10 July ~ Once a mere football tournament, the World Cup now provides an opportunity for history to be made, legacies to be bequeathed and weighty expectations to be fulfilled. Thankfully for us, this defining moment in time is brought into focus by our respected broadsheet journalists. Identifying trends and themes with unerring accuracy, the elite corps of correspondents on duty at South Africa 2010 have spent the last few weeks relaying every seismic shift in the landscape of the world game. The strength of the South American challenge, with no fewer than four of their sides advancing to the last eight, was seized upon by grateful reporters, eager to get their teeth into a discernable pattern.

“Dunga and Maradona are worlds apart but together they can shape the future,” announced James Lawton of the Independent. “It is quite extraordinary how they have come here these few weeks to occupy together the centre of the football universe,” he continued, rightly astonished to see two players-turned-coaches of two of the strongest nations on Planet Football turn up for the same tournament at the same time. A shame, then, that both have had since had their attempts to mould the game’s destiny interrupted.

Forecasting is a favoured pastime of journalists. Using all his insight and adopting a similar tone to Lawton in the “Why I believe England will win” piece he wrote prior to the Germany game, Henry Winter of the Telegraph bristled with bulldog defiance as he talked up England’s chances. “These lions bite back,” said our man in Bloemfontein. “Too many of Capello's players are moving into top form for England to yield lightly,” he continued, emboldened by John Terry’s “one-man passion-play” and his “leadership qualities”, which had “confronted and confounded Slovenia”.

Within days, however, Winter was in altogether more sombre mood, bemoaning the “dross” that passed for Capello’s team. “England players should follow the example of the fans and remove their blinkers,” he added, without a trace of contrition for his bullishness in Bloemfontein.

Now that the hapless England have arrived home and the unreliable South Americans have stopped flattering to deceive, the hacks find themselves on surer ground. Anticipation at tomorrow’s final is high, with much talk of two great footballing cultures, shared histories and Johan Cruyff, once a great footballer but now a handy motif for filler pieces. Forget the match itself; I can’t wait for those ever-so-wise post-tournament pieces putting it all into context for me. James Calder

Comments (3)
Comment by The Exploding Vole 2010-07-10 11:27:28

Yes. "Plenty of space to fill" indeed.

Comment by Etienne 2010-07-10 22:30:13

That is the key really. These guys are expected to churn out a piece every day, or at least every other day, which has to stand out, create interest and debate. It's impossible.

I don't think most of the big name correspondents are particularly good (from the Guardian/Observer, Richard Williams, Kevin McCarra, Paul Hayward and Paul Wilson and regularly shown up by the more knowledgeable occasional contributors like Jonathan Wilson, Raphael Honigstein and Sid Lowe) but most of the problem is structural rather than personal.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-07-12 11:25:58

My favourite part is waiting to see who wins and how that effects England. Previously it was about using the winners coaching methods, this year it appears to be used as a case as to what is wrong with the premiership and how we can improve it. Presumably having a massively strong couple of teams at the top and very poor lower leagues below the top league.

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