Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven
Nerves are crucial at a time like this. Heart rate is being strictly monitored, tubes coming in and out of every limb and orifice, teams of dedicated professionals with years of experience checking every last bit of data in order to make an informed decision transforming what is usually a place of rest into a the kid’s house at the end of ET. Tension of this kind has not been seen since pegamequemegusta forgot to bring a new bra after our much-lauded boob job. Wild-eyed prophets are busy stalking the streets and passing out pamphlets that declare an imminent end to wits. Competition of this kind is never healthy; it only leads to further fretful vein-pop watch for those involved.
Yes, World Cup coverage starts dark and early in wintertime Argentina and many are the hours to fill. Fox Sports coverage runs from seven in the morning to four o’clock in the morning the following day. So many people have been sent over to cover every grimace in South Africa that by this time of night (the eve of the debut de la Selección, carajo!) the gurnfest on telly looks even more demented than usual. On Espn the team of the day appears on the screen, with Lugano in defence and Ribéry on the left wing. On Espn+, three models put on their best boring dinner party faces as they introduce an archived interview with Pelé where he gives his usual boring pre-WC curse. This isn’t the first time even they’ve seen it. No, nor us. On TyC, the double anchors peer into their laptops and discuss going for some medialunas to stretch one’s legs and work off the tension tomorrow morning before the game. “What if it’s raining?” pipes in a third. During the ensuing commercial break the insurance people at TyC were on the phone demanding the producer thank them for insisting they not go with their initial hunch and hire that basilisk who had impressed so at the interview stage.
Meanwhile, over on the Guardian’s gimmicky, but good, Fans’ Network, a whole host of people whose looks were never going to be their strong point (including pegamequemegusta) tweet at such a frantic rate we begin to fear plate movement in the mid-Atlantic and look out at the sea to check the waves. While fans of South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay (the other team doesn’t have any worth considering) can at least reflect on facts, the rest of us are still in the maternity ward, chain-smoking ever stronger substances as we wait to see whether our babies are ugly, sickly losers, as the doctor assured us they would.
It’s fair to say pegamequemegusta is stressed. When asked this evening what we reckoned tomorrow’s result would be by a gaggle of the missus’s coven, we blithely replied 3-0 to Argentina. Yet this turned out to be the high point of our confidence. The Catholic Paddy part of our brain – Milton’s Serpent, “fittest Imp of fraud”, is no less a hideous creature – scented happiness and immediately set out to destroy it.
‘When was the last time you felt such confidence before an Argentina game?’ it hissed. ‘Three nil? I remember you before the Brazil game last September jubilantly banging on about Caniggia’s goal in 1990, foolishly claiming anything was possible. You thought the manager’s failings could be overcome in spite of the occasion, when the opposite was always more likely to be the case. You sounded like one of Niembro’s goons: Verón brings experience; Tevez is a legend, he’ll come good; pep talks are far important than figuring out how to defend free kicks. Stop crying you wretch! Remember the Copa América final, hahahahaha!!!’ Pegamequemegusta was on the floor at this point, blubbing like a punctured whale calf, but the asp persevered pouring its sibilant poison in our poor, suffering ears: ‘Hubris, hubris, hubrissssssssssssssssss!’
Upon awakening, we found ourselves confronted with Rupert Fryer’s intriguing analysis of Nigeria. Of course we knew they had decent enough players and their youth teams have done well in recent years. And they’ll not be short of support. Fine, Lägerback seemed to be a bit of a joke coach when they brought him in (especially due to the farce over his wages) but it’s not like… like having Stan or… Maradona. He’s probably smart enough, let’s say, to plant a couple of pacy wingers out wide to pin back Jonás Gutierrez, who’s supposed to play as a right wing back, and exploit Heinze’s general uselessness. He’s probably experienced enough to rely on some tactical fouling to disrupt Argentina’s play and sucker a pumped up, ultimately experimental team on the break. I was happy before. That fucking snake.
Then again, whatever about Argentina’s defensive frailties, underlined yet again by Beerspine’s assistant, Roland Andersson, yesterday, Nigeria are hardly Inter Milan. Below an image of a box of ‘Climax control’ condoms in today’s extra-expensive edition, Olé carp wonderfully: “And who’s backing you up?”
Maradona’s calm, the team seem to be well, they’ve had time to work together and have all been highly positive; Messi’s so pissed off with the doubters there’s no chance he’ll be disconnected from the play; even if things aren’t easy Di María can be relied on to bang one in from distance, something they’ve been lacking in the past. And Tevez is in great form. There’ll always be weaknesses, but fuck it – and this is the first time we’ve said this – they have Messi!
The night of tribulation has passed, oh dear handsome readers. Satan’s minions can go back to whispering in Grondona’s ear. Pegamequemegusta is going to settle down with Mrs Pegamequemegusta and watch the Virgin Suicides before resuming this sick quest for information in the morning. And we shall rest easy, not just due to high blood/alcohol levels, but because tomorrow is whacking day.