Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Tuesday 15 June 2010 – WORLD CUP DAY FIVE

Today’s news includes that Nani was sent home from the Portuguese camp rather than force home through injury. Tut tut.

Elsewhere with North Korea entering the tournament fun and games have been reported from their press conference as the manager Kim Jong-hun begins to refuses to acknowledge any reference to his side as North Korea instead insisting that questions are pitched to him as the coach of DPR Korea. In reply to questions many of his answers apparently bear mention of their “great leader” and it would indeed appear that they have snuck in an extra striker as a goalkeeper. Who on earth are they kidding? It sounds like there are going to be no North Korean supporters at the match tonight. On the Guardian World Cup Daily podcast they go in search with a microphone for North Korean supporters but they find no fruit. Slightly better ITV discovers an eccentric white man who claims to have been the only North Korean supporter during their qualifying campaign. Eventually word comes through that a number of Chinese people are being shipped in to support DPR Korea. Good luck.

Excited and bored in equal measures of waiting for the games to start today I actually find myself on eBay ordering Panini World Cup football stickers.

Also let today be acknowledged as the day that I discover the Lego Fussball website. This is some of the most colourful coverage of the World Cup you will glimpse anywhere.

I wish football commentary was still done over the telephone. It sounded more exciting and exotic, it sounded like it was coming from a foreign land.

NEW ZEALAND v SLOVAKIA
Both teams today sport a fine set of singing voices as the national anthems ring out and the Slovakians belt out a particularly fine rendition of their song. After feeling initially lukewarm towards New Zealand suddenly I find myself with flourishing with local links to the team with Tommy Smith from Ipswich in the lineup and Shane Smeltz formerly of AFC Wimbledon up front. On TV this is a much derided fixture by the experts (“the readers wives”) but once up and running it turns out to be an open game even if both sides are somewhat lacking, maybe even impotent. Soon it becomes apparent that the New Zealand goalkeeper Paston is not very good and it feels only a matter of time before he makes a mistake, a Slovakian victory seems inevitable. Finally Slovakia takes the lead early into the first half through a Vittek header. From here it turns out to be something of a painful encounter as New Zealand plainly just aren’t very good. For the longest time I am reminded of painful inter form encounters at school where our class (1CS, 2CS, 3CS etc) were just ill equipped with ungifted players to deal with anyone. As I daydream into negative nostalgia the game saunters into injury time and as Shane Smeltz puts in a late late cross two minutes into additional time Winston Reid knocks in a header as I let off a genuine cheer, a cheer that is as much for my old school teammates as it is for the Kiwis. From here the game ends at a surprising 1-1 and a genuine sense of victory for the underdog.

IVORY COAST v PORTUGAL
For the clash of the day I strive and desire a different setting so I find myself heading over to my old man’s crib to watch the next two games on a big screen TV. This is what the day is screaming for; hopefully football will look better bigger. In what should have been a classic encounter today two class teams never really get started. As ever Ronaldo cuts an annoying shadow over proceedings, it just feels impossible to like him. Still his skills are pretty undeniable when he wallops the ball against the goalpost from range as he does after ten minutes here. It has to be said the Ivory Coast shirts reveal major bitch tits on their part and this is certainly something I should and would not be noticing if the game was any good. From here there are few sparks to this game and when the game is still 0-0 at halftime it is well on its way to being a crass disappointment. The problem it would seem is that everyone is being very guarded in this round of matches, nobody wants to lose. Inevitably Drogba comes on in the second but with only twenty minutes left to do anything he barely scratches the surface of the game and eventually it ends 0-0 and a true stalemate. You sense behind the scenes everyone is relieved and happy with this but with pre-tournament promise not matched you can’t help but resent them for what feels like a no-show.

BRAZIL v NORTH KOREA
With people beginning to heavily criticize the standard of matches at these finals the tournament finds itself screaming out for a classic Brazil performance. Tonight by FIFA rankings we have on paper the best team in the finals against the worst team in the finals. As mentioned above there are plenty of fun and games to be had with North Korea (or rather DPR Korea). It begins passionately when during the singing of the national anthems the Korean number 9 Tae-Se Jong is seen tearing up in extreme fashion. Why so glum? With a national anthem that resembles “All By Myself” there is no need to weep. Then there is the spectacle of the wardrobe choice of Dunga. With his short haircut he already looks as if he added a moustache he would be the younger Chuckle Brother but tonight he appears to be wearing Captain Birdseye’s jacket. That is one coat I would not want to borrow.

Beyond all this once the game is up and running it turns out to be a fairly entertaining one with North Korea more than holding their own and as with the way of the modern world suddenly people begin to cheer up (cheer on) the underdogs. In a way when the game reaches halftime at 0-0 it is indicative of maintaining the low standard of games in these finals but also the prospect of an upset is one to savour. This however is not met as ten minutes into the second half Maicon has the ball on the edge of the box and as he sends it in for a cross it proceeds to bend in on the inside of unfortunate Korean goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk. With the first goal in suddenly it begins to look like Brazil may be headed towards a stack but to their credit North Korea remain stoic although in the 72nd minute Robinho sends Elano through who taps the ball home. Then suddenly Quantum Leap style during celebration he appears to turn in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The night ends with my second cheer of the day as Yun-Nam Ji breaks through in the last minute to pull a goal back for North Korea with an expert finish. The game ends at 2-1 to Brazil though in what wasn’t a bad game at all.

Rumours are that this game was only going to be shown on TV in North Korea if they won tonight. It’s a wacky World Cup.

My day ends with exchanging text messages with my friend now boarding a plane to Australia for a year.

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