Saturday round-up: Portugal, US (!), Ghana (!!)

Portugal – Iran: watched portions of the first half. Iran were pretty dire. Portugal seemed not too bad. Ronaldo got knocked over at one point after catching the ball on his foot at the edge of the Iranian area, and then juggling it four times. Nice footwork you cocky little swine. I'd have fouled him too, if only out of jealousy.

(Unrelated note of political incorrectness about Ronaldo: I was intermittently watching the Portugal – Greece final of Euro 2004 in the common room of a hotel in Grundarfjordur in Iceland, and there were three young women in there for whome English was plainly their common not native language. One saw Ronaldo on the screen and said, "He's good looking but I don't like the ear-rings — they make him look like the gay!" — oh yes, the gay… way to be multi-culti dear. She was probably German…)

Ghana – Czech Republic: what a game! The Ghanians were better organized, more creative, faster in counter-attack, just ran all around the Czech players. It was a pleasure to watch, although the red card for Czech defender Ujfalusi seemed a bit stiff, almost as much as the yellow for Amoah Amas Amat for taking the penalty too quickly… The Ghanian goalie made some splendid saves also.

Programming note: at half-time we were treated to Eric Cantona's "smiling " face as he introduced yet another go through of Brazil joga-ing in a bonita fashion in their dressing room. My not-quite-four-year-old said, "Daddy, that man is always on the television when we watch soccer-ball," so here's a note to Nike: you may have reached saturation point when it's pointed out by a small child who slavishly watches soccer because it's the only un-rationed television programming on in the house… and by the way, she was appalled that Ronaldinho was kicking the ball indoors. Quite right.

US – Italy: A friend invited us over to watch this on his 50" DLP television in high-definition. I wasn't sure that events would look any better that way, but I was to be proven wrong. I think there's an argument to be made for the US just defaulting to a nine-man team because they showed better pace, width, and passing than with 11 players. The Italians showed every sign of being unable to work out what to do when it became clear that they were going to have to actually try to beat the US. The refereeing was atrocious, by the way. But any game which involves Convey, Donovan, Beasley and in fact all of them actually getting out there and putting on a good performance is worth watching. One final thought: Beasley got jobbed on that second goal being disallowed because Buffon didn't bother to try and move so he could see around McBride. I assume that's job-bedness is why the ref ignored Conrad pantsing some Italian player…

The Central Dilemma for the last Group Matches: What would irritate / rock the world of the Euro and Latin American powers more: the US getting through, or Ghana? Something to ponder, anyway…


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