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Dublin: 11 °C Friday 20 April, 2018


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WELCOME TO THE third round of World Cup fixtures, World Cup fans.

The good news is that we’ll be treated to four fixtures every evening for the next few days.

The bad news is that we’re down to two kick-off times.

If you have any football /travel related questions for’s man in Brazil, Mikey Stafford, e-mail, tweet us @Football_ie, use the hashtag #ScoreWCHangout, post a message to Facebook, or leave a comment below.

A very, very good afternoon to all you non-Chile, Holland, Spain and Australia fans out there.

Sean Farrell here safe within towers, and (hopefully) Mikey Stafford will be joining us live from Brazil once he’s recovered from his Marathon overnight bus trip.

With the reigning World and European Champions relegated to the secondary feeds of almost every broadcaster, they are an obvious candidate for the most worst or most disappointing team at the tournament.

But we want your opinions on what other teams have ‘had a Macedonia’ during the opening two group games.

Who do you feel should wear the stone of shame on their way to the departures desk this week?

Just in case there was any doubt over the glamorous, luxurious lifestyle that sports journalists live; here’s a quick overview of the overnight bus trip undertaken by Mikey last night.

mikey trip

Yes, that’s almost 11 hours by car.

Croatia v Mexico had better be worth it tonight.

As Jack Freeman points out in the comments section, there are plenty of teams who have promised a lot and offered little – probably add Portugal to that list as well.

Though some of the teams he’s named will be perfectly happy with the points amassed by their patchy form: Belgium, Brazil, Argentina and Germany all sitting fairly pretty.

Source: BudweiserIreland/YouTube

Mikey Stafford is in the house!

MS: “Greetings from Arena Pernambuco, which is about as close to Recife city centre as St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge is to Temple Bar.

“The one-hour journey here, on a really miserable day on Brazil’s Eastern Cape might I add, was the final leg of a 17-hour journey from Fortaleza to the venue for this evening’s Group A decider between Croatia and Mexico.

“I see Sean has calculated my bus journey at a little over 10 hours, it actually took 14, but was surprisingly comfortable. To paraphrase Rick James, valium is a hell of a drug. Unfortunately sounds like I missed a humdinger last night between the USA and Portugal.”

SF: Ah, Portugal USA was dramatic alright, but severely lacking in quality that you’d need to call it a great game. For me, it was pretty sad watching Ronaldo hobbling about, clearly unfit and unable to drag his team into gear.

MS: ”Here is a view of the remote and isolated Arena Pernambuco, with added sodden Mexico fans. This weather will play havoc with some of the more ornate costumes I spotted this morning. One guy was dressed as some sort of Aztec god, with just some shiny silver chain mail covering his male parts.”

scenic - Copy

MS: ”The worst team I have seen in the flesh were Spain in their opening match against the Netherlands.

“Some people said it was hasty to write them off after one poor game but it was obvious to see that they were a busted flush — there was no inspiration and surprisingly little perspiration from their midfield, while their defence looked in a perpetual state of crisis and Diego Costa was clearly unfit, or at least lacking in match sharpness.

“Worst I’ve seen on the telly box, or at least freshest in my mind, was South Korea yesterday. Particularly their defence and goalkeeper — nightmare stuff.”

GOAL! David Villa has back-heeled Spain into the lead over Australia!

Eat that, all of us calling them the worst team in Brazil.

A wee glance at that superb Villa finish.


MS: ”Still trying to figure out what happened this morning with an irate and possibly hallucinating Germany fan while we were queuing up to reclaim our bags from the luggage compartment of the bus.

Source: MOVIECLIPS/YouTube


“First he asked me for a phone and then he pointed angrily at his luggage slip and asked if it was my number. Finally he asked me for my glasses. It was a strange conversation. This man, presumably in town for Germany’s final Group G match with the United States on Thursday, was quite a sight. Imagine John Candy kitted out head-to-toe in Bayern Munich branded gear, which is an image.”

For me, It’s hard to say Spain have been disappointing because another Spanish march to glory was my worst nightmare for this World Cup.

Call me a football charlatan, that’s fine, but I haven’t been entertained by Spain or Barcelona since about 2007.

Japan were one of the biggest disappointments for me, they came with a reputation for some nifty link play, but looked incredibly toothless against a 10-man Greece.

Portugal have been awful, obviously. If only there had been some way of knowing that Pepe was a ticking timebomb….

MS: “Veering away from World Cup matters here but it seems Helena Costa, who was due to become the first female coach of a professional French league side has left the job already

SF: A very odd turn-up for the books. Clermont say “This decision was sudden and surprising.” meaning it is Costa who has decided to walk away.

Back to the World Cup, it’s half-time in Spain v  Australia with the World Champs still leading 1 – 0. Holland are being held by Chile (or maybe vice versa) I haven’t really been paying close attention.

MS: “I’ll leave Sean to mull over the first 45 minutes of the battle of the also-rans,

“São Paulo may have got the weather but Netherlands-Chile looks like a bit of an arm-wrestle, with nobody wanting to over commit. A draw suits the Dutch though, so it will be interesting to see if Chile show a bit more endeavour after the break. “

The sight of the official FIFA half-time highlights reminds me that I’ve committed a grave error… no score predictions were made.

So, armed with the knowledge of two sets of 45 minutes, here’s what we thing…

Sean: Holland 0 Chile 1. Spain 2 Australia 1

Pat: Holland 0 Chile 0, Spain 3 Australia 0.

Eamon: Holland 1 Chile 0, Spain 1 Aus 0

Murray: Holland 1 Chile 0, Spain 2 Aus 0

Fenno: Holland 0 Chile 0 Spain 3 Aus 1

Niall: Holland 0 Chile 0, Spain 1 Aus 0

Ben: Holland 1 Chile 1, Spain 2 Aus 1

Mikey: Holland 0 Chile 0, Spain 3 Aus 0

photo1 (1)

MS: “The weather tonight could also play havoc with this Mexico fan, who caused quite a stir during Brazil match in Fortaleza. Fans of “El Tri” were brilliant that night and I am glad to hear FIFA have dropped their ridiculous charge of homophobic slurs after the Mexico fans brutally taunted Julio Cesar all night, shouting the Spanish word for “gigolo” in unison every time the Toronto FC custodian had any part in the action.

“Obviously someone pointed out that a male prostitute is not necessarily homosexual and some of us, even, might take it as a compliment if someone thought a woman might pay us for sex.”

As David Villa sheds tears of a retired international footballer on Las Rojas bench, the sight of that great big winged man brings me on nicely to the other side of what we’ve been discussing so far. The teams who have been the most pleasant surprise.

For me, the only disappointment with Mexico is that they didn’t punish a poor Cameroon team more often, but their fluid style in that game combined with stubborn resistance against Brazil have made them on of my favourites.

Alongside them on that pedestal, Colombia. Just think what they’d be like with Falcao.

Of course, what Mexico lack in on-the-field dullness, they can make up for in the sterilised surrounds of the pre-match press conference…

MS: ”I missed the pre-match press conferences yesterday, which has not left a gaping hole in my life. They can occasionally be entertaining, particularly if a coach is taking it in the neck from his home media, but yesterday’s will have been all sweetness and light, with both countries still harbouring realistic hopes of progressing. A draw will suffice for Mexico, while Croatia need to win, unless Brazil lose to Cameroon, in which case a draw puts both teams through. I see Mexico coach Miguel Herrera slipped in the classic, “we’re not playing for a draw line last night”.

“Of course if we end up with a draw, we progress anyway and so we would be happy, but if you go into a  game thinking about a tie you are most likely going to lose. The idea is to look for a win, stay intense.”
That line is fast becoming the new, “we’re taking it one game at a time. We’re not looking too far ahead.”"

GOAL! Fernando Torres has doubled Spain’s lead in the 69th minute.

MS: ”I wouldn’t categorise Mexico among the shocks just yet.

“First of all they have an amazing knack for getting beyond the group stages, which I duly predict will continue tonight (lump all your money on Niko Kovac’s men), but I can’t see them troubling Netherlands or Chile.

“Costa Rica have the potential to “go deep” as my American neighbours in the media centre might say, and look like they have the confidence and system to really scare Chile or Netherlands in a quarter-final. Colombia will be fun to watch taking on Uruguay or Italy but France have to be the most pleasant surprise to date. Scoring tout les goals, playing lovely football and — in a real turn-up for the books — not killing each other.”

Readers of a certain age will remember when this sort of thing used to happen all the time.

Meanwhile, in Arena Pernambuco:

MS: ”There’s one guy in the media centre who either has money on the Netherlands or is in fact Dutch… If only there was a clue as to the motives of our orange baseball-clad friend… Either way, he is doing a lot of shouting at the TV as Louis Van Gaal’s team get closer and closer to the goal that will all but secure them top spot in the group and a second round match, more than likely, against the team that emerges from tonight’s game.”

GOAL! Leroy Fer has confirmed Holland’s top spot in Group B. The Norwich City man has headed the Oranje into a 77th minute lead over Chile.

MS: “No sooner did I hit send than Norwich City’s Leroy Fer nailed that header. Sending the Dutch desk into raptures. Raptures that I did not quite capture in this picture.”

photo1 (2) Raptures sold separately.

GOAL! Spain lead 3  - 0 now. Juan Mata tucking an 82nd minute finish ‘tween the ‘keeper’s legs.

GOAL: Memphis Depay makes it 2 – 0 to Holland as Arjen Robben peels off to celebrate on his own. They’ll be dancing in the canals of Amsterdam tonight.

Right, as we reach full-time in Group B and say goodbye to Spain and Australia, it’s time to lay our Group A cards on the table (before a ball is kicked this time)

Here’s what we think you’ll be watching tonight.

Sean: Brazil 4 Cameroon 0. Croatia 1 Mexico 2

Mikey: Brazil 3-0 Cameroon. Mexico 1-1 Croatia

Pat: Brazil 3-1 Cameroon  Mexico 1-1 Croatia

Murray: Brazil 3-1 Cameroon. Mexico 2-1 Croatia

Fenno: Brazil 2-0 Cameroon. Croatia 1-0 Mexico

Niall: Brazil 5-1 Cameroon. Mexico 1-0 Croatia

Stafford, always thinking three moves ahead:

MS: ”The post-match interviews can be pot luck, especially when you are homing in on the few players you know speak English. Should Luka Modric or Javier Hernandez try and give me the slip tonight I am going to guilt them/scare them into talking to me by singing this little ditty. I forgot Jason Priestly starred in the video. To be honest.”

Source: RoyOrbisonVEVO/YouTube

MS: ”So the Netherlands have topped the group ahead of Chile and now Brazil know what they have to do to avoid the ominous looking Oranje. A win over Cameroon by the same number of goals that Mexico manage against Croatia will see them through.

“I’m sure Big Phil said something about respecting the opponent and letting the result look after itself at his press conference last night, but you can be sure the hosts would rather play the familiar Chileans than the team who were finalists four years ago when they did not look as well coached as they do now. Expect goals in Brasilia this evening and maybe even a few here in Recife, or at least on its outskirts.”

And with that, it’s time to wrap up another World Cup hangout.

Mikey, thanks for joining us and enjoy that definitely-not-a-damp-squib game between Mexico and Croatia.

I’m off to play football as God intended, on astro-turf, and I’m determined to finish at least three moves the way David Villa finished off Spain’s opening goal this evening.

Thanks for joining in and reading tonight. Keep an eye out for more #ScoreWChangout prizes coming later this week, with thanks to our friends at Budweiser.

About the author:

Sean Farrell