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World Cup Diary


GAME 49, ROUND OF 16, JUNE 24, 2006 --MUNICH

Quick prediction: Germay 3, Sweden 1, Haydn 10.

Sweden have scored three goals in three games, a perform,ance as dismal as England's. Germany have scored eight goals (against two, like Sweden), a fantastic and surprising result, but half of it due to Miroslav Klose, this tournament's leading scorer. Here we go.

2... Bugger those shadows. Not the most ideal match conditions. German fre kick served into the gluey hands of Swedish keeper Jens Lehmann, distant relative of New York's Lehmann Brothers (going back twenty-six generations on his mother's mistress side; her name was not Inga.)



And my daughter saw what no one did: it was an own goal! Klause made it happen of course: he drove into the box, stumbling through two Swede defenders, shooting, and granting Podolski a rebound that he fired toward goal: the ball struck a Swedish head on its way, not yet clear whose.

10... German dominance unchallenged for the moment, German unselfishness impressive: the passing game is crisp as a fresh German brew, so is the defense, called on just now by a susprising Swedish counter-attack.

Coloring up for the Quarters already


And again Klose sets it up inside the box (notice with what ease the Germans are making it into the box: these are not long-distance lunges but well-crafted goals), oversteppiong the Swedish defense, finding the open man, because they're all swarming over Klose--Podolski again, and Podolski finishing with precision. Looks like the game plan for the Swedes was to blitzkrieg Klose. Looks like Klinsmann read the Swedish mind: let Klose be swarmed, play the open man.

17... Sweden is playing like an amateur-league team on a Saturday afternoon. Can't blame them. They were not in good form in group play. They made it out this far by default, in a dull, easy group--as did England. Two more attacks by the Germans, including a Klose call, headed just wide.

23... Ballack, not quite a factor so much in this match or in this entire World Cup, just took his first good-looking shot from the near side, a curver that missed the far post by a foot.

25... The obvious contrast so far: German attacks are better crafted, quicker on the pass, slower to make it downfield but surer to get into the box and get off a shot. Swedish attacks are hurried, more selfish, incapable of penetrating the box.

(Yes, I'm joining the campaign to draft Klinsmann as the next US coach.)

I was going to say that the ref has been letting the gam flow, but his hands are now starting to reach for that yellow card like a Catholic priest for his altar boys. Not a good sign.

32... Two more German attacks, a Klose shot barely saved by the keeper diving to his right, and a long-distance shot above goal by Torsten Frings, who's on FIRE: he just missed another shaver... AND THE DAMN REF JUST WAVED OFF A GERMAN GOAL THAT HAD NO REASON TO BE WAVED OFF! YES THE GERMANS WERE BEHIND THE SWEDISH LINE, BUT PODOLSKI'S SHOT WAS STRAIGHT FOR GOAL.

Christ. Our Brazilian ref Carlos Simone is off his rockers, and Teddi Lucic, the Swede who got a questionable yellow a little while ago got himself yet another one for a minir shover. He's out. The Swedes will play a man down, and this game has yet another Bush administration clone for a ref. Pathetic.

At least we can't say that the game has been unexciting. Hear that John Tierney? What a pustule-addled ass of a contrarian-for-hipnness' sake that guy. Then again he's the columnist who thought we should privatise Social Security because Chile, where he grew up,did. (I yellow-card myself for unnecessary crudeness against a fellow columnist.)

40... A slower pace to the game now that the ref has stamped his goose step on this game, until a sweet crotch-bounce, twist and shot on goal by Ibrahimovich at the edge of the German six-yard line, just saved. The Swedes are strining together their beloved corners and throw-ins deep in the German half, but their sky-scraping mugs are finding nothing but Germany's globally warmed air.

45... Approaching the end of a German-scripted half that has Klaus Kinsky thinking the devil of his team and Gunter Grass rethinking his ratty pessimism. A good show but for the interference of the referee. One good sign for Sweden: they've solidified into a team since the second goal, and even more since their man was sent off.

Half-time, and the Teutonic living is easy.

"I'm on a television platform looking down on 60,000 German fans watching the game on the big screens in the main square in Stuttgart. When the second goal went in the noise was like Concorde taking off. Everyone seems to have a flag, there are even some wearing red, yellow and black mohican wigs. The Germans sure know how to party - what a difference to the scenes in the same square earlier on, which saw trouble caused by England fans. Now, though, there's a big group of England fans singing songs outside the square watching the game. They are standing among the German fans and it is all good natured."
Chris Charles, BBC Sport in Stuttgart



Germany's Carnival of Cultures

By Cordt Schnibben

After spending a week traveling across Germany, it will become clear to anyone visiting the country that the 2006 World Cup is more than just a soccer tournament. Indeed, this is a full-fledged festival of the people.

Even though FIFA only gave me a single ticket for the game between Saudia Arabia and the Ukraine in Hamburg, in a few hours I'll see my fourth live World Cup game in eight days. I don't know what went wrong with FIFA's electronic ticket vending system, but I know lots of people who purchased several tickets and won't get to watch anything besides the game between Saudia Arabia and the Ukraine.

Later today I'll watch the Netherlands play against the Ivory Coast in Stuttgart. I'm already in town -- an army of orange-clad fans is pushing me through the city center. I only ordered the ticket for this game four days ago, after watching Argentina play against the Ivory Coast in Hamburg and realizing that I would have to watch as many games as possible during the next few weeks.

I can't say it any less melodramatically: That night in Hamburg, that dance of 22 players, those intoxicated 50,000 fans were addictive, the way a novel or a concert or a painting can be addictive.

It's not just the physical artistry of the players, the beauty of the game, the harmony of the teams -- it's the human joy in the stadium that you can't enough of. I'm sorry, but I can't say it any less bombastically: Humanity celebrates itself during such moments -- it celebrates its creativity, its variety, its togetherness.

Read the rest...

Second half...

Sweden's last smile at this World Cup. See you in South Africa? No much of a chance: The Swedish national team is headed for assisted living facilities after this, and the young crop isn't yet worthy of the Cape of Good Hope.

No cool and collected Nordic lay-back in the locker room at the half: the Swedes have come out angry and stompy, already clipping the German keeper in the face, giving another player a chiropractic heave, and attempting what they haven't managed during the first half: box-penetration with more virility than flaccid boots. The German answer six minutes into the second half? Keep trying.

52... And another odd penalty kick call. Ibrahimiovich passed to Larssen in the box, one of those limpish passes that didn't seem convincing, Larsson gets shoved a bit from behind, he pulls a Meryl Street and takes to the grass, winning himself the PK--then shooting it high into the German sky to the joy and delight of 90 million Germans. A deserved miss after an undeserved penalty.

55... German responds with a superb shot by Michael Ballack--that finds the near goal-post, and another shot by Ballack that finds the stands. And nopw Podolski sending it to the fans. That third German goal is as certain as Hamburg's beastly-gray clouds every blessed day of the year--or for those ofr you who prefer the half-full version, as certain as the divine grace of a black-forest chocolate cake (Munich is a BMW's roar from the Black Forest).

58... Ballack again, and he misses again. Bollocks.

63... Plodding play from both sides in this second-half-lull of a spell. The Swedes have entered their red zone: it's do here and now or die in twenty-five minutes. No prospect of extra time in this game. Oddly, German precision has lost its footing in the last few minutes. Their shots are finding yellow boots, or air. The Swedes may be smelling an open door, if not those smelling salts they should have had a whiff of half an hour ago.

Ballack: "Where the scheisse is my goal?"

Well, as this game begins to drag in the mired mosh-pit between the two penalty boxes, might as well briefly touch on that upcoming Argentina-Mexico match: a scorcher for Argentina? Probably. The Mexicans have been disappointing, playing each match as if they were playing the United States--with more sound and fury than skill and grace. Argtentina are winning hearts and bettors left and right, but I'm not yet convinced: the teams they've faced were often approximations of Swiss cheese in their backfields, and their 0-0 tie with Holland was a mild shocker: Holland is not the strong side it had been in the days of Kluivert and Davits and the rest of these impossible-to-spell players. Argentina have more style than they used to, but they also have the makings of a team begging for an upset. Its own.

71... The two teams in Munich are beginning the substitution game now. This secnd half has been a disappointment so far. The Swedes are out of subs, the Germans are thinking sub sandwich already. And beer. And sex in those sex garages I keep hearing about all over Germany.

77... Germany have lost a man to an injury. But it's as if the team forgot that it's a man and two goals up. It's playing like this was a division match. The commentators are a bit dense though, recalling those late goals by Sweden and Paraguay as if to hang on to what audience they have watching this match.

80... Germany back on the ball, finding the goal zone but missing it by feet and smothers. Sweden still triple-teaming Klose: you'd think the Germans would take advantage, having so many open men, but that gives you a sense of how many men they're holding back too, playing their old-style clamp-down defense to opreserve the lead. A great shot by Ballack, a rebound, a header past the crossbar. Excitement is returning. Someone tell Klinsmann: the required score is 3 goals for Germany, not two.

85... Germany yet again finds the goal post. And now retreat to their end, playing the passing game... and scrambling a shot on goal after three passes inside the box, saved. Klose had it again! He was open, shot it high.

89... They're still trying. The Germans are. The Swedes are on a slow boat to the Baltic, their shriveled virility an ode to the north wind.

And that's that. A great start, a slow slope to dullness as the game went on, though not without a few good flashes by a German side that took the match for granted after the 20th minute. We're headed for a Germany-Argentina clash in the quarterfinal, what could well decide at least one of the contestants for the final.

If only she could do the same with the German economy



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