keresaspa: (Ben Turpin)
Given that there was a big scare back in 2011, resulting in my backing everything up on Dreamwidth the recent export has resulted in two copies of each entry from 2003 up to the date when I made the first copies. When it comes to things like this I'm rather anal, even OCD, in my approach and as such I've been going back through all my old entries on Dreamwidth and deleting one of the copies for each, as well as smoothing out the tags so as both versions of this blog are in sync. Quite the experience it has been too, and at times an unsettling one come to think of it.

For one thing in the early days I was ludicrously prolific, knocking out up to three entries a day, most of which had little or no purpose. Bear in mind too that those were the days when I didn't have a home internet connection so you couldn't fault my commitment. That dogmatism of youth was present in those early entries, although paradoxically my intractable approach to Sinn Fein had yet to crystallize as I was more a minor critic in the early years and even spoke out loud about possibly voting for them.

I also seemed to have a deep knowledge of the contemporary ins-and-outs of Italian politics and took it very seriously, for some reason considering that developments there were vital to me personally. The number of times I was practically frothing at the mouth with anger about Berlusconi's latest japes or the political career of doe-eyed hate merchant Alessandra Mussolini rather surprised me at this far-removed distance. Mind you, a lot more things seemed to matter to me back then although I suspect, like manys a young person, I felt that I personally could have an impact on politics, something that I have long since given up on.

On the humorous side, I seemed to be under the impression that the word "meme" was pronounced "me-me", leading a lot of attempted puns that now make no sense. On the bleak side, a trigger warning might have been required for some sections. Let's draw a veil over that.

2006 appears to have been the point where Livejournal (or at least my bit of it) went into decline as, having previously had double figure comments as the norm, entries from that period started to show the "no comments" mark that has been standard for me ever since. And yet, reviewing my own writing I was probably at the height of my powers in 2011, having grown from the at-times barely literate boy of 2003 and being some way above the ideas-bereft waffler of now.

The renaissance that has been hinted at as a result of the recent Russian debacle would be a fine thing and I do rather feel the need to try to help revive things (and I've been more prolific this last week than I have in years). Whether it happens or not who knows, but the fact will remain that going back through very old posts is an at-times uncomfortable experience to say the least.

EDIT: And apparently you can't queue posts on here. Bummer.
keresaspa: (Nina looking a tad pertubed)
Normally by now tournament fever would have me in a grip stronger than the thighs of Elizabeth Seitz but so far I've struggled to really immerse myself in Euro 2016. Perhaps it's the relative lack of excitement in many of the matches, a general ennui with the whole build-up, the nagging fears of the fascist nightmare that will be visited upon us when the turkeys of England vote for Christmas for all of us on the 23rd, the undeniable fact that a 24 team tournament is far too big and at least a third of the qualifiers just scream "making up the numbers", who knows? Still, Euro 2016 is here with its high-kicking and low-scoring on the pitch and its war by proxy being waged by boneheads off it.

Being a man who long since disavowed patriotism I have no particular team to root for and that hasn't helped. Before the whole thing started I declared, in a fit of contrariness so typical of me, for Iceland but my heart was never in it and, whilst it would be a delight to see the smallest country ruffle a few feathers, life will go on if they lose all three matches. I did derive a surprising amount of pleasure from Italy's victory over Belgium last night but I suspect it was an isolated incident rather than my rebirth as a great Italian.

As to what we've seen so far, little has really grabbed my interest. I even turned over halfway through the England-Russia match the other night and buggered off shopping rather than stick with the Republic of Ireland's dreary outing against Sweden. Still, I've never been an Ireland fan and the fact that they're now led by an axis of evil every bit as contemptible as Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane seals the deal. Meanwhile the occupied territory represented the real recrement of the tournament, serving up some of the dullest, stalest, olid Pulisball since that awful Romanian team that annoyed me so much that time. Boy was I glad to see them lose and I will be even more glad when they exit the tournament. And yet this happened. Well, it would have been rude to say "no".

I remain hopeful that the malaise will lift. Maybe my eye will be caught by some heavenly Hungarians, maybe the goals will flow as a rampant France put a dowdy Albania to the sword, maybe when the wheat is finally separated from the chaff in the second round things will hit top gear, maybe Michael Gove and Boris Johnson will spontaneously combust as Asmodeus rises from Gehenna to reclaim the debased souls long since promised to him. Either way - must do better, Euro 2016.
keresaspa: (Evil Timbo)
And thus ends another World Cup group stage for another four years. And it is no word of a lie to say that spills and thrills were provided throughout, with fun for the whole family (the WHOLE family, mind) freely and readily available.

In Group A Brazil spluttered along for much of the time, showing mere flashes of their much-promised brilliance. In Neymar they have the top scorer so far but the Croats proved stout opposition before being downed and Mexico were their match. Indeed the Mexicans might well have been worthy group winners had their lack of attacking vigour against a woeful Cameroon side not proved their undoing. Despite all that I still reckon it's Brazil's to lose.

I had half expected Spain to recover from their awful start in Group B but in the end, of course, they didn't and the illustrious era ended in ignominy and the gall of bitterness will run for some time there. The Dutch are bound to go far unfortunately and Chile will be no pushovers for Brazil. Australia were a gritty bunch of battlers but, Tim Cahill apart, were outmatched throughout. Still, they gave a decent account of themselves in two matches and can go home feeling smart enough.

Colombia owned Group C from start to finish and Japan weren't at the races in what proved a disastrous World Cup for the Asian contingent. The main battle was between the Greeks and the Ivorians for second place and I got right behind the African side in the deciding clash. As such they inevitably lost. A shame really but Yaya Toure had a poor tournament by his standards and Drogba, despite his might, just can't do it for a whole match any more. Greece are something of a grim watch at times but the never say die spirit runs through them like the word "Morecambe" throughout a piece of hard, sugar-filled confectionery sold on the Lancashire coast and they could yet pull off one or two more shocks before konx ompax.

The story of Group D was the brilliant performances by England, whose fans rightly cheered their gallant efforts in finishing bottom of the group. Imagine if Svennis or Capello had done that - they would've been hanged from the yardarm but Woy's status as bona fide English means he is forgiven. I suppose they didn't play that terribly but they just weren't at the races, a niddering lot afraid to go near the ball, and Hodgson's obsession with the future has worn a bit thin. Tomorrow never comes and if you ignore the present then what price the future? That and basing your hopes on Phil Jones and Chris Smalling is sure to end in tears, whilst the celebrated Adam Lallana, who single-handedly (with several others) brought Southampton to the giddy heights of upper mid-table, looked very ordinary during his appearances. Pretty much the standard of Graham Taylor's 1994 side really (who would also have qualified if the World Cup was 32 teams in those days) and to an outside observer the obsession with Steven Gerrard, who has accomplished pretty much nothing in his 114 appearances, is mystifying. At least his Italian equivalent, Andrea Pirlo, is a skilled god of football who won the World Cup, although he was marked out of this series and Balotelli was in "can't be arsed" mode so their elimination was inevitable. The less said about Suarez the better - he is a vile pig who doesn't belong in the game and should be facing a year's ban for his latest outrage. I wouldn't be surprised if Uruguay made the semi finals again to be honest, even without him as the Devil looks after his own. Oh and Costa Rica, good on them, well done, pat on the head, patronise etc.

France took Group E by storm, showing an attacking prowess that few felt them capable of showing. The odd defensive lapse and a weak squad may well catch up with them but it will be fun while it lasts nonetheless. Fair play to Switzerland too, who finally look like they can attack a bit too rather than their old trick of having ten in defence. About time M. Colin-Tampon did something half decent at the World Cup. Despite my earlier claims Ecuador weren't too bad in the end. There was a lack of skill but they played their socks off and were rather unfortunate to go out. Honduras had the odd moment here and there but were making up the numbers really.

You can't really fault Argentina in Group F. Bosnia had a right good go at them and Iran ran themselves ragged but in the end Messi finally started to show what he is capable of in a World Cup. Bully for him. Despite the presence of the odious Odemwingie I got behind Nigeria in this group and was glad to see them qualify. In Victor Enyeama they have a fine keeper who has enjoyed his second consecutive solid World Cup whilst Ahmed Musa is surely set for a glittering future after his harassment of Argentina.

Portugal's bundling out of Group G was hardly a shock given their opening drubbing by Germany and their failure to get the better of Germany Junior. Despite the blip against Ghana the Germans looked comfortable enough although their defence is decidedly un-Teutonic and will prevent them from going all the way. GerJu are lacking in any real skill but for commitment and gritty determination there are few who come close and if they grind their way into the quarter finals I won't be astounded. Seeing the poseur Portuguese go after the first round is always good but I was disappointed at how far Ghana had slid since four years ago and as usual Muntari had to make it all about him. Oh, and whatever became of Freddy Adu?

As we've established, Group H was the poorest crop of all. Belgium were effective and got the job done although the notion of them being outsiders for the title seems fanciful after they made fairly heavy weather of a very weak group. I found myself rooting for Algeria in this one on the strength of their crazy performance against South Korea, a team who haven't looked so poor since the early '90s. Next time the AFC try to agitate for extra places in the World Cup then they should be reminded of this World Cup. It's been abject for the continent from start to finish. But anyway, glad Algeria made it ahead of a shockingly dull Russia side.

Looking ahead to the second round I'll don my fatidical hat and predict wins for Brazil, Uruguay, France, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Argentina and USA. When I did this four years ago I got all eight correct so if you want to put your house on it do so. You might well lose the house, of course, but if you want to then go right ahead.
keresaspa: (Nina looking a tad pertubed)
And so it came to pass that the World Cup has reached that most auspicious of stages, where every team has been played and we can now gave a half-arsed opinion of all of them. So permit me to do just that:

Cut for you football-hating numpties out there )

Volte-face

Jun. 16th, 2014 01:25 am
keresaspa: (Cynthia of Witching Hour fame)
Well that was unexpected. My distaste at the waste of money in an impoverished country remains (not quite as bad as neo-liberals blowing billions on pointless crap like the Olympics or, worst of all, the Commonwealth bloody games, but I digress) but an absolutely blistering start has made this World Cup difficult not to like. There have been gripes obviously - Brazil being nursed to victory, a thumping win for my second least favourite team in the Netherlands, a lacklustre performance from Argentina, boring old Switzerland looking nailed on to advance, Adrian Chiles. But despite all that there has been more to enjoy, be it the triumph of France over brutal Stoke City clones Honduras, the delightful battle between the ever so orderly Japanese and the gung-ho crazy Ivory Coast during which the very existence of Didier Drogba seemed to both inspire his team and scare the hell out of the opposition despite his doing nothing of note and, of course, champions elect England getting slapped down by a spectacularly virile Italian side. Fun for the whole family with plenty of delights left in store. A really good World Cup is long overdue and if this one can continue in the vein in which it has started then it can finally be delivered.

My solidarity with the protesters remains as ever but my threatened lack of interest has evaporated as I'm now being carried along with the visual glamour on the pitch. Well what can I say, I face a season of gloom and misery under the single most underwhelming appointment in Albion history Alan Irvine, I have to take my fun where I can get it.
keresaspa: (Karl Marx laughing)
I once used this little forum of mine to suggest that Jim Allister's baby, the Traditional Unionist Voice, could be considered a fascist party. I was being flippant of course as it is at best a High Tory throwback and at worst an extreme right vanity project but either way it falls some distance short of fascism. Recently however I have got to thinking about how the current flag protest movement and its Ulster People's Forum directors relate to fascism and that proves to be a little less cut and dried.

As the establishment unionism and loyalism have always tended towards the right but whether they have ever produced true fascism (and I'm ignoring any nonsensical attempt to use the term fascism as a synonym for racism, dictatorship or "I don't like it") is highly debatable. If we assume fascism should be ultra-nationalist, radically populist, seek to build a mass movement and be desirous of palingenesis or a complete rebirth of society, then the closest fit seems to be the Ulster Vanguard. Of course when they were formed they were simply conservatives adopting the trappings of militarism and when William Craig had his brain fart and decided that his preferred solution was power-sharing with the SDLP they suddenly became the most moderate of the radical unionist parties (and forget the United Ulster Unionist Party splinter group, who were little more than a TUV forerunner) but during the period when they advocated the establishment of a hard-line independent "Ulster" and were seemingly prepared to advocate violence against any opposition they came as close to fascism as this place ever has seen.

But if we turn to the current movement it is clear that some, if not all, elements of fascism can be identified. The flag protest movement are possibly the most populist movement to emerge since partition and their rhetoric is increasingly been couched in a highly populist rejection of the existing politicians. Equally a rejection of liberal democracy, seen by the likes of Gentile and Payne (although less so myself, I must admit) as central to fascism, can be detected from the very basis of the initial protests given that the flag was removed from the City Hall due to a democratic vote and the rejection of that decision clearly represents a rejection of that process. Nationalism goes without saying. The assertion of group rights, the prominence of the flag, the insistence that some are members of the "group" (Ulster Protestants) and that there are "the other" who are without the group and therefore enemies are pretty much textbook examples of ultra-nationalism and really need no more discussion. Similarly the mass movement idea is self evident as the flag protests have been the ultimate social movement, seeking to get as many numbers as possible onto the streets and relying on the sheer force of human bodies for intimidation. Indeed involvement has been as important, if not more so, than ideology at levels not seen since the formation of the UDA or the Ulster Workers' Council strike.

Palingenesis is so far largely absent from official policy, such as it is, although at lower levels the virulent strains of anti-Catholicism that run through the membership hint at a desire for a Protestant state. In typical post-modern fashion, this has manifested itself in social network groups attached to the protests advocating the eradication of Catholics. Their apparently preferred constitutional arragnement of direct rule is a fairly non-radical solution although it remains to be seen whether or not this is Willie Frazer's personal opinion or that of the wider movement whilst a desire for a return to a mythical golden age can in itself be seen as palingenetic. The Italian Social Movement, one of the few post-war groups to ever self-identify as fascist and achieve mainstream levels of support, talked of nostalgia dell'avvenire in this context, a backwards look to the future.

Willie Frazer's former involvement in the Ulster Independence Movement, a group whose Ulster Patriot journal frequently featured the thoughts of Romanian fascist leader Codreanu (a favourite of former National Front organiser and UIM big cheese David Kerr), hints at past associations with a group that was at least tolerant of fascism and, whilst it is rather guilt by association, Frazer's prominent role in proceedings suggests that at least the Ulster People's Forum would not immediately recoil at the ideology. A case can be made for the UIM as a fascist movement in the manner of the Nick Griffin wing of the National Front and the International Third Position but I'll not go down that avenue here and now as it is not strictly relevant.

So far the protests have gone through two stages. The first was as a response to a leafleting campaign by the DUP aimed at whipping up opposition to the Alliance as part of their wider attempts to regain control of their bulwark East Belfast seat from that party for Peter Robinson. In this stage it was an old case of an arch conservative establishment figure trying to use latent extreme right sentiments to further their own ends. From Franz von Papen's disastrous attempts to use the Nazi Party to further his own career all the way down to David Cameron mobilising anti-European xenophobia in an attempt to extricate himself from an uncomfortable coalition that is as old as the hills. Somewhere along the line however the DUP lost control of the protests and they entered a new phase, one of bitter resentment, ethnic nationalism and populist right wing politics in which the initial stated aim of returning a piece of cloth to a building has been confused with the introduction of vague demands for social reform and explicit attacks on the minority community, effectively giving birth to an extreme right, but ideologically weak, protest movement whose demands seem increasingly diffuse and uncertain. Conspiracy theories abound with "big lie" propaganda helping to fuel bigotry by arguing that Catholics get all the good things despite the figures still showing unemployment as higher among the Catholic community than the Protestant community. When proletarian resentment, driven by the decline of the heavy industries that the Protestant working classes traditionally dominated, gets turned on an internal out group rather than the system itself we are clearly in right-wing extremism territory.

Politically they have been so far characterised by an immaturity that is perhaps inevitable given that of the leaders only Frazer has any political background and even that has been very much on the fringes. One need only look at the bizarre events of last week when Jamie Bryson announced that the Ulster People's Forum had severed their ties with Frazer only for them to announce a united front later that same day. Had there been the slightest bit of political maturity Fraser and Bryson would surely have conducted their tiff in private. On a wider level however the absence of this maturity has left them without any real ideology. In some ways many of their followers are comparable to the impoverished people who followed the Chartists in the nineteenth century, feeling that in their own mind there was an agenda for social reform even when the stated aims were clearly solely related to the organisation of government. The flag protest and Ulster People's Forum are as yet not a fascist movement as they haven't reached that stage yet and are still stuck in the wider extreme right mode of resentment and bitterness. It's highly possible that they might never exit that mode and indeed their overall basis is weak and conditional for, were there to be a capitulation and the flag was returned tomorrow, it seems likely that Fraser and Bryson would disappear into the background and the general loyalist population would return to their default position of blindly following the major unionist parties. Equally attempts by the Progressive Unionist Party to cash in on the protests by publicly taking a much more hard-line stance than usual seem unlikely to work as Bryson has shown no desire to become a member and Fraser has old associations with the UVF's bitter enemies in the LVF.

If Bryson and Fraser decide to go the whole hog and build a new mass loyalist party from what they have now Northern Ireland might well find itself with its first indigenous truly fascist movement a good 90 or so years after everywhere else but we aren't there yet (and even if we end up there, there are no guarantees it would excite any interest). Instead we have an extreme right protest movement full of people who are very angry about a lot of things, aren't sure just who to blame and so turn their anger on the people in their midst whom they define as being different to them. Not so much a local version of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento as a local version of the English Defence League then.
keresaspa: (Maurice Bishop)
I suppose it would be opportune to give my thoughts on Euro 2012, even though I'm not sure what precisely they are. As winners Spain were fitful and at times not as pleasing on the eye as they should have been but when it mattered they suddenly became rampant and as such you can't really begrudge them yet another triumph. I did eventually get into Italy but unfortunately the final proved a game too much for them as their semi-final demolition of a much fancied German side was very much their zenith, with the final an enormous drop off. A win would have been a fine sign-off for Andrea Pirlo (assuming he doesn't appear again in two years time in another of those veteran-heavy first round casualty Italy sides) but, whilst it wasn't to be, his performances will live long in the memory.

Overall it was an OK tournament, but not as good as it should have been. There was some excellent stuff on the pitch (alongside a lot of rubbish) but for whatever reason I didn't really get into like I should have. I got into Italy near the end but for the majority of the tournament I had no team, which didn't help, whilst the racism that kept rearing its head cast a long shadow over proceedings and the reactions of UEFA in general and Michel Platini in particular really didn't help either (racist chanting less of an offence than having Paddy Power on your knickers?!). There was a time I hoped Platini might be a new broom at UEFA who could finally challenge the dominance of the old boys at FIFA but he has proven a massive disappointment and his non-reaction to vile racist abuse means he is now tainted with the same stench as Sepp Blatter, Lennart Johansson and the rest of the old colonials that have always dominated football administration. Meanwhile looking at the performances of the likes of Poland and the Republic of Ireland it wasn't hard to get the impression that, like the last World Cup, the whole thing is a little too big for its own good. I dread to think what the 2016 version, which is to be expanded to 24 teams, will be like when real rubbish start to qualify, as who outside of Portugal will actually get any enjoyment out of watching the Portuguese trounce Finland 7-0?

As to the actual participants, for once the best two teams made the final. Germany looked an excellent attacking unit at times but, as they always do now, choked on the big stage. Amazing to think that a team once known for winning with dully efficient football is fast garnering a reputation for playing great football but blowing it, but that looks to be the pattern and as long as they continue with Joachim Löw it probably will be for some time. Portugal had their moments but Cristiano Ronaldo is no Diego Maradona and there was no way he could carry a whole team to victory like the Cosmic Kite did in '86. Other than that it just seemed to be bunch of let downs as, to varying degrees, England, France, Russia, Croatia and above all the Netherlands, let themselves down with ropey performances and shoddy play.

Other than that, it was just another tournament really, and as such was preferable to the black-outs of odd-numbered summers. Still never fear as, after all, Linfield play some Faeroese outfit tomorrow night and that promises to be a barn-burner. Close season, what close season?
keresaspa: (What do you think of it so far)
Three faces of republicanism )

But enough about that )
keresaspa: (Arthur Atkinson)
Hard luck to England on their elimination but they deserved to go out after being completely dominated by an Italian team that would be bloody excellent if they had a decent forward (and I don't count Balotelli). A penalty shootout was bound to fail for them especially when Buffon is in nets. You can keep your Joe Harts and Manuel Neuers, for my tuppence worth the old boy is still the king of the keepers. Besides this is about the usual stage for England teams anyway so there's no need for any disappointment. Expectations were low and England exceeded them in the group stages which, inevitably, saw the press foam at the mouth and revert to "we can/will win this" type before the inevitable exit. No doubt the inquisition on whether things would have been better under 'Arry will now open but personally I don't think they would have. His side would have been much more attacking but on that basis France would have beaten them, they would have finished second in the group, went through to a quarter final with Spain, continued to play attacking against them and got hammered as the Spanish are clearly better so Woy or 'Arry the outcome is the same. I haven't got into hating this England side as much as usual, probably due to a combination of residual affection for Woy and a bit of a liking for Scott Parker (whose marriage of a sensible haircut, continual hard-running and a private life that, to the best of my awareness, doesn't make the tabloids marks him out as a throwback to a bygone age) and Theo Walcott (the lad's elan and joie de vivre on the pitch are admirable, even if his shots are sometimes wild), but I did enjoy the gloom descending on the smug quartet of stout Englishmen doing the punditry in the shape of Lineker, Dixon, Shearer and former Scotsman Hansen. Get a dictionary and look up impartiality, chaps (and whilst we're at it, look up traitor too Hansen).

Meanwhile England will qualify for the next World Cup with ease, the inevitable hysteria will break out again, the inevitable quarter final exit will follow and everybody will go away from it very cross. A cull of the self described golden generation might now be sensible although I reckon Stevie G, JT and the rest have a bit too much clout to be sent packing en masse so expect the same old same old to carry on for a while yet.

And I stand by my earlier statement - Italy will now go on to the final as they either go out in the first round or go all the way these days. Pirlo = god of football.
keresaspa: (Starry Plough)
So in the biggest shock since Barney Bear grabbed a roll of Andrex and said "I'm just off to the woods for a bit" it seems that Martin McGuinne$$ has agreed to shake the hand of his paymaster, no doubt doing his usual grinning like a ninny act the whole time. About as inevitable as it is possible to be that the former leader of the Provisional IRA, a man who made his name in seeking by force of arms to drive the British out of Ireland (through blowing up bus station patrons and other dangerous hard cases), is now happy to shake hands with the titular head of the war machine he once opposed. We're told that it's great, that we have this marvellous shared future to look forward to of swingeing cuts, rampant unemployment and what little money there is being blown on vanity projects but pardon me if I am unimpressed by it all. The implication of McGuinness and his Sinn Fein cohorts is that everything that went before in republicanism is now null and void and that, in the ultimate expression of a Whig interpretation of history, the revolutionary actions of his antecedents were all leading to the glorious present where we can bask in the glory of a coalition of idiots ballsing the place up and so-called republicans endorsing the rule of loyalist supporters like Peter Robinson and Nelson McCausland and idiots like Edwin Poots. It's as if McGuinness and his ilk are saying that the action undertaken from Wolfe Tone to the ceasefire was simply immaturity and that all they need to do is sit around in a permanent, money-spinning rightist coalition with the DUP waiting on one side breeding enough to make it 50%+1 and then we can slip quietly into a unification with the Irish Republic and swap The Tories for Fine Gael. Whoop-de-doo! Surely the point of republicanism was a radical new Ireland in the grand traditions of James Connolly, not endorsing monarchy for years until there are enough Fenians that we can switch over to being part of a failed capitalist state that is effectively owned by the European Union. The time has come for Sinn Fein to take their seats in Westminster because they way they are acting now they might as well declare themselves as the same monarchist party that they were when Arthur Griffith established them in 1905. Were people to turn against them as a result I would say it is worth it but unfortunately Sinn Fein have done such a number on the republican lumpen that if anything it will probably boost their support. Hell, Martin McGuinness could slip on Geri Halliwell's dress, Big Daddy's waistcoat and some prat's knickers and start singing "rebellious Scots to crush" and the Fenians would still vote for the bastard en bloc. Sickening.

But enough about that. I suppose I really should say something about that little football tournament that is going on. I did declare my support for Greece and they were eliminated but I must confess I didn't particularly care that they were as I still can't get into this tournament the way I usually do. Germany looked excellent and the 4-2 score flattered the Greeks enormously but I still feel that the Germans will blow it. If Joachim Löw was going to win a tournament he would have done it by now and let's face it the Greeks, who were surely the hairiest faced team to reach a finals tournament since Hungary and Canada's woolly cheeked squads of 1986, were really no challenge anyway. I've been saying it for a while in person so I will declare on here - whoever wins the game between England and Italy will at very least be finalists and might well be winners. You heard it here first.
keresaspa: (Bungle)
Isobel Campbell, a lady so twee that she makes Acorn Green seem like Murder Casebook, once asked "is it wicked not to care?" and to an extent I've been reminded of her words these last few days. It's not so much that I don't care about Euro 2012 as I've missed very little of it (bar chunks of the England-France match as the biased ITV commentary got a bit too much to take after a while), but so far it hasn't really grabbed me. It doesn't help that I have warmed to none of the teams so far I suppose, but by now I would normally be in the grip of finals tournament fever regardless and I have yet to so much as run a mild temperature. Still we've seen all the teams now and, in theory at least, we should have an idea about who we can expect to do what. Let's look at the evidence.

GROUP A: It hardly requires a soothsayer to know that Russia will win that group handily. Their demolition of the Czech Republic and the festival of sloppiness served up by Poland and Greece and suggest that they will cruise through, quite possibly scoring into double figures as they go. As for the rest God only knows. It's hard to judge the Czechs fully as they were so badly outclassed and both Poland and Greece looked awful at times so any one of them could finish second. I have a slight hankering for Greece but whoever finishes second will definitely go no further as they're likely to face Germany in the second round.

GROUP B: I believe it has been established on here several times in the past that I have no love for the Dutch national team (despite my slight Dutch ancestry) and this tournament is no exception, so I enjoyed the Danes smash and grab win over them. To be honest this group contains four sides that I'm not fussed about so I have little interest in how it turns. Germany will probably win (even though they looked nothing like the team they were built up to be in their laboured win over the pampering prima donnas of Portugal) and given the fixtures I wouldn't be surprised to see Portugal going through. If only to wipe the smirk/sulk of Cristiano Ronaldo's face and to finally banish Mark van Bommel to east of Eden where he belongs I would rather see the Danes make it but I think they've already used up all their luck.

GROUP C: Forget Ireland, they're obviously out of it. That's what they get for being so bloody boring. Italy put on a good show against a pedestrian Spain whose decision to play no forwards was bizarre to say the least (when you have Messi you can get away with that, when you don't you can't). Still, Spain started the World Cup very slowly and they are bound to go through. Italy on the other hand I'm less sure about. I wouldn't be surprised to see them going out but equally I wouldn't be surprised to see them making the final. Anything else would surprise me though as it seems to be the Italian way now to either go out in the first round or go all the way. If Croatia's performance in their opening game is anything to go by they will give the Mediterranean duo a lot of headaches and could conceivably top the group but again it is hard to tell as Ireland were just woeful and the Croatians might crumble against proper teams.

GROUP D: Shrug. Seriously, no idea. Woy's England are an extremely defensive team with very few ideas going forward. As Greece proved eight years ago (seems like eight weeks, but never mind) such gruesome anti-football tactics could carry a team to victory but equally it looks the sort of team that could draw three times and go out in the first round. But let's be honest, this is England and a quarter final elimination is almost inevitable. France were clearly a better side but they are crying out for a penalty box goal poacher as they looked short on ideas when it came down to the bit. Ukraine seemed to get by on passion alone but who knows how far that could take them? I expect Sweden to go out but if they take a point or even two from England and France it won't be amazing, nor would it be that much of a shock for them to get a win. With four middling teams that do some things well but are clearly deficient in some areas this looks the most evenly matched group and nothing would surprise me about it.

So tomorrow it's back to Group A and I may have to force myself to pretend to care about Greece in order to finally get my interest in this event going properly. So come on the Galanolefki, by the dreadful sword you hold, tonight we dine in hell and all that. At least until I get bored of them and try to force an interest in Italy, France or Spain that is.
keresaspa: (Piggy Banks)
As long term readers of this will be aware one of my most consistent targets for venom down the years has been Silvio Berlusconi. As such it is with some joy that I greet the recent news that we are to be rid of the little shit. Again. Obviously we have been here before so I welcome his departure with some caution as the other Teflon Don has a tendency to come back from anything and will no doubt join the cockroaches in the post-nuclear holocaust world. But surely, finally this has to be the end of the road for Il Cavaliere as a politician at least. Mind you, given what he has come back from in the past I am not fully convinced. Let's remind ourselves of a selection of his previous crimes, none of which have inhibited his place as Italy's political godfather since the 90s.

• Berlusconi was a member of the Masonic lodge Propaganda Due, a shadowy extreme right group involved in the 1980 bombing of Bologna in which eighty people were killed and which was active with extremist movements and regimes in Latin America, including with the Dirty War in Argentina. He got off in 1990 after an amnesty was declared for members of this mass murder organisation.
• He has consistently been shown to have been linked to the Mafia, dating back to his early years in business, but has always dodged prosecution through shady means. When he was younger and looked like a human being rather than a capuchin monkey wearing an orange ski mask he proudly advertised the fact that he packed heat.
• Down the years he has bribed more judges than I've had hot dinners and yet has always weaselled out of prosecution, usually through the statute of limitations, something that has got him away with more crimes (including a litany of tax evasion and embezzlement) than you've had hot dinners. To think that Berlusconi sought to present himself as a clean new broom after the mess of Mani pulite!
• He formed governments with radical right parties such as the Lega Nord and the "post fascist" Alleanza Nazionale and then later admitted the Alternativa Sociale into his rag-bag coalition. Under the leadership of former nude model Alessandra Mussolini this alliance of unashamedly fascist parties included the Forza Nuova of Roberto Fiore, a veteran of the neo-fascist terrorist networks of the 1970s. We all know I detest David Cameron but could you really see him forming a coalition with the BNP and English Democrats and then later adding a bloc consisting of the National Front, British Peoples Party and the International Third Position?
• He sullied the good name of our own Tessa Jowell by forcing her against her will/entirely without her knowledge/it never happened (delete according to which excuse she is currently using) to become involved in bribery.
• Bunga bunga. Not only did the whole grubby affair sum up the crassness of this poor excuse for a human being but it also demonstrated how much he blew with the wind. He supposedly learned it from his great mate Colonel Qaddafi but as soon as the tide turned against him Berlusconi rushed to get sticking the knife in. With friends like that etc.
• Lest we forget he still faces trial for bonking an underage girl although I have no doubt that he will worm his way out of that.
• He claims to be a serious politician and yet he gets plastic surgery that makes him look like a burns victim, he flaunts his sexual proclivities in public despite having Veronica Lario at home (and despite consistently trying to present himself as the bastion of the Catholic vote), he brands German politicians Nazis despite sitting in government with self-declared fascists and praising Benito Mussolini as benign, he consistently makes racist jokes about Black people being “tanned” (not least at Barack Obama), he tries to make rape into something to laugh about, he makes crass jokes at the expense of his own people left homeless by an earthquake and tells a litany of crap and offensive jokes directed against (in no particular order) gays, Jews, women, the Spanish, Muslims, the Chinese and the Finns. And he releases albums. Albums, for God’s sake!
• And above all the regular public appearances made by his revolting, shrivelled penis mean that he is the biggest criminal to ever walk the face of the earth. Put it away you horrible old man!

There is an interview that they frequently show in which Tony Blair is grilled by Jeremy Paxman over his relationship with Richard Desmond. At one point (around nine minutes in) Blair visibly squirms as Paxman reads out a list of Desmond's rather more salacious publications. Could you imagine the same interview taking place with Silvio Berlusconi instead of Tony Blair? He would probably get to his feet and start thrusting his emboldened member into the camera. Such is the measure of the man who has been the absolute disgrace of Italy for two decades and has done more to damage the good name of the country that gifted the world the Renaissance since Mussolini. I hope upon hope that this is the last the world sees of the tight-faced old bastard but I retain the fear that his clammy hands will be back on the steering wheel before too long, inaugurating another corruption-riddled government of porn stars in which he uses public money to fun his own taste for whores. Good riddance but please don't come back.
keresaspa: (Fran Drescher)

Justice. The defining theme of this World Cup final will always be just that to my eyes. The Dutch might bleat about an imagined foul in the build-up to Spain's winning goal but the horrendous treatment that they meted out in the first half should have seen De Jong and that bully van Bommel sent off so it is a case of sauce for the goose being sauce for the gander. Our own Howard Webb certainly has a case to answer over why he let such thuggish behaviour go unchecked but that is for another day. There was clearly only one team that actually cared about winning that game and that was Spain. The Dutch on the other hand were happy to ruin it as a spectacle despite boasting some real talent in attack and as such they deserved defeat. Over the course of the tournament (with the exception of their first match) the Spanish were the best team on show, taking on top class opposition and dominating them and for there to be any winner other than them in this match would have been a travesty. It was fitting too that Iniesta, a man who has been challenged only by Villa and Xavi for the title of Spain's best player, should strike the goal that delivered the title. I would have expected that Nelson Mandela would have done the honours in presenting the World Cup given that it was largely his doing that South Africa hosted the event but in the end it was down to Jacob Zuma and his shadow Sepp Blatter to do the honours. I happened to mention at the start of this tournament that I reckoned Mandela would die as soon it was over and I now wonder if he has and they have decided to cover it up. Tomorrow a bunch of disgusting human beings bedecked in orange will parade around triumphantly in celebration of a victory in which they played no part but tonight another group in orange won't be able to. All in all the tournament itself was far from a classic as there were a few too many dull games, a few too many no-hoper teams and a few too many top players just not trying but with a deserved win for a great team some redemption has been salvaged. Justice indeed.

But rather than leave it there and disappoint the millions of you for whom my inordinately in-depth coverage has been essential reading I will take this final opportunity to indulge myself by examining the performance of each team in turn. So strap yourself in because here we go:

Team by team )

So that's the end of that chapter. What the bloody hell will I talk about now?!
keresaspa: (Lolita No. 18)
Another day another ill-starred attempt to watch two matches at once. Figuring that it might be the one where most would happen I opted for Italy-Slovakia as the main game with the odd dabble with Paraguay-New Zealand. It proved to be a wise decision as, whilst Paraguay put on a pretty turgid display against a thuggish New Zealand (whom the commentators seemed to think should definitely win for some reason), the other game proved to be something of a classic. Slovakia began the game improved on their previous weak performances and were just about good value for Vittek's opener, even if it was a De Rossi error that gifted it to them. Italy looked decidedly out of ideas approaching half-time but improved when Pirlo was introduced. However the luck just wasn't with them (as inevitably seems to be the case with Italy) whilst in Iaquinta they had a striker who was some way short of the class of a Rossi, Schillaci or Del Piero. Slovakia meanwhile seemed to have a strange preponderance for wearing strips of blue on their legs with Kucka practically wearing blue tape leggings. Any ideas on what that was about? Poor defending allowed Vittek to grab a second before Di Natale pulled one back, sparking an inevitable rumpus. The Slovak goalkeeper Mucha did not come out of this game with much credit as he sought any opportunity to cheat or time-waste whilst the Slovakians as a whole were very prone to extreme levels of gamesmanship. Italy came back strong but then fell asleep for Kopúnek's goal, a strike that came straight from the Stoke City playbook. With Paraguay heading towards a bore draw the Slovaks looked set to win the group and condemn Paraguay to a hiding from the Netherlands. God bless Fabio Quagliarella for that late goal then - you may be out Fab but you'll be welcome in Asuncion for evermore! When the whistle finally went there was a clear feeling that something special had ended. The Italy side had been great but this looked a tournament too far and it is a shame that the international career of a little warrior like Cannavaro, not to mention Pirlo, Gattuso, Camoranesi and Zambrotta, had to end like this. Slovakia deserved to win overall but it was hard to warm to them as they were a petty bunch and the Dutch should just about edge them. As for Paraguay winning the group is a job well done (just as I predicted) but there will need to be improvements in the next match as, apart from a few decent runs by Vera and Valdez, New Zealand frustrated them badly at times. Cardozo also needs to end his shoot on sight policy as soon as possible as he has wasted a few chances that way. Still on the positive side Santa Cruz looked sharper and went damn close with a free kick so if he can hit form then the Japanese should be beatable. Or not, it transpired....

It seemed an odd decision by the BBC to choose a match between an already qualified side and an already eliminated side as their main game. Still, their coverage has been plagued by gaffes and so it seemed ordained that the rubbish that is BBC Three would be my home for much of the evening. Luckily somebody saw sense and made the switch at the last minute as we were treated to a surprise master class. It was all about Denmark in the early stages and then suddenly the Japanese blossomed like the sakura and became world class out of nowhere. Honda, ignoring the showbiz ref who seemed determined to get noticed with daft yellow cards, struck unquestionably the free kick of the tournament so far to put the Japanese ahead and to prove me right for rating him. As if that wasn't enough Endo promptly scored another free kick goal to put them two up. There's nothing to this free kick lark, is there? Honda continued to look great throughout and he is bound to be in demand when this tournament is over whilst Matsui also played a blinder. For their part the Danes saw more of the ball after half-time but by and large they huffed and puffed to little real effect and the penalty when it came was as much to do with Agger's theatrical leap as the slight shove he absorbed. It was no surprise that Jon Dahl Tomasson, who looked his Newcastle self rather than his AC Milan self here, missed but he did get the follow-up and I suppose you have to say well done on getting his record. Mind you it is debatable if he was the worst Danish striker on display out there as at the start of the game we were treated to the bizarre sight of Nicklas Bendtner colouring in his socks with a red pen. That was about all we saw of him too, as the self-proclaimed best striker in the world was pwned by the veteran Nakazawa and really needs to learn to keep his mouth shut or at least back up his words with performances. The Japanese third goal was well deserved and once again saw some tremendous work by that man Honda, who combines the raw power of Lolita No. 18 with the swagger and élan of 54 Nude Honeys and has been the find of these group stages. All things considered this was a joy to watch as the Japanese, whom I was justifiably criticising for their negativity only a few days ago, played like a team reborn and slapped the ugly, clogging Danes down with a style and joie de vivre that will take some topping. But not only was it pretty they also had plenty of bottom to them as they stood up to rough Danish treatment strongly and even paid them back in kind when the opportunity arose. All of which is bloody bad news for Paraguay who have face them in the next round but for the moment I would rather simply enjoy what I just watched. And so good was the Japanese performance that I never once felt the need to switch over so I can add little or nothing about the Cameroon-Netherlands game. The Dutch struggle to hold my interest at the best of times and unfortunately Cameroon have been the poorest African team at this competition so I don't imagine I missed much anyway. Besides had I missed the reincarnation of this Japanese team I would have been kicking myself forever.
keresaspa: (Terry-Thomas)
It was nice to see Santa Cruz returning to the Paraguay side for the game against Slovakia as he adds some real class to the attack. In the end he didn't score but the performance was still quality with two well taken goals scored by Vera and Riveros. This was my first viewing of the Slovaks and I have to say I can't imagine that I missed much in their game against New Zealand. Here they were a dirty team of gits, prone to errors in defence and lacking up-front, although even I have to admit that they did improve in the second half. No match for a talented Albirroja who now look a decent bet for a second round spot, quite possibly as group winners. Gerardo Martino has built a finely balanced side here and one which, given the plethora of attacking talent at his disposal, looks like it could live with the big boys in the latter stages of this World Cup. Rather than making up the numbers Paraguay actually look like a team who just might be able to do something in a tournament that doesn't look to have any truly great teams in it. Famous last words right there!

That possibility raised its head because of the shock result in the New Zealand-Italy game. To be fair to the Italians the goal that they conceded was offside and the New Zealanders were on the back foot for the vast majority of the game but this was still a spectacle to behold. The Kiwis were a plucky bunch and they have an Albion man in the squad so fair play to them on a grand result. As for the Italians they looked a team out of time, still trying to trade on four years ago with a bunch of players who, whilst great in their day, now look decidedly tired. It should be a case of back to the drawing board for Italy after this World Cup. Between this, the awful performances of England and the fact that it seems France are imploding there might be a few big European casualties in the first round. Well, with any luck there will be. The only possible downside could be if New Zealand suddenly are buoyed to unimaginable heights by this win and beat Paraguay in the last group game but let's not get into nightmare scenarios just yet.

After all that Brazil-Ivory Coast proved to be a Hell of a game, even if Brazil only looked like the mythical wonders from Hy Brasil that they are invariably painted as in fits and starts. In the early goings it was fair to say that the Ivory Coast were giving as good as they got, even if they looked a little short on quality following the daft decision to drop Natty Nutkins from last time. However once the Brazilians came into their own the match became a bit of a classic, with some fine goals scored by both teams and a palpable sense of injustice permeating throughout. Luis Fabiano's second goal was clearly a handball whilst the decision to send off Kaka for slightly tapping a guy in the chest was also a clanger by the official. At least the referee was equal opportunities rubbish, I suppose. Still, it all helped to make the game a better spectacle and in the end this was an enjoyable romp. This Brazil team have some good stuff in their armoury but they aren't as great as some have made out and Drogba's consolation was deserved as 3-0 would have flattered them. As for the Ivory Coast they are a game, if limited, bunch and I would be pleased to see them nicking second spot in this group as they look like a team with more to contribute than we have seen. I can't see it happening, but I would be pleased nonetheless.

Good stuff all round and, slight wobbles about New Zealand aside, I can now feel confident that Paraguay will get into the second round and might well be able to go further. Nice one.
keresaspa: (Jose Luis Chilavert)
With the possible exception of "sick as a parrot" there can be no greater cliché in football than "a game of two halves". However there can be few games more apt for this description than the Netherlands clash with Denmark. In the first half the Netherlands looked nippy enough but were clearly missing the talents of Arjen Robben whilst the Danes, unsurprisingly given the presence of Daniel Agger and Simon Kjær (nice to see a rare outing for a ligature as part of a shirt name there), looked strong in defence and not too shabby going forward either. That being said the first half was no great shakes and it did have its Mahindra Satyam moments* but it was still an even contest. All that was undone by a nightmare start to the second half for the Danes and the own goal for Simon Poulsen. The Dutch were also improved by the introduction of Eljero Elia, who really should have started, although they also looked a bit of a dirty team and got away with a few nasty ones. I was also amazed to see Giovanni van Bronckhorst getting his 100th cap. Has there even been a bigger chancer than the man who admittedly was a hit at Rangers before flopping at Arsenal and then somehow blagging his way in to Barcelona? Decent enough performance by the Dutch eventually, albeit not world beating whilst Denmark were pretty grim in parts.

A lot more Mahindra Satyam followed in Cameroon-Japan. This game was truly rotten in the first twenty minutes or so as Cameroon looked clueless and Japan were beyond negative. Keeping up the Rangers presence was Paul Le Guen in the Cameroon dugout and by God did he mess this up by sticking Samuel Eto'o in an anonymous role on the right. OK, so he plays that role for Inter sometimes but they have other options in attack that Cameroon clearly do not. Both teams were offside far too often although Cameroon did improve as half-time approached, meaning that Honda's goal was less hundred hand slap and more sucker punch. No great shakes all in all, although listening to Mark Lawrenson sounding completely fed-up watching it when he was on an all-expenses paid beano got old very quickly. If you hate football so much do something else, Lawro! Cameroon will be kicking themselves after losing, although as usual Le Guen has to shoulder most of the blame for getting his tactics very wrong whilst Japan were certainly well organised and had some quality in Nakazawa and Tanaka. As dull as they are the Japanese will probably fancy their chances of second place now, although I fear that their game with Denmark will be one heck of a chore for the spectator.

But with the appetisers over it was time for the big one - Paraguay vs Italy. I had previously predicted that Paraguay would have a good chance in this one and so I was proven right, at least in the first half. Once again the early stages were pretty woeful from both teams but the boys were able to take advantage of an off-form Italy with a peach of a goal from Alcaraz (very nearly a Tintin villain name there) after a great free kick (the first of the tournament, no less) from Torres. A shame then to see Camoranesi come on and change the whole shape of the game and a shame too that Villar became the latest keeper to drop a clanger. You can bet the great Chilavert would never have let that one in. But all things considered the draw was still a good result as anything from this game was always going to be bonus and by the end of the game the rearguard action was getting pretty desperate. Had Salvador Cabanas been available things might have been different but if wishes were horses and all that nonsense. A point gained rather than two dropped and the team's confidence will be high for the more meat and drink tie against Slovakia on Sunday. Pretty pleased.

Finally I'm glad to see that sense has prevailed and the nonsense talk about banning vuvuzelas has been dropped. Yes, a couple of players can't hear each other and we are missing out on the wonderful singing of "Rule Britannia" and that rhyme the Koreans do over and over again but this is an African World Cup and if FIFA wanted it not to seem African they should not have given it to an African country. It seems to me that it would be like saying to England "yes you can host the 2018 tournament, but only if you ensure that no supporter sings in a fake cockney accent [which, for some reason, all England fans, regardless of what part of the country they come from, do] and no fat man takes his shirt off". It's South Africa, supporters blow vuvuzelas, get used to it!

*This is to say those moments where the action on the pitch becomes so dull that your eyes are drawn instead to the annoying perimeter advertising and the eponymous Mahindra.
keresaspa: (Maurice Bishop)
As Tom Petty so rightly observed the waiting is indeed the hardest part and for sheer drag there are few things that can beat the week before a World Cup. The hype has been cranked up to ludicrous levels but, now that saturation point has been reached, there is still more blasted hype to wade through. Just get on with it!

Still I do have a tendency to make outlandish predictions about these sort of things so this time need not be any different. And so, to collective yawns of indifference, I present:

Keresaspa's World Cup )

And if you believe that you'll believe anything!
keresaspa: (L7)
So that's the big international tournament over for another two years. And what a belting tournament it was, with quality attacking football winning out, negative teams getting their just desserts and the complete lack of hype and hyperbole that always goes hand in hand with these things whenever England are involved. Top class stuff! For those of you with no interest in football I suggest you slip away now as I shall now, just for the hell of it, do a team by team review.

Euro 2008 according to an idiot )

So there we have it. Farewell, old friend, the summer will be a pure bore without you!

Guess

Jun. 11th, 2008 01:22 pm
keresaspa: (Shakuni (Gufi Paintal))
I hate Romania! I should qualify that statement in case some random Romanian happens to be passing and decides to avenge that slur. In no way do I hate the country or the people of Romania but as far as the football team is concerned they are a pox on this tournament and must be driven from it as quickly as possible. Now I'm not a Paul Gardner-type who wants football to be only about attacking and I am perfectly contented to watch 0-0 draws as long as something of note happens in them. But Romania have to go! To watch them was like watching UEFA Cup Rangers all over again, with no intention of doing anything of interest. In fairness France were very poor and that waster Nicolas Anelka has to go, but the Romanians were an absolute chore to watch and I can't wait until they are eliminated. Mind you, in this day and age they look the sort of deathly dull, mean-spirited bunch of gamesmanship practitioners who could go on and win the whole competition. God help us!

I must confess that that game had brought me to the point of say "sod this for a game of soldiers". Three cheers then for the Oranjemen for making it all worthwhile again. The controversy about Horsey's goal notwithstanding the Dutch looked a top-notch outfit and put on a great display. In fairness to the Italians they weren't that bad themselves, but I did predict that they could well be the shock first round casualties. Still, they can take heart in having the best national anthem, if nothing else. Still, in all it was good to finally have a high quality memorable match to really get the tournament running (OK, Portugal-Turkey was pretty good but not this standard).

If the Dutch and the Italians served up a good bill of fare then the game that followed it was real class. Spain were a treat for the eyes, a wonderful passing side who backed it up with killer balls into the box and a couple of quality forwards. Senna had claimed before the tournament that they were like Brazil, although for me their excellent possession-based build up play was more reminiscent of Argentina at the last World Cup. On the negative side the defence didn't look any great shakes and that will ultimately count against them but still, I'll enjoy them while I can. Credit too to the Russians. I had low expectations of them being a Romania-type team but they had a go and were good value for their goal. On the day they were just outclassed as Spain are clearly a better side whilst they obviously missed Andrei Arshavin but there are worse teams involved than Russia and they wouldn't look out of place in the second round.

Finally Sweden-Greece, a match I feared would be a re-run of France-Romania. For much of the game it was. Greece were an ugly team of cloggers whose passing between defenders was so bad that actually started to look like the Mexico-Portugal that sparked the riot in The Simpsons. However, thankfully late on good triumphed over evil as the Swedes grabbed two goals to send the snoozers packing. Oddly enough, when the second one went in I almost felt sorry for Antonios Nikopolidis, an honest pro who deserves a better finale to his international career. Sweden were hardly any great shakes and although Ibrahimovic scored a fine effort I still don't think he is anywhere near as good as he believes himself to be. On balance, and assuming Spain win the group, I think I would rather the Russians took second place than the Swedes as I could see Sweden being a boring lot when faced with better opposition.

So, all in all, the thing has finally picked up after a sluggish start that descended to a nadir with the Romanians. Now all we need to do is sort out the commentators by telling Alan Hansen to stop saying "mmmm" all the time, telling Alan Shearer to get an original thought, telling Martin O'Neill to get a sense of humour and telling Mark Lawrenson and his constant moody sarcasm to bugger off once and for all.
keresaspa: (Default)
So, that's your lot where the World Cup is concerned. Italy in the end were worthy champions. There was no really outstanding team after Spain and Argentina both bottled it and the best of what was left was Italy so it's fair to say that they deserved it. Zidane's farewell was unfortunate but hardly totally out of character, as I'm sure Fuad Amin would testify. An exciting game overall, although a more appropriate ending than penalties would have been preferred.

Just for the hell of it I'll now pick my own team of the tournament. In nets Buffon is the obvious choice, notwithstanding the strong claims of Lehman and Ricardo. The Italy defence was pretty sound so Fabio Grosso and Gianluca Zambrotta will do as full-backs with Cannavaro joined at centre back by Ricardo Carvalho. Continuing the Chelsea theme I'll stick Michael Essien in front of the defence. I was unconvinced by him until this tournament when he was the heartbeat of a decent Ghana side. The main work in midfield can be done by Pirlo and Rangers' legend Gattuso, both of whom had strong claims to being player of the tournament. In behind the front two, who else but Zizou, his rush of blood at the final notwithstanding. Up front, the choices are less obvious but I'll go for top scorer Miroslav Klose and Spain's Fernando Torres as the best of a bad lot.

As for my impressions of the tournament overall - it was pretty good. The football itself was hardly any great shakes, outside of a few isolated performances by Argentina and Spain. The shocks, when they came, were unexpected and rare, which was a definite step up from 2002 when the shocks became very predictable. The feted players generally failed to deliver, with the hyped-up likes of Rooney and Ronaldinho looking ordinary at best. The diving and general nastiness reached epidemic levels and this threatened to spoil things. In the end, however, it was all somehow better than the sum of its parts. Six and a half out of ten. If I look back on this World Cup in ten years time the things that will stick in my mind will be the Saudi goal celebrations, Ronaldo breaking the record despite looking like a chubby dufus, Ricardo la Volpe and his cigarettes, Crisitiano Ronaldo's diving, Big Phil sending van Basten packing as the red carders sat together, Togo taking the lead against South Korea, Michael Owen crawling out of the thing, Koller's injury, Trinidad's delightfully violent hijinx and far too much bloody Martin O'Neill. Roll on 2010.


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