Sobs is still on holiday in the Scilly Isles, spending his time drinking beer and watching the World Cup…
The new hope born of a six-one win still pervades the air a few days after the morning after the afternoon before, as does the joy of hearing that Honda had saved Japan a point. I'm not the only one for whom this conjured up an image of a 50cc moped beetling into the box and the cross off the rider's helmet for the vital goal, followed by a series of celebratory wheelies in the box – the damage caused by which his team-mates immediately repaired. It sort of matched Sunday night's post-match nonsense, which involved two lads in England shirts zooming up and down the main street on a bike as we watched yet another spectacular sunset, one pedalling furiously and the other sitting in the kiddies' trailer on the back. Both were singing one of those drunken football songs that doesn't quite scan, about how we'd sored six and were going to win the cup, but, as these things do, it ended in up a heap of skinned knees, tears, laughter, and temporarily dinted pride near the Mermaid when their version of Chris Froome took a corner way too fast. Their laughter and groans were almost drowned out by the combined tutting of the older spectators and the barely supressed guffaws of the visitors from Bish Vegas, where such things are commonplace. The pair of them will have woken up on Monday with vague recollections of six goals in the Scillonian Club and arguing about the origins of the bruises and scabs, why their specs were bent out of shape...and whose bike and trailer combo it was in the bathroom.
Of course, this was nothing compared to the VAR shenanigans of Monday's fixtures which, if anything, simply added to the smiles on the faces of neutral fans. With eventually getting his World Cup goal as Egypt departed the competition, Spain came mighty close to their first defeat in yonks - to Morocco - then came Portugal and Iran, the polar opposite to the sunshiney day of gin and tonic by the beach and floating about in boats I'd just experienced. Without the tress of Sunderland matches being scheduled and match tickets to worry about - the magic of the telephone meant that Hartlepool and Grimsby tickets would be on the mat when get home. I'll leave Darlo for a while yet, as I like to live dangerously.
For once, I agreed with most of Mark Lawrenson said, as his claims that Portugal's histrionics would get the game done away with were both repetitive and accurate. They'll cry wolf once too often and a player's health will suffer, but in the meantime would someone please put some laxative in Pepe's breakfast. Typically, immediately after Judith had observed that neither team would score, Queresma, presumably sponsored by Lisbon's worst tattoo parlour, produced a "worldie", then later decided that a finger on the chin had probably broken his nose, skull, and neck. More than one player was removed from the fray to deny the ref the chance of a second yellow, as imaginary TV screens were drawn in the air and Ronaldo spent the second half perfecting his wry smile. Never has a TV screen suffered as much abuse as that consulted so frequently by the ref since I inadvertently caught five minutes of Love Island. Dodgy pens, even dodgier yellow cards, penalty saves, and the threat of it going on until midnight. Iran missed a cracking chance in the dying seconds, which would have put them through at Portugal's expense (I think - the yellow card head-to-head against Spain would have been interesting) VAR VAR voom indeed, but to be honest it's a while since I've laughed at a football match as much. Laughing ironically when at Sunderland games doesn't count, obviously, but it was more entertaining than the attempts of the folks in the flat next door to learn both guitar and harmonica. Blasting a few bars in response to a particularly squeaky attempt shut them up for a bit - always carry your harmonica, it takes up no space and you never know when you can surprise someone. Uruguay had also managed to give Seb Coates a game (another example of SAFC failing to get anything like the best out of a player) to get to the round of 16.
As you've guessed, Tuesday was more sunshine followed by France and Denmark dulling out 90 minutes, then Peru doing for the Socceroos. Iceland lost to Croatia, and we chose (obviously, and by "we" I mean anybody watching the telly) to shout for Nigeria against Argentina, after I'd filled in my volunteer form for the installation of Bright Red Seats at the SoL- looker, I've got the necessary spanners and I'm not afraid to use them.
Again, VAR came into it - giving Nigeria and equaliser from the spot but denying them a second spot-kick for an offence far more obvious that that accepted as handball for Iran on Monday. Either use VAR properly or put it back in the bin. Even I'll acknowledge that the winner from Rojo, another player for whom I've little time, was one of the best of the tournament so far, but once again, Maradona showed his (total lack of any sort of) class. I know I'm biased, but I'll take any chance to have a go a Chubby Cheater, and the whole of the Mermaid (all nationalities) seemed to take against the Argentinians and joined me in my abuse of the TV screen whenever he filled the screen -not much an achievement on his part. Especially with his "double swivel" gesture. Lovely to see the responsibility of diplomatic position being taken seriously.
Of course, the Big News was Xhaka and Shaqiri getting done for making a birdy-symbol, almost eclipsing Sweden's 3-0 win over Mexico, which in turn almost eclipsed the expressions on the faces of the Mexican fans when the Korean score came through - doing a Germany with two late goals to plant Germany firmly at the bottom of the group that Germany were expected to win. They looked at VAR for both goals, and it was nice to see technical efficiency confirming the downfall of Germany, meaning that the world Champions won't get the chance to spoil England's tournament. Unlike Argentina, we don't dislike the Germans because (Messi apart) they're generally not very nice and they cheat, it's because they're usually so bloody efficient. Oh, and they keep beating us on penalties. I'd managed to spend the early afternoon sitting in boats and beer gardens, so I only caught the last fifteen minutes of the game, but it was as good as some of the ninety minutes I've watched so far. Let's just say there was a-whooping, a a-hollering, and more than a few belly laughs in front of the telly.
I'm going to sit in the sun a bit more now, before the day's last pair of games which I may or may not watch - unless I hear that Brazil are in danger of departing the competition, in which case a TV will be sought. Basically, I'm saving myself for the England game, and hope it's a real game as there's nowt like winning games to keep the morale high, even though it will be a Premier League game in terms of personnel.
ALS run buses to every single away game the SAFC play. Click here for a list of prices and times.