Ageism: 42 Mundial years added (quadruple play yesterday: a day, a match, a T-shirt and that penalty decision)
Forecast: Waves of gold and green
On the way to Dortmund and Brazil-Ghana later this morning. German TV, meantime, is pretty wooden: On both networks that have TV rights to the World Cup, they each feature the same approach: a bunch of men sitting around a table, talking. If this were Italy, Spain or Portugal, some large-breasted woman would be there as an ornament, but here it's all serious and sober and aggressively male. They talk. They show a replay. Then come back and talk some more. They show a replay.
|Agony for Aussies.|
But let's go on. Here's some reaction to that stoppage-time penalty in the Italy-Australia game, a decision that on the scale that's at work around here with the refereeing, was nowhere near as blatant a miscall as the earlier red card on Materazzi, at least in my mind (oh, and if you're keeping score at home, our driver Alex hit 220 km/h in the Merc on the way back from K-Town, while I'm in the back seat posting to the blog. Way cool, that).
First, here's Socceroos coach Guus Hiddink who, amazingly, didn't think it was a penalty (and makes the telling point that his team didn't do well with that one-man advantage, failing to take the game wide and squandering their edge in possession):
'Even when Materazzi was on the park we controlled parts of the game and then when we were sent off, we assumed full control,' he said.
'Then we fully dominated against a team that is much more highly ranked than us, before we got caught out in the last minute and if you see the replay there is no doubt it wasn't a penalty.'
Hiddink's counterpart Marcello Lippi takes the other side (surprise, that):
'There were two fouls on him. He didn't go down under the first and he carried on dribbling and then sustained another clear foul.
'Why?' he asked the news conference. 'Does anyone have any doubts about the penalty?'
Here's Australia's The Age:
The Socceroos are out because of a woeful refereeing decision, but they are not the only team to claim that. Spanish official Jose Medina Cantalejo, the same man who adjudicated the play-off against Uruguay in Sydney last November, was sucked in by a piece of amateur theatrics from Italian full-back Fabio Grosso in the 93rd minute.
There will surely be questions concerning the decision taken by the match referee, Luis Medina Cantalejo of Spain, with the additional three minutes all but expired. Fabio Grosso, Italy's left back, had taken the ball past Marco Bresciano and into the opposing penalty area when he found himself confronted by Lucas Neill, the rock of the three-man Australian rearguard. When Neill, anticipating a move to the byline, thrust out his right leg, Grosso jinked to the right before tumbling over the defender's fallen body. There seemed no intent to foul or even to make an illegal obstruction, but as Grosso went down, Senor Medina went for his whistle.
Brazil 3, Ghana 0. It's pouring rain and a touch chilly here, the first time at this tournament there's been conditions like that.
Pregame: Now it's just a drizzle. Team sheets contain no surprises: Forwards Asamoah Gyan and Sulley Muntari return for Ghana from suspension, and Emmanuel Pappoe is in at left back for Habib Mohamed. Michael Essien is on the bench on suspension. For Brazil, Robinho is out with an injury.
Postgame: Brazil flexes their muscles against a dead-game Black Stars team that, at least in the opening hour, gives them plenty of headaches. Ronaldo passes Mueller to stand alone atop the World Cup goal-scoring parade with his 15th, Adriano adds one in stoppage time of the first half, and Ze Roberto, who had a great game, wraps it up late. Other highlights: Cafu, at 35 the oldest on the side, running miles in the second half down the right side, Kaka (again) with some really nice passing and in goal, and Dida in goal, having a huge game, but his best save appeared purely accidental on a point-blank John Mensah header that ricocheted off both his legs and went out late in the first half -- a chance that might have changed the shape of the game, if not the outcome.
France 3, Spain 1. It's all over but the Fabregas for the Spanish, heartbreakers again. Tied 1-1 with seven minutes to go till time, and suddenly it's the earlybird special at the rest home, and every man for himself: Patrick Veiera scores, then Zidane seals it, and France and Brazil are headed to a rematch of the '98 final in Saturday's late quarterfinal in Frankfurt. I don't think they have a hope there, but they have come back over the past game and a half to redeem what looked like a lost tournament, with Barthez in goal, yet.