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armchair centre back :: french kiss off

i'm guessing that the english international football team has a wicked collective sense of humour. who else would give us the comedy gold of getting bounced out of the euro tournament scant days after their country voted to leave the e.u. not merely that, but they got sent packing by iceland, a country that, one commentator observed before the game, has a population roughly equal to that of the english town of leicester. [can we just take a moment to salute him for that singularly appropriate comparison?] social media, never a body to look a gift horse in the mouth, exploded with satirical rage, which was not less funny or biting for being predictable. as it stands, referee mark clattenburg's calm and decisive handling of the violent outburst of croatian fans during the croatia v czech republic game will certainly go down as the best performance by an englishman at this year's euro.

worse yet for english fans, it's not like they can even take out their righteous anger on the team who beat them, because that would make them monsters. everyone loves iceland. they are the happy story to emerge from this year's competition, the tournament debutants who were supposed to feel lucky just to be there, but who have ground their way through to the quarter finals. and in a year when fans have been at their worst, icelandic fans have inspired love and awe from everyone with their incredible dedication and that slightly unnerving chant that does seem to have magical powers. apparently, they've only been able to identify 650 people in the entire country who didn't watch the game against england.

iceland is the darling of political progressives [alongside usual suspects norway, sweden, finland and denmark] and while some would argue that its virtues have been overstated, it looks pretty spectacular when you compare it to the chaos unfolding in britannia right now. britons can take heart in the fact that this year's social progress index, ranks iceland only tenth best in the world, while the united kingdom is ninth. on the other hand, the extremely detailed world happiness report [pdf link] sees iceland soaring in third place, while the u.k. languishes in twenty-third. revised fifa ratings haven't been released yet. [warning: both of the study links provided are complete data porn. if, like me, you love analysing numbers and statistics, you're going to want to pour yourself a drink and book some "me" time before investigating them.]

of course, one advantage to having iceland in the competition still is that we get to appreciate the beauty of gylfi sigurdsson a little longer:





there is an undeniable similarity in the looks of most of the icelandic players and it's not just because a somewhat limited gene pool predisposes many of them to sandy blond hair and blue eyes. it seems like everyone from iceland has what i call "the icelandic look": exceptionally bright, intense eyes, handsome features, a sort of ruggedness that speaks of access to fresh ocean air [even the inland parts of the country aren't that inland] and some intangible element that seems to announce "i'm a good and effortlessly cool person". gylfi is just a particularly perfect example of those qualities.

i'm feeling a wee bit miffed at the moment that portugal defeated poland this afternoon to become the first official semi-finalist at the competition. since i'd personally said that i thought poland were a dark horse to move deep into the competition and that i was expecting portugal to disappoint, i feel like today's result was a personal insult. [although i'd still argue that portugal have been disappointing, just not so disappointing that they've been knocked out of the tournament.]

on the other hand, having them around longer does give my eyes a chance to linger on an undeniably tasty morsel of man candy. meet ricardo quaresma:





a portuguese of romani descent, he was, in the early part of the century, supposed to be the yang to cristiano ronaldo's fat-headed yin, but somehow it just never came together. at thirty-two, he's now plying his trade in turkey for besiktas and this will likely be his last international tournament. if this is his last international hurrah, though, he's apparently decided to go out in form. while his crybaby captain has made a series of mack sennett-style blunders, quaresma has picked up the mess and put everything back together. portugal have only won two out of five games and in both wins, it's been quaresma who's pushed them [and the ball] over the line.

unlike the clear-eyed mr. sigurdsson above, quaresma's appeal is a little more... visceral. he caused a bit of a furor [and an hilarious series of imitations] when he posed nude on the cover of tv personality cristina ferreira's eponymous magazine. on a side note, if you've ever doubted that the world is completely fucked when it comes to evaluating bodies, take a good look at the magazine cover above. that's right. his goddamned waist has been photoshopped so that it looks smoother and flatter. look at the other, unretouched photo of him shirtless on the pitch. if that body needs photoshop, we are in deep, deep, deep trouble.

he also had people asking a lot of questions when he showed up at the euro tournament with two teardrops tattooed on the side of his face. the man clearly has an impressive collection of tattoos, but teardrops are usually a way of telling people that you killed people or have been to prison. and obviously, it would have been big news if a player at his level had been to prison.

thus far, quaresma has killed off both croatia and poland, so maybe those teardrops were prophetic. or, possibly, they just been he's sad about the fact that anticristiano can fluff a penalty kick, miss the ball in the box, throw a reporter's mic into a lake and still have the media stumbling over themselves to fawn over him, even while ricardo's the one doing the heavy lifting. but it'll still be nice to see him live to lift another day.

tomorrow sees wales' dragons take on belgium's red devils in the ultimate dungeons and dragons soccer showdown. here's hoping wales' brexit vote wasn't a hint of things to come like it was for their neighbours. 

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