England vs. Paraguay
How to make a game unwatchable in four easy steps:
1. Have Marcello Balboa be the color commentator. I'd prefer Tommy Smyth, perhaps because the Leprachaun Guy might be "about half a second from uttering the most bigoted comment ever spoken on television." At least it would be a) a complete and intelligible sentence b) interesting, on a train-wreck level if nothing else. It took me ten minutes into the game to be sick of him. He might get the Packer treatment for the rest of the cup, plus my Spanish is decent enough to watch on Univision for a few games...
2. Have a fussy referee. 3 (THREE!) foul throws by my count, numerous unecessary whistles, and a bizarre hatred for tall men jumping (Peter Crouch is at least 6'2" don't you know. He will probably win a lot of headers, and being tall isn't a foul).
3. Have the side down 1-0 be a niggly, negative South American team and have said ref indulge their histrionics. Despite trailing for 87+ minutes, the Paraguayans went for it...never. They did spend a lot of time trying to get England players yellow carded.
4. Have to side up 1-0 decide to combat the opposition's continued use of a 'counter-attacking' style by simply refusing to attack. I can't really blame Sven (though this is both funny and delightfully harsh) but his two substitutions were exceedingly negative. I would have loved to see him bring on Wolcott for Crouch once it became clear that the tall guy couldn't look at anyone funny (and he looks at everyone funny, not an attractive man) without being whistled.
Still, 1-0 Ingerland and all that. Must say that I was very surprised at how docile the England fans were all game - they usually make much more noise, especially in Europe.
Man of the Match: Joe Cole was the pick of a bad bunch.
Trinidad & Tobago vs. Sweden: Proof, if we needed it, that a 0-0 game can be exciting. Pretty harsh sending off, as John took the ball (and Rat-Tail Wilhelmson, who I've decided not to like solely on the basis of that hair, auditioned for Swan Lake quite convincingly.) Sweden didn't play terribly, though I though Larsson looked slightly out of his rhythm - he usually buries chances such has the medium height cross from Ibrahimovic (who will give England fits when they play.) But T&T defended pretty well and Hislop earned him MoM. With a little more composure or luck they may have even snagged a winner.
The T&T vs. Paraguay game could be among the least watchable in WC history.
MoM: Shaka Hislop, with an assist from Brett Sancho.
Argentina vs. Ivory Coast: CLICHE ALERT! Goals change games. I thought the first Argentina goal was somewhat against the run of play. And between goals, Ivory Coast always looked more dangerous. Until Argentina scored again. Based on the balance of first half play, 2-0 Argentina was pretty silly, but at that point, the Africans were demoralized and didn't really seem to start fighting until the 75th or so. Overall, if there was a word to describe to Ivorians performance, I'd have to say 'naive' - two relatively simple goals. Riquelme clearly needs to be crowded as he found space far too easily.
MoM: Juan Roman Riquelme, though Drogba (who I hate) seemed to be the only I.C. player interested for long stretches at a time.
Tommorow, we get a look at the Dutch as well as the 'Boogeyman Bowl' between Iran and Mexico. Good times.