Football: The Global Game

The World Cup Around the World
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The Independent Online
"IT MAKES you smile to think back months ago, when everyone was sounding off on what the Azzurri team would be for the World Cup. When you think that we still don't know now, after the first match [Thursday's 2-2 draw with Chile], in which Maldini tried out, and not for fun, 14 players, and called for help from the unthought-of Chiesa, a player who should by now have been off at the seaside. When things go badly you have to improvise, but we still have the cardinal question hanging in the air. What is, what will be, the national team which will take us through the tournament? What shall we do, start again from the top?" "Gazzetta dello Sport", Milan

"THERE WERE almost no chances in the first half [of Austria's 1-1 draw against Cameroon on Thursday]. Later the game did get better and more varied. But it undoubtedly remained the weakest of the four World Cup matches so far. Wetl, who on the TV captions had the promising name "Welt" [World], did most of the attacking work, while Herzog looked as though he had taken his leaden waistcoat off at last... A triple change [three substitutions] was supposed to turn things around. A seemingly ludicrous enterprise for the eight remaining minutes. But, thanks to Polster, the equaliser arrived just when time was running out." "Kurier", Vienna

SPANISH FANS are glumly anticipating weeks of boring, cautious football until the finals. "No player wants to over-exert themselves with so many games to go," said the El Pais football commentator yesterday. The Spanish coach, Javier Clemente, instructed his boys not to talk to the press ahead of their debut against Nigeria today, condemning as "spies" some journalists who tried to breach the kilometre-wide no-go zone surrounding Tuesday's training session. Docile Spanish hacks accepted the conditions, to the disgust of their Italian counterparts who criticised them for being feeble.