This Could Be As Good As It Gets...

Savour the remainder of the World Cup. Great games, countless goals, shocks, violence and comedy - it's giving us everything and you might never see a better one, says Nick Miller.

Last Updated: 26/06/14 at 12:05 Post Comment

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Biting. Somewhere on the morality scale between spitting and racism. Agreed? Cool. That's that dealt with, then.

While it would have probably been, on balance, better for Luis Suarez, Giorgio Chiellini's shoulder, sensible Liverpool fans and anyone who thinks that the World Cup should have a squeaky clean image, if the dentally prominent Uruguayan hadn't sunk the old gnashers into a slice of prime Italian beef, the whole affair added another element to what has been a phenomenal World Cup thus far.

Before you click away from this article, disconnect the internet and put your computer into a wood chipper, be assured that this isn't a plea to 'forget Suarez, focus on the football'. Because such 'disgraceful incidents' merely add to the rich tapestry of this tournament which has been, by common consent, the best in the modern era, and perhaps by the time it is over, the best of all time.

What a World Cup this has been. Everyone's saying it, but the point really can't be overemphasised. There have been goals, shocks, brilliant attacking football, an admirably laissez faire attitude to defending. The stars have (largely) shone, there have been individual moments of brilliance, there have been ludicrous moments of slapstick and high comedy, we've seen the death of one great team and potentially the birth of a few others. There have been some pointless but hilarious moments of Cameroon 1990-style ultra-violence; there have been things to get impotently annoyed about, and above all there have been so many, many things to be utterly joyful about and thank your almighty of choice that your dad didn't choose to take you to the circus all those years ago, and instead turned you into a football fan.

Gawp! As the Dutch produce exhilarating football that belies a team of two stars, Nigel de Jong and a bunch of kids. Marvel! As James Rodriguez moves from the realm of enormously promising youngster into a genuine world-class talent. Go ooh and aah! As Leo Messi casually produces a few moments of brilliance to underline his genius. Cheer! As another last-minute goal flies in. Laugh! As Honduras make absolutely no attempt to disguise their game plan against France was anything more sophisticated than 'kick them a lot'. Bodypop! At this. And yes, get outraged! As Suarez makes the world wonder, as President Bartlet from the West Wing once did, if it's possible to be stunned and yet not at all surprised.

It's all part of the enjoyment of it all. It is not, as some of the more earnest pundits have suggested, impossible to enjoy both Robin van Persie's absurd twisting lob header and Suarez's bite, much as it's not impossible to enjoy the music of both ABBA and My Bloody Valentine.

Previous tournaments have not provided as much entertainment, but the point was often made that complaining about a month of wall-to-wall football is a bit like complaining about too much sex. It's still football, which is brilliant, much as it's still the physical act of love, which is also very pleasant. This time though, the quality of football has matched the quantity, but as my mum might read this, I won't extend the comparison made in the previous sentence.

This has been the tournament so good that even Mark Lawrenson, with his black hole-esque aptitude for sucking the life and the joy out of anything, can't ruin it. If you listen to his commentary very carefully (although this isn't recommended) there is just the hint in his voice that he might actually be enjoying himself. I haven't listened to 5Live much during the tournament, but one imagines even Alan Green has stopped complaining about the weather.

How many duff games have there been? Nigeria v Iran? Greece v South Korea? England v Costa Rica? Even the ones that aren't particularly exciting feel like they're a palate-cleanser, a sort of footballing sorbet to ensure we don't get sick of all the rich food being served to us. In any case, there have been so many more brilliant games that we'll take the odd iffy one - it's a small price to pay for Spain v Holland, Portugal v USA, Germany v Ghana, etc and so on and so forth.

The obvious elephant in the room is that the World Cup has absolutely no place in a country with such stark socio-economic problems as Brazil. The benefits to hosting this tournament are at best ephemeral, once Fifa have finished with re-writing the country's tax laws and so forth, and as the protests across the country have shown, it isn't exactly being greeted with universal approval in Brazil. But hey - good news: it's the Olympics in two years! Good planning guys, well done, take the rest of the afternoon off.

But still, the World Cup has to be held somewhere, and it's possible to merely enjoy the football in much the same way as it's possible to enjoy a Woody Allen film, or a Morrissey album, or a Suarez nutmeg.

The comedian Elis James tweeted at the start of the tournament that he was in a supermarket queue, remembered that it was Spain v Holland that night and started giggling uncontrollably. There's no need to confine that to just the big games anymore, because the entertainment has been so all-encompassing that any and every game is a potential classic. This is the World Cup to make you giggle.

Make the most of it, though. History has told us that an enjoyable World Cup is a rare thing, so a tournament with this much to be joyful about might not happen again for a while. Enjoy it. Drink it in. Pay as much attention as you can so that in 40 years' time, you can bore people with tales of the great World Cup of 2014. We might not see the likes of this again for some time.

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