Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Just turn round, will you? I want to read your shirt

At some point during this World Cup I want to sit bolt upright and go "Who the fuck is that?" I want to cross my fingers hoping a player will turn round in close-up so I can see how his name - which I'd never heard in my life before until the commentator just garbled it - is written on the back of his shirt.

All I ask is to be pleasantly surprised by a player at the World Cup. Is that really such a tall order?

Only three players have managed to squeeze an "ooh" out of me so far, spurring a frisson of excitement every time they got the ball. One of them was Leo Messi, arguably the only player since Maradona who surprises you if he doesn't get you to go "ooh". The other two - with names that would make a cracking pair of competing soap powders, as it happens - were Özil and Elia, playing for Germany and Holland, respectively.

They both impressed me, yes, but did they surprise me? Not really, no. I'd had a good idea of what to expect for several months during all the pre-tournament build-up. (I hardly devour the sports press, but they were hard to miss: both had been touted - along with four hundred and eighty-seven others - as candidates to fill the slot at Barcelona that Thierry Henry is expected to vacate this summer.)

I note with dismay that, apart from the Spanish players who I watch every week (sorry, Jesús Navas, but you've been a known entity for years), only Cristiano Ronaldo plus a supporting cast of ten and Dunga’s notoriously ooh-lite Brazil remain ready to set their wares out on the table for our delectation. It looks increasingly as though - unless the Dear Leader in Pyongyang has something up his cowpat-brown sleeve - my dream of being surprised by a player at this World Cup will be unrealised.

Thanks, YouTube. Thanks a fat lot.

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