The weekend and last night saw the climax of the second round of group games in this year’s edition of the FIFA™ World Cup; The Official 2010 FIFA™ World Cup South Africa. These games all benefited in the entertainment stakes from the fact that neither France nor England had any part to play in them and as a result provided plenty of talking points outside of ‘What’s Wazza doing?!’, ‘Why hasn’t he put hobo man-boy Joe Cole on?!’ and ‘Is it only the 68th minute?! Dear God help us all…’
Harry Kewell kept up Australia’s impressively executed game plan of having a man sent off in each match. Leading one nil at the time, ‘Pea-heart’, as he’s affectionately known to some, decided that then was the moment to reduce his team to the aesthetically more pleasing number of 10. Ultimately it didn’t cost his team all three points as Ghana thought it would be best to try and score from no closer than 50 yards in their search for a winner, unless ,of course, they were awarded another penalty. When questioned afterwards about his unorthodox tactics, the Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek commented ‘We’re just sick and tired of hearing the chant ‘C’mon Aussies legs eleven!’ And in any case, I’ve never been one to turn my back on a country’s proud tradition. Pea-heart did what he thought was best and has joined Aussie legends Tim Cahill and Brett Emerton in doing the right thing.’ When questioned further about the possibilities of keeping all eleven players on the pitch Verbeek was heard to say he didn’t want to ‘shame the nation’.
Cameroon surprisingly became the first African nation to be eliminated from the tournament, largely due to England’s ineptitude against Algeria the previous evening but also due to the tactic of using Geremi, to try and beat players for pace. Their ultimately unsuccessful game against Denmark was exciting though and although I only saw the first half live, probably one of my favourite games of the tournament so far.
On the back of this, Sunday brought renewed optimism for further excitement and all three games didn’t disappoint, Slovakia fell to Paraguay in the early kick-off due to two well taken goals by Vera and Riveros and the fact that Slovakia’s coach failed to bring on a ‘Camoranesi style’ negotiator in search for an equaliser with the score still at 1-0.
New Zealand’s tactic of not listening to Camoranesi paid off however and, despite his desperate attempts to coax a winner out of them, they conceded no further goals in a stupendously equal 1-1 draw. The result leaves Italy much in the same position as England but if the World Cup was judged on national anthems, and singing, the Italians would have it won already.
Arguably my favourite game of the tournament happened on Sunday evening with Brazil facing the mighty Ivory Coast led by Didier Drogba and the heroic lothario Sven Goran Eriksson. Ivory Coast looked fairly impressive in the early stages until Brazil decided it was time they attacked and Luis Fabiano chose to kick the ball really hard and fast. That’s the way it stayed before Fabiano again decided to do something outrageous, this time handle the ball twice, before kicking the ball really hard and fast. Ironically the double handball irritated Maradona most of all. Pot. Kettle. Black. The game then played out to players from each team falling to the ground far too easily and rolling around as much as they can. Whilst the Brazilian perpetrators only succeeded in winning free-kicks, Abdelkader Keita fell so convincingly for the Ivory Coast the referee felt compelled to send Brazil’s Kaka off. Harsh measures indeed but if you play with fire often enough you’ll get burned. Kaka will most probably enjoy his rest now and do something memorable in the last 16. The defeat, coupled with Portugal’s 7-0 trouncing of DPR Korea means that Friday’s Group G finale will most likely be the last chance we get to see Sven in an oversized puffer-jacket reluctantly making substitutions in order to change the game. Incidentally almost as interesting as Portugal’s goal fest was the increased sense of ire on Cristiano Ronaldo’s face as all his teammates scored except him. Sadly we’ll never know how far his lips can pout as he tapped in the sixth after scowling for the previous 80 odd minutes.
In Group H it looks like two from Chile, Switzerland and Spain as Honduras lost again. Spain looked classy enough in winning 2-0 though Vincente Del Bosque declared himself ‘unhappy’ with the result. Similarly Chile’s boss urged his side to be ‘cautious’ and declared ‘we are not to celebrate’ despite winning two from two. If that’s what winning does to these sides then let’s hope they never have to deal with failure.
My meals have been a Ten Shrimp Australian Barbie, Lasagne and Piri-piri Portuguese Chicken. All rather lovely and all bursting with World Cup Taste. Given that Wimbledon’s now started and I’m torn between my two favourite sports, I’ll leave you not with a football poem but with a poetic recording of the other beautiful game. Enjoy!