LITTLE BOY BLUE has dug out his old Laudrup shirt to become a Dane for the day. But first he has to suffer Germany v Paraguay.
June 15... Day 16
Having enthusiastically talked up this World Cup and rubbed my hands in anticipation of thrills galore in the knock-out stages, I felt like a bit of a mug after the first 45 minutes of GERMANY V PARAGUAY. Surely they couldn't be playing for a draw. It looked horribly like they were and, rather surprisingly, the best opportunities fell to the South Americans. Ayala miscued when he had the goal at his mercy, then a 20-yarder from Campos forced Oliver Kahn to make a terrific save.
Of course, the lack of first half action gave the TV boys the chance to focus on England so the half-time break was devoted to interviews with David Seaman, Trevor Brooking and Denmark's Thomas Sorensen. And Mr Brooking even got a telling off from Gary Lineker for talking too much about the Danes. Quite right too! We don't want the viewers to think there might actually be two teams on the pitch, do we Gary?
Back in Seogwipo, Rudi Voller obviously did a bit of ranting and raving in the German dressing-room. They looked much more positive after the break when Schneider brought a save out of Chilavert and Paraguay responded with a break and shot from Campos. Having taken money under false pretences in the first half, both sides gave the impression they wanted to make amends in the early stages of the second 45. Schneider again came close when he curled a free-kick around the wall but wide of the post, Neuville fired in a drive which was saved, then a glancing header from Ballack was safely gathered by Chilavert.
But as the game wore on, fear of losing again got to the players and we had to endure more safety-first football. "You just can't see Paraguay scoring'" said BBC commentator Steve Wilson. Well, when their main attacking threat is goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert, you tend to get the feeling they are not camped on the edge of the German box. Klose sent a header over the top just as I was about to let out a loud yawn but, wait a minute, now I see something really worth watching.
Right on the halfway line there is a big blue banner emblazoned 'GLASGOW RANGERS FC - EAST GERMAN LOYAL'. Could that be Uwe Zigglekov and his Rostock Bears? Maybe some FFer out there can enlighten me via the Messageboard. We had to put up with a lot of tripe in the dire days of the first half of last season but not too much of it was worse than what the East German Loyal were suffering here. Thankfully, an Oliver Neuville volley just two minutes from the end spared us the further agony of extra-time.
As they have done time after time over the years, Germany did what they had to do, no more and no less. It does not make for the most entertaining spectacle but they tend to be very hard to beat and any threat of a last-gasp equalizer died when Acuna was red-carded in injury time. Mexico or America now lie in wait in the quarter-finals and, knowing they can do so much better, the men they called 'the worst German team in history' are beginning to look like genuine contenders.
But the Germans are mere bit-part players if you believe all you hear on the box. I had to choose between watching ENGLAND V DENMARK on BBC or ITV and I'm afraid I couldn't stomach listening to John Motson oo-ing and ah-ing about Rio and Michael and the new mature captain. So Clive Tyldesley and ITV got my vote but the teams had still to take the field when I was questioning the wisdom of my choice. "Is there a team left in the competition who, on any given day, England couldn't beat?" he asks. I was tempted to scream at the screen. "Brazil! Italy! Spain! Germany!" And I was convinced I would add Denmark to the list.
But the Danes couldn't have made a worse start. After just five minutes, Laursen needlessly gave away a corner kick, Ferdinand got on to the end of Beckham's cross, Sorensen fumbled and, just in case the ball wasn't over the line, Heskey followed up to lash it high into the net. Laursen again looked slack when Heskey nudged him off the ball and Sorensen had to be quickly off his line to save at the attacker's feet but more defensive indecision presented England with a second goal midway through the first half. A low cross from Butt caused all sorts of trouble and the ball broke kindly for Owen who knocked it in from no more than six yards.
Sand shot wide, then Tomasson wasted a good chance after breaking free of Ferdinand on the left and you sensed that Denmark had to get something back before half-time to stay in the game. Just when I'd accepted that it wouldn't happen, England rubbed it in with a third goal from Heskey who shot low into the net from the edge of the box after being set up by Beckham. When Gronkjaer fired a wild shot well over the top early in the second half you knew there would be no way back.
Gronkjaer went into this game nursing a knee injury and he did nothing to suggest he was anywhere near to being fit. Why oh why did Morten Olsen not give Peter Lovenkrands a run? I'm not just beating the drum for him because he is a Rangers player (aye ok, maybe just a wee bit!) but he could have been a straight swop for Gronkjaer and I've no doubt his pace would have troubled the English. When Mills was booked soon after the break, Denmark could have put him under some real pressure by going at him at speed but, for reasons best known to himself, the Danish coach decided against it.
Denmark did get a couple of glimpses of goal in the second half but England were quite happy to let them have a lot of the ball, confident they were incapable of doing any serious damage. The harsh truth of the matter is that the Danes never recovered from their nightmare start and, knowing they let themselves down, they won't be feeling too pleased. They might get a hard time from their own Press Gang when they get home but I'd bet my last shekel on their fate being more appealing than the crawing we will have to absorb over the next few days. Get the kettle on for the England v Eire final. Aye, so I will!
"Bring on Brazil," yelled Clive Tyldesley at the final whistle. Are you sure about that, Clive? Brazil have always been very popular in Scotland but our admiration will surely stretch to hero worship if they can sort out England next week. But look out for the TV crew urging everyone to support Belgium on Monday, just to do England a favour. Dream on! I've nothing against the team or the country but their media men make my blood boil. Anything which shuts them up is fine by me.
As you will have gathered from my tone, this has not been a good day. So I'm off to enjoy a Saturday afternoon refreshment...and to stock up with the San Miguel to toast a Spanish victory over Ireland tomorrow!