You’d think that World War II was the most important event of the previous century what with all the parallels being drawn between the course of that conflict and the current World Cup. Basically, it goes like this:
France has capitulated early and Italy has given up the boot. England is left to fight Germany all alone, although the Yanks may show up eventually. The Japanese have advanced. All we need is for Russia to force Germany to divert most of her players to the Eastern Pitch.
But wait, the Russians aren’t coming! Those pesky post-Tito Slovenes defeated them in World Cup qualifying because they penetrated the Russian defense in Moscow in November, a strategic conquest denied both Napoleon and Hitler.
Speaking of our favorite mass murderer, don’t you think his hell-roasted spirit is in particular agony knowing that Germany’s side has a bunch of guys who under his command would have been sent to a completely different kind of training camp? Turks, Brazilians, even Poles. To paraphrase another German, Max Weber, “The progress of humanity is the slow boring of hard boards.” 65 years is not that long (the Serbs, who were eliminated yesterday, are still stuck on the year 1389). So this development is a very happy one.
Back in France L’Equipe is not being
welcomed a la maniere de Gaulle. The French are playing Yellow Card Red Card Race Card, with digits pointing about who to blame, who won’t sing La Marseillaise and who is and is not really French.
A quick look at a team picture shows 13 players with dark skin. Contrast this with the 1998 championship team, which had only 13 players with dark skin. Ok, so it’s the same number but that team, in contrast, won so they’re patriots, true French, whereas this team lost, so they are a bunch of unassimilated enfants d’Afrique unjustly blessed with French citizenship. We’d have done better with the Algerians!
Yes, they conducted themselves horribly, winners of the Petulant Boot, and deserve the nation’s condemnation. They squandered a quadrennial opportunity on the world’s biggest stage, their behavior a warning to the world’s children rather than an example.
But maybe it’s about individuals and their poor choices, or about how professional athletes are absurdly spoiled, rather than let’s simply tar everyone with the same old tar? Vive, vive, vive Le Pen!!!
France’s flame-out was spectacular but mostly took place away from the pitch, and the whole mess with Henry’s hand ball against Ireland and the French coach’s astrological consulting made this outcome seem preordained in that weird fateful fashion that is so common in soccer.
The argument could be made that Italy’s collapse was more shameful, especially when you consider the end of the Slovakia game. Once they got down by two goals Italy began playing with speed and inspiration. It was the most riveting 20 minutes of the tournament and it made it obvious that Italy’s prior performance was from apathy.
France seemed troubled, but Italy seemed indifferent. That’s a greater sin. In contrast, the Western Hemisphere is playing with enthusiasm and purpose lacking in most of the European powers. At least six of the eight teams are going to advance to the Round of 16 and Chile, the team playing the most exciting soccer, might make a seventh.
More specifically, has anyone noticed that in this particular game of Risk the South Americans are taking over the board? 10 wins, zero losses, three draws, with top-ranked Brazil and Chile playing against Portugal and Spain today. Today could have the best play we’ve seen so far.
To give us a sense of where things are, let’s take a look at the map.