For a brief breakaway from only visiting Germany’s temples of football (sorry), this morning allowed time to take in a real cathedral – Cologne’s imperious presence, which stayed standing even as the rest of the city was reduced to rubble by a British riposte to those “ten German bombers” and the like which people certainly – or hopefully – shan’t be singing about this summer…
A packed cathedral for Sunday morning service let in a few of us tottering at the back, picking up dim and distant, tremulous echoes of “Alleluia” and “Im Namen des Vaters, Sohns und heiligen Geistes” from somewhere within the vast and sparse setting.
Back to business this afternoon and evening, of course, and tonight’s enticing clash between Portugal and Angola awaits. Ex-colonial master versus ex-colonial servant, as both sides kick off their World Cup campaigns – Angola’s first – in what should be an enjoyable game – and comfortable victory for Portugal and the object of England’s unrequited affections, Luis Felipe Scolari.
Well, it should be comfortable, for a side containing such attacking verve as offered by Deco, Figo and Ronaldo.
Still, memories linger of the otherwise-prolific Pauleta’s profligacy in front of goal throughout Euro 2004. Unhappier memories still persist of the hat-trick of one-on-ones wasted by Helder Postiga during a North London derby at Highbury – before he later scored an inevitable equaliser against England, as we exited that same Euro 2004.
He should be on the bench again this evening, despite long since departing White Hart Lane in igmominy and not faring much better in France. Bemusing.
Earlier today, Holland looked astonishingly pacy and powerful in the early afternoon heat – certainly much more so than sluggish England yesterday. Arjen Robben, in particular, was exhausting just to watch, dominating both flanks and even emerging ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy up-front on many occasions.
Most notably, he latched onto a precise pass through defence from Robin van Persie, outsprinted the defence and struck past the ‘keeper for the deciding goal against Serbia and (for now, anyway) Montenegro.
Holland’s match against Argentina in Frankfurt a week on Wednesday becomes more mouth-watering by the minute.
Argentina looked ominously-assured last night, in their 2-1 win over energetic yet sloppy Ivory Coast. Juan Roman Riquelme could emerge as the outstanding performer of the tournament if he continues to lay on such impeccable, defence-slicing passes as those setting up Crespo and Saviola in the first half.
Abdelkader Keita, at the other end, made a memorable mess of two shots on goal, but Didier Drogba deserved his consolation strike – finely, trickily-taken – after working impressively hard across the attack.
He even leapt immediately, instinctively to his feet after a tumble in the penalty area, scrapping to win the ball back without any acrobatics or indigant appeals for a spot-kick.
Perhaps he momentarily forgot who he was. Or perhaps he becomes a different person when not sporting (or un-sporting) Chelsea blue.
The so-called “group of death” has come to life, and looks like it should live up to all of its intriguing promise.