France 0 - 0 Uruguay
Not a plethora of chances in this one, and frankly my notes are a little skimpy. I always mark chances with a code letter for the team who made them, in this case an F or a U, and the whole game can be summed up by the frustrated noise in the margin afterwards. FFUFFFUFFFFUFFFF, it sighed.
Which makes it sound like France dominated. They kind of did, but not convincingly, and Uruguay often moved the ball well. It was one of those games where lots of moves seemed to start well, then break down just before something you could actually write in your notes happened.
So afterwards, it's the incidental details that stand out. Why do South American national anthems always sound like Bizet played by drunks? Now the French national anthem, that's something else. The best one in my view, at least until you actually see the words. Watering your farrows with an impure blood? Fucking nationalists. I keep my blood thoroughly impurified with regular applications of gin, and it's not available for the purposes of irrigation.
The Cape Town stadium was spectacular. The BBC showed off their computer generated model before the game (are there any animators not in their employ?), but the commentator had to ruin the effect. What a setting, even better in reality than computer generated, he said. The CGI guys must have been spitting blood, and it's possibly something of a commentating faux pas to emphasise the importance of actually being there to the watching millions who can't be, but you rather suspected he was right. Unfortunately a spectacular stadium only serves to show up a shit game, as anyone who saw Bristol City v Brighton at the Millennium Stadium in 2005 can tell you.
It was all looking fine after seven minutes. Last night that is, City playoff games never look good at any point. Ribery got clear down the left, and put in a perfect ball to Govou. Who fluffed it, but it augured well.
Which just goes to show what a pile of cack augury is, because after a thoroughly enjoyable first twenty minutes they all just seemed to get bored or something. Especially the French. What the hell is wrong with them right now?
Mark Lawrenson suggested both teams shoot on sight, on the basis that the new World Cup ball was behaving strangely. As far as I could see it was just bouncing a little high, suggesting that lobbing on sight might be more effective, but the players took him at his word, and a dismal succession of efforts flew high and wide or dribbled through to the keeper. Cheers, Lawro, you dismal little golem.
Again, the little things stand out. That Sagna, he's a muscular young man, isn't he? In fact half the French team looked like their skin was struggling to contain all the beef it was being asked to hold. Not much height, but plenty of width.
With ten minutes left Lodeiro got sent off for Uruguay. Both bookings were reasonable, the second might even have been a straight red for a highly reckless tackle, but you couldn't help but feel for the guy. He wasn't trying to hurt anyone, he just got carried away. At least he was making an effort. To be fair, so was Forlan, although he narrowly missed both his big chances - one to score, the other to plant his studs firmly in Gallas' genitals. Any Uruguayan Arsenal fans watching would surely have been doubly disappointed.
It was touch and go for Uruguay from then on, but they hung on. The most dispiriting thing was the impotence of Thierry Henry. You hear people saying Dylan would have been better off dying young like Hendrix and Joplin, and you have to wonder if it's actually something of a shame Henry survived the plane ride to Barcelona. Setting aside the view on that from Dublin, it would have been nice to remember him in his Arsenal glory days. Hell, a career ending injury would have done just as well. Where's Roy Keane when you really need him?
So two draws in Group A to get us started. This may sound bland, but it's actually good for the World Cup story arc, because whatever happens in the next two games, all four teams go into the final two knowing they could qualify, but might not. So, a result, in a sense.
And watch out for a new star in the tournament. Not a footballer, but a Chinese TV reporter, as mentioned in the Guardian (Uruguay aim to keep cool). In the prematch interviews, she started out by asking Uruguayan manager Oscar Tabarez Your team got 48 yellow cards and four red cards in qualifying. Can you explain this? Tabarez tried to bluff his way through, but as you can see his comments on the subject lack a certain statistical rigour.
Later she had a shot at the controversial and dare I say it beleaguered French manager Raymond Domenech, who is leaving the job after the tournament if he hasn't had his impure blood poured into a furrow beforehand. When a frog is put in boiling water, it doesn't feel the heat until it gets too hot. How warm is the water for you now?
Half Zen master, half Jeremy Paxman. Beats Alan Shearer any day.