The Highlight Reel: Curse of the Hammers?
Tuesday 22 June 2010
First we had the curse of Chelsea, with the Michaels Ballack (Germany) and Essien (Ghana), Jon Obi Mikel (Nigeria) and Jose Bosingwa (Portugal) all pulling out with injury, Didier Drogba breaking his arm, and our own Joe Cole on the bench. And it got worse: Nicolas Anelka has been sent packing by France for an act of rebellion, and John Terry has had his attempted coup foiled before it had ever really begun.
But Highlight Reel asks: is a West Ham curse about to afflict England? First there was Robert Green and his goalkeeping gaffe. Then Valon Behrami was sent off for Switzerland against Chile. And who's about to make their World Cup finals debut tomorrow for England? Hammers defender Matthew Upson. Please keep everything crossed. Except, if you're reading this in the Slovenia camp, the ball.
Sarko blamed for Bleu murder
There is major political fall-out from the abominable failure of Raymond Domenech's side. "The atmosphere that prevails in the French team is one Sarkozy exudes," said Socialist Party honcho Jérôme Cahuzac. "It's all about individualism, egotism, everyone for themselves... the only way to judge human success is the cheque you get at the end of the month". Even centrist leader François Bayrou continued the class war: "The shipwreck of the French team tells us something about the weaknesses of France, of a model society that is based above all on money, which is adulated". Sacré bleu!
Buses rule OK
One of the more extraordinary but less obvious sights of the World Cup has been Jo'burgers coming to grips with public transport. The Rea Vaya bus system that delivered tens of thousands of fans to Brazil's match on Sunday with Ivory Coast at the extraordinary Soccer City stadium was the first time that many middle-class South Africans had seen the inside of a bus. "This is Lekker [Afrikaans meaning great]!" exclaimed one white South African in disbelief. "Public transport in Jo'burg? Mixed public space? Man, you live in the bubble all the time driving from one bubble to the next..."
The name game
Nominative determinism marches proudly on. We've had the pretty-boy head-band-wearing Chile defender Waldo Ponce. We've met the South African striker brought on to introduce an element of the unseen: Surprise Moriri. Now we have the charmingly named Honduras striker, who was brought in for another forward – Carlo Costly, of course! – bringing some vim and vigour to his country's frontline. Why, it's none other than Georgie Welcome.
God help us. No, really
So depressed was the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, by England's "remarkably aimless" performance against Algeria, he penned two prayers in response. We'll save you the second. Here's the first: "God, who played the cosmos into being, please help England rediscover their legs, their eyes and their hunger: that they might run more clearly, pass more nearly and enjoy the game more dearly. Amen." Amen indeed.
Look – I'm on the big screen!
Portugal's 7-0 victory over North Korea gave Cristiano Ronaldo a chance to indulge his favourite pastime: admiring himself on the big screen. He gazed up at his image during celebrations when team-mates Raul Meireles, Simao, Almeida, Tiago and Liedson all claimed a spot on the list of scorers, but the grin soon started to become a grimace until, phew, Ronaldo himself scored the sixth. There is no "i" in team, but in Portugese, there is in " equipe".
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