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(June 18, 2002)

Well I really never expected that

I had it all planned out, you know. After a few shocks, the big boys are taking control now, etc etc. With two minutes left, I’d already composed the first paragraph in my head.

Then the Koreans changed the script. 1-0 down to Italy, they hit an equaliser and scored with 4 minutes of extra time left to win 2-1.

This is why we watch, and why football is so much better than, for instance, Star Wars. Most of the time in football, Darth Vader sneaks an early lead from a deflected cross, the fighters surround the Death Star and pummel away at them, and then 5 minutes from the end a stormtrooper picks up a loose ball, slides it past Chewbacca's desperate grasp and that’s that.

When Hollywood endings do happen, it’s like blowing up the Death Star would be if it was real, and if you’d really resigned yourself to the victory of the big battalions. The very rarity of a happy ending makes it special.

It serves Italy so right, as well. As usual, they took an early lead, went on the defensive and looked to block their opponents out. They’ve got such talented players, and they waste them so criminally. Just like in the final of Euro 2000 they got caught out at the end.

The Korean crowd are also the only crowd I know of whose second favourite chant is based on the Ode to Joy section of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Bizarrely, they all wear red T-shirts, because the Korean Fans Association, which controls ticketing, refuses to let anyone in without one. Try that down Ashton Gate and see how it goes down.

The Korean flag is made up of a yin yang symbol with four I Ching symbols around it. According to the Original I Ching hexagrams index, it symbolises either the attainment or the purity of order and harmony, plus the power of rising above adversity or separate inclinations or tendencies - yet with something in common. Absolute gibberish, obviously, but who wants nationalism to be coherent?

Oh yes, there was another game, Japan v Turkey. The Turks took an early 1-0 lead, blocked out to full time and didn’t concede, so let’s not get too carried away.

Catholic football theory update: after the recent success of the USA, Sean tells me that football in America is mainly played in Catholic schools.

Predictions update: four correct results out of 8, which as Simon pointed out gives me all the footballing acumen of a random number generator.

Being a glutton for punishment, here are my predictions for the quarter finals.

Brazil to beat England (What do you want me to say?)
Germany to beat the USA
Spain to beat South Korea
Senegal to beat Turkey
posted by Jon 22:13
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