From Russia With Love: Mexico shake the earth

Messi carrying hopes of faithful, word of mouth, most dedicated supporter and more

Most Dedicated Supporter Of The Week Award

That would be the man that has only identified as ‘Michel F’, a 24-year-old from Lima who went to impressive lengths to get hold of tickets for Peru’s games in Russia when the main bunch were sold out.

“The only tickets left on the Fifa website where ones for disabled people, so I looked at the requirements: be in a wheelchair or suffer from morbid obesity, over 35 BMI, body mass index. I was at 30, and I did the math. I needed to put on 25 kg.”

So, fair play, he did just that. In only three months. And at the end of it he was granted the required medical certificate that declared him to be obese.

Alas, some of his fellow supporters didn’t show half the dedication. “One of my friends was thinking about breaking his leg, also to get a disabled ticket, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.” Fairweather fan.


Early-to-bed Liddle misses out on glory

It would probably be accurate to say that the English columnist Rod Liddle isn’t universally loved and among his non-fans we can now list a George Smyth of Co Down who wrote this letter to The Sunday Times, as tweeted by Paul Johnson, Deputy Editor of The Guardian.

"Rod Liddle says he was sent to bed during the 1966 World Cup final before extra-time. That match kicked off at 3pm. So he was sent to bed at 4.45pm. Rod's parents must have enjoyed his company as much as a significant proportion of your readership does every Sunday."


Word of Mouth

“It can happen. It’s a mistake. I haven’t killed anyone.” – David de Gea tries to put things in perspective after his clanger against Portugal. (Spanish fans might say his offence was more serious).

By the Numbers

0.0009: That’s the percentage of the population of Iceland journalist Matthew Stanger spotted marking Lionel Messi during Saturday’s game (ie three).

Messi carrying the hopes of the faithful

Every World Cup there’s much talk of there being far too much pressure on Lionel Messi, that he’s carrying the weight of his nation’s expectations on his shoulders, and that it’s all too much for one man. Even if he is Lionel Messi.

If he was hoping to forget during the game against Iceland on Saturday that some of his compatriots expect him to be their Messiah, you can only hope he didn’t spot this lad in the crowd.

Iranian does his best for Bouhaddouz

Aziz Bouhaddouz scores a heartbreaker of an own goal to give Iran a 1-0 win over Morocco. Iran’s Reza Ghoochannejhad sends him this message after:

“I don’t know you personally but in life, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Don’t let this own goal bring you down. We are all professional sportsmen and this is a part of football. I am so happy and proud of my team and my country, but wanted to wish you also all the best in your career. Reza.”

No amount of Kleenex would suffice.

Serbs’ hair-raising dedication to Messi

Lionel Messi might be feeling a bit low after that penalty miss, but hopefully he can take comfort from that the fact that they still adore him in the Serbian city of Novi Sad. Barber Mario Hvala, by all accounts, has people queuing up to have Lionel shaved in to the back of their heads. Why would they want to do that? Who are we to ask?

Most Contrasting Moods Of The Week Award

You might have seen that the reaction to Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 defeat by Russia in the opening game of the tournament didn’t go down tremendously well back home, Turki bin Abdulmohsen Al-Sheikh, Chairman of the General Authority of Sport in Saudi Arabia, taking it particularly badly:

“These players have made my face go black with embarrassment and fury. This is down to their weak potential and ability. We did everything for this team and this generation of players, everything. We brought them the best technical support, a team of the highest level and we paid them for three years. But now we see they have limited capabilities. They have achieved just five per cent of what is expected and required of them.”

The result, though, brought no end of cheer in Qatar. The headline in one paper over a photo of Russia’s fifth goal? ‘Christmas in June – Saudi loss brings happiness.’ The Gulp War.

Mexican celebrations shake the earth

It’s long since become a World Cup tradition that somewhere on this planet the earth will literally move after a goal is scored and there’s a seismically happy reaction to it. And we have our first such happening of Russia 2018, all thanks to Hirving Lozano’s winner for Mexico against Germany at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday.

The PSV Eindhoven man is a native of Mexico City and that’s the very spot where his 35th minute effort left the ground beneath the feet of those watching their tellies (we’d hazard a guess that was the entire population) both shaken and stirred.

According to SIMMSA, which is, apparently, a monitoring and analytic network operated by the area’s Institute of Geological and Atmospheric Research, approximately a nano second after the ball hit the back of the net, there was an earthquake in the city. “It originated artificially. Possibly by massive jumping after the national team’s goal at the World Cup. At least two sensors inside the City detected it at 11:32.”

‘Massive jumping.’ Best earthquake ever.

Tweet of the Weekend

Take a bow, Anton from Iceland.

Word of Mouth (II)

“You can’t help but love Iceland, we haven’t attacked anyone, been to war with anyone. We only had the cod wars and no one got hurt there. It’s a pretty little nation, and pretty people in general.” – Iceland coach Heimir Hallgrimsson. Mind you, Argentina probably aren’t feeling the love.

“I don’t discuss individual players. I never point the finger at anyone. We are a group, a team as a whole..... I don’t know what happened to Suarez. I will not speculate. As long as he keeps trying, we know he has great potential and we are happy with that.” – Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez refusing to discuss individual players before discussing Luis Suarez’s iffy performance against Egypt.

“For all modesty, today I am the best player in the world - because they are from another planet.” – Neymar on Messi and Ronaldo, managing to come over humble and cocky all in the one sentence.

Fickle fans drop their support for De Gea

David de Gea has been receiving mountains of support from his coach and team-mates since that moment he let Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot squirm through his hands, all of them telling him how brill he is and that he has their undying support. “We have no doubts about him at all. None,” said Fernando Hierro, who waved away the blooper as just one of those things.

But if de Gea himself didn’t know quite how fickle football fans can be, he’s had a fair old idea since his yikes moment. He hasn’t quite gone from hero to zero, but in a poll of readers of Spanish paper AS over 60 per cent of them want him dropped for Spain’s next game against Iran.

Just under 50 per cent want Athletic Bilbao’s Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal, 11 per cent more than voted to stick with de Gea. Mind you, spare a thought for Pepe Reina (who is somehow only 35). The Napoli man barely made double digits.

Allardyce aggrieved

Good to see Sam Allardyce warmly wishing Gareth Southgate well on the eve of England’s first World Cup game: “Jealous is what I feel. Massively disappointed. That should be me at the World Cup. Unfortunately because of the circumstances that wasn’t the case. If a bit more time was taken, a bit more patience, I believe I should still be the England manager.”