Walking out of the train station here one is presented with a more ominous vibe than at this World Cup so far. According to the local papers there’s 25,000 Polish fans and 5,000 police here. Many of them seem to be congregating nearby, and even now, seven hours before kickoff, the city’s like a giant tailgate party, all power chugging and meat on a stick - but none of the horn-blowing exuberance we're used to here.
On the main street the police have set up a sort of welcome paddy wagon, a couple of speakers out blaring Christina Aguilera. One German fan is talking to them as I go by. Everybody else steers clear.
At the lunch place, I order the “Big Potato. Hot and strong baked. Warm and filling.” Sounds like just the stuff for this kind of day.
Everything about this place feels different than the usual Planet Football cosiness encountered so far. Maybe it’ll be like the Chief of Police here says and nothing will happen. And just before sitting down to lunch, a group of Polish fans had their pictures taken, arm in arm, with some of their German counterparts. But the hoolies have been text messaging each other for some time about hooking up here.
Meantime, the high-speed train bringing us up here reached 300 km/h, which is about 299 1/2 km/h more than my brain is working after a week here. Tonight it’s Germany vs Poland, a matchup that needs little introduction. Poland has never beaten Germany. If that holds tonight, it could well get nasty afterward.
|German police made a few arrests prior to the Group A match between Germany and Poland, but overall things were pretty quiet in Dortmund in the hours leading up to the game.|
UPDATE: The city centre got a little more festive as the day went on, with a percussion trio playing, an accordionist and lots of hand clasps between fans, who showed up in droves and helped brighten the mood. Still, reports of 40 arrests of hooligans give you an idea of the back story here.
Meantime, here’s the usual daily dose:
Spain 4, Ukraine 0. Shevchenko plays, but doesn't do much. Raul does not play and his replacement, La Liga second-leadeing scorer David Villa, scores twice. I like Villa and I like this team with Raul coming in as a sub. As opening statements go, this was about as positive as it could be for Spain.
Tunisia 2, Saudi Arabia 2. Africa's still winless here, as Tunisia goes ahead, falls behind in the 84th minute then snatch the equalizer 2+ minutes into stoppage time. This is probably the least-watched game of the tournament, at least from a media and TV standpoint: FIFA releases figures of media ticket waiting lists beforehand, and it ranges from a handful to almost 600 for Brazil's opener on Tuesday night. But this one? None.
Germany 1, Poland 0. Sub Oliver Neuville finally got one by Poland 'keeper Artur Boruc to end a pulsating night. There's mayhem in some parts of the city too, but police roadblocks and barriers keep the road from the stadium to the train station open. Flares and dancing in the strets otherwise. Neuville's goal is in injury time and puts Germany at 2-0 and carrying some serious momentum.
Ecuador v Costa Rica. Roasted guinea pig, or gallo pinto? Going with the piglets. Ecuador 3, Costa Rica 2.
England v Trinidad & Tobago. Still Rooneyless, the English might score a goal of their own one of these games. England 2, Trinidad & Tobago 0.
Sweden v Paraguay. Swedes fought hardest in the dressing room after surprise draw in opener. Surely they can do better. Sweden 2, Paraguay 1.