|Neymar of Brazil. — AFP Photo|
by Paul Kennedy
The last eight have been chosen and they will play for a place in the semi-final of the World Cup. And what a World Cup it has been so far.
Some amazing shocks, football of the highest quality, lots of big teams knocked out and, unbelievably, England actually won a penalty shoot-out.
But there has been a dark side. A force so evil, it would make Darth Vader shudder.
What am I talking about? Play-acting. And in particular, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior. He is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest players in Russia right now.
An amazing footballer who possesses skills gifted directly from the Gods. But Neymar has another talent: acting.
His Oscar-winning performance against Mexico received worldwide condemnation. Sure, he was fouled, but he was not shot by a sniper armed with a long range rifle perched atop the Samara Stadium.
Asked afterwards about his overreaction to having his toe stepped on, Neymar said it was something he couldn’t explain. I can. It’s because he’s a cheat.
He did it purely and simply because he wanted the opposing player to be booked, or better still sent off. He cheated.
A few days before the match I found myself with a few hours to kill waiting for a flight in Đà Nẵng. A quick Google search led me to a sports bar on the river.
While there, I became engrossed in a game on the TV. It was Australian Rules Football. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, think rugby meets WWF wrestling. It’s fast, it’s fierce and it’s not for the faint-hearted.
After a particularly nasty tackle (body slam) I asked an Australian by the name of Rohan who sat next to me at the bar if that was allowed only to be told: “Yeah, that’s fine, as long as you don’t tackle from the neck up.”
From the neck up? Jeez, can you imagine Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior lining up for Carlton Blues against Collingwood Magpies? No, neither can I, but it would sure be fun to watch.
If Neymar and Brazil triumph at this World Cup, and there’s a very good chance they will, their fans won’t care about his theatrics as he holds the trophy aloft.
They won’t care that he brought the beautiful game into disrepute and tarnished the great name Brazil has in world football. And in years to come statistics won’t show how he cheated earlier on in the competition, but thankfully we have Facebook and endless memes mocking his disgraceful behaviour as an ever-lasting reminder.
So England have finally won a penalty shoot-out at the World Cup. After a one all draw with Colombia the match was decided by spot-kicks and the whole of England collectively held its breath.
Psychologically speaking, that win will have done wonders for the spirit and confidence among the team and England now face Sweden for a place in the semis.
A look at the rest of the matches ahead and the way the quarter finals have been drawn means that one from England, Sweden, Russia or Croatia will play in the final on Sunday July 15. Amazing really, and unthinkable a few weeks ago.
No Germany, no Argentina, no Spain and no Portugal. Four teams you could have easily picked to go all the way. But not this time. Proof if it was needed just how good this World Cup actually is.
Sad, but true
Thanks to Jake from Liverpool in the United Kingdom who posted on Facebook earlier this week: “Excitement builds as country riddled with gun crime and cocaine prepares to take on Colombia.”
Sad, but very, very true. — VNS