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June 10, 2006

And finally it has started...

Wc1dasboot We watched Germany versus Costa Rica in Galini, which meant the return of Das Boot. I couldn't resist it, although I was astonished to see that the guys on another table had even bigger boots, which must have held four pints of beer each.

Claire did her best to spark up some banter, and we ended up discussing whether Paulo Wanchope's run was more like that of an ostrich or that of a giraffe. Regardless of which animal he most resembles when sprinting, he is one of my favourite players of all time, I just love the way he plays. So I was delighted, having pointed him out to Claire before the game started, that he got a couple of goals. We also discovered that Claire has some kind of "handball hawk-eye", and can correctly call a handball shout from, well, a bar in Crete.

Wc1fish At half-time we got the kind of entertainment they just don't lay on in the Queens Arms in Walthamstow. The main tout/maitre'd suddenly ran into the bar, ran out again carrying a spear, and next thing had caught a massive fish in the harbour. It weighed in at 20 kilos, and they carried it back into the bar still twitching in a black plastic sack. He got on his bike to take it home for his mother to clean up so it could be served in his restaurant in Kalamaki over the weekend.

"Oh she'll love that", we said, "just sitting down for a quiet night in with her feet up whilst the boys are out watching the football, and suddenly she's got 20 kilos of unhappy nearly dead fish to clean and gut."

We had good seats in the bar, although a huge merchandise-laden German family sat in front of us. One of the kids was wearing a Ronaldinho shirt and a Ferrari cap. "Go on son, put your Manchester United pants on and collect the set".

Wc1mullet His brother was sporting the kind of mullet that I always think he'll regret when older, but that never seems to go out of fashion east of London. And I include Ipswich in that geographical swathe.

We were at home for the second match, and I wasn't sure who to support. I think one of my old school friends had a mother from Ecuador (or maybe Bolivia or Venezuela - it all seemed so unimportant at the time) so I opted for them. But five minutes in one of their players was waving around an imaginary yellow card, so I thought I'd support Poland. Then within seconds, one of their players was writhing around like he'd been shot in the face by the Vice-President of the USA after the merest of touches, so I reverted back.

Then my mind was finally made up by the Ecuadorian goalkeeper. With flag face-paint on.

Possibly the real goalkeeper was abducted by a fan on the way on to the pitch, or possibly the officials didn't think that face-paint-bling contravened the new no jewellery rules. Either way it turned me against Ecuador. What next - England coming out all made-up as K.I.S.S? The Italian squad shaving all their hair off and then emerging made up as a 23 strong Blue Man Group?

Actually, that would be pretty cool.

Anyway, no sooner had I opted to support Poland, then Ecuador ran away with the match. "Oh, and now flag-face is dancing" I observed wryly to Claire. I'm sure Poland will feel hard done by - they hit the post twice in the last ten minutes and I thought they didn't get the best from the decisions on the night, but then again, after 70 minutes they hadn't made a shot on target. And on the bench Pawel Janas already had the air of a man no longer in charge of his own destiny

And I probably should have been rooting for Ecuador after all. If England progress from their group there is a distinct possibility they would have to play either Germany or Poland. Even from this distance I don't think I could tolerate the inevitable tabloid obsession with either 39-45/66/70/90/96/2000/2001 or 39-45/73/86/[insert most subsequent qualifying competitions]/2005.

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