Summer Blog Post Seven
Anne Frank, Oscar Wilde, World Cup in Brazil five years ago
Summer Blog Post Seven
Summer Blog Post Seven
My predictions having collapsed over the weekend largely owing to surprise results reached by three African countries with Japan forming a fourth, I was very content to hear in the early morning World Cup news flash that Portugal had equalized in the last minute, so that my prediction of a two all draw came true. This was also the first match for which I had changed my tip twice. Originally, it had been at three goals to one for the USA, then I had had second thoughts before I punched in my final thoughts on Sunday, thinking in terms of which result would be most favourable to Germany’s own World Cup campaign.
With two thirds of the group matches gone, I have managed to add to my score in 14 games. In both groups D and H, I foresaw the outcome of only one match, while it is group E where I’ve scored nine points so far, only misjudging the form of the Swiss team. In other words, one could also say that with Honduras their final rival – as in South Africa in 2010 – they need to be very lively from the beginning in order to reach the round of the last 16, just as they remained motivated to the last minute when they scored goals against France similar to those les Bleus had scored earlier. This should encourage the Nati as much as it ought to be a warning to the French, not to be too light-hearted.
There’s one group, F, that is, with only five goals to date, two of which scored by Lionel Messi. I had predicted 15. Similarly, I had thought group A to be much more productive but it is only the games in which Croatia is involved that yielded eight of nine goals. The two South American favourites, Brazil and Argentina, who a friend in Madrid writes are supposed to win “(for political reasons)”, are on course for the semi-final, while Spain has failed miserably and Italy has to prove that they can move to the last 16, having lost to Costa Rica but just by one goal, while Uruguay had lost by three goals to one.
Sunday’s and Monday’s headlines still evoke Klose’s goal record, not least since he is the Methuselah playing in the Serie A, which triggered more words of admiration on the part of Italian journalists, than, say, by the French who prefer down-sizing the German team as a whole to singling out an individual achievement. In fact, having witnessed Klose in his winter gear on the bench in the match for third place in 2010, I thought we had seen him at a World Cup match for the last time. Now, however, he is back, and he has scored, too.
Like Fritz Walter (1920-2002), skipper of the first German side to win the World Cup in 1954, Klose speaks with the accent of Kaiserslautern, the environs of which his family had moved to from Poland and France in 1986. On winning the World Cup at Berne, Fritz Walter was 34 years old. These are just facts – not all ominous- or auspicious-looking signs. To me, it’s also part of my own life, my mother being born and bred at Kaiserslautern, also called “K-Town” since the US Army came to open a barracks there, with the local football club being one of the first I ever saw live in the ground, at Bochum forty years ago, that is. The maternal grandfather whom I never met and who died in 1954 was a regular on Sundays to attend Betzenberg Stadium, “Betze” for short, which also featured in the 2006 World Cup. There, Italy’s winning campaign finally took off with a penalty one of their players termed a “rigorino”, a little penalty, awarded in time added on. I recall listening to the live radio reportage in a World Cup news flash and the journalist complaining about that unexpected gift when the Socceroos and the Azzurri both were prepared for extra-time. Totti didn’t bother, scoring relentlessly.
Monday, 23rd June 2014
This morning the papers print the first four teams to have qualified for a place among the last 16. Brazil and The Netherlands can only meet in either the final or the match for third place, while they could clash with Costa Rica or Italy/Uruguay in the quarter-finals.
There was no suspense in groups A and B. Brazil won their group easily, Neymar now heading the scorer list, and both Mexico and Chile are underdogs in the next round. But for the Australia vs. Spain match I always scored and since Brazil were my favourites for finishing first, I can add four bonus points to my tally. In Del Bosque’s place, I would have changed the losing team after the first match. Now everyone knew all was lost, while Chile and the Netherlands could play for first place without having to think of the other result. It may be a stereotype but it must have been something like Spanish pride that prevented Del Bosque from substituting his captain before he had lost them the second game, too. Such is not, I hope, Cesare Prandelli’s strategy, since he’s expected to field two strikers today to react to Uruguay’s own attacking force. If Uruguay reach the last 16, they might meet Brazil in the quarter-finals, thus allowing for a late replay at Fortaleza of the infamous last match of the 1950 World Cup, also held in Brazil. . . If things work out as foreseen, it could be three or four South American sides in Brazil’s semi-final quarter, depending on whether Italy or Uruguay come in second of their group, while the Dutch semi-final quarter could be filled by two Central American teams plus one from either Africa, Asia, or Europe, with the Ivory Coast easily being favourite for position two in group C.
Although a South American country is still most likely to win the tournament, this possible scenario means that they are certain to eliminate each other first, so that the chances of a side from another continent to beat the South American representative in the first semi-final at Belo Horizonte are still intact. The result of the American domination felt at this World Cup, however, is that a similar European semi-final quarter won’t emerge since Bosnia are already out, with Portugal and Russia sharing the fate of minimal chances to reach the last 16. Only the Swiss have good chances to join France and Belgium, both being already qualified, as well as Germany who lead their groups. With Nigeria, the USA, and Algeria likely to follow suit, it seems Africa might have up to three countries in the next round – at the expense of Asia.
Tuesday, 24th June 2014