World Cup Blog #2
What a week it’s been, or rather, what a second half to the week it’s been. Having eagerly anticipated a glut of goals in light of the shocking goalkeeping seen last weekend I felt rather foolish on Monday as three more shot shy matches were played without any sense of urgency. There would have been fewer goals too had Marcelo Lippi not sent expert negotiator Mauro Camoranesi on for Italy with the instruction to remind all the Paraguay players they had never beaten them in a World Cup match and that they really were being unfair in holding onto their lead. It took just four minutes for Camoranesi to inform all his opponents before the charitable Paraguayan goalkeeper saw sense and jumped out of the way of the ball, allowing the diplomatic draw to be reached.
Still these games were seen as mere aberrations for Brazil, wonderful goal-tastic Brazil, entered the tournament on Tuesday and against the pathetically ranked 105th best team in the world; North Korea, could always be relied on to supply us with what Alan Partridge would simply call ‘Liquid Football’. They got there eventually but at half time it was beginning to look as though no team wanted to be outdone in the ‘I don’t think it’s appropriate to score too many goals and entertain the millions of people watching’ stakes. This was the first game, quite remarkably, where both teams scored and there was still a winner, although it could be argued that due to Simon Poulsen’s own goal, The Netherlands/Denmark game beat them to it. Yun-Nam Ji‘s last minute strike to half Brazil’s lead was perhaps the most surprising event of the tournament to date and came after New Zealand had gained their first ever World Cup point with a 93rd minute equaliser against Slovakia earlier in the day.
North Korea’s moment of glorious failure was in the limelight for all of 18 hours however as recently crowned ‘European Champions of the World Spain’ reverted back to their previous moniker of ‘Great Underachievers of the World Spain’ and lost to Switzerland despite having over twenty shots on goal, prompting hasty rewrites of the headline ‘Swiss roll over’ to ‘Swiss roll all over Spain’. It was only 1-0 but suddenly the World Cup had got exciting. No longer was the only justification I meekly offered for watching so much football the possibility of something unexpected occurring citing the Roman phrase ‘It won’t happen…but if it happens!’ In this game it did happen, and because it had, I’ll be glued to even more games in the hope that it might just happen again.
The tournament looks like it’s going to belong to the Americas with Uruguay mercilessly destroying the home crowd’s optimism in a dominant 3-0 victory over South Africa before Argentina followed suit the next day by dismantling South Korea 4-1. Unlike the earlier games, these goals came about from attacking class and not defensive blunders and it’s possible that both these teams will now progress and meet in the next round in what promises to be a more competitive match up than any of the games involving France. Les Bleus’ match against Mexico proved to be another difficult night for sometime manager sometime tarot card reader Raymond Domenech. Famed for claiming Leos don’t make good defenders and refusing to select former superstar Robert Pires on the grounds that he was a Scorpio, Domenech’s popularity reached an all time low after his team’s 2-0 defeat. Although grudges are never healthy it was refreshing to see the French team, given their contentious means of qualifying, deservedly defeated by a side in green, even if the justice is tenuous.
Serbia’s unexpected victory over Germany on Friday, which saw Lukas Podolski become the first German player to miss a World Cup penalty in normal time since 1974 and Joachim Loew the first German manager to preside over a group defeat in 24 years, coupled with Slovenia’s entertaining draw with the U.S.A means that the only two teams not to be involved in anything even approaching exciting are England and Algeria. Friday’s evening kick off was probably the most tedious match I can ever remember watching from start to finish. Ever. I’m not going to spout the same old patriotic rubbish as other outlets bemoaning the lack of ‘pride’, ‘passion’ or any of the other buzz words that get bandied about nor will I say that as it’s England we should have some sort of divine right to progress. Having felt like I wasted a portion of my life far longer than ninety minutes watching the game however I will say that if England don’t improve by a significant margin on Wednesday, they won’t deserve to go through. I’d sure like them to but the way everything’s been blown out of proportion since the final whistle, Capello’s style, Rooney’s outburst, Stuart Pearce’s habit of chewing his food slightly longer than he should etc. Etc. I fear it’ll be difficult for the players to change their mentally that soon.
I’ve continued to shape my meals around the world cup this week. On Tuesday I welcomed the Samba Boys’ first game by making Vatapá de Galinha, a wonderful chicken and peanut style curry, before grabbing some Calarames Rebozados on Wednesday in honour of Spain’s slow start. On Thursday I had the modest meal of French Onion soup, before shamefully turning my back on an Algerian meal of lamb and berber couscous in favour of the all American classic, hamburger and fries. For this I can only plead time constraints. Again, if you have any recipes that you think I’d like or indeed ought to try, please do email a reply and let me know. Here’s to the next week!