En route to MUNICH, Germany
Ageism: 23 Mundial years added (12 days, 7 matches, 3 souvenirs, 1 departure from
Pallor: Canary yellow
Forecast: Sunny and samba
Getting out of Kaiserslautern last night was a hideous mess from the time the whistle blew on Italy-USA to the moment I stepped off the train in Frankfurt, feeling ready to kiss the polished floor. But it was 3:30 a.m., and I’m sure my early-morning breath would’ve melted marble, so I demurred.
Kaiserslautern is a fabled place in German soccer, the stadium named for Fritz Walter, hero of the 1954 World Cup-winning West Germany side dubbed the Miracle of Bern (check out the 2003 film, it's great) and credited with delivering the first jolt of postwar positive news here. At the game, there was a moment’s silence in the memory of Walter, who died four years ago to the day. The stadium has quite a vantage point, up on a mountain, as it’s called, although it’s more like a very large hill looking down on the city.
After the 1-1 draw, it was gridlock outside the stadium. In a town of 107,000, smallest host city at the World Cup, imagine 46,000 people attending a sports event out at the town’s jewel, and there’s only one single-lane road leading down to the town. So we got out of the media bus after 10 minutes and about 30 feet covered, and walked. Twenty minutes later we were in town, which looked like the world’s biggest frat party had just ended. There was garbage everywhere, people passed out or looking glassy-eyed – there had been tens of thousands more without tickets, watching on the big screen in the centre of the city.
|The scene at the train station in Kaiserslautern before Italy-U.S. much more quiet than after the game.|
“This is dangerous!” I yelled at one of the officers standing back watching as we were swept inside the doors.
“Yes, I know!” he replied with a grin. Perfectly accented English, too.
The rest of it was pretty mundane, in a hectic, sardine-can kind of way: a jammed train platform, a mad sprint down to the other end to get to my car, a jammed train where I had to kick someone out of my reserved seat, and finally, setting up and writing a column on the laptop while the babble around never ceased, but at least everyone seemed relatively sober.
Nice place to visit, Kaiserslautern. But I wouldn’t want to get out of there again.
Now for the usual, as I roll down toward Brazil-Australia for today's dose of craziness:
Sunday’s games (will be updated)
Japan 0, Croatia 0. Their first points, but not a good outcome for either side, leaving them with needing a W in their final game to have a hope of advancing. Given the scoreline, you'd think otherwise, but there were some good chances.
Brazil 2, Australia 0. It's a sultry 30C under hot sun here, but the Brazilians wait until late to heat it up. Off that last half hour, out-of-sorts Ronaldo gone to the bench for most of it, I'd say yes, the Selecao have arrived and may well get better.
France v South Korea.
Togo v Switzerland. Another matchup of traditional rivals -- and what a matchup. Togo is considered Africa’s capital of magic and the Swiss make great clocks. I like the Togolese pair of Adebayor and Kader, but not so much coach Otto Pfister, first guy to ever coach a World Cup game wearing jeans, an open-neck shirt and a medallion around his neck. Frankly, I have no idea here but the Swiss didn’t particularly impress in their start, so let’s say a draw. Switzerland 1, Togo 1.
Saudi Arabia v Ukraine. You have to think Ukraine can show better here after getting bollocked by Spain and, later, their coach. Ukraine 2, Saudi Arabia 1.
Spain v Tunisia. Spanish flowed like sweetest Sangria in opener. This figures to be entertaining, but perhaps one-sided. Spain 3, Tunisia 1.
Quote of the Day
"I wasn't aiming at him, I was aiming at the bastard next to him." Brazil's Robinho, apologizing for kicking the ball at Brazil TV camera man.