03.07.2010 - 03.07.2010
Green Cape stadium in Cape Town was actually a bit of a disappointment. From a distance, it looks fantastic. But up close, it looked very temporary. The outer cladding was a metal mesh. Inside it, all was bare unpainted concrete which was already showing signs of crumbling in places, whilst there were porter cabins inside the main structure. The number of both toilets and food and drink outlets were also much fewer than in Durban, for example. Pitchside, however, was much better, despite the fact that we were again sat in temporary seating (as in Durban, the top tier seating is temporary, shaky, and gets removed after the World Cup because Cape Town has no use for a permanent 66,000 seat stadium) with tiny leg room and an almost vertigo inducing climb. But the view, from just above halfway, opposite Jacob Zuma, Angela Merkel et al, was perfect.
Diego Maradona and his motley crew of assistants gets the attention during the national anthems. If you didn't know who they were and saw them walking down the street together, all dressed up like that, they would look so out of place and so unnatural that you would probably guess that they are mafia/gangsters!
When the draw had been made, I had looked at the permutations for this quarter final to see who I could get. The worse case scenario involved England. The very best was Argentina v Germany. Amazingly in this world cup of shocks, Argentina v Germany it was. The fact that Germany had come there having thumped England was even better. On paper, it was the two teams on the best form in the tournament, and almost a disappointment that this was only a QF. The atmosphere in the city beforehand was amazing, and in the ground even better. And after a few damp squibs, I was delighted to actually see some goals and a decent game, even though it didn't go exactly to plan. Especially if you are an Argentina fan.
Thomas Muller scored early, which should have set the game up brilliantly: Argentina had to attack. And they kind of did. Though they never really had any great chances, for the rest of the half and first 5-10minutes of the second half, the Argentinians got more and more into the game, and it seemed like only a matter of time before they scored. Then the Germans got a decent second, and the Argentinians gave in. A quick third followed, and that was it. Though the Germans scored an excellent 4th later on, the Argentinians just plain gave up after the second goal. It was quite strange, and sad to see. For a team that had gone in with such an attacking line-up, they offered nothing. The back 4 and keeper were poor (and generally had been all tournament), and Mascherano put in huge amounts of work trying to cover them. For the rest, it was basically a front 5. There was no midfield. Messi, probably the best player in the world and potentially the best ever was reduced to running into his own half in search of the ball. Tevez ran around allot and at least tried. Di Maria had the best of the chances in the first half but faded and was taken off. Maxi and Higuain may as well have not been playing. The amazing thing for me, with so many of these knock out games, is how conservative managers have been: If you are 2 goals down in a game you need to win, gamble – realistically, there is no difference in loosing 2-0 or 5-0 at that point. You are still out. So use all your substitutions, make attacking ones and gamble. It might just pay off. But Argentina, like Brazil , went out after only making 2 like-for-like changes, and leaving the third un-usued. England and France went out after making very late changes at the stage in the game that it did not matter. In some ways, for some people, it is understandable, but for Diego Maradona, it was bizarre.
Walking back into town along the fanwalk, it was an almost shell shocked atmosphere. Nobody could quite believe what had just happened. But it had been good fun regardless. And with that, my first hand experiences of the 2010 World Cup were probably over. And it was odd – my abiding memory of the games I have been at will come from this game, but was nothing to do with the game itself: At one point during the first half, I happened to glance around me. I would guess that 70% of those people around me, including my friend Brad, were playing with their smartphones. Instant messaging on their Blackberries, or similar, and I just thought it bizarre. If I go to a game of football, I will always stay to the end, will try and plan my comfort/food/beer breaks so I don't miss any action. And I will watch the game. This was a World Cup Quarter Final, between two great teams, and with tickets not coming cheap. And yet many people didn't seem to be fully interested in the game itself. I just found it all very, very odd.