Sunday, June 11, 2006

World Cup Diary: First Two Days

It's been only two days of football (soccer for American fans), and suddenly the world looks smaller than ever, my schedule looks tighter than ever, and the adrenaline box, busier than ever. Not often does my left give a high five with my right, and it's happened over the last 48 hours. I am not kidding.

The schedule is tailor made for me: the day begins with a FIFA World Cup game, at 7:00 a.m. Breakfast break at 9:00. Another game at 10 a.m. Lunch break at noon, and yet another game at 1:00 in the afternoon. Since each game lasts less than two hours, the routine is simply too good, just enough break to recharge myself with a coffee and smoke.

Add a drive to the office on weekdays during the breakfast break and you get the entire picture. Cool, isn't it? And yes, I get to watch the matches in a BIG screen from the office.

The evenings are equally glorious with the Stanley Cup and Larry O'Brien Trophy (NBA Finals) games keeping up with the football engagements in the morning and afternoon.

Okay. Enough rambling. Let's get on with the games.

Day One (Friday, June 9)
Germany-Costa Rica (10 a.m., MST): Germany coasted with a victory 4-2 against one of the minnows but not without a scare or two for the fans. I missed the first 14 minutes (my car was stuck in the traffic) and therefore missed the first two goals. The rest of the game the Germans played alright, nothing overboard although their defense looked questionable at times as the scoreline suggests.

Poland-Ecuador (1 p.m., MST): This was widely touted as a cakewalk for the Polsl. Instead they walked into a 0-2 hammering. An ideal lesson for paper favorites who forgot that the winners are decided on the field and not on reputation. By the way, is scouting a common practice in football? How could the Pols not see this coming? They better regroup or else they are leaving the cup little too early.

Day Two (Saturday, June 10)
England-Paraguay (7 a.m.): My buddy Jon called at 6:45 to wake me up so that I could watch his England team and appreciate the hype. I kept sleeping. Well, I found out later that I didn't miss much. By the way, England won 1-0 and they were terrible (as the reports say).

Sweden-Trinidad and Tobago: Trinidad is famous for it's legendary cricketers like Brian Lara, Learie Constantine, and spin wizard Sony Ramadhin. Turns out that they are in the World Cup too, not a small feat for an island nation (actually two major islands and 21 smaller islets) with a total population of about one million. Sweden was supposed to win this one without breaking a sweat, which didn't happen even though the islanders were reduced to only 10 men in the second half. The Swedes were relentless in their attack but couldn't buy a goal. T&T created history holding onto a gritty 0-0 draw.

Argentina-Ivory Coast: This was the best game in the tournament so far. Argentina won 2-1 and should consider themselves lucky to get away with the win. They did play well, their passing game was more assured, and by and large they controlled the midfield. The Ivorians, on the other hand, were a big surprise to everyone as they matched their famous opposition in almost every department of the game with a show of sparkling skills in their attack offering everything the Argentine defense could handle. If only they could convert a fraction of the chances they created in the box, the cheerful face of Diego Maradona, the Argentine football legend in the stands might have turned into a solemn one.

Argentina and Ivory Coast are in Group C which — with Holland and Serbia Montenegro rounding out the group — has already been dubbed as the "group of death." If the Ivorians scared anyone by their game today, that would be the Dutch. Watch out, Ivory Coast is the real deal. And yeah, they speak French.



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