The 2006 World Cup got underway on Friday at long last, as if you hadn’t noticed.
After the opening game between the hosts Germany and Costa Rica came a 2-0 defeat for Poland. Ecuador were the victors against a side that decided to snub one of the heroes of Istanbul, Mr Jerzy Dudek. The Liverpool goalkeeper seemed to get some help from above from his compatriot the late Pope John Paul II during the European Cup final of 2005. How Poland’s supporters must have wished he’d been in the squad and on the field for Friday’s match.
The first actual involvement for Liverpool came on Saturday when England played Paraguay. As ever the English media were disappointed with their team – a 1-0 win thanks to an own goal is as good as a defeat to the majority of the pundits. The fact is that England need to take three of the remaining six points in order to go through to the knockout stage, and the win came under quite gruelling conditions. The FA claim that the players used three-and-a-half times as much water over the course of the game as they would normally, and players had all lost between five and ten pounds each.
Jamie Carragher was left on the bench, which is a disappointment for Carra but is also England’s loss. As well as ignoring the impact Jamie could have had on the English defence, which was rarely tested, the England set-up also decided once again to shackle the creativity of Steven Gerrard by putting him in charge of midfield. The larger central midfielder got the opportunity to take shots at goal and not much else, whilst Stevie got the opportunity to clean up the mess that Lampard had ignored. Peter Crouch was played upfront alongside ex-Red Michael Owen to begin with, but the recovering striker was taken off well before the end, for tactical reasons according to his boss. Crouch did his job well, but without a hat-trick he’ll not really impress that English media.
Yesterday the Dutch played and won, narrowly, against Angola. Coach Marco van Basten was instrumental in making sure Liverpool player Jan Kromkamp remained unsettled at Anfield and he made sure he stayed on the bench yesterday.
Today sees Australia play for the first time ever in the World Cup finals and Liverpool winger Harry Kewell may not get to play in the historic game. He was injured playing in the FA Cup final and reports all point to him being left on the bench for this game, at least to start with.
Former Red Milan Baros is likely to start later in the day for the Czech Republic, who take on the USA.
The next action that involves any Liverpool interest is on Wednesday when Spain take on Ukraine in Leipzig. Pepe Reina is likely to be left on the bench, but Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso will both be hoping to be given starts for their country.