World Cup 2014: The Silence of the Lambs

Is that why Suarez seems to prefer humans? Are the lambs not screaming for him? In any event, we know Dr. Lecter was partial to a nice Chianti as accompaniment. What goes with Italian defender (The other, other white meat) ?

When Suarez instinctively regained his obviously heavily compromised capacity for discretion, and started rubbing at his mouth and gums, what could he have been thinking?

Possibility 1: ‘Oh Mr. Hart! You’ve done it AGAIN!’

Possibility 2: ‘This needs seasoning. And here I thought Italian food was supposed to be full of flavour! Gonna need a dry shiraz to wash this down …’

Today was the second chance we would have, for Brazil 2014, to get to the heart of the matter. Two evenly matched teams needing to advance a different agenda, with the ones who win the argument standing the best chance of getting the result they want.

Yesterday we saw three nominally live confrontations, of the four matches scheduled. Qualification through to the Round of 16 and/or Top Spot in the Group were at stake. Of the six teams engaged, only one came to play in hope, seemingly without an argument. The rest, including the already eliminated Cameroon, were intent on making themselves heard, instead of looking to just get by.

Brazil’s always gonna ‘Brazil’, to one extent or another. However, it was heartening to see all of their abilities AND fallabilities on display against the impressive, proudly combative Cameroon. This match was always likely to play to Brazil’s strengths, but Cameroon’s refusal to go meekly, including an early equaliser, gave the hosts every opportunity to cave-in to the pressure and go into their shells.

The continuation of wonderfully unencumbered endeavour from both teams, in spite of that, was an absolute pleasure to watch. As was the movement and application in the Netherlands vs Chile match, for first place in Group B. Two already qualified teams, staying true to their identity regardless of the enforced changes, the main one being the suspension of Robin van Persie.

The last and potentially most primally competitive match, Mexico vs Croatia, on the other hand, was hardly argumentative at all. The Croatians had to win, while the Mexicans only needed a draw to maintain second place. While ‘El Tri’ still stood a chance of topping the Group on goal-difference, even if both they and Brazil won, the expectation was such an opportunity would be remote.

Brazil already had a goal difference advantage, thanks to Mexico’s unjust (and indisputably incorrect) pair of disallowed goals, in their opening match against Cameroon. The Brazilians were overwhelmingly expected to extend that advantage, making it impossible for even a victorious Mexico to overtake them.

So, the draw was both the comfortable and optimum option for Mexico, all things considered. It would also be the safer path to counter Croatia’s expected ambition, in combination with their undeniable technical skills.

Contrary to expectations, Mexico imposed their will from the start. A curiously inert Croatian side, seemingly content to be dictated to, succumbing to the Mexicans’ preferred rhythm at virtually every time of asking.

The match did eventually come alive – thankfully in a positive way – after Mexico’s defensive boulder & Team Captain, Rafael Marquez snuck a header past the floundering Croatian defense, to open the scoring. Two goals in quick succession, set up and scored respectively by renowned goal-poacher – but recently overlooked striker (for club Manchester United & Country) – Javier Hernandez.

Chicharito’s typical back-post header to score the third goal, was magnificently structured, to heighten the inter-game tensions even further. While Brazil had managed to get to 3-1 up themselves, they had seemed vulnerable to conceding further goals throughout. Mexico, with their goal-line patrolled by new ‘Stop the Goals’ ambassador Memo Ochoa, hadn’t conceded a single goal all tournament.

And now Mexico were two more goals away from wrenching Top Spot away from the tournament hosts. Against a Croatian team that had seemingly fallen into a sinkhole, it certainly didn’t seem impossible.

It was unlikely though, and another goal to Brazil combined with the first breach of Señor Ochoa’s last line of defense, ended the excitement. But it HAD been there! Every team except Croatia had been prepared to take risks for their rewards. The wonderful oasis of positive football that has been the overwhelming pattern of Brazil 2014, had been positively reinforced.

Not so today. The oasis became a mirage, as the illusory smoke of quality was brutally dispelled. Where else would this happen but the Arena das Dunas. The ‘arena of the dunes’ in Natal where, until now, goals and strikers had wondered off to die.

Like a wandering elephant forlornly setting out on its final journey, the potential for good football (between two quality teams) joined them today. Italy and Uruguay, with everything to play for, instead stayed true to the theme of this arena so far – extended periods of ‘nothing’ dominating the narrative, like a Seinfeld episode without the intentional comedy – until the referee’s brain exploded.

A second-half Red Card, issued to the unfortunate Claudio Marchisio, after a clearly unintentional rake of his opponent’s calf, in an attempt to protect possession of the ball, should absolutely have resulted in a Yellow. But straight Red?

The lambs must have been screaming for Clarice … I mean referee, Marco Rodriguez.

Italy have been here in a do or die match before. Against Australia no less. We all remember what happened there. And given they only needed a draw this time, one expected the now ailing attacking spirit in the game, to be killed stone dead by the shorthanded Italians.

Indeed everything was going as planned, until ‘the silence’ became unbearable for Suarez, and his dark nature asserted itself. First Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, now Giorgio Chiellini … swarthy defenders seem to be Luis Suarez’ preferred ‘type’.

I’ve heard of quick and skilled strikers ‘dining-out’ on slow defenders, but Suarez’ literalism is ridiculous.

And so we regress from the beautiful football, that has been the unfolding narrative so far, to the ugliness of soccer. You know, the game that only ‘Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters’ play.

Let’s hope there’s redemption to be found, in the two more nominally live matches, to close out the day.

Oh yeah … Uruguay won 1-0, after an atypically fluky header from Diego Godin after a corner, not long after the Suarez disruption.

Only Uruguay & Italy fans would care … And Liverpool fans now wondering how long Suarez might end up getting suspended again to start this season.


  1. Dave Brown says

    Nice description Gregor. Most certainly the referee should have served Suarez a hearty red with his Italian defender. That is a recurring brain explosion that will, no doubt, be substantially penalised.

    More appalling from my perspective was the end of the Greece v Cote d’Ivoire game. My son and I were watching it and he had chosen to support Greece for no particular reason. I popped into the kitchen for a coffee and he comes in yelling they scored, they scored. I went back into the lounge with him to watch the goal and then had to explain my disappointment and anger when replays of the penalty decision were shown. How do I explaint hat cheaters to prosper?

    I fail to comprehend why an act of stupidy is open to post match review but blatant cheating is not. That to me is the ugliness of soccer. Suarez is just a pantomime act.

  2. Gregor Lewis says

    Thanks Dave & I like your link to a good drop of red.

    I disagree about your conclusion.

    I can certainly understand your son’s arbitrary decision to support Greece, especially if it was based only on this game and not what came before.

    I abhor the blatant ‘submariner’ ethic that permeates football. That at its worst, absolutely kills both the spirit and spectacle of the game. The absence of it, to be replaced by earnest effort only – especially from the normally ‘thespian tragics’ in the Greek team – made the usual ugliness more blatant by comparison.

    When you have no choice, as these now desperate players did you ‘choose’ to run through challenges the way Holebas did, instead of executing a ‘carpet laying roll’ with triple grimace and two and a half twists.

    The problem with soccer at its worst is not that they can’t be genuine in their effort, it’s that the norm is to choose not to.

    Having said that, Samaras was clipped. Whether intentional or not he was denied a chance to make contact with his first time shot by a foul from the Cote d’Ivoire player, whose only contact in the challenge was on Samaras’ swinging leg (at the calf), not the ball.

    That’s a foul anywhere on the ground. That it happened in the box makes it a penalty. While the aftermath looks like comedy capers, the cause was a definite foul.

    Your son may well end up disappointed with what Greece produce against Costa Rica. But I don’t think he has anything to worry about wrt what he saw yesterday.


  3. Dave Brown says

    Thanks Gregor, yes I have subsequently seen a replay from behind that shows him being, just, clipped in his action of kicking and the CIV player nursing his knee where the contact occurred. I suspect, like, many I was duped in only seeing it from side on after the point of contact. Nonetheless Samaras simulated from the point his foot hit the ground – the fall to the ground was not a natural action. That is against the rules and should be stamped out. That said, how many modern AFL footballers do we see buckle at the knees and thrust themselves forward the moment they feel contact from behind?

    I believe my son’s new found allegiance to Greece was match specific. We will be a pro-Belgium household from this point on.

  4. And so it appears that someone from the AFL’s MRP has wormed their way onto FIFA’s disciplinary panel.

    No case to answer for Suarez – insufficient evidence.

    I’m a Liverpool supporter and I am absolutely astounded that he’s free to continue the tournament. To say that there’s insufficient evidence here is like acquitting someone of murder because, well, I know the victim has a gunshot wound, I know your client was holding a, gun at the time but frankly, as we didn’t actually see him pull the trigger, we can’t actually be sure…

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