IN his wonderful memoir Cider With Roadies, Stuart Maconie tells a story of the time music journalist David Cavanagh went for dinner at Mark E Smith’s house one evening.
Cavanagh happily agreed to the invitation from The Fall’s creative powerhouse, even though the two of them had been drinking rather heavily throughout the afternoon.
The story goes that Cavanagh sat in the front room while Smith disappeared into the kitchen for half-an-hour. Sounds of cupboards opening and closing, taps running and saucepans being stirred filtered through to Cavanagh.
And then, finally, Smith emerged beaming with his culinary masterpiece – a crisp sandwich.
Smith would make a brilliant guest on Come Dine With Me. And so too, by the sounds of it, would Carlos Queiroz.
Portugal’s coach seems to have similar ideas to Smith as to what constitutes a feast. Queiroz used the phrase “a football feast” to describe the scrappy non-event of a match between Portugal and Brazil in Durban.
A football feast? It was barely a finger buffet. This was a crisp sandwich kind of a match.
The game had a bit of crunch, largely thanks to some very nasty challenges as seven players were booked. But at times it was as limp as a soggy slice of white bread, with Portugal keeper Eduardo making a couple of good saves – most notably to turn a Nilmar header on to the bar – and little else happening. The boos that rang around the Moses Mabhida Stadium at full-time were justified.
Group G was tagged the Group of Death when the draw for the World Cup finals was made, thanks to the presence of Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast. But Portugal’s 7-0 thumping of North Korea on Monday had rendered the group’s final games pretty much irrelevant.
Ivory Coast needed to beat North Korea by a rugby score to stand any chance of going through – they only managed a 3-0 win, despite having 27 shots on goal. And even if they had won 30-0, they still wouldn’t have gone through because Portugal got the point they needed to make sure of qualification anyway.
Queiroz has made Portugal difficult to beat. They have now conceded just two goals in 14 games. Other than Uruguay, they are the only team in South Africa yet to have conceded a goal at these finals.
It may help Portugal go a long way in this tournament. They can play expansive football when they get the chance, and shut up shop when they need to. It’s an effective way to play. But it certainly didn’t create a feast in Durban, whatever Queiroz may suggest.
On the contrary – this game was one for the World Cup Gubbometer, which Portugal now jointly top with Algeria.
World Cup Gubbometer
1=. Algeria: 2 (CI: 2/3)
1=. Portugal: 2 (CI: 2/3)
3=. Brazil: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Cameroon: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Ivory Coast: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Japan: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. England: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. France: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. New Zealand: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Paraguay: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Slovakia: 1 (CI: 1/3)
3=. Uruguay: 1 (CI: 1/3)
13=. Everybody else: 0
(NB. Teams are awarded one point every time they take part in a game so mind-numbingly tedious that it would almost certainly have been last on Match of the Day had it been a Premier League fixture. Teams level on points will be separated by the Capello Index – the number of points divided by the number of games played.)