Friday, June 23, 2006

Portugal v Mexico, ITV1

(Yes, late again. Apologies everyone!)

After Tuesday's four-part build up to the England game, Wednesday's quadruple-header on ITV will be a review of last night's action (although if they spend more than a cursory glance during the Holland-Argentina game, there'll be trouble). Michael Owen is out of the World Cup, Jim is sad to inform us as we see the super slow-mo camera angle of his knee twist yet again - not ideal viewing for viewers with queasy stomachs, believe me. Ally McCoist "not having" Sam Allardyce's opinion that Joe Cole's goal is the best of the tournament so far - "the Argies have still got it for me!"

"I've just been handed a very sad bit of news," suggests Jim in his best Neville Chamberlain impression as we return from the break. "Michael Owen has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament." A rather insipid VT piece about Scolari leads onto discussion of today's teams, and Jim is "delighted for everybody watching" that Figo has come out of international retirement. Oh, now we're all chuckling at Mexico's excessive number of friendlies played in preparation for the cup, and we're told they're aiming to reach the semi-finals. "If they do, I'm sure one or two sombreros will be going in the air!" suggests Rosenthal, apparently rather aggrieved at the number of rowdy Mexican fans in the ITV hotel last night.

"So what's it to be - the devil or the deep blue sea?" suggests Clive Tyldesley - today's surprising choice of commentator for the lesser of two groups - in reference to the prospective 2nd round opponents facing Group D's qualifiers. "It does look like the group of doom! The benefits of winning this section might be fringe benefits!" We're in Gelsenkirchen, and Clive still hasn't got over the novelty of a retractable roof. "Slightly eerie to be watching a match indoors. They also have a sliding pitch, let's hope that doesn't start to move during the game!"

"It is a match between two of the top 7 teams in world football - official! The FIFA rankings, the hit parade of the international game place Portugal at number 7 and Mexico at 4!" Clive's diatribe is luckily interrupted by the anthems, and the increasingly annoying trend of mascots to jump and wave to try to appear in shot as the camera pans along the teams (luckily the Mexican trait of placing their outstretched hands parallel to their hearts seems to act as a ceiling to the more boisterous kids). "A draw will suit both teams," points out Clive. "Let's hope the handshakes that follow now aren't too friendly!" One rather enthusiastic Mexican singing along looked rather like Sinbad from Brookside, incidentally.

Kick-off, and the ball immediately finds its way back to the Portuguese keeper, who sells a dummy to the onrushing striker. "Very calmly done by Ricardo, but then England know all about his footwork, don't they Gareth Southgate - it was his penalty that beat us in the end?" "Sadly it was, he's a very confident guy as we can see there, it takes some, er, it takes some balls to do that in the first couple of minutes!" You can't say that on daytime TV!

"Ooh, slid back in towards Maniche, beautifully worked. Portugal take the lead, Maniche has got the goal! Delightfully set up by Simao and joyously celebrated by the man whose goal took Portugal to the European finals two years ago!" Gareth develops a temporary stutter, telling us it was a "really worked worked goal".

Bravo volleys the ball just wide for Mexico. "I just wonder if he might have been better throwing himself there with his head?" suggests Gareth. "There speaks a central defender!"

"He is a World Cup winner, La Volpe," Clive points out as the camera shows the Mexican coach. "He was Argentina's third-choice goalkeeper at the 1978 finals. He didn't play, but he did sit on the bench - ironically behind a chain-smoking coach, Cesar Luis Menotti. Maybe that's where he got the habit!"

Gareth is somewhat unimpressed with Marquez being moved up from defence to midfield, and spends much of the first half pointing out that he should know as a central defender himself. Look, we know you haven't developed a co-commentary 'style' yet, but please don't become some kind of Geoffrey Boycott-esque know-all.

"Yellow card for Perez," announces Clive just as a caption appears stating that Rodriguez was in fact booked for a foul on Maniche. The free kick is deflected behind for a corner. "Simao trying to make a nuisance of himself," comments Clive as he and Pineda practically hold hands on the goal line whilst jostling for position. "Ooh, there's a hand up there, you know. It's a penalty, thought so! Marquez had a raised arm and just palmed the ball away. He claims he was pushed in the back, oh I don't think so. I think he knew what he was doing, don't you?" "He knew what he was doing, but what he was doing was ridiculous really! It's incredible how many times we see that - a player, almost an involuntary movement of the hand..."

The resulting penalty sees Sanchez try to be clever by standing (well, actually weaving from side to side) off-centre within his goal. Unfortunately for him, Simao is only too happy to blast it into the resulting gap. "That's so off-putting, when a goalkeeper's going through all that routine!" suggests Gareth. "Celebrity poker, that!" notes Clive, desperately attempting to shill ITV's forthcoming series.

Perez raises his foot too high when challenging for the ball and the referee reaches for his pocket. Tyldesley is expecting the worst: "I thought he'd picked up the card before?" It's just a yellow, and Clive is confused, leaving Gareth to fill for a few moments: "The Mexicans need a foothold in the game, cos the way it's going they're going out of the tournament. If Angola score, Mexico have got it all to do!" "They're going to score again here if they're not careful!" warns Clive as Portugal break again. "Well, they're just running rings around them and it's the midfield area where Portugal are killing them!"

"It was the tall defender Rodriguez who picked up the first yellow card, so no mistake by the official," admits Clive after someone whispers in his ear. In the meantime, a Mexican free kick reaches Bravo at the far post - "and somehow Ricardo kept it out!" "He's an unorthodox keeper at the best of times but he's done extremely well to scoop that one over the bar!" compliments Gareth. We see the Portuguese number 3 Caneira hug Ricardo for perhaps a little too long for comfort after the save. "His left-back was very very grateful, wasn't he? Not sure the save was quite that good!" "Bonus must be good!" agrees Southgate.Sadly for Ricardo and his homoerotic celebrating friends, Fonseca heads the ball home from the Mexican corner that follows. "It's almost a carbon copy of the goal England let in last night," notes Gareth.

Controversy, as Pardo has a shot from distance which Ricardo palms away. However, Bravo - who had been hunched over in an offside position seemingly catching his breath - suddenly realises the ball is headed his way, causing Caneira to rush back and boot the ball out. "He didn't seem to make an effort for it," offers Clive by way of excuse for the non-decision, but Gareth's having none of it. "He has to be offside, they've conceded a corner that he's had a big influence in. He's blocking the view of the goalkeeper!" "Unless you touch it under the current ruling, there's every chance you're not going to be flagged!"

The corner comes in, Maniche brings Mendez down on the edge of the area ("waved away, the appeals"), then the ball is swung in only for Fonseca to kick the keeper instead of the ball and Marquez to be surprised when the ball deflects up onto his chin. "How didn't they score there?" wonders Clive and the entire population of Mexico. "Goalkeeper is in the back of the net injured..." "I tell you what, the goalie didn't fancy that one at all!" relishes a rather bitter Southgate. "That all came from that corner decision - a player's stood right in front of the goalkeeper, he has to be gaining an advantage!" Clive's reading of the official FIFA notes issued prior to the tournament suggest that unless a player touches the ball, he won't be offside ("he could even step over the ball without being flagged!")

"Marquez has had a change of tyres during that pit-stop!" That'll be a change of boots, then?

"Mexico go in two goals to the good," begins Rosenthal during half-time before immediately correcting himself. "A lot of you have been asking about our opening titles music," says Jim, segueing neatly from the expensive analysis into the moneyspinning corporate promotion. "You can get it as a digital download!" Er, no thanks. Onto talk of England, and "Let me repeat the sad news that Michael Owen's World Cup is over!" The England report overruns and Rosenthal hands back to Tyldesley barely in time. "Thanks Jim, bang on cue!" observes Clive as the second half kicks off.

Zinha comes on at half time, allowing Clive to remind us all that he's a naturalised Brazilian and one of two 'foreign' players who've taken Mexican nationality in recent years. Unusually, he doesn't take the opportunity to work in a cricket reference when a comparison with the likes of Kevin Pietersen could justifiably be made.

After a lacklustre start to the second half, Miguel attempts a desperate lunging tackle in the area only to be wrong-footed as the ball changes direction and actually hits his arm on the ground which is cushioning his fall. It's another penalty - "bit harsh" according to Southgate, who appears not to see that Miguel's arm not only touches the ball but also trips Perez."Two down inside 25 minutes, and now a chance for Omar Bravo to bring Mexico on terms... Oh, he's smashed it high over the bar! What a let-off for Portugal!" "A big let-off," agrees Southgate. "You're not going to find me telling people how to take penalties, by the way!" "More Waddle than Southgate, wasn't it?" offers Clive. "Yeah, you've got to hit the target!" La Volpe seems unimpressed by the miss: "Now, it's no accident that there's nobody sitting very close to the rather volatile coach of Mexico right now - they've all sort of edged away from him for a bit, let him calm down..."

An unidentified Mexican bundles into the referee in an attempt to collect a loose ball, only for the ref to in turn bundle into the oncoming Portuguese player Maniche. "That's a foul by the referee!" quips Clive. "Absolutely cleaned him out!" agrees Gareth.

"Oh-and-a-chance-too-at-the-end-of-it-all-for-Mexico-and-another-penalty..." says Clive in about a quarter of a second, before composing himself. "No - he's gone the other way, he's given it for diving!" A replay shows Perez to be the apparently-guilty party, although it's slightly harsh to say he intentionally threw himself to the ground since he was under pressure from the equally culpable Miguel. Tyldesley, still confused by the mistaken identity of Mexico's first booking earlier, gets his man at last: "He's booked Perez...now, he booked him in the first half? Now he does go! It is a red card for Perez - for me, no penalty, no card. I don't think either was necessary there..."

"That's the first time he's sat down!" notes Clive as we see Scolari retire from the technical area back to the bench. "He did sit down with Brian Barwick during the last week in April..."

Angola have taken the lead against Iran, much to the apparent ignorance of the Mexican supporters, as the sudden anxious roar from the crowd that you get on the final day of the English league season is conspicuous by its absence.

Scolari gesticulates instructions furiously to the oncoming substitute Nuno Gomes. "'Now have you got the message before you go on, do you know what you're doing or would you like me to go over it again?'" observes Clive. "Nuno Gomes getting told off even before he's come on!" Gareth is suddenly possessed by the ghost of Big Ron as he chuckles through the following witticism: "I tell you what, Big Phil down there is going absolutely mad. He's throwing his hands in the air every time they give the ball away!" "I'd love to see a tussle between the two coaches of these two countries, it'd be better than the game!" admits a bloodthirsty Tyldesley. "These Mexicans don't cut easily though," comments Gareth, possibly mistaking Mexican footballers for diamonds.

Paolo Ferreira attempts a tackle from behind on Fonseca in the corner of the penalty area, but the referee chooses to ignore it and gives a corner. Clive is furious! "What on earth was he doing coming through from the back there? Oh, he didn't get anywhere near the ball! The referee was four paces away looking at him! When he made the tackle you thought 'why?', and then you thought 'well, how on earth's he got the ball from behind?', and the truth is he didn't. The referee could not have been better placed. That was a penalty!"

Portugal's second half performance has been pretty dismal, and Clive suggests that the reserve players out there today who had impressed in the first half will have "returned to the bench in the manager's mind in the last half hour".

"News from Leipzig which is music to Mexican ears." Yes, Iran have equalised against Angola, allowing the next five minutes to pass by largely without incident. "Well, they've enjoyed themselves," suggests Clive as we see the Mexican supporters react a little more obviously to news of the second goal in the other match. "Enjoyed themselves outside my hotel room at 2 o'clock this morning!" "Breakfast was quite lively as well, wasn't it?" reminds Southgate. "One or two came straight in from wherever they were... And we're at the same hotel tonight, so come on Portugal! I don't think it matters to the Mexicans whether they qualify - 'we will not sleep!'" (That last bit was delivered in a mock-Mexican accent that sounded more like an Allo-Allo-esque German tone, but nobody ever suggested Clive is a master impressionist).

"Wasn't a very good fall, was it?" opines Clive as Franco tumbles over in the area much more theatrically than Perez, yet doesn't even pick up a yellow card. The comedy never stops as Sanchez in the Mexican goal tries to quickly release the ball with a two-handed underarm bowl that gets caught in Marquez's feet, allowing Tiago to quickly try a 30-yard lob over the stranded keeper that sails over the bar whilst an embarrassed Sanchez dives Superman-style into the back of his own net whilst tracking the ball. "It's all going on!" announces Southgate whilst attempting to summarise the above manic 15 second spell.

"I was just wondering if there's anyone on the field who hasn't had a yellow card? How many is that now?" ponders Southgate as Boa Morte becomes the latest recipient of a yellow card. "Seven, I think is the answer to your question," answers Clive after a short delay. "Good effort by the ref - keeps his averages up!" bemoans Gareth. "The ref's still got a couple of minutes to get another yellow as well!"

"Last of the 90, with two more minutes to come," announces Clive, shortly before the fourth official indicates 3 extra minutes, not 2. "Might get to 50 fouls before the end," he continues as a caption shows Portugal to be 28-18 up on that count. Make that 29-18 as Nuno Gomes collects the game's 8th yellow. Gareth is like a kid at Christmas, giggling at the referee living up to his expectations: "He did it! He got it in!"

The game ends with Portugal certain of topping the group and Mexico waiting for news of the unfinished other match, but ITV can't stick around to cover that and we're off for a break. Ally's "not having" Bravo's skied penalty, "not having" the sending off, and thought the referee had a shocker ("I can't remember a bad tackle!"). Jim wraps things up: "Our final thoughts have to be with Michael Owen, whose World Cup is sadly over."

What we've learned: Portugal's reserves are better than Mexico's best team; Ally's not having much today; and Jim is sad to say that Michael Owen sadly is sadly out of the Sad World Cup. Sadly.

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