Day: June 15, 2010

World Cup 2010: Brazil 2-1 North Korea

It’s easy to disguise ignorance with mockery, and so it seems with this evening’s intriguing match between Brazil and North Korea. Before the match, ITV treats us to as many cliches about North Korea as they can fit into thirty minutes to cover up the fact that very few us know anything particularly significant about them. A quick look at the AFC qualifying rounds, however, is telling. North Korea were seeded higher in qualifying than 2002 qualifiers China or the 2007 AFC Asian Cup winners Iraq. In the final round of the tortuously long AFC qualifying competition, they knocked out Asian qualifiers Saudi Arabia as well as Iran. In contrast with North Korea, everybody knows all about Brazil. Or, at least, they know all of the cliches about them. A cursory glance at the squad that Dunga brought to the finals (and, just as significantly, those that he left behind) confirms that this is a squad that has been sculpted to win the World Cup rather than to excite the senses of the purists. How, though, will they react to a team that they know almost nothing about? How do you prepare for such a match? Those predicting a record-breaking score for Brazil this evening are missing a trick. The value of Brazil’s stock could go down as well as up with this particular match, against opposition about whom...

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The Decline & Fall Of The European Empire?

We are now five days into the 2010 World Cup finals and already several key themes are being discussed ad infinitum. The weight of the balls being used and the influence of the vuvuzelas have already been discussed in the media to the point of saturation in the media (none of which is to say that we won’t return to these particular themes over the next couple of days or so), as have the paucity of goals seen so far. What seems to be becoming one recurring theme so far during the 2010 World Cup is a degree of under-achievement on the part of the qualifiers from the UEFA confederation. It hardly needs to be pointed out that these are early days yet in this tournament. However, over the five days since the start of it, the European teams that have played against non-European teams have been marked out by a conspicuous lack of success. It began on Friday evening with France scrabbling a draw from a desperate match against an equally mediocre-looking Uruguay side, continued with England’s draw against the USA and Greece’s defeat at the hands of a lively looking South Korea team on Saturday, and on through yesterday and today with further failures on the parts of Serbia, Italy, Slovakia and Portugal. The only wins against non-European teams for UEFA members so far have come for...

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World Cup 2010: Ivory Coast 0-0 Portugal

If this World Cup has yet to really catch, there were high hopes beforehand that these two teams would provide the first really absorbing contest – both are packed with undoubted talent, and are probably battling for a single qualification sport behind Brazil. But with hindsight, this last factor was the critical one and ought to have made us realise that we’d be in for yet another game defined principally by caution. This game always looked likely to be the crunch one for both teams, and if it had come last it might have been a humdinger. Coming first, neither team was willing to take much in the way of risks, apparently happy to leave it to see who could nick a result off Brazil or else rack up the better goal difference against North Korea.

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World Cup 2010: New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia

Having given the television coverage a review/kicking over the weekend, it’s time to take a look at the radio coverage of this World Cup. Ian Dennis is our host, and Jacqui Oatley and Graham Taylor are our commentary team for the opening stages, with Dennis taking over. Oatley is one of three prominent ladies at the World Cup, alongside Gabby Logan, and ITV’s Kelly Cates. Logan and Cates are more high profile, but considering most of the games that we’ve had so far, Oatley has considerably the toughest job of the three. It’s easy to report from the England camp, it’s interesting to go round the country and see how the fans are experiencing, but commentating on the standard of football we’ve had so is a challenge for the most experienced of commentators. This is the most important position a woman’s going to get until we get female officials at the World Cup. The best Britain has to offer as an official is Amy Fearn (nee Rayner), who initially seemed to be fast- tracked, and has now seemingly hit a glass ceiling – having seen her referee and run the line in recent seasons, that can be the only reason that she is not refereeing in the Football League on a regular basis. The highest a woman has reached is Nelly Viennot, a Frenchwoman, who was a UEFA assistant...

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World Cup 2010: Italy 1-1 Paraguay

At last, a proper football match, if still not a particularly good one until the last half-hour. Maybe it was the rain. Or maybe just Mick McCarthy’s obvious relish of the prospect of some “proper” defending.  “I’m not expecting a wide-open, flowing game of football,” he said, twice, in both hope and expectation. Alan Hansen was of the same mind. The first words I heard of the preview were his “I’d love it if it was 5-4.” Even Clarence Seedorf, not necessarily brought up in the ways of Scottish sarcasm, knew that was b*****s. McCarthy got his wish early on. The start to this one was as boring as most other games so far. But this one was more down to good organisation at the back rather than timidity and incompetence. McCarthy had Paraguay’s formation down as 8-0-2. And there were a few tasty tackles early on, all of which were sly enough to be visible on ultra-slow motion replays. Until this tournament, these have been predominantly used to record ugly players’ uglier facial expressions, especially after conceding a goal. Now, every tackle looks like an ankle-breaker. Jonathan Pearce said “what must Tim Cahill think?” about 29 times. And there were plenty of tackles more worthy of sanction than the one which saw Cahill depart the Germany/Australia game. And Pearce became about the 29th person today to tell us...

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