GELSON Fernandes was not always the most effective member of Manchester City’s midfield during his two-year stint in England. But on the occasions that I dealt with him, I always found him an enthusiastic, driven, hugely likeable character.
So I was thrilled for him that he should score the goal that secured the first major shock of the tournament – even if it did have a touch of ‘It’s A Knockout’ about it.
Fernandes always sounded thrilled to bits that he had been given a chance to play in the Premier League, having arrived at City from Sion for £4.2million in 2007. With hindsight, Sven-Goran Eriksson paid too much to take him to Eastlands, and his successor Mark Hughes – who used him almost exclusively as a substitute – cut his losses by selling him to Saint Etienne for £2m.
The midfielder’s great strength was that he could run. My God, he could run. As Eriksson once put it: “Gelson never stops. I think he could sell energy to someone.”
Sven may just have hit upon a way to save the planet, there. As the world runs out of oil, perhaps we could stick Fernandes on a treadmill linked to a generator somewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if BP are in negotiations already.
Fernandes’ willingness to keep running played a part in ensuring Switzerland kept Spain out until half-time in Durban this afternoon, because he had to do a lot of chasing around.
And that engine of his also ensured he was in the right place to score seven minutes after the break. It was the untidiest, least stylish goal you will ever see. But who cares when it brings a World Cup alive?
A long ball from the goalkeeper, a flick on, Eren Derdiyok charged into Iker Casillas, the ball ran loose, everyone fell over, Stuart Hall collapsed in hysterics and Fernandes poked home. It was awful defending from the European champions.
We had been told Spain would set the tournament alight today, that their passing football would bring an end to a turgid series of opening games. Well, it didn’t quite happen that way, although at least we got a match which felt like a proper cup tie, instead of the ‘avoid defeat in the most boring way imaginable’ style which appears to have been transferred to this World Cup wholesale from the Champions League group stages.
Maybe the tournament will get a bit more exciting now. If it does, we all owe Gelson Fernandes a bit of gratitude.