Sunday 18th June 2006

I enjoy the occasional quiet weekend. In recent weeks I have had far too much going on, while enjoyable it is not the same as staying in at home and doing nothing. I say nothing but I have just been watching the wall to wall football from the World Cup. Regardless of the countries playing I will try and catch the match, even if it means watching it in a window on my computer (as I am doing currently with the France versus South Korea game). It is the World Cup, you have to enjoy every second over the next few weeks for it will be another four years before we get the chance again. In 2010, however, I intend to make a big effort to get down to South Africa for some games (without or without England’s qualification. The atmosphere at this tournament, with the fan fest, has encouraged me to go, with or without tickets to enjoy the atmosphere. The main discussion and build up can wait until after 9th July.

Firstly we have to discuss Ghana’s game against the Czech Republic. Now Essien is a great footballer, but perhaps only now is he justifying the record transfer fee that Chelsea paid for him. He bossed the midfield along side the captain Appiah. An industrious performance, scoring an early goal and then a second to kill off the European nation, which is currently listed 2nd in the FIFA rankings. I was very happy for Ghana, to become the first African team to win in this tournament. They deserved it. I was looking forward to seeing them play and they put on a brave performance against the Italians. Here, they seemed to have built up some confidence and actually string some passes together to push the ball forward. The Black Stars to qualify through to the next round? Well if you listen to the jubilant, colourful supporters, you would not bet against it. It would perhaps take another shock in the evening game for that to become a greater reality.

Ever since USA ’94, I have followed the ups and mostly downs of the US national team. Why? I am not really sure, I suppose deep down I want them to do well. While their domestic league is ten years young but still perhaps a light year away from reaching the standard of the English Premiership, I enjoy watching some of their creative players, particularly those’s based in Europe. It must be an English mentality, to want to see the underdog do well. Soccer, may currently be a minority sport in the US, but over time, with a population so vast, it is only a matter of time before they finally arrive with a bombshell on the international stage. It is slowly growing in popularity, mainly pushed by the big immigrant community. Last time around hardly any matches were screened in English, four years on both ESPN and ABC are showing every match. The evening game was a mouthwatering prospect. Italy keen to confirm their position has group winners. The US to claw back some pride after a dismal showing in the first match (often refereed to by the American media as Match Day 1). Before kick off, there are the national anthems. My favourite national anthem by a country mile is the Star Spangled Banner. I wish I could say that my own country’s anthem was as patriotic, to rouse that feeling of unlimited pride in your stomach. The lyrics along with the almost swashbuckling melody makes it bring out the best (and worst) in it’s countrymen (and women). Searching on YouTube for some examples, I came across BeyoncĂ© Knowles performance at the Super Bowl, which is perhaps the only time a celebrity singer really belts out the song, accompanied by full orchestra. The best recording I have on mp3, is by Kelly Clarkson song without any musical backing.

I could comment on the match but I am sure if you saw the match and heard the poor commentary from ITV, you too have made up your own mind on the referee. The BBC give as always, a balanced view on proceedings. Nine versus ten was never going to be a contest but the American spirit saw them through to the end. What makes me chuckle is how before hand, our hacks over at the Guardian World Cup Blog (second only to the BBC) believed it would be a case of getting the biggest score line to truly smash their credentials on the table.

Booked my tickets for the British Motor Show yesterday. I was originally going to attend on Saturday 22nd July but as that clashes with Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial at Ashburton Grove, I rescheduled for the Sunday. The tickets go on sale to silver members, but I have been well informed that as this is the first weekend of the kiddies school holidays, there is a high probability of many fans being on holiday. Last time around, over two years ago I went by myself to the NEC. Chris is coming along this time around, although he did take some persuading. What won him over was the fact that you can actually test drive a selection of cars on the day. Plus, this will be my first visit to London Excel. Expect a full blog report and FlickR set in due course.

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