535. World Cup 2018 [1]

Talking about the World Cup 2018 in Russia, including comments about the teams, players, groups, VAR and England’s performances. Notes & transcripts available.

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Transcript & Notes

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World Cup 2018 (1)

The basics
Where is it? Russia
How many teams? 32 teams – 64 games!
Schedule – 15 July Final

Now entering the second round, knockout stage.

It’s been great so far. Lots of goals. Lots of amazing goals too. Some upsets. A few controversies with VAR.

I’ve been watching as many games as I can, sometimes online because French TV doesn’t show all the England games, for example.

tvcatchup.com

The opening ceremony

The usual stuff – vague “peace & love” imagery. Odd costumes and a dance routine. We’ve seen it loads of times before.

Famous Russian singer Robbie Williams opened the ceremony with a medley of his hits.

While I was watching, I kept having to remind myself that this is World Cup 2018, not 1998.

Robbie Williams – a gallant effort to raise the atmosphere in the stadium.

What’s the atmosphere at the start of this world cup? It’s hard to say from my sofa.

England and Russia have had a troubled relationship recently, and generally there’s a sort of cold war feeling going on between Russia and the west, not to mention what’s going on in Syria, and allegations of Russian involvement in the US election and Brexit. This is the climate of the world cup, or was the climate. When people look east to Moscow this is what they see or think about.

That and crazy Russian people doing funny things in online videos, but plenty of other things too – a fascinating history, architecture, culture, the arts, old stories, rich millionaires and the mystery of what we don’t really know about Russia, wrapped up in a weird atmosphere of media manipulation both on TV and online.

All that political stuff.

I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve decided that as far as I’m concerned, that’s some stuff that’s going on between our governments.

On an individual level – if I got the chance to hang around with a bunch of Russians, or people from anywhere for that matter, that we would have a good time watching the football, having a beer, and just making each other laugh! God knows what our governments are doing.

I find all of that stuff quite scary, quite depressing, quite confusing and since the WC is all about peace & love and some guys kicking a ball around, I’d rather just leave that stuff in the background – but we’ll see.

Some people say that you should mention these things because of corruption and the real purpose of the World Cup – as PR for a country, various dodgy investment deals and covering up the negative things, putting on an acceptable face while distracting away from other things.

I’m not saying this is just Russia, I’m saying it’s every world cup, or at least the recent ones. A lot of cosying up and getting in to bed with each other.

Now, I really don’t want to get caught up in a political minefield here. I’m certain there will be Russian people listening to me say those things just then – all things which I’m reporting, not actually saying myself – this is just the way people in general think about this, not my opinion – just reporting. I’m just the messenger, so don’t shoot the messenger. I’m also not saying I even know what’s going on.

In any case, this atmosphere also includes England, and our fans are not known for their good behaviour. In Marseille two years ago there was a big fight, and the Russians got involved. Ugly scenes. English fans are often terrible thugs who love fighting and probably being a bit racist. In fact, a lot of hardcore football fans are racist – you’d expect them to get on with each other.

So, anyway, English fans can be troublesome, but I think Russia has been pretty careful with the security – I just hope that no English fans get arrested for bad behaviour, just because it might stoke up tensions between our countries.

Hopefully there won’t be any violence between football fans.
Hopefully the atmosphere will be peaceful, friendly, celebratory.
Hopefully we will see the passion, the drama and the sort of action that great World Cups are made of.

As I write this, Putin is addressing the audience and pretty much saying the same thing as me – “Football is all about the world coming together in the spirit of love, transcending barriers, language barriers – it’s a force that unites people!” and all that kind of thing.

To me it seems like he’s saying “The world cup is a great symbol of friendly international sporting competition, and this year we are proud to say that through this world cup held in Russia you will join together in the spirit of love, or we will kill you.”

I’m just kidding guys!

Now the FIFA spokesman is saying “Welcome to the FIFA world cup held here in Russia where they are very generous, very generous indeed. You should have seen the welcome package that was part of their original bid to host these games. Whoo! Hopefully the world will profit from this competition as much as FIFA already has!” etc.

Note to self: Do not be cynical. Instead, choose to echo cliched world cup platitudes about football uniting the world.

Sorry for missing any details! Please get into the comment section with your thoughts about anything in the WC. I can read them out in the next WC episode. So, please put your thoughts into writing in the comment section and get some discussion going.

What do you think so far? Best teams? Best players? Best goal? Predictions?

The groups
www.bbc.com/sport/football/world-cup/schedule/group-stage

Favourite teams to win
Argentina
Brazil
Germany
Belgium
Portugal
Spain
England
France
Colombia
Uruguay
Mexico
Croatia

VAR

Designed to make refereeing decisions more accurate, fair and transparent.

Putin has volunteered to personally be in control of the VAR during the championship, which should be interesting.

A team of people studying video replays, a video replay at the side of the pitch.

How has VAR affected games?
Stoppage time, more penalties, some moments when it’s not being used, moments when it’s not right (some offsides) perhaps players will stop cheating

Players cheating
Diving, play acting – holding face, rolling around on the ground, just being brushed by someone’s fingers means you fall to the ground clawing at your face.

Predictions
What the past tells us about who will win
www.bbc.com/sport/football/44431262