Author: Ian

The Perfect Result

Trinidad & Tobago 0-0 Sweden From a jingoistically English perspective, we couldn’t have asked for much more than this. Trinidad have lost a man for a game. Sweden have now got something of a mountain to climb, and could be out by the time they play England next Saturday. And, as per the post below this one, England now only need a win on Tuesday night to secure their passage into the knock-out stages. It was, of course, a fantastic result for Trinidad & Tobago. Sweden didn’t play well, and missed far too many chances to suggest that they are going to make the sort of major impact on these finals that many people seem to think they will. Trinidad were defensively well-organised, though they did rely on profligate finishing from the Swedes and a once in a lifetime performace from Shaka Hislop, who only started because regular first choice Kelvin Jack injured himself in the warm-up. Trinidad did, of course, break away a couple of times and contrived to hit the crossbar, but for them to have snatched a win would have been utterly unfair on a clearly superior Swedish side. Sweden have learnt a lesson, and they’ve learnt it the hard way: you can’t waste a dozen chances and expect to win at this level of football. Not even against the tournament’s rank outsiders. They need to...

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The Heat Of The Moment

England 1-0 Paraguay Keep repeating the mantra: “it’s the result that counts, it’s the result that counts”. Time, I think, for a little perspective. Reading a few various blogs, messageboards and sites this morning, one would think that Paraguay had won 3-0, and that England should be packing their bags and withdrawing from their last two matches on the basis of “not being good enough to be there”. We should remind ourselves of several things before we join in with the criticism. Firstly, for all that it might sound like a cliche, the result is what counts at this stage in the tournament. England can now go into their match against Trinidad & Tobago knowing that a win is enough to send them through with a game to spare. I don’t think they were helped by scoring so early on. Extra reserves of energy can usually be summoned forth if there are twenty minutes to play and there’s no score. But would we rather have them 1-0 and not paying particularly well with twenty minutes to go, or level at 0-0 and playing well? I’ll take the former, thank you very much – sometimes, we’re almost masochistic on our self-loathing. Otherwise, for all that England failed to inspire yesterday, at no point in the second half did Paraguay so much as look like scoring. You could argue perfectly validly...

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Pole-axed

Ecuador 2-0 Poland This was an important match. These two teams were, according to the pre-tournament hype, giong to be battling it out for second place, so neither could afford to fall three points behind the other with only two matches left to rectify the damage. Before the action even started, though, there were other things to consider. The Ecuador flag deserves a special mention. It was everywhere. It is horizontal stripes in yellow, blue and red, but the dimensions of it exactly match someone wearing yellow shirts, blue shorts and red socks, so, from the television camera angle, it looked as if Poland were playing eleven flags. Their goalkeeper, Mora, even had it painted on his cheeks. Expect sales of white and red “Snazaroo” face paint to sky-rocket over the next couple of weeks. The badge in the middle of it also warrants attention – it appears to be a scene from “Seven Days In Tibet”, with a boat on a river overlooked by a mountain. The whole thing is topped off with a giant, angry eagle. Well, I say giant… it’s bigger than the mountain underneath it. Ecuador looked organised and workmanlike. The Poles looked strangely lethargic. Both goals were well-worked, though the second came about (again) as a result of a flat-footed defence that appeared to think that it’s primary job was to point out any...

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A Host Of Problems

Germany 4-2 Costa Rica Normally, of course, the World Cup starts with a match that makes everybody wonder what all the fuss was about. Four years ago, a singularly charmless Senegal team touched down in Japan and won an abysmal game against France by a single goal. It was living proof that everyone plays the European way now. Maybe the players just used to get dizzied and blinded by the opening ceremonies: the dancing, the ribbons and the speeches. Not this time, though. The Germans had provided us with an opening ceremony to be proud of. For once, it was kept relatively low-key – children in the kits of the previous winners being led around holding signs reminiscent of the the sign that Eric Morecambe held up in aa episode of Morecambe & Wise with “LUTON FC” written on it. We were singularly unimpressed by Sepp Blatter’s decision to hold a minute’s silence for “everyone in the football world that can’t be here today”, but fortunately, the referee seemed to agree with me. It lasted barely fifteen seconds before we kicked off. Well, you all watched it, so I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say that I never thought I’d see a German side playing in the style of Holland 74 or Brazil 70, but there they were, attacking all-out, even with the lead precariously balanced at 3-2....

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