Upstart Takes on the World (Cup): Day 31

11 July 2010

Written by: Evan Harding

We’ve reached the time when every man and his octopus produces a ‘Team of the Tournament’, and this is little different. But it is still slightly different. Ladies and gentlemen, je vous presente (and how appropriate to be using French) the Calamity XI:

Goalkeeper: Robert Green (England) – Although many ’keepers put forth impressive cases, given the high profile of his inclusion over two more talented rivals, due to one being too old and the other too young, Green gets the nod.

Left back: Patrice Evra (capt, France) – You could almost include the entire French team, but as skipper of Les Horribleus Evra led the revolt which resulted in their campaign descending from woeful and into farcical.

Centre back: Fabio Cannavaro (Italy) – As a representative of the Nike curse, which saw almost everyone who appeared in the ‘Write The Future’ ad go on to have an awful time. The only exceptions are the three Spanish representatives – but then they weren’t happy in the commercial so of course the opposite would happen. Cannavaro personally had a poor tournament, most notably his mistake to allow Paraguay’s goal in the opener. Perhaps if they had won 1-0 instead of drawing 1-1… write your own future.

Centre back: John Terry (England) – The affair which cost him his captaincy was the first step along the road to a typically poor English World Cup. He then said he would remain a leader on the field, but marshalled a defence so shambolic that even Martín Demichelis got on his back despite having committed a laughable gaffe against South Korea.

Right back: Simon Poulsen (Denmark) – Plays on the left but all good Calamity Xis must have someone playing out of position to give a clumsy penalty. Poulsen makes it for his attempted clearing header which fired into teammate Daniel Agger’s back and bounced in for the first own-goal of the tournament. He may have escaped official recognition, with the ‘OG’ chalked up to Agger,, but Poulsen gets his props here.

Left midfield: Harry Kewell (Australia) – Received the fastest red card of the tournament of any starter, just 24 minutes. Regardless of whether the decision was a touch harsh, for also being injured for the first match, and the likelihood of being injured again had he not seen red, Kewell gets a berth even if he is moved back to the midfield.

Centre midfield: Felipe Melo (Brazil) – Epitomised Brazil’s second-half meltdown against the Netherlands, scoring an own goal (eventually awarded as a goal scored by Wesley Sneijder) which let the Dutch back in. Later, he would destroy any chance Brazil had of levelling the match with a petulant stamp on Arjen Robben which saw him sent off.

Right midfield: Sani Kaita (Nigeria) – Kaita’s red card against Greece turned the game on its head. When he was sent off, Nigeria led 1-0. By the end of the game it was 2-1 to Greece, Nigeria was out of the tournament and Kaita was soon to receive death threats from supporters.

Left forward: Kim Myong-wan (DPR Korea) – A victim of the North Koreans attempting to get one over on FIFA, Kim was included on the roster as a goalkeeper despite being a striker. FIFA said he must therefore play as a goalkeeper, not as an outfield player. Oops.

Centre forward: Nicolas Anelka (France) – It’s one thing to vent, but insulting your coach at half-time is never the smartest idea, no matter how much of a twit he may be. Refusing to apologise and being sent home, sparking an incident which turned  your team, if not your country, into a laughing stock? He’s not called ‘Le Sulk’ for nothing, folks.

Right forward: Yakubu (Nigeria) – How on earth did he miss this?

First substitute: Martín Demichelis (Argentina) – He adds that vital ingredient to any Calamity XI: in-fighting, following his taunting of John Terry’s performance against Germany. However, the colossal error against South Korea only earns him a bench spot, as it came in a 4-1 victory.

Second substitute: Abdelkader Ghazzal (Algeria) – Managed to get an even faster red card than Kewell, given his marching orders just 15 minutes after appearing as a substitute against Slovenia. Six minutes later, his team gave up a winning goal.

Third substitute: Wayne Rooney (England) – Went in with such high expectations and came out as the poster-child for the underperforming superstar at a World Cup. Having the excuse of an injury only saves him from a starting position here.

Coach: Raymond Domenech (France) – Most international coaches have either tactical nous or man-management skills capable of inspiring their players. Some have both. Domenech not only has neither, both could be considered weaknesses. He possesses luck, which kept him in his position after Euro 2008, but even that ran out in the end.

MUST-SEE: There was a game on last night, believe it or not. Yes, it was a relatively inconsequential game, but it was nonetheless highly entertaining. Both teams came from behind to lead and Thomas Müller and Diego Forlán each scored their fifth goal of the tournament, the latter’s absolutely top-class. Here are the highlights on the SBS website, and if you’re reading this sometime in the future, this link to the FIFA website may last longer.

EYEBROW-RAISER: Nelson Mandela’s attendance at the closing ceremony is in doubt, so FIFA officials have apparently decided Morgan Freeman is good enough. By that logic, I could achieve my life’s dreams by selling my soul to Al Pacino.

TONIGHT: In case you’ve been living under The Rock, you’re aware that Spain plays the Netherlands in the final. Two teams that have impressed sufficiently without ever really setting the world on fire, which presumably means they truly are the best two if they can beat everyone else while still in third gear. Both teams have only a reserve player injured so will play first-choice lineups. Pedro, despite a glory-hunting disaster in the semi-final, is expected to start again over the man he should have passed to, Fernando Torres, while Nigel de Jong returns for the Netherlands following suspension. The Dutch should switch Arjen Robben to the left and Dirk Kuyt to the right, according to Wolverhampton manager Mick McCarthy, in order to counter the attacking threat of Sergio Ramos, who tops the Castrol rankings. (As an aside, does it say more about this World Cup or the rankings that the top five are all defenders?) If English referee Howard allows Mark van Bommel to get away with booting the Spanish creators into the stands, the Netherlands could spring a surprise, but with the strongest defence, the world’s leading playmakers and the Golden Boot favourite in David Villa, Spain is the popular pick. This is a resilient Dutch team, however. Hard to call, so we’ll stick with Paul – but only in the prolongation: Netherlands 1-2 Spain a.e.t.

Evan Harding is co-producer of The Contenders Daily Bite, a daily World Cup short which can be seen on Tribal Football. A Master of Global Communication student at La Trobe University, he is an upstart editor armed with a month’s supply of coffee and a Spanish chance to still make back the money lost on an ill-conceived bet. Previous World Cup columns can be found here.