News Off the Ball

Sunday 31 August 2014

Rio, Rodgers and Sepp factor have made game beautiful again

Donny Mahoney

Published 18/06/2014 | 02:30

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter
FIFA President Sepp Blatter

Last winter, in these pages, I hectored Daniel McDonnell of this parish for his unwavering love for international football. Well, I'm delighted to say after a week of the 2014 World Cup: I'm back, baby!

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Still, I remain in the dark as to why international football all of a sudden has shaken off its cagey, results-driven modus operandi for something far more exciting.

I do have some crack theories.

The Brazil factor: in the same way that our own Joe Molloy picked up a Dutch accent while following Louis van Gaal around last week, is it possible that simply by spending extended time in Brazil that footballers and managers assume the best qualities of their hosts, as if by osmosis? I like to think so.

The Sepp factor: imagine FIFA's worst-case scenario for this World Cup – Brazil going out in the group stages, a string of games a la Iran v Nigeria on Monday night, unrest across Brazil and a final in the vein of Spain-Holland in 2010.

It's conceivable that a terrible World Cup might not only mean the end of Sepp Blatter, but of FIFA as we know it. With the stakes so high, you have to accept that FIFA was heavily invested in producing a memorable tournament.

The Brendan Rodgers factor: I'm sympathetic to the idea that there were 32 bored international managers who, while watching Liverpool score five goals against Cardiff away in March, said: "You know what, I'm going to give the people what they want."

Take your pick. Or maybe sometimes, beautiful things don't require an explanation.

Irish Independent

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