Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ecuador v Germany, ITV1

Goal of the match: Three quality goals from Germany, but the pick of the bunch was probably Lukas Podolski's first of the tournament, an expert finish from Bernd Schneider's pinpoint cross following a lightning break. It was something of an icebreaker, reconciling the goalscorer and his strike partner Miroslav Klose in celebration - before the match, the Germans' Polish-born frontmen were reportedly not on speaking terms.

Shot of the match: The Ecuadorians had several decent long-range shots in the second half, the best being Edison Mendez's free-kick which Jens Lehmann was nowhere near but which curled just over the bar.

Miss of the match: Podolski drove wide following a great move when he should really have scored, let alone hit the target.

Pass of the match: Michael Ballack's inch-perfect flick through for Klose's second goal.

Man of the match: Probably between Klose, now the tournament's leading scorer, and Schneider. Mention should also be made of Christian Lara, the substitute who practically achieved the impossible in breathing life into Ecuador with his pace and eagerness, in the absence of the likes of Carlos Tenorio and Segundo Castillo. (Incidentally, at just 5'3" he's also the shortest footballer at the World Cup - Shaun Wright-Phillips would have given him a run for his money...)

He was playing?!: Felix Borja, withdrawn at half-time, is apparently Olympiakos-bound. Well, he showed nothing of the form that won him that move - though, as Jim Beglin pointed out, service was hardly forthcoming.

How to express disappointment Podolski-style: Lift up the front of your shirt and put it in your mouth.

Manager who most closely rivals Mexico's Ricardo La Volpe in the seriousness stakes: Luis Suarez.

Player who most resembles a pre-whitening Michael Jackson: Luis Fernandez.

Players who most resemble a pair of bouncers: I can easily imagine Ecuadorian central defenders Jorge Guagua and Giovanni Espinosa giving a pissed-up troublemaker a good shoeing in an alleyway. Robert Huth might join in, for that matter.

Missed opportunity for a German World Cup single: 'Frings Can Only Get Better'.

The Titus Bramble Award For Being Built Like A Brick Shithouse And Looking Solid For Most Of The Game But Cocking Up Badly At Inopportune Moments: It's Guagua again, rivalling USA's Oguchi Onyewu. What was he doing ducking out of a tackle with a player as slight as Germany left-back Phillipp Lahm?

Most bizarre moment of the match: Ballack's refusal to trust the Ecuadorians to give the ball back after it was kicked out for an injury. Edwin Tenorio refused the proferred hand and later exacted revenge by catching the German skipper in the face with his arm.

Today's groundsman: Alan Cairncross, head groundsman at the Olympiastadion. A Scotsman and former soldier, Cairncross learned his trade on the greens of St Andrews. (Thanks for that, Jon Champion.)

Stat attack: Before the game, Michael Ballack had 31 goals in 67 games. As a midfielder, that's pretty incredible.

Overstatement Corner: Good ol' Des Lynam has slated coverage of the World Cup, singling out Champion for particular criticism by pointing out his penchant for overstatement - and he didn't disappoint today. The remodelled Olympiastadion "reeks of stature" - it's "a stadium that represents Germany's history and his conscience". At the end he referred hyperbolically to "this heartbeat of a city, this monument of a stadium".

The NME Build 'Em Up, Knock 'Em Down Award: Champion claimed that England would represent "a step up in class for Germany", but was more insistent in his digs at the Germans than in his inflationary comments about Our Boys. "There is just a suspicion that they're like a car with faulty brakes - you know they're going to crash, it's just a matter of time", he stated in the first half, and, later on (in reference to Oliver Kahn - or was it Lehmann?), "What is it about German football that it has spawned so many dominant, self-opinionated personalities?"

Lost in translation: "To steal JFK's line, Robert Huth ist ein Berliner". Calling Huth a jelly doughnut - you're a braver man than me, Champion.

The Two Ronnies Award: Beglin: "I think if you'd offered Klinsmann a one goal lead at the break he'd have snapped your hand off". Champion: "Isn't that a fine from FIFA, snapping someone's hand off?"

Surprise surprise: Before kick-off, everything Ruud Gullit said seemed to register surprise - "They were watering the pitch!", "Ecuador played very well!", "The Germans CAN organise things!".

What we learned: Germany can score goals aplenty and probably are a team to worry about after all; Ecuador aren't the same side without key players like Castillo, Carlos Tenorio and Ivan Hurtado; Des Lynam was right.

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