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Pierre's World Cup Diary

BATTLE OF THE VISTULA

GAME 17, GROUP A, JUNE 14, 2006 --DORTMUND
GERMANY 1, POLAND 0
FINAL

This is the match of the day, the Main Event, the rejuvenated (Germany) against the vengeful (Poland). To Americans, think of this as the equivalent of your typical Saturday football rivalries (Florida State-University of Florida, Auburn-Alabama, that sort of thing) and multiply it by an astronomical magnitude. This is where Germany show us whether their neo-attacking style of open football and goal-hunting is for real, or whether coach Klinsmann's thrashing of Costa Rica in the opening game was a four-goal wonder against an obviously inferior if tough-acting and gritty side. Poland is due for a thrashing of its own after its pathetic display of vervlessness and pinkish dotage against Ecuador--a side I'd like to see beat out Poland for the second spot in this exciting group.

00... This should be terrific fun, and here we go.

4... Theyre batlling, but not at football: so far it's all wrestling, and it's all out war. Germany take their first shot from far off, rejected, Poland counterattack: they're more alive than they were a few days ago against Ecuador.

8... A dribbling of a shot for Poland, reaches goal--and goalkeeper.

9.... Oh what a play by Germany, a soft drop to the left-winger, a pass to Klose inside the box, one bounce, twist, SHOT! and saved!

11... Looks like Germany's 4-2 win was not an anomaly: we may well have neo-attacking Germans who are not willing to sit back, defend and wait for mistakes so much as assault, assault, assault and let Klause (and maybe Ballack) do the rest. Good, swift, attacking football. The Poles gave us sign of life: they're not as flat-lined as they were against Ecuador, but still, no spark, no runs, no surprise.

15... Ballack just lost it for Germany: throw-in Poland.

17... Poland not so bad at screaming tumbles, to draw fouls: free kick Poland into the box, badly cleared the first time, badly rebounded by Poland, finally cleared by Germany, throw in Poland deep in Germany

Approaching the 20th minutes, a nervy first half of the first half (think BMW engine revving up), but also more violence than style, more--by far more--take-downs than shots on goal, and quite a bit of poor, soap-operatic acting, too, like a Polish fall just now outside the German box. It's Smackdown Meet Daytime TV, all in one...

20... Klose just took a lovely cross from the near wing, headed it into what looked like an open goal--only to send it wide of the far post. His close-up afterward had him moth something along the lines of "motherfucker" in German. He was, of course, cussing himself in German style: never underestimate German self-loathing.

Let this keep up: no way it'll be a low-scoring affair.

26... We are looking at a very open game (it gets closed up only by take-downs) but we're also looking at a porous defrense on both ends. Germany are hungry, pumping and lethal, but far less methodical than we were used to in the past: I for one am grateful. Germany are getting bitched out for having no defense: not quite true, but between a choice of a nervier attack and a clamp-down, Italian-style defense that beats every game into a drought of zero goals, I take the attacking approach any day. Leave the chess to Kasparov.

30... Germany still aggressively on the ball always in the Polish end. Corner Germany: no color.

31: The Ballack verdict so far this half: Ballack is not quite the negative presence Ronaldo was in his first game yesterday, but not yet the imposing presence we were led to believe he would be.

40... 19 fouls, just eight shots, and only 4 of those on target: the two teams are beating themselves with their surfeit of adrenaline. But we're not staying dry long.

41 Then again if Schweinsteiger keeps shooting for the stars instead of for goal--when he's given a wide open shot with nary a Pole between him and the Vistula--Germany are not going to come out of this with much rumble in their riesling.

45... Unbelievably, no score after all this sound and fury. Oh noooooooooooo! what a missed chance! Germany's Lukas Podolski had the lead on his right foot, he had it written in proof as big as Dortmund's stadium, and he missed, he missed a perfect pass that had left him alone facing a minuscule keeper and a goal the size of the Brendenburg Gate! and so we go to half-time still scoreless. But not without excitement. Good, good half.

second half...

OK, I pored myself a pilsner (Dinkel Acker, if you're wondering) and we're back for more of this boiling-point match-up

50... Let's get it going now. The first half's scorelessness was saved by relentlessly ballsy playing. The Germans should not dare start sitting back and taking the tie. And missing yet another easy dare on a corner kick that came dying at the foot of German players; Klose also just missed putting a head on a well-lobbed cross from the far side. So they're at least not sitting back after all.

The Poles were told in the locker room to slow down the pace of the game, to frustrate, and to play against type. That's bad news for up-tempo fans. The thing is: Poland can't afford anything less than an all-out attack if it aims to grab 3 points--not that it deser5ves it: the Poles are playing with shackles around their hearts: joylessly, and damn near cynically. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be cheering Germany in such a match-up, but here it is: the Poles' meandering style give no choice.

56... The Polish keeper should be yellow-carded for bullshit time-wasting.

56... Shot Poland, save: shot from edge of box, straight on, keeper was lucky to be standing in the right spot otherwise it would have been 0-1 Poland.

58... Silly, silly Ballack, earning himself a yellow. German tempers are flaring too: the Poles' tactic is working. And here goes the Polish keeper doing his cow-pasture act again.

59... Germany is losing its dominating edge. We've had two, three successive German passes that end at the foot of Polish legs. The Germans are looking in these instances like the US team in 1990.

61... The fouls continue. Germany is about to bring in some new blood, but not before Klose takes a dribble down the near side and attempts a weakling shot on a well-protected goal. Not a dominating play, leaving it to a teammate to attempt a shot from downtown Dortmund, straight on a set of Polish legs. If I didn't know better I'd start wondering about this German fetish for fetching Polish legs.

63... Free kick Germany straight on from 35 yards out, again with the legs, but a rebound leads to an attempt on goal by... who else, Klose, who draws the best save of the day. Klose is really Germany's heart and soul in its two games. Ballack is bollocks (you had to have that one). He's had all of three touches on the ball, and they've been anything but ballsey. Superb, energetic run by David Odonkor, who's running like Jesse Owens. Corner he draws leads nowhere.

67... Germany is grateful for Poland's piddly play.

70... Germany keep pressing, battling through (and administering) fouls: two yellows for Germany in two minutes, this second one for Metzelder, the first one for the Jesse Ownens-like Odonkor, not three minutes into his stint. Twenty minutes left, plenty of time to capitalize on the energy--and on Poland's diminishing existence, except in gritty defense. The Poles are playing for that bane of football: the 0-0 tie.

35 fouls so far, and another sloppy, sloppy German pass into Polish legs at midfield. Even sloppier Polish attack.

74... Yes, time for a red card: Sobolewski took down an onrushing Klose, who had a nifty give and go with Odonkor. Second yellow for the Pole, meaning an automatic ejection, and Germany has the one-man advantage with fifteen minutes to play. Free kick from 35 yards out. Yet another missed flick at the far post, Klose goes sprawling on the grass.

76, two substitutions, one for each team. More young blood. No excuse now for a 0-0 tie.

80... GERMANY JUST TOOK IT TO POLAND ONE, TWO, THREE TIMES, forcing three fantastic saves by the keeper, and now a corner Germany. Germany hasn't lacked for chances, and Poland must think religious thoughts now for the miraculous way it has staved off a goal. Germany must look out for the unlikely but still credible Polish breakaway: Germany has assumed its attcking posture so much, its defense is sitting down with a beer. Poland know it.

83... Germany corner, cleared, kicked for a goal kick by a non-thinking German.

85... This, remember, is with Germany a man up. Now the Poles are saluting the off-side flag going up again and again on Germany.

87... If this score holds, it must be said that Germany has given the eppearance of an attacking side, but not the results--not just bbecause the goal is missing (or two or three goals) but because what chances it created, it cosistently failed to finish even with a proper shot. There's been too many silly mishits and amateurish plunks.

Now THIS is amazing: Not one, but TWO German shots on the crossbar within three seconds. This is unbelievable. This is ridiculous. This is insane.

YES! GERMANY SCORES

Neuville took a slide against a perfect cross from who else, Jesse-Ownes-Odonkor, and slam, in back of goal for the well-deserved lead, win and joy of a nation.

Fantastic game, fantastic result, Poland wins respect for a dogged defense, but it wasn't all Poland: luck too played its part in Poland's behalf, and then it finally ran out, as it should (otherwise it would have been too ridiculous: providence is not so worthy of deference). Germany deserves this one.

But remember: Ballack was a no-show in this game. He was the Ronaldo of Germany: overrated, underachieving in this World Cup.

Germany is moving on, Poland deserves to go home, and let's hope gritty Ecuador writes that ticket in its match against Costa Rica tomorrow.

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