I know I’m not alone in thinking that the World Cup—every World Cup—loses a little of its fizz right about now. We’ve seen everyone. There are few real surprises left—no one will be shocked if Ghana beats the US, for example, in the way they were shocked by Ghana beating the Czechs. (Nor will anyone be surprised if we beat them.) I suppose Japan v. Brazil might have the makings of a major upset, but Japan hasn’t made much of an impression so far. The Argentina/Nederlander game would be circled in red on everyone’s calendar, but both have already advanced. Toothsome Ivory Coast is soon to say au revoir.
Of course, if this afternoon’s double feature looks to unfold in a way that would put Trinidad Team Fighting into the knock-outs, that will be gripping. Mostly, though, Romance Is Dead and it’s time to get serious.
Now we’re in the chippy miniature era that falls like proverbial clockwork between the best group games and the knock-outs. Everyone’s complaining about the refs; that Brazil hasn’t met expectations (have they ever?); that the USA just don’t play right but still might go through; that France is too old, etc. It’s enough to make me want to fast-forward the next few days and go straight into the Round of 16, when the tournament becomes less a Russian novel—after getting half its characters and plotlines sheered away—and more of a pacy techno-thriller blasting with geometric inevitablity towards The End.
I always miss the group stage when it’s done, though…it’s like…it’s like…sniff…when we were young.