World Cup Warm-Up: Neymar has every right to cry (just a little bit less)
Nick Miller reflects upon a teary Neymar as Brazil complete an emotional 2-0 win over football giants Costa Rica.
SATURDAY’S BIG STORIES
Neymar tells you where to stick it.
The Warm-Up tends to get a little bit tetchy when someone asks us to open a jar while they’re watching. The expectation to prove our dexterity, our strength, our very masculinity: sometimes it can get too much. So, clearly, we can understand operating under pressure, and thus empathise with Neymar.
With that in mind, we can well understand Brazil’s No.10’s emotions, bursting into floods of tears after the final whistle of their 2-0 group stage win over… [checks notes]…Costa Rica?
It really was a bravura performance from Neymar, who dived (or at least significantly exaggerated a slight waft of a hand on his chest) to win a penalty, which was then disallowed by VAR, he told referee Bjorn Kuipers to, erm, “go away” no fewer than seven times on the pitch, and then when he scored Brazil’s second, a tap-in to an open goal, he drew his hand across his throat to signify that this great giant had been slayed. And then he sobbed at the end.
Of course, we’re being trite. We know little of the expectation Neymar is under to perform. The relief after drawing their first game must have been immense. But…just wind it in a bit, eh mate?
SHAQIRI DECIDES A THRILLER ABOUT MORE THAN FOOTBALL
Sometimes football means more than just football. For the Kosovar players in the Switzerland team, facing Serbia was always going to be just that. So when two of them scored in the Swiss team’s dramatic 2-1 victory on Friday, which sets up a tingler of a final group game, you can understand the emotions.
Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka celebrated their respective goals by forming eagle’s wings with his hand - the eagle of course being the symbol of Kosovo. Although, perhaps not everyone grasped the significance…
Apart from anything else, the final round in Group E should be a belter. Costa Rica are out, but Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia all know that if they win their games, they’re through. Let’s hope they all go all out.
NIGERIA WIN AND KEEP GROUP D ALIVE
The great thing about the World Cup is that it revives players you previously thought were an irrelevance. If you’ve watched them during the day-to-day drudgery of the Premier League, you might write certain players off as useless jokers. But then when the World Cup comes around, they have the platform to do extraordinary things.
And so to Ahmed Musa, still technically a Leicester City player but one who, shall we say, hasn’t done his best work for the Foxes, but one who on Friday scored two terrific goals for his country as they beat Iceland 2-0, to put them in a fine position to qualify for the next stage, but also as a pleasing side-note for the neutrals, very much keep Group D alive.
Now all they have to do is beat the bumbling, shambolic Argentina in the final game, which will presumably be much easier after Leo Messi’s head explodes. Should be good fun.
IT’S COMING HOME/SEND THEM HOME
Oh god. It was all going so well. The relationship between the media and the England team appeared to be overwhelmed by bonhomie, darts games and pool matches and ten-pin bowling breaking down barriers and indicating that they were all just good pals. And then the supposed England team for Sunday’s encounter with Panama was leaked, and it all got a bit nasty.
Gareth Southgate and Kyle Walker complained to the media for not helping the team out, the media wailed that it’s not their job to help the team out, and by the third go round of this debate on Twitter, TV, radio and wherever else, everyone else lost the will to live.
Here’s the Warm-Up’s scalding hot take on the whole thing: we can see why the team was published, and we can see why England were annoyed. Good. Presumably that will be the final word on the issue.
WORLD CUP SHORTS
Never let it be said that we who involve ourselves in football take it all a bit too seriously. Here’s an Argentinean TV station holding a minute’s silence for their performance against Croatia on Thursday.
OUR NEW FAVOURITE PLAYER
Cristian Gamboa is not exactly new to English eyes. He played for West Brom, after all. But he was the man who Neymar chose to humiliate in the final stages of their game by lifting the ball over his head in the corner as they attempted to run down time. For that, we offer our warmth and affection by way of compensation.
“Jorge Sampaoli, who a year into the job has not fielded the same team twice, who has always proclaimed a love for a back three yet never until this fateful night deployed one, who has been repeating ad infinitum that what he was working towards was “connectivity” that would bring out the best Messi, had left the pitch insulted and insulting. “Smoke seller,” angry Argentina fans said.”
If you’re in the business of picking over the Argentina mess some more, we recommend Marcela Mora y Araujo’s assessment in the Guardian.
WORLD CUP MEMORIES
Belgium in action today, so let’s take a trip back 32 years, to an absolute belter of a classic, their 4-3 win over the USSR in the 1986 quarter-finals.
Now, let’s see, what have we today…it’s…more football! Three games today, should be crackers all: first up BANG - it’s Belgium vs Tunisia. Then BOOM - it’s South Korea vs Mexico. And BOSH - Germany vs Sweden. Get stuck in.
Tomorrow’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by Jack Lang, who will burst into tears with emotion after pressing the ‘send’ button.