On the Costa Leipzig. I'm flying on a DC 10 tonight, fueled by Corona, la cerveza mas fina. (Unravel that one, ya bastards!)
I am quasi-live blogging this whilst watching the Spain vs. Ukraine match (and by quasi-live, I mean I am composing this entry in vim on my laptop, which is currently not connected to the Net, thanks to the 80 cm ethernet cable that Leopalace provided), and I can say that this match, only 23 minutes old at this point, is already easily the best match that I have seen thus far in this World Cup. Spain is up 2-0 (thanks to a header by Xabi Alonso in the 13th minute, followed by a spot kick from David Villa that deflected off one of the Ukranians in the wall), which makes me very happy (I love Spain's football team, though it is not one of the four teams I am passionate about: Bulgaria, Ireland, Japan, and the US, for the record), but what makes the match great is that both sides are playing fantastic, beautiful football. In fact, I just had to stop typing for a minute while Spain mounted two great assaults on the Ukrainian goal (both unfortunately unsuccessful).
Lots of precise passing, lots of skillful runs off the ball to get in position, and great ball control: that's what I am talking about when I say beautiful football. Oh yeah, and Andriy Shevchenko's presence on the field. Even though I am hoping that he remains shackled today (as he has been thus far, even being goaded into committing a foul of frustration after being dispossesed by a cool Spanish defender), the man is one of the greatest strikers in the game today, and has long been a favourite of mine, since his days with AC Milan.
Of course--speaking of great strikers who I have long idolised--Raul is noticably absent from the Spanish side of the pitch. I know that he has been less effective at Real Madrid than usual during the past two years, but he is still Spain's leading goalscorer, and I would like to see him get the chance to add a few more notches to his heavily-scarred belt during this campaign. With any luck, we'll see him subbed in towards the beginning of the second half.
I know that Spain historically disappoints in the World Cup, despite being pregnant with offensive menace and tight defensively, and I know that this year, they are lighter on the talent than ever, and Raul is not at his best. I know all of this, but seeing how Spain is dominating this match against a very worthy opponent indeed, I am reassured about their chances. The second round is a lock after the three points which they are almost sure to take home tonight. Mark my words (and you may call that the second of my predictions series)!
At minute 40, the Ukranian players are showing more than a little frustration. They'd better settle down, as the last thing they need at this point is a bunch of players who are inelegible for the next match due to a yellow card awarded here. One has already been given, to Andriy Rusol in the 17th minute, and Andriy Voronin deserved one just not, with a brutal challenge from the ground at the back of a Spanish attacker's legs.
Speaking of Voronin, he just tested Iker Casillas thoroughly, with a well-timed run into the area. Casillas was up to the challenge, coming off his line quickly to smother what could have been a real chance. Of course, he was called offside to boot, but the replay clearly showed that the call was mistaken. Shevchenko, on the other hand, was well offside a minute later, which makes his tally for the match about four, by my count.
Real chance for Spain again, with David Villa dribbling deep into the area, half a step ahead of his marker! But the Ukranian defender just got in the way enough to get a piece of David Villa's shot, allowing Oleksandr Shovkovskyi, the Ukraine keeper, to collect the ball safely.
The first half has just ended, so I'll post this as a Blogger draft.
Live blogging now!
Minute 48: David Villa now has a brace after a smartly taken penalty kick. Spain 3-0! The penalty seemed a bit frivolous, however, and Vladyslav Vashchuk certainly did not deserve to be sent off with a red card, but that is what he got.
Minute 51: Villa almost finished a hat trick, but his shot was turned away by Shovkovskyi, and the rebound finally collected without further damage.
Minute 52: Another yellow card for the Ukraine, this time shown to Vladimir Yezerskyi.
Minute 55: Raul is in for David Villa! What did I say earlier about chances of seeing Raul early in the second half? Who is prophetic, now? :) As happy as I am about seeing Raul, it is a shame that Villa had to go off without another shot at his hat trick (which would have put him at the top of the list for the Golden Shoe).
Minute 60: Raul tests Shovkovskyi from 25 metres, then Voronin misses left by centimetres on a quick counterattack.
Minute 65: Spain has a free kick from 30 metres, but it is weakly taken and deflects wide. Nothing doing from the resulting corner kick for Spain.
Minute 67: Raul puts a vicious header on goal, but Shovkovskyi is equal to it. Damn!
Minute 72: Spain is rushing a few passes, leading to a good buildup by the Ukraine, but Serhiy Rebrov launches the ball about 100 metres over the bar from five metres in front of the goal.
Minute 73: Great pass from Raul sets up Sergio Ramos deep in the area, just to the right of the goal, but he cannot finish.
Minute 75: Ukraine wins a corner, gets a shot from 18 metres, but Casillas is his usual awesome self and gathers the shot without breaking a sweat.
Minute 76: Shevchenko is lucky not to be shown a yellow card for a dangerous play, namely a face-level kick at the ball, which a Spanish player happened to be in the process of playing with his head.
Minute 78: Spain is still trying to force passes. Why? They are up 3-0, so they should be taking their time to build up, like they did early in the match. Come on, guys, I want to see Raul get a goal. Make it happen!
Minute 81: Fernando Torres gets a goal on a brilliant play that starts with Carlos Puyol taking the ball off a Ukrainian player, executing a sweet spin move to avoid two Ukrainian defenders, passing the ball off for a give-and-go, and then feeding Torres the assist. Spain 4-0!
Minute 86: Shevchenko squirts a weak shot at Casillas, who handles it, then sets up a quick counter by Spain, which finishes with Fernando Torres feeding the ball in just a step ahead of Raul, who cannot beat the keeper to it. Come on, F.T., put the ball in Raul's stride and we'll have a fifth goal!
Minute 88: Wasted corner for Spain. We want a Raul goal! We want a Raul goal! Say it with me! We want a Raul goal!
Minute 89: Voronin goes up for a high ball waaaay outside the area against Casillas (what are you doing, Iker?!), wins the ball, gets behind Casillas, and somehow fails to get off a shot before he is dispossessed by a defender. Ukraine wastes the corner kick, of course.
Minute 91: Shevchenko offside again!
Minute 92: Shevchenko finally beats the offside trap, makes three Spanish defenders look rather foolish, forgets to shot, and then finally has his late shot blocked by a defender who recovers.
The match is over, Spain wins 4-0! Hurrah!
With Spain taking full points from this match, they move to the top of a very weak Group H. I'll go out on a limb and say that as long as Spain does not self-destruct, they have a real chance at making the final four this time! And they are long overdue for a good run in the World Cup. Viva Espana!