Tag: South Africa

The World Cup Of National Anthems (Part One)

For many people, major sports tournaments are the only occasion that national anthems are heard. These peculiar tunes have become a genre of their own, transcending the mere hymns that many of them were in first place, and they range from the gloriously uplifting to mournful dirges. The selection of words has, in many countries, brought about national debate that has been all-encompassing. In the case of Spain, it was decided that it would probably be for the best just to not bother having any for the sake of national unity. Still, one of the distinguishing moments of excitement of any World Cup is to see the two teams line up and have a bash at singing the national anthem. Who belts it out at top volume, utterly out of tune but blissfully unaware of their atonality? Who is standing there silently with the look of a dead man walking? Who doesn’t know the words? Coaches could do worse that scan their opposition for signs of the mental state of their opposition and call their players back in. You can almost imagine Fabio Capello in the middle of a huddle of England players, explaining that they should push the ball wide early on because the opposing full-backs stood like rabbits caught in the glare of a car’s headlamps throughout the duration of, “O Greenland, Land Of Ice & Mellow...

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The Confederations Cup: Spain 2-0 South Africa

South Africa, horns and all, have edged their way into the semi-finals of this year’s Confederations Cup, but their doing so has been something of a hollow victory for them, as we saw last night. Their procession through to the semi-finals was more about the shortcomings of others than about anything that they managed themselves. For Spain, meanwhile, came a further extension to their extraordinary unbeaten record and a brand new record for successive wins, now up to fifteen. Whether anybody will be able to keep them in check at the World Cup finals next year is the question that is taxing most people. It is not a question that is being asked of South Afria. The first half was an uneventful affair. Spain had made seven changes from their previous match though this was still an exceptionally strong side. The widespread changes, however, seemed to disrupt their flow. This was not the same Spain side – neither literally nor metaphorically – that brushed New Zealand aside last weekend, and the changes seemed to suit the host nation. Spain stuttered and stalled, allowing South Africa far too much possession. It looked, however, as if the shortcomings that the hosts had shown in their previous matches – the hurried, almost panicky shooting and the reasonably neat interplay spoilt by poor finishing that is, to put it plainly, the hallmark of...

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The Confederations Cup: South Africa 2-0 New Zealand

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The clock was ticking this evening as South Africa’s Confederations Cup bid slowly dragged itself to life this evening, with a performance that added little to the widely held perception that they are likely to be the worst host nation in the history of the World Cup when the show rolls into town. On Sunday, they seemed reasonably resolute defensively but betrayed the key indicator of a team playing at a level above its current station – an inability to score which passed rapidly through farcical to, by the time the ball bounced off Bernard Parker’s backside with five minutes to play, well and truly into the realms of low comedy. For the first twenty minutes this evening, however, the clocked ticked and tocked as South Africa continued to labour unnecessarily against a New Zealand team that was just as limited as it was in conceding four goals in twenty-five minutes against Spain at the weekend. The passing was neat and tidy enough, though they didn’t come under too much pressure to actually stop passing it around, but once they got to the penalty area everything started to go south and they were reduced to speculative shots from improbable angles and unlikely distances. The goal, when it came, was the one occasion upon which everything clicked, although even then they were dependent on a deflection...

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The Confederations Cup: South Africa 0-0 Iraq

It is winter in South Africa at the moment, and it was a winter of discontent in Johannesburg this afternoon as South Africa played out an energy-sappingly drab goalless draw to open this year’s Confederations Cup. South Africa’s performance was poor enough for questions to be asked about whether they will become the first host nation in the history of the World Cup to not qualify from their group in the final stages of the competition. Iraq, a team already knocked out of next year’s World Cup by Qatar in the Third Round of the AFC qualifying stage, looked like a decent enough team but offered little threat of beating the host nation, but still came away from the match with a point after South Africa missed a stack of chances including one of the worst misses of the year in the closing stages of the match. On an overcast day, and with the droning sound of thousands of vuvuzelas (plastic horns which, when blown in unison, make the sound of a plague of locusts) constantly in the background, South Africa offered little promise of being much better than most of the dismal reviews of their recent progress have been. Macbeth Sibayo had a long rang shot well saved by the Iraq goalkeeper Mohammed Kassid and substitute Katlego Mashego broke through only to see his shot smothered by Kassid....

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The Confederations Cup – A (Very) Rough Guide

For some people, the end of the football season in years that end with odd numbers means a return to the real world. For two and a half months they become normal people, spending time with family and friends, allowing their sofas and their wallets to recover from the arduous few months that have just passed and giving every impression of being normal, well-rounded human beings. Others choose to prop themselves up with another sport, like tennis, cricket or rugby league. The rest of us, though, are suddenly rudderless. In years ending in even numbers, the end of the domestic football season means the beginning of getting excited about the World Cup or the European Championships (which is often better than the tournament itself). Those years ending in odd numbers, though… we spend the summer months staring blankly at “Big Brother” on the television or sitting in the pub wondering if it would be improper to try and instigate a conversation amongst your friends on the subject of just how much Roger Tames looked like Roger de Courcey (of “Nookie Bear” fame). This year, though, we have the Confederations Cup. FIFA’s excuse for the Confederations Cup makes a degree of sense. It’s a warm up for next years World Cup finals – chance for the host nation to test out its media and transport infrastructure prior to the tournament...

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