Saturday, 26 June 2010

Saturday 26 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY SIXTEEN

The front cover of The Sun today has a photograph of the German side held inside a cage on the back of a flat black lorry. Hovering around the truck are three lions. Sometimes people make things too easy. Elsewhere “Rio Writes For The Sun”. Its hardly Gatsby.

I fear that England currently have too much front heading into tomorrow’s match against Germany. The German talking heads do give off the impression that they are running scared but its all a tactic, they are lulling us into a sense of false confidence. Quite frankly I am more concerned that your average Englishman (and I have struggled to build up much in the way of national pride or passion during this competition, the minnows have been far more entertaining).

Again Saturday morning enhances my World Cup experience as Danny Baker provides the liveliest coverage of the tournament anywhere. His field recordings of the South Africa v France game from Tuesday is truly amazing stuff. The sound of the supporters booing the French team line-up being announced is priceless. Baker’s description of one of those supporter hard hats is the kind of content that could not be made up. Later his interview with Thomas Berthold of Germany from Italia 90 is unexpectedly exuberant and fun.

In discussion today my old man tells me why Argentina are not going to win the World Cup which is along the lines of “they’re going to reach the semi finals at which point it will get unearthed that Maradona has got them all on drugs, on happy pills.”

Today in an unrelated incident my friend comedian Matthew Crosby takes part all day in his “Twitterman” project which is a hashtag driven account of people making all his choices for him today via Tweet. Its for the win.

Today as this game is kicking off I am to be found in town (Colchester) looking for and purchasing “Why England Lose” by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. As I return to my parents’ place on screen Suarez has already given Uruguay the lead. From here the old man suggests that we go and pick up the dog from the farm he has been staying at while they have been on holiday in Ibiza. When we arrive at the farm a donkey comes over to greet us. I really hope that this is not a metaphor for England and tomorrow. As we listen to the game on Radio Five things fail to improve when a group of youngsters smoking joints driving a small car decide to cut up my old man one time too many and he promptly stops the car and jumps out to have a go at the lad. Now this is the kind of fight that has been sorely missing from England in this World Cup. This however is the kind of action that is fairly frowned upon in this modern age and something that shocks and stuns me. I half sense (hope) dad only tries it on because he knows he has me to back him up (maybe) and in the middle of the road while I sit in the car holding the dog (!) I watch as the old man snarls and squares up to kid who grabs his shirt and dad promptly grabs his wrist in retaliation. At this point I notice a group of black dudes that look like the Ghanaian nation team watching, laughing and loving it, which I would be as an outsider. As the old man shouts “learn to fucking drive” the lad responds “get in your fucking car you’re embarrassing yourself” its all quite the occasion and drama. Eventually the old man jumps back in the car with me having just sat there, which is something I am ashamed and embarrassed about. We pull off in silence; quite frankly I’m still shocked by it. Later when dad accidentally runs a red light it becomes obvious his feathers are still ruffled.

When we get back to their house and the game my parents laugh about the incident. Jesus Christ what happened? When did the generation gap equate to the younger generation being embarrassed by the older generation? Oh well, nobody died and those stoners maybe learned a lesson. I’m pretty sure my old man didn’t. By now the Uruguay v South Korea game is well into the second half and it is royally pissing down. At this point Uruguay look comfortable with their one goal lead but then against the run of play Lee Chung-Yong scores a pretty equalizer. Eventually Suarez adds a second goal ten minutes from time to give Uruguay a 2-1 win and save everyone from extra time.

In a very decent tie on paper the game opens early as the difficult to like Kevin-Prince Boateng scores after less than five minutes with a decent strike from the edge of the box. His celebration heads direct for the running as his huge ego leads the race. Late in the second half the commentator points out that the Ghana second strip resembles the one from Melchester Rovers. In the 61st minute the Americans get a penalty. Just before taking it Landon Donovan appears to say a prayer. There’s a no praying in football. Or maybe there is as the newly football equivalent of Ned Flanders scores the equalizer much to the amusement (and bemusement) of Bill Clinton. Eventually the game goes into extra time where Gyan scores early on in the 93rd minute and Ghana proceed to hold tight until snatching a very popular 2-1 win sealing a game against Uruguay in the quarterfinals. Go home America, this is not your game.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Friday 25 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY FIFTEEN

Today is the one-year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s passing. Insert joke about England’s passing.

Everything’s coming up Milhouse! I swear the Germans are afraid of us, we have them running. Franz Beckenbauer (Michael Keaton) is only cussing us out because he has short man complex. With all these oldsters such as Maradona and Platini trash talking it all reminds me of the manner in which old wrestling stars such as Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan hang around and continue to ruffle feathers and are allowed to because they are just good value. Now Oliver Kahn wants to get stuck in? He’s just grieving because he’s always been ugly and, if memory serves me right, he let in five goals against us once.

While this game is beginning I find myself housed in a stuffy office the last man standing. Today I don’t bother with any internet feeds instead choosing to listen to the commentary on Radio Five. The commentators (including Mark Chapman and Chris Waddle) proceed to describe the match as being boring calling a spade a spade in a manner that the seemingly PC in comparison television pundits (the readers wives) dare not say. As word comes in of goals flying in for the Ivory Coast this game remains goalless and seemingly very dull.

Today the North Korean coach Kim Jong-Hun sticks with an unchanged side, the side that let in the seven goals against Portugal. This is either a supreme gesture of confidence or an example of can’t be arsed. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t take long for the Ivory Coast to take the lead as Yaya Toure scores after 14 minutes and Romaric adds a second after 20 minutes. Suddenly it begins to look as if a window of opportunity maybe about to open for the Ivory Coast if they can match the Portugal haul and hope Brazil do them a favour by beating them. Ultimately this does not happen as things settle down and eventually the Ivory Coast add a third towards the end of the game through Kalou (82 mins). From here the game ends at 3-0 to Ivory Coast and both teams are eliminated from the World Cup. In some quarter people genuinely fear just what the North Koreans may be returning to their motherland to. Godspeed.

Tonight as a very exciting prospect of a match begins to kick off I find myself at the Southbank attending the recording of an episode of the Infinite Monkey Cage radio show for Radio Four. This is a great show hosted by Robin Ince and everyone’s current favourite Prof Brian Cox and amongst the guests on tonight’s show are Alan Moore and Jonathan Ross. Quite frankly this line-up beats any line-up either of those two football teams could muster. The show is very strong, Alan Moore is a genius and football does not get mentioned once. Back in South Africa, Spain run out 2-1 winners against a Chilean team that has impressed many at this tournament. Unsurprisingly it is David Villa who gives the Spanish the lead after 24 minutes with a blazing goal from distance as Bravo in the Chile goal comes flying out of the penalty area leaving Villa to breeze the ball into an empty net with pinpoint precision. Personally this is the kind of game that makes my heart palpitate. Heading towards halftime Iniesta adds a second (37 min) in another sweetly crafted move. Just before the interval Estrada gets sent off for subtly (but not subtly enough) clipping the heals of Torres as he goes for a second yellow card. Meanwhile in Ibiza my old man finds himself in a bar watching the game and slightly confused when the team in red shirts score early into the second half (the 47th minute) he thinks it is Spain adding a third but it is actually halftime substitute Rodrigo Millar immediately pulling a goal back from Chile. In a well-intentioned attempt at a gesture of local solidarity he is the only person in the bar to cheer the goal as the clientele turn to see who the spy is. Fortunately he survives as the game ends 2-1 to Spain and they proceed despite their earlier hiccup versus Switzerland.

The other game in the group appears to be a duff 0-0 draw that sees both nations crashing out in disappointing fashion having failed to ignite proceedings over the course of their respective campaigns. The Swiss really do resemble an interesting proposition, despite beating tournament favourites in the first game they appeared unable to gain any momentum from the feat and despite also recording the record longest period of World Cup finals history of not conceding a goal with what it would seem to be such a defensive mentality ultimately they only disappoint and flounder, failing to gain many new fans in the process.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Thursday 24 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY FOURTEEN

It should come as no surprise that I awaken into Day Fourteen nursing something of a hangover. To be honest it could have been worse but fever dreams derived from sleeping naked on top of my duvet and having people laugh at the size of my member is not an inspiring thing. This has to be some kind of metaphor for the competition so far.

Outside it is another warm day, one where only the strong will survive and where obese men now feel brave and proud enough to wear ill fitting Umbro England shirts out in public.

I am happy to say that yesterday appears to have proved my recent comments regarding certain people in the England camp wrong. For the first time in recent memory the Capello smile looked genuine and on the pitch Terry proved a lot at a time where a feeling of being undermined could have affected his performance.

While I am stuck at work dealing with tight deadlines and an office devoid of air con it later becomes apparent that I am missing out on what sounds like one of the most eventful matches of the finals so far. Despite not exactly setting the tournament on fire Slovakia take a 25th minute lead through Vittek before adding a second towards the end in the 73rd minute. With the Italians looking like they’re about to go the same way as France the game begins to kick off. In the 81st minute Di Natale pulls back a goal and suddenly Italy are back within a fighting chance of World Cup survival. Three minutes later and they are all but there as the apparently excellent Quagliarella scores a goal that is incorrectly given offside, much to the chagrin of the universe (and later it turns out Jimbo). With it never going to happen now the Slovakians add a third in the 89th minute Kopunek. Two minutes into injury time Quagliarella scores again but this time it sticks but the game ends 3-2 as the Italians (and the holders) crash out. This is not a tournament sympathetic towards the plight of the European heavyweights.

The other remaining game in Group F ends at 0-0 it what sounds like being another physical stonewall performance from the Kiwis, one maybe more fitting to a rugby pitch rather than a football one. It means New Zealand manage to end the tournament surprisingly unbeaten, which is something I don’t think anybody expected. Fortunately for Paraguay their victory over Slovakia on Sunday turns out to be enough to see them through, which feels like justice, as they have been value for money.

When I finally get home tonight I am surprised to find the BBC are showing this match in preference to the Holland v Cameroon game. It turns out to be a fine decision as the Japanese genuinely impress with an exciting performance. At the point I am able to join the game Japan are already 1-0 up from a free kick by Honda in the 17th minute. Then Japanese precision strikes again at the half hour mark when Endo strikes a perfect free kick. From here Denmark slowly fall apart, becoming tetchy and physical in a manner that is not befitting their legacy. Bendtner is visibly frustrated. He is also not the player he apparently thinks he is. Before halftime Morten Olsen is already making changes (substitutions) but going into the second half Denmark just do not appear to be capable, bordering on impotent. It makes no difference as shortly after halftime Endo smashes another free kick from distance begins to loop down seeing Sorensen having to tip the ball onto the post. It is a truly breathtaking sight, one that would have been easily on my favourite goals of the tournament. From here it seems obvious that Denmark are beaten men, a spent force not capable of recapturing previous glories. In a way it is a sad end to their performance but shit happens. With ten minutes to go they get a penalty which the lumbering Tomasson steps up and takes only to have it saved by Kawashima but he manages to fumble home the rebound while also nobbling himself as he lands funny on his knee coming down. Despite this Japan eventually seal the deal when Okazaki adds a third in the 87th minute and Godzilla weeps for joy as the mighty Samuri Blue rock on through to the knockout stages.

Elsewhere at the same time Holland and Cameroon play out their respective World Cup campaigns with the Dutch definitely through and the Cameroons definitely going home. Unsurprisingly the Netherlands takes the lead when Robin Van Persie scores in the 36th minute. From here no further news comes through until the 65th minute when Samuel Eto’o fires a penalty that almost takes the net with it. In the 73rd minute Robben gets introduced for his first taste of the tournament while another substitute in the form of Huntelaar snatches the winner in the 83rd minute ending the game at a 2-1 victory for Holland giving them three wins out of three, no mean feat in this competition this year. At a time where consistency is rare such solid performances are a weighty achievement.

Thus ends one of the more exciting days of these finals.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Wednesday 23 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY THIRTEEN

Day Thirteen? That’s a bad omen. Early in the morning I find myself online and buying porn, I guess this is in preparation of England leaving me unsatisfied later on today. Unsurprisingly when it finishes downloading five hours later I have long forgotten about the passion.

I begin the day by listening to the new podcast from Derek “Robbo” Robson. He is a loudmouth Middlesbrough fan who has been plugging away telling it like it is with regards to all sport for over a decade now. I first discovered him years ago passing comment on an old Radio Five show hosted by Stuart Maconie called The Treatment. He was the best thing about the show by a mile. Over the years he has remained passing judgement and waxing lyrical for Five Live but now he appears to have struck out on his own with his Robbo Robson blog and attached podcast. He hasn’t lost it, still happy to banter shit with an energy certain other pundits and commentators appear to be lacking.

OK, off the back of my opinions expressed yesterday it would appear that I am COMPLETELY alone with my take of the Terry vs Capello apparent war of words. Let it be understood, I can’t really bare either of them but provided we are winning I will be for them all the way.

The latest issue of Vice Magazine comes through my letterbox today and the only England player in sight is Joe Cole shilling Nike on pages 2 and 3. Perhaps this is a sign.

Less than a year ago we were beating this team 2-1 at Wembley. So why should they be providing such a problem for us now? The reality is that they aren’t, we are in the process of defeating ourselves. This is the English way, the resounding mentality of grafter nation repeatedly being beaten down by the powers that be (anyone else see that Budget yesterday?). Ahead of time Capello has announced his team which to his credit shows he listens to voices and suggests he is not as stubborn as we had been fearing (stubborn to the point of Kurtz). I get dragged out to the pub for this game. I was trying to avoid a boozy experience and incoherent football during this competition but today I get my arm twisted. We wind up in a pub called The Castle, which I guess it what you need in these times of necessarily patriotism and tradition. Getting a position next to the bar ultimately proves something of a mistake as beer flows and by halftime I have already nearly knocked back four pints of Kronenbourg on an empty stomach (blame the nerves). Thankfully England look a team rejuvenated today. I genuinely believe in Capello again, the sense of suffocating seriousness feels as if it has passed and the team is hinting at and suggesting flair again. I believe in the addition of Defoe. As an out and out striker he is better than Heskey (whose role is provider) but with Rooney not working alongside poor old Emile. This is a good move that pays off early in the 21st minute as Defoe smacks in an effort, off a cross from Milner, fired straight at the Slovenian goalkeeper’s face it would seem. There is a true sense of relief attached to this goal going in. From here confidence builds as the beer goggles kick in. Thankfully Terry looks unaffected by the apparent spat of earlier this week as he plays a very solid game putting out a performance that is slowly making me a fan out of a player I never thought I could ever warm to. After halftime things are looking good as everyone in the pub exchanges gestures of confidence in gobby fashion. Three minutes into the second half Defoe scores again and the pub explodes. Somehow though I appear to be the only one that spots the linesman raising his flag and while everyone around is cheering I am booing. Even the score in the top left corner of the BBC coverage shows 2-0. FAIL. In the 58th minute Rooney hits the woodwork and suddenly it begins to look like a second goal is not necessarily going to happen. Suddenly the game begins to resemble something of a slog/scrap. When in the 71st minute Capello pulls off Rooney and puts on Joe Cole I fail to clock that he has been limping and once more I find myself with a paranoid distaste towards our leader as I find myself reminded of the time that Graham Taylor yanked off Lineker against Sweden at Euro 92 before he got the goal scoring record and ruined the end of his international career. I am wrong though. Eventually we win 1-0 and all that stuff gets forgotten. It’s not a complete performance, not one that really inspires but it was business like for a change and came with the desired result. We are through and likely to be against some soft touch in Serbia or Ghana from Group D as despite our fears we end the campaign topping the table of Group C (see twist below). By now I think I have knocked back six pints in a short space of time on an empty stomach. This would probably explain Tweets such as “England games make me feel like fighting” and “scraping a draw against Slovenia? We fuckimg suck!” We exit the pub in the zone for food. For shits and giggles we decide to step into a restaurant called Clowns. It’s a fucking kids restaurant with unsurprisingly a circus theme. I guess this gives me license to say “I’m famished.” Inside there is only one other table eating so typically we sit in the booth right next to it. We are a state. At least however we have not wound up in a night club as with past experiences of England games (a memory and moment in time having been noted in our haze). When the poor waitress takes our drinks orders I find myself unprepared and not necessarily sensibly I order a banana milkshake. Next as it comes to food I order a “Mile High Burger”. This is what the truly obese eat and now I am skirting/skimming towards that fast track off the back of an England victory. When the food finally gets served it is four burgers in a bap with bacon and cheese inside and a skewer holding it all together. This food is so wrong. Sporting true English grit and spirit (much like the footballers) with determination I finish my plate (barring the sweetcorn). It’s a dirty job. Eventually we exit leaving an apologetic but pathetic tip for the waitress that thankfully chose to turn a blind eye to our indiscretion and shame. Walking down Colchester High Street on a blazing Wednesday afternoon with dickheads in England shirts blowing plastic vuvuzelas isn’t necessarily the most awful thing in the world.

“Here’s hoping the Yanks fucking fail” (my thoughts beforehand). Through the entire England game all news of the other match (this match) remains silent, nothing is heard which surely without doubt equates to no action and no goals. Then after the England game finishes and I can barely stand from somewhere news filters through that America have scored an injury time winner through Landon Donovan. Of course this news fails to register with me until the day after but it changes things wholesale at the last gasp as Serbia, who otherwise looked through, are suddenly ruthlessly dumped out of the World Cup at the death and somehow the next time I see the Group C table on the big screen through my beer goggles for some reason it is showing the USA at the top of the table. Wha’ happened? After the game it gets reported that Donovan breaks down in an interview like a bitch with a skinned knee. He needs to watch Entourage and learn how to man the fuck up.

Nothing is ever easy, just ask the Germans that. I wake up in the 92nd minute on top of my bed having passed out probably naked. On screen I am barely able to make out a score of Germany 1 Ghana 0. Minutes later I find myself leaping from my bed and to the bathroom where I repeatedly throw up, surely my feelings towards Germany are not so visceral. Tomorrow I will find out that the physically interesting looking Ozil scored the winner in the 60th minute. Even better though I will also learn that Ghana have progressed to the knockout stage and Africa will actually have representation after all. Celebration.

I don’t think this game existed, I don’t believe it was ever played. Absolutely nothing attached to my Wednesday suggests it occurred. On paper though I am surprised to read that Australia defeat Serbia 2-1 with goals from Cahill (69 mins) and Holman (73 mins) with Pantelic (84 mins) responding for the Serbs. I believe in Planet Tim Cahill so eventually the score looks real to me. Being an unexpected victory for the previous winless Australia it just serves to cause both teams to exit from the tournament, quite a surprise after the Serbian victory over Germany on Friday.

As I nurse my head with a wet flannel and eventually throw up again, with Danny Baker’s midweek show on my radio I find myself barely aware of the longest game of tennis in history that has been taking place elsewhere today. These are truly historic times.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Tuesday 22 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY TWELVE

There will be tears tomorrow. When two months ago I booked the day of the England v Slovenia off at work at holiday my boss flip flopped. Now he appears to have completely forgotten it, appearing to even fail to register that the World Cup is on and in the process he is foisting more work onto my already heaving workload. This causes me some discomfort. Should I come clean and battle it out with him in a game of persuasion or do I keep schtum and drop myself in for a potential ton of shit at a later date? In the end I plump for the latter (much like Homer Simpson’s tactic when he asked Marge to the prom). My boss is just not working class; he does not get it (although three days of borderline racist joke text messages suggest he is trying).

Elsewhere people seem to have royally turned on John Terry for his comments in the press conference. Personally they didn’t register as all that scandalous to me, quite frankly it was refreshing to hear someone with a bit of a bark in the England camp. The responding interview on the BBC with Fabio Capello just felt creepy in comparison (but this was perhaps not helped by the camera periodically zooming in on his face/expression). Regardless of what Terry says I think Capello has lost it. And I have no idea why or how? From some angles it genuinely appears that we might have our own version of the French situation on our hands. Very quickly Capello is beginning to resemble something of a crazy man, physically almost like a Spitting Image puppet as in conversation he just appears to be rambling, is the Ibogaine effect? During both games from the bench he was been seen to walk around in what appears bewilderment. It is truly gutting to see how things are panning out now as a 4-1 victory at Croatia now feels like a lifetime ago.

Seems were are all having our problems with management and authority figures

In many ways this is the most fascinating game of the day. At work my colleague actually asks me “what happens if France doesn’t turn up?” Have things really got that bad? It certainly seems that people are getting that impression. The reality is that FIFA would probably give South Africa a 3-0 victory and ban France from competing in any major tournaments for the foreseeable future until Platini would manage to pull some stings. Regardless France do turn up and it is with a team that looks fractured on paper alone. Did anyone really expect Cisse to start a game in this World Cup? Ahead of Henry? From my vantage point of my desk at work I try to watch the game online but because BBC aren’t covering it I wind up Iraq Goals where I think most other working stiffs currently are. As a result inevitably the game is just one long buffer and soon I give up (returning to downloading old episodes of The Bugle podcast before The Times zap what remains of their website). Much like most of the world my colleague and I would love to see South Africa go through but it’s just an order too tall. Then again memories remain of the Senegal victory over France at the 2002 World Cup. From here it doesn’t take too long for good news to come through as on the 20th minute mark Khumalo gives the South Africans the lead with a goal where the expectations were there but not there. Five minutes later Gourcuff gets sent off which suggests that having been forced to eat dinner on his own has finally taken its toll. That and the French team really do not give a fuck. Just before halftime the world rejoices once more as Mphela adds a second for South Africa in the 37th minute. At halftime France bring on Malouda for Cisse (makes sense) and then finally ten minutes later Henry shows his face at this World Cup. On the 70th minute Malouda pulls one back for France and then that’s it. France go out and South Africa go out both having been very entertaining for very different reasons.

Ultimately with Group A as the heart says South Africa, the head says Mexico and Uruguay as their progress feels somewhat more earned and inevitable. Compared to the other game in the group there is less interest in this match it seems not least represented by the fact that I appear to be able to get a decent online stream of this fucker. In the end Suarez gets over his tissue incident last Wednesday to score in the 43rd minute to give Uruguay a 1-0 victory to top the Group A table and the probable reward of avoiding Argentina in the process.

With a fourth train delay in two days facing inevitably when I get home this evening the Argentina v Greece is already in progress. Much against expectations it is not too much of a weakened Argentina side with Messi on the field. Today is the 24th anniversary of Maradona’s Hand Of God incident at Mexico 86. These days I don’t think he could manage to leap so high. With their place in the knockout round seal Argentina largely coast it while Greece appear intent in getting their chops in on Messi. At the 36 minute mark the World Cup gets its latest cottonmouth in the form of Avraam Papadopoulos from Greece. Early in the second half Russell Brand (Samaras) gets in a decent effort, working the move pretty much solo. Towards the end of the game a frustrated Messi gets rolling, not least in the 68th minute when he strikes an amazing free kick against the Greek post. Argentina eventually take the lead in the 77th minute when a scramble ram from a corner by Demichelis almost takes out the net. Now that’s a headband. In the 86th minute Messi almost breaks the goalpost again with another effort before two minutes later old man Palermo scores from distance after a Messi rebound. Group B ends with Argentina unsurprisingly on full points and a first round encounter with Mexico set for Saturday.

During the television Argentina v Greece game a corner caption opens up to report that Nigeria have scored with another goal from Kalu Uche from a seemingly harmless cross (at the 12 minute mark). It’s a nice finish coupled with terrible defending. Not long after this he smashes the ball against the South Korean post. Later Jung-Soo Lee scores an equalizer from a crossed free kick with a header cum kick in the 38th minute. Not long after halftime while we still await the first goal in the televised Group B game South Korea take the lead by a free kick from Chu-Young Park. In the 69th minute Yakubu puts away a penalty making the game 2-2 which it is how it ends as both Nigeria and South Korea exit the World Cup to little surprise.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Monday 21 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY ELEVEN

It’s the longest day in England and the shortest day in South Africa. Go compare.

I am back at work today. This is less than ideal, not least when it soon becomes apparent that my boss has forgotten that I have Wednesday off also (specifically for the England v Slovenia, booked before it even meant anything). So from here now are days ahead of sneakily watching games online in a quality that just is not HD television.

Today also sees the beginning of Wimbledon. I thought that had moved to Milton Keynes years ago.

In amongst all the fun and games some genuinely sad news emerges today as Frank Sidebottom (Chris Sievey) sadly loses his battle with cancer. The fact that he was continuing to gig for the foreseeable future suggested that he was still feeling strong and was going frighten the cancer away and it didn’t seem like he was about to pass on. Frank Sidebottom was a hilarious performer. In an ideal world it would be him fronting the post England match fun bags shows instead of James Corden because without doubt he ensure that the experience infinitely more fun, entertaining and genuine. Elsewhere Frank Sidebottom has only just released his World Cup single “Three Shirts On My Line” which is typical of the man as he takes a piece of pop culture and puts it through his fun goggles. In a tournament that has often been lacking fun it is things like this than bring a smile to people’s faces. A MakeFrank1 campaign has already begun on Twitter. Make it so!

At the time this game begins today I am at work gearing up for my lunch (Penne Arrabiata with chargrilled chicken). Undaunted about being caught out I surf over to the BBC website where the game is being streamed. It’s not ideal but beneath the game are the line-ups and to the left is something of a text commentary. Impressively also there are quick clips beneath the game soon after the highlights occur. And they don’t long to come as Carvalho slams the ball against the post after 7 minutes. Against the hopeful expectations of the romantics Portugal soon take the lead when Raul Meireles scores in the 29th minute, not that I manage to catch it on the stream. From here I make the schoolboy error of actually doing some work only to discover when I check that Portugal are now 4-0 up after a seven blitz minute early in the second half (Simao 53, Almeida 56 and Tiago 60). Ten minutes from time another three goal blitz occurs when substitute Liedson scores four minutes after coming on followed by Ronaldo’s first goal in two years for the Portuguese at the 87 minute mark accompanied by a seventh (and second for the night) two minutes later from Tiago. Not that I see any of these fucking goals. Later word comes through that this was the first game to ever been shown live in North Korea. Ouch bad timing.

The second game of the day is one that hardly sparks the imagination. Indeed God bless my work colleague when she actually thinks the CHI stands for China. This of course is selling Chile short because they looked fairly impressive in their 1-0 win over Honduras, as did Switzerland when they surprised everybody (including the Spanish) when they registered their own 1-0 victory over the tournament favourites (no mean feat from no mean feet). I guess the direction of the game naturally changes when Behrami gets sent off from the Swiss at the half hour mark. Not the first time a West Ham player has fucked up at these finals. Despite this at the 67 minute mark the Swiss manage to accomplish the all time World Cup finals record of going the longest run without conceding any goals. Eight minutes later however substitute Mark Gonzalez scores for Chile to end that streak and provide the only goal of the game giving Chile another 1-0 victory and put them surprisingly in the Group H driving seat with a tough final game against Spain remaining.

As the game kicks off this evening I find myself stuck on a delayed train returning home from London. Once back home in Colchester I quickly have to step into Asda to buy some meat and as I drive home it is to the tones of the glorious radio coverage once more. Already the game sounds very much in the control of Spain as David Villa hits the crossbar and two other decent efforts fly in within seven minutes. When I finally get to watch the game on TV it appears that Dr Mick from Loaded magazine a few years ago is now managing Spain. What is that about? With Torres in the starting line-up tonight it is Villa that gives Spain the lead after 17 minutes as he beats three Honduran defenders in the box before letting rip into the top corner. People fawn. At the 50 minute mark David Villa adds a sweet second with a subtly deflected shot from the edge of the box. Seconds later as the Spanish continue to push Ramos comes achingly close. Not long after this an incident sees Pique’s mouth pissing blood. With Johnson and Suarez amongst others suffering from a similar ailment this truly has been a bloody tournament for bashed in gobs. At the hour mark Navas goes down in the box and David Villa lines up the ball to complete his hat trick. He misses it, firing it past the right post. The cue tip fails. Eventually it ends at 2-0 with Spain having unconvincingly arrived at the World Cup.

When the final whistle blows the tournament is officially halfway through. It has all gone by so quickly.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sunday 20 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY TEN

Today is Father’s Day. I’m not sure if this is the case the world over but certainly it is here in England. My own father packed off on holiday to Ibiza with my mother in the early hours yesterday so annoyingly when my gift of a Millwall away shirt arrived with the post a few hours later I was unable to hand it to him. Elsewhere today is also the sixth birthday in eleven days for me. Once more: what’s the deal with birthdays in June (or rather conception in September/October)?

It’s a gloomy Sunday. The man that “stormed” the England dressing room after the Algeria game has whored himself to the Sunday newspapers. The guy’s name is Pavlos Joseph, surely with a name like that he was half in the wrong dressing room. When asked about it Beckham laughs it off, he laughs everything off, this is quite the jolly for him, hanging out with the princes and everything. Have we discovered our Gillian Duffy of the World Cup campaign?

News of fun and games continues to emerge from the France camp as it would appear that Nicolas Anelka has been sent home. Later word comes through that the trainer has also been ordered to pack his bags after rumours abound of the team refusing to train for him. What on earth is going on with that crumbling squad?

At halftime during the first game as a precursor to tomorrow’s North Korea v Portugal match the BBC shows a clipped version of The Game Of Their Lives documentary. The World Cup in 1966 has never looked brighter prompting a real sense of nostalgia for a less commercialized tournament and rose tinted better times. The grass most definitely looks greener. Here’s hoping that North Korea will be leading 3-0 tomorrow too.

In another game that realistically fails to spark the imagination Paraguay seemingly enthused from their draw with Italy on Monday take hold of this game immediately with a close effort from Santa Cruz after 3 minutes. From here Paraguay dominate the Slovakians with impressive force and it feels only a matter of time before the goal that comes in the 27th minute from Vera as he dinks the ball into the net from a neat move from Barrios. With this goal Paraguay maintain momentum and pace almost permanently threatening to add a second, not least Santa Cruz who always looks a danger, especially when he breaks through in the 38th minute. Somehow Slovakia makes it to halftime with the score at just 1-0. In the second half Slovakia pull themselves together but Paraguay are generally on song today and with Santa Cruz a persistent nuisance they eventually seal the game in the 84th minute when Riveros adds a second to make the final score 2-0 to Paraguay making them good for a second round encounter against a Group E opponent.

When did Bobby Heenan take over as manager of Italy? I don’t think that it is actually the real him because “The Weasel” would never allow the Italians to play as bad as this. Heenan managed Andre The Giant to a World Championship and a World Tag Team Championship. Perhaps Lippi could take some cues. In theory New Zealand should not pose any obstacle today as their late equalizer against Slovakia last Tuesday was more from luck than endeavour. On that note their good fortune appears to continue when after only seven minutes their former AFC Wimbledon striker Shane Smeltz scores with a fortunate tap in at the far post which looks technically offside. With a player that looks like a young Woody Allen (Simon Elliott) in tow New Zealand proceed to hold tight. From here the game gets a bit tetchy with Rory Fallon particularly pushing his (especially during an incident after only 23 minutes). As Italy begin to press at the 26 minute mark Montolivo hits the post and then a minute later Smith fouls De Rossi in the box for a penalty which Iaquinta promptly fires home giving birth to a strange vuvuzuela cum blowjob celebration. With the equalizer under their belt it feels like it is only a matter of time before Italy proceeds to run up a high score. Surprisingly though New Zealand stand tall and make it to halftime with the score at only 1-1. As the game continues into the second half it soon becomes apparent that New Zealand are destined to get physical and up their game while Italy continue to flail. This is not the Italy of old, not the team that won the tournament four years ago. In the end the second half turns out to be a real scrap of watching New Zealand get defensive and fight to hold onto the draw, which they eventually accomplish. I guess they went ugly early.

Yes! Yes! Yes! Prior to the tournament this was one of the matches that I put into my iPhone diary as a fixture destined to provide a good time and potentially something of a World Cup classic. In the build up as Garth Crooks interviews some poor guy that I should be recognizing Crooks looks like he wants a fight. Tonight Drogba in the starting lineup complete with captaincy. The game is immediately exciting as Mos Def lookalike Robinho has a decent pop within a minute. Facing him however is a capable Wesley Snipes lookalike in the form of Boubacar Barry in the Ivory Coast goal. Also at the risk of pushing the lookalike thing too far Kaka really looks like Vincent Chase from Entourage. Tonight this is very much Brazil’s game as the Ivory Coast really do not appear equipped to deal with Brazil as Drogba looks lost upfront lacking any kind of service from his teammates. On the 25 minute mark the inevitable occurs as Fabiano breaks away and proceeds to smash the ball into the roof of the net as he drives through the Ivory Coast defense. As the game enters into the second half it takes only five minutes for Fabiano to add a second as he tips the ball over three players to score a goal similar to Gascoigne against Scotland at Euro 96. There is a hint of handball but this is overridden by the manner in which he bulldozed the ball past Barry and into the goal. Quite frankly tonight the Ivory Coast do not look like they have turned up as they play generally quite defense seemingly scared and in awe of the Brazilians. This fact is further pushed home as Elano slots in from a nice cross on the 62nd minute mark. Brimming with confidence Robinho attempts to get in on the act as he does what we refer to at Millwall as a “mad man run” as he tears through the Ivory Coast. Miraculously towards the end the Ivory Coast find some steam and in the 79th minute Drogba arrives on the World Cup stage with a slick glancing heading to make the game 3-1 although by this point a comeback looks far beyond their capabilities. Towards the end things begin to get very tetchy between the teams which comes to a head in the 88th minute when Kaka nudges Keita who responds by holding his face as if bitchslapped. This results in Kaka’s second yellow card and an unfortunate moment of ugliness that almost serves to taint the game. Dunga becomes visibly livid. Beyond this the final few minutes get played out until Brazil registers a 3-1 win. They’re looking good.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Saturday 19 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY NINE

“Nice to see your home fans boo you. That’s what loyal support is.”

In a way this was an awesome gesture but from another perspective I don’t think Wayne Rooney could have chosen a worse moment to utter a more inappropriate message to the supporters of England. This it would appear is a man on the edge, seemingly going nowhere fast. Quite frankly the boos were and are justified.

More word of post match fun and games emerge as the FA complain to FIFA over how an England supporter managed to get into the England dressing room eventually squaring up to David Beckham. Quite frankly the guy has as much purpose being in the dressing room as Beckham.

The other curious thing is how the BBC keeps showing an Algerian supporter complaining about England’s performance and how some people have paid in the region of an annual salary to be at the game. I think the English can fight their own battles mate.

It is a weird thing, back in the dark bad old days of football hooliganism there seemed to be some kind of snap to the team, a fear of failure and a genuine sense of fight. Was it motivated in some way by crowd control, driven in an effort to keep said hooligans happy and prevent them rioting? Certainly this is not the case in these finals or any of recent memory. Just a thought.

Part of me is convinced that failure is all down to the England games serving as warm-up for the James Corden famous football supporter wankfest. So far both England games have been screened on ITV and so far they have both sucked. Thankfully the game on Wednesday against Slovenia is on the BBC. Just a thought, please prove me right.

With this in mind I have decided to analyse the matches so far and which TV stations they have been on. The BBC has shown 12 of the games featuring 21 of the goals. Slightly better ITV has shown 11 games and featured 22 goals. Additionally the BBC and ITV have both shown four matches that have ended in a draw each while ITV has had the misfortune to broadcast both goalless draws including last night’s debacle.

As this game is kicking off I find myself sat queued at a set of traffic lights in my car thinking about the amazing sandwich that I am about to make with the ingredients I just bought in Tesco when I get home. It is strange listening to a match on the radio, a really pleasant throwback to my youth, back as far as Espana 82. Perhaps I should ditch watching these games on TV now and concentrate on the radio coverage. When it comes to commentary Alan Green is head and shoulders above anyone anywhere. That said they just can’t help it with Honda and the puns. Eventually I make my sandwich and eat my sandwich (Dairylea and chorizo in a baguette) and begin concentrating on the game. Again this is another match where the Mexican wave begins early which as the commentators seems to point out every game is never a good sight. Once again Robben is on the bench, not really fully fit for business but in theory without him the Dutch should be enough to beat Japan, their victory over Cameroon seemingly coming more from fortune than flair. Before I even know it the game has reached halftime with the score 0-0 and little to report home, the only interesting thing seeming to be the big plaster now sitting on the chin of Yuichi Komano. The second half begins with lots of pressure from Holland and soon in the 52nd minute they take the inevitable lead with a fiercely struck shot by Wesley Sneider from the edge of the box that Kawashima in the Japanese goal appears unable to handle. From here the Japanese come back into the game and slowly begin to threaten although they appear eternally lacking a final touch. Impressively in the 76th minute Japan bring on two strikers suggesting a never say die attitude. In contrast however it turns out to be Afellay who breaks away with a couple of strong opportunities to add a second late on to kill the game. It all ends with Japan pressing as Okazaki has a great opportunity to equalise before two minutes into injury time De Jong appears to foul Nagatomo in the penalty box but nothing is given. Not long afterwards the game ends as a 1-0 victory to Holland and Takeshi Okada one step closer to his future career as farmer.

Listening to the Australia national anthem today it is funny how to me it suddenly resembles a drunken version of the American national anthem. Today with a manager in Verbeek that looks like a young Rupert Murdoch Australia have something to prove if they are to remain in the World Cup. The game begins brightly as both teams appear up for it for a change. On 11 minutes the Australians take a surprise lead as Holman scores a rebound from a comedy fumble/bobble by the unfortunate Kingson in the Ghanian goal after a direct free kick. From here Ghana pick up the pace and in the 23rd minute a solid move sees Mensah firing a shot which is handled on the line by Kewell resulting in a penalty and inevitable red card meaning for a second game running Australia are reduced to ten men. Moments later Gyan slots home the penalty for his second goal of the finals. With the advantage Ghana proceed to press Australia and in the 43rd minute Boateng brings a good save out of Schwarzer. Into the second half Ghana continue to pile on the pressure with the benefit of an extra man but the final touch fails to arrive. Indeed in the 71st minute Wilkshire beats the offside trap only to fluff perhaps the best opportunity of the half. With the game heading to an end Mensah comes close in the 89th minutes as Ghana push on with pressure into injury time but Australia lockdown the remains and stand stoic. The game sadly ends with Paintsil seeping blood and being stretchered off as both teams just about remain in the tournament with a slight hope of playing the winners of Group C.

Tonight I miss the encounter between Denmark and Cameroon as I get invited (dragged) to a performance art event called “I’m Think Of You” at Colchester Arts Centre by Franko B, a London based artist originally from Italy. Apparently this is bringing people out in their dozens. When I eventually rendezvous with my friends we find ourselves being kept in a holding area before being led into performance platform/room where we find ourselves presented with a fat, naked, tattooed man with his knob pierced riding a reckless swing repeatedly gurning towards anyone present. At the other end of the room a lady plays piano and to experience this for fourteen minutes I guess is the piece. I am missing the fucking football for this? Dare I suggest with the right trust fund and the wrong mental illness anybody could do this. I derive no emotion from this experience just annoyance. By the time the moment passes the Cameroon v Denmark game is all but gone so instead we head down the pub for a Saturday night drink. Surprisingly with no televisions showing the football the place is surprisingly packed, do these people not know a world event is currently taking place? When I eventually get home I catch the highlights (after enduring James Corden). The impression I get is that I have missed out on a good one. I am surprised to learn that Cameroon has bounced out of the tournament losing 2-1 to Denmark. When Samuel Eto’o gave Cameroon the lead after 10 minutes it amuses no end that I learned this fact from an exuberant Twitter posting by Chad Ochocinco. Later when I actually see the goal it comes from a classic defensive foul up from the Danish. In contrast the two Denmark goals turn out to be skilfully taken/finished efforts from Bendtner (33 mins) and Rommedahl (62 mins).

Tonight on James Corden his guests are Vernon Kay and Alan Carr. These are soft stupid men and hardly the kind of people our players should be associating with if they are to be world beaters. Is it any surprise that our players performed like fannies last night when they are being associated with such bullshit? The clip featuring Corden exchanging penalties with Lampard at Stamford Bridge is incredibly infuriating. Hearing this guy’s bellowing fake/false laugh is the kind of thing that could induce insanity if taken too seriously (and I feel I’m almost there). What is the answer?

Friday, 18 June 2010

Friday 18 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY EIGHT

Time for everyone in England to jump back on the football bandwagon. Sometimes I can really understand why other nations dislike us because of our football supporters.

Today is Fabio Capello’s 64th birthday. With this in mind it gets highlighted to me that if he wins this World Cup it would make him both the first foreign manager and the oldest to ever win the competition/tournament.

From here the remainder of the morning flies by. I get informed that Sebastian Horsley has died of a heroin overdose as outside an overcast day take various opportunities to drizzle.

After the manner in which they dismantled Australia last Sunday much is expected of the Germans today, not least after Serbia lost to Ghana the same day. Today Joachim Low continues scoring in the fashion stakes wearing a rather natty/fetching cardigan which is a look his assistant also appears to be rocking. Is he his bitch? They were matching on Sunday as well. It begins a physical and solid encounter and before the long the referee becomes slightly card happy. With Serbia more than holding their own the contest is all but killed in the 36th minute when the referee issues a harsh second yellow card to Klose for a trip from behind. When Klose gets sent off it is almost a Gazza moment. The foul is not a million miles away from Italia 90 and now it would seem the referee’s decision is something of a dream smasher for Klose, destroying any final hopes of him registering the all time world cup top scorer record. He doesn’t cry though, he just refuses for a while to return to the dressing room. From here it barely takes Serbia two minutes to take the advantage as Jovanovic scores a goal with a flying stretch. As the first half comes to an end a scramble sees Khedira ram the ball against the bar for the Germans. The second half begins with Germany pressing Serbia in search of an equalizer. In the 56th minute Podolski makes a good run but ultimately only comes close with a decent effort. Then only minutes later he fires the ball into the side netting. A second turning point in the game occurs in the 59th minute when Vidic performs a crazy handball in the penalty box. Fortunately for him however Stojkovic in the Serb goal saves the spot kick, which is ironic for a national with such a legacy of proficiency at penalties. From here Serbia regain some kind of confidence as Jovanovic comes close again in the 66th as he hits the post while in the 73rd minute Zigic skims the bar for them. Eventually the game ends at 1-0 to Serbia. So much for the conspiracy theory of the Germans playing with the advantage of a season using the Jabulani ball.

Once more today the Slovenian players are in good voice during their national anthem, half Arnie half Borat. As the strains of the American anthem rains out it just reminds me of patriotic wrestlers. When the camera pans across the faces of the players arm in arm over shoulders at the point I see Tim Howard I can’t help but wonder whatever happened to his tourettes syndrome. Within seventeen seconds of kick off Clint Dempsey floors a Slovenian with his elbow. In the 12th minute Slovenia take the lead through a spectacular long range effort from Birsa. From here the half calms down, even to the point that at the 33 minute mark the commentator is pointing out there is something of a resemblance between USA coach Bob Bradley and Hannibal Lecter. Yes, this game is that exciting. A few minutes later Torres brings a good save out of the Serbia goalkeeper from a free kick. With momentum behind them the USA continue to press for the remainder of the first half until on the 41st minute Slovenia break on the counter and Ljubijankic adds a second. During the game I find myself getting a couple of phone calls, aren’t people getting into the World Cup, I think we need to get behind this thing. At halftime the USA make two changes bringing on Edu and Feilhaber and there is an air of immediate change as two minutes after the restart Landon Donovan rams the ball into the roof of the Serbia net as he runs in from the side. The goal is a defiant gesture, a shot that appears to frighten goalkeeper Handanovic into hiding behind the post. From here throughout the second half American begin to pile on the pressure as they endeavour to come back into the game while all the time Altidore appears to spend the majority of the game falling over. Late on the excellently named Herculez Gomez gets introduced for the USA. In the 81st minute they finally get their equalizer as Michael Bradley scores one for his dad as the fruit of a very direct move. Nepotism rules. Late on Edu then puts the ball in from a cross as a schmoz occurs in the Serbian penalty box. The goal does not stand as it gets disallowed although there were a number of incidents/occurrences for both sides during the move that could have equated to a foul. You could/might say they were robbed, not least when the whistle blows soon afterwards ending the game 2-2. It’s a pretty good result from the perspective of England.

So finally after another crazy build up England’s second game arrives with a sense of anticlimax. When the team news comes in I am genuinely surprised to hear that Capello has gone with James over Green. Bad call. Otherwise Carragher for King, Barry for Milner and sticking with Heskey are pretty predictable decisions. Elsewhere it would seem that Algeria have changed their goalkeeper too as M’Bolhi comes in. This is a goalkeeper with a star tattooed behind his left ear. This is a man.

The game kicks off and it doesn’t take long to notice that Algeria is getting stuck in a manner that England is not. Suddenly the game exits the realms of enjoyment and soon begins to suggest another lacklustre performance. It is over the course of the first half that the words of Bill Hicks begin to resonate with me. Years ago he commented on the first Gulf War that he was “for the war but against the troops” and I sense now that people are up for the World Cup but sick of the actual players (the English ones). Things have become so removed from sport now it would seem, the build up is too glitzy and while the players spend so much time shilling perhaps this would be time better spent concentrating on the football.

On the field Glen Johnson looks the weakest link as he repeatedly gets burned making Boudeboz looks perhaps more skillful and dangerous than he actually is. Also a couple of times early on James does not necessarily look safe. As time moves on to their credit Algeria actually begin to rough England up, not least in the 18th minute when Heskey takes a particularly nasty shot to the head. Ten minutes and they actually have Terry down on the floor. From here it takes England almost 30 minutes to find a shot on goal and when it comes it is weak and tepid. When the game reaches halftime we remain mystified. Into the second half Matmour (the Algerian Jason Biggs lookalike) continues being a pain to England. Eventually Capello makes a change and it is Wright-Phillips for Lennon, a straight switch of the impotent. The sophisticated right now are suggesting that the problem is with the tactical makeup of England but I think it runs deeper, they just don’t look into the game. The control exhibited is not that of the greatest and most skilful players on the planet. When Rooney moves it is painfully sluggish and Lampard just looks invisible. For a second a spark is hinted when Defoe replaces Heskey but soon it feels snuffed out as the Algerians continue to crowd the English players. I guess it is possible that they have potentially played half the games of the English players but I’m not convinced of this as a reason. With less than ten minutes to go Crouch comes on for the drab Barry which whiffs of desperation. By now Rooney is barely moving, often seldom moving beyond the centre circle. The game ends with the England players seemingly unable to take corner kicks. Late on when the Algerians have a free kick that they send into the penalty box is creates a degree of panic that none of the England set pieces ever exhibited. Finally the game gets put out of its misery at 0-0 and a result England should not have stooped to.

In the end the game is another disaster. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. There are things that are plainly wrong with the players and/or the setup. We can only guess at what it is right now but none of the team are playing within an inch of the quality that justifies their lifestyle and existence. How have things with Capello turned so sour so fast?

At one point during the game a person on Twitter puts it all into perspective by pointing out: “FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF IS ON FILM 4 RIGHT NOW!!!”

I rush home in order to see the latest car crash episode of James Corden’s World Cup. Put a positive spin on that shambles you fucking chimp.

Finally a terrible night ends badly as the pretty Beyonce lookalike Rachel is the first person to get voted out of the Big Brother this year. Disaster all around.

Thursday 17 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY SEVEN

My Panini World Cup stickers came through the post today. I cannot believe I spent almost £10 on so few packets. I remember back in the day (1986) when you would get ten packs for a quid and your parents would accuse you of wasting money. Of these twenty packs I get three foils, only Glen Johnson and Aaron Lennon from England and strangely Ghezzal and Khune in a same pack of five (two players that have been sent off). I also get a Waldo Ponce! I really should not have bought football stickers, I am 33 years old! That said who needs to buy the actual stickers when people are putting this up online.

Elsewhere just when I thought the vuvuzela couldn’t get any more annoying or better (delete as applicable) I discover this website.

At domestic level George Burley was today announced as the new manager of Crystal Palace. That is hardly Puff Daddy. On a brighter note the upcoming fixtures for the 2010/2011 English leagues were announced today. Those days will be here within weeks.

The coverage of the day begins on ITV and Edgar Davids is again on board to lend his expert opinions while looking like a rasta Mr Magoo. Please ITV if you can send Robbie Earle home you can send this guy home too.

Elsewhere as I look up Gary Lineker on Wikipedia (don’t ask) I am enlightened by these facts I previously did not know about him: “gary linekar is actualy 72 but had a major face lift and people say he is english but hes actualy japanies because his parents wouldnt let him imagrate”. Would you ever?

The Maradona show flies back into town today as he goes head-to-head (at a managerial level) with the man that man marked him at Mexico 86 (Huh Jung-moo). The match begins well but soon Argentina are stamping their authority on proceedings despite the best efforts of South Korea. For me it resembles a match of a different area, a well paced game in blazing/glorious sunshine. This is what I think of when I think of the World Cup. As South Korea play deep Argentina press and unfortunately it is the South Korean striker Park Chu-Young who puts through his own goal after 16 minutes. Later Gonzalo Higuain of Real Madrid adds a second with a free header at the far post from a freekick in the 33rd minute. With the game remaining competitive it heads towards halftime with Argentina looking in control when one minute into injury time Lee Chung-Yong picks the pocket of Demichelis and pulls a surprise goal back as he tips the ball over Romero. As things roll into the second half a key moment occurs when in an amazing move South Korea almost equalize in the 57th minute. From here Argentina take control of proceedings as Messi remains a constant danger and when on a run in the 76th minute he smacks the ball of the post with a second effort which Higuain promptly knocks in for his second. Four minutes later Higuain completes his hat-trick with a simple nod in and it finishes up 4-1 to Argentina. At the end of the game a jubilant Diego Maradona trots onto the pitch hobbling much in the style and fashion of a dictator such as Hugo Chavez. This man is going to win his nation the World Cup by any means necessary.

In a fixture that fails to hold much enthusiasm for anybody but we’ll soldier on regardless. After 15 minutes a Kalu Uche free kick flies straight into the goal for Nigeria as goalkeeper Tzorvas makes a real howler diving in the wrong direction for Greece. Unfortunately on 32 minutes Kaita gets sent off for Nigeria after pushing and kicking out. From here the flow of the game visible changes as suddenly Greece work their way back into the game and they really step up towards the end of the half. With this in mind Nigeria were probably hoping to reach the break and recoup but unfortunately on 42 minute mark Salpigidis scores with a wicked deflection. At halftime back in the studio “the readers wives” review the half and as Alan Hansen describes the Greeks as “the whites”, referring to their shirts, by accident he sounds comedically racist. The second half begins with Nigeria looking a bit more organized and when they break on the 58th minute Obasi misses a very good opportunity for Nigeria to regain the lead. From here the Nigerian keeper Enyeama repeats his exploits of Saturday making a particularly impressively save in the 68th minute. Unfortunately in the 70th minute he spills a shot which Torosidis scoops in to slot home on the rebound. Eventually a Russell Brand lookalike appears on the pitch in the form of Samaras and when the final whistle blows despite being European Champions in 2004 this is Greece registering their first ever win at a World Cup finals.

Again today Thierry Henry is not in the France starting lineup amidst rumours of great dissent in the French camp. From a distance and with stupidity this game physically looks like France v Ireland again. To back this up in the crowd is some annoying wacky guy dressed as Henry’s hand. I guess this is why people don’t like the French. The match begins relatively sparkly with Mexico looking dangerous, more dangerous than France. After only two minutes Dos Santos hits the post (albeit they are offside at the time). Again in the Mexican lineup tonight is Franco the Jimmy McNulty lookalike. I wonder if he is wearing a wire. Right now word is that things are pretty chilly in South Africa and this is a point laboured by the French team as they sit on the bench beneath tartan blankets. I new this team was old but this is ridiculous. The first half turns out to be a pretty decent game, less guarded than a number of games so far this tournament. Despite this yet again another game reaches halftime with the score 0-0. Tonight in the crowd a number of Mexican supporters are wearing wrestling masks, it looks awesome. Finally there is a goal in the 63rd minute when despite looking a mile offside (it was tight) Javier Hernandez winds up on a one-to-one with the French goalkeeper and slots the chance away. Later in the 76th minute Mexico’s Vela gets upended in the penalty box by Vera as it gets given to old man Blanco (a minor Jon Favreau) to knock the penalty home and make it 2-0 to Mexico. From here the remainder of the match plays out like a wake and an obituary as the cameras keep focusing on Domenech and his apparent failure to harness the French team. The point gets laboured that this is likely to be the final time many of the French stars will play in such a tournament and it turns into something of a dour spectacle. As Henry remains wrapped up on the French bench elsewhere substitutes apparently begin hanging out behind one of the goals away from the scapegoat’s instructions. When the final whistle blows it’s a gesture of people the game of its misery.

So far today represents the best day of the tournament so far.

The night ends with a trash piece documentary on Thierry Henry’s mate Tiger Woods. They’re not mates really it would appear.