when Billo’s not your man.
Gary Lineker and Mark Chapman held the ship steady and Phil Neville aside Thierry Henry and Rio Ferdinand have performed decently. But the real jewel in their crown has been Neil Lennon with his excellent knowledge and always interesting comments. And if the punditry isn’t for you, you can ponder how Robbie Savage gets his hair to be so shiney.
So one week in, there have brilliant goals, curious decisions, interesting pundits and whole heap of excellent football. Long may it last.
Steve Neville, Pundit Arena.