Good golly, it's the First XI World Cup bulletin!
Here's what's happening in sexy South Africa today
Saturday 12 June 2010
12:30 South Korea v Greece, Port Elizabeth, ITV
15:00 Argentina v Nigeria, Johannesburg (Ellis Park), BBC
19:30 England v USA, Rustenburg, ITV
ING-ER-LAND! While we’re all very excited about our first game against the USA there are worries about Wayne Rooney’s discipline. It’s worth pointing out that in nine qualifying games Rooney didn’t receive a single booking. See, it’s all going to be fine! (until a penalty shoot out in the quarter finals)
The USA have a fine tradition of attractive kits, other than a couple of disgraceful shirts in 1994, the year they hosted the tournament. There’s a pleasingly thorough overview here.
Argentina and Nigeria could be a tighter game than you might expect. For one thing, Argentina are “managed” by Diego Maradona, who seems to spend more time cultivating an amusing beard than bothering with anything so dull as tactics. For another the sides have met twice previously in World Cups, with Argentina coming away with narrow wins on both occasions: 1-0 in 2002, 2-1 in 1994.
Greece were 150-1 shots to win the European Championship in 2004. They did it. South Korea were the surprise package of World Cup 2002, making the semi-finals on their home turf. By our calculations this means that whoever wins their game today is guaranteed to make it to the final. That’s how these things work, right?
On this day in 1986 a Northern Ireland team featuring QPR hero Alan McDonald in defence and Pat Jennings in goal (who had retired and was playing for Spurs’ reserve team at the time) proved that they weren’t more than the sum of their parts by losing 3-0 to Brazil.
MATCH OF THE DAY 19:30, ITV
ENGLAND vs USA
Group C. Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg. Capacity: 44,500
At last, the wait is over. Nine months and five days after England thrashed Croatia 5-1 to qualify for the World Cup, the first game is upon us. But hold the ‘easy’ hands, gents, because our best political mates should actually be our sternest group test. You cannot be serious. We are serious. Bob Bradley’s team are a lofty 16th in the world. Plus they have form in South Africa – beating Spain in the semis, before losing out to Brazil in the final of last summer’s Confederations Cup. And they won the only World Cup match between us 1-0 in the 1950 tournament. Still, we’ve humped them seven times since.
PLAYER TO WATCH
TIM HOWARD (above)
Everton conceded over 50 goals this season, but few were down to this Tourette’s-afflicted keeper. “Tim’s reliable and consistent,” enthused manager David Moyes – a worrying mix, given the 6ft 3in 31-year-old stands between England and victory. Still, while his shot-stopping is world class, there is some good news. Detractors claim he “can suffer from weak positioning” and he hasn’t kept a clean sheet in six internationals, including conceding two against Honduras. And if they can score against him, Rooney et al should spark a fucking massive swearing fit.
HALF-TIME PUB QUIZ
1 How many penalties did Switzerland convert in their 2006 shootout against Ukraine?
2 Which team were the top scorers of World Cup 2006?
3 What’s the most number of goals scored by one team in a World Cup match?
4 What peculiar World Cup record did Holland’s Ernie Brandts set in 1978?
5 Which Russian holds the record for most goals scored in a World Cup match?
MATCH OF THE DAY 2
MISS GREECE vs MISS SOUTH KOREA
Who's hotter? Cast your votes in the comments box below.
It's Julia Alexandratou, who is an "occasional pornographic actress" apparently.
Representing South Korea::
It's Kylah Kim, whose motto is "regret nothing". She certainly doesn't regret kneeling down in sand for several hours and NEVER BEING ABLE TO WEAR THOSE PANTS AGAIN. No way.
Here's a wonderful picture of Siphiwe Tshabalala scoring the first goal of the tournament yesterday: YES!
Check back at 11 for tomorrow for the next First 11 World Cup Bulletin.