Sorry America, but you had to go


We end our trio of Sunday morning reads on a controversial note. Jeremy Robson, writing from Ontario, risks the wrath of nearish neighbours to, whisper this, welcome the USA’s exit …

, thank goodness the USA have been eliminated from the World Cup.

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World Cup Soapbox: the tournament warms up


Pete Sixsmith appreciates an urgent new dimension to the World Cup after the often turgid fare of the group stage. England fans of a nervous disposition should stop reading before the end …

After the chess games of the Group stages, the cynicism of the likes of Portugal and Chile and the ineptitude of England, we saw some real football today, with belting games in the first of the Round Two games.

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Luke’s World Cup: comfort in the discomfort of giants


Time to concentrate anew on England v Slovenia. OK. England have been rubbish so far. But France have made our rubbish look good (I hate to say it but the obvious reaction to today’s decisive result is frankly “good riddance”), and there have been unconvincing performances from Italy, Germany and – until last night – Spain. Patriotic to the end, Luke Harvey tries his best to keep the faith …

“I can’t believe we didn’t beat such a poor team,” came one comment from around the table. “I know,” I replied, “It almost makes you ashamed to be Algerian, doesn’t it?”

A few forced smiles were raised but the day after the night before was still a bit too early for such jocularity. The conversation was quickly diverted away from football towards something less disheartening.

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World Cup Soapbox: off we go and viva Paraguay


For Pete Sixsmith, the first big one comes tonight with our boys – Paraguay (our boys, for latecomers, because they have Paula da Silva, Cristian Riveros AND red & white stripes) – expecting a comfy stroll against Italy. But the first weekend of the World Cup gave Pete plenty to enjoy, admire and deplore …

So, after a couple of weeks of looking back at previous World Cups, the 2010 tournament is up and running. First impressions are quite positive and I particularly enjoyed the sight of the huge dung beetle wandering across the stadium in Friday’s opening ceremony.

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England 1 USA 1: got a spare keeper anyone?

usa fans

Darren Bent’s exclusion meant we weren’t really supposed to be too bothered. But an early goal does wonders for everyone’s moral. Doesn’t it? Well, not if followed by 40 minutes of abysmal football and a comic cuts equaliser. Did it get better in the second half? Not a great deal. Best out of that lot, Darren! …

This is an updated version of the halftime posting …

It would
not be quite right to say the French commentator could actually be heard salivating when Robert Green, for months linked with a move to a club with an infinitely better keeper (Sunderland), made his pathetic fumble to allow Clint Dempsey’s ordinary, somewhat hopeful long-range strike to spin away from him and over the line.

All the same, the man from TF1 did sound a little excited (though Arsène Wenger, by his side, was altogether more level-headed).

Well, fair play to the French. After a dismal warm-up, and an opening game they dominated without ever really looking like winning, they needed something to cheer them up. The USA’s equaliser served that purpose.

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Priceless World Cup memories (2)


The competition has begun, with a late Mexico equaliser spoiling a dream start for South Africa, and France failing to overcome Uruguay. I think I predicted two draws on the opening day, elsewhere if not here, so was not surprised. And both were, as Bill Taylor has pointed out here, quite entertaining games. England play tonight and, of course, Salut! Sunderland wants even a Bent-free Capello side to win (though we’re also the highly unofficial site for the Paraguay squad – thanks for the flag, Pete!).

Steve Bruce has said the heart wants England, the head says Argentina; Lorik Cana favours Brazil. But in quiet periods between games, you can browse the outstanding pieces in which the same Pete who procured my Paraguay flag – Pete Sixsmith – reflects with startling recall of detail on all World Cups between 1966 and 2006. Here is a second instalment of the highlights (one of them from an intruder), each article reached by clicking the location or year …

See the first round-up of extracts by clicking here, or scroll down each individual tournament, clickable from the sidebar column to your left

1994, USA

Football and the USA is like Cheryl Cole and Rugby League, Nick Clegg and sticking to your principles and Mike Ashley and sensible managerial appointments – they just do not go together. They like games that they can be World Champions at because nobody else plays them. I like Baseball, but calling the play off the World Series… do me a favour.

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Can the World Cup help Kick Out Racism?


Thanks to people of the calibre of Niall Quinn and Darren Bent, and many more than we could hope to mention, Sunderland AFC have played a commendable role, through such campaigns as Show Racism the Red Card, in combating racial prejudice and discrimination in football. The opening of the World Cup in South Africa – sadly, after all, in Nelson Mandela’s absence following the death of his 13-year-old great granddaughter in an accident after last night’s concert – sends out a powerful message of its own today. But with thanks to Jeremy Robson, whose exchanges with me here a week ago inspired these thoughts in today’s edition of The National, Abu Dhabi, only so much progress has been made …

Image: from Frerieke‘s Flickr pages. The posting is repeated at my main Salut! site

After the French football team defeated the much-fancied Brazilians in the 1998 World Cup final, two snappy phrases became part of the legacy of a swashbuckling victory: un-deux-trois-zéro to describe the impressive scoreline and blanc-black-beur acclaiming the multiracial composition of the team.

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