Sunday, June 13, 2010

Whose World? What Cup? (Day 03)

Tonight's first match is Algeria vs Slovenia, a match that raises in my mind many interesting topics. The obvious one was the point of that crack some commentator made about whether anyone knew the difference between Slovenia and Slovakia. Well, I do, and I suspect so do a bunch of people who grew up around my time (along with countless others from other times).

I'm a person who grew up during the Cold War, in a world of Yugoslavs ('Southern Slavs') and Czechs who were actually from that hybrid state of Czechoslovakia. People like my ancestors saw the Yugoslavs come together after the first half of the Great European War of 1914-1918 + 1939-1945, and then fall apart a bit during the second half. But it was first known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (before 3 October 1929, anyway). That is why I always think of Slovenia as 'that small anvil-shaped thing on the NW tip of Yugoslavia'.

Czechoslovakia had a similar history, beginning in October 1918 as a result of similar historical forces. In the second half of the Great European War, they got occupied by Nazis and ceased to exist, came back to life after that, and then somewhat peacefully broke up in 1993 to give the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

But all that is a lot more boring than watching Nadir Belhadj in his No. 3 shirt running creatively up and down the Algerian left wing. The name 'Nadir' means something like 'in opposition to'. In this game, I was struck by the fact that he was playing entirely in shadow, like the antithesis to the zenith ('the path above the head', describing the noonday sun) that his name implies. He was also far more active, far more creative, and far more unrewarded for his industry than his compatriots on the other flank.

Ah well, still 0-0, despite some entertaining moments and a smoothly-running game.

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And it ended 0-1 to Slovenia! I still think Nadir was the Zenith for Algeria, though. At least in the other Africa-Western Eurasia match-up, Ghana beat Serbia 1-0. Apparently, a particular Kuzmanovic has itchy hands; he kept raising them and when he did it in the box, Gyan slotted the resultant penalty calmly in for the sole goal.

I have to say these two games were pretty good in terms of drama, if not goals. With South Korea still holding the record (in this World Cup finals) for number of goals scored, let's hope Germany-Australia (up next) will be a good Northern Eurasia-Southern Australasia (haha) performance.

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