People seem to be saying that it’s an anything-can-happen World Cup, which has to be a good thing. The old certainties do not always apply. Apart from, sadly, Group E now, where Holland are definitely through, and the plucky, re-energised Cameroon (a favourite of mine from previous tournaments, I guess since 1990 when they reached the quarter finals) the first to go home. France, Italy, Spain, even Germany are not yet secure in their groups, which is nailbiting for their fans – hey, join the club – and potentially more entertaining for the rest of us. I can’t be out on a limb in stating that yesterday’s Cameroon Denmark game was the highlight of the tournament so far. What a treat to see two teams attacking each other so passionately, and for the full 90 minutes – and only four yellow cards between the lot of them, which may simply reflect well upon the ref.
Cameroon, who’d steamed ahead in the first ten minutes thanks to the supernatural – and unmarked – Eto’o and some “Billy Smart’s manual” defending from the Danes according to Peter Drury, were surely everyone’s favourites by half-time. (Except for all those middle aged men with moustaches dressed as red Vikings, of course.) You couldn’t argue with Denmark’s two goals: the first at close range from Bendtner from an amazing midfield pass that Gareth Southgate confirmed as having come 61 yards from Simon Kjaer; the second from a man called Rommendahl, which was one of the mostly neatly slotted goals we’ve seen so far. But I for one never gave up on the Cameroonians. Unfortunately, they couldn’t pull a second goal back. I hope the other African nations don’t go out. South Africa look to be in trouble, Nigeria have yet to score a point, Algeria are on the bottom … Ghana are Africa’s best hope, although let’s not write off Ivory Coast just yet. (Looking forward to seeing them take on Brazil this very evening.)
Well, having mentioned Algeria, I guess we must acknowledge England’s pathetic failure to beat them on Friday. It’s been analysed to death in the media: Wayne Rooney’s ungracious remarks about the booing fans, for which in the apology culture of the day, he had to officially say sorry for (or at least the FA did on his behalf); the players’ fear of failure, which seems ironically to be causing the team to collectively fail; Fabio Capello’s dogged faith in the 4-4-2 formation and his potentially damaging decision to dump Robert Green one game in, when, in fact, there was no way he was going to make that kind of mistake ever again … it’s the usual round of recrimination and self-loathing. I allow myself to forget how frustrating it is following England. We all do. I don’t want them to go out, but they don’t deserve to stay in yet. I actually think booing your team is pointless and bad-tempered. Sure, some of the fans have spent a fortune getting out to South Africa and taken time off work, but there are never any guarantees, are there? It’s like booing the weather for not being sunny enough when you’re on holiday. Indeed, it’s like doing that when it wasn’t sunny enough last time you went. Or the time before. Anyway, I’m told it’s perfectly understandable for the fans to boo. So be it. (You might argue that the weather isn’t paid as much as the England players.)
While searching for the source of the Billy Smart’s line above (I think it was Andy Townshend who called the same Danish defenders the Keystone Cops – cue: young people scratching their heads at all these arcane references), I found this really witty and learned match report by a man called Mark Murphy on a blog called Twohundredpercent. I’m sure it’s one of hundreds of reports out there on football blogs, but it’s the first one I found, and I liked it. So here’s a link. I think their style.
Incidentally, are we up for Colin Murray, who seems to have quietly graduated, via the darts, to the BBC’s top table in Cape Town (and to Adrian Chiles’ chair on MOTD2, which as you will know, I do not watch)? I have seen him in action first hand on Five Live, and I’ve always liked his style – I also think it’s very smart to move diagonally from music to sport, if both are your passions.
Now, an afternoon beer, I think, in the spirit of the thing.