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Day: June 14, 2006

Poles Apart

Germany 1-0 Poland I suppose it was hardly surprising that it took Gary Lineker barely three minutes to describe “a Polish invasion of Dortmund tonight”, but it didn’t make it any less tiresome. Commentator Steve Wilson managed to top even that, mentioning both not mentioning the war and Basil Fawlty in his opening sentence. In recent weeks, I have watched the whole of the 1966 World Cup final, and “Goal!”, the official film of that tournament. The most notable thing about it is the complete absence of any mention of the war at all, all the more surprising because, at the time, it was in the living memory of considerably more people than it is now. Why it’s so difficult for the media to do it now is, frankly, beyond me. But anyway – there was a football match going on tonight, rather than a World War II re-enactment. Considering they’d lost their opening match to an average, if efficient, Ecuador team, Poland displayed a startling lack of ambition this evening. They played as if they would be more than happy with a point tonight – a stay of execution rather than any significant progress. For much of the first half, they made a pretty good job of it. Germany were tighter defensively, but lacked imagination going forward. Michael Ballack’s return was welcome, but even he was below-par, sending...

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Sheikh, Rattle & Roll

Saudi Arabia 2-2 Tunisia Earlier this afternoon, we were treated to the upper end of world football. A team playing at the top of it’s game, full of confidence and, for the first time on recent years, self-belief. The other match in the group, between Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, was closer to the Nationwide Conference than it was to the Premiership, but it was no less entertaining for it. The thrashing dished out to Ukraine this afternoon had filled both of these teams with optimism. They were, suddenly and unexpectedly, both in with an unexpected chance of getting through the group stages. The margin of defeat that Ukraine suffered meant that, if either of these teams won, they would have an excellent chance of getting through. As it turned out, though, a draw did neither of them any favours. The first half was a lot of huff, a lot of puff, and not a lot of inspiration. The one moment of excellence came from Jaziri, who volleyed in from a corner. Otherwise, not a lot to report. At half-time, though, they must have put something in the tea. Noor missed a chance that may have been easier to score, but evened it up by levelling it. As commentator Jon Champion was describing the lavish riches that surround his life, the Saudi legend Sami Al-Jaber (who’d come on a minute...

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Sangria & Sangria

Spain 4-0 Ukraine Spain. The perennial under-achievers. For years and years, they have flattered to decieve. Often packed with as many start players as the other top nations, they alone have been consistent in their inability to get to grips with the concept of international football tournaments. True enough, they reached the 1984 European Championship final (where a hideous mistake by goalkeeper Luis Arconada helped them to defeat against Spain), but consider this: since then, England, France, Italy, Sweden, Bulgaria, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Turkey & Croatia have all made at least the semi-finals of the World Cup. It throws Spain’s lack of success into sharp focus. In the run-up to the tournament, the big question was this: would Aragones have the cojones to drop Raul? It turns out that he did, and the gamble paid off. The forward pairing of Garcia & Villa ran the Ukrainian defence ragged, and the extra bonus was that when Raul did come on in the second half, he put in his best performance in a Spanish shirt for a long time. Most encouraging of all (and not just because he’s in my Fantasy World Cup team) was an encouraging debut made by Puyol. The defender became more courageous as the game went on, coming forward and eventually laying on the pass for the fourth goal. It’s not difficult to feel sorry for Ukraine....

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Okay – I’m pissing around with Youtube at the moment, because I thought of this and decided that you can never really see it too many times. Johann Cruyff, against Sweden in 1974. More to...

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A Few Things Before I Go To Bed:

First of all, here’s a picture of Ronaldo binge-eating Bratwurst in a futile attempt to come to terms with the fact that he is now officially rubbish at football. It was made for me by my friend Gaz. I’ll ask him to make some more, but whether he will or not is open to debate. I hope he does, because they’re really rather splendid. Also, it has been drawn to my attention that FIFA appear to have sanctioned the use of some sort of “Gay Anthems” CD. At half-time during South Korea-Togo, the teams came back out while “Go West” was playing over the tannoy system. Then tonight, during Brazil-Croatia, it was “I Will Survive”. I look forward to David Beckham lifting the trophy of July 9th to the strains of “Jolene”. Finally, I (and a couple of others) are semi-demi-considering expanding this theme and doing a full-on blog-cum-site after all of this World Cup nonsense is over. My email address is in my profile, should you be interested in helping out in any way. The same goes for suggestions and so on, obviously. Ah – there was one other thing. There’s a little map in the footer of this page now, which is a hit counter that shows how many people are looking at this place, and where they come from. It’s very clever, even if I say...

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