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."
"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...
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."
"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!"
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.
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.
"Steve, my house is that way," I said, pointing.
"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!"
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."
"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
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.