I watched two complete games and parts of another two, this weekend, and... played in one! Fathers’ Day, you betcha.

The big take-away from this weekend? Group E Oh My Goodness.

Czechs 0 Ghana 2 · I am officially a major fan of Ghana’s “Black Stars”, as of now. Chances are they advance, and I will be rooting for them against whichever big-name side they play next.

Here’s why: Call me old-fashioned, but I see soccer as a game of movement, and I’ve always thought that running really fast into open space in the direction of the opponent’s goal, with or without the ball, is one of the ways the game ought to be played. The Ghanaians do this well and all the time, but the technique is no longer practiced in European soccer, where attack relies on a bunch of boring passes outside the zone, followed by a long ball to someone on the wing who might manage to get a cross in front. Or, occasionally, a pass slipped into the top of the box where the attacker’ll look for a turn or back-heel or whatever, but usually either loses the ball or passes it back to centre. Bah.

Just because the Ghanaians have (apparently) more pace than anyone else doesn’t mean they can’t do an architected build-up; Muntari’s goal was the climax of a subtle, artful, and razor-edged passing sequence; the best such that I’ve seen in the Cup so far.

And you don’t hear much about their defense, but do please observe that in 180 minutes of football against Italy and the Czechs they’ve allowed two goals; so they must be doing something right.

Both of Saturday’s scorers fouled out for the US match, which has to be a complete wild-card based on the Group E action so far. I’d have said the Americans were likely to be run over by the Black Stars’ firewagon, but they played very damn tight soccer against Italy and that’ll be a nail-biter. Obviously, at this point, every goal in every Group-E match is a matter of life or death.

Brazil 2 Australia 0 · I am so waiting to see the Brazilians really tested. They played well, but they didn’t win; the Aussies lost. There were by my count four different opportunities where a Socceroo was looking at an empty goal-mouth or went one-on-one with the keeper, and came away blank. It’s pretty simple: when you’re playing against a good team like Brazil and you don’t capitalize on their mistakes, you lose, that’s all.

But still, you have to love that rocking-the-baby Brazilian goal celebration.

France 1 South Korea 1 · France seemed the better team, but that counts for exactly zero on the score-sheet, and it’s hard to shed too many tears; first because the Koreans are lovable, second because keeper Lee Woon-Jae is the real deal, and third because French football is boring.

My guess is that South Korea will slaughter Switzerland and France will struggle for a win against Togo but still get into the second round on a tie-break, more’s the pity.

Dads 0 Kids 3 · We went down to the park Sunday afternoon and a general soccer frenzy broke out; kids (I think there were seven of them) against three Dads and an 11-year-old who didn’t want to play with “the kids”. They were leading slightly when suppertime approached so we reset the score and played to three and they won fair and square, we were really trying; well, except for you don’t really take your best shot on goal against someone who’s three feet tall. My own almost-seven-year-old notched the winner, a clean hard high left-footed drive. Facetiousness is a grown-up thing; after he scored I said “no dessert for you” but dessert is serious business at that age and he got genuinely upset and I had to explain that it was a joke, and then apologize.

But did we ever have fun; more than Ronaldinho and Muntari and Woon-Jae put together, I bet.


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June 19, 2006
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