Man, I should be working...
Said a Russian friend of mine, Alexei, when he told me he wouldn't be watching the World Cup this year:
"It means your whole world stops for a month!"
So now natch I get emails from him after each game. His team is Holland, he's announced, based on the sensational performance this weekend by the orange greyhound, Arjean Robben, who plays his club football for London's Chelsea, and is probably the most exciting individual player to date. But many more games ahead. Oh delirium!
And Alexei confessed how tears came to his eyes when he went into a café here in New York, and customers and the kitchen staff, a hodgepodge of nationalities, were all crammed peering at the game on tv. That's part of the magic of the World Cup: it's the world's game.
I haven't picked my team yet. I always root for Brazil, automatically, as the joyous gods of the Game's joy, and then pick a secondary team to route for, based on a combo of offensive style and underdog status. Or maybe based on jazzy uniforms and nicknames. Although honestly, my second choice is usually England.
Anyway, enuff intro. Today the US team & its network packagers got their butts whupped by the crafty flying Czechs. The second Czech goal, a long-range cannon shot by Rosidsky, shows what havoc this new hi-tech ball (introduced for the World Cup) will have on the score sheets. Look for lots of super free kicks and long range bombing. The US looked flat, dangerous for a moment or two; they have some guys who can run. But when Reyna's shot bounced off the post, that seemed to do it. The US is in a killer grouping and looks like they'll be home early.
For the rest, so far: England did was England does, which is make you tear your hair out in frustration. They won their game ugly and insipid, the sort of victory which provokes despair. Boy, do the need that explosive gorilla with an artist's touch, Wayne Rooney, and badly. I can't wait to see Rooney, who's been injured, return to bazooka this new soccer ball from forty yards out.
Argentina were very impressive, very "technical." But not enough flash, for my taste. I want to see flashy Lionel Messi, the young phenom from Barcelona, in their line up (he's also coming off a long injury). And this guy Carlos Tevez, an Argentinean who led the Brazil league in scoring last year, if you please.
Teeny and tiny Trinidad and Tobago's tie of Sweden was the best match so far: a heart in your mouth epic right at the beginning of a 64 game tournament. And how can you not love an oldster goalie named after a Zulu chief, with a calypso bassist last name: I mean the glorious Shaka Hislop. The game against England Thursday will be a feast.
Germany looked surprisingly offense-minded and attacking--and their best player, Michael Ballack, who'll be playing with Robben at Chelsea next season, was not yet on the field (ok, the "pitch").
Ecuador surprised with a win over surprisingly inept Poland, after being tagged a high-altitude novelty team (they play home games almost two miles high).
Mexico looks okay, but not really a class team, at this stage, in their win over Iran.
As for the announcers, the main play by play American announcers are awful. The ex soccer players in the studio after the games are excellent, male and female. I don't speak Spanish, but I do like to listen to some of the Hispanic play callers. Not the overrated Andres Kantor, but a couple of guys, Argentineans I think, who are so gloriously baroque and hambone, drawing out terminal vowels in spasms of drama, that it's a treat.
Pardon all spellings, more to come. Italy-Ghana, hoo boy. And did I mention the riproaring Japan-Australia game this a.m.?