Cricket world cup final FAQ

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Does it really, really hurt?
Yes.

Did you want to go up on that balcony and give everyone a hug?
Yes.

Does this one hurt more than 2015?
Tough one. Last time, we romped into the final and came up hard against Australia, and ran out of luck.

This time we scrapped and battled our way there by the skin of our teeth in the round robin and the semi-final, did the same to defend 241 runs and – this is important – didn’t actually lose. So yeah, it hurts more because we were so much closer.

So did you actually realise that the rule about the side scoring the most boundaries through the match being declared the winner after a tied super over was only brought in for this tournament, and in any other tournament the trophy would have been shared?
No, but now I am MORE ROPABLE than before.

Does cricket need to re-think how it decides drawn games?
Yes. But if we’d won, we’d have taken it to be fair.

Is comforting to lose a game like this and be admired for the way we played? Or would you rather be a dick and win?
There’s a solid argument the BLACKCAPS’ play, culture and leadership played a big part in getting us this far and to the brink of winning the lot (did I mention we didn’t lose?) today.

They were playing to win, don’t worry, but in a confident and respectful way. I’m biased, but reckon they represent some of the godzone’s very best values.

Besides, my understanding is that Australia have copyright over being dicks and winning.

Cricket wrecks your head eh?
If you can stomach a replay, watch Ben Stokes’ eyes rolling around in his head like a pokie machine in those last few overs. And Jofra Archer just about bursting into tears when he bowled that wide in the super over. Or Martin Guptil, who put his hand up to do a job most of us wouldn’t go near, after he couldn’t quite make his ground.

Was this the greatest ODI ever played?
Easily. Australia beating South Africa in 1999 was the previous mark, mainly for the mad last couple of overs, where this one had more drama than trying to find gold coins for the kids’ school sausage sizzle from start to finish.

Should we have won?
We certainly had our chances. And you won’t see a ball deflect off a bat for six runs like that for the rest of your life, probably. Right up until two balls to go in 50 over bit, I would rather be us than England. And we still tied. Augh.

Where do we go from here?
Our next match is a Test in Sri Lanka in August. Then there’s a T20 world cup in Australia next year, and some kind of world Test cricket championships in the works, which we have the potential to do very well in, we’re good at that too.

But as of tonight, we’re at the start of another world cup cycle. Not all the senior players will be back. Luckily we’re a pretty youthful team and many of them will just be coming into their peak.

Remember, we’re still in the early days of Gary Stead’s coaching, and it’s not that long ago Brendon McCullum retired and Kane took over.

It’s heartening the handover went relatively smoothly, and here we are in our second world cup final in a row. We’re in the middle of a remarkable run of consistent achievement, thanks to NZC’s succession planning and faith in local coaches. It hasn’t always been this way, as battle-scarred fans well remember – long may our golden run continue.

There’s always the rugby eh?
Sure. It won’t be as much fun though.

Should Super Overs be re-branded as Really Unsatisfying Overs?
Sign my petition.org.

Are you proud?
So, so much.

A man overseeing several unfinished DIY projects answers your cricket world cup questions

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Have the BLACKCAPS made the semi finals?
We’re all but home on 11 points and need to win against either Australia (augh!) or England to make sure, or for some weird results to go against us. Weird stuff happens though eh, you see that hole where the sink should be? Not actually my fault. I don’t see the issue with washing dishes in a bucket for three weeks, people do that on boats hey.

Who’s been the stand out player?
Kane Williamson, no doubt. Two centuries when it counts, he’s dragged the team along so far. Player of the tournament so far, NOT like Stu, Ken and Rasher who turned up for Sunday’s working bee too hungover to do anything and just ate oven chips all day. I did too to be fair, but still.

Who are the form teams?
The old firm of India and Australia have hit form at the right time. Anyone wanting to win will have to beat one or both of these teams. They’re ticking all the boxes, not like me apparently after I came home from Bunnings with a great deal on AAA batteries and four more multi boxes but not the replacement front door. Two out of three ain’t bad! Hah!

Are there any issues with the team?
Some people are calling for change at the top of the order with Colin Munro still to convince people he’s the man for the job. With Henry Nicholls sat on the sideline there’s a good argument for his inclusion, not like arguments around here, where it’s all ‘half job Harry’, ‘bone idle’ and ’emotionally unavailable’. Jeez.

Has the tournament been a success overall?
It’s been a real celebration of cricket, with big loud crowds from England’s cultural melting pot. The pitches have played their part to make a decent contest between bat and ball – heaps of NZ fans are struggling with sleep deprivation, but I’m fine in the tent, no SKY out here! By the time I’m let back in the house it’ll all be over! Winning!

Cricket World Cup bluffer’s guide

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Let’s start at the beginning – the World Cup of one day international men’s cricket begins next week in England and Wales. They play it every four years – the last one was here and in Australia, when we made the final for the first time and everyone went a bit loopy.

England is a fantastic place to hold it, ‘cos it’s the Home of Cricket. The grounds are small-ish, games usually all sell out, and the migrant population, especially from Asia, means lots of teams get virtual home crowds.

You’re going to hear a lot of chat about Big Totals. Big hitting Twenty20 cricket is still changing the game – 300 was an astonishing score back in the 80s, but now it’s considered just par. Teams are regularly going over 400 now and there’s talk 500 could be next. This is all great if you’re a batsman with your punishing slab of willow and chewing gum and that, but luckily for the guys serving it up, England has some of most bowler-friendly conditions going so we may see more of a proper contest between bat and ball. 

Because cricket goes all day, the tournaments tend take ages – it starts next week and the final’s not til 14 July. This time there are just ten teams, meaning up and coming cricket nations like Ireland have missed out just when they’re getting some momentum, which is a bit shit. Anyway, all the teams play each other once, then there are semi finals and the final, which is a much neater format than we’ve had in the past.

The favourites are England, India and Australia, with the West Indies, us and Pakistan next. Then there’s South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – here’s a selection of how they’ll go: 

New Zealand
We’re coming in much more low-key, with a new coach and captain since last time. We’ve got fantastic batsmen in Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls, but we’ll need Martin Guptill at the top and one or more of Jimmy Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme or Mitchell Santner to go really fast if we’re going to go over 400. Our bowling attack is as good as anyone’s, and should get some help from the conditions. People will call us dark horses a lot, and there’s no pressure on us – I’m biased but I like our chances, let’s see how we go.  

England
This is probably their best ever chance to win it, at home and in white hot form. They’ve learned a lot of tricks from us about playing without fear and are stacked with massive-hitting batsmen like Jonny Bairstow, Joss Buttler and Jason Roy. Their challenge will be handling the favourites tag and the never-ending stream of ex-players lining up in the press to tell them how they’re going.

Australia
They were a bit shit for a while there but, disappointingly, seem to be coming right. Old mates Steve Smith and David Warner are back from the dog house and they’ll be better for it. They’re still a really strong team but the sand-paper schmozzle has opened the door to doubt like we haven’t seen from this unpleasant lot in some time. Could win it, could crash and burn.

India 
Probably the best group of players with the best batsman in the world in Virat Kohli, at the peak of his powers, with some of the most imaginative and effective bowling attacks to call on. Like Guinness, they often don’t travel well and will be under pressure to win it. Whoever wins will have to beat them at some stage.

Follow
Get around the BLACKCAPS on Instagram and Twitter, and follow some of the players for the behind the scenes carry-on, starting with Jimmy Neesham’s Twitter.  

Watch
This one’s all SKY, who are taking every match including warm ups, you can see the times and channels here. Check in with the ICC website when the tournament’s underway for highlights. In NZ, most of these games start at around 9.30, so you can take in the first 15-20 overs, have some kip and get up early for the end. 

Spend the world cup on your phone missing the action
Cricket’s actually good for using two screens at once ‘cos there’s natural breaks in play, so make sure you install the NZC app, Cricinfothe official ICC Cricket World Cup app and Stick Cricket for any rain breaks. 

Bonus world cup content
Mark Geenty talks to Geoff Allott, who was the leading wicket taker in the 1999 world cup, the last time it was played in England [Stuff] 

Alex Braae has a crack at picking the winner [The Spinoff]

With talk of someone going over 500 at this world cup, Dylan Cleaver has the willies about our run rates lately [NZ Herald] 

A year of it – one year anniversary of the Sport Review newsletter

This content was lovingly emailed to a boatload of awesome types in Sport Review newsletter #52 – get stuff like this, and loads more every Friday morning, sign up

52 not out – thanks for being part of the first year of the Sport Review newsletter. It’s been a bloody pleasure hitting send every Friday for you.

First, massive thanks to you, dear readers for signing up. Every bugger’s after your email address these days, I appreciate you trusting me with yours. Your enthusiasm and encouragement make rolling out of bed every Friday at sparrow’s fart with the laptop and a strong coffee very much worth it.

Thanks also to this fine nation’s sport journalists, who produce world class work every week, full of depth, passion and insight while making a living in a tough business. Get around them, support their work by paying for it, sharing it and supporting crowdfunding efforts like the brilliant LockerRoom.

And thanks for putting up with my own writing – the goal of the  sportreview.net.nz blog when it started in 2004 was putting a bit of humour into the nation’s sporting discourse. You will be the final judge of course (!) but I’ve loved writing it for you and enjoyed the discipline of doing my own thing every week.

Ultimately this newsletter’s kaupapa is ‘caring about sport’ and ‘having fun’, and I hope it’s added something to your sporting week.

Sometimes sport feels like hard work with the week in week out grind, the shit posts, sports that feel more marketing machine than actual sports, while other athletes survive on oily rags. It can be harder and harder to justify spending your valuable leisure time on actually getting out and supporting your teams when the big screen TV and pistachio nuts are RIGHT HERE IN THE HOUSE!

But there’s so much to enjoy – the big tries, wickets, goals, winning trophies or losing them in enjoyably frustrating ways, and being part of a tribe and a culture. Sport catching up with society and starting to recognise female athletes properly has been huge and a real injection of enthusiasm and fresh energy. There’s a whole lot of sport happening this year with all those world cups on, I hope you have a great one. Thanks again for reading.

Sharing makes you look intelligent and cool 
A problem shared is a problem halved – I really appreciate you sharing this on your social feeds, or forwarding it to your family, friends, workmates and enemies and then badgering the crap out of them until they subscribe at sportreview.net.nz/signup.

Plans for the year ahead? More of the same. Maybe some T-shirts. Would love your feedback at richard@sportreview.net.nz, let me know what you’d like to see more of and less of. Cheers!

Top three most popular newsletters

  1. Best of 2018 – year in review
  2. Ric Sallizzo’s Instagram is New Zealand sporting Taonga
  3. All Blacks end of season questions edition

My owns favs, in no order: 

You can enjoy all the old editions again at the newsletter crypt.

The greatest ride in sport

This content was lovingly emailed to a boatload of awesome types in Sport Review newsletter #37 – get stuff like this, and loads more every Friday morning, sign up

On Monday, the cricket lover in your house was probably hopping up and down on the couch like a toddler left in charge of the supermarket sugar section, because there was Test match cricket happening. 

To the fans, it was utterly gripping. To the rest of the household, it was as perplexing as herbal tea.

To be fair, some of its concepts are pretty mystifying. At the end, Pakistan were refusing to score runs even though they needed less than ten to win, as the decent batsman tried to protect the one picked last.

These days everyone gets one day and T20 cricket, roughly. The math is straightforward – Grant Elliot needed five runs to get us in the world cup final, he hit it for six, simple. Plus you only have to put up with it for a day , tops. 

But Tests… for fans, every win represents not just the time you’ve managed to spend watching over the last five days, but a commitment to the game that builds up over a lifetime.

Frustration, rain, boredom, defeat… they’re all part of a Test cricket fan’s burden. It’s no co-incidence we usually refer to ourselves as tragics. 

Then suddenly, like a bus losing its brakes and coming right at you, a match gets close and you’re plunged into agony and hope, your heart beats in a genuinely alarming way and concerns like work, family and your reputation as a sane, functional member of society fade away.    
When your team wins a close one, fans often declare their love for the game, as well as the team. Cricket Twitter was full of ‘How great is Test cricket?’ and ‘How can you not love it?’ on Monday night. You don’t often get All Blacks fans declaring ‘I love rugby!’ at their moments of triumph. 

There’s no doubt five day cricket is an anachronism, and fans  genuinely worry it could all come crashing down one day, when the economics of putting on such a resource-hungry game for a small section of fans doesn’t work any more. 

We need to find a common language, so we can share the intense highs and lows of the format without presenting as a slacker lunatic fringe. A great Test is often compared to reading a novel, that feeling of either triumph or anguish and something you don’t want to finish coming to an end. 

White clothing, long shadows and unparalleled drama are a heady combination, team. Without wishing a lifetime of angst and lost productively on you and yours, I highly recommend giving Test cricket a go.  

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone – the stages of coping with an All Black loss

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Stage one – Hope
Happens at around 20 minutes to go. All the subs are on and we’re not pulling away. Remember to breathe. Offer positive support. If you’re unable to do so, focus on the referee and his nationality. 

Stage two – Crushed dreams
We’ve lost. The boys are walking around the park in a daze, aimlessly spraying sports drink around and doing mournful nose clearances. You’re tempted to turn on talkback and listen to  some angry people. Don’t to do that. Go to bed, toss and turn until 6am before falling into a dreamless sleep. Be aware your dreams may now be over forever. 

Stage three – Distraction
Sunday. Get the paper. Pretend to be interested in the restaurant reviews and business analysis. Sneak away and angrily read the sport section the loo. Emerge. Go for a run. Have a sneaky cry on the shared path. Stop for a McDonalds Hunger Buster and devour it at the bottom of the drive, putting the rubbish immediately in the wheelie bin. Fake a migraine for the remainder of the day.   

Stage four – Cautiously rejoining society 
Monday. Drive to your place of work. Be gracious if you encounter colleagues from the nation you’ve just lost to. Don’t punch anyone in the balls. Should discussion of the match occur, mentally retreat to your ‘happy place’ ie enjoying Argentinian steaks beside the Sheraton Denarau pool with the Barrett brothers and Graham Henry. Go home at 3.20pm.  

Stage five – The wallowing time 
Breathlessly read the opinion pieces that cram the nation’s media for the week. Bargain with the devil around this loss and the next scheduled World Cup. Assign blame to individuals. Change your mind on those individuals frequently. Consider leaving comments on Tony Veitch’s Facebook page. 

Stage six – Phoenix from the flames 
Take the family out for a late afternoon stroll around the neighbourhood. Bake some bread. Enjoy tennis on the TV. Update your LinkedIn page. Call an old friend. Avoid talking about potential goal kicking options within the match day squad, angry shouting and abruptly hanging up. Send an email of apology no later than 12 hours after ending the call.  

Stage seven – Acceptance
Prepare to watch the next weekend’s match. Responsibly enjoy three quarters of your beers before kick off. Hide sharp objects. Direct any remaining negative energy at the television commentators. Be ready to switch to rowing on Pop Up channel 8 should the game go against the All Blacks. Remember you are a  valid individual with unique gifts whose worth is not defined by sporting results outside your control. If that fails, just yell at the referee.  

Ric Salizzo’s Instagram is New Zealand sporting taonga

This content was lovingly emailed to boatload of awesome types in Sport Review newsletter #26 – join them to get stuff like this, and loads more every Friday morning, sign up

Ric Salizzo has probably done more for your enjoyment of sport than you realise. Starting as a TV reporter and All Blacks media officer, he’s produced everything from the ground breaking The Good, The Bad and The Rugby documentary from the All Blacks 1989 Wales and Ireland tour through to today’s The Crowd Goes Wild. He’s responsible for making New Zealand sport vastly more interesting, and funny, than it was before. 

And he’s posting the best bits to Instagram, including the best of SportsCafe, the midweek monster that gave the nation some of our most iconic TV moments.

It was like nothing else that came before it, and put sporting regulars like Eric Rush and Zinzan Brooke alongside Lana Coc-Kroft, Graeme Hill (fresh out of BFM), Eva the Bulgarian, Leigh Hart and Salizzo himself, bemusedly and barely holding it all together, despite the best efforts of Marc Ellis, scarfie icon and the show’s jester.  

It was wonderful TV, with sportspeople in much more relaxed conversation than the breathless pre- and post-match carry on, in times before media training etc. It also pioneered audience participation through Legends of the Lounge and National Nude Day in the pre-smartphone and internet era where people would have to mail in video cassettes. 

Anyway – Ric is posting some of the best bits to Instagram and they’re wonderful. Here’s a top five: 

George Best and Zinzan Brooke talk about trying things in matches – spanning continents, codes and generations, two  extremely gifted and singular sportsmen talk about trying the outrageous in matches, and not letting anything stop you putting on a show. 

All-in mascot brawl, with Frank Bunce – what else are mascots for, really? Just give the public what they want.

Marc Ellis boots a ball into the crowd – Ellis was MASSIVE in the 90s, moving from rugby to TV with a run of shows giving him a platform for his set-jaw comedy and fondness for taking his clothes off in public. He’d sometimes turn up drunk and push the good taste / health and safety line very hard indeed. 

That guy – Leigh Hart is a national treasure, and got his start on the show with his band and skits, adding a deeply weird layer to the sport chat that shouldn’t have worked, but really, really did.  

Lana slaps Marc – if you’d had enough of Ellis’ shit, this one was for you. Looked like it hurt, too. 

Bonus link: Zinzan rides a donkey from The Good, The Bad and The Rugby. Features the All Blacks in the late 80s holy trinity of boat shoes, knitwear and moustaches. 

Bluffer’s guide to the English Premier League

This content first appeared in Sport Review newsletter number twenty two – if you’d like to receive articles like this and much more every Friday, you can sign up here
The English Premier League (EPL) is the biggest domestic football competition in the world, and hot on the heels of the World Cup, it kicks off this weekend – here’s all you need to know.

A quick history lesson
English football has come a long way from muddy pitches, men with spiderwebs tattooed on their necks fighting on council estates and Big League Soccer on a Sunday. 1989’s Hillsborough disaster meant stadiums were made all-seater and family friendly, moving the game away from its working class roots, while Rupert Murdoch’s SKY injected plenty of TV cash when the Premier League as we know it was born in 1992.

Fast forward to 2018, and some of the best players in the world earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a week (a week!) in exotic London, Manchester and, um, Bournemouth for kicking a ball about, doing a bit of training and trying to stay out of the tabloids.

What they’re playing for 
The top of the table has has been dominated by the top London and Manchester clubs, along with Liverpool, who all want to finish in the top four to get a lucrative and sexy place in the Champions League, Europe’s top competition. Three teams get relegated at the end of the season, prompting some desperate football and woe in May, the favourites are Cardiff, Huddersfield and Watford at this stage. In between is a whole lot of mush, really.

The teams

  • Tottenham Hotspur – From the North East of London, they’ve hovered around second place for the last few years, but last won the league title in 1961. In England, ‘Spursy’ means choking, but in actual fact they are the greatest football team the world has ever seen (I support them, ahem.)
    • Star – Harry Kane, the World Cup golden boot
    • Storyline – they move into a sumptuous new stadium this year, but tight finances mean they’ve become the first EPL team to not sign a single new player in the off season, much to their fans’ annoyance
  • Manchester City – won it last year without too much trouble. Were perennially shit and a really solid laughing stock for years until they were brought by Abu Dhabi sheiks, who gave them the cash to buy pretty much any player they wanted. They’ve done pretty well since.
    • Star – take your pick
    • Storyline – can they be stopped?
  • Manchester United – dominated the 90s and 2000s thanks to the bombastic Alex Fergusson, who oversaw an admittedly fantastic series of teams. Replacing him was hard though, and they’re onto their third post-Fegie manager Jose Mourinho, who’s either a genius or an unpleasant shyster depending on where you sit
    • Star – Paul Pogba, the dynamo world cup winner
    • Storyline – pressure is on to stay in touch with deadly rivals Manchester City
  • Liverpool – dominated the 70s and 80s but have struggled to reach the same heights for some time. Charismatic German (not a typo) manager Jurgen Klopp has brought wisely in the break, and they should be there or thereabouts
    • Star – the wonderful Egyptian striker Mo Salah
    • Story – with some decent signings, they’ll be hoping this is the season they can break through
  • Chelsea and Arsenal – the other two London clubs have both had disappointing (for them) runs lately and go into the season with new leadership – the former goes through managers like rugby goes through rules changes, while Arsenal have just replaced the venerable Arsene Wenger, who’d been in charge since the late 90s
    • Stars – for Chelsea it’s Eden Hazard from the tremendous Belgian world cup run, while for Arsenal Mesut Oil is the least underwhelming
    • Story – both aiming for top four, it’s hard to see them doing much more

The kits 
None of this World Cup retro sophistication – they’re all shocking. The league’s global popularity means many of the sponsors are in Chinese characters, which is fine but makes it all look a bit Blade Runner.

Where to watch
In New Zealand, unless you’re doing something untoward with your computer, you need beIN, who partner with SKY to bring you every game, the Spanish league and more to your dish or laptop for $16.10 per month.

Where to follow 
The Premier League app has all the fixture and tables etc. I like the Guardian’s football pages, and recommend their podcast too.

Super rugby is (finally) getting interesting(ish)

This content first appeared in Sport Review newsletter number nineteen – if you’d like to receive articles like this and much more every Friday, you can sign up here

When Super Rugby arrived on the scene in 1996, it was brilliant. Colourful jerseys, mullets, cheerleaders. Even the word ‘franchise’ sounded exotic back then. 12 teams, everyone played everyone else, two semi finals and the whole thing took about three months. Fans were more interested in smoking a packet of durries before the match and going to an Exponents concert afterwards than loading up the credit card on replica jerseys at Rebel Sport.

But – no-one tinkers with a winning formula like rugby, and in 2018 we have a schedule that starts firmly in cricket season (the BLACKCAPS and England played a three Test-series during the 2018 Super Rugby season) and takes a three week break for a meaningless Test series to be played in June.

Teams from Argentina and Japan are included now, but overall, southern hemisphere rugby is going backwards faster than post-Joshua Tree U2, with former powerhouses Australia and South Africa nowhere near their 1990s form or organisational strength.

For New Zealand rugby fans, it means the same interminable local derbies week after week, with hard earned quarterfinal spots going off shore thanks to a complicated conference system that makes as much sense as those self-service machines in McDonalds.

Drivers for this mess are the desire to grow the game in new countries and the need to generate revenue, but we’re left with a competition solely geared to TV that leaves fans bloated and bored by the time it’s finished. 

It’s not *all* bad – the Chiefs and Hurricanes produced a fantastic match last Friday night, despite star players being out injured, and are set to do it again tonight. The playoffs, now they’re finally here, look tasty.

What’s the solution? For fans, I say don’t reward bad behaviour and vote with your wallet. Watch cricket in the summer, and don’t watch rugby until after the international break, when the matches start to mean something.

Let’s rip the game back from the administrators, referees and sponsors and bring back the Super 10, that ran for three seasons between 1993 and 1995. Four NZ teams, two Aussie, Three South African and a Pacific Island international team. Two round robins, one final. Simple. Let’s do this.

No future in England’s dreaming

This content first appeared in Sport Review newsletter number eighteen – if you’d like to receive articles like this and much more every Friday, you can sign up here

World cup business ends aren’t a pretty place. Minnow nations’ fans waving frantically at the camera, probably dressed as their national parrot, are replaced by people quietly weeing themselves with tension.

England, who’ve previously gone for shyster foreign coaches and superstar-ego-pandering, are young, open, funny and likeable this time around, lead by the superb Gareth Southgate, all waistcoats and earnestness.

They’d overcome the long shadows of world cups past by winning a penalty shoot out for the first time and actually having a strategy on the pitch to reach their first semi final for 28 years. That’s roughly the same length of time between Martin Crowe’s 1992 semi final heartbreaker and Grant Elliott’s Eden Park heroics.

Going ahead early yesterday morning, they were reeled in and eventually passed by Croatia, every football hipster’s favourite team, all never-say-die determination and hard Adriatic noses and elbows.

Like someone said on Twitter, it’s the hope that kills you.

This is a young England team with an exciting future ahead, but with big guns like Brazil, Germany and Spain more disappointing than a dropped ice cream, 2018 may have been their chance to win it.

It’s France’s to lose now, although underdogs Croatia have some magic about them.

Big picture, England seemed to be part of a new wave of team-first-cultures, where it’s all about the group rather than superstars, along the lines of the BLACKCAPS under Mike Hesson. It’s a modern, inclusive way to do things, diametrically opposed to say the Australian cricketers, with their sandpaper and shouting at people.

These teams are fun and rewarding to support, but are they a way to win trophies? Let’s hope the BLACKCAPS show us how it’s done at next year’s world cup.

We’re nearly there for Russia 2018 and disappointingly, life will soon be back to normal. It’s been one of the best ever, with plenty of goals, upsets and a different set of teams at the pointy end. We still haven’t solved the problems of nations South America and Europe dominating the tournament – and hard to see that changing in Qatar next time. It’ll still be fun.

Best goal – Kevin de Bruyne v Brazil. Fantastic run from Luakaku, and a stonking finish

Best fan – the guy dressed as chips

Best meme – Neymar. So good.