Ageism: 38 Mundial years added (easy day yesterday, only one year added)
Forecast: Partly cloudy, cooler
There’s a definite shift at the World Cup once this round of games begin. Up until now it’s all about parties. Then it turns serious, the focus shifting to the field of play. Today it’s Italy, halting so far, against Australia, a mild surprise that has a long shot of winning here. And the setting is beautiful – Fritz-Walter-Stadion, named for the former German soccer great who led them to the 1954 World Cup, up on a hill that’s called a mountain, with a great view of the city below.
But it can be a tough place to get to. After the craziness getting out of here last time following that wild Italy-USA game, we took no chances. Along with Rob Longley of the Sun and Stephen Brunt of the Globe, we hired a Frankfurt cab driver to bring us over here and take us home. Instead of a near two-hour ride on a packed train, it was a 45-minute straight shot down the highway – not the full-out Autobahn,
|An elbow to the face? Or the thought of taking the train again?|
According to Alex, 90 per cent of the speeding tickets here are given out via photo radar, and police tend to turn a blind eye to excessive speed. I never quite believed that there is no speed limit here, and Alex insists there is (50 km/h in the city, 90 on the next up level of roads and 130 on the highway, he said). I sure didn’t notice any. It felt like we arrived here before we left.
And the best thing? Alex really, really wants to get back to Frankfurt in time for the Ukraine-Switzerland game at 9 p.m. local time tonight. That’s what I like. A motivated driver. Go Alex! Go Ukraine! And goodbye, train station!
Italy 1, Australia 0. Pregame: Interesting lineup note out of the Azzurri: Luca Toni starts and out of form Francesco Totti sits. That makes three natural forwards in today's starting lineup for Italy (Toni, Del Piero and Gilardino). For the Aussie, Harry Kewell sits with a groin injury.
Postgame: The first holy **** moment of the tournament, as a colleague here put it. Italy go down to 10 men when Materazzi, in for the injured Nesta, is sent off rather harshly for a challenge on Aussie winger Bresciano. Cannavaro magnificent in defence all day, and Buffon turns back a few tough chances -- but Aussie never really looks like able to score. And the moment comes in three minutes of stoppage time at end of second half, when Grosso chases down a high ball in the corner, turns Bresciano who falls down and then in the area, Aussie defender Lucas Neill's splay-legged tackle brings down Grosso. Spanish referee points immediately to the spot -- tough call, but it was very clumsy from Neill -- stadium goes absolutely nuts. Then it's Totti, out of form Totti, to take the penalty, after coming in as a sub for the invisible Del Piero wtih 15 minutes to go. He scores, place goes absolutely absolutely nuts. The first holy **** moment of the tournament. We make our way down the hill surrounded by stunned fans, turn right and right on schedule there's our driver Alex waving at us, which is another kind of moment. At 7:45, we're on the road back to Frankfurt and Alex is hitting 160 and getting warmed up. At 7:50 he hits 200. He really wants to get home, our Alex.
Ukraine 0, Switzerland 0 (Ukraine wins 3-0 on penalties). Swiss miss! After Shevchenko made like chicken Kiev and missed the first one, Swiss shank three and the Ukrainians make all theirs. So it's Italy vs. the Ukraine on Friday night in Hamburg, with a semifinal spot on the line: edge to the Azzurri.
Brazil v Ghana. This somehow got eaten by The Man, so I'll just mention the predicted score. Can't see Ghana without Essien winning this one, but you know they'll always try. Brazil 3, Ghana 1.
Spain vs France. Spanish have too much for aging French, but it will be closer than first glance would indicate. Spain 3, France 2.