World Cup 2006

July 13, 2006

Ze Sun, Ze Blunder

Zidane

Not sure that you would have got this back in the UK - they probably all got pulped. The Monday edition of The Sun that made it to Greece had obviously been put to bed whilst Sunday's World Cup Final was still in progress.

Zidane Ze Man

His cheeky chip makes history

Zinedine Zidane took a cheeky stroll into the World Cup Hall of Fame

Of course, an hour or so later Zidane strolled into the World Cup Hall of Infamy, as did this back page.

July 10, 2006

The World Cup is over

And so the World Cup is over, and so is the 2005/06 football season. Assuming FIFA's ban gets lifted, a Greek team will be involved in the start of the 2006/07 season Intertoto Cup this weekend, so it is a bit of a case of the king is dead, long live the king.

In the end the final pretty much epitomised the tournament as a whole - a bright start and lots of early promise, but ultimately it faded out into a stalemate where neither team could find the cutting edge. Then there was a sending off.

I felt a bit sorry for the Italians and the ref - after Zidane's red card they seemed to get every touched or decision booed by the crowd in the stadium. They don't have the benefit of any kind of replay on the big screens within the ground, so I can only assume that the majority of the crowd didn't understand what had happened, and will feel a bit sheepish when they see the TV pictures today.

So was the 2006 World Cup any good? Well, not that great to be honest.

On the down-side:

  • In the fifteen knock-out games there were only 26 goals - less than two per game on average.
  • In the fifteen knock-out games there were only four games in which both teams scored.
  • Too many games seemed to turn on a refereeing deciscion (Italy's penalty against Australia, Brazil's second goal against Ghana being allowed, England getting a free kick against Ecuador, Thierry Henry earning a free-kick against Spain).
  • There was only one real hammering.
  • There were hardly any comebacks - France v Spain and Australia v Japan were the only teams to come back from behind and win in matches that mattered. The Ivory Coast did the same against Serbia and/or Montenegro, but the match was already a dead rubber.
  • The draw ended up being very kind to the "bigger" teams in the way the fixtures fell - it meant that a lot of the most anticipated heavyweight match-ups - Argentina/Netherlands, England/Sweden, Portugal/Mexico - ended up being about the bragging rights for topping the group, rather than a life or death situation.
  • The new interpretations of the laws may have cut down on player injuries, but it is simply too easy to win free kicks - which breaks up play too often, and rewards players for falling over at every opportunity.

On the up-side:

  • The stadiums were magnificent, and all the games seemed sold out.
  • Although there were a large number of public order arrests during the tournament, there were no large scale street confrontations like we saw in Euro2000 or France98 - well not that made the press anyway.
  • I finally got to see a World Cup Finals match - I was in Marseilles during 1998 for England's opening game but couldn't get a ticket, and Japan/South Korea was just too far. I am planning to go to South Africe in 2010 though.
  • Portugal didn't win it ;-)

July 08, 2006

Germany v Portugal. Who cares?

So tonight sees the 63rd and least important game of the World Cup - the "third place play-off". Why? What is the point? Two demoralised teams giving their fringe players a run-out whilst being reminded that if they'd only been a little bit better in their respective semi-finals they could have been playing the biggest match of their careers tomorrow.

And who buys tickets to go and watch the 3rd place play-off anyway?

I think that instead of having this meaningless match, FIFA would be better off organising some kind of charity gala night the day before the final, and then having an exhibition match. They could pitch a best of Europe XI (Well, XIV with subs) against a Rest Of The World XI, made up from players whose countries have already been eliminated from the Finals. That way we'd get a chance to celebrate the best players of the tournament by watching Ballack and Figo and Riquelme and Ronaldhino pinging the ball about for fun whilst raising money for someone like UNICEF.

It might be a meaningless jamboree, but then, so is getting two groups of players, who have barely had time to get over their anguish at narrowly missing out on the World Cup final, to play a match that nobody cares about, for FIFA's profit.

July 04, 2006

Flying the German flag in Crete

With Germany seemingly riding a tidal wave of national enthusiasm into today's World Cup semi-final clash with Italy, lots of people have been writing about Germany's rediscovery of flying their national flag and wearing their national colours.

Mark Steel wrote about it very amusingly and eloquently, as you'd expect, in The Independent:

There's a debate in Germany about the current fashion for exhibiting the German flag, which has previously been considered unacceptable, with what happened last time. But in this World Cup it's lost its stigma, making some people think: "Uh-oh, they've started again."

At first glance there shouldn't be too much to worry about, as one of the main ways in which the flag colours were displayed in Cologne was on yellow, red and black curly wigs. Surely even the UK Independence Party wouldn't say, "Oh yes - it starts with curly wigs and ends with invading Greece."

Germanbird2006aThe reason I write is actually related to Mark Steel's last sentence there. On Friday during the build-up to the German clash with Argentina in the quarter-finals, I was standing at the bus stop waiting to get the bus into town. A car drove by with a large German flag hanging out the window. Standing just twenty metres from a massive monument erected by German troops during their occupation of Crete I was really surprised and taken aback. Can you go around waving a German flag like that in modern Crete?

The battle for Crete and the subsequent occupation were by all accounts a bitter battle and harsh period to live through. The Germans followed a policy of collective punishment, shooting swathes of villagers. Crete resisted occupation, and those fighters who history now benignly calls "partisans", but whom in the modern day if they weren't fighting on the "right" side would be labelled guerrillas, militants, terrorists or 'unlawful combatants', are also accused of committing atrocities against German troops.

The fact that the monument at Germaniko Pouli is still standing at all, even if in a dilapidated state since 2001, is testament to a rather philosophical Cretan attitude about the number of times the island has been invaded. However, on the other side of the coin, in recent years, remembrance services at German war graves in Crete have been disrupted by anti-fascist demonstrations.

I wondered what elder Cretans would feel, to see someone driving along the road that leads from Maleme displaying a German flag like that? I guess for the younger generation it isn't so much of an issue, the whole area relies so much on German tourism that it isn't economically viable to harbour any resentment.

Then again, growing up in a country that doesn't seem to be able to escape from a collective glorification of the Second World War and 1966 and all that, perhaps it is me who needs to update my attitude?

As German comedian Henning Wehn put it in his recent Independent article "'Allo 'allo, where are the stereotypes?"

The World Cup is my first extended trip back to Germany since moving to the UK.

...

Having lived in the UK for the past four years, I am so used to the British stereotypes about Germans that I had expected to find the locals wearing lederhosen, goose-stepping up and down the Hauptstrasse, eating huge amounts of bratwurst and singing David Hasselhoff's latest songs. This is ludicrous, of course: we prefer the Hoff's old material.

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