Archive for June 23rd, 2010

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

Archive for June 23rd, 2010

What We Learned From Group C Eliminators

Football, Bloody Hell – Engerland 1 – 0 Slytherin

As ex-Engerland manager Graham Taylor once said, presumably just before he was unceremoniously sacked. While this wasn’t the kind of harum-scareum kick and rush derby day cup tie you normally associate with Engerland, it still had the requisite quantity of anxiety and chaos. Normally when Engerland start with Jermaine Defoe it’s a statement of intent, only the intent is usually for Jermaine to not score and to be offside a lot. This time, however, things were a bit more lenient and he was allowed to put the ball in the net and he wasn’t offside quite as often. Still, normal Engerland service was resumed as it seemed we would sit back for the remaining 70 minutes and panic like headless chickens. Usually this is the cue for the opposition to stuff a couple past us and reduce us to quivering, vengeful wrecks intent on mutinously doing our team when they return. Unusually, in this case, Engerland began to take control of the game and passed it about a bit and looked pretty bloody regal for a bit. Admittedly it was only a bit, but it was 110% more of a bit than we’ve seen in the last four Engerland matches combined. Sure we nearly bolloxed it up through a combination of not scoring the second, letting the Slytherins back into the game and allowing Heskey back onto the pitch. When we were good we had a bit of tempo, pushed the ball to both wings, and tried to play the ball on the ground on a pitch that was every bit as bad as I predicted after the first match. It does make you wonder how we managed to play quite so atrociously in the previous two matches, especially against the Algerians.

Having had a boost by beating Algeria themselves, Slytherin were surprisingly unthreatening. Again, you wonder what effect the ‘pressure’ of the World Cup is having, Engerland crushed by expectation, France reduced to a farce, African teams overwhelmed, while less-fancied sides appear freed from pressure as they are ‘simply glad to be there’. You look at teams like New Zealand, Switzerland and Uruguay, who realistically can’t be expected to win the tournament and they’re playing either competent, determined football (NZ and the Swiss) or genuinely expressing themselves in the case of Uruguay. Slytherin fall definitively into the former category, pleased to be here, freed from expectation, the worst they can do is appear to punch above their weight. And with a goal against Algeria magicked out of thin air and a goal for the US against them disallowed for equally mysterious reasons giving them the lead in the Group going into this game, they really should have posed more of a threat than they did. Instead they showed none of their previous creativity and, but for their keeper, would have been soundly beaten. Maybe this time the pressure started to tell on them.

Engerland, while getting through the Group Stage, are left ruing two frankly shit performances, one never-to-be-forgotten goalkeeping fuck up and the inability to put this game to bed, which, thanks to the USA result sends Engerland into the much tougher side of the draw. Still, if you’re going to win the World Cup you’re going to have to beat the big teams.

USA 1 – 0 Algeria

It was quite impressive. Despite not having scored a single goal up to this point, Algeria could, if results went their way, actually have qualified from this group. Not on the basis of this display although admittedly I’ve only seen the highlights, which at this World Cup are restricted to shots on goal and give little but a headline impression of the match itself. That’s less highlights than a news report, which is a shame, especially when you consider that all the highlights programmes are stuffed full of fluffy, patronising, non-football guff about South Africa. They’re like Match of the Day 2 where that Bernard Cribbins lookeylikey goes to away matches and meets ‘fans’ ans you think, “fuck this Bernard, just show us some more football”. Anyway, USA really should have put them to bed much more comfortably than they did. Now I don’t think anyone can accuse the US of being an accomplished, skillful football team, but they have two things going for them, first they are better than clodhoppers, they’re decent, mid-level pro footballers, and, second, they have spirit. Now normally, we in Blighty associate spirt with all the vaguely crappy qualities footballers can have, committment, hard tackling, chasing back, more hard tackling, blood on the forehead, actually dying for the team and hoofing it into row Z. The Americans see it slightly different, they have the sort of spirit you see at Man U, the sense of a team working together that is somehow greater than the sum of its parts, a never say die committment and a relentless desire to attack and win. And they’ve come into the World Cup with both a promising track record, having beaten Spain in the semi-finals of last year’s Confederations Cup and narrowly losing the final to Brazil, and no overwhelming sense of expectation burdening their shoulders. Still, they are only average and so, while they should have mullered Algeria, they ended up lucky to win 1 – 0 and where they probably should have beaten Engerland, they only got a point because we gifted it to them. And like South Africa’s five second foul up against Mexico, which deprived Bafana Bafana of 2 points and a place in the last 16, Green’s spooning of the ball into his own net may both save the US and damn Engerland as USA win the Group and Engerland merely finish second.

So Bye-Bye Algeria And Slytherin

We should have roundly stuffed the pair of you, but we weren’t up to the task. Algeria, you were only saved total humiliation by your keeper, who reaps his just reward with a possible reserve keeper berth at a lower level Premiership club, so we won’t be seeing him on the pitch any time soon. You never managed to live up to your Qualification face off against Egypt, which had to be played in a neutral country and still nearly sparked off an international conflict, but then again, that’s quite a level to achieve more than once.  Slytherin, you might be the smallest House at the World Cup, but you’re not the worst, even if Serverus Snape is your manager.

38 Down 26 To Go 23 Teams Remaining