You might think that after Zidane's violent head-butt in the 2006 championship match against the Azzuri, the French might be a little more circumspect this time around. Mais non, mon cher! The latest rumor is the team will be flying back home on economy class!
2) Farewell, too, to Italia, who came to South Africa, in the general concensus, not acting like the reigning WC champs. Turns out, there was good reason for that, as they were but a shadow of their former selves, finishing at the bottom of Group F.
3) Speaking of Group F, how about New Zealand? Arguably the lowest-ranking team in this World Cup, they didn't lose a game in a group that included two historical powerhouses--Italy and Paraguay--but didn't manage to go through to the knock-out round. Still, hats off to the All-Blacks, they came to play!
4) The USA game vs. Algeria on Wednesday night was one for the ages, at least if you are an American soccer fan! For the second time in two games, the US had a goal taken away by poor officiating. Scoreless in 90 minutes, the game looked to follow the usual script with momentary lapses on defense, squandered chances and time running out.
However, Landon Donovan--our premiere player--rewrote that script in the first minute of added time by following up a shot blocked by Algeria's stand-out keeper Raïs M'Bolhi. He was a blurry streak coming from somewhere outside the 18 yard line to punch the rebound into the net.
5) I was in 3AP watching the game with Karen and Patrick, and let out a nice holler of joy at that moment, and immediately ordered sambuca shots all round. However, I had strained my vocal cords in that instant, and soon was left croaking and whispering--not just for the rest of the night, but for the next two days! My co-teachers had to more or less take over my classes. Fortunately, they are capable of doing so (remember, it is a matter of asking entrance and exit questions of each detective team before they solve the Hyde Park murder).
6) Soccerway.com has a profile of North Korea's stand-out striker Jong Tae-Se who plays soccer in Japan (four DPRK team members are Japan-born, and three play in the J-league). Key comments:
"Everybody thinks about our country as being closed and mysterious, so we have to change that," he said.
"We can change to the better if we are more open with the way we talk to people and it would make a better team."
Jong said there was plenty to learn for North Korea if they were to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"We regret the results, but there was a real gulf in class between us and our opponents," he said.
7) As I write this, South Korea has just been eliminated in a heart-breaking 2 - 1 loss to Uruguay. Korea dominated the second half, out-controlling and -shooting a stronger South American squad, but were unable to capitalize on three (or more) really good chances after the tie. Both of Uruguay's goals, by Luis Suarez, can be pinned on the Korean right fullback whose lackadaisical marking freed the winger to make the cross. I know, I know, it's easy to place blame ... that's why I'm doing it.
8) In about an hour, the USA faces off with Ghana in the second game of knock-out play. Ghana is the only African squad to pass out of the group level. Soccer fans may remember the WC 2006 meeting between the two which Ghana won 2 - 1, advancing and sending the US home. There was some controversy in that match, and the US may have an emotional advantage in having something to prove against the "Black Stars".
Still, this time, the US is technically the favorite but no one should kid themselves that this is anything but a toss-up.
9) What Ghana is best known for in Korea: