Last week I met some clients from London who asked me “So, what are you going to do during this summer?” My answer was “I’m gonna root for England, of course.” It goes without saying that their were filled with surprise: “Why?,” they asked.
There are at least three reasons: One, they are the youngest and the most inexperienced national team at this World Cup, so the future is theirs; two, because I truly believe this might be their edition and – apart from CR7’s Portugal and Romelu Lukaku’s Belgium – so far big teams are proving me right; three, because of this video:
And that, my sons, is why I was sitting in front of the TV yesterday to cheer for the Three Lions.
The First Half
I spent all the day working from home and for my home. Furniture, screws, glue, hammers, drillers. Everything was on the way between me and the match. I saved some lager beer in the fridge, purposefully turned on for the occasion, and mounted a small monitor in the bedroom. I had just mounted the last shelf of the last wardrobe, and ordered a pizza, when Jesse Lingard made me throw my screwdriver away. Served by Dele Alli, he kicked the ball right on the left foot of Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen, who saved his Northern-African side by deflecting it in a corner.
Time for a beer here, and for a more comfortable way to seat. I stood up from the floor, and chose a new white office chair. My bottom sounded grateful. Coming back from the kitchen, I saw Ashley Young shooting the corner kick, and throwing the ball in the box. John Stones jumped as high as a pole vaulter, and headed the ball in the net, but again Hassen denied him a goal by flying to the top right corner. I was about to shout “Holy cr*p”, but the ball bounced back on Harry Kane’s right foot and, before I could realize, there was beer spilled all over my new wardrobe. 1-0, and I already made a mess.
Saddened by Hassen having to leave the pitch too early due to an injury, I hoped the new goalkeeper would at least be less agile than Tunisia’s number 22, but I had to lose my hope pretty soon. Indeed, Jordan Henderson fired a powerful shot from as far as Camden Market. The ball went through multiple players along its way, but finished its trip right in the hands of the reactive, well-positioned Farouk Ben Mustapha.
All seemed to be going fine, with no particular worries, until I understood that the quantity of beer left in my bottle and England’s destiny had something in common: My Becks was gone, and so was Kyle Walker’s mind apparently…
“What the hell, lad? A jab right on Ben Youssef’s face, right in the box? Are you on weed?” is what I yelled to the monitor as my girlfriend came to check on me if everything was ok. I really hoped that Jordan Pickford would parry that penalty back, and he almost did, but Ferjani Sassi was indeed more accurate than expected with his shot. The equaliser called for another beer.
My theory proved to be right when Jesse Lingard lobbed the ball over Ben Mustapha, and only the post could stop that perfect finishing. This time I behaved, and spilled only a little bit of my German beer. The referee said it was enough for now, so I started packing my stuff: I had a bus to take right before full time, and this, lads, is what made the rest of the night epic.
The Second Half
We ordered pizza for dinner before the match, and we were told “20 minutes and we’ll be there.” Now I had been waiting for one hour, and the pizza was still not my table, the room smelled like beer, and England was only tying 1-1. While I was taking care of the smell, the match started again. But as I hoped for my pizza to come by any minute, I had an hard time focusing on the second half.
Which was indeed pretty boring – and thank god I had more beer by my side. Aside from a header by Dene Alli, promptly stopped by an excellent Ben Mustapha – him, once again! – and a poor free kick by Ashley Young, the second half sounded like a lullaby to me and, I can rightfully assume, to the rest of English supporters.
At 9:45 PM I still had neither a pizza, nor my favorite team winning, and the bus was departing in 10 minutes. I turned off my laptop and the monitor, grabbed my last things and packed them in my luggage. Then, all of a sudden, the intercom rang: It was the pizza guy, of course, with my porcini mushroom and sausages. I only had 10 minutes to eat it, just as much as England had to change the course of their match.
I paid the guy, and came back on a lazy chair, with a slice of pizza in one hand, a beer on the other, and the smartphone on my lap. If you wanted to know how fast an Italian can eat a pizza, you should have filmed me. I literally pounced on it, just like the Brits were pushing towards the Tunisian box. They did it constantly for the last 15 minutes of the game, without managing to break the positive streak of Ben Mustapha. Tunisian defenders piled up to protect their goal, and no one among the English selection could sneak in.
Until the moment I almost choked myself.
I was in the car, going to the bus station, chewing the last chunk of my pizza and still following the match on the phone. It was a corner kick by Kieran Trippier that attempted my life. Harry Maguire tried to correct the trajectory of the ball, but here he came, Harry “Give-Me-Back-the-20-Years-of-Life-I-Just-Lost” Kane, diverting it with a winning header in the 91st minute, when all hopes seemed lost.
Players celebrated like they never did, supporters touched heaven with their hands, and I owed my life to my girlfriend, who responsively and vigorously tapped me on my back to prevent me from choking. 2-1 for the Brits, match won, and a lesson learned for me: When England is playing, better not to have a meal, but just an ice cold beer, at hand.
I made it to the bus in time and, as the trip started, my mind already went all the way to the next match with Panama.
June 18, 2018 – World Cup Group Stage Pool G
SCORERS: 11′ Kane (E), 34′ Sassi (T, pen.), 91′ Kane (E)
|TUNISIA (4-3-3): Hassen (16′ Ben Mustapha); Meriah, S. Ben Youssef, Bronn, Maaloul; Skhiri, Badri, Sassi; F. Ben Youssef, Khazri (85′ Khalifa), Sliti (73′ Ben Amor) (Mathlouthi, Ben Alouane, Bedoui, Haddadi, Nagguez, Chaaleli, Khalil, Srarfi, Khaoui) Coach: Maaloul
|ENGLAND (3-5-2): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Alli (77′ Loftus-Cheek), Henderson, Lingard (90′ Dier), Young; Sterling (70′ Rashford), Kane (Pope, Butland, Rose, Cahill, Jones, Alexander-Arnold, Delph, Vardy, Welbeck) Coach: Southgate|
REFEREE: Roldan (Colombia)
NOTES: Yellow Card: Walker (E); Extra Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 4′