Author: Ian

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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Sick Of The World Cup?

Well, a team of boffins have come up with a genius idea: The Unofficial World Championship. The idea is simple. England and Scotland played the first international match in 1870. Scotland are unlikely to ever be caught as the team with the best overall record (thanks to the quirks of the long-lost Home Internationals), but can you guess before clicking who the current holders...

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Fight Fight Fight!

Watching too much football on the television can do funny things to you. Sitting here, watching France trying desperately to batter down the Togolese defence, my mind turned (yet again) to the commentators of days gone by. This time, Gerald Sinstadt. He was of the old school – physically, there was something of the Alan Whicker about him – and was what one would describe as a stalwart of the television screen. Rarely actually seen, he worked for Granada in the north-west and TVS, down here on the south coast, before seeing out his days at the BBC. Not a bad way to spend one’s Indian summer, I think you’ll agree. What I did find out (which caused a curious mixture if near hilarity and extreme disappointment) is that it is widely believed that he was caught knocking one out in a mucky cinema at some point. I now, obviously, desperately need clarification of whether this actually happened or not. But I digress. My thoughts quickly turned, as they are wont to do, back to The Gubba (cf: previous posts on this blog). Who would win in a fight between them? Now, I’m more than happy to email the BBC and request Inter-Commentator Deathfights (it would fit quite tidily into BBC3’s schedule), but I’m not over-optimistic that they’ll go for it, so we’ll have to go with a Googlefight...

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Siesta Time

Ukraine 1-0 Tunisia / Spain 1-0 Saudi Arabia After all the excitement of last night, it was back to the dull and the ordinary this afternoon. Spain decided to field their entire reserve team against the Saudis, but still had enough about them to win, in spite of a surprisingly heroic performance by Zaid in the Saudi Arabian goal. Juanito scored the only goal, but they should have had a hatful. Al Harthi blazed a simple chance over the crossbar from eight yards out towards the end, but it would have been a scantly deserved point for the Saudis, who now haven’t won a World Cup finals match since 1994, despite having qualified for each of the last three finals. Back to the drawing board for them – and a farewell to Sami Al-Haber, who was probably playing in his last World Cup finals. I daresay we’ll see them again in four years time. All the “drama”, for the want of a better word, was at the Ukraine-Tunisia match. The first half was one of the worst forty-five minutes of football I’ve ever seen. I dozed off for about fifteen minutes of it, but woke up in time to hear Simon Brotherton say that there had been one shot on target, so I wasn’t that concerned. The sending off of Jaziri was a talking point – a second yellow...

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