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World Cup Diary

Stuck at work? Satellite down? Black Hawks screwing up reception? Looking to understand the relationship between Metaphysics, Socrates and Soccer? Keep it here...

GAME 1, GROUP A, JUNE 9, 2006 --MUNICH LIVE NOW!
GERMANY 4, COSTA RICA 2

10:50EST: All right everyone, time to stop the carnival of cliches and get down to Munich's leaves of grass. There's so much "electricity in the air" that the world's energy crisis might as well be over, and I've heard about so much "tension" everywhere that Honduras and Salvador are about to go to war just for old times' sake (remember those two, going to war in 1970 after a world cup qualifying match?). Speaking of Central American fireworks: Let's get real and root for Costa Rica's Ticos all the way. Not to tastelessly dig up old bones, but purely in historic terms, here's Germany, the last three-odd centuries' most militarized society (until the U.S. took over in the last sixty years) going up against Costa Rica, the world's least militarized society. (Quick fact: Costa Rica's military spending in an entire year adds up to less than five hours of US military spending in Iraq: $64 million. Germany's military spending is closer to three and a half months' worth.) Here's Germany, land of obsessive efficiency, of pathological method, of gray and doom at any cost, going up against Costa Rica, land of a thousand parks, perpetual vacations and invading grigos coming to shed their last dollars before kicking off. Here's Germany, where Nobel luareats are of the Gunter Grass kind--dour, bleak and guilty at the sight of the slightest smile--and here's Costa Rica, where the only Nobel prize in memory was handed to its president in 1987 (Oscar Aria Sanchez) for his obsession with peace and harmony. So: who should you root for, even and especially as a Germany fan? Costa Rica, hands down. La pura vida.

OK, let's have a look at these opening ceremonies, if we can find them on these American television stations that still think the world is interested in in the meanings of Bush and his best-friend-of-the-moment Zarqawi.

Naturally, no English-language coverage of the opening ceremonies. Listening to German welcomes commented on in Spanish is a bit beyond me, but one word comes through clearly enough: football, football, football. Look at that: Germans smiling and pretending to dance! the temperature just dropped nine degrees in hell. Way to go ESPN2: sumo wrestling feature while the world rocks in Munich.

Here come the players. So. A little Haydn before the game (the German national anthem is plagiarized from a Haydn quartet, as I recall). Horacio Elizondo is our referee. Ballack and the great Kahn are on the bench. And here we go. A minute's silence? Must be in thanks for the Munich sunshine, first sunny soccer match since Frederick the Great beheaded a serf for kicks, in thanks to afternoon rays.

Two minutes in, a Costa rican mistake outside their box, a German missile from 30 yards out, just skimming the Costa goal. Poor Costa Ricans. They're panicked... and here it comes...Philip Lahm, a terrific shot and goal from the edge of the penalty area. 1-0. Beautiful, beautiful goal, no chance for the keeper. Lahm was unmarked.

9:00, another virtually undefended German attack, shot high abive the goal. Los Ticos are being outplayed, outmuscled, outrun, out-Americanized. Could this be? German football has been liberated by American influences... but wait!

LOS TICOS!!!!

Paulo Wanchope, their superstar, stuns the German defense, trying to play the off-side trap, and sails past a wall of Germans to send the ball in back of the German net less than 12 minutes into the game. Terrific play, terrific heart. We've had 15 minutes of wonderful if slightly shoddy football: goals scored on mistakes, but at least the players are alive, the crowd has been slightly humbled, los Ticos are not going to be World Cup 2006's welcome mat.

2-1! tentativcely, then opportunistically from the near side of the Ticos' penalty box, a wonderfully accurate pass from one side of the box diagonally to Klose at the six or seven yard line, firing in for another goal.

20:00 The two sides are flirting with the tentative. When you see young Germans firing from 35 and 40 yards out (two such shots, two saves), you know they're not as confident as they ought to be against los Ticos who, oddly enough, are willing to work their way closer to goal. They just haven;t managed (aside from Wanchope's break). Damn off side: I'm not with Germany, but in this case the line judge was a bit too harsh: in 25th minute we could have had a nice breakaway, denied by a stickler ruling. The game is in a lull. Los Ticos should feel that Germany aren't on the ball by design but by default: los Ticos are making it easy for them. Wanchope, great run toward the box but no one was helpiung him. Where were they? Having a cup of Colobian roast at the other end of the field.

30:00... This game is a retournement, to quote Vladimir Volkoff: a reversal. Los Ticos are playing german defense (on and off), Germany are playing the more American style of conceding errors in favor of a more open style of play, attacking, probing, experimenting. But the quality of the game has been as choppy as iceberg lettuce. We're now five minutes from the end of the first half, the ball has been in the German half about as often as (to keep the analogy going) icebergs have floated into the Red Sea (to be more precise: Germany have controlled the ball 63 percent of the time according to FIFA's statisticians, although I think they're being generous to los Ticos). But it's not as if Germany have made much of it. As entertaining as the first 20 minutes were, the last 20 have been middling to dangly. Germany's Mtzelder could have just made it 3-1 on a corner kick to his foot, a few inches from goal. He decided instead to show the world that German soccer balls can compete with NASA's space program. Meanwhile, the Costa Ricans are down to a one-man team: Paulo Wanchope. Halftime.

An upset in the making? If the Costa Rican coach hammers it to his players that they're facing a somewhat haggard, disorganized German side, and if they can let Wanchope do his Michael Jordan act without getting entrapped in one off side after another, maybe. But los Ticos seem content to concede the occasion to its surroundings. They're beating themselves, imagining the Germans more unbeatable than they are. As for Germany's prospects in the rest of the tournament: let them keep playing this way and they'll fall before the quarterfinals. Los Ticos may be enjoying a few too many coffee breaks at their end of the field, while Wanchope is trying to make a go of it at the other end, but just the same, Germany are playing as if in an exhibition game in a retirement resort somewhere in the Black Sea. They're not giving that Munich sunshine too much reason to hang around.

Second half

Germany 32-1 in World Cup games after leading at the half. A quick pair of attacks, one for each team: half-time caffeine kicking in. Fonseca's diving header for los Ticos gave seven Germans in Leipzig and nine in Berlin the sort of heart attacks they'll be lucky to remember, but in Costa Rica they're beginning to think of head-shaking as an alternative energy source. Germany are pressing. German asses must be red from Klinsman's kicks in the locker room. Klinsman should have spent some time exercising his shots in the Costa Rican locker room.

Approaching the 60th minute, and I have to tell you, ladies and gentlemen of the Siberian outback, you may think about putting in a little extra ice fishiung before the Poland-Ecuador game: this one is approaching last rites status. YES! "It was the crowd that did it for them," says my wife: Klose strikes again: Lahm crosses it in to Klose 7 yards out from the far post, Klose heads it in, terrific save--well, not so terrific that the goalie couldn't control it--Klose follows up his own header and knocks it in for the 3-1 lead. Now the game has the makings of a blow-out, if Germany keep listening to the crowd.

Now the Germans are beginning to fool with Los Ticos, playing the passing game, asking their girlfriends in the stands to begin making dinner reservations. Fouls are beginning to rain down. "A country located in Central America," says the ESPN2 commentator. Only in America is such a geography lesson necessary. (To ensure that most Americans don't confuse Costa Rica with a Caribbean island).This is where Los Ticos can show some heart. So far, they're only showing some cleats.

LOS TICOS AGAIN!!!!

Wanchope, actually. Two Costa attackers were offside, the ref didn't catch it (thank heavens, Los Ticos deserve a break) an onrushing Wanchope slams it into the goal, on a pass from Centeno. Great stuff. Come back from your fishing holes, Siberians!

I take back all the evil things I've said about this match. It has redeemed itself, as have Costa Rica. Wonderful, wonderful Costa Rican save off a corner, then another German attack... the game is alive and well: no appeasement in Munich this afternoon, as even Neville will tell you from his grave's vantage point. Come on now, ten minutes left, plenty of time to make this a classic's distant second cousin. Come on Los Ticos! Remember, Germany's economic growth is the anemia of the world! Don't let them fool you with their green-grass antics. It's still a game and a German side fit to be tied!

84:00, a little bit of Hollywood in Munich by germany's Schneider: you know the Germans are fuming when they start shopping for penalty shots.

86:00 Was that for real? FROM 40 YARDS OUT, Germany's Frings takes a pass on a free kick and sends the ball scudding into the goal, from somewhere in Schleswig Holstein!another great goal. Night falls in Costa Rica. And our darling American commentators on ESPN are doing their sickening best to ruin the experience for us: they're actually crediting America for the German victory! (going on about how Klin sman has borrowed from American-style soccer, ideas, psychologists and so on).

Final. Good start, good many goals, the right tone set for a World Cup that'd better rain goals. Keep it here: I'll be back for the Poland-Ecuador game later today.

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Los Ticos' Danny Fonseca and Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger /AFP

 


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