Letter from the Sports Editor: The World Cup is the greatest football tournament of them all


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It is often said in the circles in which I move – which are largely football-shaped circles given that I’m sports editor – that the behemoth of the European club game, the Champions League, is a better tournament than the World Cup. That the standard is higher, that it matters more. Well, events in Brazil over the past week can only have put the boot into that argument.

The home of the jogo bonito (the beautiful game) has given us a joyful first seven days of the World Cup with games full of exciting, attacking football, incident, goals (OK, apart from Brazil’s second game; who would have thought they’d let us down on that front?) and a spattering of controversy and naughtiness.

Of course, it shouldn’t be forgotten that there is plenty of opposition to the World Cup in Brazil, a country badly in need of increased investment in social services rather than shinier stadiums. And rightly so. But that is a political debate for another day.

But on the field, and in the stands, it has been a festival of fun, colour and variety. The daily agenda for our sports pages is set not by Jose Mourinho’s latest rant; the games come so thick and fast that it’s fewer spoken words, arguments, insults - and more action, analysis, tactics. Not even England have managed to ruin it – for once not being involved in the tournament’s most turgid torpid game (that honour so far goes to Nigeria and v Iran) and actually playing a front-foot, exciting (if not potentially World Cup-winning) brand of football which that they intend to continue tonight against Uruguay.

Who could have seen Colombia’s wonderful team dancing celebration after their first goal against Greece and not broken into a smile, or not have been happy for the American John Brooks when he scored the winner against Ghana and looked like he couldn’t believe he had?

It is the only watercooler topic of conversation - “Did you see Van Persie’s header last night?”-  and evokes memories of the London Olympics and the joy it spread around the country. The Champions League is good, but it’s not that good. Keep enjoying!