Friday June 9
Possibly because Barry Davies, the last man who could take these things seriously, is missing, the BBC only show highlights of the opening ceremony. It includes lots of men in lederhosen, some ringing large cowbells attached to the waistbands of their shorts in a vigorous and vaguely pornographic manner. There’s a parade of former World Cup-winning stars, including what Jonathan Pearce describes as “The legend that is Italy”. “Ricky Villa – still tall,” gurgles Pearce later. Pelé arrives with the trophy, but brandishes it like he’s just won it, followed by Claudia Schiffer with Sepp Blatter in tow, sporting luxuriant sideburns that give him the look of Ben Cartwright from Bonanza.
Germany 4 Costa Rica 2
“There is a lot of love in this town,” says Boris Becker in a pre-match interview with Ray Stubbs – he’s been hanging around with Barbra Streisand too much. We’re shown the fifth official, stony-faced, guarding the water bottles. Klinsmann, in smart yet casual pale blue shirt, looks like the first New Labour football coach; pitchside mics pick him up hoarsely yelling: “Hop!” “Could the ball be a factor?” makes its usual early appearance – in the fourth minute when Frings bangs a shot over the bar; shortly afterwards Lahm’s swerving shot opens the scoring. Wanchope is played onside by Friedrich for Costa Rica’s equaliser, though the crowd jeer the screen replay. “Lahm pulled the wool over their eyes,” says Gary Lineker, the first pun of many on a foreign player’s name. Jonathan Pearce waffles on about injuries so much it might be an episode of Casualty. He has read up on beer consumption in Bavaria and reveals that “Metzelder speaks very good English”. There’s a shot of Kahn smirking after the second Costa Rica goal, neatly finished by Wanchope again after a great pass “with backspin” from Centeno. Klose with his spiky hair and angular face looks like he belongs in a second-string Eighties synth band, Landscape, perhaps, or Flock of Seagulls.
Ecuador 2 Poland 0
ITV get off to a terrible start with Kasabian’s limp cover of Heroes,to be used in the build-up to each game. Plenty of muscular challenges; Ecuador’s impressive centre‑backs Espinoza and Hurtado are compared to boxers and most of their team-mates look like handy middleweights. While the World Cup goes on in the background, Clive Tyldesley and Gareth Southgate chat about managing Middlesbrough. With his whispy voice and sudden bursts of nervous laughter, Southgate might be a viewer who won a phone-in competition. There are also plenty of plugs for ITV4’s World Cuppa, which offers, in a phrase to chill the blood, “an offbeat look at the tournament”. Ecuador’s first goal, from Delgado, is a simple header from a flick-on – “all the way to a World Cup and you see a team undone by a long throw” – the second a tap-in at the end against dispirited opponents. Most of the Poles look like farmers’ sons, the type who play rugby. Talking about Delgado, who hardly played in two seasons at Southampton, Tyldesley suggests: “Gordon Strachan will be wearing a wry smile tonight.” Surely he does that every night?
Saturday June 10
England 1 Paraguay 0
John Motson kicks off with something about “hanging on to your cups”, apparently under the impression that everybody secretly enjoyed his breakfast shtick last time around. “Very, very hot and I think it favours Paraguay,” says Mark Lawrenson, getting the excuses in early. Funny how the heat always affects England more than anybody else – the Swedes finished third in the USA. After three minutes the heat seems to have eased temporarily: yet again Beckham’s “delivery” (ie hoofing a long free-kick into the box) causes confusion as Paraguay’s Gamarra heads past his own keeper, Villar. Two minutes later Villar is carried off in tears after turning his ankle, which turns out to be the high point of the game as far as England are concerned. When Robinson dashes out to thwart Paredes, Lawrenson comments: “It was like a big banana running at him.” A hatful of wayward long-range shots from Lampard, who after each one frowns and shakes his head like a delicate, misunderstood genius, are all they can muster in attack, where Owen is replaced by Downing after 55 minutes. Motson keeps reminding us that the Mexican referee has a reputation for being eccentric, something he proves by making more foul-throw decisions in 90 minutes than you usually see in a season.
Sweden 0 Trinidad & Tobago 0
Larsson’s tongue is enormous. He must keep it rolled in his mouth like a frog. It’s a surprise he’s never used it to flick the ball into the goal. Sweden certainly could do with something special as T&T defy all the partying-laid-back-don’t-worry-be-happy cliches the commentators and pundits have been trotting out all week with a performance of hard work, discipline and the odd dash of brutality; Avery John is sent off shortly after half-time after three very clumsy fouls. Hislop, a late replacement for Ince, produces some fine saves, notably at Allback’s feet late in the second half. Cameras scan across rows of anguished painted faces in Viking helmets as it becomes clear that Sweden, who are very ponderous in midfield, aren’t going to win. It could have been worse still as a Glenn shot hits the crossbar from a tight angle. “No cricket score today!” says Tyldesley, dipping into his supply of prepared quips. He also wondered if Beenhakker would tell his player to “chill man” at half-time. We hear about Trinis partying at the final whistle: “They should be given an island each.”
Argentina 2 Ivory Coast 1
“The most delicious group,” says Peter Drury, who also seems to be obsessed with a general notion of African inferiority. “Make no mistake, this is a contest between equals – almost.” The Ivory Coast keeper seems to fumble a header over the line but gets away with it. After Crespo’s opener, when he’s left unmarked in the area, Riquelme produces a great pass for Saviola to score the second. Argentina are very impressive, huffily acknowledged by Drury: “As an Englishman one’s natural sympathy is not towards the Argentines but…” David “evening all” Pleat mostly keeps his mispronunciations in check, though we hear of a Kato playing for a country called Ivory. Argentina have a nervous final few minutes after Drogba’s swivelling shot. Gabby Logan has toned down the eyeliner since the Champions League, maybe because she doesn’t have Andy and Ally at pitchside with their picnic table to contend with. ITV’s coverage is still woeful, though, made even worse by interminable adverts. Two days in and most viewers will surely feel like killing those zany know-nothing Budweiser guys. If the idea is that they’re sending themselves up, why don’t they say their beer tastes like piss?
Sunday June 11
Holland 1 Serbia & Montenegro 0
A bright first half for the Dutch, Robben sliding the ball under Jevric from Van Persie’s flick-on. Djordjevic, busy on the wings, is S&M’s only effective attacker; Kezman and Milosevic contribute a slapstick cameo, getting in each other’s way inside the area. The exceptionally fussy referee, Markus Merk, is barged over by a Dutch player – “I hope he said, ‘You’re useless’, as he knocked him down,” says Mick McCarthy. However, Merk partially redeems himself by booking Koroman for making the card-waving gesture. Serbia have a lot of pressure but don’t do much with it; the Dutch still get the better chances, through Robben and Van Persie. The 6ft 8in striker Zigic comes on but just about the only header he manages is inside his own area. Ljuboja has the worst hairstyle to date, a white stripe down the centre of his head. Mr Merk is still blowing up for trivial contact. “In four years we might have a World Cup with no physical contact,” says McCarthy, visualising his worst nightmare. In the last minute the plodding Zigic dummies in the area when he should have shot – maybe there is something in the stories about a move to Portsmouth.
Mexico 3 Iran 1
The Iranians present their opponents with a framed square of carpet rather than a pennant. “Mahdavikia has been described as the Maradona of Iran, though he has been quick to play that down,” says Jonathan Pearce, who also has reams of facts about Franco’s poor background: “At one point he was living on a tiny boat.” Franco’s flick sets up Bravo for a simple first goal, but it’s soon 1-1 after Golmohammadi slams in a loose ball that should have been claimed by the keeper, Sanchez. Mexico’s chair-smoking coach Lavolpe looks like the most irascible man in the world, yet wears a garish tie featuring orange dragons, like something his ten-year-old daughter gave him for Christmas. Mexico have used all three subs shortly after half-time when Borgetti goes off with a pulled hamstring, but they take a grip on the game as the Iranians visibly tire. Rezaei’s miscontrol is seized on by Zinha, who puts Bravo through for 2-1; Zinha’s bullet header three minutes later completes the scoring.
Portugal 1 Angola 0
Portugal nearly take the lead through Pauleta in 11 seconds; he does score after three minutes, Figo easily outpacing Jamba to supply the pass. But Angola, with their “vibrant and colourful” supporters, dig in against their “former colonial rule-ists”. Akwa tries two overheads, failing to make contact the first time. Figueiredo shoots from distance several times. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, not the most fluent English speaker to come out of the Netherlands, has clearly taken to Andy Townsend as a kind of unofficial TEFL tutor: Jimmy Floyd (very slowly): “The shot is not really troubling the goalkeeper…” Andy: “Should be saving those all day long.” Jimmy Floyd (quickly): “Yup, all day long, yup.” Sweating mightily in their Puma shirts, the Portuguese offer moments of what Peter Drury acclaims as “gorgeous purring football”, but they haven’t clicked and start getting jeers from their own fans. Cristiano Ronaldo seems mightily pissed off at being substituted. David Pleat thinks Angola may go “hung ho” in the latter stages, but aside from a wild shot by Loco they don’t really threaten. Drury supplies a detailed biography of substitute Mantorras’s very tough early life as he stand on the touchline, intently fiddling around inside his shorts.
Monday June 12
Australia 3 Japan 1
Luckily Gareth Southgate and Clive Tyldesley are both experts on Japanese culture. The Japanese are “the most polite people in the world”, as well as “ not the tallest”. In fact, “Schwarzer is 6ft 5in – he’s twice the size of these Japanese lads”. Southgate admires Viduka’s unique ability to “roll” (ie continually foul) defenders. Schwarzer is barged out of the way for Japan’s goal, but the player who clattered him had been shoved by an Australia defender. Guus Hiddink, who looks like he’s following a cake-only diet, has to be physically restrained when remonstrating with FIFA officials; later he has a shoving match with Japan’s physio. Australia bring on three attacking players, but can’t make much headway. Japan squander several breaks – Komano repeatedly putting in poor crosses after good midfield build-up. Meanwhile, Tyldesley is getting excited about Fukunishi (“There’s no other way of saying it!”). Cahill gets the equaliser after Kawaguchi flaps at a cross and does his annoying left-hook-right-upper-cut-duck routine with the corner flag. He then brings down Komano for a clear penalty, not given, and with a minute left scores his second; Aloisi adds a third in injury time. “Australia celebrate as only Australians can,” Clive says, presumably having spotted Neill firing up a barbecue and Kewell glugging lager.
Czech Republic 3 USA 0
Plenty of Czech support in Gelsenkirchen, which is described as “akin to a sauna” by commentator Simon Brotherton. Koller scores with a thumping header after five minutes, which is greeted with “at 6ft 7in he was always going to be a handful”. He’s soon carried off after a hamstring injury, a process that takes a while, the stretcher bearers wobbling along as though he was a prostrate King Kong. New Arsenal signing Rosicky scores two fine goals, a long-range swerver then a toe-poke after being put through by Nedved. Gary Lineker praises Arsène Wenger for spotting Rosicky, “a very concrete player” according to Leonardo, but he did cost £7 million and had been in the Bundesliga for several years, so it’s not as if he’s been hidden. The US are “strong but not unpredictable” says Brotherton, which is the root of their problem – only sub striker Johnson plays with any invention. Embarrassingly easy for the Czechs. One of the US assistant coaches is seen shouting “Fuck me!” as the second goal goes in. Nedved looks scarily like Coleen McLoughlin.
Italy 2 Ghana 0
With Italy holding a 1-0 first-half lead, “a pearler from Pirlo”, Motty and Lawro keep expecting them to revert to type (“Will they go back into their shell?”) but it doesn’t happen. They have at least ten shots at goal, bring on attacking subs and eventually score a second. At which point it becomes “well, you felt it was coming”. Marcello Lippi celebrates the opening goal by making a gawping face similar to Stadtler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. Buffon is wearing what looks like a V-neck sweater with enormous sweat patches under both arms. For Ghana, Essien and Appiah are forceful in midfield – “Appiah appears all over the pitch,” says Martin O’Neill, a joke Motson likes so much he repeats it during his commentary. The Ghana keeper Kingston, whose name is misspelled on his jersey, copes with long-range shooting but otherwise is very shaky, charging out and missing several crosses. Iaquinta, through on goal, is hacked down by Kuffour, but offside has already been flagged. Kuffour then underhits a back-pass and Iaquinta pounces to score. “A case of Ghanaian gullibility,” says Motson, who has been flicking through his thesaurus for alternatives to naive. Ghana have a penalty claim when Gyan tumbles after forcing his way past three defenders. If he’d fallen less theatrically he might have got it. With his high ponytail, Camoranesi looks like Beryl the Peril from the Dandy.
Tuesday June 13
South Korea 2 Togo 1
The Korean anthem is played twice, the second time as the camera pans down a line of understandably confused Togolese players. Their actual anthem is just about finished by kick-off. “Graham Poll from Tring” is soon flashing cards about. Nothing at all happens in a chillingly bad first 20 minutes, until, finally, Kader fires wide. Otto Pfister, wearing a medallion in the shape of Africa, looks like the proprietor of a Reeperbahn strip club. Kader scores and the Togo players do a co‑ordinated modern dance piece near the touchline. Korea are mildly stirred – Kim Jin-Kyu scuffs a long-range free-kick wide after hitching up his shorts and doing a really-need-a-pee hopping-about movement. Gordon Strachan is scathing about the Korean central defenders: “One wants to sleep and one doesn’t want to mark anybody.” Shortly after half-time, Abalo is dismissed for a clumsy foul and from the free‑kick Lee Chun-Soo equalises. He celebrates by revealing that he’s wearing a maroon vest. Ahn Jung-Hwan turns sharply to lash in the winner, greeted by a flat “Oh” from Simon Brotherton. Togo, overrun in midfield, keep both strikers on but only Kader is a threat. As their former coach Stephen Keshi was sacked over a row with Adebayor, it might have been better to dump the latter – to judge by his team-mates’ body language, they think so too. The BBC have assembled on TV and radio Mark Bright, Dion Dublin and Marcel Desailly – continuing the theme of using black pundits for every game involving an African team no matter if, like Bright, they’re from Stoke.
France 0 Switzerland 0
A soporific first half which Guy Mowbray mostly spends fawning over Zidane, “the master”, with his “feet flashing around the ball”. Henry manages to transfer at least one part of his Arsenal form to the international stage – mooching around shrugging his shoulders if the referee lets anyone tackle him without giving a free-kick. In France’s best moment, Ribery bursts through but instead of shooting gives a bad pass to Henry, whose shot is blocked by a Swiss hand, ignored by the ref. Frei hits the post for the Swiss who, as Martin O’Neill says, are “OK, but a bit… stodgy”. Among very few incidents in the second half, Barthez saves with his feet from Gygax, whose nervous attempt at a header bounces off his face. Mick McCarthy describes the hot weather as “a state of mind” and reminisces about his time as a team-mate of Raymond Domenech at Lyon. L’Equipe’s headline after his first appearance was Debut Catastrophique “and that’s what this has been today for France”. A constant stream of grousing and nit-picking finally gives way to McCarthy simply uttering “You tell me” as a stock response to both the referee’s and players’ behaviour. Dhorasoo, an energetic late sub, flashes a shot wide in the last minute, then Frei attempts to punch the ball in and in doing so takes it away from Djourou, who might otherwise have scored. Not a dirty game, but there are eight bookings from the fussy Russian schoolteacher Mr Ivanov. “Guess what his job is, Mick?” “Is he a traffic warden?”
Brazil 1 Croatia 0
Pelé catches sight of himself on the big screen and says “It’s Pelé!” to his companion before waving. As ever when Brazil are playing, Croatia are cast as the other team in a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition. “Do they have defensive player in Brazil?” asks Motson when Emerson is on the ball, but Ronaldo and Adriano are strolling around to no effect and the Croats have more of the play; Kaka’s goal, curled in with his left foot after a neat build-up by Emerson and Cafu, comes out of the blue. At half-time, as usual, none of the other pundits listen to anything Leonardo is saying (something about Ronaldinho’s “genius actions”) but instead just wait for him to stop talking. As Croatia take charge both commentators can’t believe it’s actually happening: “At the moment the game’s being played in the Brazilian half!” Dida makes several comfortable saves from shots straight at him and you get the feeling that Croatia wouldn’t score if the game went on for a year. Ronaldo mops invisible sweat off his brow as he is subbed, “moving quicker coming off the pitch than he did on it” says Mark Lawrenson. Croatia fans are lighting flares towards the end as though celebrating defeat; one gets on to the pitch apparently intent on kissing Prso’s feet. Maybe Brazil were pacing themselves…
Wednesday June 14
Spain 4 Ukraine 0
Expected to be a tight game, but instead a procession for Spain. They have some luck, though, with a deflection for the second goal and a questionable penalty plus sending-off for the third (“But it was just a little tug on the pants,” says David Pleat). “Bosh!” says Peter Drury when Senna thumps in a header that’s disallowed. As we head for the usually pre-ad break crowd shots, Gabby raises an eyebrow and says, “And now here are some pretty girls for you”, in a manner that fairly drips sarcasm. Being usurped as chief anchor by Steve Ryder is plainly galling her. Oleg Blokhin shakes his head at disbelief at his team’s cluelessness. Rebrov has one chance lashed over, while Shevchenko is caught offside with watch-setting regularity – though two were called wrongly early on. Apparently Nesmachniy is “a decent billiards player”. The outstanding Torres volleys a fine fourth: “A goal that smacked of hunger,” says Peter Drury. The TV director must have ambitions to do a Timotei ad as we’re treated to lingering footage of players pouring water over themselves.
Saudi Arabia 2 Tunisia 2
Several Tunisian players are wearing red boots which, combined with the red lower half of their white socks, makes it look as though they’re wearing enormous orthopaedic shoes. “Not the most compelling half,” says Jim Beglin, which is summed up when the Saudis, trailing to Jaziri’s acrobatic goal, take so long over a free-kick in an attacking position that the ref blows for half-time. Tunisia skipper Bouazizi, with his huge head and little legs, looks like something from Middle Earth. The Saudis seem to have about 4,000 caps between them. Some of that experience pays off with Al-Kahtani’s emphatic headed equaliser. The Tunisians had been coasting but are now thoroughly rattled. Al-Jaber, the man who, we’re reminded, had four games for Wolves six years ago, makes it 2-1 two minutes after coming on. There are mass prayers afterwards, but no bookings for time-wasting. In the 93rd minute, Jaidi, “the rock of Lancashire”, is shoved up front and equalises, becoming “the first Bolton player to score at a World Cup since Nat Lofthouse in 1958”.
Germany 1 Poland 0
The game starts with a wave of Polish fouls and Jürgen Klinsmann, now with the air of a retired children’s entertainer, standing on the touchline clapping his hands and saying: “Kom, kom, kom…” Schweinsteiger twice does a rapid stepover routine that ends with him scuffing the ball out of play. Mick McCarthy keeps saying: “There’s nobody out there with that little something special.” There are two woeful misses in the first half by Klose and Podolski, who apparently speak to each other in Polish. Klose has been tipped by Alan Shearer to get the golden boot, but Gordon Strachan suggests that he “needs the golden boot up his backside”. In the second half Sobolewski is sent off despite making furious “I surrender” gestures at the referee. McCarthy marvels at the Poles “going out there not to get beat”, possibly having just twigged where he kept going wrong at Sunderland. Poland seem to be happy with a draw and taking a huge chance on other results. Boruc, who makes several fine saves, is finally booked for time-wasting, which he’d been doing throughout. In the 90th minute Klose and Ballack hit the bar, the former with a header that comes off the back of his neck, but Neuville scores the winner from close range. Gordon Strachan says it’s the best World Cup he’s been to. “The coverage media-wise has been first class,” he adds modestly.
Thursday June 15
Ecuador 3 Costa Rica 0
Easy for Ecuador, sharper and stronger in every department. The Costa Ricans won’t mind, though, because according to Jon Champion they “tend to play their football like they live their lives… in a carefree way”. Luis Suárez remains resolutely poker-faced while his coaching staff leap around as the goals go in, the best being the second, thumped in from a tight angle by Delgado. After making it 3-0 in the 90th minute, Kaviedes puts on a yellow Spider-man mask that had been stored in his shorts – apparently a gimmick used by a former team-mate who died recently. “For those who follow the quirky side of the World Cup, Ecuador’s witch doctor was here early to purge the pitch of evil spirits,” says Champion. Similarly, the England team will soon be visited by a totemic figure called Prince William, known to all as “sir”, for some formal banter within strictly prescribed limits (no swearing).
England 2 Trinidad & Tobago 0
“Jamie Carragher won’t get forward like Gary Neville, but he will get forward in his own way,” observes the brilliant Gareth Southgate. England start well, “the long legs of Peter Crouch” hitting the post from Joe Cole’s cross, but soon resort to long punts towards the head of Wrexham’s Lawrence, who’s having a stormer. “The Trinidad posse up the stands are enjoying themselves – they normally do,” says groovy Clive Tyldesley. The half closes with Terry clearing off the line after Robinson misses a cross, while ITV’s punditry team have decided to start referring to England’s captain as “Dave Beckham”. Ten minutes into the second half Owen, who throughout the game wears the peevish look of a junior sales executive who’s checked into his hotel room and discovered the trouser-press isn’t working properly, makes way for the return of the self-appointed Big Man. A five-minute spell sees Lampard miss three good chances. Sven keeps pointing at the ground, clearly the Swede’s version of “Can we not knock it?” With seven minutes left Crouch finally scores, heading in from full-back Beckham’s cross, but only after pulling sneakily on the dreadlocks of his marker Sancho. Five minutes later Gerrard gets a cracking second from the edge of the area. “That’s the Gerrard that wears the Liver bird every week,” yells Clive. As England troop off there’s just time for Steve Ryder to offer hope that “for years to come they’ll be writing calypsos about Trinidad & Tobago’s World Cup adventure”.
Sweden 1 Paraguay 0
“Lots of sweat, lots of strain but a spark is lacking,” says David Pleat of Sweden, whose huge support is soon mute with boredom. Paraguay have Camissa booked after two minutes and dish out plenty of rough treatment. Franz Beckenbauer spends the whole match leaning forward anxiously like a surgery patient waiting to be called for a blood test. Both sides try some aimless punts from distance and Ibrahimovic, who’d managed one weak shot, is taken off at half-time – “He was rubbing his groin, I don’t know if that was a statement,” says Pleat. The second half perks up; Allback, clean through, lifts the ball over the keeper, but it’s cleared off the line by Caniza. Two minutes from time Allback provides a cushioned header for Ljungberg’s winner. “And the players taking on air,” says Pleat who really needs to look up the verb “to breathe” in his dictionary. The Swedish bench are all rather tubby and wear matching shiny blue shirts. Sat in the dugout they look like a darts team waiting for the bus home.
Friday June 16
Argentina 6 Serbia & Montenegro 0
Argentina are simply stunning, with the second goal finished by Cambiasso after a move of 24 passes. Things start off fairly slowly, however, with enough space for the commentator to inform us that Heinze can speak Welsh and comes from “a place called Patagonia”. Heinze’s colleagues in the back four prompt Mick McCarthy into the closest he will ever get to a purr: “They look like they want to defend, proper defenders.” He also enjoys a sliding tackle: “It’s a skill, mate.” The surly Koroman is booked early then gets away with several other fouls, but Kezman is sent off for a two-footed lunge. After the dismissal Argentina score three in ten minutes. Earlier Crespo had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside and might have had a penalty, too. Tevez, squat and mean-looking, has incredible close control. McCarthy thinks that the Serbs “will get a dog’s abuse” at home – a favourite phrase of his. What has he been doing to dogs? Argentina fans wave big banners with illustrations of their players; one is of Messi holding the World Cup with the words: “It’s my dream.” Maradona beams down from the stands. Not exactly the group of death after all.
Holland 2 Ivory Coast 1
The Ivorians are out, but as against Argentina they recover well after going two down. The ref seems set on not giving them a penalty, turning down three plausible appeals. The shaky Tizié is unsighted for Van Persie’s free-kick, which is thumped in over his flailing hand – “Like a hesitant tail-ender he was beaten for pace,” says Clive Tyldesley – and he should have coped with Van Nistelrooy’s shot for the second. Bakary Koné scores before half-time with a fine shot in off the post – “A tiny man who accelerated away!” says Tyldesley. Late on, Drogba has a header chested off the line by Van Persie and several other chances are squandered. Holland’s concern is shown when Van Nistelrooy is replaced by the defensive Landzaat. The Dutch are not easy to like – Robben is booked for diving, the crudely inept Van Bommel might have been ordered off for clattering Koné and Van Persie whinges relentlessly, him with his silly bloody quiff. Pah.
Mexico 0 Angola 0
Mexican fans are olé-ing early on, with Marquez’s free-kick hitting the post. Angola coach Luis De Oliveira Goncalves is making copious notes in what seems to be a desk diary, but doesn’t have much to fret over except for the occasional wobble from veteran keeper Ricardo, who also makes a point-blank save from Franco. Akwa has a canary-yellow Hummer, but “in Luanda such ostentatious wealth is not always appreciated” warns Jon Champion gravely. There’s the usual guff about Angola supposedly showing a lack of nous, but they keep possession well and put in some biting tackles. After André is sent off for two bookings they don’t have much trouble grinding out a draw. Fonseca volleys wide in front of goal; two minutes from time Ricardo hurtles out and misses the ball, but Bravo hits the post. The evil cattle baron Lavolpe, apparently banned from smoking, is hunched in the dugout, muttering and swigging water. “The bright lights of Hanover must seem a million miles from Luanda, with its lack of electricity, its slums,” says Champion.
Saturday June 17
Portugal 2 Iran 0
“As a coach that would do my brain in,” says Mick McCarthy, his plaintive foghorn at maximum volume as Cristiano Ronaldo shoots wildly. Ronaldo also has a header, via his shoulder, chested off the line, but Portugal seem oddly reluctant to get forward given that Iran are offering no threat whatsoever. Figo is booted in the face (the red imprint is visible for the rest of the game) but there’s no card for his assailant. “Yet you tug a shirt or look cross-eyed at the referee and it’s a booking,” says McCarthy. Miguel’s shot squirms under Mirzapour but runs past the post. Deco finally thumps in Figo’s pass. Soon after, Khatibi is let in by Meira’s mistake but screws his shot wide. With his jerky hand signals Big Phil looks like a lorry driver tentatively learning the funky chicken. Ronaldo converts a penalty after Figo is fouled. “He’s not had much to do, he’s got to do something,” says McCarthy as Ricardo makes a flashy flying save.
Ghana 2 Czech Rep 0
A great first half sees Ghana ahead after 90 seconds, Gyan scoring after Ujfalusi dives in and misses the ball. If commentators got electric shocks every time they described an African player as “naive” Jim Beglin would be burned to a frazzle. Today he tuts over the Ghanaians not picking up opponents, but the Czechs are more at fault with Appiah and Muntari getting plenty of space. (Clive Tyldesley: “Muntari has said he wants to play for Man Utd. Well, so do I.” We know, Clive.) Gyan forces Cech into a sharp save while Poborsky and Rosicky also go close. But ITV don’t bother to talk about any of that at half-time, instead crassly previewing the USA v Italy match from an airforce base with a sneery reporter asking Americans “to name one US player”. A Nedved goal is ruled out for offside, then Gyan, who could have scored five, is brought down for a penalty. Pandemonium ensues with the ref taking an age to dismiss Ujfalusi. We get a close-up shot of a Czech boy in the crowd crying, Gyan thumps the ball in, gets booked for taking the kick too soon, then misses the retake. Muntari scores a second and is put in for a third by Pimpong, but he’s run offside. There’s still time for Kings(t)on to make injury-time saves from Sionko and Stajner. Pantsil, who plays in Israel, holds up a small Star of David flag in the post-match celebrations, thereby dealing a serious blow to the Iranian arm of his fan club.
Italy 1 USA 1
“They’re starting their World Cup one game late,” says Peter Drury as the US start well, but Italy score from their first attack, Gilardino doing a violin-playing celebration. Within two minutes Zaccardo makes it 1-1 with an own goal, hacking at the ball like a golfer stuck in thick rough then offering a penitent hand gesture. For a while it looks like this could be one of those games that gets tagged “The Battle of…” De Rossi smashes an elbow into the face of McBride – “How dare he!” harrumphs Peter Drury as the Italian feigns innocence – then Mastroeni goes for sliding his studs up Pirlo’s shin. Bruce Arena seems permanently perplexed, shrugging and waving like Homer Simpson baffled by a child-proof bottle. Pope is off at the start of the second half for a clumsy lunge, though Onyewu gets away with several worse challenges. In a white tracksuit top, the suave Marcello Lippi suddenly resembles a TV medic whose love life is interfering with his work. Beasley “equalises!” says Drury, with a strike that would have put the US ahead had it not been ruled out for McBride being offside. Having tried every possible variety of sweeping hand motion, Arena now has the ultra-serene look of someone who has actually gone mad. David Pleat thinks the US are playing “4-2-3” but, as Drury points out, they have only “eight outfield players, David”. Perrotta hobbles through the final stages after an unpunished hack from Onyewu; Keller makes a clawing save from Del Piero then denies him again. Furious US fans make diving motions at Italian players; everyone is booing someone. A fantastic mess.
Sunday June 18
Japan 0 Croatia 0
Both teams look exhausted long before the end – when a Japan player is knocked down by the ref he seems grateful for a chance to sprawl on the turf. Japan are busy but toothless – Yanagisawa gets one chance inside the area, but shanks his shot horribly wide. Midfield anchor Tudor is Croatia’s best player (“like Crouch with weight” says David Pleat) while Kranjcar junior in his look-at-me gold boots (still not quite as garish as his Dad’s cream suit) has one good moment, turning sharply and thumping a shot off the bar. Kawaguchi makes a fine save from Srna’s penalty given for Miyamoto’s barge into Prso, though the kick is delayed by defenders nonchalantly cleaning their boots on the goalpost. Pleat stokes up his fixation with the dryness of the pitches when Kawaguchi is nearly beaten by a back-pass that rears up suddenly (“there’s one stunned mole in Nuremberg”). Alex the Japanese Brazilian is the only player singing their anthem with hand on heart. Croatia striker Modric looks like a young Bee Gee.
Brazil 2 Australia 0
Brazil are lethargic again and don’t deserve to beat combative opponents. Ronaldo sets up the first goal, but otherwise strolls about at a pace that wouldn’t look out of place in that Carlsberg ad with the old England players in it. “The tinnies are out,” says Jon Champion, who also drops in on Earl’s Court and the Great Barrier Reef. Australia squander several chances after Brazil take an undeserved lead through Adriano. The worst miss is from Kewell, who blasts over an open goal after Dida comes rushing out. “It’s the kind of opportunity that can define a career,” says Champion, before Kewell shoots too high again. Viduka glances a header just wide, then lifts the ball over the advancing Dida but on to the roof of the net. Brazil’s attack peps up when Ronaldo is replaced by Robinho, who is blocked by Schwarzer after a good move, while a Kaka header bounces off the bar. Fred taps in after a Robinho shots hits the post late on, then Kaka side-foots wide from the easiest chance of the game. “It’s not the kind of football you fall in love with,” says Champion. As the teams are walking off, we’re treated to some horrific slow-motion footage of Ronaldinho expelling water through his teeth.
France 1 South Korea 1
Another dynamic performance by the Koreans, who just will not give in. France are the same only in reverse, with a performance that is the footballing equivalent of a contemptuous shrug. As in the first game, Henry is seen gesticulating in frustration, though at least he scores. Zidane is substituted and stomps off. Barthez looks ever more like Donald Pleasance, perhaps as the short-sighted forger in The Great Escape. Still, they should have been two up, Vieira’s header clearly crossing the line before being swiped back, but it’s not spotted by the whistle-happy Mexican referee (“He’s a pest,” says Mark Lawrenson). Driven on by their fans’ thunderous drumming, the Koreans keep launching long balls but never win them. Finally, Park Ji-Sung scoops the ball over Barthez and Gallas after Cho Jae-Jin’s knockback. Barthez might have saved it but instead pushes the ball just out of Gallas’s reach. “It’s gone in in slow motion,” says Lawrenson over the slow-motion replay. Vieira then blasts the highest shot of the tournament over the crossbar and the keeper makes a good save from Henry. Dick Advocaat looks like Fungus the Bogeyman.
Monday June 19
Switzerland 2 Togo 0
Adebayor is interested today, at least for a while, and might have had two penalties, the first after being barged over, the second, more clear-cut, when he’s clipped by Müller’s trailing leg – he bangs his fists on the ground as the ref jogs away. In between Frei scores, tapping in from Magnin’s pull-back, which had begun as a wayward shot. Having been unable to keep possession, Switzerland tighten up in the second half and Agassa has to save well from Barnetta and Yakin. Several Swiss fans have plastic udders on their heads, but look very solemn as though it’s a punishment. Kader is less effective today, being constantly caught offside, and Togo show a peculiar lack of urgency, with midfielders not getting forward quickly enough. Barnetta’s strike finishes it off. Otto Pfister gurns away in a lurid pink shirt while his fellow pensioner Köbi Kuhn gingerly tries on a baseball cap. Gygax sounds like a substance created by chemists, possibly a heat-resistant polymer.
Ukraine 4 Saudi Arabia 0
The man-of-the-match award is sponsored by a brewery and so no Saudi is allowed to accept it, but that’s not a problem. The Saudis’ Brazilian coach, Marcos Paqueta, is seen fiddling with magnetic counters on a board while paying no attention to the play. He’s probably just trying to avoid being unnecessarily upset – Ukraine stroll to a two-goal half-time lead and get a third within a minute of the restart. Our man Graham Poll makes his mark by booking a Saudi for diving in the area then ignoring a Ukrainian who does exactly the same. The Saudis have one moment of quick one-touch passing, in the 91st minute, after which Kalinichenko adds a fourth. Shevchenko responds to the Ukrainian equivalent of “give us a wave” by rising from the dugout and offering a regal hand. The main point of interest that emerges is that the Saudis’ hotel is on Elvis Presleyplatz.
Spain 3 Tunisia 1
There’s a slow motion shot of Roger Lemerre yelling “Ouuiiii!” as Tunisia take the lead, Mnari putting in the rebound after Casillas saves his first shot. “The sky is the colour of the plum jelly my grandma used to make,” says Jonathan Pearce as the rain lashes down. Spain have four free headers from corners in the first half, including an Alonso effort headed off the line, but always look in danger of conceding from counter‑attacks marshalled by Trabelsi. The absurdly theatrical Mr Simon of Brazil races 30 yards to book Ayari, who later reacts badly to being subbed, kicking the bench and flinging a water bottle. Lemerre defies the elements in a very unbecoming hoodie – “Maybe he got it for his birthday,” says Pearce – while Luis Aragonés slumps in the dugout like a frazzled commuter wondering where his late train is. Raúl comes on to save the day (“They say he’s Mr Spain!”), pouncing on a rebound from Fabregas’s shot. Torres is helped in scoring the second by Boumnijel haring out of his goal for no reason. “That goalkeeper wants locking up,” says Lawrenson as a furious Jaidi leaps in the air. Torres is top scorer with three after his late penalty, which is nearly saved.
Tuesday June 20
Germany 3 Ecuador 0
Poland 2 Costa Rica 1
Ecuador are “resting the infirm and ill-disciplined” says Jon Champion. Klose and Podolski are not on speaking terms, in Polish or German, after a training-ground row; they exchange unfriendly gestures after a move breaks down. Not that it effects the pattern of the game. Klose gets the first after three minutes, but Ecuador never look like going all-out for the goal that would keep them top of the group. Klose gets a second from Ballack’s dinked pass; his newly mute partner adds a third. Ecuador’s substitute Lara is the smallest player here – just 5ft 3in. Jon Champion keeps referring to the “round of 16”. Kahn, sat on the opposite end of the bench to Klinsmann, “must feel like he’s been banished to Siberia” and can barely raise a smile for any of the goals. Central defender Bosacki scores twice for Poland, who come back from a goal down.
England 2 Sweden 2
Paraguay 2 Trinidad 0
Once again the England players look like nervous wrecks in a second half, clinging on when they ought have the game wrapped up. Despite the loss of Owen, taken off after a minute with a severely twisted knee, today’s first half was England’s best so far – though that particular bar has only been set at shin-height – capped by Joe Cole’s spectacular dipping volley to give them the lead. By this point Trinidad are already one down and would need to score three. Rooney looks sharp in his first start and Hargreaves chases everything like an eager Labrador. Then, a collapse. Allback heads in Linderoth’s corner, Larsson and Mellberg both hit the bar. Gareth Southgate is moved to something like anger by English marking – “Once is careless, twice is unprofessional” – and Gerrard, called into urgent action after being rested for having a booking, hacks off the line from Kallstrom. Robinson completes his gradual metamorphosis into James with a series of flaps and fumbles, while Sven seems to be burrowing deeper and deeper into his Perspex booth, as though looking for an escape hatch. Rooney, on being taken off, bangs his fist on the dugout roof, then slumps and stares glassily into the distance which brings chuckles from Tyldesley, then Southgate: “It’s just him!” “It’s like he’s been called in for his tea!” Incredibly, Gerrard heads England in front from Joe Cole’s cross, which prompts Steve McClaren into an urgent circular motion with both hands as though losing control of a potter’s wheel. Larsson equalises from what would have looked a soft goal at League Two level, as a simple throw-in into the box terrifies three England defenders. Paraguay score their second after Trinidad waste a succession of chances. Birchall has had as many shots on target as Lampard.
Wednesday June 21
Portugal 2 Mexico 1
Angola 1 Iran 1
That players should be booked for diving is fine in theory, but many referees get it horribly wrong, such as Mr Michel today. Pérez gets a second yellow for falling under Miguel’s hefty challenge so, instead of getting a potentially equalising penalty, Mexico are down to ten. They’re much the better side for the remaining half‑hour against under-strength opponents, for whom Luis Boa Morte puts in a snarling cameo, and might have another spot-kick when Ferreira scythes down Bravo. The Portuguese looked comfortable after Maniche’s early goal and a penalty from Simao, but after Tiago misses an open goal Fonseca’s header bring Mexico back into it. Pardo then misses from the spot after Miguel’s handball. Big Phil semaphores frantically but his players seem to have clocked off. After blocking from Bravo, Ricardo receives what appears to be a snog from the full-back while lying inside the goal. “He was very very grateful wasn’t he?” says Clive Tyldesley. Angola take the lead, but they have to score a second and hope that Mexico concede again. Instead, Iran equalise. Gareth Southgate, often unable to speak for laughing today, achieves the impossible by making you pine for the incisive, hard-hitting analysis of Graeme Le Saux.
Argentina 0 Holland 0
Ivory Coast 3 Serbia & Montenegro 2
Holland can top the group with a win but they seem content to avoid injuries with several first-teamers rested. “Naughty boy,” says David Pleat as Kuyt sets about soiling his reputation, messing up a near-post shot when he should have passed to Van Nistelrooy. Messi is “starting to go with his twinkle toes” as he slides in to a cross and hits the bar. Riquelme and Tevez have chances, too, while a Van der Vaart free-kick zips past the post. There’s a slow-motion replay of Milito trying to prise off Ooijer’s nose while blocking him at a corner but otherwise it’s quite sedate – “Almost an ‘after you Claude’,” says Pleat as two players pull out of a tackle. Marco van Basten has a praying mannerism when vexed, very Serie A, and often stands stock still with muscles flexed as if the Incredible Hulk is about to burst out. Serbia take a two-goal lead in first half against the Ivory Coast, who score from a penalty before Nadj is sent off. Dudic, who had handled for the first spot-kick, does it again in the last minute as Ivory Coast, the best of the first‑round casualties, win 3‑2. A desperate tournament for Serbia, who end with the worst record of the 32 teams, with three defeats and a goal difference of minus eight.
Thursday June 22
Italy 2 Czech Republic 0
Ghana 2 USA 1
Milan Baros, looking as astonished as ever, comes in for his first game of the tournament. The Czechs start well with Nedved – who John Motson is now calling “Nee-Yed-Vee-Yed” – having a shot well saved by Buffon. Materazzi – “who Everton fans will remember” – soon replaces the injured Nesta. Ten minutes later he scores with a huge leap and downward header from Totti’s corner, although Everton fans probably won’t remember anything like that. Italy are on course to win the group. Ghana are in second after Italy score and strengthen their position by taking the lead through Draman. Earlier, Essien gets a yellow card from the pernickety referee Markus Merk, which means he will miss the next match. The US level through a thumping shot from Dempsey, who’s a freestyle rapper, “whatever that is”. They still need to win. Ghana get a very soft penalty on the stroke of half-time, Appiah being caught, barely, by Onyewu. With Donovan and Beasley off form the US are not really at it in second half, barring McBride’s diving header striking the post. Ghana duly become the only African qualifiers for the knockout stage. Mensah shows off his “Wonderful Jesus” T-shirt. “It was not a penalty,” observes Marcel Desailly of Ghana’s decisive goal. Martin O’Neill agrees but adds philosophically: “In the course of life it won’t make a whole deal of difference.” Try telling that to Bruce Arena, Martin. The Czechs have Polack sent off late in the first half and never look likely to come back. After 86 minutes, Inzaghi runs from the halfway line to toddle round Cech and score. In the celebrations Gattuso grabs Marcello Lippi around the neck and screams in his face – John Motson says: “It could be one of the endearing images of the tournament.”
Australia 2 Croatia 2
Brazil 4 Japan 1
Graham Poll finally provides what the World Cup had lacked so far – a crazed performance by a match official. His first big mistake is to miss seeing Viduka being manhandled in the penalty area by Simunic. Croatia are already one up, Srna’s free-kick swerving past the monstrous Kalac, who is supposedly better at dealing with crosses than the dropped Schwarzer. Pletikosa makes a good save from Kewell, while Kranjcar, in another swanky buttoned-up suit, gesticulates frantically like a racecourse bookie; he appears to stay on his feet for the entire game. Japan go 1-0 up. They need another goal. Australia take second place after equalising through a penalty for handball against Tomas. Kalac then drops the ball under no pressure. On half-time, Brazil make it 1-1. They go on to get another three. Ronaldo stirs himself to score two but still looks like he’s playing in a veterans’ match. Ricardinho, who had three months at Middlesbrough, becomes the latest Premiership “reject” to turn out at the World Cup. Kalac makes a horrendous mistake for Croatia’s second, Kovac’s soft shot bouncing over his laboured dive. Hiddink now has a hunted expression and we get several shots of an impassive Schwarzer. The boss’s boy Niko Kranjcar is waved goodbye by Croatia supporters when subbed. Pletikosa makes a fine reflex save from Kewell, then grabs the ball right on the goalline as players bundle in on top of him. Poll fails to spot Tomas handling again, much more blatantly than before. Kewell makes it 2-2, lashing in Aloisi’s flick on, but does do from an offside position (and he’s not alone). Poll is touched on the arm by the pleading Srna as he’s about to send off Simic for a second yellow, and reacts like he’s been goosed. You sense that an Australian will walk and sure enough Emerton is dismissed for handball. Simunic is then given a second yellow by Poll but no red and trots away quite briskly, as you would, while Viduka asks Poll not quite loudly enough what exactly is going on. Australia seem to have scored again as the final whistle blows. Viduka hugs Poll and Simunic, walking past, makes a curt observation that earns him a third yellow and, finally, a red. Well done, Graham – you have become a legend.
Friday June 23
Ukraine 1 Tunisia 0
Spain 1 Saudi Arabia 0
“This is really dire,” says Gavin Peacock of the worst game so far, settled by a daft penalty midway through the second half when Shevchenko tumbles over after minimal contact. The Tunisians have a better claim for one when the ball strikes Voronin’s arm, but they barely manage an attack after the dismissal of the centre-forward Jaziri in first-half injury time. Needing two they wait until the 79th minute to bring on striker Santos, kept out till now by injury. Boumnijel makes a couple of decent saves from Voronin. The tracksuited Oleg Blokhin fiddles with his tufty hair and paces about like a games teacher waiting for the stragglers in a cross-country run. “Ukraine are happy to meander into the second round,” says Simon Brotherton as Sepp Blatter slumps in his seat, cursing himself for not bring along sunglasses to cover up a snooze. Spain rest their first team and stagger to a 1-0 win thanks to Juanito’s header.
Switzerland 2 South Korea 0
France 2 Togo 0
The Korean fans are far too busy with the clanging and the yelling to wave when they’re shown on the big screen. Senderos has blood streaming down his face as he whirls away after heading the Swiss in front. Choi Jin-Chul, whom he’d collided with, wears protective netting on his head for the rest of the match. With the other game goalless, the Koreans can still go through if they lose. Senderos’s tournament is over after he dislocates a shoulder in the second half. Müller gets away with two possible penalty claims for handball, but Korea don’t create much barring Lee Chun‑Soo’s shot beaten away by Zuberbühler. France miss several chances in the first half, but Vieira puts them ahead after 55 minutes and Thierry Henry soon adds a second. Korea now need to win. Lee Chun-Soo runs on the spot before taking corners but it doesn’t seem to help. Frei squanders a free header and hits a post, but then scores, though some Koreans stop as the linesman has flagged for offside. There are mass protests but replays show the ball had reached Frei off a Korean leg; Dick Advocaat is given a stern talking to by the referee and plonks himself down hard on the bench, shaking with fury.
From WSC 234 August 2006. What was happening this month