Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Good, The Bad, and the Downright Stupid

Mickey McBias is not amused : 17th June 2006 :

Let's start with a football cliche : "funny old game".
It certainly is, and, if we didn't have shock results before now and wondered if or where they would surface, then wonder no more. It all kicked off today, if you'll excuse the pun.
Let's begin with what was expected though, as Portugal beat Iran 2-0, and therefore booked their place in the last 16, with a match to spare. No surprises there.
Later, a remarkable match, and it was as if the two teams who played it out were somehow completely reversed in attitude and style and skill, to their first games of this tournament. After all, the Czechs were expected to breeze past Ghana today, no-one really thought otherwise, especially the way the Czechs had previously brushed aside the USA with ease, and Ghana had previously lost to Portugal, creating little in the process.
But football isn't like that.
Ghana came out storming, and were ahead within 2 minutes. Frankly, they completely dominated proceedings, and the crucial strikers injuries that the Czechs now have, means trouble for them. The team I had high praise for just days ago, were a shadow, and could now be 90 minutes away from a surprise exit. Eventually Ghana won 2-0, but oh, oh dear. It should have been 5 or 6, and they missed a penalty too, and I wonder just how much the missed chances will cost them in the end. A 3-0 win would have put them into 2nd place in the group. They deserved at least that. The 2-0 they got, keeps them 3rd. That could be so vital, with one match left, and, fantastic though the victory was for this Ghana side, those misses could cost them dear. I hope not, because the display they put on earlier today is deserving of what would be a miraculous second stage place.
Now, to the 2 teams who played tonight, and deserve nothing more to get a huge kick up all their arses and bundled on the first planes home. I fear one (maybe both, god forbid) could, miraculously, get through to the next stage, after this poor excuse for a football match at the highest level. Italy v USA. This had to be seen to be believed. Italy were clear favourites, and, sure enough, went 1-0 up within about 20 minutes. All looked good for them to qualify today, and it looked as if the USA were indeed exiting very quickly. But, yes, funny old game.
The Italians aren't known for giving too many gifts away on the football pitch, but they then handed out presents to the USA like it was Thanksgiving, Christmas, and July 4th all at once. Within 5 minutes, a horrendous mistake led to Italy deflecting one into their own net. It was very unlucky, and that's an understatement. But, 1-1 it suddenly was. The next gift was 2 minutes away, as a vicious elbow meant the Italians were down to 10 men, less than half an hour gone. I guess the USA couldn't believe their luck ! Well, this was their chance, one man extra, tails up, and they could push for victory. Ah, but no. What did they do ? In the space of the next half an hour or so, they managed to get two (yes, TWO) of their own men sent off. Suddenly, all advantage gone, a man down, and it petered out over the next 45 minutes or so into a bad tempered, ugly stalemate. 1-1.
Nothing would please me more to see both these teams eliminated in the final matches in a few days time, because of tonights match.
Cheating, dangerous tackling, diving, it was all here. Actually, the Uruguyan ref was dreadful too, he didn't help matters by clearly not being able to handle it. As much as I love Italian food, and the American people, sorry, but your football completely sucks. And the behaviour of your players too.
As much as I would like to see the Czechs and Ghana go through, it would need to be a certain set of results in the next round for this to happen. For Ghana to make it, they will probably have to beat the USA. That is by no means certain, as their tails will be up after grabbing a point tonight. And, it looks like the Czechs would have to beat Italy, which I just can't see, as all their top strikers are currently nobbled. What a strange day. Oh well, I guess it was about time a few surprises, shocks, and red cards entered the fray, and that day was today.
Usually, we expect that from the South Americans, but they had nothing on this show tonight. Add to that, the Italians had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside. Poor officials, or should I say poor linesmen, is becoming a feature of this World Cup. So, 3 red cards, and I did wonder at one stage if we would be going down to 5 a side. Actually, that would have been fun.
Tomorrow sees France take centre stage again, and if they cannot see off South Korea (which won't be easy) then it's hometime for them, I would think. They have to get their act together, and quickly.
Brazil play Australia in the afternoon, and the Aussies are a tough side, so I can see a lot of Brazilians being carried off on the stretcher then jumping up in full recovery mode about 10 seconds later, a-la Italian cheat-style. I'll be watching with interest.
We're getting into the crucial stages now, and a lot of the so called 'big' teams aren't performing. Yet.