Thursday, June 10, 2010

South Africa June 2010

Japan 0 Paraguay 0 in Pretoria.
Paraguay won 5-3 on penalties.

Some late excitement.

These two might have opted to go to penalties after the first few minutes.
Such was the cautious approach of both sides who effectively cancelled each other out.

Paraguay did show a little more adventure so perhaps they deserved the penalty shoot-out win.

Oscar Cardozo struck the final penalty, nervelessly, to break Japanese hearts and end the participation of the Asian teams.

As usual Pretoria proved a decent location for parking and enjoying some lunch.

And it was easy enough to buy a ticket, this time for 300 rand.

Back in Jo-burg I chose the fish some wine and watched Spain beat Portugal.

Brazil 3 Chile 0 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

World Champions ?

Brazil looked like possible World Cup winners judging by the way they disposed of their fellow South Americans in this round of 16 match.

They scored from a Juan header, from a Luis Fabiano second via a sublime Kaka pass and a third by Robinho in the second period.

Chile never got close.

Brazil would go on to play the Netherlands in the quarter finals.

I followed my Ellis Park routine, parking in Viljeon Street and having some steak & chips in Bertrams, near the stadium.

Inside I watched from the lower tier, near halfway, sitting next to some Uruguyan journalists and a well known Brazilian fan.

England 1 Germany 4 in Bloemfontein.


For the germans but plenty to think about for ourselves.

It was England's worst defeat at a World Cup finals.

Maybe if Lampard's over-the-line shot had been allowed to count there would have been a momentum change but more likely we would still have lost.

The Germans could cut through our defence seemingly at will.

Rooney (again) failed to sparkle in contrast to the young sensation Thomas Mueller who scored twice.

In the end it was embarrassing and somewhat pathetic for England.

And probably the end of the international careers of some of our experienced players ('the golden generation')

Coach Capello also underperformed badly.

Bloemfontein, 4 hours drive from Johannesburg, was one of the easiest stadium locations to drive to, and park.

It also had a couple of malls nearby - one very busy and one much quieter - the latter my choice for some Mugg & Bean refreshment.

On the way back I had plenty of time to try to work out what went wrong and listen to the (poor) radio commentary of Argentina's defeat of Mexico.

USA 1 Ghana 2 in Rustenburg.

Gyan in extra time.

Fourth and last visit to Rustenburg.

I know the route well enough - and where to park.

Nearby is a bar and I join the US fans to watch Uruguay beat South Korea.

Then there was plenty of time to negotiate the purchase of a ticket (200 rand) - it was definitely a buyers market.

The stadium starts about half full then more come in, many with free tickets.

USA had their support but the locals, naturally, preferred their fellow Africans.

The game was always competitive with Ghana taking the lead through Kevin-Prince Boateng and the Americans replying via a Landon Donovan penalty.

Somehow you knew it would go to extra time given that I had to get back to Jo-burg.

Striker Asamoah Gyan sealed the win with a decisive left-footed strike in the extra period.

USA pressed but Ghana held firm and they ensured that an African team would be in the quarter finals.

I was back in Melville, Jo-burg by 1am.

Spain 2 Chile 1 in Pretoria.


Pre-match meal was some hummus and a coke in the Lebanese restaurant near the stadium.

Before that there was time to watch some of Portugal v Brazil (0-0) and Ivory Coast v North Korea (3-0) on TV.

Loftus was cosy and atmospheric from my lower tier seat, particularly amongst the Chile fans.

Chile went hard at Spain early on in a fast and mainly exciting encounter.

But the Spaniards scored first, following a goalie lapse, through David Villa.

They would add a second from the excellent Iniesta while in the same move the Chileans had a man (rather severely ?) sent off.

The South Americans did get one back after the interval but Spain regained control and thus topped the group.

Italy 2 Slovakia 3 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

Famous win.

It had been another early start to get the 6.25am flight back to Johannesburg.

But at least I was in good time for breakfast at my b & b.

We had some local interest as Howard Webb was the referee and he did an Ok job, I thought.

The match was a triumph for Slovakia who put out the World Champions in a thrilling climax.

Italy really only got going towards the end when they were 3-1 down.

Slovakia had led through two goals from Robert Vittek before Di Natale pulled one back.

Sub Kopunek increased the lead again late on for the Slovaks before Quagliarella scored to make it a dramatic and hectic finish.

I'd watched from the back of the lower tier, again adopting a sit anywhere approach.

So Italy went out and the celebrating Slovaks would go on to play the Netherlands in the round of 16.

England 1 Slovenia 0 in Port Elizabeth.


An early, 4.30am, start to get to OR Tambo for the 6.30am flight to PE.

I abstained from the moderate in-flight food and settled for breakfast in my b & b.

After that there was plenty of time to enjoy the weather and wander around the very pleasant Boardwalk area, packed with our fans.

For the first time I took the (beach) park & ride to the stadium - which worked well enough.

At least England showed more energy in this game although Rooney still seemed out of sorts.

More chances were created with Defoe eventually converting a cross for the decider.

England generally stayed in control and it looked like we would top our group until the USA hit a late winner against Algeria.

Afterwards I was collected from the St Georges park & ride and was back at the b & b to enjoy the excellent evening hospitality whilst watching the later matches (and some of Isner v Mahout at Wimbledon)

Overall my only trip to 'The Friendly City', Port Elizabeth, went very well.

Mexico 0 Uruguay 1 in Rustenburg.

In typically bright, sunny conditions I drove to Rustenburg for the third time and parked in the usual place, near the shabeen.

Pre-game - some water and a sandwich.

This time there was more of a 'proper' football atmosphere especially amongst the many Mexican fans.

Unfortunately their team still looked limited, lacking a cutting edge.

Unlike Uruguay who had Suarez and Forlan to count on. It was Suarez who headed home the winner.

With South Africa beating the sorry French at the same time these results meant both teams progressed to the knockout stages.

In just over two hours I was back in Johannesburg.

Spain 2 Honduras 0 at Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

Comfortable enough.

For the European champions against a limited Honduran team.

In summary David Villa got the goals, Alonso held midfield, Torres was still not 100% and Fabregas came on later in the game.

Spain stayed well in control.

This time I tried a different tactic firstly to get into the Athlone Boys park & walk which failed then finding a local hiring out his secure garage area only 6/7 minutes from the stadium.
This worked nicely.

Along the way I ate some beef stew and chips at a Bertrams 'restaurant' before getting ready with the earplugs and remembering my bottle top (inside the stadium they remove the tops off bottles)

Ellis Park and Loftus have their similarities though the latter is definitely cosier.

Brazil 3 Ivory Coast 1 in Soccer City.


A Luis Fabiano rocket shot, a second from the same player and a third by Elano sealed this easy win.

Chelsea's Didier Drogba did reply with a consolation header but another African team was likely to be on its way out of the World Cup.

Uncharacteristically Kaka was sent off for elbowing a defender.

But Brazil, generally in second gear, were in control.

I took my familiar route - an early arrival at Aeroton park & walk - and a quick exit.

Interestingly the numbers of street hawkers had increased dramatically since the opening game.

Denmark 2 Cameroon 1 in Pretoria.

Best game so far.

An early, 5am start, for the 7.30am flight back to Johannesburg.

Where I collected my car and was back in Melville by 10.20am. (after landing at OR Tambo at 9.30am)
Traffic on this Saturday morning was very light.

The advantage of the location of the stadium in Pretoria is that you can park and go to a restaurant to watch an afternoon game (in this case Ghana v Australia)

Then you can stroll to Loftus.

I watched from the lower tier which, although quite shallow, offers the cosy, vibrant atmosphere of a traditional ground.

For once the play flowed with both teams attacking. Cameroon took the lead when the Danes allowed Eto'o too much space in the area.

But the Europeans hit back after a textbook move comprising a diagonal ball, a Rommendahl cross and a Bendtner finish.

Rommendahl would seal the win the second half with a left foot shot.

Depsite their efforts Cameroon became the first side to exit the competition.

England 0 Algeria 0 in Cape Town.

Nice stadium shame about the game.

England made Algeria look good on a bad night for the golden generation.

Rooney continued his moderate World Cup, his team misplaced many passes and we created few chances.

Algeria were content to defend and generally that was not too hard a task.

James replaced the hapless Green in goal but had little to do.

I'd taken an early flight from Jo-burg, hired a car, and arranged an overnight B & B in Durbanville.

As expected parking near the Green Point stadium was problematic though eventually I found somewhere in a street high above the harbour - great views but a steep walk back.

Our fans hoisted their flags, drank for England, and thronged the Waterfront.

The weather stayed dry and not too cold but the result gave much room for thought.

Argentina 4 South Korea 1 in Soccer City.


The Koreans seemed overawed and passive for most of this game.

Gonzalo Higuain scored the first hat-trick of the tournament and the opposition contributed an own goal in what was generally a one-sided encounter.

Lionel Messi demonstrated his skills to the admiring Koreans who did manage one response against the run of play.

There were plenty of real Argentinian fans and plenty of flags plus one special fan/coach in a suit on the sidelines (Maradona)

They did provide a more normal football atmosphere, at least at times, amongst the 80,000+ crowd.

This was my best match so far with some impressive attacking play to admire from the South Americans although there remain doubts about their defence.

My choice of parking was again to use Aeroton 'park & walk', involving a 2km trek to the stadium but at least its under your own control.
This route and a quick exit allowed me to be back at the B & B by 4pm - in time to watch some of Greece v Nigeria and, later, France v Mexico.

South Africa 0 Uruguay 3 in Pretoria.

Back to Reality.

Bafana Bafana came down to earth against a superior Uruguayan team.

The South Americans went ahead with a cracking Forlan effort, followed that with a penalty and a late third (by which time many of the crowd had gone home)

I'd found the trip from Nelspruit to Pretoria easy enough, being able to park near the restaurant/bar area by 6.30pm. It was then a twenty minute walk to Loftus.

Where it was a lot cosier than at Ellis Park/Rustenburg even though the temperature dropped to c. 5 degrees.

Tickets were available outside for between 700-1000 rand for what could have been a special night for the hosts.

The atmosphere did build up to a crescendo of noise but Diego Forlan and co. would eventually dampen the mood.

The result meant South Africa would be unlikely to progress.

Chile 1 Honduras 0 in Nelspruit.

Not chilly.

From Johannesburg you can drive to Nelspruit in around 3 hours, the last 100km or so being through some very impressive forest and mountain areas.

The stadium was easily reached, on the outskirts of the city, with parking at a petrol station fairly close by.

Chile looked competent and Honduras were very limited.

The South Americans did enough and the Central Americans never got close.

In bright sunny conditions the Chile fans provided good support for their team as did the smaller groups of Hondurans.

As always the vuvuzelas provided the background noise.

Brazil 2 North Korea 1 in Ellis Park.

Hermits beaten.

My route from Rustenburg to Johannesburg was via the N4 and the R512 getting near to the capital in good time.

However getting across to Ellis Park was not so easy even with a good map - traditional method - no GPS for me.
I got lost, as many do, eventually getting caught up in the heavy match traffic.

Following some driving around I eventually parked near downtown after a persuading a local to allow me to put my car in his secure garage area (for 50 rand)
I walked the 20 minutes or so to the stadium arriving at 7.30pm for the 8.30pm kick-off.

As I was getting to my seat the small group of North Korea 'fans' were also entering pursued by a Japanese camera crew. These 'fans' later turned out to be Chinese actors.

Brazil played mostly in third gear with Robinho displaying some tricks, Kaka waiting for harder challenges and the wing backs doing what they do best.
Maicon scored the first from a narrow angle and Elano the second from a Robinho pass.

It did come as a surprise when Ji broke through to score and for a few moments there could have been a major upset.

Ellis Park was very cold and I needed a brisk walk to warm up before getting lost again in Jo-burg.

New Zealand 1 Slovakia 1 in Rustenburg.

My second visit to Rustenburg and it was a completely different experience to the mayhem at the England v USA game.

Firstly the restrictions on car/minibus parking were enhanced and secondly only 24,000 attended.

Not surprisingly Category 4 tickets were readily available at between 50 and 100 rand (less than cost price) for what was hardly a compelling prospect.

I tried hard to find somewhere to watch the game away from the swirling wind.

The match itself was a minor triumph for the lowly ranked New Zealand team who equalised just before the final whistle to earn their first ever World Cup finals point.

They had been dangerous at set pieces with their height advantage but otherwise somewhat limited.

Slovakia should have won having lead through Vittek's glancing header but they tended to sit back.

I made a quick exit and headed for Johannesburg.

Holland 2 Denmark 0 in Soccer City.

Sea of Orange.

As is customary I left early for Soccer City but it was still slow getting into the park & walk area.

Where I joined the orange-clad fans strolling to the 'calabash' stadium.

Unusually the Dutch support did not standout as normal since the seats at Soccer City are also orange.

However some NL fans were prominent especially those in mini-skirts promoting Bavaria beer. FIFA retaliated later and some of the girls would stay in the newspapers (if not in prison) for a few days.

This was the first game at which I wore earplugs (and not the last) given to me by a sympathetic guy sitting in the next seat.

The plugs helped me endure the sound system and the vuvuzelas.

The game itself was controlled by Wesley Sneijder from midfield with the Dutch playing their usual steady passing game.

Two goals were enough - one a lucky own-goal - the other from a Sneijder pass, Elia shot and Kuyt converted the rebound.

Bendtner had shown some good touches but the Danes were well held.

Algeria 0 Slovenia 1 in Polokwane.

Up the Limpopo.

It is about 340km (4 hours) from Jo-burg to Polokwane in Limpopo province. The drive was pleasant in warm, sunny conditions with various car loads of Algerians for company.

Again I was able to walk around the stadium to get a better view and some sun whilst sitting near the Algerian fans.

As is typical many fans arrived late, often by over 30 minutes, many with the telltale 'park & ride' stickers.

They watched a mainly defensive game with both sides content to probe.

But then Algeria had a man sent off (two yellows) and it was Robert Koren who settled the issue with a long range effort that eluded the Algerian goalie.

As extra entertainment one of the Algerian fans near me decided to climb up to one of the floodlights were he waved and subsequently pleaded not to be arrested.

Eventually he was persuaded to come down and he was duly hauled off by the police.

I made Jo-burg in just over 3 hours.

England 1 USA 1 in Rustenburg.

Potentially the hardest of England's games started well enough with captain Steven Gerrard's early goal.

But the theme of goalkeeping mistakes recurred as Robert Green allowed Dempsey's shot to cross the line for the equaliser.

Early on it did look like England were planning to win the World Cup with long balls up to Emile Heskey with flick-ons to Wayne Rooney. Even if partially effective you felt it couldn't be a realistic tactic.
Chances were missed at both ends including a worrying effort from Altidore who left Carragher trailing and a predictably abortive attempt by Heskey when put through.

But overall an OK but nervy start against a competitive USA team.

My experience of watching from the side of the ground was mostly uncomfortable with screaming locals, yelling Americans, cramped food areas and the ever-present vuvuzelas.

I chose a side road for parking for a quick exit and though I managed to get away quickly it did entail diversions via unlit, bumpy side roads.
I made Jo-burg by 00.40 - many didn't & some not until 4am.

Rustenburg or rather the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace area was much more chaotic than palatial.

South Africa 1 Mexico 1

Its time - for Africa.

No Mandela but we had Tshabalala and nearly Mphela.

I left early (11am) and even then there were hundreds queuing at the Wits University Park & Ride.
My choice was park & walk which was OK until you got near Nasrec Road where there was a long wait to get into the (dusty) parking area.

After that you had a 2km stroll to Soccer City.

Where the atmosphere was predictably noisy - vuvuzelas, Mexicans and an ear-splitting sound system.

It seemed like a low cost Opening Ceremony with traditional dancers, singing and the calabash. If it had been in the evening there would have been more fireworks.

The crowd itself was mixed, yellow shirted and in carnival mood.

The sun shone for the first half but it soon cooled down in the second period.

As to the game itself Mexico played like they did in their recent friendly against England with plenty of passing but little end result.
This would cost them as they missed chances and conceded to Tshabala's decisive strike.

Only for Marquez to benefit from slack home marking to shoot home the equaliser.

My exit was quick and I was back at my b & b within 40 minutes.

more pics at

Portugal 3 Mozambique 0.

This pre-World Cup warm-up game was played at the Wanderers cricket ground in Johannesburg and attended by around 27,000 local Portuguese fans who made it a vibrant, noisy atmosphere.

They saw Portugal dominate possession, create a number of half-chances but fail to breakthrough until the second period.

Mozambique did hit the post in a rare attack.

Danny scored the first after beating the offside trap and on the hour superstar C. Ronaldo came on to a rapturous welcome.

He showed some tricks and produced two excellent shots, both times the goalie failed to hold, Hugo Almeida following up to score from one of them.

Again the Jabulani ball could be factor.

It was a comfortable enough workout for the Portuguese who had a great reception from their supporters.

So a taste of things to come.

And in Sandton, on Wednesday, I saw more of the same carnival feeling amongst the thousands who watched the Bafana Bafana parade.

It reinforced the impression that the country is uniting behind their football team.

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