Friday, June 23, 2006

Hurry up England, Come On

Well, here we are. We've reached the end of the group stage and have already seen some cracking goals. It's time for a quick breath before launching into the knockout stage.

Condolences to you if you are an American (currently donning black armbands, I'm sure). You put up a brave fight against Ghana (with a very entertaining celebratory dance from Clint Dempsey after his goal), but were (alas) out-classed. Never mind, at least you have four years to get it together again, ready for the 2010 World Cup. If you're a North Carolinian, you can console yourself with the knowledge that at least the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup.

As for England, we finished top of our group. Even so, during each of their matches, I couldn't help thinking that they needed someone to light a fire under them to get them going. "Hurry up, England, come on" seems all the more appropriate. On saying that, however, England usually have difficulty thrashing easy opposition, but tend to come into their own when faced with a bigger challenge (quite often only to then go out on penalties).

Are we going to win the cup? Well -- hope springs eternal.

Here's who haven't got through:Gravestone: R.I.P.

Group A: Poland, Costa Rica
Group B: Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago
Group C: Serbia and Montenegro, Ivory Coast
Group D: Angola, Iran
Group E: Czech Republic, USA
Group F: Croatia, Japan
Group G: Saudi Arabia, Tunisia
Group H: Korea, Togo

You can have a look at my wallchart to see who got through and who they're playing in the next round.

I have to admit that I haven't watched every match. I started with good intentions, but found that other things would encroach on my time. Nevertheless, here's some memorable things about this World Cup so far:
  • Ghana doing so well: In every World Cup there is at least one underdog that surpasses expectations. Cameroon in 1990 particularly springs to mind. I initially thought that this role would be filled by Costa Rica after they scored twice against Germany in the opening match, but instead it was Ghana who surprised everyone. Australia too seem to be making a very good account of themselves.

  • The Togo team's pay dispute: Their coach resigned just before the start of the tournament and FIFA had to step in to help settle the dispute.

  • Michael Owen twisted his knee: No sooner was he on the pitch, than he was off again and we're having to manage without him.

  • Card-happy referees: Every World Cup has more than its fair share of poor referees and poor decisions. The England-Paraguay match had a card-happy referee. The referee for the USA-Italy match was so card-happy that the USA went down to nine men and Italy to ten. Then there was the ref. who gave the Croatian player two yellow cards and forgot to send him off (scroll down to the second story). Then gave him another yellow card later in the match.

  • The meagre-ness of the USA coverage: I really like Julie Foudy. There is also a Boris Johnson-esque (or perhaps Boris Becker-esque?) chap who I quite like, whose name I don't know. The problem with the coverage is the lack of analysis. One gets the impression that this is not due to the lack of ability on the analysts' parts, but to the lack of time allotted to them, due, in turn, to there being too many adverts.

  • France made it by the skin of their teeth: The champions of 1998 only barely made it to the last 16. They needed two goals to get through, both of which only came in the second half against Togo.

June 24, 2006

You may be interested to know that scientists have come up with the formula for the perfect penalty. Here's the article: Science Discovers Perfect Penalty

Here's my wallchart.

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