Diary Of A Gooner
The World Cup, what else is there?
In terms of footballing stories just at the moment it is hard to find anything of note (unless of course you count Shelbournes historic win in the Intertoto Cup over Lithuanian giants FK Vetra!) that isn't emanating from the Republic of Deutschland. So for this week (and probably the weeks to come) my musings shall centre on the worlds largest sporting event.
Of course it comes as a disappointment to have no direct emotional involvement in the current proceedings, even so it would be around this time that my beloved boys in green would be making their customary exit. Indeed it was at this stage (the last 16) four years ago that Ireland were being dumped out on penalties to a rather ordinary Spanish side. The fiasco involving Roy Keane and the horribly inept Mick McCarthy had overshadowed our tournament and despite respectable draws with Cameroon and Germany and a convincing win over the Saudis, the former incidents aftertaste would linger long after the competition was over.
That said Ireland have performed very well in the three World Cups which they have graced, never failing to qualify from the group stages. Our finest World Cup moment was undoubtedly in '94, our opening match paired us with Italy, who fours years earlier had knocked us out at the quarter final stage. The setting was perfect, Giants Stadium New York, a city with massive ex-pat populations from both respective countries. We would win the match with a wonder goal from midfield dynamo Ray Houghton, but the day surely belonged to Paul McGrath, who tormented Roberto Baggio (The Divine Ponytail!) to an extent that by the end I doubt if the Italian could remember his mothers name. A great day.
But enough of nostalgia avenue for the moment and to the present event. At this stage it is hard to pick a winner, though the big guns are starting to state their claims. As unpopular an opinion as this may be, I can't help but feel that England are punching above their weight and will be hopelessly outmatched in the later stages. This is not just old fashioned England bashing from a disgruntled Celt, as I your defensive weaknesses were horribly exposed by a very ordinary Swedish team. Maybe I am wrong, perhaps England can muster some Agincourt spirit and upset the odds, but it will take more than courage to outwit the technically superior South Americans and the crafty Germans me thinks.
On this note then, who are the main pretenders to the throne of world footballing champions? Argentina of course have been most peoples favourites thus far after their monumental thumping of Serbia Montenegro, but I have a feeling that the Germans will prove a more than tricky little obstacle in their path. I tipped Germany from the start to make it to the final, but it is not belief in their tremendous footballing abilities that led me to this conclusion. Indeed I consider England to be a far more superior side to Germany, but they just seem to have the gotten knack of achieving success in this tournament (and I mean throughout its history). The old adage 'never write off the zee Germans' still holds true. So what price, then a repeat of the last final which matched them against the Brazilians? Fairly short I should say as the other South American super power is beginning to find their stride.
Over the course of the next two weeks all these question will be resolved of course, one team will have triumphed an the other thirty one nations will be discussing what might have been. For my part I will go back to my daily routine of waking up every morning and typing the word 'Arsenal' into a Google news search. Check the BBC Footballs collection of gossip from the morning papers and generally fidget about the shop until I can once again start enjoying the week to week sustenance of the premiership.
Until then my friends the world cup with have to do!