Upstart takes on the World (Cup): Day 5

15 June 2010

Written by: Evan Harding

Yesterday, this little black duck managed to get through a whole column without mentioning the V-word or the J-word. Sadly, that won’t continue today as complaints against the vuvuzela and Jabulani step up a notch.

The BBC is apparently working on a horn-free (and therefore atmosphere-free) feed from the matches in South Africa in response to complaints from viewers, while organising committee big cheese Danny Jordaan said he would consider a ban on the instrument. Should we in Australia also lose the symbolic sound of the 2010 World Cup, it would at least be a welcome respite from the constant, deafening bleating about vuvuzelas. As someone who lives near a busy road can attest, background noise can be tuned out. People whingeing about said noise cannot.

Meanwhile, England defender Jamie Carragher has suggested that Germany has an advantage in the tournament due to the Jabulani ball being introduced to Bundesliga clubs sponsored by adidas back in February. Australians can now immediately seize upon this as an excuse for the 4-0 battering at the hands of Joachim Löw’s men on Monday morning. What we will hear on Sunday morning should the Socceroos be again outclassed by Ghana is anyone’s guess.

Carragher, of course, does have a point, with many crosses flying over the heads of strikers and keepers’ kick-ins ending up in the arms of their opposing numbers.

I haven’t seen anyone get a free-kick over the wall yet.  It just seems to sail straight over the bar [if it does clear the wall],’ he says.

Sometime between midnight and 2am we will see just how correct Carragher is when the world’s finest at the art of preening (and apparent free-kick expert) makes his first appearance of the tournament.

If Cristiano Ronaldo can’t even get a free-kick on target then perhaps the ball is to blame for the lack of scoring from anything other than a colossal error by a defender or goalkeeper.

Two more were added to the list last night. The early game saw Danish defender Simon Poulsen’s misjudged header end up in his own net after deflecting off teammate Daniel Agger’s back – the first own goal of the tournament – on the way to a 2-0 defeat to the Netherlands. The red-eye match saw another gaffe from Paraguayan ‘keeper Justo Villar, who attempted to punch a Simone Pepe corner but missed completely, leaving Daniele De Rossi the opportunity to rescue a 1-1 draw for Italy. Paraguay had earlier led through Antolin Alcaraz, giving headline writers the world over an easy day’s work, a gift also provided by Keisuke Honda who ‘drove’ Japan to a 1-0 win over Cameroon.

MUST-SEE: Yes, it’s re-living the most unfortunate match of the tournament for Australian fans, but there’s just something about Lego re-creations that can make even the most turgid piece of nonsense seem just that little bit cooler. (Turgid? Uh-oh, that just might make me a massive douche.)

EYEBROW-RAISER: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – we must call it that following orders from coach Kim Jong-hun – is an entertaining sideshow. Their star, Jong Tae-se, is nicknamed ‘The People’s Rooney’, yet The Age suggests he acts like Beckham. He considers himself more like Didier Drogba. Which is it? Meanwhile, the coach had this to say when asked if he had seen his southern neighbours’ 2-0 victory over Greece:

‘The first objective is for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to get through the first round. The second objective is to go as far as possible in the tournament.’

Oh, denial. Don’t you just love it?

REASON TO CHEER ON NEW ZEALAND: Not to harp on the underdog factor, but have you ever come across a no-hoper and didn’t wish they could somehow beat the odds? In rugby, New Zealand is Australia’s enemy. In cricket, New Zealand is irrelevant. But in soccer, Australia and New Zealand are brothers in arms. And there’s something you have to love about a team that goes out in the 3-4-3 usually only reserved for that desperate last push for an equaliser.

REASON TO CHEER AGAINST NEW ZEALAND: Hang on, they might be better than Australia! Brothers they may be, but nobody said anything about outdoing the Socceroos…

TONIGHT: At this rate it may have already started by the time you read it, but the All Whites’ first World Cup match since 1982 is on at 9:30 against Slovakia, themselves making an uncommon appearance, in fact their first since splitting from the Czechs. For either team to make any impact in South Africa, they must win here so expect an attacking and hopefully entertaining contest, despite the scoreline: New Zealand 0-1 Slovakia. Le premier match du Côte d’Ivoire est à minuit, contre Portugal. The team that officially is referred to by its French name was to have been without striker Didier Drogba, but then Denmark should have been sans-Bendtner last night. The Chelsea frontman is back alongside many other names familiar to European football fans: Kolo and Yaya Touré, Salomon Kalou and Emmanuel Eboué. Another of Africa’s great hopes to progress face Team Cristiano, shorn of Nani after the Manchester United winger ludicrously injured himself performing a bicycle-kick in training. Another must-win for both sides, with Brazil expected to top this Group of Death, but this could end in a stalemate: Côte d’Ivoire 1-1 Portugal. And finally, it’s the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea looking to Democratically make the People of the Republic proud, not to mention the Dear Leader. Don’t count on it, Kim: Brazil 3-0 DPR Korea.

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 an ill-conceived $50 bet on France at 18-1. Previous World Cup columns can be found here.