Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Whose World? What Cup? (Day 19a)

I have been waiting for this rematch since 7 June 1494. Actually, apart from obscure Asian historians, who had cause to worry about its provisions, and the Argentines, who once invoked it in the little matter of Los Malvinas (also known as the Falklands), not many others in recent centuries have thought of the great old treaty signed on that day.

For on 7 June 1494, slightly more than 516 years ago, Spain and Portugal divided the world between them. And tonight, in a very different way, they will battle for supremacy, with only one winner between them.

But apart from tonight's fracas and the linguistic legacy (mostly) of South America, let's face it: Portugal is no longer a world power of any sort. We might think of East Timor, Macao, and even if we were exceptionally historical in our literacy, Goa and Melaka — but hey, Portugal, not one of the great powers any more. And yet, the Portuguese did have an empire once.

I'm rooting for Spain, the more enduring imperial power of the two, tonight. But not because of political reasons — rather, I can't stand that talented but irritating Cristiano Ronaldo; I much prefer the many talents of Spain.

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To be honest, the Spain that I admire seems a lot less creative than Brazil, a lot less skilled than Argentina, a lot less coherent than Germany. They're not unpicking Portugal and have come very close to being completely undone by them. At half-time, the score is 0-0; while it's been a lot more exciting than the previous match, it's not been more productive.

I think I am about to join in the usual malaise of Spain-supporters: a kind of exuberant disappointment.

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It ended when David Villa scored (yet again) to make it 1-0. Then it petered out into the usual disinterested pottering around. The new striker Fernando Llorente looked distinctly bored but, trying hard to pretend that he was involved, could have scored twice more.

And so Spain remain, promising more joy, and possibly, more disappointment.

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