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I've just landed in Melbourne, where I'll be catching the delights of Sweden v USA and Colombia v Jamaica at their very rectangular stadium, as well as hopefully watching England progress to the quarter-finals from the fan park in Federation Square.

Before I turn my mind to any of that, I want to hold a moment of appreciation for the group stage, which concluded on Thursday with a BANG. In particular I have been thinking about:
  • one English football manager's staggering ego
  • the power of a perfect pony (again)
  • a frightening nighttime encounter
Hope you're enjoying this World Cup as much as I am (bloody loads).

Flora xx


My ridiculous experience at the Colombia v Germany game and the way it shook up what I think of as ‘normal’ behaviour at the footeh made me realise how little I know about cultures outside of Europe. I’m blessed to have the chance to see and interact with people from all over the world while I’m here but I wanted to find out a bit more so I’ve been listening to some songs from the countries competing in the tournament.

With the group stage now wrapped up, it’s time to honour the 16 teams flying home with a little farewell music. Here is my playlist in honour of the WWC 23’s biggest losers, with 3 tracks from each of the countries who will soon be welcoming home their planefuls of failures.

I have to say there are some phenomenal bangers featured so have a listen if you want to discover your new favourite electrotango DJ or Filipino protest song.
its a sad playlist for people who can't be winners

Hold on tight

'Well, what an exceptional tournament this is turning out to be!!!' she says, with the smug satisfaction of someone who supports one of the few favourites that have not been shockingly dispatched from the competition, quietly shaking at the unnerving thought that absolutely no one is safe.

If you had told me before the tournament started that England would score eight goals on their way to a round of 16 tie against Nigeria, I would have been overjoyed.

But apparently scoring loads of goals means nothing, and teams ranked outside of the top 40 are not to be fucked with. How did Germany's tournament go from this:
Germany Morocco score
to this:
Koalacide by the German national team just ten days, with the team they demolished in their opener going through to the knockout stage in their place?

Everything is upside down. Nothing is going to script. And now Waru, the koala mascot crocheted by Germany forward Klara Bühl, is paying the ultimate price.

Was it really Panama, the 52nd-ranked team in the world, who notched their first ever goal at a World Cup finals through Marta Cox firing what is probably the best free kick that has ever happened ever past France on Wednesday?

How can Brazil have been eliminated when they haven't yet given women's football legend Marta the fairytale ending her career deserves?

Why am I feeling sympathy for Alexandra Popp, the scariest person I know, after her heroic shift against Korea Republic wasn't enough to drag her teammates into the round of 16?

How am I not even a tiny bit scared of the United States any more, years of hard-fought bravado completely shattered with just one lacklustre performance against Portugal?

I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen next and I'm loving it.

Me me me me me

I've always thought Korea Republic manager Colin Bell was a dickhead.

In February at the Arnold Clark Cup, he opened his appraisal of his side's 4-0 defeat to England with an arse-licking statement of confidence that the team who had just whopped his players' butts would go on to win the World Cup next summer. How he had all us English journalists smiling and nodding.

Then he went on to excuse his players, who had come to compete in their off-season and therefore weren't at their glittering best.

When they had their chance to be their glittering best, with weeks of preparations behind them, Korea Republic have fallen woefully short of their 17th FIFA World Ranking (these are, themselves, starting to look like bullshit) and crashed out after two games.

Korea Republic were completely out of it in their opening match against Colombia. They offered nothing and seemed to have no plan. At the final whistle, the man responsible for the plan told the media that his players hadn't worked hard enough, had made poor decisions, were too slow. Hardly the rousing message of support his players needed after suffering one setback which hadn't yet ended their tournament.
Korea Republic manager Colin Bell lambasting his players from the sidelines
Their exit was subsequently confirmed with defeat to Morocco, and Bell didn't blame the players, but it was still not his fault, silly. This time he blasted South Korea's domestic league, where finishing bottom of the table does not equal relegation, for failing to mentally prepare his players to fight in the face of peril.

"The playoff system for me, personally, is a system that is nonsensical and doesn't belong in football. You want to win, finish first. You finish last or second last, you get relegated — this is competition," the Leicester-born egoist said.

"This is the reality, the World Cup is the reality. We have the best players, the best teams, the best coaches on view. If you lose, it hurts. If you lose, you get knocked out. That's the reality and that's happened to us.

"That's just more than a slap in the face and we've got to wake up to the reality of life. Life is sometimes difficult, life is sometimes tough. You have to live in reality, you can't live in a dream world."

Scintillating stuff. For all his flimsy excuses, though, it looks like Bell might have been right about one thing, at least. Look how much better Korea Republic played in a game in which there were no stakes for them at all.

Already knocked out, Korea Republic would probably rather have flown straight home than take on former World Champions Germany in their final Group H game. But they stood up to the challenge, grabbed a point they didn't need, kicked out a favourite and made Alex Popp look like this.
Popp was frustrated all game by Park Eun-Son's heroics in defence, but even in the face of a brilliant individual performance, Bell centred himself in his post-match remarks.

"That's why I brought her," he explained. "With Eun-Son, we neutralized that weapon."

"I know Germany inside out," he went on. "I'm sorry, I've spent half my life there and love the country. I've coached some of these players and they tried everything. But you can't just rely on long balls into the box."

Well done, Colin.

Swishies 0-4 Apathy

Babe wake up, new super-elite ponytail just dropped.

The women's game is home to a number of exquisite ponytails. I've long been fascinated by their magical effect on athletes but now I feel like everything I thought I knew about a luscious glimmering swish is a lie.

Did you see Jordyn Huitema's ponytail on Monday?
Jordyn Huitema's pony
You need to watch the video to get the full, mesmerising effect. This bad boy is insane. It's breathtaking. It's jaw-dropping. It's casting a hypnotic spell as Huitema carries out her warm-up.

I don't know which fairy godmother she enlisted to help her get ready that morning, but her pony's magic powers were not enough to help her get her side, Canada, into the next round.

It always feels mean to say that players didn't try hard enough as you never know what is going on in players' heads or whether there's stuff going on that you don't know about. From an outsiders' perspective, though, the Canadians hardly showed up to their make-or-break Group B match against Australia and didn't look arsed at all.

At 2-0 down, there was a whiff of desperation about the decision by Durham-born Canada manager Bev Priestman to make a QUADRUPLE change at the interval, and the four players who came on could no more convince me that they wanted to stay in Australia to compete in the next round of the competition.

Chelsea midfielder Jessie Fleming looked shell-shocked at full time: "Yeah, I mean. I guess. I'm sorry. We're probably just as disappointed as you are and, yeah, I hope next time around we can do better for you guys."
weepy jessie fleming

Spectacular bird of the day

A couple of weeks ago I was woken up in the middle of the night by a horrifying sound.

A loud, menacing, cackling that was so noisy and echoey that I couldn't tell if it were a kilometre away or right next to my window. Half-asleep, I wondered if it was a bird, a rodent, a cat, but was stumped as it resembled nothing I'd heard before. I was kind of shitting myself, and so was Fiona's cat, who came and snuggled up next to me in solidarity.

A few days later I spotted something that looked a bit familiar in a tree in Centennial Park in Sydney. Moving closer to get a better look, I was happy to discover that it was indeed a kookaburra but disturbed to realise that my approach had, in fact, been a terrible idea because look how furious this giant bird is:
a scary bird getting ready to laugh at me
It's a funny feeling you get when an animal is looking at you. This kookaburra was STARING at me and I immediately felt like I wanted leave his space. Powerful.

I didn't linger long and having retreated back to my cosy spot on the grass I heard it again, that same noise that had had me quaking in the middle of the night. One of the park's kookaburras started laughing and quickly several more joined in to create one of the craziest sounds I've ever heard.

If I had not been sufficiently frightened by their volume and general demeanour, I've since discovered that laughing kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguineae) are carnivorous, known to eat small mammals, frogs, lizards and even snakes. No wonder he had zero qualms about squaring up to little old me.

I've learnt that those insane calls that sound like mocking laughter are territorial, intended to establish and maintain social hierarchy as well as clearly demarcate the turf that they consider theirs.

I can confidently say that I will not be crossing that boundary again.
a scary boi

Time for some judgement!!!

It's the badge of Switzerland
I love this. It looks really retro.

Why should letters be functional, when they can be beautiful? That's the Swiss football association acronym spelled out all curly, there. And a person, kicking a ball? Perfect!
Definitely feels like bad juju doing this ahead of Monday so I guess we're getting A NICE POSITIVE REVIEW and NO KARMIC FEEDBACK.

This badge succeeds at being majestic and cute at the same time. The bird looks regal. I thought it was a falcon (as in Super Falcons) but the blokes, who are known as the Super Eagles, use the same badge so I guess it’s just generic bird of prey balancing on a clip art football.
It's the badge of Nigeria
It's the badge of Costa Rica
This belongs on a Marvel poster and also brings Cristiano Ronaldo to mind ❌

The shape of the badge is unique so well done, but this is telling me nothing about Costa Rica.

It’s home to loads of fun animals — sloths, toucans, hummingbirds — so whack one on there for goodness’ sake.
I’ve never properly looked at this before but it’s actually quite beautiful.

The repetition is really pleasing, the curviness of the lions preventing it from looking too regimented.

You have to say, it is kind of iconic. And credit to those lions’ nail technicians because honestly those crimson tips are looking fab.
It's the three lines on the shirt
It's the badge of Vietnam
Straight up, here's our flag, we're representing our country.

I respect it.
So familiar it’s almost tough to critique because I can see it on Ronaldinho’s breast, which gives the design swag by association — though I have to say, it’s not quite as swag without the stars that the men’s badge has. This is the first tournament at which the women's side has stopped borrowing them.

It's a bit churchier than I like my football badges but I like the flicky crest tips and the colours ARE nice.
it's the badge of Brazil
it's the badge of Morocco
A classy number which imaginatively reconstructs the flag and it makes it BETTER.

The crown is endearing, not threatening, though those hanging stripes make it look a bit military.

Again, don’t understand why the federation has been both full-named and acronymed?? But yes to the arabic script.
What can I say, it's iconic. If I hadn’t seen it a hundred times before I might not like it so much.

That big, flamboyant F? I’m into it. Gold and navy, you can’t go wrong. Tidy nod to the flag up top.

With every piece of team identity, though, its simplification has stripped it of some character. Laurel wreathes are made of plants, not gold!
it's the badge of Argentina
If you want to share thoughts, suggestions, song recommendations, predictions, advice on scary birds or have anything else to tell me — remember you can always get in touch by replying to this email or sending a message to [email protected]. I'd love to hear from you 🤗
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