Sunday, 13 June 2010

World Cup 2010: The Algeria Annihilation

Although I've been part of literally dozens three crowds of over 80,000 spectators, yesterday afternoon was comfortably the biggest crowd I'd ever played in front of. Around eighty people (a hundred if you count the mothers and children in the playground behind my goal) gathered to watch arguably the event of the World Cup in Ukraine: a ragtag, out-of-shape bunch of seven English, Welsh and Northern Irish teachers representing England against a team of Algerians who ranged in ability from a player who'd recently failed a medical with the local Premier League side to someone who looked like he'd never seen a ball of any description prior to the start of the game.

After a build up as lengthy and confusing as a Japanese Tea Ceremony, England finally got the game underway with a pass straight to Algeria's star player, who danced along the touchline, went round a defender still appealing for a throw-in, and slipped the ball past the goalkeeper (that would be me, then) into the net. Thirty seconds played, one goal down. Three minutes later it was two. "How long does this game last again?" muttered someone as I bent down to fish the ball out of the net. Things got worse when one of our players unwisely attempted to take a kick-in with the outside of his foot. The ball never made it into play, spinning along the side of the pitch much to the amusement of the crowd. "Fuck off," he shouted, flicking 'v' signs over his shoulder. "It isn't fucking funny." Which only made us all laugh even louder.

As half time approached we'd somehow managed to avoid conceding another goal despite the Algerians having roughly forty-five shots on target. What's more, we'd reduced the arrears with a bundled goal, hit the bar and actually forced their keeper to make a save. Then a hopeful punt up the pitch was intercepted by midfield dynamo Leo, who hit an unstoppable half-volley into the corner of the net. His own net.

The heat got too much in the second half and the extra substitute, skill, tactical awareness and fitness levels of the Algerians really began to tell. A measured lob made it four, the fifth came from their thirty-second three-on-one. Somewhere in between we had a short penalty saved and a long one disappear twenty yards over the crossbar. With just minutes to go Algeria scored a sixth. "Your time's up," shouted the caretaker, before he marched onto the pitch and the referee finally blew his whistle.

UPDATE: Completely unbiased Algerian match report: Algeria dominated and defeated England by 6 clean and beautiful goals, when England couldn’t reply but only 1 goal. The score could be heavier but the great performance of Michael Hudson, the English goalkeeper who did a great job, stood as a fence on the face of the Algerian warriors and saved his team from the dishonor.