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Editor's Note: Michael Davies is blogging the 2006 World Cup for Page 2. Each day throughout the monthlong tournament, he will file reports from Germany (and back home in New York). Check back for more updates.
Room 433, Munich, 10:45 p.m. June 21
You know the graphics and music drill.
For: The Elfenbeiners and Montenegrens
For: Chariot racing
Against: Munich Cyclist Death Squads
For: Nude Sunbathing
Against: Old Man Nude Sunbathing
I'm almost falling asleep watching Argentinien vs. Nederland. But maybe it's the complete lack of air conditioning in my room, the couple of Lowenbraus I've downed in the last 15 minutes or the fact I walked about six miles around Munich this afternoon.
It's over, Dank Gott. Both teams will pay for such an uninspired performance -- the World Cup Gods won't appreciate that kind of pedestrian effort.
The only thing that has been keeping me awake is the teletext on-screen service giving me minute-by-minute text commentary on the thrilling but meaningless Elfenbeine vs. Serbien game. 3-2 to the Elfenbeiners. "Abpfiff! Sie Feiern, als Waeren sie gerade Weltmeiste geworden," it says on the screen -- final whistle! They're celebrating like they just won the World Cup.
And so they should. And how great a word is "Abpfiff"?
Once again, though, spare a thought for my poor, kind, hard-working Serbian assistant. And then taunt her for the next four years with the following stats: played three, lost three, goals scored, two, goals against, nine, points, zero. What is "buh-bye" in Serbspeak?
So on my long walk, I reflected at length on England's performance against Sweden last night and have convinced myself it's going to be OK. Here's:
Nine Ways I've Convinced Myself It's Going To Be OK
1. Paul Robinson did make a great save in last night's game. I incorrectly accused him of being pants for not having done so. I apologize. Now I've seen the replays. He was not, therefore, "pants." He was, instead, wearing his jeans rolled up to just below the knee in the German street style.
2. England will now practice their defending from set pieces. They'll have to.
3. Gerrard will replace Lampard in midfield. Sorry, it's just time. And I'm a Chelsea fan.
4. But Lampard will come off the bench in the second half and give the team the energy it needs. Because he's still world bloody class.
5. Hargreaves will keep his place. Even though he's Canadian, talks funny, speaks German and has bad hair.
6. Rooney is getting stronger and stronger. You can feel it.
7. Joe Cole now believes he's world class. And no pants to boot.
8. Sven will, I guarantee, figure out something with Beckham. I'm thinking right back and bring on Aaron Lennon.
9. Peter Crouch is tall. And you can't argue with that logic.
Moreover, I thought as I walked around the Arkitektur and Sport exhibition at the Pinakotek Moderne, no one else in this tournament looks completely unbeatable. And I said that before I saw Argentina play so listlessly tonight.
By the way, if you like scale models of the great ancient and modern stadia of the world, get yourself over to Munich before this exhibit gets taken down. The chariot racing stuff and the models of the mostly German, Japanese and Italian stadiums are spectacular. I doubt anyone remotely involved with a museum reads this spew, but this would be a great idea for the States. It might even get me back to the Met, where I haven't been since I met my wife. Don't really see the point. I only went there to meet girls in the first place.
As you've already gathered, I basically love Munich. I think, in another life, I could live here. I'd miss golf. There doesn't seem to be much here. But it's a perfect town in so many ways. Close to mountains. Three seasons of beauty. Lots of beer. Cosmopolitan. Modern and historic. The only thing I'd struggle to get the hang of is the cyclists. There are bike paths on every sidewalk. I've learned to not walk in them, but at some point you have to cross them to get across the street, or to your parked car. Every time I almost get killed. Or rather maimed. Or whatever a bicycle moving at 25 mph would do to a 190-pound man.
Avoided bikes and death and strolled over to Schumann's to watch the Mexico versus Portugal game. I just don't know what to make of either team. Portugal seem to tire after the first half-hour and let Mexico back into it. We'll quickly know how good they each are -- tough last-16 matchups: Portugal get Nederland and Mexiko (how great is that spelling?) get Argentinien.
Then I went for a stroll through the Englischer Garten -- an English-style park that forms the green lung of the city. It is ridiculously bucolic. What's a brook exactly? Is it a flowing body of water that is bigger than a stream but not as wide as a river? If it is, that's what they've got in the Englischer Garten. Two of them, with crystal-clear water and people swimming in them. And nude sunbathers. Yes, one whole "meadow" in the park is reserved for nudists. Unfortunately, the only Munchen people taking the liberal city up on its enlightened offer seem to be middle-aged and old German men. Hilarious poses. But has definitely put me off sausage for the rest of my stay.
To take my mind off the shriveled-up horror of it all, I exited the park and walked around Schwabing in torrential rain -- which I've always liked, getting soaked to the skin, as long as I'm not wearing my work clothes. And I started to think about the U.S. game tomorrow against Ghana in Nuremberg.
First off, I know it's the elephant in the room, but I wonder what he-who-must-not-be-named would make of this whole World Cup. Nuremberg? Weird.
I can't predict what's going to happen. You never can with football. But before the tournament I did write that Ghana would play one awful game, one so-so game and one out of their skins. The question is, was the first game they lost against Italy their awful game or their so-so game? Let's hope so-so. That would make their win against the Czechs their out of their skins game. And it means that the U.S. are going to get them awful. Of course, this could go the other way. I'm a television producer, not a prophet.
With that in mind here are my updated:
World Cup Diary Completely Biased Power Rankings (with NEW -- added inconsistency!) of the 32 World Cup teams after they've each played two matches (and in the case of Germany, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Poland, England, Sweden, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Portugal, Mexico, Angola, Iran, Serbia, the Elfenbeiners, Argentina and Holland, three):
(1) Argentina: They only needed a draw, but playing many of their star players, they looked mortal. They are still capable of playing the most fluid, attacking football in the tournament. And they have not conceded a goal. But psychologically, they slipped up a little tonight.
(2) Brazil: If they put four or five past Japan they could be moving up tomorrow.
(3) Germany: Right now, with their defense organized (Huuuuuth), Frings and Ballack controlling the middle, and all of their strikers scoring, they look like the only European team who can challenge the South American superpowers. One note of caution. Ecuador rested a number of key players -- is anyone they've played actually any good? And I'm starting to become a little sick of everyone in Germany walking around with that smug look on their face like they know they're going to win it. Come on Sweden!
(4) Spain: Most impressive European team in first game, almost whiff big-time in second against lowly Tunisia. Seem capable of playing fluid attacking soccer, but it is defense that they will need from this point forward.
(5) Holland: On the face of it, a 0-0 draw against Argentina might look impressive -- but neither team was. All of your Dutch friends will tell you they rested players, but I don't buy that crap, and nor do the football gods. The team on the field were the team on the field -- I hate all the "this was our B team" rubbish.
(6) England (up 1): In a dramatic show of bias and new, added inconsistency, I'm moving England above Portugal. Yes, it was only one half of decent football, but better than Portugal played today even going two up.
(7) Portugal (down 1): Inconsistent against Iran. So much potential throughout the squad, but rather like England, not firing anywhere near on all cylinders.
(8) Italy: Everyone in the U.S. is rooting for them now and surely they have the talent to beat a weakened Czech Republic.
(9) Sweden (up 3): Watched the game again today and I was just really impressed. They're going to give the Germans a game. Don't think they can beat them, but it will be a game.
(10) Switzerland: Four points from two games. A point against South Korea and they're through.
(11) Czech Republic: So another theory could be that the U.S. played their worst game in recent history against them last Monday and made them look way better than they really are.
(12) Ecuador (down 3): Yes, they rested key players. But you lose 3-0 and you drop five places. And then the next day you drop three more. That's how added inconsistency does it. Bam!
(13) France: I don't want to count them out but I'm starting to lean heavily. Two draws and actually in danger of not qualifying if they slip up against an unpredictable Togo.
(14) The USA: I'm feeling good. I'm feeling confident. So are the U.S. players, I guarantee.
(15) The Elfenbeiners: Brutal group, good win to finish up their first World Cup. They will be back unless they self-destruct.
(16) Ghana: So maybe they do have goal scorers. A win against the U.S. on Thursday, or maybe even a point takes them through to the next round. It's all about Michael Essien. What will the U.S. do to take him out of the game?
(17) Mexico: I should put them higher, just don't have the energy. Nice shirts, though.
(18) Ukraine: As I said, this is a great team who are my wild cards to go unexpectedly far. Yes it was Saudi Arabia they beat in their last match, but as we've learned, it's not easy to beat anyone in this World Cup.
(19) Australia: Maybe they are as good as they think they are. Played wonderful football against Brazil -- teams have played worse in this World Cup and got a result. But that was Brazil. Not a fluid Brazil, but it was still Brazil.
(20) South Korea: Four points from two games. I guess I have to move them up. But I don't rate them.
(21) Croatia: They are way too talented a team to be ranked this low, but an unconverted penalty and lack of creativity in front of goal gained them only a point against Japan. They must beat Croatia on Thursday to qualify for the next round.
(22) Paraguay: They're going home after two narrow losses and a win. Tough, but I still think they deserve this ranking. Or maybe I don't. They could still move up without even playing.
(23) T and T: To my Trinidadian friends, you brought Caribbean passion to the World Cup and you can return with pride. Now go practice, so you can make Carribean football and CONCACAF stronger.
(24) Angola: Ran out of steam but did themselves proud.
(25) Poland: Very disappointing for the second World Cup in a row. Way too talented a team to play this badly at the finals.
(26) Japan: Another disappointing performance against Croatia. The World Cup is over for them unless they can beat Brazil and other results go their way. Those six last minutes against Australia cost them dearly.
(27) Tunisia: I care so little about this team that they have two points and I'm still moving them down.
(28) Serbia-Montenegro: Played three, lost three. Lucky to be this high.
(29) Costa Rica: Played better against Poland but just not that good. Just like T and T, we desperately need Costa Rica to improve to make CONCACAF more competitive.
(30) Iran (up 2): Ultimately, a good result and performance against Angola.
(31) Saudi Arabia (down 1): Just boring and crap. They should be lower.
(32) Togo (down 2): Bye bye Togo. Do not pass Go. Do not collect a $200,000 per-player fee. But we'd quite like it if you got a point off France before you go.
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.