Fifa finally honouring the basic truism that a game lasts 90 minutes | World Cup 2022


Once upon a time, there was a footballer called Brian McClair, who was renowned for many things. Unusually, he combined the early part of his career with university study, reading maths, physics, chemistry and statistics at Glasgow – though it was never clear whether it was this or his accent that caused Bryan Robson to observe that “he’s meant to be funny but none of us can understand him”. McClair is also owner of Choccy, one of football’s classic nicknames – “as his last name rhymed with the delicacy ‘chocolate éclair’,” advises Wikipedia – and earned the admiration of the great Lord Ferg for his devotion to training in shorts regardless of the weather. He was also lauded for his devastating finishing in and around the goalline. Had the Puskás Award existed in 1991-92, he would surely have won it for the beauty that can be seen at 1m20s here.

But most of all, McClair was renowned for his snot rocket prowess, inspiring playground accidents and scuffles across the British Isles. For the uninitiated, this involves pressing one nostril with a fingertip – though like the Beatles taking inspiration from Dylan then overcomplicating, Paul Ince modified the technique to deploy both – before sniffing downwards through the other, expelling its contents like Mary Poppins emptying her bag. The skill was best deployed immediately after McClair’s team had scored a goal when trailing; he would race into the net and wrestle the opposing keeper to retrieve the ball, then tuck it under an arm and perform before planting it on the centre spot so that the game could resume as quickly as possible.

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OK, now what does this have to do with the Human Rights World Cup, we hear you ask, or would if you were: a) in earshot and b) still reading. Well, this: the speed at which one can complete the above should not, Football Daily contends, impact the result of a football match. And finally, it seems that the footballing authorities agree. Over the last 159 years laws have been tweaked, binned and invented with the greatest feeling known to mankind – the celebration of a goal – compromised in order to increase the number of correct decisions from 93% to 98.9%, because who didn’t fall in love with the beautiful game because of its reliable decision-making process?

But one thing that has until now been left alone is the game’s timekeeping, its workings known only to the secret society of referees. Two first-half goals, a couple of injury stoppages and cards? Two minutes. Five second-half goals, four bookings, numerous talkings-to and relentless timewasting? Four minutes, zero explanations, less than zero accountability. For a long time, it’s been possible to leave a game without actually having seen one. Amazingly, though, in the horrendous abomination of the HR World Cup, this easily resolvable nonsense has been partially addressed. Of course, referees’ watches remain classified. But at last, the time added bears some relation to the time lost, Fifa finally honouring the basic truism that a game lasts 90 minutes. Now all it needs to do is enforce honesty, decency, propriety, probity, tolerance, fairness, equality and integrity, and we’ll really be talking.


Daniel Harris is on deck now for Uruguay 1-1 South Korea, Barry Glendenning will be your guide for Portugal 3-1 Ghana at 4pm, while Rob Smyth will be with you for Brazil 2-1 Serbia from 7pm.


“Naturality. Respect for the culture, respect for who we are. It is happiness, it is joy. Yes, it is a moment for us to be focused and serious. But there are moments when we can have fun, when we can vibrate. Everyone has their own way. Our way is dancing” – Brazil coach T1te on the importance of grooving in goal celebrations.

Neymar and Thiago Silva during training.
Neymar and Thiago Silva during training. Photograph: Amanda Perobelli/Reuters

After losing to Japan, could Germany be heading for the door marked ‘Doan’?” – Jim Hearson.

When it comes to World Cups, I thought that nothing could possibly irritate me more than those wretched vuvuzelas of South Africa. Until now. A heartfelt plea – can we please not import the stadium announcer-led, Nasa-style countdown to kick-off into the Premier League when it resumes on Boxing Day. Thank you” – Allastair McGillivray.

Song lyrics able to predict results (yesterday’s Football Daily letters)? Japan’s victory over Germany wouldn’t be a shock to fans of Alphaville, who in 1984 sang: ‘Things are easy when you’re big in Japan’” – John Myles (and others).

Send your letters to And you can always tweet Football Daily – while you can – via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Jim Hearson.

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