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Stay tuned for updates......Football has had to take a back seat and that is tragic

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chatham Cup Update

It was a full blooded Cup Derby at Farrington Park on Sunday with three red cards and plenty of handbags drawn at five paces- My favourite piece of childish churlishness was when a Miramar Striker stomped the United Keeper's hat into the mud after a penalty box entanglement. Not the best advert for Fair play for my Two year old's first game, but great entertainment for the adults. Miro didn't seem to care though. Although the actual score was 3-1 to the home side, eliminating Wellington United from a great 2010 cup run, as far as Miro was concerned the real score was:
Packet of Chippies 2-Lemonade 1

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chatham Cup Fever

The best way to describe the come down after a four week orgy of back to back televised sport is an enveloping ennui. World Cup fever, for what it was worth in the end after the shock elimination of dark horse New Zealand, has dissipated. The heroes' parade has come and gone and the ticker tape is wrapped in the gills of a harbour floor Gurnard. The Boca Juinors too came and went, playing like, well, Juniors, whereas the Phoenix put on a competent display in the wind tunnel atmosphere of the Wellington Stadium. It is quite interesting to see visiting teams struggle to come to terms with the intense wind effects of the Stadium.

Preseason friendly or not the Blue and Gold scalp of Boca Juniors is an impressive one for the Wellington Phoenix, and must be a boost for their confidence ahead of the A-League season.

But it is with the greatest expectation since the World Cup final's hooplah died down that I am heading along to a local park today to catch my club side Wellington United take on local rivals Miramar Rangers in a Chatham Cup Quarter Final derby. A call was put out to our club members to paint the Miramar ground Orange, and thats what we'll be doing, wearing our own Salmon football tops along to support our First team in a rare Quarter final appearance.

It will be my son's first time at a football match as an occasion, he has been to plenty of games at our local Newtown Park, but this is his first destination game- complete with Orange jumper, face paint and sausage sizzle. Result to follow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Breaking News!

New Zealand are the only undefeated team at South Africa 2010!

Oh, and in other news Spain win World Cup. Meh.

More cockeyed blather to follow later...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Tragics' Final

Germany won the Third Place Play off, beating Uruguay 3-2. Although people say that it is the game that nonone wants to play, there seemed to be no shortage of motivation from both teams. The last three installments of this so called meaningless game have produced highly entertaining matches.

It was end to end stuff, and if this had been the actual World Cup Final then it would be remembered as a classic; a lead which see-sawed back and forth, Forlan's awesome downward volley and his free kick which was the last act of the game, hitting the post to deny Uruguay extra time.

It was shame in some ways that Miroslav Klose was injured and couldn't add to his talley, although not many people wanted him to surpass Ronaldo as all time leading World Cup goal scorer. It was also fitting that Suarez, who was booed by the African fans everyime he touched the ball, failed to score- his World Cup will be shoruded in infamy. His role as provider summed up by the dive at the death which set Forlan up for his last gasp free kick. (OK, to be fair it did look like a foul, but Suarez milked it for all it was worth.)

Well done Germany, with such a young squad surely the future looks bright for Deutschland, and a begrudging respect to Uruguay who were the best of the South Amercians by a long shot, resilient and tenacious until the end.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Raging Bulls & Octopuses

The 2010 World Cup Final will be competed by Spain and Netherlands; two countries which have never lofted that glittering prize, so a new name will be added to the illustrious list of World Champions.

For all their calm and patient build up against Germany in the semi-final, it was the raging bull Carlos Puyol, with a route one Iberian Express header into the back of the net from a corner which finally sealed it.

It's a shame that Germany won't be contending the final against the Netherlands, given the history those two countries have both on the field and off. But Spain vs. Netherlands is in many ways a neutral's dream. Two exciting, attacking, teams who like to push the ball around.

There is an adage, much used in Rugby League, that you must lose a final to win a final. Meaning that you must go to the pinnacle and experience the pain of defeat to understand what it takes to win it. The phrase does not hold much water for the Football World Cup; England, France and Argentina all won it at the first time of asking. But I still think does hold some truth and that the languid Spanish will be beaten by the Dutch, who can draw on the collective memory of the lost opportunities in 1974 and 1978 to spur them on.

The Spanish game may be technically adept but how often do the intricate movements come to naught? How hard do they work for such little reward in front of goal? Think of their young striker Pedro, through one on one against Germany in the semi-final, with Torres unmarked to his left. Poor Pedro could not even fashion a shot on goal- compare this to the free scoring and more direct Dutch who have managed to score all manner of fluky, freaky goals. Quite frankly, it doesn't matter how many passes you string together if you cannot bulge the old onion bag.

So yes, I think the Dutch will take the Cup. Although picking this one is a fool's game really. But since my own club, Wellington United, is allied to the Dutch settlers of Wellington I'll be an Orange man for the day. I am going against the Oracle however, since the famous Cephalod commentator Paul the Octopus fancies salsa over mayonnaise with his French Fries. At least a parakeet called Mani agrees with me. This truly has been a bizarre World Cup.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Uruguay 2- Netherlands 3

Netherlands edged out Uruguay 3-2 although the score does not reflect the Dutch dominance. Arjen Robben could have had a hat trick and put the game to bed long before Maximiliano Pereira almost broke Dutch hearts with a late, late goal. The referee didn't seem to want the game to end, blowing up some late fouls for both teams which allowed Uruguay to pump some long balls into the box and almost steal it. They showed tremendous fight, like a shark on the line they twisted and turned as the dreaeded daylight loomed. Still I am well pleased that Suarez will now miss out on a World Cup Final appearance, just deserts for his cheating ways.

Netherlands are playing fantastically well and deserve to be in their first final since 1978. Whoever they play, Spain or Germany, it will be a cracker.

Uruguay vs Netherlands -take one

6.30am with my 2 year old son, trying to tell him that we will not be watching Playhouse Disney cos daddy has a very important Soccer game to watch.

As Diego Forlan lines up in the tunnel Miro says: "That's Captain Feathersword"

Whatever it takes to get you through this Miro, whatever it takes.

At half time its 1-1 after two of the best long range goals of the tournament so far.

More to follow. C'mon Oranje!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Winning Ugly

In direct violation of the unwritten laws of watching football, I thought I'd get away with not hearing the results for the Quarter finals and would be able to watch them at my leisure as if they were live.

My family had upped sticks and headed to Glenburn, a remote Wairarapa Homestead to celebrate a significant birthday on Quarterfinal weekend- how inconvenient that someone was born in the months of June & July! September through to November should be sacrosanct for nookie, lest a nine month return impinge upon the Mondial! But I jest, it was a lovely break from reality being out where no Sky TV could reach me - a rural holiday from the World Cup and all its attendant media. I had it all planned out to catch up on the games though with the help of my family, who have recordable TV. Upon returning to civilisation I eschewed all news reports, and I was all geared and ready to watch all four Quarter finals in ignorance of the outcomes. But I was foiled in the most unlikely of ways- dropping my son at Daycare I overheard one of the teachers tell a German daddy, an 'oompah papa' if you will, that she thought Germany would win the World Cup. Alas I now knew the result of the one game I cared the most about and thought I was the most unsure of the result.

It made a mockery of my efforts to remove myself from the World Cup. When the World Cup is on everyone is a commentator and you cannot escape the punditry. Better to be a social leper or fashion a hairshirt with bristles which spell out: "Telleth me not the score!" than to try and blithely escape the blanket of Football.

As it turned out the Germany- Argentina clash was the most one sided out of all the Quarter finals, and all four games held surprises and upsets. 8 hours of high drama awaited me.

So a quick recap:

The Netherlands finally clicked and bet Brazil 2-1. I said it in a previous post For all their skill and shuffle the Brazilians were profligate. It wasn't a classic match but had enough in it to be exciting.

More exciting was Argentina losing 4-0 to Germany. Who could have predicted that? A rematch of 1986 and 1990, but this time the Deutschland Steam Roller steampunked the Albiceleste back to Sud America. Miroslav Klose scored with two sitters to move within one goal of being the equal highest World Cup goalscorer of all time (Equal with Ronaldo-Brazil). Germany have now belted 8 goals in their last two games; if the World Cup is about momentum and self belief then someone better start etching their name on the trophy now.

Less emphatic but equally as thrilling, in the second half at least, was Paraguay being dumped out by Spain. Three unconverted penalties within three minutes to keep the scores level before David Villa hit the ball off the post with 7 minutes to go. Even then Roque Santa Cruz could have snatched it at the very end but shot straight at Casillas. Spain looked unconvincing despite their metronomic precision with the pass.

But the most drama was reserved for the game which I originally cared the least about-Uruguay vs. Ghana. I knew I wanted Ghana to win to keep African hopes alive, but apart from that I didn't expect much from this game and the first 30 minutes were unspectacular- One way traffic from Uruguay as Ghana failed to settle. But then with 15 seconds to go before half time Sulley Muntari picked the ball up 30 yards out form the Uruguay goal and sort of meandered his way infield before unleashing a stinging daisy cutter which swerved away from the lunging keeper's hands and into the goal. It was a sensational goal, and a great time to score since Ghana had no riposte.

Diego Forlan equalised with a free kick after the break and so to extra time at 1-1.
With the clock ticking down and the tie heading towards penalties Ghana got a corner kick. From the scramble they almost scored but Suarez kicked the ball off the line, the rebound fell again to Ghana and a header went goalward again, straight to Suarez. Instinctively, if your instincts are to cheat, Suarez pushed the ball back off the line with both hands into the arms of his keeper. Chaos! The referee sends him off and Gyan lines up the penalty knowing that if he scores Ghana are through into the World Cup Semifinal. He misses. Ghana lose the penalty shoot out (Gyan scored in that though) and Suarez is a hero, although he is now banned from the semifinal against Netherlands tomorrow.

Suarez called his act the new 'hand of god' in reference to Maradona. It was no such thing, lacking all the subtlety of Maradona's cheekiness.

For me Suarez is the villain of the cup. He had already cheated one African team, his swan dive against South Africa got their keeper sent off and earned Uruguay cheap penalty. But what really gets me is the arbitrariness of decision making at this level. When I first saw the incident I thought the ball had crossed over the line, since Suarez was inside the goal. It didn’t, but when you think that a referee and linesman conspired to disallow a perfectly legitimate goal with their myopia (Eng V Ger) how come they cannot develop selective myopia here? Would anyone have complained if the ref had blown a goal under the pretence that he saw the ball cross the line? It shows that refereeing is far too conservative- preservation of the goal line is the priority, lest that holy boundary be desecrated and a non-goal awarded. However a shift of mindset needs to be undertaken, like with offside calls, the benefit of doubt should go with the attacking team.

However Ghana were their own worst enemies really, they were given the chance to take instant revenge and they failed- had they scored then Suarez would be a villain twice over.

You can't really blame him- cheating and gamesmanship are so ingrained in football culture, the desire to win at all costs has been driven into players from such a young age. It shows how far, or perhaps how little, the game has come since Diego's handball in 1986.

So despite the ethics of it Suarez is a hero and Ghana are out- For me it forces my hand as a neutral. I now want Netherlands to beat Uruguay, and although I'd love to see Spain snap out of their siesta I think the Germans are locked into a winning pattern.

It was a great round of games- three beautiful wins and one ugly one, courtesy of Luis "Ugly Betty" Suarez.