Round One Over
So. By this point, every team has played at least one game. And what have we seen in the last two days? North Korea narrowly held Brazil to a bizarre 2-1 win. Heavyweights Portugal and Ivory Coast drew 0-0 to their fans’ dismay, showing little in the way of cohesive play and good finishing touches. New Zealand drew 1-1 with Slovakia! And Switzerland beat Spain 1-0 in today’s match-up, sending my and everyone else’s bracket into shambles. Because at this point, provided del Bosque’s side does wake up from the Euro dream, they could still come second in their group and face Brazil in the next round.
But first thing’s first. Hoping to see some fan spirit, I went down to East Harlem yesterday for the Ivory Coast - Portugal match. I watched the game at a very orange (lighter shade than the Dutch one) restaurant on 119th and Madison Ave called New Ivoire. The company was what I hoped for: Ivorians dressed to cheer for the Elephants, a few Drogba fans donning Chelsea jerseys, a friendly owner who treated me to a delicious corned beef sandwich and a fellow who declared himself Drogba’s twin. True enough, he looked the part, and tipped the cable box over in frustration at least two times as Gervinho and Dindane missed precious chances for the Elephants.
Aside from the typically dull ESPN commentary, this match I had fun listening to in Dioula, the vernacular Ivorian dialect. Too bad though that the only real reason these guys had to be excited was seeing Drogba warming up on the bench. Their team looked determined and ready to fight, but did not manage to string enough passes together and take advantage of Cristiano Ronaldo’s average day. By average meaning he nearly scored the goal of the tournament so far (that honor went to Brazil’s Maicon, 3 hours later). The match ended in a nail biting yet extremely disappointing goalless draw.
Next in line was Brazil - North Korea. I watched this one at home, entertaining myself with following tweets from my friends while tending to a bout of food poisoning (oops). The prevailing explanation for the 0-0 persisting until halftime seems to be that a certain national leader would have done terrible things to the North Korean players had they lost by too many goals. Or maybe North Korea has something going for them. Either way, reports from friends in Brazil divulge that despite Selecao managing a narrow 2-1 win largely thanks to individual inspiration from Maicon and Elano, fans have consistently mentioned “filhos de puta” during and after the game. Not sure who that epithet was referring to. And another piece of trivia, courtesy of Josh: most North Korean fans seen on TV were actually Chinese.
Finally in line of importance, today the Swiss team reminded me of Italy’s golden age, and beat top seeded Spain thanks to very effective counterattacking and some great tactical moves by coach Ottmar Hitzfeld. Spain was somewhat unlucky, but please, please let Fabregas play and start Fernando Torres next time. Villa’s run is over. With this surprise crash, the Germans and the Dutch are in my book favorites to win it all, with Brazil and Argentina needing to grow into their game if they are to be taken seriously.
Going to Boca Juniors bright and early tomorrow for Argentina’s game against South Korea!