World Cup – my Heart Of Darkness

I’m going up the river… Today was tough. England v Ecuador. 3am. 3 A-fucking-M! If that’s not enough to make sleep seem as distant as that wicked pencil case you lost under the bed in 1979, there’s always Portugal v Holland straight after at 7am. 7 A-fucking-M after a 3 A-fucking-M is tough, but someone’s got too do it, and that’s what I’m here for.

Catching games has become a bit of an art, (pub for breakfast then a mad dash to work trying not to look guilty walking in, starting drinking only at 11.00pm for those 1amers at the pub, and the faithful couch for 3amers). It’s totally worth it, a World Cup is football fans’ big fuck off burger with everything on it. There’s no Bolton v WBA on a wet Tuesday night here, just the schoolboyish delight of watching the world’s best in thrilling dramas (Argentina v Mexico), or kicking lumps out of each other (Portugal v Holland, any Australia match).

Yes, the Aussies. Much as I love our Transtasman Cousins (this phase is (C)my Mum), I can’t get really get behind them. Admire, yes. Be a little jealous, well too right, but support? No way, they’re like Wimbledon in the 80’s, almost like bunch of AFLers or Leaguies in football boots. Fair play though, they’ve shown more heart than most, with great composure to come back twice against Croatia. The Aussies are tough to beat at any sport, and it’s great to see their support at home and away. I’d steer clear of any Walkabouts though.

So what’s coming up? Aussie v Italy tomorrow night (heart says Fosters, head says Chianti), and then we’re into the quarters, with Argentina v Germany as mouthwatering as bacon on bacon with bacon, then England v Portugal amongst others, can’t wait.

My sleep pattern says thank God there’s only a couple more weeks, but the boy in me wants this all the time. The horror, the horror.

Auckland’s pubs line up for the World Cup

Bluestone Room it was for England v Sweden at 7am. After negociating Auckland’s parking spots, we were in for 6.50am to order a ‘Beckham Big Breakfast’, an ‘Ericsson 4-4-2 omelet’, and a bottomless cup of warm brown liquid proffered under the description ‘coffee’. It was halftime before I saw my food, but otherwise they did an OK job, and no dodgy DJs at this hour. It’s fascinating to see people’s approach for these early games, from important looking guys in suits drinking pints, to backpacker types drinking pints like it was 7 in the evening. It’s hardly the town square in Hamburg, but it’s nice to watch with a crowd.
– This morning I got a text at 2.30am from a dodgy England fan in The Paddington, telling me he was tucking into his first Stella. Apparently there were 150 people there drinking piss at 3.00am of a Monday, and the atmosphere was electric. That is good action, and looks to be the nominated venue for England v Portugal – but I’ve got my own football to play the next day! Our forefathers died in the war so we can have these dilemmas.

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– I thought England weren’t too bad. At least they were creating chances. Lennon looks the business, and the midfield all had good games, even though Lampard has forgotten how to score. They’re only just getting started, they’ll beat Sweden I reckon.
World Cup Badgers – test YOUR stupidity threshold (5-0 for me)
– World Cup Mp3s – That Brazilian song and three England ones. Word In Motion is the undisputed champ of World Cup themes, bringing Manc gods New Order and the Italia ’90 squad together at last. John Barnes is a surprisingly def MC – track down the CD single for added footballer rapping, including the brush-like Gazza. Vindaloo is ideal for singing loud in quiet streets coming home from the pub.
This guy has Mp3s from every team for every match. Ambitious.
– As usual, The Onion gets it just right.
– I have 81 points, and ranked in position 20,631 out of 40,476 players in this. Crap, in other words, so no surprises there.

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– Three points for Sven, but not much else. Fit strikers are a novelty in the England squad, let’s hope Crouch starts banging them in. Beckham seems to like the new dippy swervy ball, but it’s hard to see goals coming from open play.
– Big guns Holland, Argentina, Portugal, Germany and England all win, but no-one’s very happy – it’s the opening game – no-one but Brazil can dazzle all the away through.
– Rooney injured Walcott in training – that’s not quite as hardcore as All Black fights at training, but it’s encouraging – apparantly he clatters his team mates at Man U as well.
– The Guardian’s podcasts are excellent – you get to hear Barry Glenderring, the Irishman behind their anarchic live updates. Baddiel and Skinner are doing some too. Podcasts are the shit.
– Best coverage (by best I mean most personality) is on the Guardian’s site of course.
– We watched it at the Bluestone Room – they had an interesting DJ, who was openly booed for playing lamo ‘Eng-ger-land’ techno over the national anthems. Did he think we’d all get glowsticks out and have a spontaneous rave? Dick. Fantastic big screen selection upstairs and a pretty reasonable crowd.
– Better not be any power cuts during this WC eh.

WC bullet points

We’re almost there – couple of quick ones
– I’ve joined the TVNZ tipping comp. My name is ‘richirvine73’ on there if you fancy adding an easybeat to your list.
– Bluestone Room in Durham Lane looks to be the England-watching venue for Saturday night. I’ll be down there in me Yids shirt if you fancy having beer spilled on you.
– Football tops on parade in the office today – 1 Yids (me), 1 England, 1 Ronaldo tee-shirt, one general ‘soccer’ effort. A woeful turnout, GET INVOLVED PEOPLE!
– Are you excited yet? Have fun safely everyone.

Top three World Cup Trade Me scams

We all love Trade Me, and the entrepreneurial spirit being shown in World Cup countdown is something else. Here’s my top three.

3. Fake England Top. This is how a fake football top should be made. Itchy, shiny material? Check. Stunning similarity to Poland’s 1974 away kit? Check. A flag drawn-on in vivid marker where the badge should be? Check, and of course it bears no resemblance to the official one.

2. Soccer World Cup 2006 Germany Sweepstake Kit. Fire up PowerPoint, google up some flags, design a draw and you’re away. I quote: “thoroughly and professionally prepared sweepstake kit” – spellcheck on team bios not included. If you Buy Now, he’ll just email you the word doc. This has to be some kid’s school project, or Sam Morgan’s.

1. I Am A Soccer Nut! A Walnut with eyes glued on it, nailed to a stick. Genius. Bidding is already up to $10.50, get in quick, team.

Pubs showing World Cup football in Auckland

We all love ‘football’ now, judging by mangled Koiwi / Eastenders accents developing in time for the opening matches. Kick off times are not ideal (read: shithouse) for us, ranging from 1am to 7am, but pub owners are scheming to get your cash off you right now. Here’s where to spend your sick days.

Bluestone Room. Sister pub to Copper Room in Takapuna, and they’re laying out the red carpet for the WC judging by the blurry WC pics on their site. Got quite a crowd apparently for the Champions League final, and had Radio Sport muppets broadcasting live from the bar. Has potential.

Cock and Bull, various venues. If fake, souless ‘English’ ‘pubs’ are your thing (Ellerslie C+B is an honorable exception), this is the place. They’re only showing 7am-ers and big matches are ticketed events, I’d give it a miss unless you’re desperate.

– Mad Dogs and Englishmen, various venues. See above. Nothing available on the web, but this is another self consciously ‘English’ venue, so should have something on.

– Rose and Crown, Quay St. Popular with heavy drinking Liverpool fans during Champions League finals. Very football friendly, and TVNZ send cameras down there to film fans on those days they feel like covering football. Nothing on the web, of course but a solid choice by all accounts.

Claddagh, Broadway, Newmarket. Plans for WC not finalised, will depend entirely on owner Noel getting his shit together. With reasonable Guinness and OK food, the Claddagh has real potential, but depends on whether the big screen outside is operational. There’s a fantastic quiz on Wednesdays, which should have WC content in coming weeks. Just watch for the muppets who usually come third.

This Saturday night / Sunday morning will be be a good warm up, with an England match kicking off at 1am Sunday – the only time this occurs. Where are you going to watch?

I’m backing England

Here kicks off sport review NZ’s Germany 06 coverage. I’m going to be providing some New Zealand perspective on the world’s biggest sporting event. Mostly from the couch. After some (pretty minor) soul searching, I will hereby be backing England in this World Cup. Here’s why.

I started off supporting England when I began taking a proper interest in Spurs in 1993 or thereabouts. It went hand in hand for me – I knew the players, the All Whites were pretty crap, so why not? It just felt right. I got a copy of the Italia ’90 semi final on VHS and watched it a lot.

It really kicked off with Euro 96 – Terry Venables had the coaching job, and put Teddy Sheringham, Darren Anderton and Nick Barmby in the team. Gazza was back, Wembley was bathed in sunshine, they had grey shirts, I had a Sky decoder – what could possibly go wrong?

“You look like you’re going to vomit” said my then-girlfriend when Southgate missed his penalty. Some welcome.

Then came France ’98. By now I was living in London, and had seen England lose to Chile at the old Wembley stadium with my brother and a couple of mates, a game notable only for the England debut of M. Owen. I warmed up with the rest of the boys from the office at a Southwalk pub, laughing at Scotland losing to Brazil. “This is brilliant” I thought – World Cup football in the same timezone! And booze!

England had three pool games to negociate, but no-one seemed too worried, all eyes were on the Argentina match. I watched from the floor of a Wapping pub in front of a big screen. It’s safe to say that by kick off, I’d had a few, my office went to a wine bar for someone’s birthday, so we could all get pissed beforehand, they were bloody considerate those guys. I remember Owen’s goal alright, and I remember leaping to my feet to celebrate (pre-Judas) Sol Campbell’s goal, only to be ruled out by Alan ‘bloody’ Shearer’s thoughtless elbow on an Argie defender. I remember using some very bad language on my stagger to the tube station afterward, and can only apologise to anyone Argentinean who may have heard it.

Then God Hoddle shot his mouth off and England got Keegan. I loved his Newcastle side like everyone else, but always thought he was a bit of a Muppet. By Euro 2000 I was living in Dublin and took my life in my hands cheering Shearer’s goal vs Germany in a Leopardstown pub – that didn’t go down to well with the locals (“It’s OK, we’re Kiwis” “Ye’re feckin eeejits”). England were a bit shit, of course, and this was the beginning of the end, Keegan was apparently great at ‘geeing the lads up’, but was utterly, cruelly clueless tactically.

I packed it in when they lost to Germany at Wembley’s last match in the worst performance and Keegan resigned immediately afterwards. “I don’t need this shit” I thought. “I’ve got enough bloody teams to worry about without these guys”. I watched Beckham beat Greece on his own impassively. I laughed at Seaman’s ponytail and Sven’s inability to keep it in his trousers. I tried backing Italy (The Sopranos) and Brazil (Ronaldo) in Japan/Sth Korea 02, but didn’t get tooooo worked up. Everyone loves Brazil deep down anyway. I watched Rooney go off injured and England going out of Euro 04 and felt a twinge of… something.

Now I’m back, chastened. The time is right, England can play some nice football. There’s loads of Spurs players in the team and squad. They’ve got a great chance of winning it, and they’ll have me yelling for them. I only hope they’ve been practicing penalties.