Day: June 21, 2006

Dutch Courage

Argentina 0-0 Holland / Ivory Coast 3-2 Serbia May I just be the first person to say… WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? As some of you may remember, in Euro 2000, Holland and France had qualified before their final match, against each other. They were amongst the favourites to win the competition, and, released from the worry of whether they’d make it through or not, they played out one of the matches of the tournament (Holland edged it 3-2), and everybody was happy. Skip forward six years, and what do we find? Argentina (suberb, albeit against a Serbia team that would struggle to get into the Premiership at present) and Holland (workmanlike against Serbia, somewhat fortunate against Ivory Coast) play out a turgid 0-0 draw – one of the worst matches of the tournament. It was if neither of them want to miss out on the bonanza of possibly playing England in the quarter-finals. Holland created more or less nothing in the first half, and only a couple of shots that even half tested Abbondanzieri, whilst Argentina weren’t much better – a couple of shots from Riquelme that flashed just wide, and a low shot that was deflected onto the post. As it was, Argentina take on Mexico in the second round (a tricker game than one might imagine, if the Mexicans show up with their “positive sombreros” on,...

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Mexican Waves

Mexico 1-2 Portugal / Angola 1-1 Iran Well, they made their fans sweat. I’ll say that much for them. Mexico came within an inch of getting themselves knocked out, in spite of being seeded and, apparently, the fourth best team in the world (before you start complaining, this is FIFA’s view, and not mine). They didn’t even manage this in a “Group Of Death”. They managed to go to the wire against Angola. Those giants of international football. Fortunately, though, Angola threw away a win against Iran thanks to some lame finishing. I’m thoroughly enjoying Mexico’s stay at the World Cup, because, in an era when everything else often appears to be becoming more and more homogenized, Mexico are inscrutably, indefatigably, defiantly mad. Well, they’re inscrutably, indefatigably, defiantly Mexican. But it’s the same difference. This is, after all, the country that gave the world tequila, chili, peyote and the sombrero. Why should we expect anything less? What is particularly great about Mexico as that they are a good team, but still an unknown quantity. Almost all of their players are domestically based, and they can play, but are singular in the way that they do it. Against Iran, they were solid, then momentarily dire, and then outstanding. Against Angola, they couldn’t for all their attacking flair, break down a team of determined under-dogs. This afternoon, they showed their best...

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Today In Germany…

Today’s matches are all about the subtleties and finer points of what the group phase will look like. This afternoon, Mexico play Portugal, and Iran play Angola. Portugal are already through, but first place is their minimum aim – the runners-up in this group are likely to be playing Argentina in the second round. So, don’t expect Portugal to put out a reserve team for this match, and don’t expect Mexico to either. If they lose and Angola can beat Iran by three goals, they’re out and the Africans are through. If Portugal were to beat Mexico by two clear goals, Angola would just need a two goal win. And so on. I can’t see Mexico massively upsetting the apple-cart here, though they’re likely to put their own supporters’ nerves through the mill on the way. Portugal should beat them (and may do it comfortably), but Angola haven’t shown any real attacking instinct so far and, although Iran have been poor in their first two matches, I’m not sure that I can see where these two or three clear goals are coming from. Tonight, it’s exhibition match time. Neither Holland nor Argentina will be over-concerned at the prospect of playing Mexico or Portugal (both of whom have looked out-of-sorts so far), and will be still less worried about any potential threat from Angola. Having said that, though, other countries...

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