Elite Eight, Five really


Brazil 1950. Yes, they are sitting on construction scaffolding. 


As much as we cheer big-team upsets and underdog heroes every World Cup, the surprises end by the Semis. Finalists belong to an old class of football elites. Upstarts can go home or play for third place if they’ve had a wonder tournament.


Of the 20 World Cups there have been 12 countries who have reached the final. Only England, Spain and Sweden have been there only once. In the 88 years of the World Cup, there have been only three instances of a team winning for the first time on foreign soil: W. Germany in Switzerland, 1954. Brazil in Sweden, 1958; Spain in S. Africa. To happen this tournament, we’ll need a Croatia or Sweden to face Belgium.


Fun Fact courtesy of Wikipedia: The 1950 FIFA World Cup did not have a final, rather, the tournament was decided by a 4-team round robin. Uruguay’s 2-1 upset of the home team Brazil was not a final but the decisive match of the final group stage.


Day 20: The Games
This will be a short one tonight as we prepare for the Fourth. With the quarter finals set I’ll be mostly looking for good, dramatic matches. I’d like to see Belgium and England advance


Friday: Uruguay v. France. Not familiar, just want a good game.
Friday: Brazil v. Belgium. I want a Belgium-England Final, so fairly certain we’ll get a Brazil-Russia.
Saturday: Sweden v. England. See above
Saturday: Russia v. Croatia. Croatia should outlast the hosts.  

So I was wrong on the score yesterday but spot-on with England winning 4-3 on penalties.


See you on Friday. 



 Live at Circus Krone, Munich, 1966

Artist: The Beatles

Nation: England

Album: Rubber Soul-ish


In early 1967, at the exact hour of my early-afternoon birth on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, the Beatles were in Studio Two at Abbey Road doing piano, guitar and vocal overdubs onto a take of “Penny Lane.” That’s pretty damn good entrance music if you ask me.


That fact, and most of the others in this post, are drawn from “The Complete Beatles Chronicle” (1992), authored by Beatles academician and international treasure Mark Lewisohn, whose complete collection of books you should locate and purchase right now without even thinking about it, while I wait.


The Beatles are my favorite band to the extent that when someone asks me what my favorite band is I sometimes don’t even think of them. They’re apart. They don’t really “count." Listing the Beatles as a favorite band is like being asked to name a favorite color and saying “light.”


(OK, I really hope that the previous line is original to me, because I’m pretty pleased with myself about it.)

A little bit of math will tell you, therefore, that I was in utero when England won the World Cup for the only time, in London, on July 30, 1966. Following England’s shaky win over the off-puttingly chippy Colombian side on Tuesday, I got to wondering: How did the Beatles take in that final World Cup match in 1966? Did they trek to Wembley incognito? Tune in on the telly? Ask George up in the booth to patch the feed into Studio Two monitors?

Oh, I had such high hopes for this, people.


From what I can tell, I’m not sure any of them cared. Doing some digging online, I got the sense that football was never terribly important to any of them. George was said to have been quoted once as saying something like, “There are three football clubs in Liverpool; I like the other one.” This sense was further affirmed when I found, on YouTube, a nine-minute radio interview of Paul by David Frost – recorded two days after Wembley – during which neither of them said word one about football. It was called “David Frost at the Phonograph” if you want to dial it up and hear them not talking about it.


True, they had a little bit going on. They’d just wrapped “Revolver” about a month earlier, before embarking on some Asia tour dates including the infamous Philippines debacle. The story that prompted the ‘bigger than Jesus” kerfuffle was re-published in a U.S. magazine the day before the final, and their final concert at Candlestick was one month away. Football was hitting heights, and the lads were hitting some walls,


That’s about it. I did read that a radio clip of the 1966 final made it onto a version of “Glass Onion” that you’ll find on “Anthology 3.” I’ll need to check that out. For now, here’s the football-ambivalent Englishmen entertaining (distracting?) the soon-to-finish-second West Germans, a month or so ahead of that 4-2 result at Wembley. 

1966 is a lot of yesterdays ago for England. And tomorrow, of course, never knows. But my prediction stands -- England will be in the final. Something tells me Paul and Ringo might watch this time.  

Nat’s Kitchen

                                                                                                                                            RecipeTin Eats


With England breaking their PK jinx on Tuesday we’re going to rustle up the quintessential pub meal bangers and mash.


This is proper “Pub Grub” because it can be prepared quickly and in large quantities. The dish consists of bangers (sausages), mashed potatoes, onion gravy, fried onions, and peas.


The word “Bangers” derived from their high water content during WW1 when there were meat shortages, making the sausages more liable to pop while cooking. If you want to be truly authentic, buy your bangers from one of the English food purveyors. They are nothing like what you find in the generic grocery store.


More “sophisticated” versions of the dish are served in higher-end gastropubs throughout the world.



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