Football Commentator & Columnist
Martin Tyler's World Cup diary: England's 'strange' defeat and meeting old friends
Last Updated: 29/06/18 10:09am
Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler reflects on England's "strange" defeat to Belgium, the culmination of the World Cup group stage and meeting old friends.
When the final whistle went in Kaliningrad and the Belgian fans burst into the Flemish version of "Will Grigg's on fire" it spelt the end of a fantastic 15 days of group competition at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
There were 48 matches in total with England the only nation to score six in a game.
The most common scoreline has been 1-0, which we have seen on 13 occasions. The last of these spelt the first defeat for Gareth Southgate's side for just over a year.
Like most observers I found it a strange occasion. We had two reserve line-ups seemingly wondering what the best outcome would be during what was a rusty first half for many of the players.
That splendid goal from Adnan Januzaj in the second half sharpened the match up but it only really added to the confusion because you will remember the issue of the winger qualifying to represent England when he emerged as a boy wonder at Manchester United. Former England boss Roy Hodgson had to field plenty of questions on the subject.
Then there was the sight of Sky Sports friend and colleague Thierry Henry leading the Belgium celebrations for the type of strike he had executed umpteen times in his own stellar career. The joy of a win over England was also written all over the face of Belgium's assistant manager Graeme Jones, who before making his way in football used to be a postman in Gateshead!
Yes, on paper it does look as though finishing second in Group H and the potential pathway from that offers a comfort blanket for losing the game. However, in this World Cup, be careful what you wish for. There are no truly outstanding teams. There are no pushovers either.
Meeting old friends on the World Cup circuit is a wonderful element of the experience. Yesterday it was Egil Olsen, the legendary manager of Norway who dipped his toe in the waters of Premier League management with Wimbledon. Egil was the opposing manager when England lost in Oslo and failed to qualify for the World Cup finals of 1994
Twenty years ago he was in charge of the Norway team which beat Brazil in the World Cup in France. He told me that a few weeks ago those players got together again for a reunion match, which in terms of attendance and live television coverage totally outstripped the audience for the Norway team of today.
But this time Norway lost, Egil lamented. The Brazilians had a couple of the younger members of that 98 squad who overran the Norwegian veterans!
Let us hope in 20 years' time England's class of 2018 will have a reunion to celebrate something special here. It is definitely a possibility despite last night's defeat and maybe even because of last night's defeat.
It is not just the marvellous Kaliningrad porridge which is giving me a warm glow as I head for Kazan but also Argentina v France and the start of the even greater thrills of death or glory football.
To be continued…