Planet World Cup


Quote of the day: "What happened against Germany was abnormal and unbelievable." - Saudi Arabian coach Nasser Al-Johar. ... "I wish you all good luck . . . and ask you to deploy more effort in the remaining matches." - Prince Sultan Ben Abdel Aziz, 'em, encourages the Saudi team to do better against Cameroon.

Team of the week

The award must go to the 17 prisoners who broke out of a Sao Paulo jail just as Brazil were kicking off against Turkey on Monday. Opportunistic divils. Prison authorities said the convicts escaped through a tunnel but, it seems, their absence wasn't noticed until the ref blew the final whistle.

The most shocking part of the story is that these lads craved their freedom more than they did watching the game. Sad or what?


"Ah wes reet disappointed wi' ha wuh played against Swidan 'cos wuh drew when wuh cud hev won an' mebbies lost, like. Wuh weor reet kakky, like."

"Alreet, Becks treed eez aardist, like, gev it 110 por cent, but ah divvent think eez fut is reet like. Ah broke me fut a few yeor back an' it tuk eeet yeors tuh git bettor, like - he's back eftor eeet week. It's not reet, like."

"Ahm neet sayin we'll be ooot if wuh divvent beat Arge Teen but we'll be ooot if wuh divvent beat Arge Teen, like.

"Anys way, like most Afrikin teams Arge Teen meet be canny, like, but they hav nee a clue abyeut defendin', like."

Poland at playschool

Out of sheer badness there's nothing we love more than re-examining buoyant pre-match World Cup predictions by coaches and players after it all went horribly wrong. "We are one big football family," Polish coach Jerzy Engel told reporters before the 2-0 defeat by South Korea. "We are Lego - you know the children's toy? Many bricks that fit together to make a smooth wall. We are united."

After the game? "We are Fuzzy Felt. We're great fun for the first few minutes, but then we lose our grip, tumble to the floor, and reduce our children to tears of frustration."

More worryingly, though, was the importance placed on the game by Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller, who said he hoped a victory would encourage the country's central bank to cut interest rates and boost the struggling economy.

"One match will not make unemployment disappear, improve the economic situation or cause the central bank to change its policy - unless a victory inspires it," he said.

Oops. Is that a deepening recession we smell in the air?

The Rivaldo fall-out

Rivaldo unrepentant in the face of increasingly fierce criticism from fellow professionals and the watching world, is facing a paltry £1,000 fine for his play-acting at the end of Brazil's victory over Turkey, whose officials are urging FIFA to drop the errant Korean referee Kim Young-joo for "killing 70 million Turks".

The Brazilian midfielder, who was the sponsors' man-of-the-match, shrugged off the furore yesterday. "I was glad to see the red card," he said. "Creative players must be able to express themselves if football is to stay a beautiful game. There's too much foul play and violence in football. It doesn't matter where the ball hit me. It was only the intent that mattered."

The attitude was somewhat different in Turkey. "We sacrificed 1,000 soldiers here to defend Koreans, and one Korean killed 70 million Turks last night." said Haluk Ulusoy, head of Turkey's soccer federation, regretting Turkey's charitable role in the Korean War after the dodgy penalty. "Rivaldo held his head and fell down like he was having a brain haemorrhage despite the ball hitting his legs - it was acting." added Ulusoy.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari's had a unique take on the tumble. "The ball hit him on the knee and then bounced upwards. He put his hand on his face to stop being hit in the face." Japan/Korea Speak

"We call our striker Jancker the Tanker but tomorrow we will have 11 tankers ready to destroy Ireland." - German newspaper BZ , careful not to mix its Ts with its Ws.

"Santa Madonna! That's an impressive fact." - Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni emotes after hearing that 81.33 per cent of the population back home watched Monday's 2-0 win over Ecuador.

"Spain are nothing special, they only qualified by beating the likes of Israel and Liechtenstein." - Paraguay's goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert manages to offend three countries in the space of 15 words.

Belarus go ballistic

Here we are, whinging about the ungodly and entirely unnatural hours we have to watch our World Cup football when we should really be thanking the gods above that we don't live in Belarus. Their public television channel chose not to buy the rights to show the tournament because they assumed the matches would be shown by stations in neighbouring Russia, which are widely broadcast in Belarus. But? Russian channels are not allowed broadcast the matches beyond their own borders so they've replaced their World Cup coverage in Belarus with programmes of local interest, like Emmerdale Farm.

The upshot? Three hundred football fans took to the streets in Minsk on Monday to demand television coverage of the World Cup - "They are stealing our soccer - Down with the regime," said one banner. No more complaining - lads, we're blessed.

What the papers say . . .

"Swede Who Out-Turnips Our Turnip." The Daily Mirror dubs Sven Goran Eriksson the new Graham Taylor. How spiteful can you get, eh?

Danes behaving badly

Denmark were in danger of earning themselves the tag of "Unruliest Camp at the World Cup" after the ugly incident involving Jesper Gronkjaer, Stig Tofting and Thomas Gravesen (Tofting and Gravesen dropped ice-cubes down Gronkjaer's shorts as he was doing his stretching exercises - Gronkjaer grabbed Tofting by the throat but still managed to end up with a black eye, perhaps after colliding with Gravesen's immense tummy).

Unruly? Hardly. Coach Morten Olsen gave them Sunday afternoon off to do as they pleased. Party time? No. Half the squad stayed in the team hotel to watch Argentina play Nigeria, the other half went fishing. Animals.

Argentina v England: Countdown

"Maybe you shouldn't mix things like football and war, but it's really hard not to do it. The match against England is one that any Argentinian wants to play in, especially if you lost friends or family in 1982."Argentina goalkeeper Pablo Cavallero.

"Beckham and Owen are great players who will get better, but they will never be able to tie Maradona's laces because, when it comes to the pantheon of the greatest players, Maradona is in heaven and Beckham and Owen will be stuck on earth." Jorge Valdano, retired Argentina god.