LITTLE BOY BLUE'S WORLD CUP DIARY: Day 2
June 1 (early shift)
Saturday morning 7 am. At a time of day when I'm usually skulking home after a night of unbridled (she assures me she isn't married!) passion in and around The Spotted Cow, my backside is parked in front of the box and a quick glance at my rig-out lets you know who I'm supporting. Clue: I'm wearing a sleeveless T-shirt (black), draped in an Ulster scarf and breakfasting on macaroon bars. For those a little slow on the uptake, come on you CAMEROON! And initially Africa's number one team don't let me down.
Playing well within themselves, Cameroon are so far on top. The only surprise is that 39 minutes pass before they get the goal they deserve and the identity of the scorer, Patrick Mboma, is sure to spark off a stewards inquiry in Dublin. How could a guy called Paddy get this far without somebody discovering/manufacturing an Irish grandmother? Look out for an FAI official being abducted and knee-capped!!!
Predictably, much of the TV talk surrounds the absence of Roy Keane but you can always rely on the BBC's Barry Davies to inject a wee bit of culture into a mundane debate. When Cameroon's Kalla tumbles under pressure from Duff, the commentator points out that he went down like a sack of potatoes... then quips 'What would the Irish know about potatoes?' And just to let us know he is the fountain of all knowledge, he then treats us to a ten minute monologue on the venue, Niigata, being Japan's main rice-growing region to try and dig himself out of the hole he's dug!
Later in the game, when he gets his Duffs and his Dunns mixed up, the bold Barry asks 'Does that make me a bit of a duffer?'. Who says the TV licence is a waste of money?
As Martin O¹Neill endlessly pointed out, the game's pivotal moment comes early in the second half when, just seconds after Gerami misses a glorious chance to kill off Ireland, Matt Holland equalises and, remarkably, Cameroon end up hanging on for a draw, with the other fella called Keane hitting the post near the end.
Mick McCarthy's pre-match utterances stressed the importance of not losing the first game so my money was on the irish boring the arse off the world to get a goalless draw but, in all fairness, it has not been that sort of game. Never mind, I'm confident Germany, even without Klos, Nerlinger and Albertz, will see them off so I'm not too upset with this result.
June 1 (mid shift)
I can't believe DENMARK boss Morten Olsen decided to leave Peter Lovenkrands out of the team to face URUGUAY. I remember spending a very boozy night when these nations met in Mexico in 1986 (they were in Scotland's group) and I'd like nothing better than to see the Danes repeat their 6-1 win... but it isn't going to happen.
With France losing their opening game, these sides know victory would take them a long way towards qualifying for the next round but both seem strangely unwilling to go for it. Uruguay are predictably negative, while Denmark appear to lack the magic of a Laudrup or the pace of Lovenkrands to prise open the defence.
But just before half-time, as I'm about to crack my first (honest!) Mick Jagger of the day, Gronkjaer breaks free on the left and sets up Tomasson for the opener. Suddenly, Uruguay have to be more ambitious and barely a minute into the second half Rodriguez rattles in a volley which is sure to be among the contenders for the goal of the tournament. Now we have a game to savour... but why did Uruguay wait until they were a goal down before coming out to play?
And as the game progresses they revert to type, settle for a draw and are punished eight minutes from the end when Tomasson strikes again, knocking a header in off the underside of the crossbar.
Uruguay's World Cup future now hinges on Thursday's meeting with France. They will have to be more positive then but, if it goes against them, look out for a bit of niggle, a few haymaker challenges and a red card or two... or three. The French will also have to improve a great deal so it promises to be very interesting. I can't wait!
June 1 (back shift)
For months we have been told this is GERMANY's worst ever team so why is there no place for Stefan Klos, Christian Nerlinger and our big pal Jorg Albertz? For their blatant disregard of such talent, the Germans almost deserve to lose this one but I can't see it. Maybe if the Saudis raided the German camp and caught the players guzzling the Beck's they could jail six or seven of them.
In the early stages Carsten Jancker looks capable of trampling them all on his own and the Saudi Arabia defence is paying too much attention to the big battering ram when Miroslav Klose finally breaks the deadlock after 20 minutes with a neat diving header. Now it is just a matter of how many and, after my slow start, I am getting into the swing of things and feel inclined to ask the same question about the Desperate Dans left in the fridge.
This World Cup will slaughter my liver, just as Klose looks like slaughtering the Saudis with another header five minutes later. Germany's worst ever team are soon chasing their biggest ever World Cup win (6-1 v Austria 1958) when Ballack and Jancker make it four before half-time.
Perhaps understandably, with the midweek match with Ireland growing in significance, Germany take their foot off the gas in the second half but Klose completes his hat-trick and Linke, Bierhoff and Schneider set the new German record. I wonder if all this 'worst ever team' nonsense is just a clever smokescreen. They didn't look too bad today...and just think how much better they could be with our three amigos in the team. But lets look on the bright side. The Irish crowd will have nobody to boo on Wednesday.
Well, three games, 13 goals and a dozen cans later, that's day two of World Cup duty over and this treble shift should turn out to be a nice wee warm-up for tomorrow's four match marathon. It hasn't been a bad start to the tournament at all and, while the English media hype won't be very pleasant, I'm looking forward to things going from good to great when Hooray Henrik is found out again tomorrow. Read all about it in my Sunday sermon.
LITTLE BOY BLUE