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Pierre's World Cup Diary


Ah, a good game ahead of us: even-matched, exciting, and featuring Ukraine's great Shevchenko...

1... Torrid action right off as one team wants to prove that it's not the universal underachiever it's historically been (Spain) and the other proves why the old USSR teams were really Ukraine's talent through and through...

2... First Spanish attack, dribbled past the far post. Big question of the match: How long will it take commentators to use the word "armada"? (I just got it out of the way for this site's sake.

4... Ukraine free kick, nicely shot into the area, but headed out by a Unkrainian with a name as long as the Volga.

5... Anothe Spanish attack, weaved into the Ukraine area for a clear and a corner... this game has pace.

It may be 92 degrees in Leipzig, but this game has started fiercely for both sides, fabulously for fans: we need a good game, after a run of somewhat sub-par performances (including yesterday's overweight and underperforming Brazil debut). One advantage in this match: neither team is the overwhelming favorite, both teams have a chance at dark-horse status.

10... Nice bit of yelling and screaming from the coaches on the sideline... A look at Ukraine's qualifying group gives you an idea of nthe strength of European football: virtually any team in Ukraine's group, except maybe the Kasakz, had a claim on making it through.

Marcos Senna just took one of those long-distance, wonderful shots on goal, missed by almost nothing... Corner...


13... Excellent corner from Xavi, Garcia at the near post soars, heads it in, 1-0 Spain.

16..... spain again! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!

Ukraine's Rusol took down Mariano Pernia just outside the Ukraine box, the Ukrainian got himself a yellow, the Spaniards got themselves a direct kick, and David Villa took it, lifting a rocket above the Ukrainian wall and sending it to the northeast corner of the goal, well past a diving, dying goalkeeper. 2-0

This is great football. No, it's not that Ukraine has fallen apart, it's that in Spain we're seeing the best-gelled, most attack-minded side we've yet seen in this World Cup: Spain is out to win, no French-English-Brazilian equiovocation about it. Finally! football unbound. Philip Roth must be thrilled.

24..., And another couple of Spain attacks, one sloppily misfired in a penalty box full of Big-Bird-ruffled Ukrainians, the other smothered by the keeper, who's filed a request for overtime pay already. The official scoring shows ball possession merely at 57 percent in Spain's favor. Don't believe it. It's been 98 percent, the other 2 percent having to do with Spain conceding Ukranian possessions to catch its breath.

27... Now we can say that Ukraine is literally falling apart: Ukrainian player takes long pass all the way to edge of Spain box, then trips on his own ball. Turn-over. Spain again... but not for long. Ukraine on the ball at midfield...

28... Nice brief sign of life from Ukraine... a little give and go in Spain's half, but ...Ukraine crosses into the Spanish box are just that: crosses bearing Ukraine's crucifixion...

39... The game has slowed a bit on Spain's half, Ukraine is not taking advantage... They are playing as if they had something corky and swelling-prone in regions of their bodies that are best left undescribed...

40... Laser-pass to a Spain player rushing onto goal, broken up by Ukraine.

42... Good chance for Ukraine broken up by another one of those criminally wrong off-side rulings. Damn it. FIFA's line judges in this World Cup have turned into little rogue militias with too much myopia and too little restraint. Could it be that FIFA's referee ranks have been infiltrated byu neo-cons?

Half-time... half-time fun:

If the loo isn't beckoning too insistently: Remember the famous "Match of Death" played in Kiev in 1942, pitting the Germany army against the Ukraine's footballers? The game has been mythologized and falsified quite a bit. It's worth re-living, and correcting the record. James Riordan does a nice job retelling the story of the Match of Death in this piece (requires Acrobat reader)...

For Ukraine, here's the question: where's Rusol (other than landing himself yellows?) Where's Gusin? For that matter, where has Shevchenko been all game? Yes they're being outplayed by a wonderful display of on-point football the likes of which Iberia hasn't produced in the last, oh, half millennium, but since when have you heard of Ukrainians being intimidayed by anything, and anyone? That's the surprise in this match: the unevenness--not to take anything away from the superior beauty of the Spaniards.


disaster for Ukraine! dISASTROUS CALL BY THE REF! David villa of Spain was rushing into the Ukraine box, with Vashchuk on his flank, Villa gets off a shot that the keeper saves, he then tumbles over, but only from his own shot's momentum. Vashchuk barely breathed on him. But Vashchuk is red-carded. Villa is awarded a penalty shot. And Villa makes it 3-0. It is the first penalty kick in World Cup 2006: 48 minutes into the 15th game.

54... A cloud is wafting over the Ukrainian side, and it's got the Chernenko effect colored all over it...

57... Ukraine, playing a man down and two hearts short now, leaving the door open for more Spanish goals. A Ukraine throw-in in Spain's half results in an immediate turn-over. So it has gone. Ukraine is down to playing the pass-back game with its keeper who, if anything, needs a break.

60... Spain are being given Wyoming-size real estate to do their thing... But Voronin of Ukraine just took a lost ball on the near side of the edge of the penalty box, cocked and fired a right-foot screamer just wide of the far post. Had it been a goal, it would have hung at the Louvre for the next week. Too bad for Ukraine. But there's hope.

67... Good chance for Ukraine, good execution all the way inside the Spain box, but Shevchenko is off-side. At least he's reappeared.

71... The game is out of reach for Ukraine, advancing into the second round isn't--if the Ukranians think the battle of the Muezzins, between Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, will allow them to divide and conquer. But they may be surprised: Tunisia, now Africa's last hope, are no push-overs, and the Saudis can be unpredictable despite having a man older than the dunes in goal. Meanwhile, two nice attacks: one for Spain, one for Ukraine--a terrific chance for Rebrov, a few feet in front of goal, but he sends it soaring past the crossbar: overanxious.

77... Ukraine are falling back. They too have given up on this game, playing only for honor ("no more goals please, unless it's one of our own!") Remember, the heat and humidity in Leipzig is as steamy as it is right here in Florida, where our windows are all fogged up from the steaminess. Both sides look like they have wilted.

Oh! 4-0

81... What a superb, superb bit of football: Ukraine turns over the ball at midfield, there's a scramble, and another, the ball is flicked downfield where the battle continues on the way to the Ukranian goal, then Fernando Torres received the ball at the edge of the box, head on with goal, and right-foots it like a shooting star right into the Ukranian goal. Fantastic, fantastic build, struggle, goal!

85... Spain isn't done despite taking 18 shots (to Ukraine's 4). Sergio Ramos just assaulted Ukraine's goal again, only to be denied by a save.

What a terrific run of football in this game. Leipzig was once known as the Communist world's capital of gymnastics; today it's the capital of the beautiful game: three of the four goals in this game deserve to hang at the Louvre, even if Ukraine haven't put up much of a worthy opposition.

89... Terrific tackling save by a Spain defender against a nice run on goal by Voronin. The follow-up Corner is a lost cause for Ukraine. We're into injury time, and injury it is for Ukraine's hopes and humiliation.

90... How symbollic of this game: Shevchenko takes his one and only true shot all match in injury time, slams against a Spain defender, and hears the whistle calling an end to this big, big defeat for Ukraine. This was the Match of Death they would have rather avoided. Wonderful Spain, but Ukraine ain't done yet.

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