How are your World Cup predictions going? I ask for reasons that will soon become painfully apparent.

I write this after the conclusion of the first game of the second round of group matches, also and more popularly known as Russia vs Egypt. I won’t reveal the result, even though there may be some lag before my esteemed partners at StrawberrySocial release these words into the wild, but it’s fair to say that my strongest prediction/rant has unravelled spectacularly. I tend to the view that World Cup Finals held outside of the Big 8 Soccerball Nations (you can fill in who those are for yourself, national bias included) are often distorted by having a ‘weaker’ team fill the top slot in Group A. I call, as my first witness, South Africa.

Russia, though, are steam-rollering said Group A, so I will have to park that argument for four years. For what it’s worth, I really don’t fear Qatar will prove anything like as capable.

And as for the team that won me the work sweep four years ago, least said, soonest mended, eh?

There are lots of talking points from this World Cup already, few of them expected; well, not by me, anyway. Own goals, for example, are a thing this time around. Penalties and direct free kicks too. In fact, it’s a relative rarity to spot a goal where a team ping the ball around for a while, someone has a shot or a header and celebrations ensue. VAR (the Video Assistant Referee experiment, for all of you trying to avoid knowing) has a part to play with regard to penalties, and perhaps it shapes how many opportunities there are for glorious free kicks, but how the existence of a TV by the side of the pitch causes players to forget which country they play for eludes me.​​

So, a week in, we can already be sure that the numbers in those categories of goals will beat those of 2014, because – well, it already has. That’s the kind of predication even I can feel confident getting behind.

It just shows how unpredictable sport in all its manifest, over-blown, SKY TV glory can still be, despite every last effort being made to strangle the fun out of it. That being said, its unpredictability often makes us all look foolish when we try to get ahead of the game… even the best football pundits and Martin Tyler make mistakes. What chance do we mere mortals with social media accounts to tend and blogs to write stand in the face of Fate’s capricious understanding of the offside rule?

My point in all this, and you’ll be glad I got to that just before the end, is to say that it is very hard to judge just how much knowledge or lack thereof you ought to show in posting on social media accounts about big sporting events like the World Cup. Two examples, from opposite ends of the show at this point in time:

  1. If your World Cup Russia 2018 (all rights reserved) social media has been illustrated with properly licensed images of Cristiano Ronaldo, all well and good (and a big help to him in his battle with the Spanish taxman); the Portuguese captain looks in the mood.
  2. If your illustrative bent leaned more to Mo Salah, however, you’re roaring towards Rethinksville. No own goal there, everyone has been praising the lad, and sports media have been calling his nation Mo Salah’s Egypt for weeks. But you know, he’s getting a longer break this summer than he hoped for.

So, as with all things social media, just be ready to make changes to your carefully thought-out plan on a match-by-match basis. No-one expects you to be right immediately (that’s what you pay us agency professionals for, eh?); the gift is in bringing on a fresh set of legs the moment it becomes apparent that your star player (work with me on this) isn’t going to produce the goods. Metaphorically, you want to have a word with the Fourth Official and suggest you’re going to replace Messi with Kane. And, budgets notwithstanding, you are not limited to three substitutes.

Right, into the second round of group matches we go/progress… StrawberrySocial will continue to be your one-stop source for all things World Cup reportage related, which means we’ll be back in a week or so to update you on all our latest mistaken predictions. I still think it will be Germany, by the way, so we really could be laughing (together) doubly-hard by then.