26 June, 2006

Kicking off

I've just finished watching, and thoroughly enjoying, the penalty shoot-out which ended the World Cup game between Switzerland and Ukraine.

It was about time we had a match that was settled in such a pointlessly arbitrary yet dementedly entertaining fashion. I hadn't bothered with any of the proper, earlier action; it was only when I realised things were heading towards spot kicks (as the commentators quaintly called them) that I settled down in front of the TV and prepared for a thrilling few minutes of action.

Sure enough, there it all was. The tense, nervy shots of tense, nervy players, wandering seemingly aimlessly around the pitch. The coaches, scribbling lists on ridiculously tatty bits of paper. The pundits in the studio, who convention dictates we don't see at moments like these, invisibly muttering rambling platitudes. The fans, wondering when they're going to get to bed. And the pithy references back to how many times all of this could have been avoided if so and so had made good of a chance 108 minutes ago.

Even better, when the penalties started, neither team seemed particularly disposed towards scoring. Muted jokes were soon forthcoming as to whether this, as with the game itself, would end 0-0. Most of the strikes were rubbish. Most of the saves were ace. Most of the viewers who had tuned in expecting the Ten O'clock News were undoubtedly livid, at least to begin with, but hopefully, ultimately, as caught up in proceedings as I was.

A fine quarter of an hour's TV, then, and a fine dry-run for what will undoubtedly happen at the end of England's quarter-final match against Portugal on Saturday.


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