Welcome to the Owlsalive World Cup Diary!

Each day throughout the greatest show on earth we will be bringing you a light-hearted digest of all the talking points from the previous night’s action.

We’ll also take a look ahead at what’s to come each day and of course we’ll offer a few ill-thought-out betting tips for those who like a flutter!


02 Separator 03 Separator


The build-up

ITV's titles - inspired by Match of the Day?

ITV’s titles – inspired by Match of the Day?

So after four years of waiting the World Cup was finally here! Unfortunately, the first game being televised by ITV meant, after two hours of monochrome build-up, you were about as excited as you are when the alarm goes off on a Monday morning.

Perhaps inevitably I thought the titles were pretty rubbish, with ITV adopting the tacky idea MOTD used a few years ago of historic moments being intertwined with modern football plus a sprinkling of ‘real Brazilians’. After a few listens, though, the theme music did grow on me and I reckon I’ll be humming along come early July.

You had the bizarre juxtaposition of Adrian Chiles discussing tactics with two World Cup winners, while Ian Wright on the beach saw ITV’s football coverage sink to even greater depths than we knew were possible.

A personal highlight was Chiles asking Lee Dixon who Brazil’s danger man was at half-time, with the former Arsenal man seemingly amazed that even Chiles would ask such a downright stupid question.

The rioting Brazilians, realising that inheriting an ITV studio for the duration of the tournament was much worse than rising bus fares and invisible infrastructure, duly pelted the glass with stones for good measure. An excellent start.


02 Separator 03 Separator


The opening ceremony

My natural disposition is one of cynicism and sarcasm, but when it comes to opening ceremonies, they can now only be judged against the moan-defying brilliance of London 2012. This was no London 2012. In fact, I hope Rio have taken notes and binned everything they saw with 2016 in mind.

The bizarre opening ceremony lacked something important...darkness

The bizarre opening ceremony lacked something important…darkness

I actually think opening ceremonies don’t really work in the daylight. You need a certain amount of strobe lighting and fireworks to detract from the prats dressed as flowers and Russian dolls.

Brazil even took the bold move of celebrating referees, with several children dressed up as those much-loved officials. I wonder if Yuichi Nishimura was watching on from his dressing room…


02 Separator 03 Separator


Brazil v Croatia

Despite ITV’s best efforts you couldn’t help but get a tingle down your spine when the pictures switched to Sao Paulo and the players in the tunnel.

The mixture of determination and terror in the Brazilians’ eyes (those who had them open anyway) was abundant as they belted out both verses of their national anthem.

Doves were almost certainly harmed in the making of this World Cup game

Doves were almost certainly harmed in the making of this World Cup game

FIFA, determined not to be overshadowed by, you know, an actual football match decided three doves should be released before kick-off as a symbol of peace. Twitter rumours later suggested two love doves committed suicide and one took a dump in the press box. Fitting.

The first moment of note was when ITV’s enormous retro-scoreboard for the visually impaired appeared towards the top left of the screen but far enough down to obscure Neymar’s prickly hair.

Despite the obvious distractions, the first 45 minutes were actually terrific to watch, played at a fierce pace and it was Ivica Olic rather than Oscar or Neymar who impressed early on.

First he headed wide when he should have scored. Then he put in a delicious low close which Nikica Jelavic scuffed quite brilliantly into the path of Marcelo who had no choice but to bundle the ball into the back of his own net. Cue any and every cliche about scripts being torn up.

Controversy was never far away and if the game was being played in Zagreb and not Sao Paulo, Neymar would surely have been sent off for a not-so-sly elbow on the newly mop-less Luka Modric. It was inevitable then that, not long after the hapless Jelavic headed straight at the ‘keeper, Brazil broke forward, Neymar shrugged off Modric (not with his elbow this time, at least) and scuffed home from the edge of the D.

Poor old didn't he save it?

Poor old Pletikosa…how didn’t he save it?

The second half couldn’t live up to the fierce pace of the first and it was left to Mr Nishimura to provide Brazil with the assist they needed when Fred went down in the box after being blown over by Dejan Lovren. Neymar deserved to miss for his ridiculous run-up but Stipe Pletikosa deserved not to save it when he someone managed to palm the ball through his own right-hand and into the net.

Croatians the world over will have been sealing their death threat letters when the ref gave yet another soft foul, this time on Julio Cesar and Oscar compounded their misery when he toe-poked home the goal of the game in stoppage time.


First night nerves or not, Brazil looked shaky at best and vulnerable at worst with Croatia causing them all sorts of problems on the counter. The late Oscar goal showed the class at their disposal and I expect them to go on and beat both Cameroon and Mexico, with Croatia hopefully joining them in the last 16.


02 Separator 03 Separator


Player of the Day: NEYMAR – Who else? Well, I could have gone for Ivica Olic who was outstanding for Croatia against the perenially ropey Dani Alves but Neymar was involved in everything, whether it was elbowing Modric, scuffing home the equaliser, trying his best not to score the penalty or ostensibly shaking the referee’s hand in congratulation when subbed.

Vrsaljko for Wednesday?

Vrsaljko for Wednesday?

Player for Gray: SIME VRSALJKO – So if Wednesday could sign one player for each day of the World Cup, who would it be? On day one there were only 22 to choose from and I can’t see even Mr Mammadov shelling out for a Brazilian (oo-er) any time soon.

The right-back-who-plays-at-left-back Vrsaljko impressed me with his bursting runs up the wing and, with Reda Johnson gone, he could be a decent replacement while covering for the regularly-injured Buxton at right back, if Liam Palmer is moved back to his favoured midfield berth. OK, he cost Serie A Genoa 4 million Euros only last summer but we can afford £5 million to prise him away…right?


02 Separator 03 Separator



GROUP A – Mexico v Cameroon (5pm, ITV)

GROUP B – Spain v Netherlands (8pm, BBC); Chile v Australia (11pm, ITV)



Spain v Holland is the game of the day but when it comes to betting I would avoid it at all costs. My safe bet would be a simple Mexico/Chile double, available at about 3.5/1 with BetVictor.

I think Chile will have far too much for the Socceroos and I think they’ll beat them in style, so Over 3.5 Goals at 11/4 with Coral looks tasty to me.

world cup Brasil emblem 01

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