My Repeated Failure at Watching Sport on the Telly in Korea

Yesterday marked the end of the month of Irish sport on television, that is television streamed through the internet and watched on my computer. It has taken me five years of living in Korea to master the art of searching through Google for the relevant link to watch a match, which is impressive. It was an ordeal I would recommend to anyone as the rewards are worthwhile, although they could have been much better.

For starters this is not the first time I’ve tried to find sport via the ould interweb. I know that when herself when was in Ireland, she never had any problems watching the things she wanted to. There are a few Korean websites that post television shows up after they are shown for the first time. I imagine you can do the same with certain Irish programmes too, but with live sport it’s completely different.

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Who Really Won the World Cup?

The World Cup is over! Over! Over! And the winners are… well who were the actual winners?

Thirty-two Countries started, only one finished!

I’m not talking about Spain, while they were the winners, did they benefit the most from this tournament? South Africa? We’ll see, time will tell if the world will open up its eyes to South Africa, the richest country on the continent, but also one where the difference in wealth is greater. Of course numerous newspapers and other sources sang along to this tune throughout the tournament and I don’t really have enough info to go into it now (most recent of which was an article by Tom Humpheries in The Irish Times, a pretty picture is not painted).

So the winners… I thought about this a bit. Who really came out on top? Well, being an optimist I said to myself, it was a relatively good World Cup, sure, didn’t lots of big shots get knocked out early because they couldn’t play well together and expected individuals to win? Smaller teams played their hearts out and got rewarded, like Paraguay, Uruguay, United States, South Korea, and Ghana. There were also lots of upsets to keep the neutral interested! I commented earlier about the makeup of the German and Spanish teams and why they did better than say Italy and possibly England. Of course, after a little more research it turns out that not one Champions League winning player from Inter Milan made it onto the Italian national team. But, of course all my arguments about team solidarity were kind of rubbished by the Dutch squad, who made it to the final and could have beaten Spain if they didn’t spend the whole match kicking the opposition. Their team was of a similar demographic to many of the other leading teams… so there goes my point in that previous post. Fortunately Spain won so I can still stick to it a little.

So the winners… well in the modern age (whatever that is) football is run by money, money and more money. The best players want to be paid the best and they want to play in the best league. Of the thirty-two teams that started the World Cup and the seven hundred and thirty six players who played, four national leagues were prominent. So if the best players in the world are at the World Cup, surely they all play in the best leagues. So that would make the four national leagues of England, Germany, Italy and Spain the best leagues in the world.

These four leagues dominated the World Cup finals. For starters, Italy, Germany and England were the only teams in the tournament that didn’t have players that played their football outside of their respective national leagues; even North Korea had two or three players who played football in Japan. My numbers may be a little off but I’m quite sure this is accurate; altogether three hundred and thirty players play their football in these four leagues. That’s almost half the players at the entire World Cup.

England was represented best with one hundred and seven players, Germany came second with eighty-nine, Italy third with seventy-eight, and Spain dawdled in last with a creditable fifty-six representatives. If you take away twenty three from each team (or twenty in the case of Spain, they had three players who played in England), that still leaves all four teams with a very high percentage of the overall World Cup players contingent.

These are pretty big figures. I have more. Germany and England both tied on the number of countries players came from, twenty-five each. Countries that had players playing in the Bundesliga were a little more obscure than those who played in the Premiership, and there were a lot of cases where one player played in Germany, while the representative numbers in England were a lot higher. To be exact, England had only three cases where one player from a country played in the England, while in Germany there were nine cases.

That would, you might think, make the English and German leagues the winners, with Italy and Spain coming in a close third and fourth. It’s logical right, more players, better league, more popular with players…

Well it doesn’t.

No matter how many players played in any league, theirs is only one league with twenty World Cup 2010 winning players. Just because everyone else does something doesn’t mean it’s the best.

Spain and only Spain are the winners.

Someone always has to lose: World Cup 2010 Spain -v- Germany

Last night (or should I say this morning; 03:30hrs Korean time) was the first time I watched Spain play in the world cup. I kind of chuckled and didn’t care much when they were almost knocked out of their group during the qualifying stages. The prospect of another big European scalp was tantalizing for the cynic in me, and of course there could be fewer bigger scalps than the tournament favourites! France and the holders Italy, both went early and it would be only fitting to see the tournament favourites stumble with them. They didn’t as we all know.


I’ve watched a good few of Germany’s games, especially the games against England and Argentina. Few would have been forgiven for thinking that they have been the best team to play so far. They thrashed three teams by scoring four goals, and despite what you might say about the unrecognised goal (if I called it disallowed it would mean it was cancelled out, it wasn’t even spotted by the officials, all just another way of describing it), Germany probably would have still beaten England by a hockey score.


Well, anyway back to the point. Last night I finally got a chance to see Spain play. I was very impressed; I was in fact really impressed. What I hadn’t been impressed by up to this game was the number of 1-0 victories Spain had leading to this stage; I reckoned they didn’t have it in them. But then again maybe Paraguay and Portugal were considerably better teams than England and Argentina, or maybe they just work to their strengths and pull off win after win (incidentally Del Bosque has a 92% win rate since taking over as the Spanish boss, more about this man later). The Paraguay game looked like a real tough encounter, I watched the highlights and it went down to the wire, and so did this game between Germany and Spain.


Before I give an armchair account of the match, I reckon this must be said more than anything; this was a real clash of the titans, Spain, the tournaments starting favourites against Germany, the potential usurpers of their fiesta. Both teams met two years ago in the EUEFA final, and Spanish players were quoted in the papers that they knew they were playing against a vastly improved German side. The games against Australia, England and Argentina were a testament to this.


When the game started, it was clear that both sides were here to play football; both sides knew that this was the only way they could win. There were a few little tumbles here and there, but the tackles were hard and challenges were fair. I read on the Fifa website just a minute ago that 30% of the game, so around 30 minutes, was played before the ref blew the whistle for the first foul, a definite rarity in football these days but a clear example of the quality of player that was on show here. Another key element in this game was the honest respect that the two teams of players had for each other. There were a couple of incidents were players were tackled hard, and the whistle was blown for a foul, and the Spanish or German player went over and linked hands in a kind of united determination to keep fighting it out against each other until the last minute, it seemed that for some reason sportsmanship had returned to the realm of international football. Even when the ref did blow the whistle the players didn’t attack the ref, they just went about getting ready for the free kick.


Denis Irwin made a point on RTE about the makeup of the German team after it was clear that Germany would be playing England while the other ould fellas were scoffing away with their usual wisdom relating to the fact that this game could pull England out of the doldrums. The bulk of the German team play for only four teams; Hamburg, Stuttgart, Werder Bremen, and Bayern Munich and six of the team’s player’s play for Munich, including the key players, Scwheinsteiger, Lahm and Mueller.


What about Spain? Well ahead of Munich’s high player representation on a national team, is Barcelona with seven players on the Spanish team, and after that Real Madrid and Valencia had a further nine together.


Sure you could argue that in each country there are a couple of teams that dominate, but this has always been the case, and what this clearly points to is a core group of players who are very familiar with a large proportion of the team. What’s also a key factor is that Barcelona and Bayern Munich both reached the final four of the Champions League. Internazionalle, the winners, rather than fielding a strong Italian team which could have bolstered the national side’s World Cup prospects, have a squad with fifteen nationalities. On the other hand, Barcelona has seven, Bayern Munich has eight, and in both teams the foreign contingent is less than domestically produced players. Even Real Madrid, famed for its international contingent of Gallacticos has a dominant proportion of Spanish players on its team, half of whom are good enough to get onto the Spanish national team, who are now in the World Cup final. I’ve never been one to care about whether or not a club has more or less domestic players, but this is clearly showing that the biggest clubs with the most players playing in the same team in their home country has clear benefits for the progress of a national side.


I read on the ould internet the other day that Mesut Ozil turned around and criticised Wayne Rooney for saying that he was bored, and that how could he be bored when he is playing in the World Cup? While it might point to the over reliance on a superstar lifestyle by some of the game’s elite, it also points at the high morale and camaraderie of the German team. The players obviously don’t mind sharing the same airspace for a month or two, while the English players mightn’t be so keen on doing it for ninety minutes twice a season, let alone for the period of the World Cup.


So, all that being said, how did Spain actually beat Germany, a team that up to that point had scored almost twice as many goals as them? These were two teams that seemed equally matched, and equally prepared and willing to give everything to win.


I’m no Johnny Giles or Eamon Dunphy, so what I’ll do is stick with what I saw on the telly this morning. As I said I watched the Germans about three times and this was the first time that I saw Spain play. What Spain did, and they may have been doing this throughout the tournament, is that they played the game the Germans played against Argentina. They didn’t give them an inch, they were tight defensively and they weren’t afraid to pass the ball and to rely on the player who they passed it to do something similar or better. They, like Germany did against England and even more so against Argentina, played as a team that were confident and determined. What made Germany look so ordinary, or not as exceptional as they had in previous games, was they were crowded and weren’t given enough space to function. Schweinsteiger, who dominated against Argentina, hardly featured, Klosse who is lethal in the box, was forced to run at players with the ball and was easily policed away by the expert Spanish defence led by the fearless Carlos Puyol! The Spanish team had more chances and the way they played forced the Germans into long ball tactics and shots from distance. Sound familiar?


One final note on the Spanish side, who in ninety minutes made me forget all about the great football Germany played in the world cup, and this goes towards the manager, Vincente Del Bosque. After England were knocked out of the World Cup, fingers were pointed at the manager, a man who had significant success in domestic competitions, notably Siere A, the Primera Liga, and of course the Champions League. How was it, the question was asked, that a man with so much success domestically, could not produce satisfactory results from a collection of players of such a high standard? I wonder are the Spanish media in a similar state of rapture, exclaiming, how is that a manager with so much success domestically could produce such satisfactory results from a collection of players of such a high standard? I haven’t even bothered to mention Joachim Löw, who, as far as I can work out, has had less success at club level than…than…than… Steve Staunton?


So, it’s down to two teams. All those games, all those tears, all those cheers, not to mention those bloody horns that ruined a few good Sunday afternoon hangovers with the football. There have been seven different winners of the World Cup since 1930. The last time a team won for the first time and they were not the hosts was by Brazil, in Sweden, 1958. On Sunday there will be a new team on the World Cup and a new team to have one the World Cup for the first time. I’ve no idea who it will be. Exciting isn’t it?

England -v- France in the World Cup Final!

I have, on occasion, been known for my opinions. Whether right or, as some may believe, wrong, I’m fond of expressing myself. This page hasn’t been much of a space for me to blast off into a rant I’m sure you’ll be happy to have read.

But, on my recent trip home, which I’m going to write about in a little while (maybe immediately after this), a question was asked by many. This question was, in some sense, a dilemma: If France played England in the World Cup Final, who would you be up for?

An English fan finds out the real reason they lost against Germany – because ‘we’ hate them!

Generally speaking, if I you would allow me to get all nationalist and general for a moment, we Irish hate England, and this is even more the case when it comes to sport, and with special reference to football we despise them (I reckon Scotland hates them more but that’s an altogether different article to share with ye maybe some other day).

And of course France were grand until Thierry Henry handled the ball and helped to pop the ball into the back of the Irish net eliminating us from the World Cup and quashing the dreams of a nation of underachievers once again. Not forgetting the audacity of the prick to turn around afterwards and admit his wrong-doing and attempt to side with Ireland. And with that, after years of ‘ah the French are alright, at least they could beat the English’, all has been turned on its head. Ireland now also hates France. It is fair to say that they are, dare I say, worse than England.

Fortunately, over the past week or two most of Ireland let out a long satisfied sigh of relief as both teams proved that being hated really does help your world cup prospects. It’s just as well that we Irelanders prefer to sit around and complain about the fact that no one will ever let us win!