Friday, June 09, 2006
Ah, so it has begun. All the talk is over, and the World Cup 2006 is upon us. Strange though, how the talk lasts for the preceding 4 years, but the competition itself is over within a month.
For many teams, their dreams and hopes and aspirations can be over in a couple of games.
Well, 16 of the 32 competing will be going home shortly, and this time I hope for a few surprises.
But it's strange, how bias and poor media reporting creep through unnoticed - by the country that's doing the reporting, I mean. Only outsiders see it - and I count myself amongst them, so I do have a unique viewpoint.
Does this happen in other countries ? Do tell.
I have witnessed it so many times in the preceding few weeks - and the reason I can spot it, and be annoyed with it, is because - yes - I do have a unique stance on this.
Born in Scotland, to an entirely English family (the only one, I was, to be born 'up north').
Half my life spent in Scotland, half in England. My loyalties, country-wise, lie with Scotland.
Why ? I really don't know. Maybe it's an underdog thing. Maybe it's because I grew up there.
Even more bizarrely, I've spent all my life supporting an English Club Team, although not the nation itself.
So, yes, I get annoyed with bias, because I've grown up, able to see both sides of things clearly.
At times such as these, it does rankle. I've heard so many news reports of 'who England's opponents will be in the second round'. Hmm. Yes, I'm sure they'll make it through, they have fantastic world class players and should breeze it. But stop a moment. At the time of writing this, they haven't even played a first round match yet, never mind thinking of the second round ! Presumption is a dangerous thing in football.
But I blame the media, who drive the fans on, usually to crazy false beliefs, rampant racism, and finally, ultimate disappointment. The London Standard tonight, read by many millions of Londoners, reported a '£1 billion British Bonanza' on the front page, with sales of England scarves, flags, hats, you name it.
Ermm, hang on. Why is that a 'British' bonanza ?
You see, England thinks it is Britain. Not quite sure just how many people failed geography in these parts, but it does seem to be an awful lot.
It works the other way at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, which I noticed last year.
Tim Henman was, as ever, 'England's best hope'. Andy Murray, from Scotland, was an 'upcoming Brit'.
Ermm, did you notice something there ? Hmmm. Not many people would, but because I can see both sides of it, then I can spot it immediately. My god, it's no wonder some people want independence.
I await with interest to see, if in later stages of the World Cup, if the usual stereotypes of racism rear their head here. They usually do. If England play Germany, the war will be mentioned approximately every ten seconds (it has already, I've seen it on the news tonight, and England haven't played yet !). If it's Argentina, it's the Falklands of course. And so on. I often wonder if this is deep rooted, some sort of inferiority complex since the crash of the old Empire or something. Funny old world.
And, you know, being a footie fan, I'm always disappointed that the worlds biggest sporting event, that only comes around every 4 years, ends up with a measly 32 teams in it. What's that about ?
Even European Club competitions start off with more teams involved than that. Every single year !!!
Because now, it really is about political correctness.
So many have to be chosen, rightly, from Africa, Oceanic region, Asia, the Americas, Europe.
What the final 32 do show is a fascinating, brilliant mixture, and so it should.
But let's be honest - they are not the best 32 in the world. Never will be.
Whilst in the smaller regions, qualification can mean 2 or 3 games, and hey presto - congratulations - you're in the next World Cup, lads - poor old Europe has half of its Countries cut out of the equation before we even begin, just so there ends up being a 'fair mix' of cultures in the end. Hmm.
Many European Countries get stuffed in a group of about 7 teams, with just 1, maybe 2nd place in that group if you are lucky, actually allowed to make the finals. The rest of you? Oh, sorry chaps - you ain't in it, but we have to put a few Countries in that you've never heard of instead. Sorry 'bout that.
Surely there's room for double the norm - 64 teams, say, not just 32, as this is, as they call it, 'The WORLD Cup', and it's only every 4 years after all. Just a thought.
And no, I'm not saying that because Scotland ain't in it this time (again - but I'm well aware they'd go out early anyway !) but it really is the pinnacle for so, so many footballers, to play in Finals such as these.
It is their dream. Look who hasn't made it this time - great teams which are so good to watch, the likes of Romania, Columbia, Peru, Denmark, Russia. There are many more.
What's going on ? Make this world event bigger, for goodness sake ! It doesn't happen often !
Sure, it's a 'World' Cup, yes, but it could be so much bigger. And here's a frightening thought, which absolutely proves my point. Who, I believe, was the worlds greatest footballer (and many agree, to various extents) was the great George Best.
He never got the chance to play in the World Cup Finals. At all. You see my point now.
Mind you, at least it's not like the 'World Series' in the States, where no other country (ermm, except the States) is actually competing. Not quite sure how anyone can be 'world champions' by only playing against teams from their own country, but there you go.
It's a strange, and frighteningly insular old world sometimes. And we'll see many instances of it, in Germany this year, over the next few weeks. But I hope good footie wins the day. It usually does. And I love it.
But let's look at what has happened so far. Day 1.
Germany kicked the whole thing off earlier, with a fabulous match against Costa Rica. 4-2.
Touch and go for a while, but it really was entertaining, and they thoroughly deserved their victory.
The match tonight, Poland v Ecuador, was expected to be quite a run of the mill affair, with Poland surely brushing aside the 300-1 Ecuador outsiders. But no, nothing of the sort.
First day, first shock, as Ecuador claimed a deserved 2-0 victory, despite the Poles having quite a penchant late on for hitting the woodwork. I like the Poles, but they just didn't get going. They'll have to produce in their next match, which, unluckily for them, is against Germany. I think it's an early homecoming for the Poles once again.
Tomorrow will be fascinating. England should, by rights, brush aside Paraguay, but - then again, look what Ecuador did tonight. Take nothing for granted.
I'll be fascinated to see Trinidad and Tobago. 1500-1 the odds, to win the tournament. Don't place your bets.
Argentina play tomorrow too, and I really do think they look the part this time. No fanfare, no shouting 'we'll do this, we'll do that', they've just got on with their preparation, slowly and efficiently.
They are expected to, frankly, take The Ivory Coast apart. Many predict a goal rush.
I will be surprised if it's anything less than that.
But what of later in the competiton ? The betting, as of today, is very interesting.
I was very, very surprised to see my tip, Argentina, being only fourth favourites.
Germany third favourites, because they are the host country. But their defence is a problem, if only at the moment. That was plain to see earlier tonight.
Brazil are the usual favourites, with England just behind as second favoirites now.
I do wonder if it will be the usual story of always the bridesmaid, never the bride, for the likes of England, Italy, and Spain. Yet again.
I do love this tournament though. Maybe I should run for FIFA President or something, and get this tournament to be a huge, proper affair of 64 teams.
Mind you, most countries would grind to a halt whilst all the TV coverage was on !
My predictions were, well, 'average' today. I said Germany 2-0. It was 4-2.
I said Poland 2-0. It was 0-2. Shall I stick my neck out for tomorrow ?
Ok then. England to beat Paraguay, at least 2-0.
Argentina to beat Ivory Coast, say, 4-1. Sweden to beat T & T, say, 2-1.
Don't put your money on any of them though !
Back to normal AZ service shortly, with biased World Cup reporting creeping in along the way.
It's a 'life Blog' after all. We'll report on anything. Even Stop n' Shop Potato Chips.
(Which have all been eaten now, by the way).