The World Cup continues, and I’m still on me jollies, in a place that, on the face of it, isn’t the sort of the sort of place you’d choose to watch the World Cup – but hey, I watched the last one here in the company of German yachtsmen as they destroyed Brazil, and I watched in the company of French yachtsmen as they snuck through their opener this time around. The place has seas bluer than a Reidy dressing room rant and clearer that than the path through our defence last season, the sun blazes down through skies as blue as a Rowell away kit circa 1979 like a Keano stare, the seas are alternately as thunderous as a Bally tackle or as calm as a Kirchhoff pass, and the sunsets are more spectacular than a Richardson free-kick. Honest, the sunsets, which persist until eleven, make you stop in your tracks, if you’re daft enough to be moving, and say “wow.” Get the picture? Good.
Of course, this is just a preamble to the main event, which is England on a Sunday afternoon, but, of necessity (‘cos I watched it, and Ki was playing) has to include bits about Korea against Mexico, and Sweden against Germany. The BBC website was full of stuff about the Koreans being dirty, and included an American who said he should be siding against Mexico (presumably he was a builder who had a Trump contract to build the defensive walls) but couldn’t because of the Korean’s dirtiness. Having watched a game that had close to forty shots at goal, I’d have to ask what they were complaining about. The game showed the best and worst of the tournament so far – Koreans fighting like demons for the ball, and wincing a bit if they were hoofed in the leg, and Mexicans rolling around as if hit over the head with a bottle of Maxim at the slightest challenge, most notably the ‘keeper when Ki pulled out of a challenge (that any Sunday morning centre-forward – bless you, Pop – would have seen as an opportunity to rearrange the keeper’s teeth). The faintest tickle of a toe-end had him rolling off the pitch and back on again. Comical. Do they not know that the cameras are on? Mind, it was small fry compared to Pepe of Portugal, whose collapse after a Nigerian pat on the back should be replayed on the big screen at every ground he plays at from now on.
Of course, the big game was Sweden against Germany, and I was once again in the company of the Teutonic yachtsmen. About a dozen of them, who descended into fairly glum silence after Ola Toivonen (scored a late consolation for us as we lost 4-1 to Man City in 2015) lobbed a beaut over Neuer. To say the rest of the pub became Swedes thereafter would be an understatement, but we were already 90% there (look, Seb was playing, OK?), and we did it in a polite fashion. Of course, Germany equalised, but when they went down to ten, the Swedes seemed to draw themselves in rather than go for the win. As Simon O’Rourke of Tyne Tees said, they were cowardly. A bit of guts and they’d have won it, but they seemed chuffed to have a draw in the bag – until a free out on their left saw the ball popped back to taker Kroos, and he curled in the curlingest of curly wifters - worthy of winning any game. Of course, the Germans in the Mermaid celebrated as only Germans can, with a half of Guinness each and bag of crisps between them, as I congratulated them on their win and their witnessing one of the best sunsets (2-1 against the mags) that they’re likely to see in their lives. Photos are available on request.
More sunshine provided the backdrop for the big day – hang on, big day? It’s only the second group match, and it’s only Panama, who are apparently more than a canal, which is good to know, but the Scillonian club, which counts amongst its membership folks as diverse as Prince Charles and Harold Wilson, was as good a venue as any. I’ve already mentioned that this is a great place to watch football because you might just find yourself in the company of an opposing fan, as there are Aussies working the bars, sailing French and Germans, and the bin man is from Eastern Europe –but they just couldn’t find a Pananmaniac. Being reliably informed by Judith that Panama’s captain was the heaviest player in the tournament (Roman Torres, over fifteen clem, apparently), I was more than happy that England did almost exactly what we wanted. To see the two Jordans, players I’ve watched since they were bairns, representing – and in one case eventually captaining – their country with such distinction was brilliant. On the negative side (let’s get it out of the way early, eh?), we let Panama have a few early chances by exposing our defence with sloppy passing. On the positive side (that’s 90% of the game) we were in control, the ref actually punished the American football style manhandling at corners, and we put away half a dozen chances. You can’t really ask for more than that, and if you’re going to take a penalty, hit them like Kane did. Every goal was celebrated in proper style, and while it might not have matched the daftness of the Globe in Penzance, it was proper crackers and thoroughly enjoyable. Even at 3-0, Hendo was giving instructions at a free-kick that indicated three was far from enough. Panama, whose players sort of gave up playing football and tried WWF, were backed by fans who reacted to their late goal much on the way we did Sunderland goals last season – it might mean nothing, but we’re going to celebrate anyway. Good for them.
In short, you could hardly ask for a better two results from England, and with the captain completing his hat-trick with the sort of back-heeled volley that was my trademark of a Sunday morning (believe that, and you’ll believe Margaret Byrne) things are looking fairly rosy before the all-Premiership game against Belgium on Thursday.
As Senegal and Japan are playing as we speak, I’ll leave off talking about that one as, even though I’m on me hols, there’s a Sunday club to be attended. You can take the Lad out of Bishop, but you can’t take Bishop out of the Lad, and Pete and Charlie, who we’ve known for years and who might not do football but certainly do drinking beer in the hot sun, have invited us to the upstairs terrace at the Atlantic. Sunshine, beer garden, England won well – if Carlsberg did Sundays, they’d probably be like this. Good job there’s some decent beer on offer rather than theirs.