Scoreless draw and Dunphy’s maw, familiar fare for an Irish man
In his second piece from the couch, Ian Power gets innovative with tinnies and legumes
TUESDAY, JUNE 16th
And, lo, on the fifth day the deluge ended.
I’m relieved by Iran and Nigeria’s stalemate. For an Irishman, whose nation took three tournaments to score more than once a game, all this enterprise and net-bursting has been unnerving. Thankfully, there are still countries who appreciate the odd dour goalless.
I spent the morning trimming empties into two wide-brimmed cones to concentrate television audio towards my couch throne. Noisy neighbours above, below, and on either side aren’t conducive to football fever, so, innovation necessary. I tested the system on the Home and Away repeat. It sounded tinny. I call this ‘enjoying alcohol responsibly’.
Day 6, and Group H joins the festival. The ginger duel between the Red Devils and Algeria’s Desert Foxes in Belo Horizonte will provide a workout for Belgium’s dark horse credentials. South Korea face Capello’s Russia at 11 PM, coach Hong Myung-bo hoping to repeat the glory of 2002 when, as captain, his country reached a home semi-final.
Primetime though, nestled in between, sees Group A return with Mexico being entertained by the hosts in Fortaleza. Fingers crossed football, not officiating, is pre-eminent in this pool’s second fixtures.
Belgium, then. As ITV’s only match today, I’ve decided to take my medicine early and endure build-up which amounts to ‘Belgium have lots of Premiership players. Algeria don’t.’ All aboard the hype train, all aboard! At least pre-watershed and saved from a certain lager advertisement I won’t have to speculate on a world in which Ian Wright holds absolute power of veto over international referees. Ian, as we’ve seen on the pundits’ sofa, is seldom Right Right Right.
Feghouli converts his own penalty after Vertonghen grabs a fistful of jersey and Algeria reach halftime one-nil up. Wilmots’ side looks tone deaf, centrebacks filling either fullback berth especially jarring.
Fulltime: Belgium 2 – 1 Algeria.
We’ve just witnessed something quite rare: a World Cup match whistled by Marco Rodriguez without a red card. Averaging a sending off a game since Germany 2006, the Mexican referee didn’t have to intrude this time. Fellaini’s flicked header to equalise was followed 10 minutes later when Belgium countered off rare Algerian pressure and worked the ball to Dries Mertens, who thumped it home. Both goals scored by substitutes, 19 year old Origi—whose running aided Hazard’s assist for the winner—Wilmots’ third swap. Belgium, after a halftime reshuffle, seemed credible.
Dinner is a legume salad and some charred root-vegetables. Who says football fans can’t make informed dietary choices?
Rodrigo y Gabriela play the National Concert Hall this day week and, jeepers, they’ll blow the roof off if their compatriots thwart Brazil tonight. An attack-feast would be nice but cagey will be the watchword, I fear.
Eamon’s apology for the use of a ‘four-letter word’ feels serial-offender threadbare. I’ll confess, an episode with the grill and an extremely on-fire parsnip precluded my witnessing the profanity but, oh, sweet contractually obliged contrition. A first half curiously arbitrated by referee Cakir, whose booking of Ramires came only on the stroke of halftime, despite a half dozen similar—and worse—challenges. Mexican stopper Ochoa made two saves, one brilliant. Counterpart Julio César—apt with initials ‘JC’—got to the half with his jersey immaculate.
Fulltime: Brazil 0 – 0 Mexico
Ochoa is my man of the match, preventing Brazil with smart reflexes and positioning from taking an undeserved lead on two more occasions. Mexico threatened a little but nil-all fits. Neymar is the only player worthy of the jersey, arsa RTE, and I couldn’t disagree. I wonder will Samba Soccer summer camps be teaching Thiago Silva’s demolition of Chicharito, for which he was wrongly yellow carded - should have been red.
I lace up the runners and nip round the block to see if I can redeem some frequent flyer miles in the local drink emporium. It’s after ten so nothing doing and I trudge home to crack open the reserves.
Group H’s second game sees Russia and South Korea go head-to-head in Cuiaba.
In a pool already tinged with nostalgia—Russia and Belgium’s last appearance being 2002, where they also shared the final pool, Belgium winning 3-2—this fixture, which in our time-zone spills into tomorrow, sees Fabio Capello turn 68, whilst referee Pitana (39) and substitute Alan Dzagoev (24) share a birthday today. London 2012 Bronze medallists South Korea will be a stern test as they continue to transition into a more technical passing outfit.
Grim first half of toil and little product, Son Heung-min’s bright spark offered a few sultry touches but one of the two shots he shanked over disappeared above row Z. Could somebody ask Bolivia for the ball back?
Clatterburger of a tackle by Ki Sung-yeung on Lokomotiv Moscow’s Aleksandr Samedov draws a card. Martin Keown, that venerable member of the Order of Unforgiving Centre Halves (OUCH) is critical of the challenge. Neil Lennon, chillin’ with Danny Murphy and Big Phil Neville in studio Beeb, considers the booking harsh, the tackle, ahem, only ‘full-blooded’. In fairness, the ex-Celtic man got the ball, he’s just taken a fair amount of Russian with it. Danny feels young Cochrane—Kokorin I gather—up front for Russia is too isolated. They need more men up there. Hmm, Capello’s renowned for verve and dash... right? South Korea clipped the ball about smartly but never sustained pressure on their opponent’s box.
An unlikely goal would really really be appreciated, lads.
WEDNESDAY, June 18th
Fulltime: Russia 1 – 1 South Korea.
Hectic. Akinfeev between the Russian sticks tossed a howler—in this case Lee Kyeun-ho’s 25-yard speculator—into his own goal. Every cloud etc. Capello summoned veteran Kerzhakov to equalise, which, six minutes later, he did, prodding home from four yards. The remainder was open and entertaining, the draw appropriate.
Bedtime so, to continue rifling David Winner’s fascinating ‘Brilliant Orange’, trying to better appreciate van Persie’s header in time for the Netherlands’ next game, against Australia at 5PM. The research gives me an excuse to review some classic Oranje strikes, Bergkamp in ’98 my favourite, best experienced in the original Dutch.
So many games, so little time!