Even Disney would have rejected the Uruguay-England story as too hackneyed. The Premier League’s best player, much maligned everywhere but at home, miraculously recovers from injury and scores two gorgeous goals to down a squad containing five of his teammates. He then cries tears of joy before a Sao Paulo stadium full of his gleeful countrymen in the closest World Cup match played to their native land since their upset victory over Brazil in the 1950 Maracana final.
Let’s take a look at how the English and Uruguayan press covered this gripping game.
Newspapers, especially tabloids, still have the power to inspire awe with a beautifully designed page. Uruguay’s El Pais wins the front page of the day with this stunning full-page Luis Suarez close-up accompanied by a veritable poem – “Volvio, y Mato.” Romance Languages are more operatic and so it loses something in the translation, but “He Returned, and He Killed” still succinctly sums up the match.
La Republica trolls every bulldog-owning, Churchill-quoting, banger-scarfing English royalist with its “God Save the King” headline accompanied by Suarez adorned with the royal crown.
If there were a movie of the match then La Diara’s front page would be the best poster. Such is the heady mix of intimidation, glory, and hope in this black-and-white photo accompanied by simply the word “Monster.” What is meant by that? Like all great works of art it’s for us to decide. Struggling American newspapers could learn immensely from La Diaria. From its modern masthead to its bold layout it trumps the stodgy design of every paper here.
In England the Guardian is known for having an intellectual and thoughtful bent. Its eccentric and entertaining over-by-over cricket coverage and minute-by-minute soccer reports are pioneers in the genre. Its been home to titanic talents such as Arthur Hopcraft (“The Football Man”), Jonathan Wilson (“Inverting the Pyramid”), Frank Keating (“Another Bloody Day in Paradise!”), and Andy Bull (the best OBO writer). So it’s a letdown to see their headline lamely play on Suarez’ biting incident. Unless “All Bite on the Night” is a reference to the British blooper show “It’ll be Alright on the Night,” in which case it’s a perfect summation of England’s defending.
The Times forgoes a headline in favor of a picture of two St. George’s Cross-painted fans conveying, well, what exactly? It’s well and good to lead with a picture, but it needs to be extraordinary to stand out in an age when we are flooded with images.
The Independent makes a sly reference to England’s Euro ’96 anthem by asking if the Three Lions are “Coming Home.” The Independent boasts another striking front page layout that American papers would be wise to copy.
The Daily Star appealed to Rio’s Christ the Redeemer for a miracle and splashed a sobering shot of stunned English fans in the pub on its front page. I’ll take the Star’s motto of “The News, The Goss, The Pics , The Sport,” over the New York Times’ “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”
The Sun is often disparaged for its politics and sensationalism. And often rightly so. But in the specific context of sports coverage perhaps American newspapers wouldn’t have lost so many readers to blogs and independent websites if they had emulated an irreverent tabloid style rather than ape the New York Times’ staid and removed approach. In the aftermath of England-Uruguay The Sun squeezed enough onto its front page to fill a graphic novel. Insets of a jubilant Suarez, a frustrated Rooney, and a forlorn Hodgson support a touching shot of Wayne’s wife Coleen with their crying son Kai. And while The Sun is often coarse, never underestimate its cleverness as it ran with a double entendre headline of “We’re Through.” Unfortunately, after Italy’s desultory loss to Costa Rica, the phrase now only has one meaning.