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June 26, 2006

Sunday night is (also) alright for fighting - if you are Dutch or Portuguese

On Sunday night Claire and I stayed in to watch the England match with Ecuador, rather than head down to town.

I was quite relieved at the result, as ever since the opening day of the tournament, when I wrote complaining about the Ecuador keeper and his flag face-paint, I've been haunted by feverish dreams of him running triumphantly around the pitch having pulled off the saves that have won a penalty shoot-out for Ecuador against England.

With that ghost laid to rest, it is just a case of wishing I had €1 for every article I read in the British press in the days before the match insisting that the only way England could win the game was if Sven had the courage to drop David Beckham, the, erm, eventual match-winning goal-scorer.

Anais After the game we went for a drink at one of the taverna/holiday home places near the beach. "What is called again?" I asked Claire as I wrote this. "Isn't it called Anus?" she replied. It is actually 'Anais', but that hasn't stopped it being the butt of quite a few jokes around here. Can you see what I did there?

Despite the puntastic name, it is actually really nice there - a few dining tables gathered around the pool, and on Sunday night they also have some live music on. We only stopped there for a quick drink, and to admire the show-boating waiters who sometimes bring out spare plates, food, or even bottles of wine, balanced on their heads.

After that we headed home. Of course, one of the nice things about England's 2nd round game being early in the match schedule is that you can settle down to watch the Netherlands and Portugal safe in the knowledge that before you go to bed one of these countries is going to be on the plane home, and England are not.

And it turned out to be a classic of the genre.

And the particular genre was "Really-f***ing-bad-tempered-world-cup-matches".

In the end I was willing the Netherlands to equalise just so I could watch them kick lumps out of each other for an extra half-hour and the referee could get even more card-happy. Where do you began with a game like that? Horse-face on the bench, cry-baby Ronaldo back on the bench after picking up thigh-knack, four red cards (and one red card missed because Figo should have gone for his patheticly-timid-but-nevertheless-it-was-a-head-butt). Plus the game getting so heated that being petty and not giving the ball back after a probably feined injury became the order of the day.

My favourite moment was without a doubt Deco petulantly holding on to the ball to stop the Dutch taking a quick free kick, Cocu petulantly throwing Deco to the floor to get hold of the ball, and the ref, who was by now carding anything that moved, petulantly deciding that Deco deserved a second yellow card and to miss the Quarter-Final with England. For which, as it goes, I am quite grateful.

Of course, if I still lived in the UK, I would have missed all this - instead I would have been down Hyde Park watching Goldfrapp and Depeche Mode with the gang - hope you all enjoyed it.

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