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Day: June 19, 2006

Dynamoes Of Kiev

Saudi Arabia 0-4 Ukraine Dearie, dearie me. May I ask a simple question which, I feel, really needs to be asked: How? How the hell have Saudi Arabia managed to qualify for every World Cup since 1994? On the basis of this performance, it’s difficult to see how the rest of the teams from Asia that didn’t qualify could be any worse. I’m considering applying for citizenship myself. By the time the five year residency period is up, I’ll be thirty-eight but, then again, so will Sami Al-Jaber, and I wouldn’t mind betting that he’ll still be playing for them then. Of course, none of this should take anything away from the Ukraine – Rebrov and Shevchenko both got the goals that their long careers deserved, and they bossed the match so utterly that those of us who decried them as “one-man-wonders” (and I’ll hold my hands up to this myself) were left wondering what they’d been fed in the days inbetween the Spain match and this. Considering the Soviet Union’s record in terms of feeding it’s sportsmen and women, I think it probably for the best that we don’t dwell on that too much. Equally puzzling was the decision of the Saudi coach, Marcos Paqueta, to play what was either a game of Scrabble or Battleships for the entire duration of the first half. With a board placed...

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TOGO TOGO TOGO (part two)

Switzerland 2-0 Togo Ah well, we could dream, couldn’t we? A team that contrived to have it’s coach resign three days before it’s first match, only for him to be reinstated the night before. If that wasn’t enough, they then threatened to not play against the Swiss on account of the fact that they still hadn’t been paid their bonus for actually qualifying for the finals in the first place. Still, though, they had put up an almighty fight against the South Koreans in their previous match, and were far from outplayed by the Swiss. As has been pointed out elsewhere, there were no major objections when India pulled out of the 1950 World Cup because they weren’t allowed to play in bare feet. Nowadays, though, every match is live, so FIFA decided to apparently take a two-pronged approach towards dealing with the issue. On the one hand, they offered the Togolese players a payment to turn up and play, but on the other… lengthy bans were mentioned if they didn’t show. Am I the only person to think that, had this been, say, Brazil who were having a similar dispute, that there would be no mention of world-wide bans? It’s open to speculation, of course, but it there’s very little doubt in my mind that there wouldn’t be. For the record, I think they were right to protest...

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Singing Les Bleus

France 1-1 South Korea Oh dear. Poor old France. Stop sniggering at the back. Whilst it’s easy to fill oneself with schadenfreude and have a good chuckle at Le Republique’s misfortune, we should take a moment to consider their “mal chance”. After they finally, finally broke their finals duck (astonishingly, Henry’s goal against South Korea was their first World Cup finals goal since Emmanuel Petit’s against Brazil eight years ago), they had a strong shout for a penalty turned down and had a shot that was about three feet over the line not awarded as a goal. They had plenty of opportunities to put it right, though. Thierry Henry, I think, has been found out. As Ian Wright (providing his first insightful piece of analysis of the tournament – well done, Ian!) pointed out, Henry, when faced with a one-on-one against the goalkeeper, almost always shoots low and to the goalkeeper’s left. Lee, the South Korean goalkeeper, seemed to have the measure of this and saved twice in such situations. Other than that, they didn’t create much, in spite of having a lot of possession and spending most of the match camped in the Korean half, couldn’t create many chances. For the second day in a row, after Italy’s own-goal against the United States, we had a comed goal to level things up for South Korea, as Park lobbed...

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Great Expectations

Australia 0-2 Brazil Going into this match, one would have thought that Australia were the favourites to win this match. The confidence of their supporters (which ranges from a bright, sunny optimism to a vaguely niggling arrogance) was largely responsible for this, though it was also helped by Brazil’s poor performance against Croatia. Everybody watching Brazil last week was shocked by the way that they played. What most people looking at it all had forgotten, though, was that Australia were no better than the Japanese for the opening eighty minutes of their opening match, and that a large part of their win was to do with a Japan team that flagged badly in the midday heat. As it turned out, it was a little like six onf one, and half a dozen of the other. Australia played very well, and can consider themselves unfortunate not have earnt a point out of this, and for Brazil, this win, that sees them through to the second round with a game to spare, their actual level of performance raises as many questions as it answers, although it does have to be said… given the amount of hype that has surrounded them, was it ever going to be any different? Brazil bossed the first half. Defensively sound, but their lack of a cutting edge up front was clearly evident. Ronaldo’s performance was poor...

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Croatia 0-0 Japan After all the excitement of Saturday’s three frankly insane matches, we were back to something approaching drudgery as Japan took on Croatia. It’s worth congratulating Japan for bouncing back from back from what could have been a psychologically traumatising defeat by the Australians, but they still largely had their goalkeeper Kawaguchi to thank for still being in the competition (albeit only mathematically). Their extraordinary fans deserve better. Croatia remain something of an enigma. Having played excellently against Brazil and been unlucky not to have claimed a point from that match, they seemed unable to convert the praise that thet received from that game into anything positive in this one. They certainly had the better of the chances – the penalty was clearly a correct decision, and there was nothing particularly wrong with the kick from Srna, but other than that Prso was disappointing, Kovac never got fully involved in the game, and Croatia’s failure to finish of the Japanese may prove costly. They now have to beat Australia to qualify. At the end of the match, Japan seemed happier with the point, which seemed odd, considering that they now have to beat Brazil and hope that Croatia beat Argentina in order to get through to the next round. They seem to have come into this competition with lower expectations than maybe we expected. Good job, I...

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