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02nd Jul 2018

World Cup Shorts: Why Messi and Ronaldo leaving the party early is a good thing / Mbappe magic

Nooruddean Choudry

Ronaldo and Messi

Saturday just passed was branded as something of a dark day in this year’s hitherto fantastic tournament, as both Portugal and Argentina were dumped out at the first knockout stage. Neutrals were less upset at the elimination of these two proud footballing nations, and more mourning the loss of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It robbed us of any further participation from the two greatest players of the modern era – possibly ever – in what may be a final World Cup hurrah for both. And whilst that is undoubtedly sad and poignant to a point, it at least spares us another week or so of constant bickering and bitchy snipes between Leo Loyalists and Cristiano Ultras. The spotlight can focus elsewhere.

There is also something reassuring about two supremely talented individuals failing at the highest level. Both Ronaldo and Messi are freaks of nature – two blessed souls of supreme talent. But they can’t control who they’re working with, or their imperfect circumstances. It is of solace to anyone who is gifted but didn’t get their break – and also those of us who have no discernible talent. Fate handicaps and hamstrings even the greatest.


First things first, Russia were incredibly defensively minded on Sunday. They were stubborn, unadventurous and injected very little into the game – which is ironic considering they [redacted]. That said, Spain were rank. And the reason it’s so annoying is because they have the players to hurt teams and make things happen. And they made nothing happen.

The hosts knew they were far inferior to their Iberian opposition and did precisely what we all expected – park the автобус and challenge Spain to break them down. Sadly, Hierro’s men were content to play the game out in a one-paced fashion which was rotten to watch and easy to defend. It was possession for the sake of it, with all the urgency of a government white paper.

At its best, the Spanish style has been described in Strictly-style ballroom parlance, with a ‘SlowSlowQuick Quick Slow’ rhythm. Against Russia there was fuck all ‘quick’, barring the very occasional burst from Isco. It was pedestrian in the very literal sense, and a waste of everyone’s time. We may deride the English obsession with ‘pashun’ and bluster, but sometimes, giving it a proper go and being a tad reckless reaps dividends.


What a player. What a fucking player. That run man. Goosebumps.

He may still be a teenager – and all due respect to PSG and Ligue 1 – but let’s hope and pray he moves to a higher standard of league soon. He can’t be another Marco Verratti, getting top marks in a far lower set than his abilities deserve.

The only thing that can hold Mbappe back is stagnation against lesser opposition…and playing second fiddle to a pampered prima donna.