I introduce you to Patrick Fisher, our Reader World Cup Blogger. Ever wondered what it would be like if The Reader Organisation did football commentary…
So that’s the end of the official 2010 FIFA™ World Cup South Africa opening weekend.
The unofficial 2010 FIFA™ World Cup South Africa Reader Sweepstake had taken place earlier in the week, sparking jubilation, despair and apathy in equal measure as the excitement of possibility was reinforced by Brazil, decimated by North Korea or not even entertained by Switzerland. Still, you have to be in it to win it and until last night Australia had just as good a chance to do well as anybody else.
Opening weekends are usually seen as the benchmark for what sort of tournament we’re going to have. Four years ago Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 with a couple of stunning goals that led to a month of classy strikes and, England apart, relatively exciting matches. In 2002, the first game of the tournament saw Senegal beat defending champions France 1-0 paving the way for multiple ‘giant killings’ of the traditional top nations epitomised in South Korea’s jaunt all the way to the semis.
Prior to this tournament all the talk was about the showpiece being staged in Africa for the first time and the extra pressure on South Africa not to be the first host nation to be eliminated in the group stage. By the time the first match had kicked off the 84,000 odd people in the crowd had been treated to an excellent opening ceremony which culminated in the wonderfully refreshing scene of Bafana Bafana dancing and singing onto the pitch for the match. In a time when players are routinely criticised for showing any perceived lack of focus even days before a match, it was great to see the South African players determined to enjoy the occasion in addition to performing to the best of their ability. After all, football is a game. If the first game is anything to go by then we’re in for cracking goals and awful defending, a combination that guarantees entertaining football. Tshabalala’s strike for South Africa was good enough to win any game and it was a shame for the hosts that Mexico grabbed a deserved equaliser and that Mphela’s last minute strike came back off the post. Still a wonderful start and enough to suggest South Africa may just do enough to get out of their group after all, especially given France and Uruguay’s gentlemanly decision not to upstage the opening game by playing out one of the worst games in recent World Cup history.
Saturday continued much in the same vein with Nigeria and Greece showing that 32 participating teams means that some exceedingly average ones get in and after the Nigerian ‘keeper Enyeama pulled off save after save against Argentina, Robert Green showed he wasn’t going to be influenced by anyone else’s performance as England got off to an encouragingly expectation dampening 1-1 draw. I got the blame in my house for his mistake as literally seconds before I’d ‘bigged him up’ as a solid goalie worthy of the chance given his outstanding form ever since his debut for Norwich [Patrick is from Norwich]. Given the power surge reported at half time it appears the majority of us turned to a brew for some solace and maybe we’d be better served if John Agard’s poem ‘Alternative Anthem’ [link to video below] replaced ‘God Save the Queen’ for the match on Friday.
Goalkeeping blunders continued on Sunday with the Algerian ‘keeper diving over the ball against Slovenia, possibly in a desperate attempt to create a talking point given all the players were heard uttering to their benches ‘what’s the point in all of this we’re worse than France vs. Uruguay?’ before Ghana and Germany stole the headlines. Ghana for excellently lulling Serbia into a stupor so strong they forgot to play football, punched the ball clear and conceded a penalty allowing the Black Stars to claim the first African victory and Germany for deciding it was rather silly that after seven games only South Korea had scored more than once. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come and with Brazil playing North Korea tomorrow more goals should be in the offing. Anything to momentarily silence the vuvuzelas is no bad thing.
I’ve set myself the target of eating a meal each day inspired by one of the competing nations. Thanks to Bafana Bafana opening the tournament against Mexico, Friday was an easy one, fajitas, whilst Saturday brought up the opportunity for spicy South Korean pork. Yesterday was a dish of classic German sausages and tonight will be spaghetti al gamberetti e rucola in honour of Italy. My culinary expertise is fast running out though so any suggestions for national dishes of the participating countries will be greatly received and tried on a day that they play. I’ll let you know the results as the tournament progresses!
Patrick Fisher is a Get Into Reading Project Worker