FIFA World Cup

Fifa World Cup: Ronaldo and Portugal to face disrupted Spain in Iberian derby

The 2010 champions have had an extraordinary turnaround in fortunes after coach Julen Lopetegui as coach.

Spain captain Sergio Ramos and new coach Fernando Hierro displayed a united front as they looked ahead to Friday’s World Cup opener against Cristiano Ronaldo’s European champions Portugal following an extraordinary 48 hours.

Hierro and Ramos posed together, smiling for the cameras, at a press conference inside the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, the venue for the Group B clash between the Iberian neighbours.

Coming into this World Cup, Spain had been seen as one of the outstanding favourites to lift the trophy in Russia after a two-year unbeaten run under Julen Lopetegui.

But Wednesday’s sensational decision by the Spanish Football Federation to sack Lopetegui, in response to the announcement he would take over at Real Madrid after the tournament, has threatened to derail their chances.

Suddenly Hierro – a great former Real and Spain defender but a man with little coaching experience – finds himself in charge of a side eager to show they can still go all the way on Russian soil. “There is nobody better than Fernando. He was a great player and has known us for a long time,” said Ramos, the Spain captain.

There had been fears that the announcement of Lopetegui’s appointment by Real could open up old divisions between the Madrid and Barcelona factions in the Spain squad.

But Ramos showed an eagerness to move on and focus on the competition, while insisting that this week’s events had not upset any relationships. “There are no cracks. We are all individuals and we all think differently, but the collective idea is the same – we are here to go for the World Cup,” said Ramos.

“This is special, it is my first World Cup as captain. In football you learn above all during the bad times. What has happened has united us.”

There were plenty of smiles and embraces between the players as they trained on the pitch in the stunning Sochi stadium, situated a stone’s throw from the beach and the Black Sea. At the same time almost 5,000 kilometres away, Lopetegui was being unveiled as the new Madrid coach.

He described the day he was sacked as “the saddest day of my life since the death of my mother”, and the 51-year-old former goalkeeper will surely find it difficult to watch Friday’s match.

Meanwhile Hierro, whose previous experience as a coach amounts to a season in the Spanish second tier with Oviedo, admitted he will not be making sweeping changes. “We are absolutely fine coming into this game. We know quite clearly what we want. We respect the champions but we have full confidence in the boys and what they have done in these last two years,” said Hierro.

Ronaldo’s last chance?

Image credit: Reuters
Image credit: Reuters

Spain will be coming up against a Portuguese side who have come to Russia as the defending European champions, with Ronaldo knowing this is surely his last shot at winning the World Cup.

Both teams are expected to come through a group also containing Morocco and Iran, but Friday’s game could have a major impact in determining who finishes top.

Ronaldo, meanwhile, is hoping to improve his record in front of goal on this stage – he has scored only three times in three World Cups. “I prefer to have him on our side. We know how important he is, he is a constant danger,” admitted Ramos of his Real Madrid colleague.

While Spain have a doubt over who will start at right-back with Dani Carvajal still struggling for full fitness, Portugal coach Fernando Santos has no injury worries.

He appeared confident of delivering a first victory for his country over Spain at a major tournament since Euro 2004. “This is a ‘Classico’”, said Santos. “We are two countries who have a lot in common, not least the fact we share a border. We are neighbours, but also teams with great quality. We don’t want to be arrogant but we are full of hope.”

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.