Friday, July 07, 2006

Germany 2006 World Cup (5)

Germany 1 -1 Argentina ( 4-2 on Pens)

1) "Why did I take Riquelme off after 70 minutes?" said Argentina coach Jose Peckerman, "You ask me why I take my best player off after 70 minutes? You really don't know? In 1970 England were leading Germany 2-1 and removed their best player, Bobby Charlton, and Germany won. So I thought, er..."

2) "Why did I replace Crespo with the inept Julio Cruz?" said Argentina coach Jose Peckerman, "You ask me why I take my best striker off after 75 minutes? You really don't know? In the film Soccerdog: European Cup, rookie manager Nick Moran takes off his best forward, and puts a slow, fat kid on instead, to prove that teamwork and guts are more important than skill or speed - they lose the game but win the... er, respect of the viewer. Er..."

3) "We expect to play England in the final", said German manager Jurgen Klinsmann, "Where we will win 3-1 in extra time. One of the advantages of being a Scientologist is that Xenu, the alien ruler of the Galactic Confederacy, tells you the results of football matches yet to be played."

Italy 3 - 0 Ukraine

1) "No, I don't think I'm the best defender in the world," said best defender in the world Fabio Cannavaro, "There are many good players out there. I just focus on doing my job. And when I'm not doing my job, I run a website which offers low-cost divorce. It's just a hobby."

2) "Yes, he is the best defender in the world," said smitten writer Andrew Girardin, "Cannavaro is the reason I watch dull International matches. This is the first time I've ever seen a one-man team where the star player is a defender. I can't wait to log on to lovecalculator.com to see if there is any future in our relationship."

3)




"Dr. Love thinks a relationship might work out between Andrew Girardin and Fabio Cannavaro, but the chance is very small. A successful relationship is possible, but you both have to work on it. "

Bad news there. Best look elsewhere...

4) 



Gasp! Don't listen to them, Keira!

England 0 - 0 The Other Team (1-3 on penalties)

"Andrew," said my cousin Steve, "Come and watch the quarter-final in the pub - it will be a nice quiet day out. Much better than watching it at home writing sarcastic posts for your blog, trying to raise awareness of issues as diverse as Human Rights abuses, mental health in Taiwan, and the futility of falling in love with a transatlantic Hollywood superstar."
"Steve," I said, "You make a good point."

Hyde

"You'll like this pub," said Steve, as we approached The Lamb in Hyde, "This is where neanderthal man was invented."
"Um... is this going to kick off?"
"Yes, kick off is in 5 minutes. Come on, England!"

Rooney

Portugay won a succession of free-kicks with a series of limp dives. "Where is the referee from?" asked Steve.
"Argentina," I said,
"I think I know what's going to happen," he said.
"Yup," I said.
Beckham got injured. Rooney got himself sent off.

Fight

Stoked up on cocaine, steroids, booze and revenge fantasies, Neanderthal man started a fight. Two men, who I assume were victims of a tattooing scam, starting running after each other. Then, like piranhas, the other two dozen skinheads - grandchildren of the men who fought the Battle of the Somme - ran on to the street to join the frenzy of violence. Windows were smashed, police were called, penalty kicks were missed by millionaires.

Kidnapped

"Steve, my house is that way," I said, pointing.
"Shh."
"Where are we going? Are those the Pennines?"
"No, those are the Moors."
"I don't want to die."
"Just do as you're told and you'll be right. And don't go making no nuisance to the fuzz. Drink this."
"I can't drink any more. I've already had 17 pints of patriotic cider."
"See that spade? Guess what that's for?"
"I'll drink it! I'll drink it!"

Staley Vegas

Stalybridge. Known as 'Staley Vegas' because there are no casinos. Steve and his shallow-grave diggers Rob and Tom bundled me into a series of pubs and bars.
"Look at all the women! Stalybridge is the only place in the world outside certain Eastern European cities where women outnumber men. I guarantee women will come up to you and demand to be made your sex slave. I could tell you some fairly detailed stories about this place, but I know you would write them on your blog - if you survive the night - so I won't tell you those stories," said one of the three men.
"Oh, look, France are beating Brazil 1-0."
"Forget about that. Drink this."
"But I have to blog the whole World Cup."

The Bridge

"This is where the night ends, and the fun begins. This is where the rich and powerful come to play with the young and beautiful creatures of the underworld." Actually it was just some lame club. The bouncers kept us waiting outside in the cold for some time, which I must attribute to their wish of increasing my interest by suspense, in the usual manner of elegant establishments.

They eventually let us in. I saw more elderly women than young women. The DJ had eclectic tastes: Van Morrison, S-Club 7, 'The Chipmunks sing Madonna'. After a time, I sat in a dark corner and used the meditation method I learned at the Shaolin Temple: I imagined myself flying through the lush green bamboo forests around Wudan mountain, then strolling around an ancient garden in Suzhou. A provocatively dressed woman, out with her daughter, interrupted my meditations. She put her foot up on a stool in front of me and began rubbing her leg at me. Ah! This was the Stalybridge debauchery Steven had promised me. While her approving daughter looked on, the woman leaned over, came close to me, and whispered in my ear, "I'm eighty years old, luv."

Germany 0 - 2 Italy

1) "I noticed that a lot of neutral viewers don't really know who to support," said inventive entrepreneur Jack 'The Mack' MacHackensack, "These viewers have come to realise that in modern football, the ball is almost completely incidental to the outcome of the match, and progression through a tournament is mostly based on a team's ability to cheat, versus their stupidity rating. So I wrote some software which shows which team is cheating the most, and how stupid they are. The feedback has been most satisfactory."

2) "I'm one of Mack's satisfied customers," said a soccer mom in Houston, Texas, "I didn't know who to support in Germany versus Italy, but his software changed all that. According to the play-by-play updates, Germany cheated six times more than Italy in the first half. It was a bit more even in the second half, but by then I was cheering Italy. When the German goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher, tried to decapitate the Italian player, I nearly shot my TV."


3) "I don't like cheats," said another customer, "But I hate stupidity more. Mack's software showed me which team was more stupid. The Italians scored a lot of stupidity points from their corner-kick routines. Every kick they took went straight to the German goalkeeper, and they didn't change their routine. That's just stupid. The Germans kept diving all match trying to get free-kicks, but the referee didn't help them out. Despite this, the Germans kept diving. That's just stupid. So which team did I support? Well, the Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro scored minus three thousand stupidity points. Which makes him the only intelligent player currently playing in world football. He is easily the best player in the World Cup."

4) "The thought of Germany's violent, ill-tempered, bad loser, ungracious winner, 'send-me-off' goalkeeper Jens Lehmann-Schumacher getting his hands on the World Cup makes me physically sick," said the collective consciousness of the entire planet, "I like Germany's attacking game and I understand that they cheated like Portugal because they were scared of Italy, but there's no excuse for Lehmann."

Portugal 0 - 1 France

Karma!

3rd Place/Final

I was pretty sick of football by this point.  I watched the final, between France and Italy, knowing that the next day, six coachloads of Italian and French kids would arrive in York for me to teach. Cheating and inept referees ruined the tournament. It amazes me to read the early posts and find that I had enjoyed the beginning.
.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Germany 2006 World Cup (4)

Croatia 2 - 2 Australia

FIFA defended their referee selection procedure after a horror show from Graham Poll in which he gave five yellow cards to one player, sent off 800 Croatian fans, and forced Australia to play 'two-touch' for much of the second half.

A spokesman said: "What happens is, we put these golden tickets inside candy bars, or inside cigarette packets in countries where FIFA-approved chocolate isn't a big seller. The person who finds a golden ticket gets to referee a group match, unless he is a woman, and the best ones progress to the second round, where they start to get evicted by public vote. The system is theoretically flawless, although we do get a lot of unhealthy referees coming through. Mr. Poll is a 60-a-day man. Maybe we should put the golden tickets inside apples. But then all the referees would be doctors."

Ukraine 1 - 0 Tunizzzzzz

Boo! Get off the stage! Boo!

Germany 11 - 3 Sweden

1) "Sweden just haven't turned up today," said the voice in my head, "Only 4 of their players are involved in the game at the moment. Oh! And one of them has been sent off. The next 55 minutes of my life will be completely wasted."

2) "Nobody likes to see players try to get opponents sent off," said Germany's Torsten Frings, "Except me - I love it. If you think about it, Podolski scored two goals and Ballack ran the midfield, but I got the Swedish player sent off. Therefore I had the biggest effect on the outcome of the match. In the German papers tomorrow I will be named Man of the Match, and there will be full colour photos of me waving an imaginary card at the referee. In Germany that's more beautiful than scoring an overhead kick. Maybe there will be a step-by-step guide to teach young Germans - whom we call Jungdeutchecheats - how to cheat like me. It takes practice, you know. They need to start early."

3) "You don't know what you want," said FIFA boss Sepp Blatter in his post-match press conference, "You've been asking for consistency from referees and now you've got it. If they give every decision to one team, that's called being consistent. Also, you wanted Sezer and Grace out of the Big Brother house, you got it, and now it's really boring. You just don't think things through."

4) "Thank Noah the group stages are over," said oppressed blogger Andrew Girardin, "I had a dream last night in which Henry scored the goal France needed to get to the next stage, and then took the ball into the corner of the pitch where he kept it for 30 minutes, ignoring the whistles of the crowd. Then at full-time he celebrated like he had actually achieved something. Watching every game of the World Cup is ridiculous. It makes me hate the players, teams, fans, TV companies, sponsors, FIFA, sheep, and myself."

Argentina 2 - 1 Mexico

1) And the Angel spake unto him, saying, "Do you want to watch the best football match of all time?" And Andrew said, "Yeah, I suppose." And the Angel said, "No, really! It'll be dead good. Fast, skilful, a wall of noise and colour, and the passion of a lucid dream." And Andrew said, "Will it involve England?" And the Angel laughed, and said, "That's the funniest thing I heard since The Da Vinci Code." And Andrew said, "Can I have extra-time and a sensational winning goal?" And the Angel sayeth, "Sure, whatever. I'll throw Riquelme in as well. But you must prove that you truly want to watch this game." And Andrew repliedeth, saying, "What must I do?" And the Angel said, "You must first sit through games involving England, France, and Ukraine." And Andrew, for he was stupid, said, "That doesn't sound so bad."

2) Mr. Eriksson, do you think it is strange that Mexico can send their centre-back to play as a right-winger and he can do it better than Beckham?

3) Mexico! Gracias, gracias!

4) Next round - Argentina v Germany. Joy!

England 1 - 0 Ecuador

1) England are the least entertaining team in the world, and that's official. "We have a very accurate tool for determining how enjoyable a team are to watch," said Professor Ossie Ardiles of The University of Southampton, "It's based on how many people are watching a game, and how many turn off in despair. England are so bad we've had to make a couple of changes to the formulii we use. What's interesting is that the rate of decrease slows most while the camera is trained on Peter Crouch. I think people find him so oddly-shaped that they can't bear to change the channel."

2) "We might have to say no," said a Cabinet spokesman, "Civil Liberties groups would do their nut." The spokesman was reacting to a proposal thought to have come from TV companies and corporate sponsors which would force repeat offenders to watch England football matches. "It would be cheaper than prison, and the criminals wouldn't be able to turn off like everyone else. But to be honest I don't think anyone's going to buy a Big Mac after watching England, so the sponsors aren't going to benefit. We're looking into it, though."

3) England Expects

Shortly after 4 p.m. Eriksson was pacing the quarterdeck with Captain Steve McClaren, the captain of the frigate Borer. The nearest enemy ships were less than two miles away.

Turning to McClaren, Eriksson said: "I'll now amuse the Fleet with a signal. Do you think there is one yet wanting?" "I think the whole of the Fleet seems to understand very clearly what they are about," answered McClaren.

But Eriksson was already walking across to where Beckham and his signalmen were waiting. He ordered a signal to be made - to "Remember something inspirational someone else once told you", and another to Downing, to "Prepare to run around for all of fifteen seconds".

Then he said: "Mr Beckham, I wish to say to the Fleet, England expects that every man will pretend we played really well. Make it so."


Portugal 1 - 0 Holland

1) "It's very comfortable in there," said Holland's invisible winger Arjen Robben, "But I could do with some pillows." Robben spoke after spending 90 minutes in the Portugal right-back's pocket.

2) Andrew's artist friend Dutch Susan watched the game with interest: "The only thing more beautiful than two teams showing sportsmanship and the Corinthian spirit is two teams who utterly despise each other, doing their utmost to cheat their way to victory in a flurry of red and yellow cards and multiple on and off-pitch brawls. It was utterly compelling."

3) Luis Figo refused to apologise for his 'headbutt' on Mark Van Bommel: "He called my mam a slag."

4) Cristiano Ronaldo left the pitch in floods of tears: "It's not fair, it's just not fair, why did they have to shoot Bambi's mother...?"

Italy 1 - 0 Australia

An immense defensive performance from Fabio Cannavaro was the decisive factor in another baffling match. Bloggers around the world are struggling to think of new ways to describe poor referees and moments of subterfuge going unpunished. Their attention has turned to the players, who are so stupid they think they are above the law, and coaches, who don't react to the tide of events.

Bill Cravers of 'Blogzamillion' writes: "Materazzi gets sent off every single match he plays. Every match he throws elbows, lunges into challenges, and wrestles opponents at set pieces. What is most fascinating is not that Lippi thinks him suitable for the Italian side, but that Materazzi never ever seems to learn. Surely human civilization is most noted for its ability to learn? Are we breeding a generation of anti-learners? People who grow more stupid over time?"

Walmington Crescent writes on his eponymous blog: "Guus Hiddink is the best coach in the world. So we are told. And so it would seem. But is he? Then why did his team have 99% of the possession in the second half but have no shots? Buffon in the Italian goal smiled his way through the game, looking as relaxed as a ham in a hammock. The Aussies seemed scared to win - they looked as nervous as a whale who finds himself in Japanese territorial waters. Hiddink must take the blame."

Pierluigi Collander, on his blog 'ForzaForce', writes: "The players in this World Cup are a photocopy of a photocopy - faded and weak imitiations of their normal selves. For Chelsea, Lampard does not miss from ten yards. For Arsenal, Henry is a taller than average man in a world full of midgets. In Serie A, Luca Toni breaks every record. He scores 31 goals and wears a beard of bees so big Guinness thinks it is a hoax. Come the World Cup, these players run out of ink."

Switzerland 0 - 0 Ukraine ( 0-3 on pens)

The most boring match in history - yes, even worse than Switzerland vs. France or England vs. Anyone - was followed by the worst penalty shoot-out in history. I was forced to read my local newspaper - the one they give away, the one nobody ever reads - for entertainment.


Swiss girls look nice, though.


Fight Club Update (PG)


"We're very concerned," said Superintendent Mat Cresswell, "These underground boxing clubs are growing in popularity. I'd like to show you this video we found floating around the Internet. We believe it shows a bout being held in Manchester recently. It is disturbing for many reasons. First, we have two bloodthirsty spectators watching the fight and goading the contenders to punch harder and harder. One of them shouts, "Zip! Zip!" which we believe is street slang for 'Let him have it', in the Derek Bentley sense.

"Second, the ring is a deathtrap. The fighter we have dubbed 'DangerMick' is nearly impaled on a meat-hook. The fighter we call 'The Prince of Dampness' actually punches the wall at one point, which is worrying as it is a load-bearing wall.

"Thirdly, the fight is a total mismatch. This is self-evidently dangerous. Professional boxing is heavily regulated so that fighters of vastly different abilities do not fight each other. In this video, DangerMick was lucky not to suffer massive internal injuries and external deformities. When I first saw this video, I immediately phoned local hospitals to see if they had any new patients fitting DangerMick's description.

"Fourth, and most worryingly, I worry that these fighters will take their bloodlust onto the streets. DangerMick, elated at surviving the bout, and thrilled to have landed a few lucky shots, might get drunk in Stalybridge and begin lashing out at passers-by. You've seen the video - it's not the passers-by I'm worried about."

Watch the video - click

High-quality

Low-quality (if you don't have broadband)

.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Germany 2006 World Cup (3)


Portugal 2- 0 Iran

In such a night as this
When the sweet foot did gently kiss the ball
And it did make no noise, in such a night
Riquelme methinks crumbled the Serbish walls
And sigh'd his soul into the empty net
Where six goals lay that night

In such a night
Did young Ronaldo swear he'd show his skills
Messing around with many tricks and flicks
And ne'er a good one


Czech 0 - 2 Ghana

PLUCKY GHANA UPSET CZECHS

"I'm really upset," cried Czech Republic star Pavel Nedved, "those mean Ghana players laughed at my long girly hair and called me names. What? You mean upset in the sense of an underdog triumphing? No, no. Ghana are a quality team. And we had a passenger up front. Literally. All our strikers are injured so we waited at the airport for some guy with a Czech passport. He played up front for us today. I don't even know his name."

Italy 1 - 1 USA

1) "Match-fixing scandal? Us? You must be thinking of a different country called Italy." So spoke Italy coach Marcelo Lippi after watching his side scrape a draw against a 9-man USA team. "If you think about it, in some cultures match-fixing isn't even immoral. Not that we bought the referee today. The fact that the USA had two players wrongly sent off and a goal harshly disallowed is simply proof that the Virgin Mary is smiling down on us. I repeat, we didn't pay the referee 50,000 Euros in an underground car-park."

2) "I disagree with the referee's decision one million percent," said Italian coward Daniele De Rossi, who was sent off for attempting to demolish Brian McBride's head, "McBride really hurt my elbow when he threw his face into it. He should have been sent off, not me. I told Lippi we should have given the ref more money - you get what you pay for."



Brazil 2 - 0 Australia

1) Brazilian referee Markus Merk denied accusations of bias: "If you look at the statistics, I gave 20% of my decisions in favour of Australia. That's even more than FIFA told me to give."

2) Australia's Harry Kewell didn't let his appalling open-net miss affect him: "The other day I realised that football is essentially boring. At the start of this World Cup I was irrationally enthusiastic. It seemed like referees were going to prevent cheating, and most of the teams seemed to want to attack and score goals. In the last few days we've gone right down to the bottom of the hill again. I can't be arsed with it."

3) "Of course we're still everybody's favourite team," said Brazil left-back Roberto Carlos, "They love us because we're dead funny. First, you've got my free-kicks, which are hilarious. Second, you've got the fat guy waddling around - even the Presidente makes jokes about him! Third, the sight of the mighty Brazil timewasting with 30 minutes to go against Australia will have the other teams in the World Cup laughing till they bleed. The referee? No, that's too awful to be funny."

Ecuador 0 - 3 Germany

1) "We were desperate to avoid England in the next round," said impressive German left-back Philipp Lahm, "Here in Germany we watch Owen Hargreaves every week, and we know that there is no way to stop him. He's like a force of nature. Oh, and Jermaine Jenas as well."

2) "We lost deliberately, of course," said Ecuador's Carlos Tenorio, "We are desperate to play England in the next round. We've seen how charming the England wives and girlfriends are, and we want to learn much more about this word 'chav'. What does it mean when people say, 'England are a team of chavs representing a nation of chavs'? For the peasants and migrant workers of Ecuador, this word chav is endlessly fascinating."

3) Germany's free-scoring hitman Miroslav Klose is the overwhelming favourite to finish as the tournament's top scorer. What has inspired him? "I promised a sick boy that I would win the golden shoe if he got better. But it turns out that the boy's mother is an ex-girlfriend of mine, and she cut up my suits just because
SENTENCE DELETED ON LEGAL ADVICE. So if I win the golden shoe I'll dedicate it to Amnesty International instead. I hear they are doing good work about human rights in countries such as DELETED ON LEGAL ADVICE."

Sweden 2 - 2 England

19th June
To: Sven
From: McClaren
England Training Session Schedule
10 Minutes per slot
Slot 1 --- Jogging
Slot 2 --- 50-yard passes
Slot 3 --- 'Hargreaves in the middle'
Slot 4 --- Defending corners (CANCELLED)
Slot 5 --- Penalties (we'll need this for the final, boss!)
Slots 6,7,8 --- Phone calls to wives and girlfriends
Slot 9 --- 60-yard passes
Slot 10 --- Something about tactics?
Portugal 2 - 1 Mexico

"Portugal were lucky, FACT," snapped Mexico's Luis Perez, who was sent off for slipping inappropriately. "We have been studying European football for years and we know all about the harmful effects of Effort Inflation." Perez was speaking after a second half in which Mexico appeared to have limitless energy, while Portgual trudged around the pitch as though their legs were full of coins. "A few years ago, footballers talked about giving 100%. In Mexico we were content. I remember one newspaper headline in 1995, which said '100% is Enough'. But in Europe there is this hyper-inflation, and someone says 'I give one hundred and one percent' and then it all goes crazy. 110%. 120%. Last week I heard an England player say he was going to give 150%! No wonder they stop in the second half. Today we created many many chances in the second half and Portugal were lucky that we were unlucky. I guarantee no European side will win the World Cup. I guarantee it 101%."

Holland 0 - 0 Argentina

1) "Diego asked us not to score too many goals," said Argentina's Pablo Aimar, "So we didn't try our best."

Maradona made his unusual request after hurting his back during Argentina's callous dismantling of Serbia. "I hurted my back," said the dastardly cheat genius, "From dancing up and down every time we scored a goal or made a substitution, and every time I seen myself on the big screen. And I had my heaviest bling on and all. My back went into spasm in the taxi home, and I spent the night in a clinic sleeping on a peppermint bean bag."

2) "We played quite well, all things considered," said Dutch coach Marco van Basten, "The entire team was kept awake all night by German frogs, and when we gave the players sleeping pills, they all had the exact same nightmare; that of wee Archie Gemmill scoring against us in 1978. Then at breakfast the hotel gave us long sausages with short buns. We got mustard all over our shoulders. The last straw was when FIFA gave our players urine tests before being allowed into the stadium. The tests showed that three of our players had been drinking 'unofficial' beer, and it was still in their bloodstream and they were refused entry. We had to smuggle Arjen Robben in inside a peppermint bean bag."

Czech 0 - 2 Italy

1) "One point twenty-one gigawatts? One point twenty-one gigawatts? Great Scott!" So said Francesco Totti when reporters told him how much energy Pavel Nedved had put into this match. "And how much energy did I expend?" asked Totti. In reply, a reporter held up three Supersaver AA batteries.

2) "No, that is not FIFA policy," sighed FIFA chief Sheep Bladder, denying rumours that Italy were effectively being given a bye to the semi-final, "It's true Italy had some good fortune in their group games, and it's true they have an easy second round game, and a straightforward quarter-final against Ukraine or Switzerland. But just look at who they will probably face in the semi-final - East Timor. They're a good team. And I think Italy will play Luxembourg in the final. So it's not like we just decided it's Italy's turn this year. No way."

Ghana 2 -1 USA

"One point twenty-one minutes? One point twenty-one minutes? That's heavy." So said Ghanish midfielder Michael Essien when reporters told him how much actual playing time there had been in the second half. Ghana wasted 24 minutes by faking injury and over 10 minutes by delaying throw-ins. Essien told reporters, "I myself wasted three minutes by telling Markus Merk, the incompetent referee, about the time I fell off a sink and invented the flux capacitor."

.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Germany 2006 World Cup (2)



Brazil 1 - 0 Croatia 


TEN MAN BRAZIL SHOCK CROATS


Plucky underdogs Brazil, forced by their sponsors to play with only ten men for 70 minutes, gamely held on to record a shock victory over a superior Croatia side.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Germany 2006 World Cup (1)


In the summer of 2006, I vowed to watch and write about every World Cup match. I more or less succeeded, although I failed to write about the final, which in retrospect was quite an omission. Instead of having 50 posts I'm condensing them into 5, in the unlikely event that someone still wants to read them!

Germany 4 - 2 Costa Rica

1) FIFA are investigating claims that the referee chosen for this match was 'not incompetent enough'. One German player, who does not wish to be named, said, "The referee got almost every decision correct, had complete control of the game, and didn't reward cheating and diving. This isn't football as we know it."

2) England fast bowler Simon Jones says he wants England to use the new World Cup FlyAway ball in next year's Ashes. "Look at the way it swerves randomly! The Australian batting would collapse like a 6ft German midfielder."

Poland 0 - 2 Ecuador

Ecuador spent the first 20 minutes of this match convincing me they were the worst team in the World Cup. Their goalkeeper is hapless, their players all seem gangly and random, and the only way they could stop Poland was to literally throw the Poles to the ground.

Then they scored a goal and were a different team. Suddenly they were as impregnable as an old tin of paint. Their counter-attacks were as free-flowing and smooth as the paint in a new tin of paint. Their second goal was well-deserved - as deserved as a tea break and smoke for a hard-working painter.

Poland may lose all 3 games...

England 1 - 0 Paraguay




An oily referee was the most entertaining feature of a drab game. In this photo you can see the dapper Mexican dripping oil into Joe Cole's mouth to try to restore him to health.

England's second round and quarter-final matches will kick off at 4pm - let's hope it rains so we don't have to watch supposedly ultra-fit professionals toil in the sun like demotivated farmers.

Trinidad Tobago 0 - 0 Sweden

1) The problem with watching all 64 World Cup matches is that I will get emotionally involved in most of the games, and invariably support the underdog. Which means I'll usually be backing the losing team.
2) Trinidad seemed hopelessly outclassed in this game, but gave Sweden a contest in the first half. Second half, first minute, red card. But Trinidad held on for five minutes, then a few minutes more, and suddenly there were only ten minutes left and Sweden looked desperate. Trinidad even hit the crossbar.

Another great game - that makes 3 out of 4 for the World Cup so far, and 3 out of 4 referees have been good. I have run out of food, though, and will watch the Argentina vs. Ivory Coast game eating squares of cheese.
3) I can't stand the commentators on the BBC or ITV - it's hard to say which are worse - so I will be watching the rest of the World Cup on mute.

Argentina 2 - 1 Ivory Coast

1) "We lost, but this was a moral victory," blubbed Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba, "Our diving was far more rehearsed and elaborate, and our grumpy expressions were far more masculine. Riquelme tried looking grumpy a few times, but when you are floating around the pitch like a beautiful ghost, it doesn't work."

2) "I'm happy with our performance," said the Ivory Coast team manager, "Our players collapsed to the floor on average once every two minutes; that really puts them in the shop window for big-money moves to southern European clubs."

3) "Obviously I'm relieved," said Argentine defender Gabriel Heinze, "I haven't played for 9 months and I came through 90 minutes without aggravating my injury. I'm very pleased that most fans in England wanted Argentina to win today. It helps that the most hated player in Britain, Drog-boo, was on the other team. But maybe they will start off hating our opponents, and finish by admiring our fluid passing and lovingly crafted attacks."

Serbia Monty 0 - 1 Holland

Serbia started this game overawed by their Dutch opponents. "In our culture, the Dutch are traditionally seen as 'more than human'," said giant Serb striker Nikola Zigic, "Our most ancient writings describe the arrival in Belgrade of a Dutch adventurer, who claimed to be one thousand years old. He taught us a specific kind of seven-line poem. Perhaps that is why we were so meek in the first half. At half-time we talked and realised this was the worst Dutch team for 40 years, and in the second half we were much better. Our defeat tastes bitter in our mouths. That's the first line of a new poem I'm writing. I must write six lines more."

Mexico 3 - 1 Iran

Another hugely entertaining game. FIFA's instructions to referees are really working - goalkeepers are kicking the ball out of their hand quickly, throw-ins are not long-drawn out affairs, lunging tackles are immediately punished even if the player won the ball, time-wasters get yellow cards, and corners no longer look like rugby scrums.

As a result, most teams have realised that cheating is no longer a guarantee of victory, and they are playing football instead. Wunderbar! Best World Cup ever...?

Angola 0 - 1 Portugal

"Plucky Angola are playing their hearts out against their former colonial masters," whined the chap on ITV, "What drama we are seeing here on ITV, the only channel to bring you ALL the World Cup adverts. Directly after this match, turn over to ITV 4 where we have an hour of beer commercials. Digital viewers press the red button now to see sportswear and soft drink adverts. Plucky Angola are still holding their own against their former colonial masters, and we must be careful not to patronise them. Tomorrow on ITV you can see the Group K match between Palestine and Taiwan. Live coverage of England vs. Brazil and France vs. Italy are on another channel, but we aren't going to tell you about that."

Australia 3 - 1 Japan 
Japan blew it

USA 0 - 3 Czech Republic 
CR looked great but Koller's injury is a blow

Italy 2- 0 Ghana 
Italy are ghana win the World Cup

South Korea 2 - 1 Togo

"I'm Togo's best player by far," whelped ugly Togo forward Emmanuel Adebayor, "So I don't need to run." Adebayor was speaking after Togo's defeat to South Korea, a game in which Adebayor ran a total of 1.4km. In contrast, referee Graham Poll ran 9km, Korea's Ji-Sung Park ran 13km, and even Togo's goalkeeper Kossi Agassa ran more than 5km.

"Adebayor is a hero to young people in Togo," said his agent in response to criticism of Abebayor's selfish, petulant display. "The youngsters in the streets of Lome have read of Adebayor's 50,000 pounds a week wage, and they all want to be like him. In a few years, nobody in Togo will run, even to catch a bus. He is a great inspiration and role model."

France 0 - 0 Switzerland

"Welcome to France versus Switzerland," shrieked Radio 5 Live's commentator Alan Green, "Today's referee is the best in Europe."

15 minutes
"The referee has shown the Swiss goalkeeper the yellow card - because he wasn't counting loud enough! That's a strange decision."

36 minutes
"The referee - who is one of the best in Europe - has shown Vogel the yellow card. For shooting on the half-volley..."

55 minutes
"Viera's shot has gone MILES over the bar. Terrible. And what's this? The referee has told Viera to go in net! It's Heads and Volleys rules. In the World Cup! Extraordinary. I always said this referee was unfit for a major tournament."


.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Andrew Saves the Day


1pm

"Andrew, can you come to the shop? We're knocking down these walls and need your help. The guy with the grab-truck is coming at 2 and we won't get finished in time. If we don't get it done in time he'll leave."
"No problem, Steve, you've seen me at work, you know I'm a grafter. I'll be knocking walls down like there's no tomorrow."


1.50pm

"Steve, panic over, I'm here. Do you want me to shovel those bricks into the wheelbarrow?"
"Hahaha, don't be silly, lad. I wouldn't ask you to do hard work. That would be crazy. Look, the guy with the grabber is here. I need you to do him a coffee and keep him chatting while we get this wall finished. Go and talk crap to him for about ten minutes."
"You brought me here to stop the guy doing his job?"
"That's what you're good at."


2pm

"Heya mate. I've done you a coffee."
"Oh, lovely!"
"So what do you think about the pedestrianisation of Norwich City Centre?"

.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Van Morrison

John gave me his Van Morrison ticket and a quick lesson in what to expect:
“He’s promoting his country album so there won’t be any trumpet or sax, and he won’t play his classics. But if he’s in the mood it’ll be a great show.”
“What if he’s not in the mood?”
“If he’s not in the mood, or he doesn’t feel the audience are into it… he might walk off. Or turn his back on the audience and sing like that.”
“Cool!”
“But he hasn’t done that for years. Here’s some things to watch out for. He’ll give a little nod or just look at someone in the band and they’ll go off on a solo, or you’ll see him pump his fist and they’ll play faster. He’s so talented he can hear all the instruments, so if he hears a mistake he’ll give them a dirty look. Then sometimes he’ll pick up on the mood of the audience, and he’ll bring the band down really really quiet… and keep it there… and just at the right moment… up! They’ll go loud again. His timing is really perfect. But you won’t get that tonight – it’ll just be some country stuff. About 50% of it is good.”
The show was, simply, 100% good. Or a word that means better than good. Superb, perhaps.
My seat was about five metres directly in front of Van Morrison. He treated me to the full range of tricks – little nods, hand signals, playing really quietly, everything John had told me about! And, if I weren’t spoiled enough, he sang Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria, Days Like This, and my favourite, Moondance.
Mr. Van Morrison, ladies and gentlemen!