June 27, 2014 | by Jonathan Wilson
And so the first round of the World Cup comes to an end with a bang from Thomas Müller, and—pace Ronaldo, who put on a fine late show—various degrees of whimper from the departing nations Portugal, Russia, South Korea, and Ghana.
At last, those of us who have followed Rihanna on Twitter for the last two weeks have found certain of her exigent questions answered: for example, to June 19’s “ENGLAND whatchu gon do?!!” we can now confidently say, “Nothing.” Other tweets of hers have been by turn prophetic, emphatic, and envy-inducing: “Uruguay defense is almost disrespectful,” also from June 19, uncannily anticipated Luis Suárez achieving full disrespectful status five days later. “W.T.Ph,” more exclamation than question, has been and will continue to be applied usefully throughout this free-ranging, attacking, and mesmerizing tournament. “Goal keepers getting phucking sleepy” has its own kind of lullaby poetry; and who wouldn’t want to be Germany’s Miroslav Klose, the coholder of the record for most goals scored in World Cup tournaments, who’s now, more urgently, an object of Rihanna’s undistilled affection? “My nigga Klose,” she tweeted on June 21. Lionel Messi, eat your heart out.
Coming up, eight games in four days. Brazil vs. Chile looks like a good one, while Uruguay, hobbled by a dementia of denial to which both team and country appear to have succumbed, probably won’t do much against Colombia. Mexico has played well, but we can expect the Dutch, with Van Persie and Robben, to outclass them. France should beat Nigeria, and most people who are not Greek will be rooting for Costa Rica to triumph over Greece. Germany vs. Algeria is a grudge match: at 1982’s World Cup, in Spain, Germany and Austria contrived a result that would see both teams go through at Algeria’s expense, a shameful performance that has not been forgotten in North Africa. Lionel Messi, whom Nigeria’s coach Stephen Keshi claims is from Jupiter (confirmation awaited from Tom Cruise) will beat Switzerland. And last of all, there’s what might be, in competitive terms, the cream of the crop: Belgium vs. USA. How far can this mercurial USA team go? Or rather: USA, whatchu gon do?
Jonathan Wilson’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, and Best American Short Stories, among other publications. He is the author of eight books, including Kick and Run: Memoir with Soccer Ball. He lives in Massachusetts.