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Day: June 24, 2006

A Stroll In The Park

Germany 2-0 Sweden Well, it couldn’t have been much easier for them, could it? True enough, Germany were more or less home and dry within about a quarter of an hour, with Poboloski showing the sort of form that had been threatening to, and Ballack marauded around the middle third of the pitch with such purpose and single-mindedness that it was difficult to not think that the Germans have spent the last couple of years preparing The Ultimate World Cup Midfield Robot. He seemed to be malfunctioning somewhat towards the end, though: shooting every time he got the ball, no matter where he was. The second half was almost bizarrely one-sided, with Germans lining up to shoot at the almost defenceless Swedish goalkeeper, Isaksson. He must have been wondering where his defence was. The Germans hit the post twice and forced him into a string of fine saves. He alone deserved more out of this match than the first flight back to Stockholm tomorrow morning. As I said before, Germany were well on their way early on – they had a helping hand to make things easier, though. Teddy Lucic had already been booked when he committed an innocuous looking foul no the half-way line. Immediately, German players surrounded the referee and started brandishing imaginary cards at the referee who, to my astonishment, decided that he agreed with them...

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Seconds Out… Round Two!

Here we go again, then. I haven’t checked my predictions from the first round, but I’m going to do this later. I don’t think I did too badly. Obviously, it gets more difficult from now on: all the drama is to be packed into just ninety minutes (okay, okay, it could be 120 – or more with penalties), but I’ll put my objective hat on, and see what I can come up with. I would strongly advise against betting on anything I say. Germany v Sweden: What has gone wrong with Sweden in this tournament? Okay, they’re unbeaten, and should really have beaten England in their last group match. That said, though, their finishing has been profligate and they can’t afford to waste a single chance against a German team which has been a complete contradiction in terms so far. The Germans were poor defensively against Costa Rica, and poor full stop for seventy minutes against Poland. They were fortunate to win that game. It’s difficult to judge their match against Ecuador, because the Ecuadorians dropped five players. Personally, I think that zer Germans are on a roll at the moment, but this could well be tighter than a lot of people seem to think. Germany, by an odd goal, in normal time. Argentina v Mexico: Argentina have been, by common consensus, the team of the tournament so far,...

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Sixteen Down, Sixteen To Go…

Well, we’re at the halfway point of Germany 2006. Half of the teams have gone now, and the other half all know that elimination could be just one game away. Four years ago, the end of the group stage meant the end of the fun. Mindful that they were particularly close to being knocked out at any stage, too many teams shut up shop and played out dreary, drab matches. The world’s perception of the tournament wasn’t helped by the persistent belief that referees were favouring South Korea – looking back at their matches against Italy and Spain (and their performance this time around), it’s easy to see how the conspiracies came about. We will certainly miss some of the teams that have failed to miss the second phase. The Koreans and Croatians took wonderful support to Germany, but their teams fell just short. By and large, though, everybody got what they deserved. Trinidad’s achievement in drawing with Sweden was extraordinary, but they did it in the worst possible way: by packing their defence and playing for the 0-0 draw. They tried the same against England, but England wore them down. Angola tried the same tactic, only with less success. Much as it’s nice wo wax lyrical about the “underdog”, and it’s pleasurable to see the bigger countries (hello England, hello Portugal) squirm, nobody wants to see matches ruined...

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TOGO TOGO TOGO (part three)

France 2-0 Togo / Switzerland 2-0 South Korea Have rumours of the France’s demise been exaggerated? Well, the media have been cruel to them this week, but it hasn’t been entirely without reason. France had been poor, going into this evening’s match against Togo, and this was borne out still further by the fact that it still took them an hour to score against one of the weakest teams in the tournament. Could the veterans turn it on one more time, albeit not quite the same level of opposition that they’ve shone so brightly against in the past? Yes, but only sort of. On the one hand, they created plenty of chances, and (more importantly), they looked as if they could be bothered. The margin of victory was by no means flattering to the French, but the point here is surely that it shouldn’t have needed to be. Togo, already eliminated from the competition and having had the most shambolic back-stage shenanigans of any team in living memory, should have been there for the taking, but as France took pot-shots at the Togolese goal, they couldn’t break them down. All of which reminds me… what exactly is the point of Franck Ribery? Apart from picking the ball up in the centre of midfield and passing the ball ten yards in one direction (not usually the most useful one), he...

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