I had thought earlier that I might write in praise of indolence—of the joys of spending six hours lying on the sofa watching football. It had crossed my mind to say to those who complain that this World Cup isn’t living up to their expectations: “It’s still the World Cup, it’s still fucking awesome. Would you rather we had no World Cup at all? Would you rather have to account for what you did all day?”
That was before I watched England against Algeria. All credit is due to the Algerians, who are responsible for any stylish and entertaining soccer found anywhere in the vicinity of Cape Town yesterday. They were not to know when they set up in the now de rigueur defend-and-counter attack style of this World Cup that England would be so abject, so utterly dire. At least the French team made it very clear that they didn’t care.
England strode onto the pitch, all chests blown out and with something to prove. What they proved was that it wasn’t the ball or the trumpets or the defending-is-the-new-attacking thesis that could spoil this World Cup. It was England. The country that claims to have invented the game put in a performance so dull that all the excitement of the previous two days—of Mexico and Serbia and the U.S. comeback and all the refereeing travesties—could evaporate under the entitled nihilism of England’s football team.
At the end, Wayne Rooney stared down the barrel of the camera and snarled, “”Nice to see your own fans booing you, you football ‘supporters.'” The disdain of the England supporters for their team and talisman’s woeful display is, I think, the most encouraging sign yet.