Tough being a goalkeeper on world stage
Almost before you know it you’re looking at games six, seven and eight at the first World Cup to be held on the African etc etc etc. Group C’s second match sees Algeria face Slovenia in Polokwane. Serbia play Ghana in Pretoria while the Germans will be aching for a fabelhaftes Tor oder zwei (or two) against Australia, who are affectionately nicknamed the Socceroos.
I’ve often wondered about nicknames. How can you get worried about playing a team called the Socceroos? Doesn’t spread shock and awe.
I’m quite keen on the tag for Cameroon – the Indomitable Lions.
Of course my favourite is the nickname for the Zambians - the Chipolopolos (the Copper Bullets)
Why? Because it allows me to be egregiously self-referential. And actually, as this is a Sunday, nigh on self-reverential.
It amused me at the time. Actually it probably stopped me from going all medieval on a hapless Angolan official oder zwei. That was a tough tournament to cover.
By contrast South Africa - so far - has been fine. The facilities in Soccer City are brilliant and the people have been a buoyant bunch.
The facilities weren’t so good at Ellis Park though. The cafe didn't do macchiatos. Mamma mia.
And I was particularly queasy about some of the ramps. The one taking you up to the entrance of the media centre was fine but the walkway linking the press centre to the entrance of the media stands was another thing.
First of all it was a good 30 feet up. And, to me, it had all the solidity of one of those rope bridges flung across gorges.
Plus with various photographers and hacks hurrying to and fro, it shook something rotten. I yearned for a passage on terra firma.
I survived that adventure. And this fills me with verve and vitality for day three.
Looking back over the past 48 hours, what the opening matches have shown us is that there are no easy games. Better ranked teams haven’t actually displayed why they rate so highly.
Greece (ranked 13) just did not turn up against South Korea (47) and lost 2-0, while England (8) drew 1-1 with the USA (14).
Argentina (7) only got past Nigeria (30) by one goal.
Nigeria’s defeat and England’s draw also highlight how tough it is being a goalkeeper.
Vincent Enyeama got the man of the match award for Nigeria. Four times he pulled off saves to deny Lionel Messi.
Enyeama was aided by Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez missing easy chances for strikers of their calibre. But there was nothing Enyeama could do to stop Gabriel Heinze’s flying header in the sixth minute. His defenders failed to mark the Argentine lurking by the penalty spot.
Robert Green let the ball slip through his fingers and though he tried to claw back his fault, the ball slithered into the net and Green will join the list of goalkeeping howlers.
I was watching a compilation video of such blunders before the match at Ellis Park. Ones from World Cups played before the international war on terrorism.
Happy days indeed. Unless you were a goalie of course.