WC2014 Oztralia 2 – 3 Holland


Kapow! Tim Cahill vents a lifetime's worth of 'shortarse' anger in one massive volley

Kapow! Tim Cahill vents a lifetime’s worth of ‘shortarse’ anger in one massive volley

Bosh! ‘Ave A Bang On That

As chuckly cuddle boy Ray Winstone might put it. There are goals and there are goals. And so far this World Cup has had a good deal of them, but this one was a bit special. Like Robin van Persie’s goal of the season one from 2013, or indeed, Robin van Persie’s great goal at Arsenal the previous season, this was a crossfield ball dropped invitingly in front of a running striker, who met it on the volley and lashed it into the net with all the fury of a man who’s been told he will only ever score from headers. And while it didn’t have quite the psychological impact of van Persie’s Casillas crushing head dink of last week, it was a bloody good shot nonetheless.

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WC2014 Chile 3 – 1 Oztralia


Some chap unrelated to either Chile or the Land of Oz pokes his nose in.

Some chap unrelated to either Chile or the Land of Oz pokes his nose in.

After The Lord Mayor’s Show

After the fabulous goalfest that was Spain vs Holland, this felt a lot like a let down. Still it wasn’t a bad match and it gave everyone good match practice for staying up to watch tomorrow’s Engerland Italy showdown.  Chile will be happy with the win, but will wonder where their gameplan went after their second goal, while Oz will be rightly proud of their fightback but will feel they really should have got something (other than pride) out of the game.

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What We Learned From Group D Eliminators


The Absolute Limits Of Human Endurance – Germany 1 – 0 Ghana

By now I’ve watched a lot of World Cup action. And it’s time to talk about ITV’s TV coverage. Aside from the awesome own goal of managing to miss Engerland’s opening goal by having some sort of ad break instead – a none too uncommon occurrence for ITV – their coverage is, frankly, a disgrace. Adequate commentators backed by inept, uninteresting pundits who think that telling you what you just saw counts as insight, they seem more interested in the celebrity spotting camerawork than they do in actually covering the action in any meaningful way. But then again they don’t need pundits, presenters and insight because that all gets in the way of the adverts, which gloriously pimp gambling, drinking and banking, all things that people could do with less of.

Anyway, halfway through the Germany Ghana match, as ITV punditry gave way to another bout of advertising effluence, I was forced, forced you understand, to switch over to the Wimbledon coverage. And it was just too compelling. Two guys, on court for the best part of 10 hours (yes that is ten hours), were at 55 – 55 in the fifth set. And that’s not a tennis score like 40 – 30, that’s 55 games each in the fifth set. And that’s what they’ve played today. I worked it out. Given that to win the World Cup you’ll need to play 7 matches, three in the First Round and four knockout rounds, that’s an absolute maximum of 12.5 hours. To win the World Cup. So these guys, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, have basically played their way to the World Cup final in one day and they haven’t even finished their tennis match. By the time they stopped (it was getting too dark to play) it was 59 – 59 and there had been a total of 4 (count them, 4) break points in the entire match. Isner looked like he could hardly move, but was still serving aces (97 to date) on demand. Mahut, who is French, is in line for the kind of sporting elevation that only Presidents can give as a grateful France discovers a sporting hero to counterpoint their spoilt dysfunctional football team/squad/federation/manager. I don’t think Mahut has any idea of the hero’s welcome he’s going to get when he finally goes back to France, but he looks fresh. And it was an illustration of how far this World Cup has to go to produce really memorable games that it is being overshadowed in terms of both drama and sporting achievement by a single first round match at Wimbledon. By the way, whoever does, eventually, win this match they will have a second round match on Friday (in addition to actually finishing this match tomorrow).

Anyway, that over I was able to return to the recorded Germany Ghana match, but you know what, it seemed a little dull in comparison to a match where players are literally playing themselves to death right in front of you. So Germany won (as if we believed there was any other outcome) to set up a Round of 16 match with Engerland and you know what, I’m really not that bothered. At their best this Engerland team has the beating of the Germans, at their worst, Engerland deserve to go home. Ghana, meanwhile, become the first (and only?) African team to get through to the Knockout Stages.

Oztralia 2 – 1 Serbia

Yeah, well goodbye losers.

40 Down 24 To Go 21 Teams Remaining

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Extra Extra What We Learned At The Halfway Point


The Competition Has Kicked Off

Yes, the Second Round of Group matches were certainly better than the First Round. Most teams understood that they couldn’t simply defend all the time and play for a draw, even the Swiss, whose adoption of an almost ‘Neutral Country’ option has seen them regularly top both the Haven’t Conceded and the Haven’t Scored tables, realised that at some point they’d have to come out and have a shot, although to be fair they did have something that vaguely resembled a shot in the First Round and it paid off handsomely. The games got faster and more meaningful as we saw Matches That Mattered and teams realised that there was a very real danger of their World Cup ending later this week.

The Goals Are Coming

As teams threw off the shackles of defensive cowardice and started attacking we began to see more goals. Few teams were content to sit on a one goal lead and continued to press their opponents. Some goals were even good, although few of them were up to the Tshabalala standard. However, I distinctly remember exclaiming, “What a goal” more than once during Round 2.

The Cheating Has Started

Grab and Dive, with or without pirouette, is the order of the day. Compulsive penalty box wrestling at every set piece. Not that much deliberate diving, but plenty of subtle blocking and writhing around. All in an attempt to cheat your way to a free kick or some colour of card for the opposition, or both. Not good. I think if it continues, we will see some kind of tv replay system introduced on the fly, if only because the whole world is watching.

Lots of Empty Seats

Now that it’s getting serious I suspect we won’t be seeing too many empty stadiums, but I’d lay money that there will be empty seats at the Uruguay Mexico match, where both teams need only to draw to go through (0 – 0 anyone?). However, too many venues have been conspicuously less than capacity.

Who Has Been Naughty?

It’s goodbye to South Africa, France (very naughty), Nigeria, Greece (very bad),  Algeria,  Oztralia (awful), Serbia (painful). Cameroon, New Zealand (rubbish), Slovakia (tedious), Ivory Coast (unlucky to get Group of Death for the second World Cup in a row), North Korea, and Honduras. You are all officially too crap for the World Cup. Book your flights now.

Who Has Been Nice?

And it’s hello to Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, South Korea, Ghana, Germany, Holland, Paraguay, Italy, Brazil, Portugal, and Chile. Nicely done South America.

And Who Is Bricking It?

Group C is totally up for grabs with two of Engerland, USA and Slovenia, the permutations are excruciating, but basically all teams have to win to be sure that they will qualify. In Group E Japan and Denmark will duke it out, a draw being enough to take the Japanese through. Group H is so complicated that Spain, Chile and Switzerland could all end up with 6 points and theoretically identical goal differences and goals scored, in which case as Spain will have beaten Chile, who have beaten Switzerland, who have beaten Spain lots would have to be drawn.  Makes penalty shoot outs seem tame by comparison.

And Who Is Really Bricking It Most?

Has to be ever-optimistic no-hopers Engerland, who just seem utterly unable to cope with the pressure of having to play a few matches away from home in front of large television audiences. Basking in unwarrented media acclaim and with performances getting more inadequate by the day, Engerland are a disaster waiting to happen. And while the French are imploding with a farcical degree of hilarity, Engerland can’t even manage an effective internal coup d’etat. One thing is clear, Wednesday could be the most excruciating game of football ever played.

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What We Learned From Ghana vs Oztralia (1-1)


It Was Cardtastic

Now part of the charm of the World Cup is that you get to see fairly poor quality teams from other continents being roundly taught a lesson by the footballing elite. One of the downsides is that often these teams are made up of the kind of clod-hopping hoofers who’d stand out as too shit for even the lower leagues. The Ozzies can boast many of them. Third raters like Lucas Neill and Bret Emmerton, propping up the basement clubs like some latter-day Norwegian mercenaries. And when faced with quality they revert to type. The good thing about the World Cup is that not only do these guys get found out, but they often get punished. None more deserving than former Liverpool winger and Benitez chouchou Harry Kewell, who has long been a red card waiting to happen. The fact that his card came after some patently cheating protestations that he hadn’t committed a handball while his arm was still vibrating made it all the more enjoyable. So that’s played two, sent off two. Way to go Oztralian convict boys.

It’s Yet Another ‘Green’

Ghana couldn’t have started more ineptly. A free kick that should have been harmlessly gathered by the keeper was instead spooned in now-classic Green fashion into the path of onrushing Oz striker Holman. You couldn’t make it up.

Out Of Africa

It’s pretty clear that South Africa, Algeria, Cameroon, Nigeria and in every likelihood Ivory Coast are going to be knocked out in the Group stage, leaving Ghana as the sole possible African representatives in the last 16. So the Ghanaians failure to take advantage of the Australians’ 10 men by attacking them with pace, width and accuracy was doubly irritating. Oztralia should have been utterly humiliated, instead they dug in and frustrated Ghana showing up their lack of experience and overall naivety. And you’ve got to be worried about Ghana’s chances against Germany, who will take them apart if they defend this badly and have to win to be sure of their own qualification. Yes they’ve been really stuffed by the injury to Michael Essien, but that’s not really an acceptable excuse, they have to be better than this. Which leaves us in a situation where in every likelihood there will be no African teams in the last 16.

25 Down 39 To Go

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What We Learned From Germany vs Oztralia (4-0)


Das Ist Total Fussball Ja?

Well, not quite the full-on total football the Dutch invented in the 1970s, but real football nonetheless. And Hesus Marimba haven’t we waited long enough for isolated pockets of football to break out. Germany were as sweet as Oztralia were rubbish, all nice close control and pretty triangles, coupled with penetrating running off the ball and neat use of the channels. In short, all the tactical class that had been missing from games 1 – 7. Admittedly, given the paucity of the opposition, the Germans didn’t have to try that hard.

The Germans Are Not Like Bunk Moreland

No, for when it came time to fuck the Ozzies, they were not gentle. Where the South Koreans had satisfied themselves with a couple of goals at the start of each half, the Germans decided to satiate themselves. They started with two strikers, each of whom scored in the first half and then laid on the pain by subbing on another two, both of whom also scored. They never let up with the triangles and close control and left the Ozzies with the sort of cultural sporting arse-fuck that will take a generation to come to terms with.

It Was Cardtastic

Now part of the charm of the World Cup is that you get to see fairly poor quality teams from other continents being roundly taught a lesson by the footballing elite. One of the downsides is that often these teams are made up of the kind of clod-hopping hoofers who’d stand out as too shit for even the lower leagues. The Ozzies can boast many of them. Third raters like Lucas Neill and Bret Emmerton, propping up the basement clubs like some latter-day Norwegian mercenaries. And when faced with quality they revert to type. The good thing about the World Cup is that not only do these guys get found out, but they often get punished. None more deserving than Everton’s Tim Cahill, who has long been a red card waiting to happen. The fact that his card came for a fairly innocuous  pseudo-challenge only added to our joy. Also it was nice to see not one, but two yellow cards for diving.

At Last! Football

Best match so far by a long, long, long way. Germany look really tasty, certainly only they and the Argies look credible contenders. Everyone else is waiting on their slip-ups.

8 Down 58 To Go

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