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