Friday, June 23, 2006

World Cup Diary V: USA out, England in and Comedy of Errors

I wish I could update the World Cup Diary more frequently. Trust me — it makes life a lot easier because I absolutely hate long reports. In sports they always seem to lose me in the end so I don't want to write something which I'm going to hate the very moment I wrap it up.

If you did notice, WCD is just a typo away from becoming the most feared acronym in recent times (WMD) and now it's too late for a change and keeping up with Blogcritics policy (wink!) am staying the course!

The delay, unfortunately was due to Mark Cuban and Dwyane Wade. I never had plans to cover the NBA Finals, then there was Game 3. Then Game 4. And then Game 5, whereupon I broke loose and eventually ended up posting three (discounting the finals preview). I know, they kind of sucked me into the mess.

Now back to the World Cup excitement. I'm not sure how many of you are still feeling the adrenaline rush because the Yanks are gone for good. They didn't even come close to replicating their success in 2002. Not that they ever had a chance — but hope is always a slippery thing, like the way it works in a relationship in wreck.

They will not play in the next round, which is okay considering a lot of good teams won't either. But there is something more to it. Teams like Costa Rica didn't advance but were still impressive. Teams like USA didn't advance and disappointed everyone who would watch, to say the least. Huge difference.

Frankly, it's hard to be impressive when your best player (read: Landon Donovan) was sleepwalking all along. (Actually I even started taking live notes. I don't know how people do that, but mine turned out to be a disaster. Hey, I tried. I'll put it up in my blog).

The game between Australia and Croatia must have been the most bizarre game I've ever seen. The Croats needed a win to advance, the Aussies on the other hand were not so desperate, a draw would suffice for them, and they got it.

But the man who stole the show in an otherwise enthralling game was the man with the whistle — Graham poll (he's British by the way). His blow jobs were nothing short of a running comedy, full of crap.

In the last couple of minutes the following happened (stay with me here carefully):

1. Simunic (Croatia) is shown the second yellow card (that is an automatic red card), he starts walking away — then he realizes Poll forgot to show his Red Card, so he walks back to the field again!

2. Poll whistles for full time femtoseconds before Australia scores a goal which is disallowed, of course. But hang on - Poll then books Simunic for the THIRD time in the match and NOW shows him the red card and blows up for the FULL time — again.

You had to be there to see and believe it. It was all so confusing and funny, that we were all looking at each other with what the-fuck-is going-on faces, and finally relieved to find out that's the end of Poll's comedy. A gem of a moment. Unforgettable.

A number of teams have already secured their place in the final 16, the knock-out stage of the tournament. But nothing could have been more relieving for the British fans than to secure a draw against the Swedes in their final group-stage match.

Not that it was any different because England haven't been able to win against Sweden in the last 40 years and 12 meetings.

They will take the draw with a smile, for now. The draw ensured England winning their group and avoiding a probable match up against Germany in the next round which would have been their return ticket to home. It's hard to beat Germany anyway, it's even harder to beat them at home and the way England has been playing lately they wouldn't stand a chance.

The draw also ensured that they will not be playing their beloved Argentina anytime soon (now they don't meet before the finals if they both advance).

Without an upset, England will square off with Brazil in the semi-finals. Somehow I think it's going to be played out like the 2002 quarter-final: Brazil ousted England 2-1.



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