Special to Page 2
Editor's Note: Michael Davies, who spent 2002 looking for a stick of deodorant in Japan and South Korea, is back to blog the 2006 World Cup for Page 2. Each day throughout the monthlong tournament, he will file multiple reports from Germany. Check back for more updates.
The "Working" Press Room, FIFA World Cup Stadium, Frankfurt, 5:15 p.m., June 10
In anything other than winter, the Englishman abroad can generally be described by any two of the following three adjectives: drunk, tired and hot. The England team who just beat Paraguay 1-0 were tired and hot and therefore complete pants.
The 30,000 or so England fans who are here in Frankfurt to cheer on their team, both in and outside the stadium, were largely drunk and hot. And therefore sang rather well.
By the second half England were very tired and very hot. And the fans were very drunk and very hot. And that's (mostly) why the singing died down in the second half. The other contributing factor was the England team's pantsness.
In ascending order of pantsness then, here are my player ratings:
NO PANTS AT ALL
No one, none of the England players, delivered a completely pantsless performance. Torsten Frings for Germany yesterday evening? Absolutely no pants.
Lampard was man of the match and he probably lasted better than any England player on the field, but John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were the pick of the litter for me. However drab you and the world media might label England's performance, Paraguay never really looked like scoring and England will not be easy to knock out of the World Cup if no one can score against them. Oh crap -- but there are those penalty shootouts after nil-nil draws and we've always been terrible at them. Gerrard, in his World Cup debut, started strong, so "committed" in the tackle, switching so well with Lampard it looked like they might finally be able to play with each other. And then he got tired and hot.
THOSE GIRLY CAPRI PANTS THAT YOU SOMETIMES SEE GUYS WEARING
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Not quite pants but definitely disappointing, Joe Cole linked up horribly with Ashley Cole on the left and seemed to take every opportunity to cut inside and towards goal without much of an exit strategy. He will have better games in this World Cup and Ashley Cole's ineptitude did not help. Beckham stayed in position and defended well but failed to provide enough scoring opportunities for the forwards -- and that is his job. Beautifully taken set piece, though, which created the own goal in the second minute. The only positive for Peter Crouch is that he will learn from this game -- the Paraguayans, as promised, played him extremely physically, the Mexican referee gave him no help, and he wilted under the pressure. He worked hard though, tackled back and ran all afternoon.
One of the poorest games I've ever seen the Newcastle striker play in an England shirt. Almost anonymous until he was substituted. No English player looked tireder and hotter.
The substitutes, Owen Hargreaves and Stewart Downing, didn't play long enough to receive a rating on the above scale but I'll give them both those really long, below-the-knee cargo shorts which they don't let you wear at respectable golf clubs.
The most worrying aspect of England's performance for me was the ineptitude of the fullbacks. Neville gave the ball away continually and looked like he'd never played with Beckham before in his life. Ashley Cole seemed to fall over every time he had the ball, or the ball was anywhere near him. He looks nowhere near match fitness.
To conclude, England were dull but three points is all that really matters. Sweden are struggling against Trinidad and Tobago in the second game, and by tonight, England might have effectively already qualified for the next round.
The "Working" Press Room, FIFA World Cup Stadium, Frankfurt, 2:35 p.m., June 10
Wowzer. That was close. Almost didn't make it to this game as I had no idea how far Frankfurt was from Munich. It's more than 250 miles! I thought it was going to take me an hour and a half. And there's also the fact that I am viciously hungover.
Fortunately the autobahn is complete insanity -- absolutely no restriction on speed, just a kindly suggestion to slow down to 150 kilometers per hour if there is construction work going on. That's over 90 miles per hour! Hit a top speed of 180 kilometers per hour in my little Mercedes C class and made it here in under three hours. Plus, the journey seems way shorter in kilometers because they fly by so quickly. You take a quick phone call from your 78-year-old mother in London, disgusted by your first day's postings, and before you know it, another 30 kilometers have skipped by.
But after I arrived in Frankfurt, I spent an hour being redirected by the polizei (bastards) from one side of the stadium to the other for the press parking lot. Eventually, after being shown their precious "regulationsbuche" for the umpteenth time, I just drove down a path full of crowds of England fans, honking my horn right toward the stadium. I saw eight parking spaces for buses, all filled, and two handicapped parking spaces to one side. And one unmarked small car spot behind me, occupied by two police horses with two police women on top. I put my head in my hands and then looked up -- in my rearview mirror the horses were leaving, presumably at their riders' request but I'd like to think not. Before anyone had time to scream at me again and take out their regulations book, I shimmied the car into reverse and backed right in.
The walk to the stadium was amazing. I saw two scousers (those are guys from Liverpool) fighting, a girl in tears, a couple of skinheads shouting very loudly in English right into a policeman's face -- WHERE IS TOILET? PISS PLACE? BARFROOM MATE!!!! -- a bunch of guys dressed in medieval battle wear, the Beatles circa Sgt. Pepper and a large group of guys wearing England shirts with "$#&* OFF SCOTLAND!" written on the back.
At the stadium media center, Deaton Bell, the ESPN producer I sat next to at the last World Cup final, finds me and gives me my ticket. The place is a zoo. I recognize the cream of British football journalism -- Simon Barnes from the Times is wearing his straw hat and linen suit. Very civilized.
I enjoy a superb German sausage from the media center café. I don't enjoy finding more narrow toilet paper in the media center bathroom.
Which brings me to today's for and against (cue music and fly the graphic)! Crap, that's my other job.
Today I am for: the autobahn, kilometers, police horses, England and German sausage.
And against: my hangover, miles, the German police, Paraguay and narrow toilet paper.
Michael Davies is a British-born television producer whose forthcoming projects for ESPN include the World Series of Darts and the documentary film "Once In A Lifetime" about the New York Cosmos, which will air on ESPN in October after being released theatrically by Miramax in July.