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June 08, 2006

Last night of warming-up: Spain v Croatia and France v China

Last night was the last night of World Cup warm-ups on Greek TV, starting with Spain versus Croatia.

Bizarrely, since earlier in the evening Claire and I were debating technology in football and specifically whether there should be goal-line technology (she said yes, I said no), there was one of those rare instances of an is it/isn't it goal for Croatia - who might have gone 2-0 up if the technology had been in place to prove the ball had crossed the line. There was also a punch-up, and it is always good to see a bunch of players with no concept of what the term "friendly" means.

The first two goals were comedy efforts - Spain conceded an own goal of the "what was he thinking of?" variety, and equalised with a free kick that deflected rather aimlessly and slowly off the feet the Croatian wall, and to everybody's surprise ended up in the net. Then Spain were awarded a penalty so bizarrely out of nothing that the Greek commentators appeared to actually be laughing out loud at the decision. Which, given their usual failure to convert their chances, they promptly missed. But they then stunned the sparse crowd, and since it was midnight Greek time, a very sleepy me, with a last minute goal to win the match.

In fact there were two games on last night, France versus China kicked off at the same time, so I recorded that and had it on in the background this morning whilst I was working.

Rather like Australia against the Netherlands, China clearly hadn't read their invite or the unwritten rules of pre-World Cup friendlies properly, as they happily kicked lumps out of France at every opportunity. Cisse was taken off injured and stretchered away with a broken leg that will rule him out of the tournament. He has hair that invited bad luck you know. Zidane missed a penalty early on with a Beckham-style slip just as he took it, causing him to balloon it over the bar. And I didn't realise France still relied on comedy-prone not-so-Fab Barthez in goal.

After France had gone in front on the half-hour, China scored their penalty, and made it 1-1 with twenty minutes to go. France ended up winning however, thanks to a jaw-dropping own goal which resulted from a sliced clearance on the half-volley on the edge of the Chinese penalty box which sailed in as the clock struck the 90th minute. They then added a third in injury time when Henry scored from about 45 yards out after the Chinese goalkeeper had got himself stranded in midfield following a rush of blood to the head.

And so the phoney war is over - the real stuff starts tomorrow.

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