Saturday, June 12, 2010

diego forlan: there's a berserker lurking in there, you mark my words

So we all learned something new about the offside rule from Mexico v South Africa! Well, I did, anyway. Now that you SAY it, it seems so obvious...

The most compelling part of the opening day for me was not Tshabalala's splendid goal, or even our lovely Rafa's surly, practical response (he's a great one, Marquez, for the snarling, no-nonsense equaliser, sometimes without celebration, although he did that thumbsucking thing this time, didn't he? which seems to be off-putting to a lot of us yanks for some reason). The match lacked the pace and drive I wanted. Bafana Bafana showed some hunger, but why are El Tri so easily discouraged? Why don't they ATTACK? I kept thinking in the second half. Is it possible they were pouting?

No, the really intriguing part of the day for me was Uruguay v France, which I had to tape (WHY do they make me go to WORK?) and watch late last night, while I was hallucinatory from lack of sleep. I'm the spitting, hissing enemy of catenaccio as much as the next guy, that ugly lockdown strategy that results in 90 minutes of boredom and frustration and very little football. At first that looked to be the way of it, with Uruguay stoppered at the back with a massive defensive plug and France careening around the edges trying to find a way in. What gave it life (for me... it may have been all sleepless hallucination, I admit that) and fluidity was that two-man danger-squad up front, Forlan and Suarez. I never got bored. If I hadn't known the outcome already (my supervisor, --cruel, cruel man,-- announced it to me while I was stuck football-less at my computer), I'd have thought at every moment that Forlan was going to score.

I've been aware of him, of course, since I started following Barca five years ago. He was with Villarreal then, and his name comes up a lot now he's with Atletico (as it does when you score more goals in a season than anyone but Lio Messi and maybe one other guy in the whole world), but I think this is the first time I ever really watched him, and he seemed to me like a man possessed. Like he's going to haul Uruguay to that trophy single-handed if he has to. There's something almost scary in that steely gaze; it puts me in mind of Joan of Arc. How she really must have looked, I mean, not soft and misty-eyed like they make her in movies. Hard, steely, obsessed, fanatical: these things come in handier than soft and misty-eyed when you're going into battle, and I suspect Forlan is a man on a mission. I think villages might get burned in the wake of his fanaticism, old stalwart religions might fall and new, terrible ones rise. I'm keeping an eye on this one from now on.

As for France, how on earth do they do it? They swan around and swan around and don't look very interesting and then suddenly they're in the final. Charmed lives. Maybe it's all the red wine, or possibly the prostitutes. Keeps you young and beloved of decadent gods.

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