Because Steve Nash Likes It
An insider’s look at the comings and goings of the World Cup.
Livest scene I’ve seen so far of the tournament was for Australia vs. Germany. White, southern hemisphere, former British colonial objects kinsmen that Oz and South Africa are, there was a massive and typically boisterous Aussie turnout in Durban. With rugby and cricket rivalries so prevalent in each countries sporting culture, there has long been an extensive exchange of ex-pats and traveling fans orienting a holiday trip around a variety of sporting contexts. The WC proved no different, and Oz did not disappoint as they hoped to build on the recent momentum of the Socceroos in challenging Aussie Rules Football, Rugby, and the Thorpedo for the mantel at Outback Steakhouse. The vuvuzellas have added decibels to every atmosphere, including the fan zones, but there was a different buzz in the early goings because of the partisan nature of the scene.
Unfortunately for Paul Hogan’s people, they were blitzkrieged from the jump by the typically efficient and calibrated German attack (although I should try to come up with better adjectives than the truisms listed above which have described German people since Bismarck’s Prussia). Ze Germans moved the ball with precision, quick and efficient in exploiting the gaping spaces left in the midfield by the deer-in-the-headlights Australians. Schweinsteiger’s maturity in the central midfield role particularly stuck out as it was his direction, timing, and rhythm that keyed their cohesion going forward. In 2006, the Bayern Munich man seemed to be another talented player trapped within the mindset of style before substance, cheeky touches before subtlety and focus. He was a far different player last night, an essential development for the Ballack-less German team.
When outgunned in the skill department, you need to win the physicality, fitness, and work-rate contests. No such luck. Within a few minutes, it was clear the Aussies lacked the athleticism and pace to successfully play the scrappy underdog role (a la the USA against superior talent), and the raucous crowd was soon silenced by a thunderous strike from Lukas Podolski. The Polish turncoat (like front-man partner Miroslav Klose) continues to shine for his ‘nation,’ though he has yet to really establish himself at the club level. Sports are all about situation and opportunity. The World Cup is no different.
As far as stadium atmosphere goes, Nigeria vs. Korea last night must also be recognized for the vibrancy it provided. A big ex-pat/traveling Nigerian contingent alongside the classically demonstrative Korean fans charged and complemented what was already a massively pressure-filled the night. Drums, singing, vuvus, and a stirring match worried the po-lice so much that they had the riot control crew ready in the tunnel from the second half onwards. The behavior of the fans was far too benign to warrant that kind of treatment, but it was loud as f in there.