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Pierre's World Cup Diary


The theme of the day: matching flags. You could hardly tell the Dutch-Serbian flags apart a little while ago. And Iran, which just took the first shot on goal from 40 yards out and barely missed, has a flag suspiciously similar to Mexico's but for its horizontals where Mexico goes vertical, all the way down to a middle-of-the-flag symbol. Don't expect similarities of play style in this case though. mexico all the way? Should be.

6... That's a surprise from the commentators: Mexico, just one World Cup victory on European soil? I'm a bit suspicious because a moment ago they also said that Mexico has the most world cup games played than any team but Brazil, Germany and Argentina. Not quite. Spain has played more, so have England, Sweden, Italy... Also, don;t get taken in by mexico's big goal tally in qualifiers. 38 of those goals came against nations like Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and St. Kitts and Nevis. Who's ever heard of St. Kitts?

10.... Amazing ruyn by Iran, a run down the right, crossed into the box and almost scored, then re-crossed, same thing: barely, barely saved by Sanchez. Terrific playing by Iran, who are dominating Mexico hands down so far. Once again, my prediction of an easy Mexico win appears wildly off the mark. The Iranians have Mexico off their game and so on their own that we have reports of Mullahs dancing in Teheran.

15... Mexico is finding its way, albeit as weakly as Guillermo Franco's header on goal, and Ricardo Osario's long and unwinding road toward a long-distant shot into the Iranian keeper's hands. A good, open game like the first half of Holland-Serbia.

20... I don't like the way Mexico are turning into lawnmowers. They're more often sprawled on the grass than running on it, and just now a fantastic backheel flick by an Iranian player, knocking a Mexican free kick out of the penalty box. Stylish. Dangerous. Unexpected. These Iranians are playing like Trinidadians.

22... Mexico missed another chance off a corner, a Rafael Marquez header that high-jumped above the crossbar. Iran attacks. Repealed. Mexico counter-attacks, brilliant save by an Iranian defender, rifling the shot out of play right in front of the keeper. And again a missed chance by Mexico, so close, so close!


28... Free kick, header toward O Bravo's flicking foot, and nicely put into an Iranian goal that might as well have extended an invitation on a silver platter to the Mexican, after giving them so many fouls and set plays.


36... Corner for Iran, the ball falls into a bowl of kicking feet, and Yahya Golmohammadi flicks it in for the 1-1 tie! Not the most beautiful way to score, but Iran and the rest of us will take it.

40... an even game now, relatively well played on both sides. But no penetrations into the box for either side since that last goal. Oh, so we are told: John McCain, ever the idiot, wanted Iran excluded from the cup?

Half-time fun: From an Associated Press report dated January 10, 2003: "TEHRAN, Jan. 9 - An Iranian soccer club has begun allowing women into its stadium to watch games, a practice long banned by the authorities because of the obscene language often directed by fans at opposing teams. Mahdi Dadras, manager of the Paykan Club in Tehran, said the club decided to let women into matches because its fans did not use obscene chants and the women improved his players' morale. Half a dozen jubilant women appeared today at Iran Khodro Stadium, west of Tehran, to watch Paykan play Barq, from Shiraz, in southern Iran. Sahar Alvandi, a 17-year-old student, said: ''My dream came true today. I still can't believe I'm in a soccer stadium in the Islamic Republic.'' But Ms. Alvandi complained of what she said were offensive looks from men. ''To them, a woman showing up in a soccer stadium is like something from the world of aliens,'' she said. Iranian authorities have occasionally allowed foreign women to attend soccer matches."

From a Jere Longman article in the New York Times, May 26, 1998: "TEHERAN, Iran - Dressed in a scarf and a long blue coat, Lida Fariman practiced her target shooting on a recent afternoon, looking down the barrel of her rifle toward the Asian Games later this year and the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where she hopes to be more of a competitive athlete than simply a pioneer. It hardly mattered that Fariman finished 46th among 49 competitors in her target shooting event at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Far more significant was her status as the first woman from Iran to participate in the Summer Games since the 1979 Islamic revolution and the first woman ever to carry the flag for her country during the opening ceremony. ''This was very important for Iranian women,'' said Bahar Tavakolinia, 31, who is studying to be a coach at the University of Physical Education in Teheran. ''All over the world, people think we are in prison behind the veil, that we can't do anything. It's not true.'' Prompted in large part by Faezeh Hashemi, an outspoken member of Parliament and the daughter of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former President, Iranian women are taking part in competitive and recreational sport in unprecedented numbers. Hashemi, who is vice president of the Iranian Olympic Committee, said that roughly two million Iranian women participate in some form of sport, compared with 400,000 two years ago and 10,000 before the Islamic revolution began in the late 1970's. Whatever the recent relaxations of fundamentalist traditions, though, women still participate in sports in some highly circumscribed ways: those who run do so not only in sneakers but in long coats and pants and scarves; the country's aspiring downhill skiers are not likely to be competitive soon in light of the fact that skin-tight, aerodynamically advantageous ski outfits are taboo, still deemed too provocative; women who water ski must wear a waterproof coat and a scarf, which can be dangerous as well as cumbersome; women can watch soccer on television, but cannot enter the actual stadiums." See the complete article here...

Second half...

All right. Not a bad first half, but we still need many more goals if that dismal average so far in this World Cup is to be raised. And raised it must be, ladies and Mullahs. 2.2 goals per game is just not acceptable. A couple of substitutions for Mexico, including Franco, the Brazilian who found his way onto the Mexican squad by means of naturalization. The Mexicans need a bit more pep here.

53... A much slower second half... Reminds mne of foozball, though I never knew how to spell it, and even less how to play it. Interesting run by Iran, a kick from way out, a save by the Mexican keeper, a Mexico answer that ends in a fine attacking play that takes down a Mexican player inside the Iranian box.

57... Possession was pretty even until the last five minutes, which have been all mexico, all attacks, all grind. The Iranians are just clearing the ball aimlessly instead of planning their defense.

66... And now what has become a tradition at this World Cup: the obligatory second-half lull. Not much point to a long and aimless round of passing between Iranians deep in the Mexican half, but without energy, without imagination: not one player broke free of his own lethargy, and the round ended with a sloppy pass to no one, retrieved by Mexico. The Mexicans aren't doing much better. Mexico has the ball now, a long pass down the left, lost to an outball. And on we go. My wife has fallen asleep. Mimmicking the players.

72... And now the time-wasting begins. What are these two teams thinking? They're thinking too much about beating up on Angola instead of on each other, in Group D, and they're forgetting that Portugal is almost a guaranteed advance. So this right here is the battle for second place. Not much intelligence anywhere though, nor imagination. Free kick Mexico, airborn express: no ...

But wait!


A terrible, terrible mistake by the Iranian keeper (whose weakness is the kick), who mishits right to an Iranian defender, near the penalty box, who can't control, a Mexican player steals it, passes it to Bravo, and off goes the ball in back of the net. 2-1

79 ... AND NOW ZINHA, taking a perfect cross from the far side, a soar into the Nurembergian air, and a header into the goal, no question, no room for doubt: 3-1 Mexico. One of the beautiful goals of the tournament.

84... Iran haven;t given up. They're driving. But not managing anywhere inside the Mexican box, which has been an Iranian Sierra Incognita.

89... Damn those commentators are getting on my nerve with their psychobabble about mexican keeper Oswaldo Sanchez, whose father died a few days ago. Enough already. They're going to kill the man over again. I switched over to Univision, the Spanish-language network, even though I don;t understand twelve words of Spanish: the commenting still makes more sense. And that's it. Good game for Mexico, good game for the fans. Yes there was that mid-half lull in the second half, but they picked it up and finished it off well.


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