Top of the tournament

BERLIN -- It was the best of World Cups, it was the worst of World Cups. Opinion will be forever divided on whether Germany 2006 was good, bad or ugly but it generated numerous talking points.

Here, Mully's Missives takes a light-hearted look at what was enjoyable about the monthlong football fest.

The "wurst" comes tomorrow.

BEST PLAYER: Fabio Cannavaro (Italy) -- The personification of "catenaccio," Italy's style of defensive football. Short in stature at 5-foot-9, big in heart, peerless as a defender. Made his 100th appearance for his country in the final.

BEST MATCH: Germany 0 vs. Italy 2 -- The atmosphere, the last-minute drama, the tactical surprises sprung by coach Marcello Lippi in bringing on four forwards, the end-to-end action -- it was edge-of-the-seat stuff in this semifinal.

And at the end of the game, it was as though both teams were victors as the German fans congratulated Juergen Klinsmann's men for their incredible journey.

BEST CELEBRATION: Fabio Grosso -- The Palermo left-back's emotional outpouring after putting Italy 1-0 up in the semifinal against Germany brought back memories of Italy's Marco Tardelli's celebrations after scoring in the 3-1 victory over West Germany in the 1982 World Cup final.

BEST GOAL: Esteban Cambiasso -- Against Serbia and Montenegro in Argentina's 6-0 win. The Argentines strung 21 passes together before the ball went to Juan Roman Riquelme to Javier Saviola to Cambiasso and then to Hernan Crespo, who back-heeled a return pass to Cambiasso and the Inter Milan midfielder made no mistake.

Honorable mentions go to Joe Cole for his wonder strike against Sweden, Maxi Rodriguez for his cracker against Mexico and Alessandro del Piero's brilliant finish against Germany

BEST NATIONAL ANTHEM: Paraguay Paraguayos, Republica o muerte!" (Paraguayans, The Republic or Death!) is a classic South American epic that had the England fans on their feet and dancing away before the two countries played. An absolute belter with a classic "pause where you think its over before they throw everything and the kitchen sink at you" finale.

BEST STADIUM: Westfalenstadion -- Borussia Dortmund's home is the template for all football grounds. Huge, steep banks on all four sides looming over the pitch with no running track, making for an overwhelming atmosphere when sold out.

The atmosphere during Germany's semifinal against Italy made those famous nights of European football at Liverpool's Anfield seem like slightly rowdy tea parties. And talking of Liverpool, the Germans singing the club's anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" as their dejected players left the pitch after the semifinal loss was extremely moving.

BEST FAN: Diego Maradona -- The Argentine legend entertained the crowd with his fired-up antics during his team's games, although with his well-publicized heart problems you can only imagine what his doctor was thinking. Bets were taken before the Argentina-Germany quarterfinal on who would feature more on the television: Maradona or Franz Beckenbauer.

In the end, Maradona refused to attend the match. One of his entourage had been causing trouble at previous matches and was refused entry by FIFA. In a huff, the portly genius decided against attending. It's never simple with Maradona.

BEST CHANT: Germany -- "Berlin, Berlin, gehen wir nach Berlin" (Berlin, Berlin, we're going to Berlin). Simple yet effective. It was the chant of the German fans during their run to the semifinals and to hear tens of thousands of fans singing the song in the streets of Munich after Klinsmann's men steamrollered Sweden was amazing.

BEST CITIES: Heidelburg & Bonn -- The best places to enjoy the action were actually in non-World Cup cities. Heidelburg and Bonn -- Japan's base -- are big student towns, which made for a great atmosphere in both throughout the tournament.

BEST BAR: Blow Up (Bonn) -- Dark and dingy student dive that served as the unofficial base for a few journalists following Japan. Ask for Nena.

BEST HOTEL: Hotel Beethoven (Bonn) -- A bit frayed at the edges but great location on the Rhine, friendly staff and, most importantly, close to Blow Up.

BEST INTRODUCTION IN A CITY'S TOURIST GUIDE: Dortmund -- "Dortmund is famous for two things: Football and beer." -- Cue thousands of men asking their other halves whether they could relocate to a grim mining town in the north of Germany.

BEST DRINK: Bavarian Weiss Beer --The weiss beer in Munich was by far the best in Germany and Erdinger-Weiss was a particular favorite -- a buxom Bavarian beauty with whom you could enjoy spending time with and not feel too guilty about it afterward.
Category: General
by James at 06/07/11 12:15:05

Shifting in the ranks

DORTMUND, Germany -- The World Cup may soon be over, but the games are
just beginning in the transfer market.

The giants of the European game have their checkbooks at the ready as
the tournament nears its climax in Berlin on July 9, with a World Cup
winner likely to cost a pretty penny.

But for the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid money is no object as they
look to sign the best players in the world to add to their already
star-studded ranks.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo was supposedly on the shopping list of Real
Madrid but both player and club have cooled their mutual interest since
Ramon Calderon was announced as Real's new president.

Calderon's election pledge was to sign Brazil's Kaka of AC Milan, the
Netherlands' Arjen Robben of Chelsea and Cesc Fabregas of Spain and
Arsenal. It will be a coup if he pulls off that tasty trio of signings,
but Real has a habit of getting what it wants.

So do Chelsea. Backed by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Blues
coach Jose Mourinho has already added Germany's Michael Ballack and
Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko to the ranks of last year's Premier League
title winners.

Ballack came on a free transfer but commands wages of about £130,000
a week, which makes him the highest paid player in the world.
Shevchenko isn't playing for peanuts either after arriving from AC Milan
in a £30-million transfer deal. Mourinho has now set his sights on
Arsenal and England left back Ashley Cole, who will cost about 20
million pounds.

Italian juggernauts AC Milan and Juventus would normally be expected to
be circling the créme de la créme of footballing talent in the summer
months, but both clubs are caught up in the match-fixing scandal rocking
the domestic game in Italy. They face the ignominy of relegation from
the top flight in Italy, which would likely signal a mass exodus of
their star players.

Juve's cause is not helped by the recent resignation of coach Fabio
Capello, who is heading to Spain to coach Real Madrid.

France's Patrick Vieira, who had a tough time in his debut season in the
Italian League with Juventus, may not need much encouragement to head
back to the Premier League, with Manchester United and Liverpool rumored
to be interested in the ex-Arsenal star.

Less likely to leave their clubs in the lurch are the Italians such as
Juve's Fabio Cannavaro and AC Milan's Gennaro Gattuso, although if they
did choose to up sticks, Man Utd, Real Madrid and Chelsea would be more
than willing to accommodate them.

Vieira's French teammate Franck Ribery is hot property after a number of
dazzling displays for Les Bleus in their run to the semifinals. The
Marseille winger -- earmarked as Zinedine Zidane's successor when the
master retires after the World Cup finals -- looked likely to be heading
to Gerard Houllier's Lyon after the tournament was over but his stock
has risen and he may now try his luck in Spain or England.

Bayern Munich's Philipp Lahm has been in brilliant form during Germany's
unexpected run to the semifinals and the youngster was linked to Chelsea
-- who hasn't? -- after his stunning strike in the hosts' opening game
against Costa Rica.

Miroslav Klose's five goals in the tournament have also alerted the
likes of Man United and the Werder Bremen striker may also be in line
for a move if he proves he can steer clear of the injuries that have
blighted much of his career.

His striker partner Lucas Podolski has already booked his post-World Cup
destination -- the 21-year-old is heading to Bayern Munich.

Clubs in the market for a goalkeeper could do worse than put in an offer
for Sporting Lisbon's Ricardo, who set a World Cup record when he saved
three spot-kicks in Portugal's quarterfinal win over England. Ricardo's
teammate Simao Sabrosa, who plays for Benfica, could also on his travels
after the tournament is over, with Rafa Benitez wanting to add the
winger to his collection of Iberian stars at Liverpool.

Sabrosa's ex-club Barcelona have been the quietest of soccer's European
giants -- and they have every right to be seeing as they regained the
Spanish title last season and also won Champions League.

''If it ain't broke, why fix it?'' is the thinking at the Catalan club.

But Barca still may get involved in the summer transfer madness if they
see a player who takes their fancy. Like all their rivals don't bet
against them getting their man.

And if it's a World Cup winner that fits the bill, the clubs should
expect to pay a pretty penny.
Category: General
by James at 06/07/05 11:31:18

Overheard somewhere in Germany

HAMBURG, Germany -- Here's some of the rumors flying out of the media centers of the World Cup, to be taken with a large grain of salt:

-- Real Madrid is giving Portugal boss Luiz Felipe Scolari the glad eye and wants the big man to be the club's next boss. The man he beat in the quarterfinals, soon-to-be departing England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, also is in the running for the job.

-- Real Madrid presidential candidate Juan Palacios says he's on a promise with Spanish internationals Joaquin, Jose Antonio Reyes and Pablo Ibanez and that they will sign for the club if he wins the election on Sunday, but that one could be in trouble with Ramon Calderon claiming victory in the election.

-- Manchester United wants England's Michael Carrick and is willing to shell out £15 million for the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder.

-- Real Madrid presidential candidate Lorenzo Sanz has promised to sign Carrick if he gets elected. Again, fun, but maybe for naught.

-- Manchester United manager is desperate to sign Spain's Fernando Torres from Atletico Madrid, but he will not go for less than £40 million, says the club.

-- Tunisia's Hatem Trabelsi and Holland's Dirk Kuyt have taken the fancy of Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, and he is considering making offers for both to their respective clubs, Ajax and Feyenoord.

-- "Der Kaiser" Franz Beckenbauer is tipped to stand for the UEFA presidency next year.

-- Cote d'Ivoire midfield powerhouse Didier Zokora is on his way to Tottenham Hotspur.

-- Brilliant midfielder Sulley Muntari, one Ghana player who shone at the World Cup, says Premier League side Bolton is giving him come-hither looks.

-- The U.S. wants California resident and German boss Juergen Klinsmann as the next boss of the national team. Obviously once the World Cup is over.
Category: General
by James at 06/07/04 18:48:18

WAG Watch

HAMBURG, Germany -- England's players may have been dominating the sports pages of their country's newspapers during their time in Germany, but they've been shifted off the front pages.

So what has taken precedent?

The Gaza conflict?

The Vatican's opening of interwar archives?

No, it's the WAGs.

The WAGs, standing for "Wives and Girlfriends," refers to the England players' glamorous other halves who have followed them out to Germany.

Traditionally, players' partners have stayed at home during tournaments like the World Cup because of concerns over the energy-sapping effects of pre-match sex.

But in Germany, the girls are out and about en masse, and the European media has gone WAG mad.

The girls' days are filled with shopping in the boutiques of Baden Baden, where the England team is based, and topping up their tans. Every little detail of which WAG did what is splashed across Britain's newspapers.

The Sun, Mirror, Daily Star and even the broadsheet Daily Telegraph had a picture of Wayne Rooney's fiancee Colleen McLoughlin on their front page on Friday.

McLoughlin was soaked to the skin in a skimpy white top after a go on a water ride with some of the other WAGs after they took a break from the designer stores for a day out at a German theme park.

Undisputed top WAG is Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice and wife of England captain David Beckham.

Posh is a mother of two and eschews the boozing sessions enjoyed by some of the other girls. In Posh's clique is Cheryl Tweedy, fiancee of left-back Ashley Cole, and McLoughlin. Loosely tied to the trio is coach Sven-Goran Eriksson's partner Nancy Dell'Olio.

It has been said they are linked because at least three had some sort of career pre-WAG status and now look down upon some of the other girls, who have no other claim to fame apart from that they are dating a soccer player.

Posh has been involved in music and fashion, Tweedy is in pop group Girls Aloud and Dell'Olio was a lawyer in Italy.

McLoughlin has thought it wise to attach herself to this "elite" bunch of WAGs rather than the ones who hit the bars of Baden Baden and knock back champagne, vodka and Red Bulls till the early hours.

This group of WAGs includes Frank Lampard's Spanish fiancee Elen Rives and Steven Gerrard's girlfriend Alex Curran. Reports suggest that they like their late nights just as much as the other girls, but both have babies and so have to get home at a respectable hour.

The gaggle of other WAGs, though, are full-time party girls, and some have reportedly put the noses of the WAG creme de la creme -- Posh Spice and Dell'Olio -- out of joint because of their attempts to steal the spotlight and late-night antics.

They say these young striplings are forgetting the reason they are out in Germany in the first place: to support England's attempt to win the World Cup for the first time since its only triumph in 1966.

And falling out of bars in the early hours after getting soused on champagne before waking up and shopping off the hangover at Louis Vuitton probably isn't the best way to go about this, say the uber-WAGs.

The English press, though, love their antics in Germany and are on full-time "WAG Watch."

It was reported that at one of the England games, a pitch-side photographer for a British newspaper got in trouble after having his camera trained the whole match on the girls in the stands instead of the players on the pitch.

The WAGs, though, haven't impressed everybody.

Newspapers from other countries has torn into them, the Scottish Herald suggesting WAG stands for Witless Anorexic Girlfriend and Spanish newspaper ABC calling them "hooligans with VISAs."
Category: General
by James at 06/07/01 17:43:08

Support you global team

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- The Japanese are long gone from the competition, but there is plenty for football to be played. Many Japan fans may have picked England as their ''other'' team to support, but because Sven Goran Eriksson's men are doing their best to bore their fans to death it might be an idea to run the rule over the other teams.

One way of choosing which team to root for is to pick one whose style of play you prefer, players you like (football and/or looks wise!) or coach you admire. If you still can't decide you may want to check out this Web site:

Here, countries are rated on the level of income inequality, carbon emissions and health spending, among other things. You may choose to cheer for the team with the lowest life expectancy or lowest average national income or jeer the country that spends the most on weapons or is the most corrupt.

Not sure how much this has got to do with sport, but you can make your own mind up. You may not be surprised to read that the U.S. was the least most supportable club at the tournament and Ghana the most supportable.

If you have picked Brazil as your ''other'' team, then what could be better than getting your own Brazilian name, too. Check out the following Web site:

Just type in your name, select your number and you instantly get a name to rival that of legends Ronaldinho, Pele, Jarzinho, Tostao and, of course, Japan's departing national team coach Zico.
Category: General
by James at 06/06/27 19:02:17

All the pitch is a stage . . .

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- The extravagant fall by Italy's
Fabio Grosso over the body of Lucas Neill which gave Italy the
last-minute penalty it needed to beat Australia on Monday was once again
proof that playacting players can and do prosper at this World

It came a day after the shameful antics of the Portuguese and
Dutch players in their second-round game in Nuremberg, in which 16
players received yellow cards and four red cards.

The second half of that game descended into farce as almost
every player tackled writhed around in agony in the hope of getting the
other player booked or sent off.

Any time a team gained momentum an opposition player would go
down injured. By the time the player had "recovered" the momentum had

So, what to do about the cheats?

Once again, as always happens during a big tournament, the
relative merits and demerits of video technology are trotted out. The
general idea to deter the cheats is to have another referee pitch-side
who can immediately decide whether someone is conning the on-pitch

The hope is that the presence of this technology would be
deterrent enough, as the actual use of video replays during the match
would have a terrible effect in slowing down the flow of the

Three teams spring to mind -- there may be more but none
immediately leap out -- who have risen above the disgraceful feigning of

England, the U.S. and Australia all seem to play the game in
the spirit of fairness, although both the U.S. and Australia are not
slow in dishing out the rough stuff.

Indeed, in both teams' games against Italy they seemed to
decide that because the Italians have a tendency to overdo the theatrics
when tackled, they would give them a reason to roll around by crunching
into tackles.

Talking with the U.S. fans after their game against Italy and
the Aussie fans on Monday as they made their way back to Kaiserslautern
Station after their heartbreaking loss, it became apparent that this
behavior -- and the Italians have been far from the worst offenders --
is utterly alien to them, many of whom have been brought up on sports
besides soccer.

The opinions rarely differed and are the same ones that have
been heard over the years: sports such as Australian Rules football, ice
hockey and American football are all rough games, but you see little or
none of the skulduggery found in the World Cup and in soccer,

The sports mentioned above are obviously not above the
criticism soccer receives and there are other ways players get an
advantage over their opponents in these sports.

But it is the desire to not show weakness or simulate injury
that seems to have rubbed off on the U.S. and Australia soccer

The same can be said for the English team, and although this
is still generally the case there have been rare occasions in the past
when they have prospered from playacting.

It would be nice, too, to say the "samurai spirit" of Japan
meant the Boys in Blue rose above the tomfoolery on show in Germany, but
in their match against Australia many of the Japan players were as
guilty as Italy's Grosso in Kaiserslautern on Monday and those
responsible for the shameful scenes seen in the Portugal-Netherlands
game on Sunday.
Category: General
by James at 06/06/27 18:44:05

Talk of the town

MUNICH -- Rumor, gossip and half-truths fly around the stadium media centers where the journalists at the World Cup do their work. Here's some of the juiciest tittle-tattle regarding players and coaches I've heard in the past couple of weeks:

-- FIFA's Head of Technical Development Holger Osieck, ex-Urawa Reds and Canadian national team boss, is definitely going to be named the new Japan manager.

-- JEF United Chiba coach Ivica Osim is definitely going to be named the new Japan coach.

-- Coach Aime Jacquet, who led France to its 1998 World Cup triumph, has been offered the job as Japan coach, but wants to become technical director and get ex-Monaco coach Didier Deschamps in as Japan coach.

-- Despite saying he wouldn't think about any other job until after the World Cup, Zico sent his resume to Scottish club Hearts, inquiring about becoming manager of the club controlled by Lithuanian banker Vladimir Romanov and son Roman.

-- Hidetoshi Nakata, who blubbed after Japan crashed out of the World Cup, is definitely going to retire from international football.

-- Hidetoshi Nakata was staying in a separate hotel from the rest of the Japan team during the tournament.

-- Coach Guido Buchwald wanted his Urawa players Keisuke Tsuboi, Alex Santos and Shinji Ono to stay on in Germany to join the rest of the Reds squad in Stuttgart, where they are having a training camp. However, the JFA insisted the players go back to Japan with the rest of the squad.

-- Hidetoshi Nakata and Shunsuke Nakamura were exempt from having to head back to Japan and went straight back to their clubs, Bolton in England and Celtic in Scotland.

-- Shinji Ono is leaving Urawa Reds to join Nakamura at Celtic.

More coming soon . . .

Category: General
by James at 06/06/26 16:24:05

The World Cup, from top to bottom, Vol. 1

MUNICH -- As the second round begins, Mully's Missives looks back at the World Cup so far and dishes out some awards.

Best fans: The English. Fantastic to see hundreds of England fans at the fan fest in Nuremberg dancing along to the German equivalent of "Three Lions" -- "54, 74, 90, 2006" by Sportfreunde Stiller.

Best fan: Diego Maradona. The slimmed down legend has been going crazy in the stands while watching his beloved Argentina. You have to wonder whether his heart is going to hold out from all the excitement, especially the way the Argentines are playing.

Worst fans: The Japanese "fairweather fans" supporting Brazil when the two sides played. Boo, hiss!

Best heckles from fans: "Stick the ball away, you're crap."

"You're as useless as you've always been, Yanagisawa." -- Japanese fans lay into the players during practice at a Japan training session after the 0-0 draw with Croatia, the match in which Kashima Antlers forward Atsushi Yanagisawa failed to score when presented with an open goal three meters out. The miss of the tournament so far.

Best German punditry: "Rudi Voeller would have scored that with his leg in plaster." -- Ex-German international and J. Leaguer Pierre Littbarski talking about Yanagisawa's miss on German television.

Best matches (as seen by Mully): Italy vs. United States in Kaiserslautern (1-1) -- Goals, cultured skills, plucky resilience, violent elbows, red cards, a near upset, end-to-end action, screaming fans, finger wagging, U.S. coach Bruce Arena going crazy on the touchline -- this had it all.

Brazil vs. Japan in Dortmund (4-1) -- The first time to see Brazil live is a special treat. Players like Robinho and Ronaldinho glide around the pitch with an effortless elegance that is difficult to see on television. Japan did well to keep it to four goals. The Brazilians gave the impression that they were cruising in third gear, but that the fourth and fifth gears were there if needed.

Worst matches (as seen by Mully):
England vs. Paraguay (1-0) -- Turgid fare for nearly the whole match after the early goal. One England fan nearby the press area was asleep for almost the entire second half, although admittedly he looked as though he'd had more than a couple pre-match drinks.

England vs. Trinidad and Tobago (2-0) -- Mind numbing. Eighty minutes of England launching long balls toward the head of beanpole striker Peter Crouch. It was tough going for the fans, so who knows what Michael Owen was thinking as the game passed him by.

Worst play-acting: U.S. vs. Ghana (1-2) -- The Africans wasted a lot of the second half by rolling around theatrically any time they were tackled. Frustrating for the U.S. and also for the fans.

Best goal: Esteban Cambiasso's against Serbia and Montenegro in Argentina's 6-0 win. The Argentines strung 21 passes together before the ball went to Juan Roman Riquelme to Javier Saviola to Cambiasso and then to Hernan Crespo, who back heeled a return pass to Cambiasso, and the Inter Milan midfielder made no mistake.

Best player: Japan has to win something, so this goes to 'keeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi, easily Japan's best player despite conceding seven goals. It would have been a whole lot worse for Zico's men had the man nicknamed "Dracula" (because of his fear of crosses) not been in such inspired form. Made the save of the tournament from Juninho Pernambucano of Brazil, flying through the air to deflect a blockbuster destined for the top corner amid numerous other amazing stops.

Most deluded player: "As I left the team hotel in Germany yesterday to fly home, I told (coach) Sven Goran Eriksson that I would be back out for the World Cup final. My tournament might be over, but I still want that medal around my neck." -- Sounds like the England doctor has upped injured striker Michael Owen's morphine intake to dangerous levels.

Biggest disappointment: Apart from Japan's sorry departure at the end of the first round, perhaps the form of the two best players in the world, Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry. Ronaldinho has been content to keep it simple for Brazil and hasn't made many trademark jinking runs, while France's Henry still hasn't found a way to jell with Zinedine Zidane. Maybe they are saving themselves.

Most outrageous quote from a coach: "It depends on who the woman is. A little bit is OK." -- It's all about quality and not quantity for Ecuador coach Luis Fernando Suarez when it comes to the contentious subject of pre-match nookie for players.

Biggest surprise: Ghana. The powerful midfield pairing of Chelsea's Michael Essien and Fenerbahce's Stephen Appiah steamrollered the Czechs and the U.S. to go through to the next round with the Italians in one of the "Groups of Death."

Most hapless referee:
England's Graham Poll, during Croatia's 2-2 draw with Australia. He booked Croatian player Josip Simunic three time before sending him off, missed two clear penalty offenses and allowed Harry Kewell's last-minute equalizer that looked offside to count.

Poll, one of the favorites to ref the final, is tipped to be on his way back to England, banned from officiating another game at this World Cup.

Best thing smuggled into a stadium: Security is watertight at the stadium entrances -- literally. Fans and media cannot take bottled water to the seats as the bottles could be used as potential weapons. Every person is frisked, and bags are scanned and searched.

Which makes it even more impressive that a Croatian fan smuggled six flares into the game against Australia, letting them off when his team scored. Not as impressive, though, as the French fan who smuggled a live cockerel into the stands for the game against South Korea.
Category: General
by James at 06/06/26 09:01:42

Zico never at a loss for an excuse

DORTMUND, Germany -- Zico has come up with all manner of excuses during his four years in charge to explain away shoddy performances from Japan, and the Brazilian was trotting them out at an almost daily rate in Germany during the World Cup.

Here's a quick round up of the best of the bunch:

* It was too hot for Japan's games against Australia and Croatia.

* Japan should have had a penalty awarded against Australia.

* FIFA shouldn't have picked a European referee for Japan's game against Croatia (allegedly told to a group of Brazilian journalists)

* The longball tactics of Australia and Croatia were too difficult to defend against.

* The 9 p.m. kickoff against Brazil was past Shunsuke Nakamura's bedtime.

(One of the above is not strictly true)

Here are some other Zico classics:

* If Akira Kaji hadn't had his early goal disallowed against Brazil in the Confederations Cup in 2005, Japan would have won the match 3-2 instead of drawing 2-2.

* Japan shouldn't have to play in first-round qualifying in the World Cup (after traveling to Oman during 2006 qualifying)

* Japan didn't have enough time to prepare for a World Cup qualifier (Before a 2-1 win away to the mighty Singapore).

* FIFA showed a lack of respect by picking match officials from Benin and Australia to referee Japan games during the Confederations Cup in 2003.

* * *

BONN VOYAGE: The Japan team returned to Bonn from Dortmund on Thursday night after the 4-1 thrashing by Brazil put them out of the tournament and was due to catch the 9 p.m. flight on Friday from Frankfurt back to Narita Airport in Chiba Prefecture.

Before the team left they had a quick flesh presser with the Mayor of Bonn in the Town Square, thanking her for Bonn's hospitality before heading off to the airport.

Bonn really has pulled out the stops for both the Japan team and the fans, with all the fans I've spoken to saying that they have enjoyed their time in the beautiful town.

It's a shame the players didn't get to see too much of the town -- not one person I spoke to said they had seen a Japan player going for a walk around Bonn.

It would have been nice to bump into one of the players letting off a bit of steam, but it seems that if they weren't at training or traveling to and from games they spent all their time at their hotel, the Hilton.

The fans, on the other hand, seemed to have a great time sampling the relaxed Bonn nightlife and it was a great decision to have Bonn as the base camp.

Category: General
by James at 06/06/25 11:35:44

Well, it's complicated . . .

Here's a tip: Bet on the first goal in the England vs. Sweden match to be an own goal from an English player.

Reckon it's a long shot? Well, not if Ecuador holds Germany to a draw in the earlier match on Tuesday. That will mean the South Americans go through as the top team of Group A on goal difference, meaning runnerup Germany will play the top team of Group B in the second round.

England has six points from two games in Group B after beating Paraguay 1-0 and Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 while Sweden has four points, and both teams won't be keen on meeting the hosts so early in the competition. Finishing top also would mean ending up in the Brazil side of the draw.

More than enough incentive to go for the loss for England, although it will be difficult to pull off. The Swedes are holding all the cards and it can be fair to say they won't exactly be overdoing it in the effort department if Ecuador finishes top.

But the Swedes still need a draw to make sure of qualification because if they lose and Trinidad and Tobago wins, both will be on four points and it will be down to goal difference to see which team goes through.

If England loses to Sweden, though, then both go through but with England second.

Confused? You're not the only one.

Obviously professionalism comes into it and Sweden coach Lars Lagerback and England's Sven-Goran Eriksson will be insisting that they will be playing as normal, but some readers may harken back to 1982 and the rigged game between West Germany and Austria that ended with a 1-0 victory to the Germans that ensured qualification for both at the expense of Algeria.

This could be even worse! That's why it would be an idea to get to the bookies and put some money on an England own-goal-fest.

Who knows? Considering Michael Owen's current form it might be the only chance he gets to score a goal at the World Cup.
Category: General
by James at 06/06/21 11:21:00