Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Thank you, Maradona, for keeping us entertained

My favourite World Cup was way back in 1982. There was that breathtaking Brazilian team with Socrates, Zico, Eder, Falcao and Junior who somehow contrived not to win it, the remarkable story of victorious Italy and goalscoring hero Paolo Rossi, that epic 3-3 draw between Germany and France in the semi-finals, and best of all Northern Ireland beating hosts Spain 1-0.

“Arconada, Armstrong...”

Gerry’s golden moment still makes me smile almost 30 years on (yes, it is that long).

So do Billy Hamilton’s celebrations after he scored twice against Austria.

Bonnie Scotland were in Espana too along with England who were knocked out despite not losing a game.

There was also the first chapter of what has been an amazing World Cup tale for Diego Maradona.

He was 21 then and kicked to pieces.

He snapped in Argentina’s 3-1 defeat to Brazil, lashed out and was sent off.

Say what you like about Maradona, and much of his behaviour has been disgraceful down the years, but admit it, he’s compelling viewing.

And thank goodness for him in this year’s World Cup because it would be incredibly dull without him.

He has just about raised the excitement level to average.

And not just for his crazy antics on the touchline.

Unlike other coaches in this tournament, Maradona has decided that all out attack is the way to go.

England brought only four strikers to South Africa.

Argentina have six and every one of them can score.

They have been the stand out side in the Rainbow Nation so far, though in truth the competition hasn’t been up to much.

It might change tomorrow when they face Germany, who are second on the most impressive list.

Lows have certainly beaten the highs in this World Cup.

German coach Joachim will hope that trend continues when he takes on Maradona.

If the tournament ended now it would be remembered for the pitiful efforts of England, the gut-wrenching arrogance of France, underperforming big stars like Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Franck Ribery, the vuvuzelas and the magic of Lionel Messi on the pitch and Diego off it.

Negatives 4-1 Positives.

Probably the most memorable match so far had the same scoreline when Germany whipped England.

The only other game that has come close to being a thriller was when Slovakia beat holders Italy 3-2 to eliminate them.

That’s two out of 56.

Criminal. The South African police have been so tough during this World Cup that I’m stunned they haven’t arrested Sepp Blatter, his FIFA buddies and most of the players on the grounds of failing to provide proper entertainment.

On the up side we’re at the business end of the campaign with the best teams and hopefully things will improve.

Surely they will.

Argentina against Germany has the ingredients to be a classic while it would be a surprise if today’s encounter between Brazil and Holland didn’t work out the same way.

Uruguay v Ghana tonight will see a clash of styles that could create an enticing encounter and hopefully Spain will turn on the style when they face Paraguay tomorrow.

We need great goals, great saves, great games and a couple of penalty shoot-outs thrown in for good measure.

Otherwise the African experience will have proved to be as enjoyable as running into a wild tiger on safari.

I’m all for spreading the word of football, but is it a coincidence that once you go outside Europe and South America, the excitement levels tend to decrease?

USA 1994 and South Korea/Japan 2002 weren’t that special and South Africa 2010 is going the same way.

At least we’re guaranteed plenty of glorious football in four years time when the tournament heads to Brazil.

And if we’re lucky it will be in England in 2018.

That’s for the future.

For now, what this World Cup needs is a big finish.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph