Germany 2 Algeria 1
Who knows what the problem was, but I only managed to get up at about 7:00, so I completely missed the first half of this game. The Algerians wanted revenge for 1982, but more than that it seemed like the rest of the world wanted revenge for them. The Germans tried their best to accommodate Algeria and the world by not winning this game in normal time even as they turned the screws slowly and painfully during the second half; but eventually they cruised through, aside from the very late Algerian goal. In the end, while no one left this game happy, everyone left this game happy. The Germans got through, and the Algerians still had their pride.
Argentina 1 Switzerland 0
Let’s not kid ourselves: the arrival of free to air digital television in Australia has not meant better quality programming (of course), and it has not really meant that much better quality sound and picture quality (and this is not a hipster lament for test patterns and the snow show, just a plea for Seven to broadcast footy in HD); but it has meant that we now have more or less well established syndication, which means nothing for people who have lives to live, but is gold for people who are trying to delay living for a few more days or weeks or months or years or forever. Of course syndication means a ton of garbage too numerous to single out, but at least I got to watch the good episodes of Homicide (everything before the moronic Kellerman-Mahoney storyline) and the rest of Star Trek: Voyager without downloading them illegally, with all the ads as nature intended. Of course, quality control and self-discipline then become an issue, so after watching the daily Seinfeld repeats, you may very well end up watching, as I did, World’s Craziest Fools, and your very identity as a high art connoisseur of free TV then becomes tainted. Despite trying to excuse it because of the snappy writing, and the bizarre one joke novelty value of it being hosted by Mr T, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s an even more low rent Australia’s Funniest Home Videos, as various drunks, uncos and morons attempt to injure themselves in hilarious ways, and you’re sitting there mouth agape as your brain turns to mush, and the one bit of your brain that’s still functioning starts to wonder how did it come to this, but you keep sitting there, paralysed by fear and shame. Still, things could be worse – you could be Lionel Messi. Now, I know what you’re thinking – who wouldn’t want to be Lionel Messi? The near unsurpassed footballing talent of his generation, millions of dollars, the adoration of millions of people around the world, all while you waste your life on the couch eating junk food, your youth a distant memory, your present a perpetual decline into monotonous mediocrity, your future a series of generic embarrassments waiting to unfold. But that’s totally normal. On the other hand, Messi has an entire football crazed nation who’ve attached all their self-worth to what he does or doesn’t do, and what’s worse, Messi has to carry not just the nation but also a squad of capable but much less talented players on his shoulders as well, all while being constantly compared to Diego Maradona, the greatest player of all time according to people who were born after 1979. I get to this game at the start of extra time or thereabouts, and neither Argentina or Switzerland have scored, but eventually Argentina do with two minutes to play, and Messi’s in the middle of it somewhere of course. The Swiss throw everything forward and almost get that goal back, but really, like Mexico who were apparently robbed something shocking in the previous game, they’re here to fill out the numbers, a stepping stone on the way to finding out which of the usual suspects will take out the tournament.
Belgium 2 USA 1
Oh, to be a Belgian. Life must move so slowly at the centre of European and global bureaucracy. Being unable to decide whether to stay together or break apart, to move this way or that, to evolve or devolve, at one stage having no government for more than three years and somehow just floating on regardless without seemingly any dire consequences. If only real life worked that way, an anti-Zen and anti-ironic hipster rejection of purpose and meaning, where angst about the future becomes a question best left to necessity, or near unavoidable inevitability. The Belgians worked their way into countless scoring positions, but it took until the early part of extra time for them to finally achieve what should have been done in the original ninety minutes allotted to them, but that’s the public service for you, over time and over budget, all services and projects delivered or not delivered on their terms. The early extra time goal transforms the game, turning it from one way traffic to eight lane expressway, as both sides push forward with increasingly reckless abandon, and what was tedious transfixion became schoolyard hurly burly. The Belgians seemingly put this one beyond doubt with their second goal, but the Americans pulled one back and then it was a question of who would break first, Belgian waffle or American manifest destiny? The Belgians held on for what was psychologically a Pyrrhic victory.
Illustration of Mr T by Rakka taken from Flickr.