World Cup Diary: England's finger of suspicion

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The Independent Online
WORLD CUP year would not be the same without some Anglo-German drama. Last weekend in Chicago, the Subbuteo World Cup witnessed contentious scenes when England's representative was knocked out by a Hamburg taxi driver. Bristol's finest, Darren Clark, trailed 1-0 to Andreas Christensen when the green baize controversy reigned. It was almost 1966 and all that: Clark claimed a rising shot had rebounded from the stanchion inside the German's net while Herr Flick insisted it had hit only the bar. With no Russian linesman available, the Dutch referee waved play on, a decision that had the English contingent thinking 'do we not like that'. Clark, though, has film evidence from a camera crew to back his case, and may take it further.

NO MESSING around in Dublin today. Advertisements abound for the screening of Ireland v Italy at the National Basketball arena: 'Bar opens 3pm; kick-off 9pm'.

NOW here's a gimmick even England's lip-zinced, Raybanned cricketers haven't cottoned on to (yet). In Orlando's 35 C heat, Belgium's friendly against the US U-23s was more meltdown than warm-up: Paul Van Himst's men survived by applying special sun- reflecting hair gel. Defender Danny Boffin took a less scientific approach, swathing his head in a tiny American flag.

ONE cunning cooling aid was pioneered by New York Cosmos during their star-spangled lifetime: at half-time, players dipped swollen feet in buckets of iced water.

IN When Saturday Comes' prediction poll, one of the 1,000

responses to the question 'Who would you prefer to win the World Cup' was . . . Luton Town. Well, they do sport USA on their shirts.

BRAZIL'S 400-strong media posse trail Romario and Co everywhere, a situation causing friction with police assigned to protect the three-times winners. Tempers frayed after a practice match in Fresno, California; an attempt by Globo TV's Tino Marcos to interview Branco outside the dressing-room ended acrimoniously when, Marcos alleges, he was manhandled by a security guard. But then . . . 'Suddenly dozens of my colleagues started kicking the guard from behind,' Marcos said. 'I was very touched by their solidarity.' One of Marcos's mates then pushed a policeman in order to film another Brazilian. In response, the officer gave him a neat warning - he flashed his handcuffs in the cameraman's face.

TONY MEOLA, Brighton and Hove Albion's one-time (literally) goalkeeper, has been busy taking drama lessons and getting an American equity card. Meola has already had one minor part in a movie to be released this summer, the title of which cynics claim sums up US hopes in the World Cup - 'The Desperate Trail'.

BEER pressure: while Giants Stadium concessions gear up to dispense 238,000 cups of beer over seven games, Guinness report massive sales in central Florida. The presence of so many Irish fans has swelled typical monthly sales from 6,750 gallons to more than 50,000 gallons.