However you feel about the World Cup in particular, or the round ball game in general, it’s not going anywhere for the next couple of weeks. Crikey has previously helped you get ready for an AFL Grand Final if you don’t follow footy, and for one month every four years, the world game is almost as unavoidable.
So whether you’re dealing with that soccer-mad friend or relative (or the one who pretends to be during World Cups), or you just want to sound knowledgeable during the office sweep, here are a few lines that will get you through:
“There’s been some great football so far.”
You would be amazed how far this will get you. Unhesitatingly, without qualification, call it football. The World Cup fanatic’s eyes will soften with gratitude as they realise they don’t need to explain they’re talking about “soccer”. You immediately sound in the know, and it’ll buy you some good will if you end up mangling the surname of a player you’ve never said out loud before.
“Frankly, Tim Cahill is a better World Cup player than Lionel Messi.”
It may seem a bold call to compare our scrappy 38-year-old midfield dynamo to one of the greatest players to ever grace a football field, but statistically it’s justifiable. Cahill has scored the same number of World Cup goals as the Argentinian great and has managed to score in the last three consecutive World Cups (which Messi hasn’t).
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If we see Cahill’s trademark post goal shadow boxing celebration at this tournament, he will become one of only five men in history (including Pele and Cristiano Ronaldo) to have scored at four consecutive World Cups. Yep, an Aussie could end this tournament as one of the all-time greats.
Bonus point: you could talk about your favourite Cahill moment. Perhaps his effortless, curling strike against Japan in Australia’s first ever World Cup win, or his magnificent volley against Holland in 2014.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m not sold on the VAR.”
You’re unlikely to encounter much of an argument from Australian fans on this one. The 2018 tournament is the first to feature the video assistant referee — a review system intended to overturn referee decisions with a clear and obvious mistake.
But for a system that is intended to reduce on-field controversy, it sure seems to be generating a lot of controversy. Australia were the first team in history to concede a penalty thanks to the technology; Josh Risdon’s grazing of Antoine Griezmann ankle was understandably missed by the ref initially, only for the review system to be invoked and a penalty awarded. Australia’s counter-argument — that the referee’s original call was not a clear and obvious error — seems to have taken. VAR has been used much more cautiously since.
“Still, everything to play for.”
Lest it seems we in the Crikey bunker have given up on Australia, it’s still completely possible that the Socceroos can progress from the group stage. Tonight’s opponent, Denmark, is a solid team with one superstar (playmaker Christian Eriksen), and our final group game is against minnows Peru. Given Australia’s strong but luckless performance against France, and Denmark’s listless 1-0 win over Peru, a victory for the Socceroos tonight is definitely possible. A draw would also keep Australia alive, but throws them to the tide of fate; they would need France to win all their games, and then pull off a big win themselves against Peru.
“Oh, did you hear about that [amusing off-field incident]?”
The glorious wave of humanity that congregates for the World Cup will invariably produce all manner of amusing behaviour from fans. This year has given been no different; Australia fans drinking the pubs of Kazan dry; Japan supporters helping clean up the stadium following their win over Columbia; and, perhaps best of all, the people of Mexico creating an “artificial earthquake” with their celebrations after scoring in their opening game against defending champions Germany.
Closer to home, we’ve the had the disastrous Optus coverage. Flurries of complaints over the number of drop-outs during games has resulted in the rights to air every group game being handed to SBS. The additional content has been similarly dire. “Comedy” segments have featured “Ethnic Dad” characters who don wigs and fat suits, speak-ah like dis and make-ah de double entendres (he wants to play goalkeeper because “I like-ah touch-ah the balls”). Why yes, it is so unfunny as to wound the very concept of comedy AND an impressively old school piece of racism, now that you ask.