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It seems that everyone is now getting in on the World Cup action. Day 5 started with a news puff piece showing the Heir to the British throne, Prince William and his (step-) brother Harry on an important state visit to South Africa, quite conveniently. Once they had their photo taken with some deaf, underprivileged kids, and seen stroking a couple of wild leopards, and handling a massive snake, it was off to pay the national football team a visit ahead of the next group match. I am sure the visit was scheduled long before they heard there was a World Cup organised.
Publicity seeking scroungers aside, there was much to get excited about on day 5. After almost a whole week of sub-standard football, surely the Brazilians and Portuguese would lift the funk. First, however, it was New Zealand versus Slovakia… Hardly two teams that will be troubling the big boys…
Being born in Scotland I am a bit of an underdog fan, so in yesterdays article I backed New Zealand, to be honest though I thought they would be steamrollered. This was not based on anything other than the fact that in their short World Cup history they had yet to register a single point. Proper underdogs…
This was obviously an issue for the Kiwis, who are most famous for being totally badass on the rugby field, and judging by the way they started this game, they had obviously been practicing. They came out fighting and made the Slovakian team work hard, even nearly taking the lead through a well worked free kick. Coming close does not win games though and Slovakia took the lead when Vitteck took advantage of an expertly crossed ball from Sestak.
In the 93rd minute Shane Smeltz crossed a hopeful ball into the Slovakian penalty area and kiwi centre half Winston Reid leapt to header it home, securing a valuable point before losing his mind in the moment, taking off his shirt and running towards his support… Over the top you may think, but when a defender scores a goal, let alone one of such importance to your entire country, you would forgive him for acting like it was the world cup final… I will admit at this point to leaping off my couch in celebration. This is the kind of action I was looking for the last few days.
The next game should have been one of the best of the group stages, Portugal, complete Christiano Ronaldo playing against the Ivory Coast, who had star player and local God, Didier Drogba starting on the bench because he chipped his elbow in training pre-tournament. It was not long before I was bored. It seems that either too many teams are suffering first game jitters or they are actually too scared to make too many moves.
A highlight was when Ronaldo, who despite his talent makes it incredibly hard to like him, sold his opposing number a dummy of such great magnitude that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ivory Coast midfielder was still looking for the silky Real Madrid star, it was too late for him. Ronaldo was off and launched a great strike from about 35 yards which beat the keeper, but thundered off the post…
That was really it. Drogba came on to a rapturous applause, he holds more power than the president in the Ivory Coast and is credited with stopping civil war simply by asking for it… Which is impressive, but when you can do that surely a goal or two is not out the question… Some God he turned out to be!
The last game of the day meant one thing… We finally get to see the Brazil squad that is so good Ronadinho could not even get in the squad. Sure, he is old, but he is always good for an impressive move or two. It should have been a comfortable victory, but one should never underestimate an opponent that comes from a communist regime… Look what happened to Apollo Creed.
North Korea was organised, and ready for the so-called Samba superstars. It did not stop the Brazilians eventually taking the lead, but if Maicon meant to score when he hit that ball then I’ll eat my hat. Regardless, it was 1-0 and the Brazilians turned it on. Manchester City star Robinho played an incredible, inch perfect ball through the Korean defence , which met the stride of Elano Ralph Blumer… On the other hand, simply Elano, who slipped it past the Korean keeper with the type of flair expected of a Brazilian.
A Korean player cried during the singing of his national anthem… Either this was down to emotions running high, or he was scared of losing because of their unpredictable leader… It’s a theory, probably a daft one, but a theory non- the-less. It is a good thing then that Ji Yun-Nam found a late consolation goal to soften the blow for poor old Kim. A major plus point for the North Korean team is that their performance sent a message to the Portugal and Ivory Coast that they will not get any easy points from them.
Today will see tipped finalists Spain play the Swiss, Chile will play Honduras and back to the start with South Africa playing their second game of the tournament against Uruguay. Spain should win today, but I get worse and worse at predicting results, I am glad I haven’t put money on anyone yet. The other two games will probably be draws if the tournament thus far is anything to go by.
On a personal note, I do not think Spain stand a chance of winning the tournament, and I’m even prepared to say that now, before I have even seen them play.