The first of many rants and ravings connected to the 2018 World Cup in Russia beginning with a resounding open match victory for the host nation, and a stunning hat-trick from the best player in the world.
I used to sit outside the bookies waiting for my Dad, like a dog, minus the flea collar. He didn’t need to chain me to a post. I wasn’t going anywhere. I knew if he won he would give me 10p and I could by a mix-up, and I loved sneaking a peek through the crack in the door as punters came and went.
“What’s inside, Dad?”
One day, when he came out, he had a World Cup fixture guide. 1986. Mexico. You pulled pieces of cardboard, and the fixtures would slide into view, and you could write the scores. There was even room for the scorers.
Later, my Dad would go working away for a month. I believed in God back then, so I thanked him for sending my Dad away because it meant my mum would let me watch all the matches.
To stress the importance of the World Cup.
On opening night, I came out of the bedroom after putting my girl to bed.
“Are you going straight to bed?” Asked my wife.
“I’m going to watch the football.”
“Would you like a blow job?”
“I’m watching the football.”
“While you’re watching the football?”
“I’m watching the football.”
64 games, one whole month, no blow jobs.
There is a God.
Russia 5 v 0 Saudia Arabia
Russia thumped Saudia Arabia in the opening match in front of 78,000 partisan fans in the Luzhniki Stadium. It was the most significant win by a host nation since Italy thrashed the USA 7-1 in 1934.
I know what you’re thinking.
And yet, according to the world rankings, the Saudi team is ranked #67, and Russia #70.
It was a morale-boosting win ahead of more robust ties against Egypt and Uruguay. Stanislav Cherchesov’s side came into the match without a win in seven games, and Vladimir Putin publicly voicing his unhappiness with the team (and you don’t want to get on the wrong side of that man).
The man of the match was Aleksandr Golovin, who had a ‘foot’ in three of the five goals before ending the rout with a spectacular free kick. It was Premiership bound Golovin’s cross from the left that found the head of Yuri Gazinsky that found the back of the net for the opening goal.
Next, Golovin showed he has the pace of a whippet as he bound down the left flank, tongue slapping from side to side, outstripping the Saudi defender, and two passes later, Denis Cheryshev, was dinking the ball over three lunging defenders before sending the net to the moon.
Another Golovin cross and substitute Artem Dzuba headed home from the six-yard box. Cheryshev scored the goal of the match when he rifled home a half-volley with the outside of his left peg before Golovin ended things with a free kick curler from the right.
In the other match, Uruguay beat Egypt thanks to a last-minute header from defender José Giminéz. Mohamed Salah remained on the bench for the entirety of the game. Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani looked as tasty as a set of calves atop high heels walking into a club.
1. Russia – 3 pts
2. Uruguay – 3
3. Egypt – 0
4. Saudi Arabia – 0
Portugal 3 v 3 Spain
I’m not a fan of Portuguese football.
Two years ago, sat next to my 75-year-old mother-in-law, teaching her about the game, I told her that they were a one-man team.
Nothing has changed.
Cristiano Ronaldo became only the fourth player to score in four World Cups after a stunning hat-trick secured a point in a titanic tussle with Spain in Sochi.
Ronaldo opened the scoring in the fourth minute, climbing up off the deck to score from the spot. Diego Costa equalised for the Spaniards in the 24th minute after a typical bulldozer of a goal from the former Chelsea ace, but Portugal went into the break with the lead after David De Gea spilt a Ronaldo shot in a rare error from the world’s greatest shot-stopper.
Costa evened things up ten minutes after the break, finishing off a Sergio Busquets’ knockdown, and it looked like they would take all three points when Nacho slammed a volley into the back of the net after a game of pinball with both sets of stanchions.
88-minutes on the clock.
A Portuguese free kick on the edge of the box.
Up stepped Ronaldo.
A deep exhalation.
A straightening of the body.
A look in the eye that said, “This is my moment.”
It was Ronaldo’s 51st hat-trick for club and country, and he now holds the record for being the oldest player to score a hat-trick at a World Cup Finals.
Where does all the time go?
In the other Group B game, Iran beat Morocco 1-0, watched by two snails, a cricket and a dead moth.
1. Iran – 3 pts
2. Portugal – 1
3. Spain – 1
4. Morocco – 0
What Are The Odds?
Group A Winners
Saudi Arabia 500/1
Group B Winners
World Cup Winners