You’ve gotta hand it to One News.
On another day of high drama in Brazil they led their sports bulletin with a bitch and moan about diving. Sure, Arjen Robben may have taken a dive or two throughout his career but the rest of the world was looking at a great game of football while Andrew Saville was dribbling about something that’s just not that big a deal anymore.
I love the moral outrange in New Zealand when it comes to diving in football. It’s not as big a problem now as your average kiwi sports fan would have you believe. Sure, diving is effectively cheating, but cheating happens in all professional sports. Flopping has crept into the NBA of late and has caused much media angst. I’ve seen many a cheap shot in rugby and league over the years. But it’s just a dive or a flop or a cheap shot and there are so many far more wonderful parts of each of those sports to focus on and enjoy.
So I’ll do that.
And boy, weren’t today’s two games wonderful, but in completely different ways. The difference between success and failure is such a paper thin line. The Dutch looked dead and buried after Dos Santos’ goal and in that crazy heat. I was tired just watching them swelter (or maybe it was because of yet another early start). But the Dutch kept coming. They just did not give up, even though it would have been quite realistic for a European side to have done so in those conditions.
Sneijder’s thumping strike two minutes from time put the collapsing Mexicans under immense pressure then Robben’s efforts earned another late penalty that helped the Dutch home in dramatic fashion. I think both sides needed someone to find a winner because another half hour in that heat would have killed them.
Now they look forward playing Costa Rica, who will be huge underdogs. Their match against Greece wasn’t a footballing master class, but then we knew that would be the way before a ball had even been kicked. The fascinating thing was the way the match ebbed and flowed. Either side could have gone through, and would have deserved it, but keeper Navas made a great save during the shoot-out and that was it.
Both teams looked dead, much like some of the Dutch and Mexicans. This is a superb World Cup for the fans but a tough one for the players. Whoever wins will have earned it.
On another note, during the Costa Rica v Greece game I booked tickets for Nathan, my eldest son, and I to head to the UK for a few weeks in late-September. It’s a trip I’ve been putting off for a couple of years (mainly because I’m a tight-arse) but now he’s old enough I’m keen to show Nathan around some of my favourite places in London and beyond. Naturally we’ll also take in a few games, with an England game at Wembley a possibility, along with a Spurs game at White Hart Lane a certainty.
It’s great to have something like that to look forward to.
Score picking update
I did pretty well with the Dutch game but I’m almost wishing I hadn’t. It would have been nice to see Mexico in the last eight.
Picks for Day 19
France 2-0 Nigeria, Germany 3-1 Algeria.