World Cup – Tuesday 29th June

Misery has a name – Alan Green

We are down to the final eight now. The match schedule is thinning out and any respite is drowned out by the sound of punditry. At least we might have time to cheer ourselves up between Alan Green commentaries…

Results – Tuesday 29th June

(pens) Paraguay 0 – 0 Japan
    Spain 1 – 0 Portugal

Duncan’s Dive Watch – Spain vs Portugal

 Who hasn’t been looking forward to this competition between fierce Iberian neighbours Portugal and Spain! It promised to be a feast of falling but did it live up to it’s billing? Here are the highlights…

16 minutes: After a slow start we have our first dive – and who else could it be but Ronaldo? He raids down the right, cuts in between two players and it’s a classic legs together full length dive. No marks awarded by the referee who waves play on. I think that lacked a little commitment.

 34 minutes: Ronaldo again. Left flank run across the halfway line. He over-runs the ball and a defender gets there first. Ronaldo launches into the defender and executes a passable mid-air half twist culminating in a traditional arse landing, garnished with quizzical hands in the air. Still no marks from the referee, which seems a little harsh.

49 minutes: Man muppet Carlos Puyol – the sort of character parents tell their kids lives under a bridge – gets tickled from behind and slumps to the ground wearing the expression of a slain samurai. It’s disappointing fare with no technical merit and a lack of expressive arm movement so once again no points.

 57 minutes: David Villa plays a one two with Iniesta on the edge of the Portugal box. He’s not going to make the return ball and pulls off the imaginary trip with some aplomb. The ref waves away his appeals but I’m giving him 3 out of 10 for fake boyish innocence. “What me – diving?!”

74 minutes: Controversy! Substitute Pedro Mendes thinks he has pulled off a majestic fouled-from-behind back flip with an exquisite double leg slide. It’s a high scoring move, but what’s this? The referee actually awards it as a genuine foul! What a shame, that would have been a lovely dive.

 84 minutes: It’s Ronaldo again – you can’t keep a good man up. This time it’s an innocuous mid-air collision with Capdevila which Ronaldo free-styles into an awkward landing. It’s desperate stuff now with just 5 minutes left and once again there’s nothing given

88 minutes: The stroke of genius we have been waiting for Capdevila brilliantly pulls off a text book ghost slap in the box. He rolls around holding his head and Costa is shown a red card! Video replays confirm there was no contact – it’s a brilliant deception and that’s a full 10 to the Spaniard!

The whistle blows and it’s a Spanish victory despite Ronaldo’s bravest efforts. The king of collapso has his head in his hands and knows he will have to work hard on the training pitch to work on those polished cons he is famous for.

View from the sofa
You may think from my (seemingly) endless reportage of the World Cup that I catch all the games live on TV. Alas, my up-tight employers weren’t amused when I asked if I could spend a month at home on full pay watching every match live. I thought I was being reasonable as I had intended to go to South Africa and pass on my costs as expenses, but it seems you can’t get away with anything nowadays.

Anyway, the upshot of my workplace incarceration is that I have followed a fair few matches on Radio 5 (you see the BBC let their employees go to the world cup on full pay and expenses) while commuting. One of their principal commentators is Alan Green and if you have heard him you will probably know what I am about to say.

There can never have been such a negative, permanently dissatisfied football commentator in broadcasting history. He can suck the joy out of any occassion. The man must be a rain god because I can only imagine he walks under a continuous heavy black cloud of negative energy.

To repeat myself let’s just remember – he is paid to go to sunny South Africa and attend the worlds biggest sporting event. All he has to do is talk for a couple of hours, and yet even this can’t bring any light into Mr Green’s dark and burdensome life. He watches every game with disdain picking fault with everything he beholds. The games are all unremittingly dreadful and the players on show were born under a bad sign because they can do no right. The officials are always a disgrace and woe betide anything distracting him off the pitch because whatever it is will be a sham.

I can imagine his response to accusations of misery. “I’m not here to dress things up, I tell it like it is“. Let me put if to you Mr Green, there have been a few tense matches with little beauty on show but I have been listening to your commentaries for years and they are ALL THE BLOODY SAME. Driving home today you described Paraguay vs Japan as if it were some personal slight upon your unworldy standards. Well I got home and caught the end of the game and what I saw was an admittedly stuttering affair with plenty of honesty, grit and no shortage of half chances. It had an enjoyable tension that real football fans would recognise. When the stakes are high that’s what you get – if it makes you so unhappy pack in your job.

And on the offchance that you have children I would like to offer them my support and say that they must cast off the burdens of your impossible expectations and realise that nothing they could ever do would be good enough to warrant fatherly praise. It’s just your way.

World Cup – Monday 21st June

Dancing in the streets of Lisbon

Today in a nutshell: Ronaldo’s Portugal thrash North Korea. Spain thrill on the pitch to get points on the board and set up an exciting tie with Chile who maintain their 100% record with a win over Switzerland. It’s official – the World Cup is no longer boring!

Results – Monday 21st June

  Group G: Portugal 7 – 0 North Korea
  Group H: Chile 1 – 0 Switzerland
  Group H: Spain 2 – 0 Honduras
Post Match Review
Ron Atkinson Some in the media have been guilty of taking their eye off the ball. They were busy talking up the likes of Brazil and Argentina and forgot about little old Portugal. Well people with football manager coats like me never took them lightly and their 7-0 demolition of North Korea sends out a reminder that Ronaldo’s team are not just here to make up the numbers. Neighbours Spain meanwhile could have scored a similar amount against Honduras and those two teams could find themselves up against each other in the next round. What a special tie that would be – something like Crewe against Port Vale on a wet Tuesday evening in the Johnson Paint Trophy.

Fixtures – Tuesday 22nd June

  Group A: Mexico vs Uruguay
  Group A: France vs South Africa
  Group B: Nigeria vs South Korea
  Group B: Greece vs Argentina
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Nigeria has a population of 129 million yet none of the players in the National Squad actually play in the Nigerian League.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron The final round of matches starts tomorrow and we find out who will stay and who will go. Let me help you with your betting slips as I ask folk from the spirit world to help with the predictions…

…I’m hearing a voice. I think it’s Dickie Davies! What’s that Dickie? You think Mexico and Uruguay will draw? What else? France and South Africa also to draw. That’s good Dickie. Now what can you tell us from Group B? Argentina to beat Greece. Yes – I got that… and another draw between Nigeria and South Korea. That’s a lot of draws Dickie – are you sure? What’s that – you’re going faint…. well there’s no need for that kind of language from beyond the grave! I’ve never heard such crude profanity from the netherworld!

What a sweary man – I was only asking. I’m going to have a fig roll with my cocoa to get the blood back in my cheeks.

Hang, on, isn’t Dickie Davis still alive?

Pundit Corner
In a strip bar somewhere in South Africa I would like to imagine the following exchange…
The tournament reached its half way stage today with 32 of the 64 games completed and we have seen each team play twice. Which players have put in the eye catching performances so far? Well the player that entered the tournament with the most expectation against him was Lionel Messi and it has to be said that he has certainly been the dominant influence for Argentina. Would you agree with that Sven?
For sure Messi is capable of great things. He would walk into any team in the world, but the tournament is bigger than one person. I have been impressed by other South Americans too. Here’s a young talented Brazilian that I have been keeping an eye on.
We must also mention a young German – the talented playmaker Mesut Ozil. Many viewers will have got their first sight of him in the last week and I have to say he really lived up to expectations with some wonderful touches. He really does look a star in the making.
There is certainly a lot of German talent on show. I have been on the look out during the matches this week and here’s another young German that aroused my interest.
I know England have barely got out of the blocks and most fans would feel that all of the players have underperformed, but do you feel there is anyone we can look forward to seeing before this tournament is out?
Well it’s not been the best start for England and we can only hope to see better later on this week. That said,
it’s been hard for me to ignore the WAGs. They see to be getting a lot of coverage and I can’t help but watch.
That’s a good spot Sven. Let’s just hope that JT doesn’t take his eye off the ball with these sort of distractions in the back of his mind.

View from the sofa

We are at the half way stage of the tournament which is a good or bad thing depending on whether you are a tournament half empty kind of person. With one group game left it can all change but at the time of writing there are some huge potential shocks in store and most of them concern European teams. Consider this:

  • 1998 World Champions France are in disarray. If they don’t beat Mexico it will be au revior. Oh, and very funny.
  • England almost certainly have to beat Slovenia to progress, despite their “easy” group
  • Germany could still slip out if they lose to dangerous table topping Ghana. Why do I have visions of a penalty shoot out with them at some point later?
  • World Champions Italy have to beat tricky Slovakia to ensure qualification
  • Surely Portugal won’t lose 2nd spot with a plus 9 goal difference over Ivory Coast! Except they play Brazil, while Sven’s men take on the North Korean whipping boys. It couldn’t happen. Could it?
  • Spains unbeated qualification campaign counts for naught as they take on mightily impressive Chile in a game they must win to be sure of progressing further

Only the Dutch have made light work of qualification from the group phases as far as European teams go. The African teams had little genuine hope resting upon them and only Ghana have a better than 50% chance of qualifying. The predominant force so far has been the South American contingent with Brazil and Argentina looking like they could go the distance and Chile and Paraguay also set to progress.

We may still be in the group stage but from now on every game is effectively a cup game. Lose and you are probably out. This is when the competition really begins…