Ageism: 32 Mundial years added (triple play yesterday: one game, one match, a T-shirt and something I forgot from Goppingen: a sliding cow in a vial. I don't know how else to describe it, just a little cow thingy in a vial of liquid that slides up and down as you tilt it. J.E. Skeets was asking for something small from here, if it was possible -- J.E., I do believe this is it).
Pallor: Gold, red and green
Forecast: Cloudy and cool (Yay!)
On my way to Nuremberg, it came as a bit of a shock: The train was delayed an hour. So the trains don’t always run on time here. Fancy that.
|Rajabhat Ayuthaya University team players play a friendly againt a team of elephants near Bangkok, Thailand. The match was held as a campaign against illegal gambling during the World Cup. But seriously, 10 Euros on Beckham's side.|
But the news of the 60-minute delay got me going back, down the Kaiserstrasse, the main drag out of the train station and the place for Frankfurt’s desultory red-light district: home of the Dolly Buster, Sex World and Beate Uhse International, a cardboard cutout of an almost lifelike naked woman holding a soccer ball in the window. A more seedy block would be hard to find.
When I got back, the bet shop three blocks from the station had just opened. For the first time I was greeted as a regular – degenerate gamblers speak a universal language. “Fussball there,” said one earlybird, pointing to the other side of the room where a stack of fresh sheets lay.
Well, Kuopio PS are heavy favourites in Finland, and FC Dundalk is 1-to-5 in Ireland -- I'll pass, thanks. I found the Weltmeisterschaft and took the sheet over to the spiky-haired fellow working the window. I wanted Ghana and the Czechs to win – 5 euros apiece – and asked for the latest odds. He looked them up on the computer: Ghana were a shade under 6-to-5. That’s good enough. He punched the ticket. Then came the Czechs – Tschechien, as they're called here.
“There,” he said, pointing at the number. 4.00, it read – 3-to-1 odds, the Germans having that annoying habit of including your dollar in the figure on the board.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, his eyes as wide as mine. “I think I also play them.”
“Is good, no?”
“Yes. Is very good. Everybody bet Italy. But Milan Baros is back, Jan Koller too. Tschechien is good.”
|Italy will have their hands full with the "Czech-Men".|
“Make it 20 euros,” I said.
He didn’t bat an eye, hitting the button with gusto. Like I said, degenerates speak a universal language. With the deficit at 15 euros to the bad no thanks to Monday's ill-fated try, it's time to get back in the black.
Back in the train station, I went to the Die Bahn office to make a reservation for the train back from Munich Saturday night, after the Germany-Sweden game. An old German man tried to butt into the line in front of me. “Nein!” I said, stepping in front of him -- hey, everybody else here would do the same, as I've noticed. We had a bit of a wait in line, and how the guy complained about that! I could still hear him grousing as I got the reservation.
I still had 45 minutes to kill, so I went back out to Kaiserstrasse and stopped at a kiosk to buy some gum. The fellow in the booth was working very slow indeed, so we had a bit of a wait. And the guy behind me starting singing in a thick German accent:
“He’s a real Nowhere Man
He’s a real Nowhere Man
He’s a real Nowhere, nowhere ma-a-n”
He sang this over and over. Either he didn't know the words, or didn't care.
I got my gum, and I turned to him. He was about 6-foot-5, wearing a red bandana and a nose ring. He had a dog on a leash who stood placidly at his side – a German shepherd, naturally.
After yesterday’s zombie walk, this was actually turning into a really good day, and I couldn’t resist. I sang right back to him:
"He’s a real Nowhere Man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for no-body.”
He brightened up. Smiled and nodded. “Yes,” he said. We shook hands, and I was off to the train station again, this time to wait for the train and Ghana-USA.
An overlay in the pocket. Nothing like it.
On to the usual:
Italy 2, Czech republic 0. Azzurri finish top of group with their most comprehensive effort yet against 10-man Czech team that's going home. Next up for Italy: runner up to Brazil Monday at 10 am in Toronto.
Ghana 2, USA 1. Ragged but intense game swings on terrible penalty call in stoppage time of first half, Stephen Appiah connecting on spot kick for the winner. Elation for Black Stars and their supporters, desolation for USA. Next up for Ghana, in their first finals, is mighty Brazil Tuesday at 10 am in Toronto. Said Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic on their opponent: "We will make them suffer." That'll be hard, with Michael Essien suspended for picking up his second yellow here.
Brazil 4, Japan 1. Ronaldo poaches one and grabs another with a turn and a shot to move into a tie with Gerd Mueller for the World Cup's all-time top scorer at 14 goals. Brazil caps an undefeated run through the group and now has to get ready for the Black Stars.
Croatia 2, Australia 2. Another surprise, the Aussies coming back here to earn a precious point that gives them second in the group and sets up a Monday date (10 a.m. in Toronto) with Italy -- and for those of you with not so long memories, Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink was the guy who masterminded South Korea's dispatch of the Azzurri four years ago. Well, him and the ref, according to some.
Ukraine vs Tunisia. Ukraine really should be playing to win this game, although a draw would probably see them through. Here’s Sheva: 'No way does it mean we'll be playing for a draw. I don't think any player who goes out ever plays for a draw because he knows how that can end up.” There’s nothing to be worried about on the other side of the grid for the next round, or here either. Expecting a couple from Shevchenko and one more for good measure against a shaky Tunisian defence. Ukraine 3, Tunisia 1.
Saudi Arabia vs Spain. Spain have clinched spot in second round and will probably rest a bunch. They still have a large class edge against one of the least impressive sides here relative to their resources. Spain 2, Saudi Arabia 0.
Switzerland vs South Korea. Co-leaders in the group: Winner finishes on top, but if it’s a draw Swiss advance on goal differential. There won’t be a lot of fireworks, but it should be tight, taut match. Tough call. Switzerland 1, South Korea 1.
Togo vs France. French need a win to have chance to go through and win by more than a couple if the other group game is a draw, and Mikael Silvestre goes in to the defence for this one. But they’re missing Zinedine Zidane (suspension) and they have been unconvincing. Thierry Henry got them their first finals goal since 1998 last out, but his other noteworthy contribution came in his ripping of young teammate Franck Ribery. Zidane will be missed, yes, but not Henry. Togo, meantime, are a shambles, but at least they got paid. France 1, Togo 0.