Yes it’s the Rugby World Cup, and in the early hours of this morning London time, the mighty Fijians came within a point of suffering a shock defeat at the hands of plucky little USA.
USA captain Dave Hodges paid tribute to his players after coming within a kick of beating Fiji.
“No-one in the world of rugby gave us a chance, but we came out with a good game,” said Hodges, whose team lost 19-18, having spurned a chance to win.
Fly-half Mike Hercus kicked for glory after Kort Schubert’s try, but narrowly missed with the last action of the match.
“It was a good effort from all the players. We were very, very disappointed,” said Hodges.
This rugby tournament still hasn’t had a decent surprise result, having instead suffered an abundance of one sided results along the lines of Goliath 70 David 10, the most extreme of which so far has been England 84 Georgia (the one next to Russia – every name except one ending either in -dze or -vili) 10. Rugby is that sort of game. If one team is well on top the points will accumulate. Running over a line with a rugby ball in your hand and planting it down on the ground (in rugby touching down actually does mean touching down) is relatively easy. So, in rugby, upsets are rare, and it only gets really exciting when the teams are pretty evenly matched, as Fiji and USA turned out to be today, and as will be the case in the later rounds of this tournament, but has has tended not to be the case in the early round games now being played. So this Fiji USA game was very refreshing, and I eagerly await the recorded highlights of the game this evening.
In soccer, by contrast, a team can have all the possession and a string of chances, and have nothing to show for it. And then the other guys can run up the other end and score a goal with their one attack. Converting a solid chance into a soccer goal still takes some doing. Even open goals are appallingly easy to miss, as you will know if you’ve ever played this game, and when chances are missed the sturdiest shoulders can drop and underdog spirits can soar.
The Soccer World Cup not so long ago contained many upsets, with France (sensationally beaten by their own ex-colony Senegal) and Argentina, to name two famously strong and fancied teams, both going home after the first round of games. This is one of the many reasons why soccer is now the great World Game, while rugby is not. Soccer minnows can (sometimes) take great bites out of soccer sharks, so the fans of the lowliest soccer nations can still dream of fantasy results with their heroes winning.