I DON’T want to start getting all religious on your ass – not at the quarter-final stage of a World Cup. It would be a very unpleasant spectacle. But if there is a God, I suspect he or she has better things to do than worry about the outcome of football matches.
(Having said that, I should point out that Jimmy Hill once claimed a proposal to introduce penalty shoot-outs to decide drawn Football League games was the work of Satan, thus bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “in league with the devil”.)
Diego Armando Maradona, though, has always had a different view, even though TV replays conclusively proved that it definitely wasn’t God’s hand that punched the ball past Peter Shilton in 1986.
I’m beginning to think he has an issue with hands, does Maradona. Several times during this World Cup, I’ve seen him on the touchline folding his arms so tightly that his hands are up in his armpits. Is he trying to keep them warm? And if so, wouldn’t he be better off buying gloves?
Anyway, if it’s not hands with Maradona, it’s God. And he seemed pretty certain before today’s match against Germany in Cape Town that God wanted Argentina to be in the final. Unless God had a bet on (which seems unlikely, from what I can gather) or is Argentinian (in which case, why don’t Argentina win every World Cup?), I’m struggling to figure out why he or she would be that bothered.
“In the end, it is about whether God wants us to be in the final, but I know that is what God wants,” said Maradona. “This time we will not need the Hand of God, because it is the will of God.”
Well, it wasn’t the will of God at all, Diego. It was the won’t of God.
You can make a fool of yourself trying to write the future, as everyone involved with Nike’s Write The Future advert will tell you. That was the ad that looked as if it took about a zillion pounds to make and starred Didier Drogba, Franck Ribery, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
Of those five, the first two went out of the World Cup in the group stages, the next two in the last 16 and the other chap didn’t even make it to the tournament. (Nike have gained loads of publicity from it, though, so I can’t see them being unduly bothered.)
It’s not been a World Cup for the big names. Ahead of Spain’s match against Paraguay this evening, Fernando Torres hadn’t scored an international goal for a year, while Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Kaka of Brazil will be going home from these finals with blank records of their own.
Instead, the team tearing up all before them are Germany – who came into the tournament in the midst of an injury crisis, without their captain and having made rather less of an impact in the worldwide advertising market. I would suggest that God is trying to convey some kind of message about rampant commercialism here, but I would only really start to believe that if we ended up with a Uruguay v Paraguay final (still a possibility as I write this).
Germany were sensational this afternoon, Argentina awful – particularly in defence, with set-pieces apparently a mystery to them. Thomas Muller headed in an early free kick, Miroslav Klose scored from about three inches after the break, then wrapped up the victory after Arne Friedrich, who never scores for Germany, scored for Germany.
Through all this, Maradona treated television viewers around the world to a remarkable variety of facial expressions, while at no point giving the impression that he had the faintest clue what he was supposed to be doing to sort out the mess on the pitch.
At the start of the World Cup, Maradona had pledged to run through the streets of Buenos Aires naked if Argentina won the trophy. Ah, now I understand what you were doing, God. And I’m with you on that one.