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(June 04, 2002)

Day 5

Now I know what you've been thinking. Yes it's all quite gripping, but please, Jon, where are the statistics? Well, since you've asked.

We've now had 14 games, and no 0-0 draws yet. 4 games have been drawn, 10 have been won. There have been a total of 39 goals, at an average of 2.9 per game.

Unthinking racism is down this year. Barry Davies has called the Chinese inscrutable only once, although it's still early days (on the BBC anyway - on ITV it's early doors). Ron Atkinson managed to describe the Japanese crowd as a "colourful ethnic display", but there have been no, I repeat no references to the Japanese taking no prisoners.

Having drawn their first game, it's hard to come up with a clear picture for England. They could go through with a loss against Argentina and a draw against Nigeria if the other results are right (Sweden would have to draw against Nigeria and lose against Argentina, and the goal difference would have to be right). They could equally go out if they draw against Argentina and beat Nigeria, if Sweden beat Nigeria and then draw with Argentina. Two wins, or a win against Argentina and then a draw against Nigeria, definitely puts them through, so I'm sure that's what will happen.

That's enough statistics (I'm sorry, but there it is). Today was Asia day, and didn't they do fairly well. China got them off to a poor start with a 2-0 loss against mighty Costa Rica, hammer of the Scots (ha!), but then along came the Japanese who drew 2-2 against Belgium and should have won, having a perfectly good goal disallowed 5 minutes from the end. South Korea then came out and absolutely demolished Poland, the 2-0 margin inadequately expressing their dominance.

Lovely to see both the hosts playing so well. I hope they become a major presence in world football. Their crowds are brilliant - the South Korean crowd was an absolute sea of red, with every single Korean apparently wearing the national shirt. Mark Lawrence called the crowd "a bit St Trinians-ish", but frankly if English crowds were a bit more St Trinians and a bit less Great Escape it wouldn't hurt a bit. Probably the best day so far.

Poland were my outside tip to do well this time, as they were really good in qualifying, but they'd better do better than this against Russia and Tunisia or small children will laugh at me in the street (your small children, that is, after you've told them to).

Tomorrow we see the last 4 teams in the competition, firstly Russia against Tunisia (my top tip is for Russia to win 2-1), and then Portugal against the USA, the game I've been waiting for. My other top tip is that by teatime tomorrow the Axis of Evil will run through Pyongyang, Teheran, Baghdad and Lisbon.

posted by Jon 21:22
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