Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Morning before Nelspruit

There was dread as much as excitement in the camp yesterday about going to see Australia play Serbia today. The dread has little to do with the fate of our beloved team, who we will be happy to see play well, hopefully with a victory to ensure that Australia has not embarassed itself. The prospect of us getting to the Round of 16 is pretty slim after all. The dread is six hours on a bus, without much faith in the driver or the organisation. I'll be buying a half bottle of whiskey for the trip. Beer just makes you need to piss. You really don't want to know how people deal with this problem on long trips. We've also stocked up on sports drinks and lollies.

And it's crunch week for so many teams. Yesterday Groups A and B got sorted out. Proud Bafana Bafana have ended their competition, and I guess I hope that Australia can today finish with as much dignity (and four points). France of course has fallen hard, still mired in the curse of the Irish. Nigeria and Greece have also gone. Greece in particular, the way they played, was an embarassment to Western Civilisation.

The general theme remains of the South Americans doing well and the Europeans falling. But truly I see Portugal's 7:0 demolishing of North Korea the other day as a bit of a turning point in the Cup, and I don't think we'll see many surprises this week. Many teams can play like champions sometimes (like South Africa for the first half last night). Virtually no team can do it every time. But when the pressure's on, the great teams tend to get it together.

For that reason I don't think Ghana has a goose's chance of defeating Germany today, for example. England will beat Slovenia and the USA will beat Algeria - I consider these results fairly certain. But for the Serbia vs Australia game there's no clear favourite, and I honestly think the boys can do it.

And the glimmer of hope is that Germany will do a Portugal on Ghana, whilst Timmy Cahill goes crazy on Serbia's goal. If both of those things happen, we'll be booked for a game in Rustenburg against either England or the USA on Saturday June 26th at 8.30pm. I wouldn't put a lot of money on this, but while there is hope we will relish our dreams.

Last night we went to a sort-of mall called Monte Casino. It is bling city. In fact I don't imagine there's a place like it in my city of Brisbane. Maybe on the Gold Coast somewhere, but it would be for the very wealthy. Here it is, as far as I can see, for Westerners like myself to be made to feel very wealthy.

On entry you have to pass security and get scanned for metal. What you get into is an indoor medieval village. The roof is lit like clouds on a blue sky and there is a very good impression of being outdoors. It's weird realising that you can't smoke for example. You go inside individual buildings which are shops, restaurants, clubs and the like, then go 'outside' again, though you're still inside.

Then of course you buy, very inexpensively, five star meals (amazing steak, about $17), cocktails (about $2.50 each) and whatever the hell else you want. Of course you've got to get in there first, but 'World Cup fan' seemed to be the magic words.

I would hate to imagine how people are screened from places like this, but when I went outside (properly outside) for a smoke I saw a sign, a red line through a pistol, with the words, "This is a no gun zone. Gun lockers located on level 2."

Oh good.

Go the Socceroos!

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