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This sporting summer

James Westacott tunes in (again)

I read somewhere recently that watching three or more hours of television a day doubled someone’s risk of suffering a stroke, or of their ‘meat and two veg’ dropping off, or some similar medical horror story – which makes me slightly surprised that I’m still here at the computer keyboard and posting to National Rust at all, frankly – but there you go.

I’m content to hold my hand up and admit that, whenever my favourite sports are being featured on the box, I can easily spend six hours a day watching them. Failing that, if there’s any sport on at all, I still reach the afore-mentioned ‘worrying’ three hour threshold beholding the likes of wrestling, BMX biking or even women’s super league netball quite happily whilst simultaneously flicking through the newspapers.

Yesterday, with England now safely dumped out of the tournament and the average Brit able to relax and enjoy the knock-out phase of the football World Cup, by mid-morning  I had decided to build my viewing day around the Brazil v Chile match (5.00pm kick-off UK time).

With the weather largely consisting of torrential rain, there was little appetite for venturing out and so – by default – I switched to the BBC coverage of Wimbledon, also affected by the downpour, with output confined to re-treads of Andy Murray’s 2013 triumph and ‘the highlights so far’ – both of which I had already seen. The only ‘live’ action forthcoming was Nadal beating up some guy from Kazakhstan on the roof-covered Centre Court, watching by loads of ‘stars from other sports’ including Bobby Charlton and David Beckham.

Brazil v Chile did not disappoint. What struck this viewer immediately was that, whereas England teams traditionally ‘tighten up’ exponentially as the intensity of a tournament competition increases, their South American counterparts appear to do the opposite. Both squads yesterday seemed relaxed, happy and chilled-out in advance of the match – swapping friendly greetings and smiles with the opposition in the tunnel and so on – as if they were about to do no more than emerge from a corrugated iron shed at the back of a pub for a ‘no prizes’ Sunday morning park soccer clash.

Whether its knock-out nature played a part or not, both teams ‘went for it’ – the first half was a wonderful 48-minute display of committed, free-flowing football. Noticeable was the fact that, despite such controversies as declined penalty-claims at both ends, a Hulk goal disallowed for hand-ball and Howard Webb at first seeming pathologically reluctant to ‘go to the pocket’ and then later a little too eager to do so – all potentially contributing to scenarios in which either team might have claimed discrimination or unfairness at the hands of the officials – neither coach spent too much time protesting. They had a job to do (win the game) which was far more important than ‘heat of the moment’ histrionics.

In the end, two failed strikes at goal which rebounded off the woodwork – the first in the last minute of extra-time over-time, the second the last of their five penalties in the shoot-out – did for Chile’s chances of progressing into the last eight.

It was a game of high drama and the outcome could easily have gone either way. So cruel for whichever team did – but that’s great sporting competition.

One thing for sure on this evidence. The 2014 Brazil team is nowhere near the quality and charisma of its illustrious forebears of yesteryear legend. They’ll have to do much better, or get even luckier, to reach the final – let alone win.




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About James Westacott

James Westacott, a former City investment banker, acquired his love of the Noble Art as a schoolboy in the 1970s. For many years he attended boxing events in and around London and more recently became a subscriber to the Box Nation satellite/cable channel. His all-time favourite boxer is Carlos Monzon. More Posts