Friday, June 25, 2010

Whose World? What Cup? (Day 14a)

Why am I watching Cameroon v Netherlands and Denmark v Japan?

I really don't know. I suppose I just like the idea of incongruity. In Group E, the Netherlands have already qualified and Cameroon are already out. Probably, the Dutch will get to meet Slovakia, the Italy-slayers and runners-up in Group F. The Dutch national anthem is called The William after William the Silent (yes, irony), Prince of Orange; the Slovak national anthem is called Lightning over the Tatras (whaaaaat? yeah.) The Dutch national anthem was the first full-fledged (words + music) national anthem.

Meanwhile, two whaling nations clash in the murky waters. Whoever wins qualifies from Group E. There will be blood. Incidentally, the Japanese national anthem, Kimi ga yo, has the oldest words of all national anthems in the world; its words date back to the 9th century, although its musical arrangement is much more recent. It became the official national anthem of Japan only in 1869.

This one will be fun. The Danish national anthem has the superscription, "This corner of the earth smiles for me more than any other," in Latin. (Ille terrarum mihi praeter omnes angulus ridet.) You could translate that as, "This corner on the ground is smiling for me first." Watch for set pieces.

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Little did I know how prescient and yet wrong my last sentence was. The Japanese have obviously come up with a brilliant plan which converts one of their relative weaknesses to an improbable strength. The Danes are taller, but that obstructs their goalkeeper's vision. The hapless and unsighted Sorensen has fallen victim to TWO Japanese free-kicks — one in the left corner and one in the right corner, one over the wall and one around the wall. Danish free-kicks have been easily saved because the Japanese goalkeeper can see them coming.

Meanwhile, the Oranje have ground out a 1-0 lead over Cameroon at half-time. At this rate, the Netherlands will top the group (not unexpected) and the Japanese will be runners-up (also not unexpected, as they were ahead of the Danes on goal difference).

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At full-time, the Dutch have topped the group with a gritty 2-1 win over Cameroon, while the Japanese have conceded a penalty and yet run out 3-1 (penalty was saved, but Tomasson managed to score on the rebound) victors. I am a little disturbed by how much schadenfreude I felt at the sight of the Danes being totally outclassed by the nippy (oops, I mean quick and agile) Japanese who seemed to stick to the ball and play it so much better.

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