Ageism: 28 Mundial years added (one more day added from yesterday, plus a souvenir terrycloth Germany wristband that was handed out in Goppingen’s little Kornhausplatz where I watched the game)
Pallor: Red, green, gold and white
Forecast: Breezy, cloudy, light rain
Yesterday I was in Goppingen (for the column off that day, go here), Juergen Klinsmann’s hometown, about half an hour down the train tracks from Stuttgart (Wikipedia notes that the Germany coach made a short-lived, secret comeback in 2003 for a Southern California developmental league team, putting his name down as “Jay Goppingen”).
The town itself is pretty small, about 25,000, and 4,000 or so were at the Konhausplatz watching the game on a big-screen TV. It was the usual scene of flags and face paint and cheers. But away from the games and the cheering, what’s been most noticeable here is that as the Germany team has done well, people really seem to have loosened up with each victory.
There was a lot of apprehension here two weeks ago about how they would do – they’re doing very well, and with the home-country advantage building I’d put them right up there with Argentina, Spain and yes, maybe even Brazil as teams I think have played well enough or have enough back class to indicate they could win this thing.
Perhaps it was the small-town atmosphere away from the big cities on game days, but Goppingen seemed an especially friendly place. I nipped into a stationary store to buy a notepad. As usual it was baking hot – that’s the other story here, the sultry weather arriving on opening day and it really hasn’t left, and one of the things I also did yesterday was get a haircut just to have a little less up top in the way of insulation --and my shirt was soaked through with sweat. The woman at the cash spoke no English, but she gave me this worried look and abruptly ran off. She re-appeared a minute later with a bottle of water and poured me a cup, then another. Now that is service with a smile.
On to today’s usual:
Netherlands 0, Argentina 0. Dreary. Argentina wins group, face Mexico in second round. Dutch to face
Holland Portugal (thanks Pete) in what looks like a pretty tasty one.
Ivory Coast 3, Serbia & Montenegro 2. Comeback consolation win for the Ivorians.
Portugal 2, Mexico 1. Roof closed at Verlins-Arena, although that rain I mentioned earlier had gone by the time the game started (they're worried about shadows for the TV pictures, msotly). Mexican fans on the train are pretty cool about it, despite missing a penalty and playing with 10 men for the final half hour. Portugal finish top of group and they haven't lost yet -- they're playing very well and whoever they get next it should be a good one.
Iran 1, Angola 1. I didn't see this, but it caps a very good tournament for Angola -- two draws and a bare 1-0 defeat to former colonial master Portugal.
Czech Republic vs Italy. Italy’s in a tight spot, needing a draw to be assured of advancing and will be playing it cagey here. Fabio Cannavaro, in the Guardian: “We have to start to be the cynical Italians. The secret to going a long way in the tournament is to … rediscover some of the typical defensive approach found in Italian football culture.” Uh-oh. Italy 0, Czech Republic 0.
Ghana vs USA. USA need to win coupled with an Italy win. That’s too tough an exactor against Michael Essien & Co., who looked pretty good last out. Ghana 2, United States 1.
Japan vs Brazil. Japan have a very outside shot, but they need to win by a bunch and get help from Croatia. Ain’t going to happen against a Brazil side that has yet to flash its best but are still unbeaten. Brazil 3, Japan 0.
Croatia vs Australia. This should be a doozy, Croatia needing a win to go through and Aussies just after a draw. Give Oz the slight edge due to that guy in the coach’s box, Hiddink. But really, this could go either way. Australia 1, Croatia 1.