Thank you and goodnight
Day Thirty-One: Vinnie Jones XI v. Spain
6:35 “He can be really proud of what he’s achieved.” This is Alan Hansen’s verdict on Nelson Mandela, who would doubtless be overjoyed to learn the high regard in which he is held by a Scottish football pundit. “He’s been absolutely magnificent,” opines Creosote Man, as though Mandela were a centre-half who’s made a couple of goal line clearances in an FA Cup tie.
6:36 Hansen on Holland. “I would imagine they’ll get men behind the ball and try and stifle that Spanish side.” Certainly, Alan, if by stifle you mean ‘kick repeatedly’.
6:37 “Some of their players [Holland’s] like chasing the ball,” says Lee Dixon. If by chasing the ball you mean ‘kicking opponents repeatedly’.
6:52 “I think my boys did extremely well.” Kofi Annan, who is apparently the Ghana manager now, is interviewed on BBC 1. Ever the politician, Annan refuses to predict who will win tonight. Cute hoor.
7:12 Marcel Desailly would ask Van Bommel and de Jong “to play in the interval” if he were one of the Dutch centre-halves tonight. Yes, I am absolutely flummoxed by it too.
7:23 The players are shaking Sepp Blatter’s hand. Amazingly, each of their number resists the temptation to raise his hand, press his thumb against his nose and waggle his fingers mockingly.
7:26 Ray Houghton is working the second mic for RTÉ, likewise Mark Lawrenson on the BBC, and Clive Tyldesley is on ITV. Faithful vuvuzelas, do not forsake us in our hour of need.
7:42 Who can claim in good conscience that they have not, at some point over the past month, felt an overwhelming compulsion to apply a good sharp razor to that infuriating little triangle nestling on David Villa’s lower lip? It looks as though it were once part of a large and happy family of facial hair, but was separated from the rest in a tragic accident, leaving it orphaned, to fend for itself in the lonely wasteland between Villa’s chin and mouth.
7:50 “Villa and Pedro are the true goalscorers in the [Spanish] team,” according to Tyldesley. Yes, Clive. This is primarily due to the fact that they are strikers. In association football, the sport on which you are commentating, the striker generally occupies the forward-most position on the pitch, being, therefore, more likely than his teammates to score goals.
7:52 Van Bommel, who has displayed remarkable restraint in waiting a whole 21-and-a-half minutes before inserting his studs into another player’s flesh, is booked.
7:58 Karate Kid Nigel de Jong catches Alonso in the chest with a foul so spectacularly flagrant it deserves some kind of official recognition. By which I mean a red card.
8:19 You may be familiar with an ad for a betting website which has been appearing during half-time breaks on ITV. It features the actor Ray Winstone, a man who makes Hannibal Lecter seem a rather avuncular, genial sort. Ray apprises us of the menu of bets from which we may choose during the game, before halting to announce, “Hold on. The latest live odds are coming up on your screen now.” And, spookily, they do, as if frightened into appearing by Winstone’s terrifying demeanour alone. (Note to Ray Winstone: Please don’t hurt me. It’s the Irish Times. They make me write these things. Love your work)
8:24 Creosote Man, whose elbows, as a player, had an unfortunate tendency to finish their passage through the air in opponents’ faces, is outraged at the Dutch tactics.
8:26 “Spain have to keep moving the ball.” Gareth Southgate advises the Spanish to avoid the experimental ‘keep the ball static’ approach to winning football matches.
8:31 Hilarious ‘defenders versus strikers’ banter between the BBC boys. Ho, ho, ho. If you ask the strikers, the defenders don’t know what they’re talking about. Whilst the defenders, well, they consider the strikers to be utter fools. It has all the intellectual substance of the mutual dislike between 8-year-old boys and 8-year-old girls. “Girls / boys! Oooeeww! I hate girls / boys!” No, no. That’s unfair. To 8-year-olds.
8:35 “There are so many players on a tightrope now,” says Lawrenson. Really? That would improve the entertainment value considerably. That, and a few jugglers, and maybe a guy on a unicycle. I’d like to see a knife-throwing routine too, preferably performed by a blind knife-thrower, with Van Bommel the target.
8:58 Van Bommel has a word with Dutch sub Elia, presumably exhorting him to enter the spirit of the occasion by kicking everyone wearing navy as hard and as frequently as possible.
9:06 “It’s not the kind of match you’d want to see 30 more minutes of, is it?” asks George Hamilton.
9:20 Thirty more minutes.
9:50 “Another one for the ‘over the bar’ DVD of this World Cup, of which there are many,” says ITV’s Craig Burley as Xavi misses from a free. Tip for Craig Burley: do not enter the video production industry. It is unlikely you would be successful there.
10:05 Eamono Dunphyos reveals he is pleased Spain won, as are the two Guillermos, Brady and O’Herlihy, and Juan Giles.
10:12 “It needed a strong ref tonight. It got a strong ref,” says Mowbray of Howard Webb. A few minutes ago, the RTÉ panel were expressing their dismay at Webb’s performance.
I’d like to thank everyone who’s read the blog over the past six weeks. I’m frankly a little surprised you had nothing better to do, but there you are. Thanks also to those who took the time to comment.
Here I go, passing the hat around. Should you be inclined to do so, please feel free to ceaselessly petition irishtimes.com to endow me with a regular blog. Might I suggest lobbying thus? “Give him a blog or I shall stop reading irishtimes.com, and lose the will to live, in that order.”
Thank you and goodnight.