Ageism: 35 Mundial years added
Pallor: Yellow (all those madcap Swedes on the morning train from Frankfurt)
Forecast: Penalties (I’ve got a feeling)
Coming off the train in Munich, there was a hellacious din in the station. It’s another one of those Germany days at this World Cup. Win here, and the place will go nuts. Lose, and the air will go out of this tournament faster than you can say “gesundheit!”
But enough of that. This is different: a footy post.
Off the first round, here’s my all-star XI for this tournament so far – or at least, the XI that have most caught my eye (send along yours in the comments, if you like):
Goalkeeper: Edwin van der Sar (Holland)
Buffon of Italy only was beaten by an own goal he had no chance on, and Switzerland’s Zuberbuehler has three clean sheets. But I give it to van der Sar: a tougher group and although he hasn’t had a lot to do, he did make some good saves and only a scintillating goal from Ivory Coast’s Kone got by him.
|Switzerland's Phillippe Senderos: gotta love it.|
Defence: Philipp Lahm (Germany), Phillipe Senderos (Switzerland), Fabio Cannavaro (Italy), Carlos Puyol (Spain).
Lahm’s been a revelation here. Senderos caught my eye with that goal against South Korea, a header that split his face open -- gotta love that stuff. Cannavaro is a rock, and Puyol couldn’t beat his grandmother in a 100-yard dash – but he’s smart, had Shevchenko waving the white flag with his rugged marking and of course he’s got that classic 70s rocker 'do, although I'm not quite sure which one (Daltrey? Jimmy Page?).
Midfield: Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina), Michael Essien (Ghana), Kaka (Brazil), Tomas Rosicky (Czech Republic).
Riquelme is the best player here so far, although I picked Klose in the petroleum-based product edition as the MVP (I don’t believe in the best player as MVP all the time). Essien is just a hard-as-nails player who willed his team past Czech Republic and United States in their last two games – shame he’s going to miss the second-rounder because of a very dubious second yellow card from Markus Merk, No. 1A to Graham Poll’s 1 as worst refereeing job . Kaka has played the major midfield role for Brazil. Rosicky impressed me enough in that opener to look beyond the Czech Republic’s early exit in a difficult group.
|Klose to Podolski: Well struck, mate!.|
Forwards: Miroslav Klose (Germany), Fernando Torres (Spain).
Klose is top class. No wonder Werder Bremen is telling the big sides to stay away from him. Torres plays with a great deal of determination to go with quality.
Substitutes: Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi (Argentina), Luis Figo (Portugal).
Tevez’s gorgeous goal against Serbia & Montenegro will be shown on highlight reels for years to come. His teammate Messi is the brightest young star here. Figo isn't as fleet as he once was, but he’s playing with a lot of hunger and commitment and he can still turn it on when he has to, witness the setup on Portugal’s goal against Angola.
Germany 2, Sweden 0. I’m here for this one at Allianz Arena, where it’s 28C and sunny two hours before kickoff. Turns out to be a pretty one-sided win for the hosts, two goals from Lu-kas! Po-dol-ski! in the first 12 minutes, Teddy Lucic sent off for Sweden when Klose runs right at him and all the defender can do is trip him, and Henrk Larsson firing a penalty high into the stands.
Argentina 2, Mexico 1 (extra time). I was on the train when this one went down, following it via text messages and email. Sigh. Maxi Rodriguez, yet another good one on this deep team, scored in the extra period.
England vs Ecuador. Well, it’s crunch time for the English and here comes an upset possibility in a well-rested and eager La Tri. Left winger Edison Mendeza is pretty slick and England’s right-side duo of Beckham and Hargreaves could be in for a long day. Over on the other side, the Joe Cole can turn the Ecuador defence. The wall looms for England either here or next round off the form they’ve shown. I think they’ll sneak by once more, but it’s no cinch. England 1, Ecuador 0.
Portugal vs Netherlands. On paper and form, this is the second round’s best matchup and it should be a real thriller, both teams liking to come forward. Portugal knocked the Dutch out of Euro 2004 at home, and the Dutch may well start Dirk Kuyt instead of sputtering Ruud van Nistlerooy. Tough call. I think this one’s going to penalties. Portugal 2, Netherlands 2 aet (Netherlands win on penalties).