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Why are all the matches in the tournament that I have to cover for Twohundredpercent on ITV? It’s not that the BBC coverage appears to be any better – indeed, it appears that yesterday’s Match of the Day highlights package neglected to show any footage from South Korea’s win over Greece, which is fairly appalling – but I am a snob. Actually, it’s frankly preposterous the amount of pre-game build-up and half-time punditry that I’m watching in this tournament, considering the cataclysmic effect it has on my sanity, ITV or otherwise.
It could well be that a lot of the anger aimed at blanket coverage of sporting events by non-fans actually stems from the interminable periods of sports talk, rather than the events themselves. Experts is experts, and some of them have some excellent points to make. However, not only do I not care what Andy Townsend, Gareth Southgate or Alan Hansen’s prediction for the coming match is, it is also of absolutely no real consequence. We live in a rolling news channel world where we’ve become so accustomed to such endless chatter about what might happen that the things actually taking place can seem like a footnote.
With this in mind, I’m sure any of you who have sympathy with my opinions here will be delighted to know I have absolutely no idea about Serbia or Ghana’s chances for today’s game. I don’t know who they’ll field – beyond the fact that Ghana’s talismanic midfielder Michael Essien is injured – how they’ll play or who should win. And I’ve got to say, it’s rather refreshing. Join me here again at 2:58 p.m this afternoon for a live blogcast. We interrupt this programme to go over to South Africa, where a football match has broken out between Serbia and Ghana.
15:02 They are away and giving it plenty. Serbia have been shaky prior to the tournament and Ghana look like they mean business with two meaningful attacks in as many minutes.
15:04 Asamoah Gyan fires a direct free kick into the traditional spot for this summer’s tournament so far, half-way up the stand. This seems to wake Serbia up a bit, and they start exploring their attacking options on either flank.
15:06 Our first real sight of Serbia’s Zigic, 6’8″ tall and lurking around in the final third exuding the peculiar lack of menace that footballers that tall all seem to possess.
15:09 There’s already been as much positive play in this match than in the entire of the Slovenia-Algeria encounter at lunchtime. Ghana have had the best of it, but Serbia look to have more than good enough to keep anyone in their group honest.
15:11 Ghana’s first corner is greeted with a huge volley of vuvuzela, the biggest I’ve heard since the hosts kicked off the finals, which only relents when the delivery overshoots the box by some way. It’s a reminder of the importance of the tournament to Africa, despite the huge geographical distance between some of the continent’s competitors.
15:14 Another solid Ghanaian combination leads to another corner, which bobbles menacingly around the area. When the ball finally breaks for Gyan, a last ditch intervention by Zigic is needed… although his attempt could just have easily ended up in his own goal.
15:17 Ghana are throwing everything at this, looking for a swift breakthrough. I have a feeling that they risk stretching themselves too far and being hit on the break. Currently being hit is Ghana’s Andre Ayew, crunched down by, yes, that man Zigic again: nominally a striker but currently doing most of the defending for Serbia as well. He become the first man in the referee’s book for his trouble.
15:21 Big chance for Ghana: Kevin Prince-Boateng’s left wing cross just edges past the forehead of Asamoah Gyan with just Stojkovic to beat in the Serbian goal. The keeper gratefully snatches up the loose ball.
15:24 Injury to Gyan, landing awkwardly after a challenge by Ivanovic. The bench look concerned, but to be honest they did beforehand anyway.
15:26 It’s all about Zigic today. His fellow number 15 Vorsah clatters through him and goes into the book. From the resulting free kick, a clever cross-field pass nearly sees Pantelic clear in space on the right of the area but it overshoots him. Gyan is back on the field, but hobbling.
15:28 It must be his height making him a target, but Zigic earns Serbia another free kick in a good position after tangling with Vorsah and Annan. Defender Kolarov keeps the ball down but this time it goes wide. Serbia’s repertoire of set pieces looks far too good for Ghana to risk letting their discipline go. This match is finely balanced.
15:29 The first shot on goal is a tame affair, Pantelic driving into the right-hand side-netting from 18 yards.
15:34 Somehow Ghana have the busiest goalkeeper, in spite of them doing all the meaningful attacking work. This is quite an achievement on their part. Raddy Antic in the dugout continues to look concerned though, possibly watching out for David Pleat in a three-piece suit and slip-on shoes.
15:37 The Ghanaian supporters seem to have explored the sonic capabilites of the vuvuzela more than any of their rivals, a pulsing swell of sound – one you would normally associate with a cloud of angry cartoon bees chasing someone down the road – accompanies every new break down the flanks.
15:39 A fairly tame shot by Dejan Stankovic briefly gives Richard Kingson in the Ghanaian goal the fear, bibbling up on him and requiring a second attempt to bring it under control.
15:46 HALF TIME: Serbia 0-0 Ghana An entertaining half with a surprising paucity of actual shots on target given the attacking ambitions of both sides. Ghana have been by far the strongest, but Serbia look like a side capable of breaking some hearts if the Black Stars lose sight of their defensive oranisation in the search for a goal.
16:01 Yes, it’s more football, the football will never stop, Ghana kick off the second half. Radomir Antic looks like Robert Mitchum and Tom Cruise had a baby.
16:04 Asamoah plays Gyan through and it’s two-on-two. Unfortunately Gyan’s attempted return ball lands in Sweden.
16:05 I’m still not sure about this new Serbia kit. I understand why they have done it, making a break with a turbulent history tied to the rest of Yugoslavia as they step out in their own right for the first time, and the like. However, the overall effect just looks like Chile have picked a team of computer programmers.
16:07 There’s a Ghanaian band wandering around the perimeter of the field, parping and honking as they go. They also have a drum. But sadly, no-one on a Korg, or vibes. Or a keytar!
16:10 Prince Tagoe chucks in a floater from the right side, but Andre Ayew’s header fails to make the goalkeeper work and goes wide of the right post. Ghana are beginning to look like they’re on top of this, with Tagoe in particular doing some good work.
16:12 Andre Ayew is making the ballboys earn their crust today, this time he blazes a shot high and to the left.
16:14 A man sat in the Serbia dugout is wearing the shirt Argentina wore to whup Serbia and Montenegro’s sorry asses up and down Gelsenkirchen in their opening game of the last World Cup. An odd choice of attire. Still, Serbia go on to their best attack of the second half, Zigic pickpocketed just before he pulls the trigger by Vorsah.
16:17 Ghana are all over Serbia now. Asamoah Gyan hits the outside of the left post with a header direct from John Pantsil’s long throw.
16:19 Substitution in midfield for Serbia: Kuzmanovic on for Wolves’ Nenad Milijas.
16:23 Ever wondered why seaside gift shops don’t sell those joke oversized sunglasses any more? I think it’s because the entire stock have been snapped up by Ghanaian football supporters. They are a pretty impressive sight to behold.
16:25 Zigic totally Peter Crouches a header over from Stankovic’s cross. He is immediately replaced by the somewhat less tall Danko Lazovic.
16:28 Ghana captain Mensah knocks Lazovic’s cross out for a corner usin onl his face, which temporarily sends him packing. Ghana make their first change, Stephen Appiah on for Asamoah. This proves enormously popular with the vuvuzelas: Appiah is one of Africa’s most famous and respected footballers.
16:30 RED CARD Lukovic yanks Gyan’s arm to prevent his flight and earns a second yellow card for his trouble. That was fairly daft. Serbia immediately make a change, centre half Subotic replacing midfielder Jovanovic.
16:35 The best chance of the game, and it comes Serbia’s way. Excellent left wing work sees Pantelic played in from the byline. He squares it for Krasic, but his shot is too close to Kingson in the Ghana goal. From the ensuing corner, Nemanja Vidic heads narrowly over. Ten men or not, this game could still go either way.
16:39 Had Serbia got someone sent off sooner, they could be ahead: they’re having their best spell of the game.
16:40 PENALTY KICK That’s the end of that. Kuzmanovic decides to handle a left wing cross in the box for reasons best known to himself. He’s in the book, and his team look like they’ve blown it.
16:41 GOAL Serbia 0-1 Ghana Asamoah Gyan sends Stojkovic the wrong way to open Ghana’s account and promptly runs around the stadium to celebrate with every single Ghanaian he can find.
16:44 Kuzmanovic blasts a long-range shot over. He is looking particularly distressed at his role in Serbia’s downfall. His face is akin to that of Ian Curtis trying to pass an electric eel.
16:45 Prince Tagoe took a shot and all he got was this lousy yellow card: the winger breaks clear and just fires wide, not spotting he’d already been called offside. The referee, whose pocket is getting into the swing of this now, does his duty.
16:47 Defender Lee Addy is on for Kevin Prince-Boateng, as Ghana try to shut up shop.
16:48 Asamoah Gyan hits a shot across the keeper but sees it bounce back off the left-hand post. Unlucky, and his last move of the game – he’s off for Quincy Owusu-Abeyie.
16:50 FULL TIME: Serbia 0-1 Ghana That’s that. An entertaining game and a deserved win for Ghana. However, even with ten men, Serbia had their chances, and Ghana will need to make more of their attacking possession to make sure of the result in future games. As it was, Serbia rather handed this one to the Black Stars on a plate. However, they never really looked like they could get the better of their opponents, and will need to improve a lot in order to advance through a tough-looking group.
Our thanks to Historical Football Kits for allowing us to use their images in this report.
I notice that ITV have stopped giving the teams before kick off.