Italy 0 Costa Rica 1
Get up at 2:53am, and one choc ripple biscuit later I feel that I’m getting better at this business. I find that Costa Rica are 1-0 up against Italy and this serves to reinforce the fact that no one knows what’s going to happen even if we have a reasonable idea of what we think should happen; but the important thing to note here is that most of us aren’t getting paid to make such predictions, so to paraphrase Ari from Christos Tsiolkas’ Loaded, punditry is a scam, a bullshit, a piece of crock. Where is the visible sign of consequences for getting it wrong? They’re nowhere to be found, of course, and maybe we need an annual or biennial or triennial audit of pundits across every field, sporting, political, entertainment, set up league tables with relegation and promotion so we can keep track of who’s reliable and who isn’t. A player performs badly, he’s a chance to get benched or sacked; a minister cocks up enough times and its off to the backbench, maybe, or they’ll at least get an editorial cartoon or sketch on The Roast highlighting their idiocy; if I put money on black and it comes up red I lose my wager. If a pundit gets it wrong, it’s off to a commercial break, off to the next newspaper column with only rival ideological armies in the comments section baiting each other almost indefinitely, like the Arm and Core factions in Total Annihilation, a 4,000 year long war which laid waste to an entire galaxy. Then again, why should they be singled out when the FIFA rankings system is still in use? Italy start the second half looking unlike Italy, they’re rushing and it doesn’t suit them, and soon stop, but Costa Rica manage to hold their own, and Italy can only manage a couple of long range shots on target, spending the rest of the match putting in dud crosses. Costa Rica hold on for the win, qualifying for the next round, knocking out England, setting up Italy vs Uruguay as a playoff for the second round, and retaining for a few days longer the Unofficial Football World Champions title they took off Uruguay last week. A reasonably productive afternoon’s work.
Switzerland 2 France 5
In the quiet time between the end of the previous game, with nothing to watch except NASCAR, the bad music the kids are listening to these days and which is not as good as the music I was listening to when I was their age, and the deepening crisis in Iraq courtesy of Al Jazeera, there are also other noises which come into play. Pipes start rattling, fridges are buzzing, clocks are ticking and the next arrival at Tullamarine threatens to peel off a few more tiles from the top of our roof. Apart from Switzerland’s Steve Von Bergen getting his cheek smashed in with potential permanent damage to his left eye – and as someone with a non-functioning left eye thanks to a winning ticket in the genetic lottery, I seriously hope he’s OK – nothing of note happened. Then the Swiss didn’t man up Giroud from a corner and so he opened the scoring, and the team in red must have forgotten to take their recommended daily dose of chlorophyll because 66 seconds later they were down 2-0. The Swiss missed a glorious chance at their own end, coughed up a penalty which the French butchered twice, but it wasn’t long before France scored its third goal, a sequence of play which looked like it came straight out of Sensible Soccer; a corner at one end cleared quickly and turned into a counter attack, with a long ball to a loose winger with acres of space ahead of him, and a pass to the back post for the easy tap in. The French add a couple more after halftime, and to reinforce the point that no pundit, whether former Socceroo and Sydney Croatia talking head or early morning armchair expert, knows what’s going to happen, the old man says that the Swiss won’t score, and ends up in Pim Verbeek territory when the Swiss score twice towards the end of the game. I suppose I can excuse my dad, because he wouldn’t be familiar with the poet John Forbes’ line that ‘rich cakes, finance and guest workers sustain the Swiss’, and as such the sons of immigrants – who have scored all of the Helvetians’ goals so far this tournament – were always a chance of at least getting their team on the board. But instead of all of these things which I’ve just mentioned, let’s all give a round of applause to the referee – who the commentator told us owns three supermarkets, but neglected to mention his hair studio – who decided he wanted to be a part of this contest as well, and blew the final whistle just before Benzema scored what should have been France’s sixth goal.
Honduras 1 Ecuador 2
All things considered, this was the worst game of the tournament if you wanted to watch football that was competent. The passing was frantic and erratic, like the opening ten minutes of a Victorian State League 1 match, before everyone tires. The shooting was wild, and the defending unstructured and mediocre. But at least it was exciting, with both teams looking to attack, and with an Ecuadorian dominated crowd who created a magnificent atmosphere, sounding like they were pleased to be there, living every moment of the match to the fullest. Honduras’ Carlo Costly, who’d been chewing something brilliantly blue in his mouth for the entire game – I couldn’t tell if was chewing gum or a fishing lure it was so lurid – opened the scoring when a lucky deflection fell his way, and smashing a low hard shot that skimmed above the surface, and perhaps Honduras, who had never won a world cup finals match were about to break their duck. Enter Enner Valencia, who capitalised on the sleepy Honduran defence soon after Costly’s goal, sidling in at the back post for an easy tap in. Late in the game, Valencia scored the winner, a header from another over-elaborate set piece routine, which ended up being rather simple – cross comes in, defender who’s been holding attacker down beforehand let’s go; attacker jumps, heads the ball, and scores.
Photo by AC Moraes taken from Flickr.