Claude Arpi captures the fan's passion for football in these entertaining e-mails to Ivan Crasto, Rediff.com's Sports Editor.
Read Claude's first e-mail
His 5th: Revolution is a French sport
His 6th: World Cup balls
The 7th: Why is refreeing so poor in the World Cup?
His 8th: The sinking of Old Europe
The 9th: Did you see the most ridiculous goal of the competition?
His 10th: Germany have their revenge, finally
His 11th: Brazil is Brazil and will hopefully remain Brazil
His 12th: Cristiano Ronaldo, a shadow of his old self
His 13th: No samba anymore
With his Gaulish accent, Asterix used to say "Alea iacta est" (the dies are cast). Since last night, we know the Gang of Four who still battle for THE Trophy. But even if they lose, each of the Four has already covered himself with glory. We can now leave it to the Gods to decide (hopefully not to the referees!) the outcome.
Let me come back for a moment to the second quarter-final Uruguay-Ghana. When at the last minute of extra-time, Suarez, the Uruguay striker of Ajax Amsterdam caught the ball with his hand to stop it crossing the Ghanaian line, he clearly cheated. Ghana was awarded a penalty, but eventually lost the match.
In many other sports there is a rule allowing the referee to grant a goal even if the ball does not cross the line (or the player, in case of rugby), if a deliberate action is committed by the defending team and, that without this action, the ball would have crossed the line. It is what should have happened, the goal should have been granted. It is basic justice. Suarez has been suspended for one match only. I find it unfair. Will this issue be taken up during the next FIFA's meeting? I am not sure, Michel Platini, the European football president believes that a bit of injustice is masala for the WC kitcheri.
What to say about Die Maanschaft? They are young, they play well, they play as a team and they score. Though it might not be good for the national ego (the Germans now believe that they are the best in the world), who can stop their Panzer Division to reach Paradise on July 11?
In any case, their 4-0 victory over Argentina is good for football and Angela Merkel, at the lowest in the polls (she probably hopes to win a few points by attending the games).
In three minutes the dies were cast: Schweinsteiger plays a free-kick, 20-year old Muller flies out of nowhere, anticipates on Otamendi to beat the Argentinean goal with a header. The suspense is over. Maradona's team thereafter merely follows the German rule. Even the usually brilliant Messi can't do much, apart from a few aesthetic dribbles.
During an interesting interview, Joachim Löw, the German coach was asked: "Without Ballack, your team seems younger, faster. Can you say that your team is better?" Löw answered diplomatically: "One can only speculate what would have happened with him, when we heard that he would not be able to play, we were forced to share the responsibilities".
That is exactly the point. The Manschaft is a team, with a team spirit, not an association of stars. Their good karma was to have lost Ballack. France could have perhaps done better minus its 11 great stars (who pretend to play at a 'higher level' during the rest of the season). What have all the European stars 'costing' tens of millions of Euros done? Not much.
For one thing I was happy that the Albicelestes lost, we will not see Maradona naked (nor the Paraguayan model, but on this I will not dare comment).
And the match Spain-Paraguay? Nothing special, except that the inescapable David Vila scored the victory goal once again. This time, he had to wait till seven minutes before the end of the game to offer a berth for the Roja in the Glorious Four.
The only thrilling part of the game was the mad three minutes at the beginning of the second half. It began when Spanish defender Gerard Pique pulls the arm of Oscar Cardozo who was in a position to score. Penalty! Miracle (or not too well-placed kick), Spanish keeper Casillas stops Cardozo's shot. The game starts again. Sixty seconds later, as David Vila runs towards Justo Villar's goal, Uruguayan defender Antolin Alcaraz catches the Valencia stricker by the shoulder. Penalty again! Xabi Alonso takes it and puts the ball in the net. Refused! Some Spaniards were a few centimeters inside the box. Replay. This time Alonso shoots it exactly in the same position as Cardozo and Villar does a Cassilias, he blocks the jabulani. Despite these electrifying three minutes, still 0-0 on the tally. Good fun! I have already mentioned the end. Hard-won, though fair victory for the Roja.
I learn something during this World Cup: what is WAGs? Actually I am not sure if the substantive is used in singular or plural, probably in plural. An ignoramus like me did not know that WAGs refers to 'Wife & Girl Friend(s)'. It is used by the famous (or infamous) British tabloids to name what in my football days we used to call 'groupies'. Of course, a G can become a W and not vice-versa, but even if you have a W, you can have a G or Gs (like the English captain who is said to had more Gs (+ one W) than a famous US golfer). Apart from the new acronym, this is not something new; during the 1998 WC, the Gs of the French players (mostly top models) would get more coverage than the Ps (players). Now the rich French Ps use PRs (I will let you guess) instead of Gs.
I notice with great 'satisfaction' Mick Jagger in the stadia. He probably does not have the same motivation as Angela Merkel to be in South Africa; I hear that he joined the 1GOAL (Education for All) campaign sponsored by the FIFA. He was a guy expert on 'groupies', if not WAGs. By the way, what about Angela's H? We never see him.
PS: Do you watch Le Tour de France, exciting cycling race!