England Expectorates, Days 9 to 11

“Forza Italia!” Was the end of the last report as we looked to Italy, our European compatriots, our friends and comrades from the mainland, our NATO allies and EU partners, to do us a favour and give us a leg up to – at least a hope of – the Round of Sixteen. England expects! Guess what? England got what it expected, bugger all!

We expected at least Balotelli (who owed us one after his final whistle gesturing) to turn it on. The same Balotelli, who destroyed us with a marauding header, the Balotelli who claimed a prospective pecker from the Monarch for his promised assistance, the Balotelli who professes a desire to return to the Premier League because we don’t call him names and steal his dinner money like they do in Italy, did he deliver? Did he buggery. The whole of the Azurri team seemed to be suffering a related ailment to Tom Tucker’s son in Family Guy, except instead of being afflicted with an upside-down head, all of their limbs seemed to be on back to front. A 1-0 victory saw the Costa Ricans elevated to God-like status in their homeland. Thanks a lot Italy! And after all we did for you during the war, letting you empty the bins in Huddersfield. Fine thanks we get.

The fact is, we had chances in both of our games that we didn’t take and got punished; Huddersfieldtownium Screwitupus Syndrome, for the learned amongst us. Requiring snookers to progress is not an ideal situation (especially inasmuch as it’s a completely different and unrelated game) and one that left us with the worst record since the World Cup of 1958, so the statto-obsessed commentators keep telling us… hold on…at least we qualified in ’58, unlike in ’74, ’78 and ’94. So not strictly true then, guys? Football commentators in shock, ‘talk bollocks’ scandal! #BusinessAsUsual

The rest of the matches were marred by my having thrown the remote control in the garden and taken to the brandy, so no real clarity should be derived from them beyond the results. France tonked Switzerland by 5 goals to 1. Where did your square flag get you there, Hans? And Ecuador beat Honduras 2-1. For a bonus point, without Googling, what is the capital city of Ecuador, answer at the foot of the page.*

So that was Friday, but as Cathy McGowan would have it, the weekend starts here and Saturdays’s matches began with Argentina bleating about the Malvinas (funny, I thought that was an ice lolly?) But for all their political posturing (for which FIFA will do precisely jack), they managed to scrape a narrow 1-0 against our new bezzy mates, Iran.

In the second match of the day, Ghana began to live up to their billing as Africa’s strongest side, by almost turning the Germans over. Germany had to rely on Klose making an appearance from the bench in his bath chair to rescue a point. In doing so, he became all time joint top scorer in the World Cup finals.

Nigeria continued an African resurgence by beating Bosnia 1-0 in the final match of the day.

Sunday and the last of the second matches began with Belgium v Russia. Since their previous match, FIFA had awarded Russia a major new pipeline deal, thought to involve a constant flow of beluga caviar and Stolichnaya vodka to the inner sanctum of the palatial Zurich HQ of the world’s foremost football governing body. As the match looked to be heading for a dour goalless stalemate, on came substitute David Platt to snatch the three points in the 88th minute.

In the second match, Gary Lineker’s hot tip for Africa’s high achievers, Algeria, faced South Korea. Although Korea failed to achieve a single shot on target in the first half, Son Heung-min and Koo Ja-cheol, a strike partnership reminiscent of a bullet ricocheting around a canyon in a cowboy film, managed to bag a brace between them. Unfortunately, the first came when 3-0 down and the second at 4-1.

The stage was set for the competition’s sole surviving English speaking nation, the USA, to take on the Iberian Show Pony. The USA, the country with the greatest number of travelling fans, looked to dispel their reputation as an elephant’s graveyard for once fine European players. The Americans look to have embraced the Association code to such an extent that they actually looked like a very dangerous side. The USA battered Portugal and looked good value for a 2-1 win, which would have dumped the Portuguese out of the tournament, only for a late, late equaliser to extend the misery of elimination to the last day.

If the African sides are failing to make an impact, the Europeans are stretchering some significant casualties from the field of play! Find out who makes it to the Round of Sixteen in our next exciting instalment. Same bat time, same bat channel. See you soon, playmates!

*Trivia answer. If you said ‘Ecuador City’, award yourself a can of Sainsbury’s 2.1% Basics Lager. If you said ‘Quito’, award yourself a double shot of chilled Stolichnaya, if you can get to it before Sepp…

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