The chairman’s Clean Sheet Doctrine reaps rewards for goalless draws…
Every summer for the last decade a group of intrepids have gathered one evening in a London pub.
Bar, pavement, cigarettes.
An opening gambit familiar across the capital, but it’s what this particular party does next that were them apart.
Seated around hastily-shoved together snug furniture,
The ill-timed publication of this post has nothing whatsoever to do with red wine.
I THINK I’m in love with Toni Kroos.
The feeling first flickered on Tuesday evening, as Germany gave one of the most assured performances in World Cup history.
Before then I’d barley noticed this cog in the German machine. As so often happens at major tournaments the eyes of the beholder were drawn to a young pretender: the outstanding James Rodriguez.
The young Colombian was unbelievable in Brazil. Beating players, setting up and scoring goals with panache. The jaw-dropping chest, turn and volley versus Uruguay and the eye-contact penalty against Julio Cesar won James the admiration of the world.
If any parallels can be drawn between a multi-million dollar international football tournament in industrialised South America and a love story set in an early 19th Century rural community in Dorset, then it’s clear that Rodriguez assumed the role of the young, flash Sergeant Troy in Thomas Hardy’s pastoral masterpiece Far From The Madding Crowd.
Initially successful in wooing the much-sought-after Bathsheba Everdene, Troy didn’t last the distance, and from the fringes of consciousness the sturdy, honourable, hard-working shepherd Gabriel Oak figure of Kroos emerges to win the her heart.
For Kroos excels in attacking midfield. He moves the ball around with ease and picks out teammates with little difficulty, splitting the opposition in half with a subtle dink.
In between the battle cries of Thomas Müller and the all action swashbuckle of Bastian Schweinsteiger, the brilliance of Toni Kroos can be overlooked, and like Bathsheba rehiring Oak because he’s the only man who can cure her flock of sheep from bloat, I feel the fool for ignoring his talents for so long.
It wasn’t until this week’s semi finals, where the hubris of the tournament is stripped away to leave the most efficient and worthy teams – and sadly in this instance Brazil, Netherlands and Argentina – that one realises the person right in front of them all along is the true star. I felt a similar awakening four years ago when Diego Forlan scored a sublime long-range goal against the Dutch. While I was awaiting magic from household names, I suddenly realised Forlan had been doing this all along.
Kroos is not only an excellent player, he hasn’t succumbed to the celebrity of his peers. As others insert hair plugs or shave their squad number on the side of their head, Toni wears the quaff of a seven-year-old boy whose mum has just fiercely brushed it before the funeral of an elderly relative.
Even as one can imagine the rest of the German team whooping and hollering in the dressing room at half time in Belo Horizonte, of course before Jogi Löw slid in to cool enthusiasm, Toni would be quietly restoring his side parting, not out of vanity but because he wouldn’t want his family to get disapproving looks from neighbours.
At 24, Kroos can surely go on to be one the most enduring stars of world football and the most deserving lifter of the Jules Rimet on Sunday night. As an Englishman he makes me no longer feel ashamed of wanting to a replica Deutschland shirt to add to the collection of Italian club sides and Eastern European minnows.
There’s only one catch to this beautiful romance. It turns out Toni Kroos was signed at the Emerson World Cup fantasy football auction by the Testiculadew Land manager.
Going into the last two games of the tournament, the most controversial manager in 10 years of the Kenna League is nine points ahead of the pack on 179. With Kroos, Leo Messi and Daley Blind he’ll take some beating.
In second place with 170 points, Botafogo Pirates FC will rely on David Luiz, Jerome Boateng and Sergio Romero.
In third, Fat Ladies could add to their 169 points with performances from Thomas Müller, Martin Demichelis, Wesley Sneijder and, ahem, Fred.
In a cruel paradox for the rest if the league, T-Land are also a red and yellow card away from picking up the Emerson Unfair Play award.
Added to his Kenna league and cup double last season, the manager would enjoy the most successful year of any since the league was founded in 2005, taking the mantle from the chairman’s domestic double and Dr Khumalo World Cup in 2010.
But I’m not bitter. I just hope Toni Kroos is happy.