Stamford Bridge of sighs for France

World Cup Diary
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The Independent Online

"We maintained our level. We showed our mental strength. I'm upset to see we are faced with defensive teams who refuse to play. The referee can't have slept well. Some phases of the match were quite shocking. In the last two matches, we've had about 20 scoring chances." That was the way Marcel Desailly and Emmanuel Petit explained how underachieving France have one point, and no goals, from matches against Senegal and Uruguay. Sounds like familiar post-mortems with their underachieving Chelsea.

"We maintained our level. We showed our mental strength. I'm upset to see we are faced with defensive teams who refuse to play. The referee can't have slept well. Some phases of the match were quite shocking. In the last two matches, we've had about 20 scoring chances." That was the way Marcel Desailly and Emmanuel Petit explained how underachieving France have one point, and no goals, from matches against Senegal and Uruguay. Sounds like familiar post-mortems with their underachieving Chelsea.

So, who stands taller than all of them? Time's up. It's China's goalkeeper Jiang Jin, all 6ft 7in of him from head to toe. That's an inch taller than five 6ft 6ers, three of whom ply their trade in England. Arsenal's Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu, Sunderland's Irish target-man Niall Quinn and Watford's South African defender Pierre Issa. The Belgium centre-back Daniel van Buyten and Uruguayan forward Richard Morales complete the "mile high" club.

Poland's 1994 Eurovision entrant was trotted out to sing the national anthem before the match against South Korea. However, pop diva Edyta Gorniak's rendition was atrocious. Players and fans were unable to sing along and the watching President Aleksander Kwasniewski rolled his eyes in disbelief. Afterwards the team expressed their dismay. Gorniak flew straight home: "I did the best I could with all my artistic expression," she said. Poland lost 2-0.

As we raced to the newsagents yesterday to make sure we didn't dream up Friday's drama, Argentina's main tabloid was forced to serve humble pie for breakfast. In previewing the game, Olé had a picture of Beckham and Owen holding an England flag with the caption: "You know where you can stick that flag." Another story boasted: "Argentina is better than England." Yesterday Olé said: "We still love you Argentina. England won, celebrates." Diego Maradona was not as impressed: "I say the team with history behind it never loses." TV punditry beckons.

Numbers game No 1: nine more people were arrested by Hong Kong police yesterday for betting on the World Cup. Football betting is illegal, but punters were allowed to "get on" the Derby.

Numbers game No 2: At least 12 English fans have been arrested since the start. Two were arrested for stealing replica kits, one for cheating a salesman out of £5 (top effort!), and three on suspicion of using fake dollars to pay their bar tab. Numbers game No.3: The BBC say 13.3 million people tuned in at lunchtime on Friday... and some seven million for the 8pm replay on ITV.

Japan/Korea 2002, Athens 2004. That's the unique double awaiting Nigerian striker Julius Aghahowa. The country's gymnastics coach, Bulgarian Zlatev Koytcho, wants to take the player to the Olympics. "He is a very good gymnast... in fact, fantastic." After scoring against Sweden, Aghahowa launched into a celebration of seven back-flips and a backward somersault. England will not want him to get another chance to impress Koytcho...

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