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.
There was some excellent African music (I caught Khaled, Algeria’s superstar, and his rendition of the classic Dididi) although I gather it was spoiled by the US “Blues” singer R Kelly and the traditional American song of “finding yourself”, “being strong” and “reaching for the heights”. Sometimes work can be a blessing.
I got home just in time for the start of the South Africa v Mexico game (we finish at 2.30pm; I know, it’s a cushy job) and watched a game that was never dull and was really picked up by a superb goal from Siphiwe Shabalalal. It was stunning shot, reminiscent of the Carlos Edwards belter against Burnley a few years ago.
However, the Bafana Bafana (see, I’m getting into it) defending from a corner was more reminiscent of that of Gary Breen & Co in the 15 point season, as Rafael Marquez deservedly equalised for the Mexicans.
Fortified by good food, good company and a couple of glasses of a very tasty South African red, I resumed my football watching position for France v Uruguay – and promptly fell asleep!!
The excellent company had returned home, so blame the food, the wine, the end of the week and particularly a disappointing game between two sides who should do better than this.
France seemed bereft of ideas and with Djibril Cisse sat on the bench, an opportunity was lost to unleash the only English Lord on to the World Cup scene. I thought Diego Forlan was outstanding, but my slumbers were deep and I only saw about a third of the game.
Saturday dawned bright and after a morning shopping and treating myself to breakfast in Bishop, I resumed viewing position to watch Greece, my middle brother’s home country, take on Republic of Korea. The Koreans did well, but Greece were dreadful. Slow, ponderous and clearly weighed down by the responsibilities of the collapse of the Hellenic financial system, they barely raised an attack and I was soon dozing and reading the papers. They will be home pdq.
Argentina looked impressive against Nigeria, playing some neat and tidy football, although I rubbed my eyes in disbelief when I saw Guitterez playing at full back. The sage of Barnsley, Mick McCarthy, was even more disdainful, implying that Maradona was a complete idiot for playing an average forward in defence. Nigeria played down his side but failed to take advantage of his lack of experience as an international defender.
So, a couple of hours break, and then ready for the big one. Tea eaten, cat fed, wine poured and seat occupied, I tuned into the excellent Adrian Chiles and the dreary Gareth Southgate. Patrick Vieira sounded good and there was a world weary Kevin Keegan at the end of the row, looking tired and not particularly keen to be there. Chiles has made a great start to his ITV career and will be the outstanding broadcaster of the tournament.
The game opened well for England as Heskey (boo, hiss) laid a perfect pass into the stride of Gerrard and the nation cheered. A good start, but England failed to build on it and allowed a fit and muscular United States team to get back into it. Watford’s Jay De Merrit had a fine game but it was his fellow central defender and Newcastle reject, Oguchi Onyewo, who caught the eye. He had a real tussle with Heskey which I though ended with honours even.
Emile Ivanhoe had a good game and did all the things you would expect him to; winning headers, being caught offside, subtle flicks, shooting at the keeper when put through. What would Darren have done in that position?
I thought it was a poor performance, with Lampard’s contribution minimal, Rooney running around to little effect and some real problems in the middle of the back four and on the flanks. Carragher’s lack of pace was shown up by Altidor and Green was fortunate to save it, having left a huge gap at his near post. As for the equaliser, well, Calamity Kelvin came to mind.
After the game I was astounded to hear Townsend, Southgate and Keegan say that England had played well. I tuned in to 5Live and it is fair to say that Alan Green did not agree with that verdict, and neither did too many of his callers. I would imagine that for the Algeria game on Friday, Green, King, (isn’t that a brewery?), Wright-Phillips and Carragher will be on bench warming duties.