Slapstick

THAT Pires/Henry penalty

Athletics, cricket and swimming have their blooper reels and ice hockey its fights. But only football has cock-up at its core. Only in football is savage and ridiculous public error key to so many significant moments and germaine to so many results.

That’s down to the random element, of course, and (let’s get it over with) the ball is round. But the slapstick element at the top of the game is in decline. Increased fitness, tactical sophistication and technical ability conspire and the outcome is Portugal v Ivory Coast.

Nevertheless, even this World Cup has had its moments, and can I just say that subsequent first round matches have made England’s performance and result look better and better?

But it’s not England who have impressed me the most. They’re in the second rank, alongside buccaneering Chile, the US (those boxers’ names: Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Clarence Goodson..) and Germany.

No, it’s Brazil I’m admiring – that mix of strong, capable defence, patient midfield and two wild talents up front. So that’s what Robinho is really about.. and it’s good to see a country developing from backwoodsmen into a major sporting power. This Brazil is a mature, rounded squad, tactically and technically capable of taking on the Italys and Spains. Compare the 2010 team’s skill and efficiency with the hapless, ill-disciplined, panic-ridden and gallumphing Brazil of 40 years ago:

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