Friday, July 07, 2006

A Tale Of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and so it was with this world cup. In the first half we saw some stunning displays from Argentina, experienced some magical crowds watching with the Brazilians and at least had a hope that the England team would wake up.

In the second half of the tournament the on-field thrills have been few and far between with Argentina v Mexico a highlight amongst the agony of England and there's been personal drama for myself as I've moved flats and lost a fiancee.

Finally we come to the closing weekend of the tournament and the World Cup Pub Crawl crew leave blighty to get an international perspective. So look out for reports from Leah and myself in Paris and Joe, Arun and the gang in Amsterdam.

We tried to tell them to head to Rome but they love those crazy Oranje too much.

It's been emotional and I'm sure there's one last twist in store, can Zizou open up a Cannavaro worms?

We will see...

It's All Sharapova As Maria Is Mauresmorised

Don't worry blog-fans we've not gone all tennis on you but we couldn't let our pun-writing skill go rusty during yet another rest day in the FIFA World Cup.

Here's a couple of football snippets to keep you going:

1) It looks like Winker Ronaldo's reign as the probable winner of the Young Player of the tournament award is over - following a warning received via email yesterday the young Ecaudorian genius Luis Valencia has sailed into a commanding lead. All credit to him, his skill was evdient for all to see.

2) What's with FIFA's nominations for Player of the tournament? Henry has been largely anonymous for quite a few of the games, only popping up to take a couple of dives to secure France's passage through the knockout stages. No Riquelme? No Torres? What exactly has Ballack done?

At least we get some football tomorrow even if is only the third/fouth place play-off.

Gutes Glück Deutschland!


Thursday, July 06, 2006

International Football

Here are some more pictures of the Portuguese players in last night's match.

More naked men

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

International Diving

This game really just drove home how crap England must have been to not beat Portugal. It was a pretty dull affair, with most of the excitement provided by Portugal's comedic diving. France deserved to win but only seemed to care marginally more than Portugal, who didn't look like they were even vaguely bothered. All in all, a let down compared to yesterday's offering.

In my opinion, Italy have played the most consistently attractive football this tournament so I'll be rooting for them in the final. I could handle France winning as long as Zidane turns on the style, but not if they play like this again. Barthez was running down the clock from the 65th minute...

Naked men

Come Il Calcio Sui Maccheroni

I think I might have come up with an Italian pun there. It nearly means "just what the doctor ordered" (or literally "like the cheese on the macaroni"), but I've replaced the word "cacio" with "calcio", which means "football". Maybe. Could an Italian speaker please verify.

In one of the best games of the tournament, there was refreshingly little diving and injury-feigning and plenty of attacking football.

The Italian supporters at Carluccio's were passionate, creating a very good atmosphere, as Pooch said. From my vantage point at the back, it was pretty difficult to see what was happening on the pitch, but I managed to arrange myself so that I could see two thirds of the screen. Whenever Italy got near the opposition goal, some of the crowd would stand up in excitment, meaning we only had the exitement of the crowd as a measure of whether the chance had been taken and the goal scored. This was my view - you can just make out the TV:

The crowd went suitably mad when Italy finally took the lead, two minutes short of the inevitable penalties defeat. They were still jumping around, spilling drinks, breaking stuff and kissing random people when Del Boy Piero scored a second goal for Italy a minute later. There was such excitement and flailing that a number of people, Italian and from the blog posse, were unclear whether the extra cheering was for the replay of the first goal or in fact for another goal.

It was also the hottest venue we've visited, as Pooch mentioned. I wonder how it compared to the temperature on the pitch. This was the best way of keeping cool, and this was our main reason for ordering all that wine:

Carluccio's Way

Trying to lift ourselves up from England's (in-)glorious defeat on Saturday has been difficult but what better way than watching a fine and attacking Italian side "stick one on" the Germans.

We watched the game at Carluccio’s and it was essential to get there early. When we arrived at 6pm it was already starting to fill and by 7.30pm it was pretty "intimate" but there were some handy tables at the back where we tucked into an "Antipasto Massimo" and attempted to stave off the energy-sapping heat with copious amounts of vino bianco.

As the players emerged from the tunnel the atmosphere started to ramp up and Fratelli d'Italia was sung with a gusto second only to Le Marseillaise at the Bar Des Magis.

The game commenced and our wine got held up at the bar as the waiters also settled down to watch too. The service in general though was fantastic with the waiters doing a sterling job under trying circumstances.

Italy played much the better in the first half, like France they've really improved as the tournament has progressed. Gattuso was immense stamping his authority on the midfield like Rooney on Carvalho. The second half was a little more even with Germany creating a couple of scoring opportunities.

Extra time beckoned and we indicated in some banter with our Italian neighbours that they had better score in open play as if it went to penalties "You're in trouble!" and with a little cajoling from our friends I managed to start a chorus of "Italia, Italia, Italia" and it must have influenced things in Dortmund as the Azzuri hit the woodwork with two fine efforts early in extra time. wave after wave of Italian attacks came but it was beginning to look like it might not be their night. Then, at the death, come il cacio sui maccheroni! - Grosso struck and the place went wild, chairs were knocked over, drinks spilled and there was even kissing of my cheeks - one of the few times I'll allow men to kiss my cheeks is after such a superbly timed goal.

Before the melee had subsided Del Piero made it two and the crowd went even more wild. A lot of us didn't see that second goal as the TV was obscured but I can assure you all it was very well taken. The celebrations continued in St. Christopher's place as we went outside to get some deserved and needed fresh air.

Making my way home two things were on my mind:

1) The celebrations after the game were amazing but as we turned the corner and headed down the street we were back in London again and no-one knew we'd just spent four hours in an outpost of Italy. I couldn't help but imagine how it would be if England had got to the final, it would be like that everywhere.

2) If France get through tonight I'm going to be really torn on who to support on Sunday, I admire both countries, the food, the drink, the language, the people and both bars we've been to for those countries have had electric and very friendly atmospheres. Let us cross that bridge when we come to it though and concentrate on supporting Les Bleus tonight.

Many thanks to Carluccio's and, if you want to support Italy on Sunday and are looking for a venue I can thoroughly recommend it.

Congratulazioni Italia!



Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Give Me Hope Jo'anna

Joe and I (and Gary Neville it seems) had been under the impression that England have absolutely no chance at the next FIFA World Cup as it is to be held in South Africa and the temperatures are bound to be too stifling for us Anglo-Saxons.

We'd all missed the obvious fact that South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere and therefore June/July is their Winter - this is odd as we're all quite intelligent.

The BBC reports the current daytime temperatures as follows:
These temperatures are about right for this time of year and the humidity is not bad too. Considering the heatwave currently in London we'll be better off playing in South Africa than in blighty.

McErikkson should be out of the picture by then and hopefully with some of the younger players maturing and some of the older chaff long retired we are all set up for an England win. Let's just hope we don't Messina it up, only four more though years eh?

Anyway, back to more contemporary matters: tonight we'll be attempting to watch the game at Carluccio's at St. Christoper's Place (Nearest Tube: Bond Street). Commentary will be Italian as will the delicious wine and food.

Personally I hope they will beat the Germans but I'm not that bothered about any of the remaining teams except Les Bleus who at least play decent football (sometimes).


Sunday, July 02, 2006

France Just Too Ribery For Kaka Brazil

Zidane was at his majestic best today to lead France into the semi-finals. Almost every highlight of the game involves him doing something amazing. Brazil didn't really perform. They turned the style on towards the end, with Ronaldo reminiscent of his old self at times, but it was too little too late and France deservedly went through.

We watched it in The Pontefract Castle on Wigmore St. It gradually became apparent over the course of the game that there was a large French contingent there. In the second half the crowd got gradually more vocal - and the give away was that they were speaking French - but it was still a surprise at the final whistle when the whole place erupted.

I wonder when the last World Cup was with all four semi-finalists coming from Europe. Anyone?

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