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, Cologne, 10:30 p.m., June 11
Nine random thoughts on the Angola vs. Portugal game I just witnessed:
6. Pauleta took the Portugese goal beautifully, but how about Figo's run? How can Figo still have so much pace at the age of 63, you ask. Have you seen his wife, I answer.7. Not sure you're getting this at home, but at the end of every game, over the stadium sound system, FIFA plays a song performed by what must be a Swiss guy (or even Sepp Blatter) singing a light classical, Karaoke version of one of the best football chants ever "Stand up for the Champions." It is horrific and so inappropriate. Who are the champions exactly in Round 1 of the World Cup? And what if it's a draw? And shouldn't we stand up for the plucky losers, too? 8. The English team, incidentally, will love this stadium and surface when they come here in nine days to play Sweden. The pitch is very quick, the crowd is very close -- not as alien and continental as many of the other World Cup stadiums we've seen here and in Japan. 9. Portugal played no better Sunday night than England did Saturday afternoon, ultimately. The Portugese coach, "Big Phil" Scolari, said as much in the press conference: three points is three points.
The "Working" Press Room, FIFA World Cup Stadium, Cologne, 5:40 p.m., June 11
OK, let's kick right off today with what I am:
For: Iran, all forms of sausage, Audis, Mainz, Simon Barnes' weblog for the Times of London.Against: Nuclear weapons, all forms of coffee they sell at autobahn service stations, Opel cars, dark wavers in jack boots, taxi drivers who want you to know they're really musicians. On the flat screen TV on the wall beside me, Mexico and Iran are walking out of the tunnel for their World Cup matchup in Nuremberg. I am sitting in Cologne, in an aircraft hangar of a press room (this place is beautiful -- like it was designed by Philippe Starck) where in a little more than three hours, Portugal and Angola will play the eighth game of this World Cup. Mexico look fantastic in those shirts with the white stripe across the chest -- but today, I'm going to be rooting for Iran, just like I cheered heartily for Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday night (more on that in a little while). This morning, I drove up from "dark wave" Mainz after enjoying a perfect piece of cold sausage by the banks of the Rhein, or the Main, I'm not quite sure. But it was exquisite or "ausgezeichnet" as they say out here. But that's not my favorite German word, that goes to Elfenbeinkuste the wonderful German translation of The Ivory Coast. It literally means "elephant bone coast." I so wish I was from there.
I apologize for having not posted in almost 24 hours, but the truth is I seem to be spending half my life in my car on the autobahn flirting with the 190 kilometers per hour top speed of my little Merc. The autobahn is a fascinating place -- the quality of the driving is superb, perfect signaling, lane changing and appropriate lane driving by everyone, which makes it the safest-feeling freeway I've ever driven on in my life. Think of the Long Island Expressway, the 405 or I-95 it's the complete opposite of that. It's like a real-life showroom where you can window-shop luxury automobiles traveling at maximum speed.So far the BMW M5, the new Mercedes S Class and everything made by Audi stands out. Talking of Audi, don't we only have the A4, A6 and A8 in the States? They seem to have every A+ number out here between 1 and 57, like frigging Heinz. It's also nice to see some Alfa Romeo models we don't see in the U.S., and some Renaults, Peugeots, Fiats and some very foreign-looking Fords. But the worst-looking cars have to be made by Opel. I still have no idea what they are or where they're made, but I have a deep suspicion the Belgians are somehow involved. Bloody Belgians. Mexico just scored. Cologne could not be a more beautiful little town, and I checked in quickly at my downtown hotel and went straight to a local bar where I watched the Holland vs. Serbia game with a Cameroonian journalist named Esso, who might be the nicest journalist I've ever met. Unfortunately, I missed Robben's goal (I quickly ran over to Starbucks where I was struck by how professional the barristas are; it's like in the U.S. when Starbucks first started franchising and young people went and worked at Starbucks like it was a real career) but please note how many Chelsea players have scored in this World Cup: Crespo, Drogba and Robben. Come on, you blues! Unless you're playing against England or the U.S. We rode to the stadium in a cab driven by an insane Egyptian, who insisted on telling us he was really a musician. He proceeded to start drumming the steering wheel and dashboard in a virtuoso solo to accompany Kelly Clarkson. He was crap.
The stadium, like all of them so far, is beautiful -- in the middle of a tree-lined park. And then there's this press center. I could live here.Iran just equalized. The Iranian player, Yahya Golmohammadi (does that mean yes, yes, goal for Mohammed?) kicked the ball through the leg of the Mexican defender -- he didn't exactly kick the ball through the leg, his leg went through the Mexican's leg, and it was there that he struck the ball. One of the oddest World Cup goals ever. Unfortunately, that's the only goal Mohammed received in the game and Mexico ran out 3-1 winners. The second goal was a work of art. Zinha (who I prefer to call Antonio Naelson) took his foot of the gas to dead-pass the ball for Omar Bravo (who I like to call "well done") who coolly finished. And Zinha's headed goal was nice as well. Which brings us to: My Five Top Goals of the Tournament So Far (that I can remember or that I actually saw):
- Saviola for Argentina against the Elephant Bone Coast.
- Frings for Germany against Costa Rica. I guarantee Frings will score again in the World Cup because, as you know, the Torsten always frings twice.
- Lamm for Germany against Costa Rica. The guy's like 5-foot-5 and weighs 150, but he hit the ball like an atomic waffle. Is it the ball or the man? Or the half-man, half-lamm?
- Bravo for Mexiko (the insane German spelling which I will adopt for the rest of the tournament) against Iran.
- Yahya Golmohammadi for Iran against Mexico, mostly because I just like writing Yahya Golmohammadi. And I like weird goals.
From Simon Barnes in The Times of London on the World Cup opening ceremony: "The opening ceremony is now without form and void. I have lost the plot entirely. Let's assume that a small boy had a dream about football and then world peace broke out. I look up: Claudia Schiffer seems to have won the World Cup and married Pele." The Bellpepper Bar, Hyatt Regency, Mainz, 2:04 a.m., June 11
I am currently sitting in the hotel bar at the Hyatt in Mainz, an absolutely charming and historic little town where the Rhein river meets the Main. Well, charming up to a point. Just outside my hotel it is "dark wave" night at the local "cultural institute." Scary-looking young men and women dressed in black, wearing military pants tucked into their laced-up, steel-toed boots, dancing to fascist chants set to trance beats spun by DJ Hans. Need I say more? I walked in, got threatened with violence and left. Not sure they approved of my Zegna sport blazer worn over a Trinidad and Tobago football shirt.
• Day 2: England are pants|
• Day 1: I kiss football
• Complete World Cup coverage
Saviola's goal from a perfect Riquelme pass is my personal goal of the tournament so far. Lamm's and Frings' (those guys should go into business with each other) powerstrikes for Germany against Costa Rica were impressive, but give me a perfectly timed and weighted pass any day, a diagonal run that leaves an offside trap for dead and a finish as cool as frozen cucumber. I kiss football. Even Argentinian football.(In fairness, the Ecuadorian goals might also have been good but I have completely forgotten them after my drunken evening at the Kaisergarten -- I heartily apologize to all my Ecuadorian readers). Weirdly, I was eating Argentinian beef as I was watching that game at a restaurant down by the river in blahdedy, blahdedy, blah Frankfurt (quaint in parts but nothing to write home about). It's the most American city over here apparently, which no doubt means we bombed the crap out of it during the war. And before the e-mails come flooding in, I'm not reveling in the bombing of Frankfurt, I'm merely reporting fact. I'd say the same about Coventry in England. Except Coventry looks about as American as apfelstrudel.
The Germans next to me are singing folk songs. There are seven men and one woman. Everywhere, here, the women seem completely outnumbered by men. And they all look kind of stoned. Or the ones who don't look stoned look like they might be on some kind of anti-depressants -- a bit too much energy, a few too many forced smiles. Or the ones who aren't either just look kind of depressed.I'm a little depressed, too, frankly -- but only about the English media's completely but predictably over-the-top response to England's lackluster win over Paraguay. Yes, we were pants. But I just love the way that a bunch of journalists and pundits who have never coached or managed at any level accuse the English manager Sven-Goran Eriksson of "tactical naivety" for committing the mortal crimes of substituting a player (Michael Owen) who looked tired, playing a midfielder (Joe Cole) up front who at the point he selected the squad (for which he was largely praised in the media) he said he was going to play up front on occasion, and bringing on one of the top defensive midfielders in Germany (Owen Hargreaves) to play defensive midfield, in Germany. Unfortunately, Hargreaves looks set to be booed all tournament. Everyone seems convinced he's crap. Except for me and Sven. But I think the larger problem is that he's really Canadian. And let's face it, that is truly unforgivable and Steve Nashian. 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.