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World Cup Diary



Now there was a dismal match for you: Croatia and Japan started the day with a 0-0 draw we didn't deserve, even if they did. The goal-per-game average of this World Cup, at 2.26, is now a fraction away from the all-time low of 2.21 registered in Italy in 1990. If Australia was playing American Somoa next, we might expect a redress. Instead here's to hoping that Brazil will make American Samoa of Australia. (*) I am of course referring to the infamous record-setting humiliation of American Samoa by Australia in a World Cup qualifying match in 2001, just after the Australians scored 22 goals against Tonga in a qualifying match. Not much for sportsmanship these guys. Get off Australia's back? Sure: they earned their win against Japan in their first game in this World Cup, but here come Brazil, who were disappointing in their opening-game win against Croatia. Ronaldo is fat, and his presence in that game was like a black hole, sucking in energy and exuding fog. He's in the line-up again today of course, but so is the extra lead he's carrying against the waist. This is not the Ronaldo who looks in form to beat Pele's goal record of, what, 12? If the Brazilians don't want to let this World Cup continue to be defined by the domination of Spain and Argentina, they'd better come out with more than entitlements on their boots today.

3... Great instinctive play inside the box by Ronaldo, who looks alive and well and living for football today: a back-flip to Kaka, who shot whiskers wide of goal. Cahill, star of Australia's late wake-up call against Japan, is also alive, taking Australia's first shot on goal.

7... The Australians might have had themselves an easy chance with a well-earned corner; Jason Culina sent it curing to neverland. Brazilians counter-attack, Ronaldo is fouled, the crowd loses its big girlie smiles. Free kick Brazil, just outside the box, angling in from the near side. Roberto Carlos should be on it.

Deflected? No, overhit.

12... Australia's Emerton earns himself a good yellow card for acting like a sixth grader and gesturing fuck-you in Bantu to the German ref, whose grandmother speaks Bantu.

14... Still not nearly the kind of dominating or high-paced performance we're expecting from these Brazilians. Leave it to our idiotic commentators to say that playing shitty is "the sign of a good team" early in the tournament. Tell that to the Spaniards. Tell that to the Australians. Tell that to Germany's Klose, who are all looking at this Brazilian side and thinking: "What the Bantu gesture is the big deal?"

Five shots total so far, none on goal by the Brazilians, two by the all-blacks. (Actually the Aussies' shorts are a deep-blue).

18... A soulless Brazilian attacking line takes a free-kick cross from Ronaldinho for an Aussiebump out of play, the return throw-in is as meaningless. We're onto the 110th minute of play today without a goal, without anything to write Jimmy Hoffa's remains about, except for this run by Ronaldinho all the way into the penalty arc, where about twelve thousand Australians jumped him to break-up the attack.

This just in from the audience here in my living room: "This game is doing nothing for me. I need some excitement." The game does have the feel of a Floridian mall: white noise, little color, lots of sprawling.

22... Pathetic. Pathetic. Brazil builds past the midfield, 14, 15 passes, only to be thwarted far from the box by an Australian defense that forces them to pass back into their own end--all the way to goal. The whistles are deserved: possession is all Brazilian, but to what end? we have not seen a Brazilian shot on goal all game.

Shit, even I can take on these samba guys.

28... Well, it looked impossible: a game duller than Croatia-Japan? We have it on our hands. Give it to the Australians: their first game's display was also almost as dull as a horror like Ireland-Switzerland (until their last minutes). It's as if their game plan is to smother, smote and snuff, and the hell with playing. Now it's Ronaldo's turn to play like a sixth-grader: he kicked the ball into goal after the whistle, semi-dejectedly, and earned himself a yellow.

32... Brazil is giving Australia room to play in the Brazilian half.

35... The Australians are playing with four defenders, five midfielders, and just one lone striker. It shows. The Brazilians are playing with ten sleep-walkers.

37... A terrific flick by Kaka to Ronaldo in the box, who took a flopping fall on his ass that makes him look like the lard-laddler the Brazilian president is worried about. What a waste.

Van Gogh called yellow "a color capable of charming god." In this world cup, it's been a color capable of emasculating Him: Australia's Jason Culina just earned himself this game's fourth yellow. Two for each side.

41... Australian legs in this game have formed a grid so effective that it's reduced the Brazilians to taking shots from the Amazon outback, like this whizz by Ronaldo--nicely done, but wide.

44... Australia just played as if it was Brazil, counter-attacking all the way to the box, a one-on-one battle that kept it on Aussie boots, a desperate Brazil clear..., then a Brazilian counter-attack (taking away an Aussie throw-in) that was a Kaka-one-man-show all the way to the box, but a Kaka kick into those impassable Aussie legs that are beginning to arouse the US Border Patrol: they want them on the southern border.

We're into injury time, and 135 minutes of scoreless football today. Brazil at this point is not a contender for this World Cup.

Half-time, and it ain't fun.

Yes, it's been a yawner


And at this rate that's all the cup-kissing Brazilian fans are going to enjoy.

Second half...

Unfortunately Ronaldo is still in the game, and the announcers still have their voice.

If that's the only probing the Brazilian keeper has to worry about, Brazil is in good shape.


A conventional Brazilian goal--they make it look so simple--with Ronaldinho sending it from midfield to an expectant Ronaldo who, at the near-edge of the box, is surrounded by three Australians who suddenly look befuddled by Ronaldo's triple-axle dance with the ball: they had time for a tackle, he took advantage of their hesitancy and passed it laterally to Adriano, still at the edge of the box, who left-footed it into goal for the 1-0 lead. Not the most beautiful goal, but it'll have to do as a drought-breaker.

Let's hope this is only the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship between Brazil and the Aussie net.

56... Australia just missed its open-goal chance. The Brazilian keeper was taking a break, Harry Kewell had an open goal, he shot, off target.

63... So we get a nice flash on the pitch from both sides, but now we're back to middling play: when is Brazil going to wake up? They're not playing with the kind of instinctive all-konwingness expected of them. Again and again, the Brazilians expect the other player to begin a play (except Ronladinho, who's been on it at every opportunity), but the other doesn't show. When they do have the ball, they work it ploddingly enough to the Australian end, the Aussies' midfield being weaker than advertised despite its numbers (it's the back line that finally puts up the wall), but crosses don;t find their man, like thsi one here: a pass dumped on the near side of the box, a wide open chance, but Ronaldo was--you guessed it, two steps behind getting there. This is not Ronaldo. This is a Kagemusha-styled impostor playing football.

70... Brazil is playing like England, and its about to get a second victory just as England did: not quite deservedly.

Am I the only player on this picth?

Ronaldo is out, so is Emerson. Robinho is in. The game can finally come alive, now that Black Cloud Junction has left the building.

Again with the missed signals inside the Brazilian box: 76 minutes, and we're looking at a Brazilian side that need make just one mistakle to be stuinned into a tie with the aussies. Great chance missed by Brazil inside the box, and now another Aussie save. Second corner coming. Not a good one. The ball finds no man, and when Brazil recovers on the near side, Juan takes a shot that sails wide and lazily past the far post. Here they come again. I'd like to say that they're playing as if they're embarrassed to have just one goal, but Brazil just turned-over the ball embarrassingly, as it has all day.

79 Fantastic shot by Australia's Brasciano, who went horizontal with the ground as he shot a volley straight at net, forcing Brazil's keeper to mimic him the other way: a horizontal save that prevented what could have been a beautiful equalizer.

82... One-handed save by the Brazilian keeper of a Robinho header... who then earns himself another yellow for being too close to an Aussie free kick. AND THE KICK ALMOST SAILED INTO THE BRAZILIAN GOAL! and another Aussie attack that almost converted: in two seconds, long pass from midfield to an onrushing Viduka, a flick of the boot, the ball goes soaring above the keeper, who'd come far off his line to defend, and goes resting on top of the net, a foot away from goal.

The way Brazil are playing (less inspiringly than Italy yesterday) is good news for the Americans,, should they advance: this is the team the US will face, and at this point it has to be said: the Brazilians are eminently beatable by ANY team having the game of its life.


It started and ended with Brazil's Fred, who'd just been brought in, he was at the top of the box, fired a pass that bounced off an Aussie leg, he recovered, fired it to an onrushing Ronaldinho at the far end, who took a searing shot, the shot bounced off the goal post back into play, and ever-alert Fred followed it up by tapping it into goal for the 2-0 lead and the 6 points for Brazil.

NOT THE GREATEST GAME OF THE COMPETITION BY ANY MEANS, AND DAMN CLOSE TO BEING ONE OF ITS WORST. BRAZIL'LL TAKE IT, BUT BRAZILIAN FANS TAKE NOTE: THIS IS NOT THE SIDE WE WERE PROMISED. Yetsreday's games were a lot more dramatic and fun to watch, which leaves today's best chance to the France-South Korea match-up in an hour. Great. France, who can't buy a goal on the black market. And Koreans who have not been as impressive as they were four years ago, but at least they try.

Just don't celebrate too soon



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