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(June 12, 2002)

England in "average workmanlike performance" shock

Well, they did it, kind of (0-0 against Nigeria). They weren't brilliant, and they weren't crap. They might even beat Denmark, although I'd have preferred Senegal.

What people seem to have overlooked, however, is that by beating Nigeria we would have avoided Brazil until the semis, rather than facing them in the quarter-finals if we beat Denmark.

Nonetheless, better than we'd thought beforehand. And at least we don't have to face France.

And Argentina are out (1-1 against Sweden, who now play Senegal). To those who are uncomfortable with national rejoicing at this, I can only point out that the whole world looked down on Argentine football before they'd ever heard of the Falklands. Best to be careful who your friends are, though, so rather than crow over a nation I'm just going to think of it as a victory over everyone who chooses to look like that (tonight, Matthew we are all going to be Michael Bolton). Let's just hope it doesn't cost them any lucrative sponsorship deals.

Elsewhere, it was quite exciting without the eye-popping terror associated with watching your own country (and people think we do it in the pursuit of selfish pleasure).

Paraguay, down and out at half-time in line with my prediction, a goal behind and down to 10 men, came back in a thrilling second half to win 3-1 against Slovenia. Spain beat South Africa 3-2, in line with my prediction, but Paraguay's comeback meant they pushed South Africa into third place and go through to play Germany, while Spain play Ireland on Sunday.

OK, here's some more pointless statistics.

There have so far been 105 goals in 40 matches, an average of 2.625 goals a game. The hundredth goal was scored by Milenko Acimovic for Slovenia - frankly, their only achievement of the tournament. I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear he's coming to Spurs, Sean. Many of the goals have been quite good.

There have been only 2 goalless draws, 5% of games played, and none so far which didn't involve a previous winner of the tournament, or an eliminated team. The only teams which have played all 3 games without a goal are France and Saudi Arabia (with some teams you like to tell the story of their embarrassment over and over again, with France it's not glee and it's not despair, it's just amazement).

This is the first World Cup since 1962 to contain all the seven previous winners (Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, England and France). However, of those 7, three (France, Uruguay and Timotei) have been knocked out already. I wouldn't be surprised if another name was added to the list this year.

Nought groups have so far been entirely correctly predicted by me, although I have got 6 out of the 8 teams to go through. I think I can now confidently predict that my inability to predict things will continue, which makes me wise in the Socratic sense, if not actually wise in itself.

Tomorrow, Costa Rica v Brazil, Turkey v China, Mexico v Italy and Ecuador v Croatia, plus a Test match on Channel 4. Oh my cup runneth over. If TV was mud I would roll around in it and grunt like a hog.

posted by Jon 20:46
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