After a 2-0 defeat to Mexico tonight, France have become the first big team to come within touching distance of elimination. A Uruguay-Mexico carve-up in the final group games would see both through – a draw sees Uruguay top the group with Mexico second, no matter what France do to South Africa.
It was dramatic, it was exciting and frankly, it was deserved – Mexico were excellent, France poor. Given how much we love to see the big nations brought down a peg, it should have been highly enjoyable.
But it wasn’t, thanks to the commentators and the reactive media (particularly a few sanctimonious ones on Twitter) taking the opportunity to mention that handball in that playoff match every minute of the game, as if France’s loss was more of a victory for Ireland than it was for Mexico.
I don’t pretend to know the entire Irish population. But while those I do were pretty irritated by Henry’s handball at the time, they soon got over it. They certainly put it behind them quicker than the English media, led by a few individuals calling for Henry to be banned for the tournament, France to be thrown out, and other ludicrous and overblown suggestions.
Tonight was a huge win for Mexico. A draw would have left them needing to beat a flying Uruguay, but instead they proved the talent they have in the squad and are on the brink of qualification for the knockout stages. They should have been the stars, yet inexplicably, too many chose to focus on the ‘karma’ of the situation and how delighted Ireland would be, despite a) as far as I can see, the Irish don’t care anymore and b) Henry didn’t even feature in the game.
Don’t get me wrong, I felt for Ireland at the time, and if some still harbour ill feeling towards Henry, and France in general, then maybe they will have enjoyed tonight a little more than most. But the impression I get is that the majority hold no such grudge, so this continued campaign of vitriol is not representative of their feelings in any way.
The more the written press continue this faux holier than thou attitude on behalf of a nation that do not desire or require their ‘support’, the more they irritate me. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
For the record, I have a sneaky suspicion France will still go through. Mexico will fancy their chances of beating Uruguay to top the group, therefore avoiding Argentina in the second round, and that would open the door to France, provided they can hammer a demoralised South Africa. Don’t write them off just yet.
As for the Arsenal representatives, no-one covered themselves in glory. The entire French team was unimpressive, while at the other end Vela missed a great chance before going off with a hamstring injury. In earlier matches, Cesc inexplicably remained on the bench while his teammates lost to Switzerland, and Eboue was part of an Ivory Coast defence untroubled by Portugal.
On the plus side, the entertainment level of the tournament has picked up after a slow and cagey start – Argentina demolished South Korea today, and teams are certainly playing with a freedom missing in the early days.
After a bad day yesterday – three out of three bets failed to come in – Argentina’s big win over South Korea and Greece’s victory over Nigeria boosted the profits once more. Part of me wishes I was staking more than a pound on each bet…
I will continue to place a bet on each match in the tournament, adding some random ones here and there, so keep checking the tracker to the right to see how it is going.
Other Arsenal news
The fixture list is out for the 2010/11 season and we start with a belter – a trip to Anfield to face a Liverpool side hoping to feel the effect of a new manager. Our next crunch game is also away – Chelsea on October 2.
November, often a bad month, will again be tricky – Everton (away), Villa (away) and Spurs (home) provide plenty of challenges, especially surrounded by Champions League fixtures. We complete the trio of away games against the Big Four before Christmas.
If we are in contention at Christmas, having played Liverpool, United, Chelsea, Everton, City and Villa away, we are in with a real shout.
But that is for another time – I have to be honest and say that I struggle to get excited about the season when it is so far away. When the players start training again, and we play our first pre-season match, everything will change.
Before then, we have the rest of the World Cup. And I love it, at least when the TV is muted.