THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

The climax to the 2010 World Cup adds a new name to the trophy, as seen on TV

Round of 16 ~ June 26
South Korea 1 Uruguay 2
There are acres of empty seats for a match played in a downpour. Last week Peter Drury compared chilly conditions to a match at Notts County; we now discover Jon Champion’s benchmark for a rainy day at football: “Weather you’d expect at Port Vale.” Some Uruguayan fans are wearing Óscar Tabárez facemasks. Park Chu-Young has the first chance, his free-kick bouncing off the post with Fernando Muslera beaten. But the Uruguayans might have been three up at the break – Lee Jung-Soo gets away with a handball and Luis Suárez is wrongly flagged offside when clean through. Their one goal is a calamity for Korea, the prone Jung Sung-Ryong swiping ineptly at Diego Forlán’s cross as it flies right across the area to Suárez. Muslera is equally at fault for the equaliser, failing to connect with a defensive header that goes straight up in the air – “Look up the definition of no-man’s land, he’s there,” says Craig Burley – and it is finished off by the “Bolton Wanderers man”, Lee Chung-Young. Uruguay’s deserved winner is superbly curled in by Suárez, “the man they call El Pistolero”, after the Koreans fail to clear a corner. That 49-goal season for Ajax, the most repeated stat we’ve heard at the World Cup, gets another airing while Suárez appears to bounce off a photographer’s head en route to a group hug with the substitutes. Such celebrations are treated as a felony in English football but no one has been booked for them at the World Cup. Korea get a final chance but “Middlesbrough fans will not be surprised” as Lee Dong-Gook’s weak shot is held up on the muddy pitch and cleared.X

Ghana 2 USA 1 (aet)
His heavily tattooed neck may leave some feeling ill-disposed towards Kevin-Prince Boateng but he has another storming game, firing Ghana into an early lead after the US lose possession. “He has so much wind in his personal World Cup sail,” says Drury. The guilty player, Ricardo Clark, is hauled off after half an hour with the US not having managed a shot. “It’s men against boys and the boys are on top,” says Jim Beglin after which there’s a silence before Drury explains that this is a reference to Ghana having the youngest squad at the tournament. ITV have gone to the trouble of setting up a camera in a bar owned by Tim Howard’s in-laws but there’s a lack of face-paint and no one goes berserk so we only see them once. Benny Feilhaber, the klutz from the Bronx who slayed Vegas, comes on as half-time sub for the third time and immediately forces a good save from Richard Kingson. After Clint Dempsey’s penalty equaliser, Jozy Altidore has two good chances to put the US ahead. Bob Bradley is energised on the touchline while Milovan Rajevac, tie loosened under his padded jacket, looks like a harassed depot boss for a road haulage firm. But Ghana rally to win in extra time, when Asamoah Gyan “dancing to the African beat” chases a long punt. Despite being knocked off balance by Carlos Bocanegra he stays on his feet and lashes it past Tim Howard – a goal from a 1950s newsreel. Drury’s heavily prepared epitaph, “So it’s bye bye, big American sigh”, will have left many viewers with a rage heaving inside of them that would have been both difficult to contain and impossible to explain to those not present.

June 27
England 1 Germany 4
“Game 51 of the World Cup or 5-1 if you prefer,” says Guy Mowbray, nearly prophetic about the score in his opening remarks. England had just triumphed in the World Coarse Fishing Championships but this sinew-stiffening news may not have reached Fabio’s men before kick-off. We see the shape of things to come after four minutes when David James has to block from Mesut Ozil who has got behind Ashley Cole. England stabilise briefly and even execute a traditional move, Frank Lampard belting a free-kick directly into the wall. “He was cracking them in for fun in the warm-up,” says Mowbray. Germany’s first is a prime slice of kick und rush – “A goal you will see in every pub game played this morning,” says Mark Lawrenson – as Miroslav Klose chases down a long punt which bamboozles John Terry and then fends off Matthew Upson to score. Wayne Rooney, pink and furious, skies a shot. “Hollywood,” sighs Lawrenson as England get into double figures for aimless cross-field passes. We see the first of several slow-mos of James shouting “fackin’ shit” after he saves with his legs from Klose. A minute after it’s 2-0, Klose being presented with a huge gap to run into. Lukas Podolski miscontrols but still has time to score; “Capello clasped his hands in prayer as the second went in.” The corpse stirs for five minutes as Upson smacks in Steven Gerrard’s cross with his face before Lampard’s shot bounces over the line only to be ruled out. As boos rain down, Lawrenson directs the blame: “Sepp Blatter is here and is squirming in his seat”; “How much profit will FIFA make at this World Cup, it’s embarrassing for the sport.” In the second half Gerrard lashes a shot wide for the third time. “He’s better than that,” says Lawrenson, as though trying to account for a disruptive child at a parents’ evening. Lampard then hits the bar with a free-kick and strikes the wall with another, after which Germany break on an under-manned defence, 3-1. Thomas Müller makes it four from a move that began with an England throw on the edge of Germany’s area. “You have to feel for the England fans... Serena and Dave from Bournemouth, their flag’s been at every game,” says Mowbray as a chorus of “England’s going home” swells up. “One or two of the England players are going through the motions,” says Lawrenson. “Nine or ten,” says Mowbray as Germany settle for four. “We’ll always remember the Uruguayan linesman, but England have no defence... literally,” says Gary Lineker looking like he’s about to be sick. Alan Hansen, trying manfully not to laugh during the studio discussion, gives in to convulsive chuckling when going through the goals. Among the disconsolate faces in the crowd, two England fans dressed as bomber pilots were on the verge of tears. Hold on, was it William and Harry?

Argentina 3 Mexico 1
“Maradona is a beautiful person and they obviously respect him as a coach,” says Clarence Seedorf, reflecting on Argentina’s comfortable progression through their group. Diego is constantly reaching out for cuddles tonight although his side could have been two down early on, Carlos Salcido hitting the bar while a Giovani dos Santos shot zips wide. Wearing blue shorts that look, frankly, a bit non-League, Argentina’s opener shouldn’t have stood, Carlos Tevez being clearly offside when played in by Lionel Messi. It’s mistakenly shown on the big screen after which the referee has a pointless confab with a linesman while surrounded by distraught Mexicans: “Technology rears it head for the second time today.” The row reignites by the dugouts at half-time with Maradona doing some peace-keeping of the “He’s not worth it, Martin” variety. By then Mexico are two down, Gonzalo Higuaín benefiting from a miscontrol by Ricardo Osorio; moments later the same player, “walking through the valley of darkness”, gives the ball to Tevez whose cross can’t quite reach Messi. “When we talk about the top corner, that is the top corner,” says Mark Bright of Tevez’s fantastic 25-yard drive that makes it 3-0 early in the second half. In injury time, Bright boldly declares himself to be a Messi sceptic – “I’ve seen him live three times and never seen him play well” – directly after which Messi wriggles away from two defenders and shoots just over. Mexico have a flurry in the final 20 minutes after Javier Hernández shows “what Man Utd fans have to look forward to” by walloping in their goal. The officials’ error had more of an effect in this match than in England’s. Afterwards, Hansen announces himself as a convert to the use of technology while Lineker’s view that “an appeals system would be the answer” is swatted away by the video-sceptic John Motson: “Well, it would be your answer.”   
 
June 28
Holland 2 Slovakia 1
“The Dutch are upping their tempo, almost out of third gear,” says Simon Brotherton during the second half. But the winners might have regretted their nonchalance had Robert Vittek, scorer of a consolation penalty in the final seconds, converted his two good chances. Everton fans will fret about their new signing Jan Mucha who alternates good saves, one using his nose (“bang on the button”), with glaring gaffes. He might have coped better with Arjen Robben’s characteristic opening goal fired into the corner after a sharp turn and was responsible for the second, needlessly haring out and being beaten to the ball by Dirk Kuyt who squares for Wesley Sneijder. The cameras almost miss it because of yet another captivating slow-mo, this time of Martin Skrtel’s foam-flecked yelling at the ref. The renowned charmer Robin van Persie reacts stroppily to being substituted but might have departed earlier, his hack on Radoslav Zabavnik – “an honest sort of challenge” says Martin Keown – being missed by the officials. Keown also takes a creative view of anatomy, spotting Mucha getting “a knee to the lower carriage”. It’s an enduring mystery of television that Alan Shearer is paid a huge salary for barking out terse generalities yet still chooses to dress like a security guard. Today all that’s missing is a name tag on the breast pocket of his light blue shirt.  
 
Brazil 3 Chile 0
Brazil have had a mean defence and couple of workhorses in midfield for most World Cups since 1970 but this seems to be news to Clive Tyldesley and Beglin who keep expressing surprise when Chileans get tackled. Although Clive does at least offer a glancing tribute to Gilberto Silva: “I’ve seen folks in my mum’s retirement home in Bournemouth move faster but he gets the job done.” They are rightly less impressed with Lúcio’s attempt to win a penalty by kicking his heels in mid-air. “Brazil score a British goal!” when Juan thumps in a header from a corner, while our newly famous linesman is lauded for not flagging offside on Luís Fabiano’s second – “What a World Cup Darren Cann is having.” Be sure to let us know what he likes for breakfast. “Sapphire and steel,” says Tyldesley as though fetching up the answer to a trivia question when Robinho is set for the third by Ramires’s driving run from inside his own half. Marcelo Bielsa, “mad in a mad professor sort of way”, gurns in annoyance when Humberto Suazo squanders two good chances. “Howard Webb looks like a Cup final referee,” apparently.
 
June 29
Japan 0 Paraguay 0 (3-5 on penalties)
“I watched Brazil v Chile last night and it’s as if it was a different sport,” says Drury, although neither of these teams are using bats or bicycles. In fact it’s as bad as Portugal v Brazil without the undercurrent of violence; two sides set up to defend risking the odd, mostly inept, foray forwards. Nelson Valdez, “an attacker who deals in goals”, forces a good save from Eiji Kawashima, Daisuke Matsui hits the bar, Keiji Tamada cuts into the penalty area in the last minute but there is no one to meet his cross. Beglin echoes Drury with a line that he may have been fine-tuning since early in the first half: “Comparing these two sides to Brazil, the only thing they’re passing is time.” But we do at least get a visual effect that was a mainstay of Top of the Pops in the late 1970s, a shot of a Japanese throw-in taker with the Jumbotron screen behind him, on which we see the same scene repeated to infinity. Japan’s penalty-takers wander about in padded coats during the build-up to the shoot-out while Paraguay are in a huddle. All the kicks all well-taken but Yuichi Komano’s is a couple of inches too high and glances off the bar. Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino then sits sobbing on the bench while receiving hugs, and seemingly an ear nibble or two.

Portugal 0 Spain 1
Cristiano Ronaldo pouts furiously during the national anthems and retains the same expression for much of the match. Portugal defend capably for an hour or so but rarely get the ball to their captain who sometimes watches play from a seated position after not getting a foul. Carles Puyol, meanwhile, contributes the most blatant dive of the evening which gets Lawrenson’s dander up: “What’s Spanish for a Bafta – a Bafto?” The Portuguese have chances in the first half, Iker Casillas dealing haphazardly with Tiago’s shot and a Ronaldo free-kick. Portugal’s Eduardo looks much more assured in beating away drives from Fernando Torres and David Villa but for all their possession Spain create little else until Torres is replaced by the beanpole Fernando Llorente. A few minutes later, a slick interchange of passes frees Villa who scores on the rebound after Eduardo beats out his first shot. “It was like their collective football brains all came together,” says Lawrenson. Marginally offside but hey ho. Lucky to avoid a free-kick for shoving over Ronaldo on the edge of the area, Joan Capdevila then tangles with Ricardo Costa who gets a red card for a supposed elbow. The camera follows Ronaldo as he stalks off at the end. He’s poised to speak, but instead spits in the vicinity of the cameraman’s shoes. 
 
Quarter-finals ~ July 2
Brazil 1 Holland 2
Brazil had been dominant in the first half against opponents inclined to stand and watch them – Robinho’s goal is set up by Felipe Melo’s pass straight through a big hole in the Dutch defence. With Maicon and Kaká also getting chances, Holland’s half is summed up by an inept corner routine – Robben taps the ball then runs off but his team-mates get nowhere near it before a Brazilian defender clears. “They didn’t exactly disguise it – no false noses and glasses on that one,” says Craig Burley. Then Sneijder’s long free-kick is missed by Júlio César and bounces in off Melo’s shoulder. With Brazil looking rattled, Michel Bastos is subbed after being lucky to avoid a second yellow for some brutal hacking – although Mark van Bommel commits similar offences without being spotted. The unmarked Sneijder scarcely needs to jump to head in Robben’s cross for the winner. Melo is sent off for stamping on Sneijder’s calf, Kaká, “the greatest player in the world”, has one good run blocked by 36-year-old Andre Ooijer and Holland mess up a good chance to make it three when Klaas-Jan Huntelaar dawdles rather than passing with two team-mates free in the area. “If you’re a pub team or Brazil, if you can neither defend a set-piece or keep your heads, you will lose,” says Champion as Dunga blows out his cheeks before striding off.  
 
Ghana 1 Uruguay 1 (2-4 pens)
“At least there’s one English-speaking country in the quarter-final,” says Tyldesley offering solace to brooding Empire loyalists. Sepp Blatter is at this one, sitting stiffly next to a man wearing an enormous floppy hat in Ghana colours – someone’s acquired a ticket stamped “Platini”. The Jabulani plays a major part tonight, swerving about like a plastic ball from Poundland for both goals. Sulley Muntari’s 30 yard drive is levelled by a free-kick from Forlán, “the man who couldn’t hit a barn door for Manchester United”. On scoring his goal, Forlán takes off his Alice band and tosses his mane of blond curls at the crowd. He stops short of throwing his headband into the stands, though, placing it back carefully for the restart, the moment of madness over. Uruguay should have a penalty when Sebastián Abreu is brought down by John Paintsil but Ghana create the better chances as both teams tire. In a final flurry, Suárez handles Dominic Adiyiah’s header on the line then has the temerity to do a double take as he’s shown a red card. He departs in tears but bounces around in delight moments later as Gyan thumps the kick against the bar. After two Ghanaian misses in the penalty shoot-out – Gyan having converted his – Abreu clinches Uruguay’s win with a Panenka-esque dink. Gyan is distraught, Suárez is chaired off. Foiled by the Hand of Goofy. Booo.

July 3
Argentina 0 Germany 4
Lawrenson’s remark when Sergio Romero stranded himself for Germany’s first goal – “Suddenly the ponytail doesn’t look good does it?” – is mystifying. A ponytail can look appropriate on a porn star or a record company executive producer, but never good. Argentina get the ball in the net half an hour later but they have four players offside. Until Klose adds a second, greeted by a victory jog from Angela Merkel, the commentators keep forecasting an Argentine fightback that never happens. With Javier Mascherano outmanned in midfield, Tevez and Messi rarely get the ball and when they do they’re surrounded. Maradona is a motionless, isolated figure long before the end, like a boy who had been promised a trip to the zoo but has just been told all the polar bears have died because he punched his sister. “And we criticised England for conceding four to the Germans!” says Shearer. Hey, we did. There must have been a frantic scrabble behind the camera for a suitable pun to give Lineker as Germany added their late fourth goal. As a result he is left to face the nation with “Eins, zwei, drei... Germany have put vier into the hearts of the other teams”. For going through with that one, Gary deserves a Presenters of Courage medal, to be given to him by Noel Edmonds on Christmas Day.

Paraguay 0 Spain 1
So far referees have made a big show of warning players for jostling at set-pieces, then let them get on with it. Tonight, finally, there’s a penalty, after Paraguay’s Óscar Cardozo is wrestled to the floor by Gerard Piqué. If Mr Batres of Guatemala deserves credit for that he soon squanders it. After Cardozo’s kick is saved, Spain break and get their own penalty when Antolín Alcaraz brings down Villa but escapes with a yellow despite being the last defender. Xabi Alonso scores but must retake after encroachment which was no worse than for Cardozo’s penalty. The retake is saved, but Spain should have another chance when Cesc Fàbregas is brought down chasing the rebound. As is customary Spain improve after Torres goes off, before which Paraguay have the better chances, notably for Valdez “who they say interests Wigan” (there’s always one). Awful for the first hour, Spain just about deserve their winner, Villa’s shot going in off both posts. Cardozo shrugs off attempts to console him at the end. 
 
Semi-finals ~ July 6
Holland 3 Uruguay 2
We’ve heard more about the 1974 Dutch team during this World Cup than we did in 1974. “Now will they finally take off?” says Tyldesley after a sixth successive win without a single Cruyff turn. But we see plenty of signature moves from Van Bommel who puts in his first crunching tackle after 25 seconds. The referee then fails to spot his hack in the build-up to Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s opener, belted in from 40 yards. While Muslera couldn’t do much about that, Maarten Stekelenburg should have pushed away Forlán’s snapshot that gives Uruguay an undeserved equaliser just before half-time. Van Persie is marginally offside on Holland’s second, aiming at kick at Sneijder’s deflected shot as it goes past him but without connecting. The “balding pate of Robben” is slapped in celebration again after he heads in a third from Kuyt’s cross. Uruguay had unveiled a two-headband attack for this game, with Forlán and Edinson Cavani going for thin-white and medium-width-black respectively. When Abreu comes on, it is to complete a historic three-headband front line, but even the thought of all that barely restrained hair energy only scares the Dutch defence into conceding one more goal. In a frantic finish, Van Bommel is finally booked for kicking the ball away to Tyldesley’s near-hysterical glee: “Who, me?”

July 7
Germany 0 Spain 1
“Magical quick feet, haven’t they?” says Lawrenson as Spain dominate with their tippy tapping, although they create little in the first half apart from a Puyol header that sails over. His second chance, from Xavi’s corner with 20 minutes left, decides the match: “A Barcelona bullet.” Before that Alonso had fired two shots wide and Manuel Neuer made a good stop from Pedro who fails to seal the match with a late break, allowing himself to be tackled when Torres was unmarked. For Germany, Piotr Trochowski, who was shorter than the mascot leading him out, has a shot turned around by Casillas and Ozil might have had a penalty for a shove by Sergio Ramos who also gets away with crocking Podolski. An odd moment in the commentary when Lawrenson, who has just described the Spanish approach play as “powderpuff stuff at the moment”, breaks off to ask Mowbray in lower tones if he is all right. Mowbray’s slightly delayed reply – “I’m fine, thanks for asking” – suggests unresolved tension over a washing-up rota although he may have been gesturing at Lawrenson to avoid using phrases such as “powderpuff” in his analysis.

Third place play-off ~ July 10
Germany 3 Uruguay 2
“Forlán’s going to get a job as a Jabulani demonstrator,” says Drury after he hits the bar with the last kick of the match. That would have put him ahead as tournament top scorer. Instead he and Müller finish on five, the latter after putting away a rebound when Bastian Schweinsteiger’s shot is spilled by Muslera. Forlán’s volley from an Egidio Arévalo cross gives Uruguay the lead early in the second half, “Cavaniiii” having previously equalised after the best move of the match. Marcell Jansen equalises, “off his left earhole” says Burley, after another Muslera mistake. “The sooner he goes on holiday the better.” Drury’s climax voice contains a shrill punch and is suitable for such phrases as “That donkey has killed that puma!” or “Here comes the plunging meteorite now!” It suits a little less well the phrase “Khedira has scored a goal coated in bronze!” to describe Germany’s winner.

Final ~ July 11
Holland 0 Spain 1
At least one person found the BBC panel’s pre-match analysis entertaining. When Lee Dixon remarked “It sounds like we’re writing Holland off – we’re not”, Hansen replied: “No – we’re just saying they’ll get beat.” He was still smiling broadly when Shearer stumbled through an answer to Lineker’s next question. It’s very possible that Hansen was still chuckling and murmuring to himself “We’re just saying they’ll get beat” in the taxi back to the hotel. Mowbray made a terrible error immediately on kick-off: “It’s orange against clockwork.” This may have looked good on paper the night before but surely he had doubts while waiting for the handover from the studio. On ITV Burley’s observation that Kuyt “is a real Trojan of a workhorse” was equally muddled but probably spontaneous. “Howard Webb’s put down a marker,” says Tyldesley after the fifth booking inside half an hour. But the violence rumbles on throughout a particularly spiteful match. Johnny Heitinga is sent off for two yellows when several players might have got straight reds, notably Nigel de Jong for his stamp on Alonso’s chest and Puyol for pulling back Robben when he was clean through. In between all the pressing and stifling the Dutch create one other chance for Robben whose goalbound dink is deflected away off Casillas’s leg while Ramos comes closest for Spain, ballooning over a free header. “Almost too good to be true,” says Burley. Mowbray’s “This is it!”, yelped even as Andrés Iniesta was still shaping to fire home the winner, was an impressive line for posterity but of course by then he had been waiting for something to happen for 115 minutes. Webb is then surrounded by Dutch players complaining, rightly, that a Spanish goal-kick a minute before should been a corner to them. In fact the Dutch have a whole series of grievances which Bert van Marwijk is keen to relay to Webb directly after the final whistle. The match officials are booed when going up to collect their medals while Van Marwijk takes his off while walking down the steps. During a bungled trophy presentation, Blatter and Jacob Zuma are caught up among the whooping Spanish players and look like a couple of OAPs who have wandered onto a dancefloor after opening the wrong door. The Dutch then form a guard of honour for their opponents although Van Bommel, classy to the last, avoids having to shake hands by keeping his arms folded.

From WSC 282 August 2010

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