Thursday, June 22, 2006

Costa Rica v Poland, ITV2

(With apologies for the delay)

Matt Smith is back in the ITV Highlights studio alongside Alan Curbishley and Jay-Jay Okocha ("resplendent in a canary yellow shirt"). Plenty of references to pride being at stake today, as we see images of Polish and Costa Rican fans determined to a) have a good time, and b) get themselves a TV close-up - Matt notes in particular one woman wearing ridiculous Elton John-style novelty glasses.

Over to Ned Boulting at the fan park in Cologne with an oversized microphone that wouldn't have looked out of place in Blankety Blank. A German fan points at the three stars on his replica shirt, at which point I did half-expect Ned to burst into "two World Wars and one World Cup, doo dah", but luckily he showed some restraint. Oh dear, he's now found some English fans on a stag do wearing Rudi Voeller-esque mullet wigs. "Are England going to win tonight?" he asks the groom. "Totally, of course!" is the rather bleary response. "That is what I call punditry!" Thanks for that, Ned.

ITV's fourth-choice commentary duo finally get their live debut as Peter Brackley and Clive Allen welcome us to Hanover to see "two teams who'll be checking out of their respective heartbreak hotels in the very near future," apparently. Stereotypical Teutonic efficiency is for once overlooked as we kick off 15 seconds ahead of the other game.

It seems that Brackley and Allen are in a party mood, knowing that this is practically their only chance to broadcast to a live audience (albeit an audience of a few thousand Polish and Costa Rican ex-pats). "They have just about the most unpronounceable names in the whole tournament, the Poles!" announces Brackley. "I'll be checking you later on, Clive, on one or two of those!" "I was gonna say, easy for you to say Peter!" "He's written nothing down..." But you didn't ask Clive to write anything down, Peter...

"What about Paolo Wanchope?" suggests Brackley to his co-commentator, as the Costa Rican feebly tests Artur Boruc with the first attempted shot of the match. "He says he wants to play in the Premiership again, might Tottenham be interested?" "He's had his time in England, perhaps somewhere else on the continent will be his next port-of-call..." "I'll take that as a 'no', then? Tottenham haven't signed a new player now since, ooh - what time is it?" "A few minutes ago! Not telling you who it is though!"

"Is that good for England, Peter?" asks Clive as news of Germany's opening goal filters through. He clearly doesn't understand that the co-commentator is meant to express opinion, not enquire it. Meanwhile, Costa Rica win a free kick at least 40 yards out, but that doesn't stop Ronald Gomez from taking about 30 steps back and blasting the ball past the rather ineffective wall and sneaking a corner. "It was a fast bowler's run up!" chuckles Brackley. "They call him the bullet, cos he's always getting fired from clubs!"

First reference to Costa Rica's leading club side Deportivo Saprissa playing Liverpool in last year's Club World Championship: a surprising 9 minutes in. Good job Ladbrokes didn't offer odds, else I'd have lost a small fortune.

Someone has clearly told Brackley that the Costa Rican team is nicknamed "The Ticos", as he manages to sneak the reference in no less than 3 times in the opening ten minutes.

"Morale will be low of course, now that the bitter reality of those first two matches has sunk in for these teams. But they will have their pride, and you never know - with the pressure off they might just provide us with an entertaining finale!" Who are you trying to convince, Peter? Anyone who's persevered with this match until now is clearly prepared to stick it out until the end regardless of whether it's a 0-0 bore draw. Which at the moment it is, with the Polish fans in particular beginning to whistle the negative defensive play.

Peter defends a rather nasty slide tackle from behind by Arkadiusz Radomski on Mauricio Solis by suggesting that "at least it shows commitment for what is ostensibly a dead rubber!" Soon after, Poland win a corner and Jose Porras in the Costa Rican goal comes a long way out of his area only to get a rather unconvincing punch on the ball. Fortunately, on this occasion he's bailed out by his defenders.

Wanchope attempts a one-two, only for the returned pass to be misplaced towards the Polish defender Marcin Baszczynski. Unfortunately for the latter, his attempted clearance ends up being an air shot, and it's only Wanchope's surprise that allows the defender to get back into position and put the ball out of play at the second attempt.

The amusingly-pronounced Jacek Bak fouls Wanchope on the edge of the area, allowing the amusingly-nicknamed Gomez to have another go. "Does he go up and over the wall, or does go power straight the way through?" wonders Clive, clearly not remembering the 40-yard blast in the opening 10 minutes. "He's gonna blast it!" spots Brackley, as the Costa Ricans in the wall move out of the way and the ball nutmegs a shocked Boruc. "Ooh, and it's in!" "Pure power, Peter!" "We have a goal! See, I told you it'd be good!"

Michal Zewlakow picks up the fourth yellow card of the game so far for kneeing Bolanos up the jacksie. "No-one's told him it's a dead rubber!" says Brackley. Is this going to be a recurring excuse for bad tackles?

Costa Rica are all over Poland, and with half an hour gone Gomez tries the fancy flick-forwards-using-the-heel-of-the-opposite-foot that doesn't seem to have a name but can best be described as 'the thing that David Dunn tried to do when he fell on his arse'. "Hehe, different!" chuckles Brackley as the pass completely bamboozles a stunned Polish defence and reaches Wanchope on the right wing, only for the resulting cross to seemingly nutmeg Gomez who'd run into the area and the ball is cleared. Clive is transfixed: "Peter, 'different'? It could have been absolutely fantastic. Gomez's - what would you call it? - reverse pass out to the right..." "'That's my job, I do the tricks!'" suggests Brackley of Wanchope.

Another Polish corner, and another rush of blood from the keeper, this time with more severe consequences. "Oh, the keeper lost it - lost it completely!" exclaims Brackley as Bartosz Bosacki accepts the gift. "But I think it's been ruled out has it, no it has been given!"
"Baszczynski, the man with 5 zeds in his surname...Clive's now counting them!" [Clive goes quiet for the next 30 seconds, failing to pass comment on a chance for Poland that Jervis Drummond almost toe-pokes past his own keeper] "I make it two!" announces Clive triumphantly. "What - the 'Z's? You have been counting them? Watch the game! It was only a joke!" "I can't spell, though..."

Peter plugs the website ("Not now Clive, do it later!"), and then informs us of Germany's second goal as we see the group table as it stands. "Surely now nothing is going to stop them from taking Pole position - excuse the pun!"

Gomez blasts another shot having received the ball from a free kick, only for a Polish player to get his head in the way of the ball. "I tell you what, that was travelling!" "I think it hit Zewlakow as it comes through..." "Has he no sense of feeling, that man? Nearly took his head off!" Bizarrely, the massive deflection is missed by the referee, who gives a goal kick.

"He needed to get closer to Klose!" suggests Matt as we watch first-half Germany v Ecuador highlights, becoming only the fifty-seventh British presenter to do so. "You've put your Ecuador shirt on, should have put your Germany shirt on!" accuses Matt of yellow-clad Jay-Jay. "You've picked the wrong team today son, backed the wrong horse!" "I'm neutral..." protests a bemused Okocha. "Yesterday he was an England fan, today he's an Ecuador fan, I dunno what he's gonna do tomorrow, boys and girls!"

In the second half, Brackley reminds us of Poland's warm-up game against Columbia where "they were booed off by their own fans and the same supporters were cheering the opposition!" "It's only England that get all this stick and unrest from supporters and press!" suggests Clive. "It's not me - it's you pundits!" protests Peter.

"Almost came over to keep Paolo Wanchope company," is Brackley's sole assessment of Mauricio Solis' brief spell at Derby.

First mention of Costa Rica beating Scotland at Italy 1990: Not until the 53rd minute. It's a really good job Ladbrokes etc etc...

"Baszczynski, who has so many letters in his name that you can hardly get them on the shirt!" chuckles Peter (let's hope he never sees Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink's shirt). "But two 'Z's!" reminds Clive proudly.

Gonzalez blasts a shot over with his weaker right foot. "I always remember you being two-footed," Peter says to Clive. "Sometimes I thought you had three feet!" Clive opts not to reply. "He's not going to respond now, he's gone into a sulk!"

Poland win a corner after Smolarek's attempted cross is blocked by Gonzalez, who kept his arms behind his back in the process to avoid conceding a penalty. "I'm not sure I'd put my hands there, would you?" asks Peter - with good comic timing, as we see Gabriel Badilla almost molesting Smolarek in the six-yard box as they await the corner.

Porras is beginning to redeem his first-half errors with some impressive saves, including a long-range shot from Krzynowek that squeezed past several defenders that he barely saw. Sadly, he allows Bosacki to head the ball past his near post from the resulting corner, and Poland lead. Clive criticises Paolo Wanchope's lack of marking, and points out that "there was only one winner - Baszczynski!" "Or even Bosacki," corrects Peter, "but I know what you mean!" "Sorry, Mr Bosacki!" "I'll give him your phone number!"

"Zewlakow...I think I put a 'ski' on his name in the first half, but I think I got away with it Clive!". Baszczynski takes a throw right in front of the camera. "There you are - all those 'Z's, look!" points out Peter. "Two!" "It's not as bad as it looks actually, do it phonetically. If he does score, you'll never get his name on the caption!"
"I think if West Ham had followed up their interest in [Baszczynski], he would have been 'Bazza'!" chuckles Brackley. "I'm sure the East End faithful would have found some nickname for him," agrees Allen.

Gomez is substituted late on (not before one last free kick is blasted wide), and rather than making a bee-line for the fourth official, he dejectedly steps over the far touchline and wanders around the edge of the pitch, much to Peter and Clive's amusement. "I would not like to be the man who tells him he's going off! You go and have a word with him!" At the same time, Wanchope puts the ball in the net but is flagged offside.

"Costa Rica take the wooden spoon, as it were..." announces Matt as the match fizzles out. The pundits show more interest in the Germany game than this, making you wonder which match they actually watched. Curbishley picks his top 10 goals of the tournament so far (Cambiasso, surprisingly) and we end as we began with a look ahead to England-Sweden. "Be there!" demands Matt. What if we'd rather watch Trinidad-Paraguay?

What we've learned: Gomez's powerblasts and Baszczynski's surname could make them cult figures at an English league club; Peter Brackley seems to have been sponsored to say "dead rubber" as often as possible; and it's not a good idea to eat a just-past-the-sell-by-date chicken burger when you're supposed to be writing three match reports in 24 hours.


Blogger Ben said...

Well, I'm glad you pulled through your chicken-sandwich-related trauma, Adam. Good stuff.

11:05 pm, June 22, 2006


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