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Day 31

 It's World Cup final day. I sit here with Tantrum, Punky, Rainman, Citizen Sims, Ray The Red, Father of Twins as well as Tantrum's mum, Aoife and Viv (we don't nickname girls here it appears). I am wearing my Spanish shirt. I am praying for the defeat of the nation of Holland. It is 7.25. Deep breathes all round. Let's get some predictions:

Dar: Spain 1 - 0 Holland
Ray The Red: Spain 3 - 2 Holland (aet)
Father of Twins - Holland 3 - 1 Spain
Punky - Spain 3 - 1 Holland
Rainman - Spain 2 - 0 Holland
Citizen Sims - Holland 2 - 1 Spain
Aoife - You don't want to know what she predicted. It involved Paraguay.
Viv: "I 'unno.
Tantrum: Spain 4 - 2 Holland (aet)
Tantrum's Mum: Spain 3 - 0 Holland"

Anthem time, Nigel De Jong doesn't know the words. I'm unsurprised. The Spanish one doesn't have words. How are we supposed to respect them?

It takes 47 seconds for a dirty Dutch player make a dirty tackle. it's Robin Van Persie.  We have just had Viv realise what the vuvvuzelas are. I'm not sure what what she thought was making that horrible noise all along, perhaps she thought it was Tantrum?

4mins: Van Bronchurst concedes silly free. Spain almost close, Van Excuse For A Keeper in the Dutch goal parrying away a header from Ramos. Spain started better. This pleases me.

8mins: Alonso, of all people, gives the ball straight to Kuyt (perhaps he thought he was at Liverpool again). The Dutchman's shot is everything we've come to expect. Limited and easily contained. I'd be typing more but there's home made pizza to be had here. Tantrum's mum made me my own specially.

11 mins: Ramos works into space in the area. Get's a shot away. Corner.

12 mins: Villa finds the side netting. I thought it was in. Aoife is reading this on her phone. hi Aoife!

15 mins: Van Persie is booked after another nasty tackle.  It may be wrong to wish harm on another but in Robin's case... I'm comfortable with it.

17 mins: Ray Houghton agrees with me that Puyol has been booked incorrectly. The Dutchman flying through the air screaming like a dislikable piece of dirt is Robben.

20 mins: This has been fairly poor. And I'm appalled that I agreed with Ray Houghton. Holland win a corner.

22 mins: Van Bommell is booked for a terrible tackle on Xavi. It's about 5 games too late but it's something. He paws the ref afterwards like the deeply unpleasant man we know he is. Ramos is booked shortly after.

24 mins: Rainman schools Tantrum in footballing knowledge. We all gasp. The girls are talking about hair. Nobody has mentioned Ramos, Puyol or even me!

28 mins: De Jong should have walked for planting his studs into Alonso's chest. The Dutch are a complete disgrace. If there's any justice in the world they'll lose this. 

33 mins: Robben dies again and falls screaming. Detestable, sub human, aged looking freak. Spain passing around and still in control but not cutting edge. Heitinga, supposedly returning possession to Spain, tries to chip Casillas instead and wins a corner. I've kept my language fairly clean in this blog but these Dutch are some shower of wankers. Casillas is livid.

37 mins: One of the anonymous, crap, Dutch defenders miskicks in space in the Spanish penalty area. Golden opportunity wasted. I am pleased.

40 mins: Another Van Bommell foul gives Spain a free in a promising position. They waste it. I am displeased.

42 mins: Sneijder kicks Busquets and pretends to be injured to avoid a booking. Ray Houghton, clearly in some sort of short man's agreement, defends the Dutchman.

45 mins: Alonso, clearly sick of Robben diving, kicks him. Good for you Xavi. From the resulting free Holland force a couple of chances. Casillas pushes a Robben shot behind for a finish.

Half-time. 0-0.

The RTE Panel agree with me that the Dutch are a shower of dirty savages and that Howard the Coward has blown a chance to make a stand for decency and send one of them off. As one of them said, "Holland could still win this," when they don't deserve to still be in contention.

Second half about to begin. Enthusiasm is waning here in our little group.

48 Mins: Spanish corner flicked on by Puyol, Capdowhatshisname misses a chance that would fall into the 'harder to miss than score' category.

49 mins: Dutch half chance. It's nothing special.

53 mins: Spain are depressingly negative in possession, no desire to push on and really try to force  Holland open. As I type this Spain do try and push on and Van Bronchurst gets booked for a cynical foul. Spain waste another free kick.

56 Heitinga becomes the latest booked for another bad tackle. Holland again refuse to give possession back. 

59 Heitinga gets a header in on goal. Loosely. Very, very loosely. Holland starting to push on a bit.

62 mins: Arjen Robben played through one on one... his shot is too late, too tame, too slow. Casillas makes the save. Ludworth texts to share his thoughts on this vile Dutch team. They're identical to mine. Spain starting to wilt, clearly the Dutch plan to kick them until they start to soften is starting to work.

The girls suggest that we abandon half-time and go straight to penalties.

67 mins: Capdevila is booked for a particularly Dutch foul. Holland starting to look ever more dangerous.

70 mins: Villa gets on the end of a Spanish move about two yards from goal... Heitinga, who's lost him originally and is lying on the ground, recovers to block brilliantly.

73 mins: Holland's niggly fouls starting to stack up again. Another promising free kick for Spain... I think they'll waste it... they do.

76 mins: Villa volley at the back post... can you say HOPELESS?

77 mins: Ramos... free header... 7 yards... surely he can't miss? He does. Van Bommell, whose spent the World Cup kicking people at every available opportunity, dives under minimal contact from Iniesta.

81 mins: Iniesta leaves two Dutch men for dead and then refuses to shoot. Why? I have no clue, no clue at all.

83 mins: Robben is played in one on one again. He could have dived justifiably for the first time in his life as Puyol tries to do a Robin Van Persie on him, chose not to and misses his chance. He screams like a little girl again afterwards. This gladdens my heart.

86 mins: Fabregas is about to come on. He believes he will change the game. I hope he does but I'm not convinced... Alsonso makes way.

89 mins: Arjen Robben is a lowlife. And only 26 years old. Robin Van Persie, yards offside, rounds the keeper and... hits the post. the flag was up but the mediocre Dutchman just couldn't help himself.

Full-time. 0-0. I've another half hour of this to endure.

Extra time to begin. Ludworth has texted again to gloomily predict a Dutch win.

3 mins: Spain have a weak penalty shout turned down.

5 mins: Fabregas played in one on one, poor effort, blocked. Holland go straight to other end and win corner which anonymous, crap, Dutch defender misses in some style.

9 mins: Iniesta given another unmissable chance. His natural cowardice comes to the fore and he hesitates until the opportunity is gone.

10 mins: Another Spanish chance, I'm not even sure who by, is deflected into the side netting...

Half-time in extra-time.

Villa going off, Nancy Torres coming on. I'm sure Holland are terrified.

19 mins: Heitinga is finally sent off. Webb waits until far too late to send one of them off.

21 mins: Van Der Viel booked. it may be for his crap tattoo.

23 mins: Howard the Coward chickens out again by refusing to give Robben a second yellow. As gutless as Spain have been for much of this game.

27 mins: Spain have scored. Yards onside. Anonmyous  Dutch defender is called Matthuejson. He gets booked for leading the Dutch tantrums. Good enough for the spoilt, cheating, rag tag misfits. Iniesta with the wonderful finish. Kept his nerve. 1-0 Spain, 1-0 Spain, 1-0 Spain. YES!!!

Spain two minutes  from glory. I'm two minutes from predicting the correct score.

32 mins: Torres does hamstring. Best ending ever.

It's over. Karma the ultimate victor. Hope you were watching Drogba. All the vile Dutch players looking sickened. Sneijder in particular is making a show himself. Iniesta man of the match. This has been a crap, crap final. But on the basis of the night both teams got what they deserve. Football won, Holland lost. Liam Brady and I still singing from the same hymn sheet, a shortened version of which goes, " F You Holland!" Happy days.

Day 30

So Germany go out in some style finishing third and Muller scores again but Klose doesn't because he was disappointingly injured. And Forlan scored again which sets us up nicely for the Golden Boot with both Villa and Sneijder still live also. I'm very disappointed for Klose because he won't be back at the World Cup again in probability and it would have been extremely nice to see him equal Fat Ronaldo's 15 goals in World Cup's haul. Still a silver medal and two bronze isn't a bad haul for a World Cup career though I'm sure he'll entertain no shortage of regrets that he never won it.

Speaking of Sneijder, Paul (from Moviedrome, not the Octopus) came into work tonight to let me know that we were wrong about Sneijder being the only likable player in this Dutch team. It turns out that he's as big a jackass as the rest of them, openly cheating on his wife and sneering at team-mates who don't earn as much as he does. Classy.

That makes the decision of who to support tomorrow night all the easier. It's got the be Spain, all the way. Up until today I was fairly sure that's what would happen too, reckoned Spain were just that bit better throughout and would grind out another result. Today though the Spanish fringe players (with an inflated sense of self-worth due to their place in the premiership no doubt...) started crying to the press about how badly they wanted to play. Never mind that Nancy Torres has been about as effective as a statue of a paralysed, drunken, old turtle in a 100 metres race. never mind that, Cesc Fabregas aside, nobody on earth thinks that Cesc Fabregas is anywhere near deserving of a place in the first eleven. No, these two players (prizes won between them last season: 0), who would be better advised hanging around in the background letting their more talented team-mates win them a medal, take the day before the World Cup final to introduce a bit of classically Dutch bitching and infighting to the mix. Anyway Cesc in particular, if he's really planning on making that move to Barcelona, needs to get used to the idea of sitting on the bench.

So anyway... prediction time yeah? Despite there being two shaky defences on display I don't see much in the way of goals. It's not easy to call but I'm still going to go with Spain. 1-0. Anybody but Torres.

I'll update this live during the game so feel free to take a peek. There's a gang off us going out to Tantrum's place to watch it and eat pizza. Punky, Magpie, Citizen Sims, Tantrum himself, they'll all be there. Table football tournament to follow. A worthy evening indeed.

Day 29

Just one World Cup point to focus on today and it's a reasonably indirect one. South Africa has invited Robert Mugabe to the World Cup final. Robert Mugabe? The homophobic, babaric, racist, corrupt piece of crap who has brought Zimbabwe to it's knees? The man compared himself to Hitler and was voted 'Dictator of the Year' in 2009 by one magazine. With the greatest to respect, go to hell South Africa. In an ideal world both teams would roll out another anti-Mugabe banner alongside the anti-racism one we've seen used extensively at this World Cup. The very notion of Robert Mugabe being in attendance and not being roundly ridiculed when there's an ANTI-RACISM agenda supposedly in play makes a mockery of the whole thing. Maybe the players and the world at large will surprise me with sufficient protesting that the old bastard will keel over on the spot. It's easy to say that sport and politics shouldn't mix but that goes out the window with things like this.

Back to football, last night Limerick trounced a miserable Salthill Devon 5-0 and it was almost like watching Germany at times. Flowing, tiday, compact football, goals coming from all over the pitch (five different scorers). It mattered not that the rain fell incessantly. For Punky, The Wall and I, all was good in the World. Next Friday Limerick travel to Wexford. Must try and get the day off work for it.

And then tonight, my Germany and Uruguay take their final bow. I have work. And maybe it's for the best. Sometimes it's best not to say goodbye. Tomorrow night the plan is to update this thing LIVE as the action goes down. And the following day... expect a long post discussing what we've 'learned' over the month. After that... who knows right?

Day 28

I'm rather at a loss for something to write today. I could do my World Cup villians for sure but I'd rather wait until the tournament is over for that. I could put together my World Cup XI but that's the kinda thing you want to wait until the end to do also. I could wax lyrical about Limerick's game with Salthill Devon tonight and how much fun it's going to be going to a game that we actually know that Limerick will win. If you look at the League table right now for the Airtricity First Division you'll see that Salthill Devon are rooted to the bottom with only one win to their name all season. You may not be aware that they actually lost that 'victory' 3-0 to Wexford but were awarded the points after Mick Wallace's crew of pretend-amateurs fielded an ineligiable player. Just another day in domestic football but I'm looking forward to tonight's game with a keener sense of anticipation than I have in a while.

Spain and Holland on Sunday? Yeah I'm looking forward to that too though the notion of a Dutch victory still leaves me feeling quite unwell. So many destestable people in one team, even a Dutch team, is an impressive feat in many respects but overall... not something to garner much popular support. And while I'm positively lukewarm towards this Spanish side, over the years I've liked enough of their players that I can feel some kind of empathy. Michel and Butragueno were two of the first international players that I developed an interest in (mostly on the grounds of their performances in taking Ireland apart in a facile 2-0 Spanish victory in our second Italia 90 qualifier. Kevin Moran was in midfield that night. Kevin Moran!). Other Spaniards who made my positive list over the years included Zubizeretta, Manuel Sanchis, Qique, Manolo, Julio Salinas, Julen Guerro and Hierro (the Hero).

One final note of praise goes out to Paraguay's keeper (off the top of my head, Brava?) for coming out and ripping to bits South Africa's 'organisation' of this World Cup. It may not have been mentioned much by our overly liberal press here but Paraguay's bus broke down on the way to one of their games. Was the bus repaired? No. Was a new bus sent out instead? Don't be silly. Did Paraguay have to travel to their game in a fleet of taxis? They certainly did. Is this good enough? Absolutely not. Much credit to the boy for speaking out and pointing out that this is his third World Cup and the only one where this sort of farce has happened. Between that and the pay disputes and the oceans of empty seats and even the amount of reported crimes suffered by visitors. Off the field South Africa 10 gets an 'F' grade. On the field... it's a higher mark but only just to be fair!

Day 27

Well the World Cup has rather died for me with the elimination of the vibrant, gutsy, young Germans. I am far more disappointed about this than I have any right to be. In part this is because this German team were so just so damn likable and they have legitimately made me feel about football like I haven't in far too long. That said it would appear that last night's game was a bridge too far for them as Spain continued their ungainly crawl towards world domination. And I now hope that Spain do it. They're nowhere near as objectionable as this Dutch shower are. I had nipped across to Paul's last night for a minute and saw Carlos Puyol's crashing header. It's probably a little unfair of me to point out that the goal came when SuperBasti had to go back and concede a corner in Lahm's part of the field?

Anyway I've always liked Puyol (as a character rather than as a defender. Obviously!) though it frustrates me that he doesn't either tie his hair up or at least wear some type of a headband when he plays. I'm comfortable with the thought of him owning a World Cup winners medal though. Robin Van Persie, Nigel De Jong or Ryan Babel? I feel my stomach turning.

There's not much for me to take in the way of silver linings but we make do with what we can. In the aftermath of the game I expressed a simple sentiment on my Facebook profile - 'Scheisse'. A German girl who had studied in the same place as me added several more variants on this underneath. I asked her what they meant. She wouldn't tell me, telling me that they were pretty vile actually. Then we chatted about football for a while. She said that Ozil was her favourite, I owned up to my mancrush on SuperBasti. Then we talked about all sorts of things including music (it turns out that The Kelly Family are not as crap as I always thought: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26Z77dGDM-Q&playnext_from=TL&videos=1WtsQkptB1k), what it was like growing up In East Germany and what it was like when the wall fell (she carried that part of the conversation as you can imagine), the decline of a sense of community in contemporary Ireland. It was a lot of fun. I'm sure we would prefer to have watched Klose bang home a hat-trick and never realised that we've rather a lot in common but there ya go. Then her laptop died and the arriving Shawna became the latest person to humour me rather more than they should in this and treat Germany's defeat with all the sadness that I would expect if a close family member died.

Germany, thank you. You provided the only consistent action over an extended period time in this World Cup (sorry Chile and Mexico). Four years from now I shall pick up where we left off (unless Ireland surprise me and qualify, in that case blood remains thicker than water).

Finally I don't wanna keep banging on about how great Europe are doing. I've never felt European to be honest and I've voted no in every European referendum we've had since in the last few years (not because I'm anti-Europe either I stress but because I think we've gelled enough of I find the whole notion of a United States of Europe unpalpable though the accronym would be appropriate). But when people were falling over themselves in their haste to write an obituary for European football my hackles were raised. Go on, go back and reread, I was always sceptical that it was begining of the apocalypse for our continent's football teams. I may have predicted little else correctly this month but I didn't get carried away by the collapse of France (which was an aritifical one anyway in the sense that it had nothing to with ability or a lack of) and Italy. Three European countries in the last four? Only Uruguay sneaking in with them and that because of the vaguries of a draw that kept them away from European sides in the knock out stages until their semi-final exit. Brazil? Argentina? Failures on a grand scale. But more significantly than that not only will we have a new name on the FIFA World Cup this weekend but it will mark the first time that a European country has won the trophy outside of Europe. A true low for European football for sure... 

Day 26

So it ends for Uruguay. And strangely, for me, due to a misalignment of the fixtures, my work schedule and a relucatance to miss Limerick Vs. Salthill Devon on Friday night it also ends until the final itself. I don't get to see either semi-final or the third place play off (missing that last one, that most redundant of fixtures, may not be such a bad thing.

I'm not a little worried that Holland may win the thing. It's been a strange World Cup. Plenty of nations (bit in particular Holland and Germany) have thrown off the racial stereotypes attached to their play. For the Germans (the new Holland) this has been a good thing. For the Dutch (the new Uruguay). It's been horrific most of the time. For Uruguay (the new Argentina) it worked out very well and carried them futher than anybody with any footballing knowledge could have predicted. Indeed, due to a fortunate draw, it arguably carried them further than they deserved. Delighted for Uruguay but we're not really supposed to believe that they're the best team in South America are we? I mean they finished fifth in that qualifying section we shouldn't forget.

And while the second Dutch goal was apparently quite dodgy (it was always going to be with Robin involved) there's a fair case to be made that Uruguay may just have used up their allocation of karma points in the previous round. Still their best performance at a World Cup in 40 years should be cherished. Now what odds on it being 40 years before they make such an impact again?

I haven't mentioned Spain yet. It's dificult to get a handle on them. As they've huffed and puffed forward looking more like the old Spain than the new anybody else they've looked like anything but potential winners. Yet they're still there and they surely have at least one good game in them. My adopted Germans should approach them with caution but on paper the vibrant boys in white should have too much momentum for the Spanish.

Also, and finally while I'm at it, so much for the collapse of Europe eh? I know I've said it before but it's even more appropriate now as we approach the business end of the tournament. The last three are all European and the team who rounded out the semi-finalists only got where they were by avoiding European teams in the knock out stages. Indeed Uruguay failed to beat the only European team that they met before Holland and could only manage a draw against the same miserable French team who promptly lost to Mexico and South Africa.

We'll finish with a choice of two cliches, choose whichever one you wish to use today when talking about the supposed death of European football.

"The rumours of our demise have been greatly exaggerated"

or

"The more things change the more they stay the same".

Day 25

Heroes. Which men have been the superstars of South Africa? To save you the bother of trying to decide for yourself I'm going to the trouble of picking out the most worthy contenders who spring easily to mind. I'm discounting everybody whose team has already been eliminated on the grounds that they didn't do enough. This may seem harsh but I'm comfortable with the decision. Commiserations to potentially worthy cases like The Mighty New Zealand's Ricky Herbert and Ryan Nelson (they didn't actually win a game after all), Argentina's Higuain (but he really only turned it on in one game) and even Slovakia's Vittek (again one win in four does not a resounding success make). I have six men chosen.

Wesley Sneijder (Holland): Sneijder has been top class throughout. From Day 1 he has driven this Dutch side on providing a outlet in unpredictable creativity that has kept Holland on the road. He's scored and created chances for others (even if Robin Van Persie has wasted all of his). A true visionary playmaker in the truest sense of the word his workrate and endeavour are also praiseworthy.

Diego Forlan (Uruguay): Remains every inch the player that Manchester United thought they were signing and developed into a true leader also. Has been calm and polished throughout. Could provide a real test for a shaky looking Dutch defence. My mild criticism of him as Uruguay's be all and end all was always partly in jest but he has stepped up to the plate when needed and proven his quality.

Luis Suarez (Uruguay): A controversial choice perhaps following the handball on the line incident against Ghana but while I wouldn't vote for him as player of the tournament I think he's earned a place on this list regardless for his tireless efforts up front throughout the competition. Has shown an eye for the goal and good decision making abilities (I'm not even talking about the handball there but I suppose it doesn't hurt the argument either). Still not convinced that he's worth the kinda fees being mooted now and that he won't become the next Karol Poborsky (who was never a bad player but never a great one either). Of course in Uruguay the stuff with Ghana will only add to his legend. He will be missed against Holland. Nigel De Jong will not.

David Villa (Spain): For single-handedly dragging a misfiring Spain to the last four for the first time since 1950. On a related aside (and there's not much more to said about Villa that hasn't been said a million times before anyway) a truly staggering amount of journos (Cathal Dervan included) are holding this up as the Spaniard's first time reaching the semi-finals. It may technically be true as the World Cup of 60 years ago placed the last four teams (Brazil, Sweden and Uruguay were the other three and, no, I didn't have to look that up) in a final pool where they all played each other but it's either ignorance or deliberately misleading to suggest that Spain have never gotten this far before.

And so to the Germans *swoon*. There's no shortage of contenders here but I've limited myself to two. Khedira and Ozil are two others who could easily, with a couple of good games, be remembered as the World Cup's best. But I focus now on two players who are coming of the back of less heralded seasons, despite their club's comparative successes.

Miroslav Klose (Germany): Now 32 and coming off the back of a desperately disappointing season you would have been forgiven for thinking that Klose was winding down here in South Africa. Instead he has provided no shortage of experience and grit to the young cubs around him. Has scored throughout and overcome the disappointment of a harsh (but needless) red card against Serbia to propel Germany towards the title. Still sharp, still clever, still strong, still dangerous on the ground or in the air Miroslav Klose has taken his total World Cup goals tally to 14, equalling Gerd Muller's haul (with a likable modesty he has been downplaying his achievements) and coming to within one of Ronaldo's record 15. In an ideal world his 16th would be the goal that wins the final.

Thomas Muller (Germany): You can't argue with two things. Firstly that the Tantrum curse is the best thing a player can be bestowed with (for blog latecomers allow me to explain briefly. Our sometime contributor Tantrum has developed a habit of singling out players for derision who then proceed to shine. Muller was his sacraficial lamb before the turnament started this time). Secondly that Thomas Muller, criticised for his efforts for Bayern all season, has had a stellar World Cup. Goals and assists aplenty: check. Revenge against Ego Maradona for pathetic snub earlier in year: Check. All of this achieved in my first full season as a pro before I turn 21: Check. Heroic.
Stay happy,
Dar


Day 24

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here's two thousand words then.

Practicing my disdain for the Spanish.

I bought the shirt especially, the flag I had anyway.

That is me nailing my colours to the mast. You've been an awesome crowd Vista. Goodnight!
Dar

PS) Tomorrow I'll provide actual words. I promise!


Day 23


Well what about those Germans? Actually let's get the other stuff out of the way so we can focus on them today.

In a minor game Spain stole a win against Paraguay. It finished 1-0. Paraguay had a goal disallowed and both teams missed penalties in quick succession. Sounds dramatic. My brother texted me updates. For a man who's not particularly into sport he has watched a frightening amount of football these last three odd weeks. Torres drew another blank. Spain continue to lurch forward in a manner that is not entirely convincing. I still worry they'll pull it off though.

But anyway... to the real action. Germany Vs. Argentina, the clash to determine who England's real rivals are (sure the Faklands was more recent but it can't match the two World Wars for size so there's a case to be made for both). And far more significantly there was a World Cup semi-final place at stake. And a whole heap of bad blood going back to the last World Cup that was only added to by Ego Maradona who drew Bastian Schweinsteiger into the fray. Ego Maradona stooped to mocking the German accent. Basti and his boss Joachim, to my disappointment, didn't stoop to hoovering up a mountain of imaginary coke, declaring, "the boy is not my son, what's DNA?", or simulating gastric bypass surgery in their interviews. No, they talked football. They didn't even mention the stupidity of leaving Javier Zanetti at home, perhaps fearing that Maradona would try and summon him at the last minute and that FIFA would indulge him by allowing this as they indulged the African nations by overturning suspensions picked up at the African Cup of Nations while The Mighty New Zealand, for example, had their first choice keeper suspended for two games.

Anyway Joachim Loew told us that that he felt he had identified some weaknesses in the Argentine side that he would try to exploit. Ego's response was particularly measured, though only when measured by the new standards in asinine nonsense that he's specialised in of late. It more or less amounted to warning Basti that Argentina would settle their scores with him on the pitch. I'm unsure if this was a veiled threat that Schweinsteiger was going to be kicked from pillar to post or simply a proclamation that Argentina would sweep Germany aside with ease and a noted swagger. It's possible that Diego was just high I suppose or worried about another paternity suit. We may never know but it's all a bit of a moot point because in any event it turned out that Germany would sweep Argentina aside with ease and a noted swagger and Schweinsteiger would play like the second coming of whoever you personally consider to be the greatest central midfielder of all time. Maradona, Eve Peron, Ludworth, CitizenSims, Gabriel Batistuta, your boys took one hell of a beating.

4-0. I repeat for added emphasis, 4-0. I'll even put it in bold. 4-0. It didn't start well for Maradona as Thomas Muller rubbed yet more salt into Tantrum's ability to predict World Cup failures by scoring again with less than three minutes on the clock. The rest of the first half continued at pace. Germany were sitting a little deep for my taste but always looking dangerous on the counter. Argentina do have the ball in the net at one point but there are no less than four of them offside when the ball is played. Germany, by contrast, aren't found offside once all day. Thomas Muller gets booked a little cheaply for a handball which rules him out of the semi-final which is probably a little disappointing to everybody on earth bar Tantrum. Half-time came and went, I imagined Maradona's half-time team talk consisted of him screaming red-faced at his players that they were only a pack of women anyway and he hated them as he tethered dangerously on the brink of falling off the wagon.

Second half begins. Demechelis replaces his admitedly rather girlish hairband with his usual professional ponytail. Punky and I sit back in anticipation. Even my boss wondered in from the shop to the Corner Flag to join us for a few minutes. Argentina had to attack, I appreicate that, I really do. They didn't create much in the way of chances though and as the gaps got wider at the back they were always susceptible to being caught out. Enter Klose. Muller gets a pass away to Podolski despite being bundled to the ground and his pass across makes it literally (and I mean that literally) impossible for Klose to miss. Argentina then show great togetherness by collapsing as one. Perhaps Maradona should have brought an actual leader or two with him? Like Zanetti? Just saying.

It got better. For me anyway. And Germany and Basti to be fair. The most German German of them all these days set off on a run remeniscent of Diego himself in his pomp leaving demoralised, dejected Argentines  helpless in his wake before cutting the ball back for Friedrich to bundle home a third for Germany. As the game winds to a close another tremendous German counter attack sees the ball moved effortlessly from one end of the pitch to the other in seconds. Klose volleys home to round off a scintillating move and make it 4-0. I don't quite orgasm but it's a lot closer than a sneeze.

Of the four sides that were eliminated at this stage I think there's a fair chance that only Paraguay will return home with any kind of satisfaction. Ghana should but won't, undermined by an arrogance that seems to prevent them from seeing that they overachieved and taking pride in that achievement. As for Brazil and Argentina, Brazil, as discussed yesterday, must face up to the fact that they basically beat themselves and Argentina's defeat would have been difficult enough for them to take even if they hadn't talked it (and themselves) up quite so much. Messi didn't deserve to go home without a goal. Also... Mascherano... whatever else he may be... is no footballer.

On happier news Suarez will be available for Uruguay's last game as common sense prevailed (unusually) in the FIFA offices. Maradona is considering his future. Leaving everything else aside I think he should probably go but it's difficult to see where he'd go next. It could be the end of the line for him in football if he does.

So on we ride. Holland Vs. Uruguay. Germany Vs. Spain. Just four games and four teams remain. My heart says Germany, Uruguay, Spain and Holland in that order. My head... my head, with some trepidation sees Germany seeing off Spain and beating Holland in the final. Klose is just one goal away from equalling Ronaldo's World Cup record haul of 15. He's now tied with Gerd Muller. I hope he does it. And obviously we mean the rotund Brazilian Ronaldo and not the narcissicistic Portugese one there.

And to finish on a positive note Lilian Thuram, always quite thoughful for a footballer, is leading the clamour for Evra to never again be picked for France. Sehr gut.

Day 22

You know I did take fairly detailed notes on the Brazil-Holland game but it was such a mess of a game that I'm not going trawling them again for anybody. What I will do is note the following:

1) Holland didn't beat Brazil. Brazil beat Brazil. Right up to the first goal Holland had shown absolutely nothing to suggest that they had anything about them to turn it around. Sneijder aside they were pedestrian, uninspired and artless. Julio Cesar, it turns out, was just another dodgy Brazilian keeper all along.

2) The Dutch do deserve some credit for keeping their heads up but once more the bigger story here is how utterly the Brazilians collapsed once things got in any way difficult. There was a series of shots of Brazilian players as the game entered the last seven or eight minutes and every one of them looked utterly panicked. Terror and bewilderment were written large on every face.

3) The first goal in particular was excellent. It did show up just how porous this Dutch defence is too. On a related note it was harsh on Sneijder, in my opinion, that the first Dutch goal was marked down as an own goal.

4) Kaka can be added to the list of world class players who have utterly failed to make a mark on this tournament. Robin Van Persie can be added to the list of utterly mediocre players who are failing to achieve even that. Wesley Sneijder on the other hand is surely a good bet to win Player of the Tournament.

5) This was a terrible game, especially after the first twenty odd minutes, and if it was played out by, say, Germany and Slovakia, or England and anybody, we'd be falling over ourselves to dismiss it as such. That some people can overlook the non-stop niggles and fouls and cynicism just because Brazil and Holland are playing and they're apparently always awesome to watch says very little about the intellect of the average football fan. Nigel De Jong in particular never fails to draw my ire and he was at it again today kicking and pushing and elbowing for all he was worth, constantly getting involved in altercations, forever touching the faces of Brazilian players and leering at them. People are cribbing about Suarez "cheating the whole of Africa" in a manner that is beyond pathetic. De Jong is as big a cheat as I've ever seen on a football pitch, constantly, constantly breaking the rules. Liam Brady's criticism of this encounter was spot on. The ever-dislikable Robinho and Sneijder played about the only football on the pitch while all around them concentrated on mistiming as many tackles as possible.

6) Given my distaste for Brazil in general and this Dutch team it was an uncomfortable game for me to watch. The meteor that I hoped would fall out of the sky crushing both teams failed to materialise sadly but happily in the 92nd minute I spied an Israeli flag right in the midst of the Brazilian fans and guiltlessly changed sides. Go Holland (though I still hope Uruguay stuff you!)

7) MayoMan did make it down and after only 19 minutes had elapsed in the game which was far, far earlier than I expected to be fair.

With that out of the way MayoMan and I went to the Limerick - Waterford United game where we met Punky and The Wall. So here's a very detailed game report about that... My intention was to put a detailed match report in here actually. However there's only so much you can do even with an exciting 0-0 draw. And tonight's game between Limerick and Waterford United was not one of those exciting 0-0 draws. Still it keeps Limerick third in the table and the banter was excellent so it was all good. Especially as we got back to my house just in time to see the last few minutes of extra time between Uruguay and Melchester Rovers... sorry, Ghana.

Quite a finish eh? Uruguay clearly barely hanging on, Ghana showing all the precision in front of goal that you'd expect from a team who failed to score from play in their three group matches. Honestly it was like Roy Race was playing for them after his helicoptor crash... Of course in injury time of extra time they finally forced a breakthrough only for Suarez, Urugauay's star striker, to display catlike reflexes on the goal line to suggest that he could have been the answer to England's goalkeeping woes when he got up to palm away the ball. Penalty. Suarez treads sadly off towards the tunnel. Gyan treads nervously and somewhat unsteadily towards the penalty spot. The Ghanian chokes in fairly risible fashion. I know it was a tough situation and I do feel a bit sorry for him but ultimately he blew it. Against the crossbar (which then received a delightful clap of support from Muslera in the Uruguayan goal). We went to penalties. My Dad decided that everybody should throw in two euro and pick a winner and that the takings would be split between those who backed the right horse. My Dad, his partner and Punky all picked Ghana. Perhaps they hadn't watched them visibly deflate on the TV after missing their last gasp penalty, perhaps they thought it was all part of a clever ruse, perhaps they just felt it was the PC thing to do. Whatever the reasons MayoMan and I walked away with a cool 6 euro each. I've just now realised that those numbers don't add up and that somehow there was more money in the pot than there should have been. Still... I won't lose any sleep about it. I will give Gyan enormous credit for stepping up and slamming home the first penalty in the shoot out perfectly. The winning penalty from Abreau also deserves serious props.

I have to say, I'm delighted Uruguay won the game. The indecent haste with which people were falling over themselves to tie their support to the Ghana Express was patronising nonsense at it's most cloying. It's not like Ghana played ANY football in this tournament. I dodn't think they scored one goal that could be described as a team move. We had a couple of penalties and a couple of terrific long range efforts. They played like a collection of individuals and while they may have cried together in defeat had they played together in the games themselves they may have been spared the indignity of being eliminated in such cruel circumstances. Stupid goal celebrations do not a team make (Sunderland and Eboue in general are also good examples of this). I predicted, one of the few I got right as it turns out, that Ghana would be the only African side to negotiate the group stages even without Michael Essien. They've done extremely well to get to where they are but anybody who believes that they're amongst the eight best sides in the world, let alone the best four is only fooling themselves.

Let's look at some of the fallout. Suarez is either a cheat or a hero? He couldn't possibly simply be a player who made a decision in the heat of the moment, took a calculated risk and reaped the benefits. If he is suspended for the final/3rd place game as well as the semi it makes a mockery of FIFA. He gambled, took a hit for his team and his country and it paid off for him. His joyous reaction to the penalty being missed was beautiful to watch too, there's a player who cares. I didn't see any massive outcry about what a cheat Carlos Tevez is after his goal against Mexico. Or against Nigel De Jong for his constant rule-breaking. Or for that matter, Michael Essien, one of the dirtiest players on this earth of ours. Anyway if Ghana can't score a penalty... well... that's football.

Similarly this desire to give Gyan a hug that seems to reverberating around the world in the wake of his first miss is completely puzzling to me. I don't recall Roberto Baggio getting the same treatment when he missed (in the World Cup final!) in 1994. I've never come across anybody feeling particularly broken up for Gareth Southgate. When Ian Harte missed for Ireland against Spain in 2002 most people wanted to strangle him rather than hug him (though I suspect that a long queue of people wishing to strangle you is just another part of being Ian Harte). More patronising nonsense. We take this underdog thing too far here sometimes. Not to mention that it's utterly misplaced. For a tiny, tiny country like Uruguay to make the last four of the World Cup... now that's an incredible achievement in the modern game.

So with the greatest of respect, good riddance to Ghana. They did well, they over-achieved, they scored a couple of fabulous goals but in the final analysis, stripping away all the rhetoric and nonsense, all the facepaint and feel good factors... they weren't very good, gathering one clean win in five games against the US (beating ten man Serbia with an iffy penalty... not a particularly clean win).

Uruguay - Holland... could either be a footballing orgasm or the dirtiest game played since... well since Holland and Portugal in the not too distant past I suppose. For a team with such a reputation for playing pretty football the Dutch have always been a bit dirty haven't they?

Now excuse me, I'm off to salivate at the prospect of Germany - Argentina! =)

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