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WC Diary: Flying Dutchmen and the Goal Nobody Blamed Scholes For

Day 2 of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Four matches played. Fifteen goals scored. All but one of the eight teams that played in the opening fixtures have scored. And no draws. I cannot quite remember a World Cup as open as this. Long may it continue!

Of course, the main talking point of the opening two days is that shocking scoreline at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador. Netherlands 5 Spain 1. The reigning world champions were made to eat humble pie.

I did not get up for that one, I have to admit. And I have no remorse. The match was scheduled at 3 a.m., when the body rhythm is said to be at its lowest ebb. The World Cup is always a hazard to the health of the Filipino football fan.

Besides, Spain is only my third favourite team; and for reasons I cannot quite explain, I have never really liked the Dutch. I will gladly get up for England; and grudgingly so for Germany if the game is important.

At any rate, my annoyance was more with the idiot foul the Manc Paul Scholes committed on Kleberson that led to the freekick. I will not argue that Scholes was a great player; but he was always culpable of committing similar idiot fouls every now and again.
Thankfully, England’s opener against Italy tomorrow is at 6 in the morning. Even that is something of a sacrifice for me these days but, well, I console myself that this happens only once in four years.

And I am old enough to remember when I would have gladly gotten up to watch any world cup game whatever the time because coverage was so sparing. In fact, I never would have wagered that the time would come that I would be spoilt for choices.

Thank you Balls Channel for your comprehensive coverage. Balls. What a cheeky name for a cable sports channel.

Shocking as the 1-5 result may be for the Spaniards, in perspective they also lost their opening match of the World Cup in South Africa four years ago. And went on to become world champions.

I just finished watching the match between Chile and the Socceroos (which ended 3-1 to the South Americans); but, frankly, I do not think either team has the ability to emulate the Dutch.

Or I may be wrong. For all we know, the Spaniards will find out that defending the world title is not quite the same as winning it. Go ask the French, who finished bottom of their group in 2002.

And if I were the Dutch, I would be torn between being happy that the world champions were made to look pedestrian; and wary at being at peak form so early.  It is, after all, a month-long tournament; and you do not want to peak too early.

The other major talking point of the opening two days will have to be that penalty that Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura awarded to Brazil on opening day. Croatia coach Niko Kovacs was convinced that it was a phantom penalty if there ever was one.

There is no argument that Dejan Lovren placed both hands on Fred, enough at any rate to convince Nishimura that a foul was committed. Technically, therefore, it was a foul; and because it was inside the box, then it was a penalty kick.

The problem always is in the way referees interpret the rules of the game; and we have all seen referees look away for far worse than Lovren’s holding of Fred.

FIFA keeps the rules open to interpretation; and probably because the discussions that inevitably follow are deemed part and parcel of the beautiful game. In fact, it can be argued that recriminations that follow controversial decisions are what keep the fan base so engrossed in the game.

If FIFA decides that interpretation of fouls will be straightforward, then defenders will probably learn once and for all not to commit these petty fouls in dangerous areas. But then football will become a stop-go game like basketball; and probably with basketball scores as well.

But maybe that is not such a bad thing for the general Filipino audience? Erase-erase. Bad idea.

I can barely wait for England’s opener against the Italians tomorrow morning. The Italians have been something of a bogey team to the English in recent decades; but Roy Hodgson has brought along a squad of talented – and hopefully fearless – youngsters.

There are five Liverpool players in the squad and all are potential starters. Then there is Ricky Lambert, recently acquired from Southampton. Throw in Evertonians Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley and it will not take rocket science to figure the amount of interest in the England squad on Merseyside.

Probably because Brazil is the host, I have been thinking a lot recently of that quarterfinal encounter between England and Brazil in the 2002 World Cup. The latter, as everyone knows, went on with win its fifth world title.

I remember that match vividly – and with so much annoyance – because it took a moment of idiocy to see off the English. And who knows what could have happened if England had won this match?

People will remember that Ronaldinho freekick that floated above David Seaman for what would ultimately be the winning goal. Seaman acted like a man and later acknowledged the error if at all it was.

From the distance the freekick was taken, he was probably preparing to deal with a diagonal cross than a shot. For all we know, a gust of wind blew the ball down into goal.

At any rate, my annoyance was more with the idiot foul the Manc Paul Scholes committed on Kleberson that led to the freekick. I will not argue that Scholes was a great player; but he was always culpable of committing similar idiot fouls every now and again.

Kleberson was not going anywhere. He had his back to the goal. The foul was so totally unnecessary and such an idiot thing to do. Nobody blamed him for it, but I never forgot. See for yourselves.

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