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Paint your face, the World Cup has kicked off

OPINION: Why Wilshere should have been on the plane; Southgate’s Pirlo makeover; Boycott the World Cup?; Let's go red, white and blue

14 June, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere missed out on the England World Cup squad for Russia 2018

THIS World Cup diary is not going to split itself down the Arsenal-Spurs rivalry which keeps us apart through the Premier League season. Harry Kane can play a Lineker-ish role at this tournament and, if anybody can sneak the team through the group stages, it’s the Spurs striker. He will benefit from pacy wingers in the squad, but he would’ve been assisted even further by more creativity in central midfield. Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere is not perfect, but he’s the best England have at picking a forward pass from that position.

• OF the 50 million people living in England, it’s still not quite obvious what makes Gareth Southgate the most qualified man to lead the nation into the World Cup: relegation with Middlesbrough and a flimsy first-round elimination at the Under-21 European Championships are not starry features on his CV. Maybe it’s the beard that secured the role. With his attempt at a bit of Pirlo roughface and a smart waistcoat, Southgate looks determined to ditch his old image of a man whose had sand kicked in his face one too many times. It would be the ultimate makeover if the man who missed the penalty in Euro 96 came home with the trophy.

• IN the wake of the poisoning crisis in Salisbury earlier this year, Labour MP Stephen Kinnock was not alone in bringing the World Cup into the debate about Anglo-Russian relations, but he did layer it on. “I think we should seriously consider making a co-ordinated approach to FIFA and talk about moving the World Cup to 2019 and have it hosted in another country or countries,” he said on the radio. Everybody thought solemnly about this for approximately two seconds and then yelped: “BUT WE WANT THE WORLD CUP”. The idea of making football fans wait for this summer treat, of course, was a complete non-starter. There could be a nuclear war, and our frazzled, scorched frames would still be reaching for the wallcharts to make sure Group F is up to date and filled in with the correct coloured pens.

• WHEN the Brazilians fill a World Cup stadium with yellow shirts and face paint, the immediate thought is: What a wonderful scene, awash with colour, glorious. It’s the same when the French create a sea of blue or the Dutch (when they are good enough to qualify) make everything go orange. This World Cup, let’s resolve to feel the same about the England support and say, with hope, that being decked in white with a red cross daubed across your nose doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily duffed someone up on the way from the hotel. Even if you came in chain mail.


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