Monday, June 21, 2010

Brazil 3 d Cote d'Ivoire 1, World Cup Group G game, Johannesburg

Ooh, ah, Cote'dIvoire. This was a match everyone had been salivating over, since the World Cup draw last year. I missed the first 35 minutes due to snooze-related issues, but the rest of it was terrific. Brazil are in classic form, passing and running very fluidly, and by the last twenty minutes the Africans were reduced to fouling to try to stop them. Once again Brazil conceded a late goal, with defenders ball-watching. It's been the only weakness they have shown so far.

The refereeing was controversial again. I think the standard of refereeing has generally been excellent - there are things they miss, but generally they have been in charge, haughty, brandishing cards early to establish authority and then letting the game run.

In this game the French ref needed to get the yellow card out earlier. Once they were down 3-0 the Ivorians started kicking the Brazilians up in the air. Five minutes from time one of them ran hard into Kaka who was standing still. The Ivorian fell to the ground holding his face, and an all-in scuffle ensued. Kaka already had a yellow (simply for being annoying) and he was given a second, and sent off.

There has been a certain amount of frothing, swivel-eyed conspiracy theorising from usually calm rational people. FIFA are deliberately favouring the big sides over the minnows. Australia's 2nd game was refereed by an Italian - surely related to the fact that Italy eliminated Australia in 2006. I heard one TV pundit say that things were really not going Australia's way, listed a few incidents, and included a German being sent off against Serbia. A long bow to draw, really.

I do not underestimate the conniving manipulative qualities of FIFA - right up there with the IOC for corruption and greed. But I don't believe they are influencing referees.

What is impressive is the passion in the conversation of Australians. Back at work on the Monday after the Germany loss, you could feel the tearooms of Australia resounding with questions about the coach's tactics, his starting eleven, that red card, that possible offside, how Serbia looked against Ghana etc etc. There are still idiots writing to the papers saying what they ought to do is make the goals bigger, why don't they get rid of offside, there should be goal umpires, etc etc. But generally the level of knowledge and passion in the Australian fan is really encouraging.

When you hear someone say we are persecuted by FIFA, we are playing utter rubbish, we've got to sack the coach you almost could be in Brazil.

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