Tears For Souvenirs - Little Boy Blue's World Cup Diary

Last updated : 16 June 2010 By Little Boy Blue

It has to be the shot of the World Cup so far and I'm not talking about any superb free-kick or powerful 30-yarder.  The camera closing in on North Korean striker Jong Tae-Se during the playing of their national anthem produced a picture to behold.  He was in floods of tears, as if somebody had stolen his programme - was the Rangers Historian in the vacinity? - and my other half came away with a priceless line: "What will he do if somebody takes the ball off him?"


As it turned out, Jong Tae-Se was a more than useful player, ploughing a lone furrow up front against no nonsense defenders like Lucio and Juan, and those behind him didn't do too badly either, keeping Brazil at bay for so long.  As the second half kicked off with the scoresheet still blank, I was thinking 'surely not'.  Having already endured 180 minutes of absolute dross, it was going to take more than a tearful Korean to save the day.


Whatever the Slovakia v New Zealand game lacked in overall quality, I suppose I have to admit it had drama in abundance at the finish.  The Slovaks looked like they were coasting to victory, so much so that they dropped their guard and paid for their slackness in injury time, a slip which could cost them dearly in the final shake-up of Group F.  Italy and Paraguay have got little to fear from this pair.


The Kiwis started well but it was just blind enthusiasm, led by that super-duper world class target man Chris Killen.  Whilst the Aussies dumped their Septic reject McDonald, the All Whites went for his club-mate Killen and, once their more experienced opponents had coped with the early flurry, it looked like a mismatch.  It took Slovakia until the 50th minute to go in front, thanks to a Robert Vittek header.  Managed by Vladimir Weiss, whose Artmedia Bratislava team gubbed RaSellick before being knocked out of the Champions League by the Rangers, I got the impression that, if they could get a second goal, they might rattle in a few more. 


But they didn't and, at 1-0 down, the Kiwis still had hope, especially after they'd subbed Killen.

<p style="margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica;">Two minutes into injury time Shane Smeltz curled the ball into the box and Winston Reid met it perfectly to head the equaliser in off the post.  It was New Zealand's first ever point at the World Cup Finals, their first goal since they got two against Scotland in Malaga in 1982.  Hey, don't we move in exalted circles!!!


To be perfectly honest, I wasn't too disappointed with this game, not having expected a great deal in the first place.  All of which made me even more angry at what Portugal and the Ivory Coast served up.  It started well enough, although Christiano Ronaldo made it crystal clear he is intent on being seen as the most fouled player in the tournament.  After buying two early free-kicks, he found himself ambushed by three or four Ivoreans when he tried to con the ref into awarding a third, he got booked for his troubles, so he then concentrated on his fitba and rattled a superb shot off the post after only ten minutes.


But the contest just didn't pick up from there.  With Didier Drogba stuck on the bench nursing his arm injury, the Ivory Coast were more concerned with containing Portugal than taking the game to them, which was a great pity because Gervinho looked like a real matchwinner.  Drogba did put in an appearance after 66 minutes but, by then, it had bedded down to a non event.  Clearly, both sides fancied taking goals off North Korea so their hopes will rest on anything they can nick from Brazil.  But having seen the Koreans put up the shutters for so long against Brazil, is that a dangerous strategy, or what?


I was impressed by Pedro Mendes' performance in the holding role in midfield but, as the match deteriorated towards the inevitable 0-0 scoreline, I couldn't help thinking that he might have been able to offer more if let off the leash and pushed forward in support of the forward players.  Ho-hum.


So as the clock ticked beyond 8.30 and I poured myself another can in preparation for the second half from Ellis Park (could the Rangers be playing at a similarly named ground someday soon?), the thought of Brazil failing to make the breakthrough terrified me.  If playing with a flat back nine can thwart these football artists, everybody will adopt the same formation.  God, was it just a few days ago that I was talking up this tournament?


Worry not, after 55 minutes we saw an intelligent piece of overlapping from Maicon and a gap at Ri Myong-Guk's near post presented Brazil with their opener.  And was that a tear or two of celebration in the eyes of the goalscorer?  "Stupid man!" was the other half's view of the scene on the TV screen.   


The game then took on a more predictable pattern, with Robinho cleverly setting up Elano for a lovely second goal, but just when I began to think 'how many?' it took a superb tackle from Juan to take the ball off Jong Tae-Se's toe just as he was about to pull the trigger, then Ji Yun-Nam pulled a goal back right at the death.    


The Koreans must be wondering how things might have panned out if their keeper had been a bit more alert at his near post when Maicon ventured forward.  If only...  I'll bet Jong Tae-Se was inconsoleable in the dressing-room afterwards!!!


Tomorrow: Honduras v Chile, Spain v Switzerland, South Africa v Uruguay.