Sunday, June 18, 2006

Czech Republic v Ghana, ITV1

Gabby is your host for today's Group E double-header, and after a brief trip to Baden-Baden and part 5 of the 'gripping' look back to 1966, we see Rosicky's goals against the USA. Gabby reckons he's a Harry Potter lookalike, apparently. Meanwhile, Ned Boulting is at an American army base in Kaiserslautern, promising to bring us "the US perspective on the Soccerball World Series from the heart of the biggest US military presence outside the States. Behind me is a Stealth bomber, it's just that you can't see it!" This is going to be bad...

Sure enough, back from the break and back to Ned: "Don't give away my location Gabby, for heaven's sake. If you do that I will have to eat myself. This place is so secret that it doesn't appear on the satellite navigation system, and to get into it the people who escorted us in made us meet them at an anonymous fast food joint, and only then could we get in through the perimeter fence." Ned gives us some background info on the place, pointing out such home comforts as a nearby woman wears a billboard displaying a menu of typical American wares. "Chips - that's erm crisps, isn't it? You mean crisps?" chuckles Ned, the Little Englander. Now we're off for a quick pre-arranged vox pop, as Ned rudely wanders inbetween groups of people in order to introduce us to "a couple of likely lads" called Sasha and Olly. Sasha is asked for his opinion on the US performance so far "in a nutshell". "Well, the, the Czech team, erm, the Czech has a strong team and, er, yeah, the US knows if they want to advance they'll have to come back hard against the Czechs, so erm, er, we'll do our best against the Italians, they have a strong team, and yeah, we'll score some goals tonight!" Marvellous ad-libbing, sir! "You know your football, don't you Sasha?" remarks Ned, before setting a couple of questions for our newfound experts. Olly, who clearly wants to be somewhere else, has "no clue" when the World Cup was held in America, nor the term for a player scoring three goals in a game - whilst Sasha eagerly gets two out of two. Finally Ned pulls out his comedy coup-de-grĂ¢ce by asking Olly to explain the difference between Passive and Active Offside - "in fairness, I think some of the boys in the studio would have a problem with that one." Arf!

Clive Tyldesley, partnered by Jim Beglin today, advises that "some stealthy money has been wagered" on the Czechs winning the World Cup.

"An early chance for Gyan and look at that! Asamoah Gyan gives Ghana the lead inside 75 seconds! Now that makes the group look a little bit different! Wild celebrations - and why not?"
Time for Clive to give us a condensed history of Africa in the World Cup - yes, including Pele's prediction, before chastising latecomers for missing the goal. He then delights as the Plucky Africans produce a couple of thundering challenges: "they like a tackle, the Ghanaians!"

Ghana are awarded a free kick around 30 yards out, which they attempt to roll out wide to an unmarked man, but the referee's still adjusting the wall. "So much for that surprise ploy - we know about that now! Plan B, then...straight into the arms of Cech - I don't think there was a plan B, Jim!" "I agree, 'oh I'll just bump it into the box'" "'Oh ref, that's the only one we rehearsed!'"

A blast from the past as Michael Essien is tackled by Karel Poborsky. "He can still do it, this fella," suggests Beglin. "He's got great experience and he's just very clever on the ball."
Chance for Ghana: "It's crying out to be hit, Stephen Appiah!" Cech watches the ball swerve past the outside of the post. "He wasn't going to disappoint anybody!"

Poborsky tries to thread a ball through for Vratislav Lokvenc but it races through to the keeper. "Koller would have got there - not!" Jim obviously watched Wayne's World recently...

Obnoxious Tyldesley moment alert: Zdenek Grygera charges down the right wing, but is well tackled by Sulley Muntari before he can get the cross in. "Muntari has said in the media in the last week or so that he wants to play for Manchester United. Well so do I! In fact Colchester United would be fine by me! He did have a trial with Manchester United when he was 16, there's been absolutely no link with them since then. He's decided that this is the tournament where he's gonna show Sir Alex Ferguson that he's better than Cristiano Ronaldo, and that fella who plays for England, what's he called?"

Another instalment in the intriguing Poborsky v Essien battle as Karel lets the ball run away from him, then slides to try to retrieve it before it reaches the oncoming Michael. Jim comments on the inevitable foul: "I wondered what Essien was going to do with that one, he was quite kind to Poborsky because Poborsky left himself a little open and we've seen Michael be a little naughty in those situations in the past!" "A little!" chuckles Clive.

"Lots of smiles. Still in the tournament. Leading by a goal to nil." Clive succinctly summarises the story so far. Poborsky swings a cross-shot that trickles just wide of the far post, and moments like Amoah beats the Czech offside trap but fires over.

"Here comes the wave, Jim - put your arms up!" [Momentary pause] "Spoilsport!" "I didn't see you put yours up either, by the way!" "I'm holding the microphone..." "So am I!"

Gyan is through again but hits it along the floor straight at the already-prone Cech. "Ooh, he beat the ground in frustration - he knows what a good chance it was! It was a good save by Cech but I'm not sure he should have been given any chance at all!" Jim agrees that he should have "dinked it" over Cech.

Clive is amused as the Ghanaian keeper runs to the edge of his area to cut out a cross aimed at the Czech's giant striker: "Kingson's come a long way and grabbed that one off Lokvenc's head!" "If you come that far you've got to end up with the ball!" points out an equally entertained Beglin. "If you go any further you're gonna end up in the dressing room!" points out Clive as we see a slow-motion replay of the 6-foot keeper outjumping the 6-foot-5 striker. "It's not exactly a fair fight - it's a super-heavyweight against a welter, but the welter won!"

Essien goes up against Nedved this time, both with feet raised in a failed attempt to get the ball. Clive's not sure who the referee has awarded the foul against, and is even more bemused to see the referee book Essien. Jim thinks it "seems a bit ridiculous" as a replay shows neither player make contact with the other.

"Cech was frozen" summarises Tyldesley as Appiah pulls a shot just wide with the keeper completely beaten. "You could make an argument that Ghana deserve this lead!" is Clive's understatement of the day so far.

"I just don't see that, I'm sorry." That'll be another replay of Essien's booking then. The game is temporarily delayed as Gyan is helped off the pitch for treatment after landing awkwardly. "I'm not sure about the physio holding his hand," announces the machismo Tyldesley. Beglin tries to continue summarising for a few moments before noticing Clive's apparent disgust at the continued image on screen. "You're not happy at that holding-hands business, are you?" "He's let go now - he wanted to come back on with him, obviously!"

During the half-time interval we're shown the goals from Portugal-Iran, followed by a look at that group's table. Gabby is temporarily bewildered by the permutations: "[Portugal] play Mexico next...who should...confirm...perhaps...their passage through to the knockout stages". Then it's back to Ned at the US Army base, who tries to tempt Sam with some of the local snacks: "Johnsonville stadium style brats, that should be your first summer signing - I want to see them at the Reebok next season." He then polls more of the locals for their score predictions, only for his first interviewee to predict an Italian win ("that's not exactly what I expected you to say!"). His second victim is more positive, and when asked to name a single American squad member, vaguely tries to bluff by saying "Brad..." "Brad Friedel?" offers Ned, to which his interviewee enthusiastically agrees. Next to two women sitting on a nearby bench - the first (with a distinct German accent) predicts the host nation to win the World Cup, whilst the second simply says "the better team will win" ("that's a good answer!" replies Ned). Finally Ned wanders over to some men in camouflage: "...this guy for example is actually dressed in a uniform, and he looks like he's a soldier - I'm pretty sure he's not masquerading - are you a soldier, sir?" His interviewee replies in the affirmative, apparently unperturbed by Ned's arm being draped around his shoulder. "Give us a score?" "One nothing, USA!" "That's a good scoreline..."

Nedved has the ball in the net even earlier into the second half than Ghana's goal in the first, but it's offside. "It looked it, I'm inclined to agree with the assistant," concedes Jim generously, even before seeing a replay.

Clive reminds us of the Czechs' impressive performances at Euro 2004, although "they could no more find a way past the Greeks than anyone else could". In the meantime, Lokvenc picks up a needless yellow card for a slide on Shilla, meaning he'll be suspended for the next match and "the Czech Republic are fast running out of forwards here! There's absolutely no way that either Koller or Baros will play against the Italians in the final group game, and now there's no way Lokvenc will either..."

Gyan forces Cech into another good save. "He wasn't ever going to shoot...er, ever going to pass!" stumbles Clive. "They do like a shot too, don't they? Like a tackle, like a shot! They play with a lot of heart and spirit as well as verve, Ghana - it's a very proud performance..." Aah, bless the Plucky Africans!

Jiri Stajner replaces Poborsky ("the first Czech past 100 caps", we're informed). "Stajner who, despite the receding hair, is younger than Poborsky - older by some four years..."

"He's given it his best shot, the old coach," Clive tells us as we see a shot of Karel Bruckner on the Czech bench. "He is very much an international coach..." he adds mysteriously.

Under some good Czech pressure, Ghana opt to lump the ball into the stand, only to be caught out by a quick-witted ball-boy handing another ball over for a quick throw in. Luckily, as many Czech players were surprised by this turn of events as Ghanaians, and Nedved's cross reaches the far touchline harmlessly. "The multiball system's in play," Jim the pinball wizard reminds us.

"Don't want to sound too much like Test Match Special but we're being attacked by a massive bee at the moment, just forgive us. But if you want to send cake, you can!" Surely cake would only entice more bees?

Amoah is brought down by Ujfalusi in the box - penalty! "And in the circumstances surely he's got to go? No sign of the referee taking any further action against the defender - if that's not a clear goalscoring opportunity I don't know what is!" A minute passes and the referee still has taken no action against the Czech, causing frustration for the Ghanaians who seemingly aren't satisfied with just a spot kick. "Amoah who was the victim, I don't think he desperately needs to plead his case - I don't like the card waving...it's just going to be the penalty..." However, the referee has finally made his mind up and pulls out the red card just as Gyan runs out of patience and prematurely smacks the penalty into the net (picking up a yellow card himself in the process). The referee finally restores order and Gyan lines up to retake the penalty: "Oh, back off the post! Cech survives it all - *the Czechs* survive it all! Asamoah Gyan has not only missed the penalty, he's going to miss out on Ghana's last game - it's his second yellow card!"

"And here comes Polak for a reprieved Poland...er, reprieved Czech Republic, sorry! Must get the combatants correct!" Well recovered, Clive.

We see a Ghanaian fan balancing a large pot on his head. "Bet you can't do that Jim, can you? When you bring the wife breakfast in bed on a Sunday morning, you balance it on your head, do you? Try it next time!" "She'll be lucky - breakfast in bed?"

Tyldesley reaches a pitch previously thought impossible as Ghana have yet another shot: "*GYAN!* How many saves is Petr Cech gonna make?"

Time for Clive to practice his South American extended syllables: "It's Appiah, it's Gyan, it's Muntariiiiiiiiiiiiii... Yes! At long, long last Ghana can start to believe they've won the match! Chance after chance after chance, save after save after save, and at last Sulley Muntari makes it Ghana 2 Czech Republic 0!" Clive reminds us of his earlier anecdote of Muntari's wish to play for Man Utd. "Well...?" he asks, meaningfully.

Muntari then picks up his second card of the tournament. "That'll wipe the smile off his face," chastises Tyldesley. Gyan is substituted with five minutes to go. "Gyan's been a trill, absolutely brilliant. He's got to be M.O.M. today," opines Beglin. WTF is he using TLAs for? LOL!

Into the last minute and the showboating Ghanaians are caught offside yet again. "They're having too much fun, you know," warns Clive. "It's not supposed to be fun, it's the World Cup!" The camera switches to a celebrating Ghanaian lady. "You can have fun missus, that's OK! As if I could stop you!"

What we've learned: Clive wishes he could play for Man Utd (actually, I suppose we knew that already); the Czechs really need one of their strikers back to have a chance; and Ned Boulting really needs to get over the fact that Americans don't really know much about football.

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