Graeme Souness admits that you "can't get too carried away" with England at the World Cup thus far, although....
I think that they have a really good chance of winning it. It’s very hard to pick a winner. I would never, ever write off Germany: but they’ve come unstuck. That’s why England have a very good chance.
You have to accept they haven’t been playing the strongest opposition, but they have been as impressive as anybody.
Souness was in Dublin to speak at the launch of TV3's autumn schedule, a sharp reminder that these heady days of heat as unrelenting as the football are limited. While Souness will be back on TV3's extended Champions League coverage next season, safe to say he is enjoying his watching brief of the World Cup thus far.
I think it’s been fabulous. Normally, World Cups are slow burners. But aside from some of the first round games which were dull - people don’t want to lose their first games, so that’s understandable - I think that the second and third games have been fabulous.
I think it’s been a really, really good one.
Souness isn't one for separating England from the rest of the teams of the tournament, admitting that while the hype surrounding the team is premature, "you could say that about everybody". There is something exceptional, about them, however.
For the first time in my life, I can never remember the nation being so behind them, in terms of the press, everybody is behind them. That’s admirable, as an old pro, that’s great to see.
What the press have done so far is something I’ve never witnessed: they have been really, really supportive.
Some other disparate World Cup thoughts. Your intrepid correspondent raised the figure of Neymar, figuring that Souness may not be entirely won over by the Brazilian.
No, no, I think he’s yet to come alive. I think you’ve got to cut him some slack because he’s coming back from an injury. For them to win the World Cup, he has to get going and get going quickly.
I’ve said it to my 18 year-old boy. I’ve been saying it to them for the last seven or eight years. We’ve had two of the greatest players that have ever kicked a ball in the last decade, in Messi and Ronaldo. We should enjoy them because they’ll be gone very soon and there’s no heir to that throne. People talk about Neymar being heir to that throne.
I don’t see that.
I’ve not seen it. I’ve seen it in glimpses but not in the consistent way both those two, Ronaldo and Messi, have shown us. I think he has it all to do to take over that mantle.
It’s everything: Athleticism; their attitude to disappointment, how they deal with that; how they deal with getting physically abused because they’ve had that all their careers and they deal with it.
That’s why there are big question marks over Neymar if he thinks he’s going to take that mantle over.
He is, however, a VAR fan, chiding the behaviour of the Iranian players over the awarding of their exceptionally soft penalty against Portugal. The International Football Association Board have since admitted that the referee made a mistake in awarding the penalty, and Souness blamed the zealous retorts of the Iranian players. "The shenanigans that we got from the Iranians, calling everything....that’s just a poor group of players being allowed to act like that, poor discipline. Limited ability, up against it, calling for everything. Poor. I think the easiest way to stamp that out is just to give one of them a red card. Can’t have that".
While those arguing for VAR are mostly crusading for (more) justice, Souness is merely enjoying the drama.
I’m loving it! I think any way you look at football, it’s an entertainment business and it has become more and more like that over the since the start of the Premier League. I think if you’re sitting there with a pint and a bowl of peanuts and it goes to VAR, the pint goes on the table, you stop eating the peanuts and you’re engrossed for that 30 seconds, one minute, 45 seconds.
During this potted journey through Graeme Souness' World Cup experience, we briefly touched on Diego Maradona's, er, enthusiasm during Argentina/Nigeria.
One word: Embarrassing. He’s obviously not well. I just think it’s embarrassing and he’s obviously an unwell man.
Souness will return to Irish television in the autumn, having been first introduced to us as a pundit for RTE's coverage of the 2006 World Cup. He's on TV3 now, but it's safe to say he hasn't forgotten being told that he had "jumped over the fence, baby" by Eamon Dunphy.
He is fantastic. He’s challenging; he keeps you on your toes. You never know when that hand grenade is coming across the table to you but I enjoyed every minute of it. He’s a dear friend. You know the hand grenade is coming, you just don’t know when it’s coming. He’s played the game, he’s been around it. He knows the game.
Graeme Souness was speaking at the announcement of TV3's autumn schedule.