Regular readers of this renowned blog will know that we at Strawberry Social pride ourselves on having our finger on the pulse of social media, being able to watch the trends and judge where the best interests of our clients lie. Pity none of that forecasting malarky works for us when it comes to the football, eh?
But that’s the joy of sports, and especially a tournament like the World Cup. Things can go off on a tangent in an instant. Our counterparts at Schadenfreude Social in Germany knew all along that Die Mannschaft would – and I quote them directly – “Ein kropper gekommen”, but they predicted Poland for the QFs, so what do they know?
All of which is my slick way of glossing over the painfully poor prediction I made before the tournament, and repeated in the most recent of these blogs, four days ago, that Germany were the ones to beat. And didn’t Mexico and S Korea do just that? Priceless. Germany in Russia, eh? The quips just write themselves.
Moving along then, we have now finished with all the group fun and games, and will shortly commence the knock-out phase of the tournament. Yes, those 48 games we have had so far only eliminated half the competitors, but we are about to get rid of another 16 teams in the next four or five days. A day off, first, to contemplate all that has happened, and to salivate over some choice match-ups in the last sixteen, but then two games a day for four days, starting with Uruguay vs Portugal and France vs Argentina, both of which are more than enough to make your mouth water.
It’s a weird biz, this tournament football. All around the world, fans of the competing nations
have had the last couple of weeks to gorge themselves on hours and hours of footie, and to follow the fortunes of their team. But now the World Cup rolls on without some of its most fervent followers. The 95% of the population of Iceland who followed every twist and turn of their campaign, presumably closing down minor aspects of their national life like air traffic control and surgery, must now return to a tragic, bereft normality. And what about all those guys and gals from Peru, who spent a fortune travelling halfway around the world, only to find their tickets for the quarter-finals taste like shoddily gilded cardboard.
For those of us trying to work the World Cup into our writing schedules, we all have to face the fact that at some point, if not already, the team whose colours we nailed to our laptop will be queuing at the airport gift shop for one last souvenir matryoshka. For social media types, there must come the inevitable moment in a World Cup themed campaign when things go a little pear-shaped, and It’s All Over. Well, I suppose one country dodges that one, but you know what I mean.
A few countries, and I’m looking at you Argentina, have had a taste of near-failure already, so they might be better-placed to cope with an actual exit. But, and I’ll be a little parochial here for a moment, what about the English, eh? We’re not used to doing well in the early stages of the World Cup, which means we rarely get to see the later stages. The whole point of the World Cup, for an England fan, is to raise unrealistic expectations and then dash them into the dust. I reckon Belgium just did us a favour, because now we can return to badly managing expectations, extolling the “I never expected us to get out of the group” retrospectives that England do best.
At some point, conceivably on 3rd July, we English commentators, bloggers and Tweeters are going to have to find the words to express the resigned shrug that is the lot of an English football follower. Normally, your social media calendar is planned out carefully weeks in advance, with due care and attention to the tone you are striving for to match your company or charity’s current campaign. But at the moment of bitter, bitter defeat, your carefully thought out pun-a-day will lose its shine, and its ability to raise a smile.
At election time, politicians are wont to write (or have written for them) both a victory speech and a concession – I know this for a certain fact because it was on The West Wing. We should all have at least those two ready to post, with plenty of variety depending on whether we go out to Colombia on Tuesday (hard to spin that as “our brave lads...) or hold out to the last. If you are looking for fresh predictions as to when It Might Happen from us here, you’re out of luck, because our crystal ball was only ever a cheap knock-off. But, somehow, you’ll need to continue to praise the virtues of your brand’s BOGOF campaign even when the national mood is one of misery.
“At least we did better than the Germans” isn’t going to cut it. They were rubbish, just like everybody (else) said they would be.