"Life", Lester Freamon tells McNulty in The Wire, "is what happens while you're waiting for moments that never come".
Life during the World Cup is the opposite: you know the moments are on the way, so the drama is in wondering whether they are worth the wait.
The World Cup group stages are effectively about masses of people wasting a lot of time together, and there is no more efficient waste of time than the state broadcaster providing full, live coverage of Iran vs Morocco on a Friday afternoon and using public money to send two employees to a foreign land armed with little other than a guide to Morteza Pouraliganji's recent club form.
The spectacle didn't exactly justify the investment either, for the second half of Iran/Morocco was a genuinely terrible football match.
Midway through day two is an early moment at which to feel the creeping existentialism, but when Ramin Rezaeian committed to just the nine forward rolls to kill a bit more time at the end of a game which had seemingly existed purely for that purpose, it was time to start facing that uncomfortable question: maybe I should be spending time with a loved one rather than watching Iran?
Minutes later, however, the moment came and sent the introspection cowering in the corners of our minds until at least Tunisia vs Panama. A comedy own goal gifted Iran a first World Cup win in twenty years. The sheer size of the World Cup means these games are never boring: tension addles minds, as it did for poor Aziz Bouhaddouz as he headed into his net. The stakes were on show, too: as the Iranians erupted in delirium, Herve Renard wore the look of a man who was being introduced to the twin concepts of pain and personal inadequacy for the first time.
There was much caviling online about the quality of the game, and it being the tip of a kind of iceberg of shit once the World Cup is extended to 48 teams. However, the scenes of joy on Iranian faces at a triumph to which even people from Carrick-on-Shannon were privvy is a reminder that World Cups are about anything but the optics.
(And as a country which built an entire economic policy on a tournament at which we picked a striker as a back-up goalkeeper and used a goalkeeper as a playmaker, we are in no place to moan about the quality of attacking play).
That all being said, Iran and Morocco made us wait. But in Brian Kerr, RTE have the perfect companion for The Wait.
Kerr spent the game being idly affronted by virtually all he saw, reacting like a middle-aged man might to a fella wearing no socks dancing at a wedding before his fourth drink. "Brutal"; "Rubbish technique" and comparisons to what he is used to seeing "in Sligo or Inchicore" all flowed forth during a majesterial six-minute spell at the beginning of the second half.
If the World Cup opens countries up to the culture of others, Kerr went about showing why his will never erode. "He's banjoed now" was used to describe Nordin Amrabat's concussion; "he's murdered his own team" was the description of the own-goal; "loaf" replaced head/face/forehead.
ITV viewers, by contrast, had to endure Iain Dowie for Their Wait.
After the archetypal World Cup group game, Spain and Portugal gave us the kind of head-spinning, Ronaldo-dominated classic better associated with the latter stages of the Champions League. "I just wish it was a final" panted Liam Brady afterward, accentuating just how out of place this entertainment was in a group featuring Iran. (What do we do now, now that we are happy?)
"A privilege to be here to watch it" swooned Richie from Dublin 4, nonetheless saying that "we deserved this for watching the muck earlier on". Ger Canning dropped the mic by ending it all with a "I hope you enjoyed it".
Over on the Beeb, Gary Lineker went with "simply stunning"; Shearer "staggering"; "Cristiano is Cristiano" said Cesc, plainly yet oddly profoundly.
Spain/Portugal did indeed have it all, and was prefaced by the first sign of tension on RTE. Liam Brady said that Spain were right to fire their manager on the eve of the tournament, evidently believing that a man must have a code. Richie went for nuance, accepting the Spanish FA's motivation for doing so but questioning why they would go ahead and do it with a cantankerous Liam in no mood to engage. Keith Andrews chimed in by saying that Lopetegui and Real Madrid lit the match, but the Spanish FA had gone pouring petrol.
On the Beeb, Gary Lineker wore his serious glasses to read well-timed reports in the Spanish press claiming that Ronaldo had settled a monstrous tax bill ahead of the World Cup to zero debate among Messrs Shearer, Fabregas and Ferdinand.
The game was extraordinary, and even found time for a bit of cosmic justice: the first mildly contentious VAR decision elected to award Diego Costa a goal in spite of a clear chop to Pepe's throat. Jim Beglin refused to bow to the video evidence and so too did the team of officials, heartening proof that football has finally introduced a Pepe tax.
In the end, it was Ronaldo's night, with Beglin saying that he expected CR7 (as Ger Canning actually called him) to complete a hat-trick to salvage the game for his country.
So as Ronaldo stood over that free-kick, we knew that the waiting was over and another World Cup moment had arrived. All of us, that is, except for Danny Murphy on the BBC. "He can’t go over the wall" proclaimed Danny.
He went over the wall.
A moment as predictable as death. If not Ronaldo's taxes.
- We'll have more of these George Hamilton Paper Reviews, thank you very much.
- Another endearing part of RTE's coverage tonight - Ger Canning's use of GAA vernacular. "Remember Renato Sanches from the Euros? This time he didn't even make the panel".
- Ger also rose to Jim Beglin's Trivia Challenge. When asked if he remembered the goalscorer from the Euros final, Canning not only hit him with Eder but also the assist - Joao Moutinho.
- Canning did a much better job than the BBC's Steve Wilson, who responded to Ronaldo's free-kick by melting. "Portugal's big man in the sky wears number seven and he's on the pitch". What!?
- The BBC's analysis team for the night seemed to rely on the fact that their pundits everyone. Rio spoke of visiting Ronaldo in Manchester; Fabregas of how he knows most of the Spain squad. Alan Shearer was much more refreshing on Sergio Ramos: "I've never met him, and I don't like him".
- Spain scored their first two goals from a long ball and a set-piece. Thus we must ask: has Fernando Hierro gleaned his entire managerial philosophy from playing under Sam Allardyce at Bolton?
- In 2004, Hierro played five minutes of a Premier League tie against Manchester United and one Cristiano Ronaldo. That game finished 2-2, with Gabriel Heinze, Kevin Nolan and Les Ferdinand among the goalscorers.
- This column caught thirty seconds of The Stan Collymore Show on RT earlier today. In that time, Stan broke off from an interview with Mark Bosnich to stand in front of an England flag to shout COME ON ENGLAND! I'M NOT SCARED! WHERE ARE THE RUSSIAN HOOLIGANS NOW?'
- Apres Match Rating - 2/10.
Tweets of the Day
Worst ever joke just popped into my head. Jesus fuck. Here it is:
Paul McCartney was asked "Hey Paul who do you think is going to win the World Cup?"
"I'm backing the USSR", Paul replied
— Shane Clifford (@brilliantshane) June 14, 2018
It’s not a question of whether Iran score but Khomeini
— Chris Deerin (@chrisdeerin) June 15, 2018
Watching egypt and Uruguay game and junior turns and says to James ‘Daddy why u not on tv’ 🙈🙈😂😂 still a touchy subject son
— Erin McClean (@Erineyy) June 15, 2018