By Chris Brown
When attempting to prepare a withering summary of a game of football involving an African team, the rhythmic temptation to drift from one cliché to the next is stronger than Heaven 17* in 1982 or New Order in ’87. So I why bother to resist. Objectivity? Pah. Yes, Cameroon were assertive in the challenge; yes, their stopper was as erratic as a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man**; yes, they were arguing amongst themselves at fulltime. Granted, said contretemps was not on a par with the tasty, Toon tantrums of Bowyer and Dyer but for the purposes of justifying this weak opening gambit, this reviewer is happy to clutch at this particular straw.
As far as the footballing contest went, both teams started brightly for the most part, Cameroon doing well to stifle Croatia’s creative midfield heartbeat during the opening exchanges. Until that is, Perisic found space in the Cameroonian box, feeding Olic to slam home the opener. 1-0. Croatia had thrown down the gauntlet to the Indomitable Lions.
The early goal should have been the catalyst for a more open game. In truth, the game was over shortly before half time by virtue of Cameroon losing one of their most indomitable of lions. That man… assertive in the tackle? Oh yes. Former Gooner, Alex Song suffered a Raoul Moat-esque rush of blood to the head, winding up for a full 5 seconds before unleashing a good ol’ fashioned hay-maker into Mandžukić’s back. Red card [insert your own ‘going for a Song’ gag here]. Delivering the fist of fury into a man back. Whilst he’s running away from you. Once he decides to hang up his boots, a position in the Met’s kettling unit surely beckons for Mr Song. Despite seemingly only landing a glancing blow, Mandžukić hit the turf hard. We talk about footballers ‘playing on the edge’, being ‘professional’ and, the commentator’s favourite, practising an calculated form of ‘kidology’. In reality, we all know that these are pathetic euphemisms for cheating. Mandžukić was cheating. In fairness to him, his continuity was spot on. He continued to feign injury long after Song had been sent off. Right up until half time in fact… rubbing his back, pursing his lips, really getting into character.
Croatia clinically wrapped up the no-contest in the second half, adding a further three goals through Perisic (48’) and, having wretched off the shackles of quadriplegia, a brace from that man Mario Mandžukić (61’ and 73’).
Group A is set up nicely for the final round of group games: Mexico and Croatia going head to head for a spot in the round of 16. Game on.
Fun fact: Croatia boss,Niko Kovac, looks remarkably like Hollywood heart-throb Joseph Gordon Levitt and Robin Hood bad-guy, Michael Wincott… separated at birth? You decide.
Joseph Gordon Levitt
Guy of Gisborne in the woods circa 1190AD.
*Incidentally, I had the pleasure of watching Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17 fame perform at Abbey Road last week. I am pleased to report that although he has the glowing complexion of a Valencia orange, his pipes are still more than adequate.