GAMES 30, 31 & 32


England 6-1 Panama

"Ooh-oh, We're halfway there
Ooh-OH, Livin' on a prayer
Jon Bon Jovi

"Halfway there?
Oh Christ…
Barnaby Harsent

Yes, I KNOW this report's been a long time coming. You’re not the first to wonder, “When are these bloody reports landing?” You know what though? A result like that takes a while to process. Seriously. Thirty years of hurt doesn’t even come close and, while football may not exactly be coming home, it’s certainly browsing the Ryanair website for cheap deals.

Yes, I know it was only Panama… yes I KNOW Belgium did Tunisia 5-2 (I only wrote about it the other day) but still… 5-0 at half time. Do you know the last time England did that in a major tournament? No, no you don’t BECAUSE IT’S NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!

Going into the match, you’d have thought – as an England fan – that being able to begin a second half in that degree of comfort was as likely as Gary Glitter being given a grant to launch a pre-school community care project. Only five teams have ever EVER scored five goals in the first half of a World Cup match; Harry Kane is only the third English player to have scored a hat-trick at the World Cup (Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker being the others); and, get this… John Stones has scored more World Cup goals than Wayne Rooney and is equal with Alessandro Del Piero. I know, right? Shit. The. Bed.

In truth, the performance wasn’t that different from the Tunisia game. The movement was the same, but we… sorry, England, got the decisions they were denied before. Set pieces were key, as was they efficiency of Harry Kane – five shots on target, five goals.

However: liars, damned liars, statisticians. It’s a saying that might just be worth considering.

A look at the stats show that England enjoyed a pass completion rate of over 90%… a look at the stats also tell us that we drew the second half and, crucially that Panama are objectively shit. We’re through, and we’ll enjoy it, but quarter-final heartbreak is still a very real possibility. The difference is that watching this England team play doesn’t feel like you’re on the edge of an anxiety attack the whole time. There’s a confidence, a bravado… the chutzpah of youth possibly, whatever, I like it and I’m intending to feed off it for as long as I possibly can.



Japan 2-2 Senegal

Yeah – decent game. Exciting. Really good. Surprisingly good actually, wasn’t it? Oh fuck it… Can I be honest? I caught the goals as they happened and was really intending to give it my all but, dear reader, I was, I admit… a bit pissed by this stage.

Most of the game I was trying to funnel coffee into my mouth with the same rabid abandon that a duck who has given its life to the cause of foie gras accepts grain into its gullet. Now, while my liver may be in slightly better condition (slightly) I have to admit that I was really in no condition to anything other than fall over. Hugely unprofessional, I know, but you’ll notice the lack of a paywall so, you know, it’s really very much my call.

In any case, a draw sees the group remain alive, so I’ll be able to redeem myself later in the week – should I survive the whole ‘two games at a time nonsense’ that I’m about to be subjected to.

Sorry, I shouldn’t do this in public… it’s not you, it’s me.



Colombia 3-0 Poland

Four coffees in and it’s a much brighter start for the younger Harsent brother… news that I'm sure we can all get behind.

This was a game notable for the fact that Colombia actually bothered to get off the bus (metaphorically speaking), which was nice. Three good goals, Falcao led well and got his first goal, while Cuadrado and Mina also ended up on the scoresheet with decent strikes and looked very much to be the players we’d expected going in. Without wanting to labour a point and seem overly myopic, they could be England’s opponents in the next round and. On this performance, I’m not sure I’d fancy that much – they can certainly play. They have gone from looking precarious, to appearing dangerous – attacking with precision and clear-cut passing..

Poland on the other hand, have been a massive disappointment in this tournament.  Perhaps it was the tactics (it was) perhaps it was the fact they’d been bested by a better team (yep, that too)… whichever, the Polish camp can’t have been a comfortable place to be last night.

Given their pre-tournament record, which isn’t at all shabby, itt’s almost like they’ve overtaken England in the ‘most unreasonably high-expectations of your team’ stakes. Although… well… yes… let’s just see about that, shall we?