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World Cup Preview Part 2: Going Dutch, Korean War and ‘The Hand of God’

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Welcome back to my pre-post review of South Africa 2010. For those of you have just come in from the pub please refer to part one of my report lest you find yourself somewhat lost, if not a little bemused, as to how the quarter finalists have arrived at this point in the competition.

So far the competition has met all expectations….. and then some….and it is unreasonable, is it not, to expect a similar amount of drama from here on in? But that’s where you’d be wrong!

Hang onto your vuvuzelas as I take you through the most sensational World Cup climax in history!

And once again, for those who don’t wish to know the outcome…..switch-off now.

The Quarter-Finals

With the Dutch camp in complete disarray, half the squad having moved into a different hotel, former Dutch greats are called-in to try and talk some sense into the players. Rijkaard, van Basten and Gullit all try to restore harmony while the Dutch press have a field day recalling just how congenial those 3 were at previous World Cups.

Chile get off to a flyer in the first QF as Sneijder, refusing to put Robben through, instead opts for the back-pass and plays in Gonzales who (in complete contrast to his Liverpool form) jinks past the full-back and dinks an inch perfect cross onto the head of Suazo……1-0 Chile. Van Bommel (of the Robben camp) squares-up to De Jong (of the Sneijder camp) and both are booked.

Dutch coach van Marwijk looks a right Bertie when he substitutes both Robben and Sneijder on the hour mark. As they wrestle their way down the tunnel, Sanchez latches onto a ball over the top, nutmegs Heitigna and hits a 25 yard screamer into the top corner. 2-0 Chile and game over!

Chile march on as the fiestas run late into the night in Santiago while the Dutch return home on separate flights. ………. and nobody bothers to turn-up at the airport to greet them.

Next-up it’s the grudge match of the round: Argentina v Germany. Maradona makes hay all week on the back of the 1986 final victory over the Germans, suggesting that back in 1986 he had more flair in his big toe than the entire German team put together and the same applies this time around where Messi is concerned.

The Germans put 3 men on Messi and attempt to play on the break but it’s not one for the purists…..that is until the previously anonymous Klose bags himself a brace in as many minutes on the hour mark. Maradona is apoplectic on the sideline, snarling at his team….and with 10 minutes remaining decides to go for broke.

On come the subs as Maradona goes with 6 up top (Di Maria, Tevez, Higuain, Aguero, Messi and Milito) and just one defender. In the 85th minute Tevez scores a bullet from 20 yards. Two minutes later Messi slaloms past 4 German defenders and chips the keeper from a ridiculous angle….. and, as the referee checks his watch in the 4th minute of injury time, Higuain slips the ball through to Milito, takes the return, and buries one in the bottom corner. 3-2 Argentina……. and a blubbering Diego has to be carried back to the dressing room.

Serbia v South Korea proves one of the most entertaining games of the tournament with Park Chu-Young clinching it in extra time for the Koreans with the odd goal in 7. Park Ji-Sung has a subdued match, constantly hugging the touchline, following a pre-match call from Rooney warning him to steer well clear of Vidic’s size twelves!

And there are shades of 1966 as North Korea face-off against Italy in the last QF. All week we are subjected to the endless black and white replays of Pak Doo-Ik’s immortal goal in that 1-0 downing of the Italians (which produced the headline of the century at the time!)

The game sees Italy well on top but unable to find a final ball as the North Koreans dig in yet again. As the Koreans battle it out, 6 more of their players see yellow, and 5 of those will face suspension should they progress (no chance!). With all his cards played the normally composed Lippi is prowling his technical area like a caged animal………and then the impossible happens!

Pak Nam-Chol breaks from the back for the Koreans and plays a one-two with Pak Nam-Chol (yes, there’s two of them!). He hurdles a two footed lunge by Gattuso and plays a sublime pass to the advancing Choe Kum-Chol . Choe Kum (not normally 1st choice as he’s known as a bit of choker) takes a single touch before burying it beyond the charging Buffon. The Chol brothers celebrate wildly, while back home in North Korea 18 million Chols smile with pride (that’s the North Korean equivalent of partying wildly!)

Lippi is speechless as the Koreans close-out the game……and the impossible has unfolded! The United Nations meets in special session as the realisation sets-in that South Korea and North Korea will go head to head in the semi-finals.

……..and then there were 4. An all South American affair in one semi, and the clash of Asia’s ‘yellow pearls’ in the other. Meanwhile every pundit on the planet is feeling like a donkey!

The Semi-Finals

Maradona goads the Chileans in the build-up labelling them a second rate outfit who’ve never won anything. Chilean coach Marcelo Bielsa, nicknamed ‘Loco (madman) Bielsa’ suggests that the nickname is clearly more appropriate for his opposite number and few disagree.

By the time the contest begins Diego is well wound-up and looking for blood. Despite its success against the Germans, Maradona dispenses with the 1-3-6 formation and goes back to a more cautious 2-3-5. Higuain scores early-on and the Chileans never recover, their attacking flair deserting them.

Aguero and Milito put the icing on the cake as Maradona does a jig along the touchline….infuriating the humiliated Biesla. At the post match press conference Maradona snarls at the Argentine contingent and promises them something special if his team win the final…..which he modestly asserts is a foregone conclusion.

Meanwhile, in the build-up to the all Korean semi-final the North Koreans move 200,000 troops towards the South Korean border. Barack Obama pleads for calm, failing to understand all the hype over a simple game of ‘soccer’.

The North Koreans are forced to roll-out the reserves, with 5 players suspended, and play like their lives depend on it. (they do!) South Korea hit the woodwork twice and blaze a penalty wide, while a steady flow of stretchers remove a dozen commentators from the press area suffering from tongue cramp.

The game is heading for extra time when the South Koreans break from defending a corner and the ball is slipped through to Park Ji-Sung, clearly two yards offside. The linesman is playing catch-up and the flag stays down. Park sets-off on an Emirates style sprint, rounds the keeper and slides the ball into an empty net. The North Koreans go ballistic and threaten to walk-off before calm is restored and South Korea hold-on for a famous win.

In the aftermath, Blatter promises to consider using video technology……and the press room collapses in laughter. The North Koreans declare war on South Korea and break-off diplomatic relationships with….everybody. The referee, linesman, Blatter, and Park Ji-Sung are declared enemies of the state and a price is put on their heads. The team is ordered home immediately to enlist….leaving Chile to contest the 3rd place play-off on their own.

Other than that the all Korean affair goes off without a hitch!

And so after 62 games we’re down to the final 2.

The Final

Maradona leads out his team sporting a sky blue and white pinstriped suit with a black shirt and sky blue tie (that’s for the ladies on here!) He swaggers to the dug-out waving to the mass of Argentine fans off to his left. South Korea look nervous, as Maradona reverts to a 3-3-4, but get off to solid start, containing the blue and white attacking flair with ease. Half-time arrives with the scores level and Maradona is looking agitated as he storms off to the dressing-room.

His team re-emerge for the 2nd half looking suitably chastened and set about the Koreans with real purpose. Messi curls just wide, Higuian hits the post and the South Korean keeper is busier than a flea in a dog pound. Something has to give…..and it does.

The furious Korean keeper, Lee Woon-Jae, lashes the ball down field without a teammate in sight. As a disinterested Ki Sung-Yong trots forward from halfway, Heinze moves across to cover the ‘danger’ and casually chests the ball back to Romero, failing to notice that his keeper has advanced to collect. The ball bypasses the stranded keeper and rolls harmlessly into the net.

1-0 South Korea! The 4th official has to pull Maradona off Heinze as the phisio administers an intravenous sedative. Argentina kick-off as the South Koreans (and the world) celebrate but with Lee Woon-Jae still retreating into his area after a lap of honour, Messi spots the opportunity and launches one from the half way line. As the ball dips and swerves Lee Woon frantically back pedals….but in vain. The ball floats just under the bar and Messi disappears under a mound of teammates. Maradona rips off his shirt and sprints down the touchline waving it above his head.

Extra time arrives and both teams look out on their feet. With a minute to go Veron releases Messi down the inside right channel and with a twist of the hips he’s through on goal. As he shapes to deliver the winner both his calf muscles lock in cramp and he collapses in a heap. Lee Woon-Jae clears up-field as Maradona clothes-lines the 4th official and rushes on to tend to his fallen star. He stoops to massage Messi’s knotted legs as Di Maria gathers on the left.

Di Maria skins the full-back and advances towards the angle of the box, sensing glory. As sweet a left foot drive as you could wish for soars towards the top corner only for the heroic Lee Woon to fingertip it onto the post. It rebounds with pace, scores a bullseye on Maradona’s arse and nestles in the bottom corner of the Korean net.

For a full 10 seconds silence descends on Soccer City stadium……before all hell breaks loose. A shrill blast of the referees whistle brings everyone back to their senses as he signals GOAL! Realizing what has happened Maradona deserts the writhing Messi and sets-off on a lap of honour, tearing-up to every pitch side camera with crazed eyes and snarling mouth.

The South Korean protests fall on deaf ears as the referee quotes precedent. “There is absolutely no difference between a beach ball and Maradona’s arse!” he declares defiantly….and the goal stands.

Maradona marches into the post match press conference with a demonic look in his eyes. ‘You ungrateful parasitic peasants!’, he blasts at the Argentine journalists before answering the question on everyones lips…….

“Diego, what did you make of the winning goal?”

…..and once again he finds the immortal words in his finest hour…..

“It was a little bit the Hand of God and a little bit the arse of Maradona!”

And that was the 2010 World Cup that was (will be)!

As the bishop said to the actress…put that vuvuzela to your lips and blow hard…..and let the games begin!


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