- We’re amazed that players have short memories (1). The lads who traipse around the pitch in front of us are honed athletes. They are coached and often cosseted by clubs and coteries. Yet they seem to forget that the game isn’t over until the final whistle. The review reflected upon this as the Congo players danced a hip
swaying conga on the sidelines after Thievy Bifouma had put them 2-0 up against Democratic Republic of Congo. The lower torso swivelling must have disconnected the part of the brain which reminds the body there are at least 30 minutes to go. The agony of watching the touchline parade clearly triggered something in the DRC bunch which unleashed their attack mode. The DRC dance celebrations after the 4-2 were primeval and yet post-modern Michael Jackson.
- We’re amazed that players have short memories (2). The review must declare an interest here. Tennis. No, that was a silly joke. But after 15 days furnishing a fleet of flippancies, a part of the brain which reminds the brain there at least eight days to go has been disconnected. Did we just write something like that? Tunisia is the interest we’d like to declare. It stems back to the African Nations Championship in Sudan. Tunisia were led by Sami Trabelsi and the former defender kindly offered to speak in English just after his press conferences in French and Arabic. He didn’t have to do it. But he did. And it was a kindness that we’ve never forgotten. So that’s the genesis of the soft spot. On day 15, leading 1-0 against Equatorial Guinea, Tunisian players opted for the rolling around on the turf tactic. It rather annoyed the 35,000 partisans in the Bata stadium who were eerily quiet as Equatorial Guinea were being crafted out of the competition. But the antic disposition of the Tunisians was upstaged by the referee’s decision to award a penalty in the dying seconds after Ivan Bolado may, or may not, have been fouled by Ali Maaloul. Javier Balboa converted the kick and 10 minutes later he gave the hosts the lead with a sumptuous free kick. Once Equatorial Guinea were in front, their players too became weak and feeble and prone to clutching their calf as if in the death throes. The Tunisians were mightily annoyed.
- Score a goal and then roll around in joy not embarrassment. Leading 1-0 and seemingly into the semis after a dazzling repertoire of dying swan routines, Tunisia had a chance to gild the lily. To save the striker the embarrassment we’ll leave him nameless. He was put through on goal for the coup de grace – and no, that doesn’t involve falling down. But in the eagerness to go clear he kicked the ball too far in front of him, allowing Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper Felipe Ovono to gather it. Striker then ran into the keeper and rolled around in the area. He looked up rather startled that the ref hadn’t given a penalty. No, no, no amigo. That was about to come at the other end.
- There’s no room for irony at this level. Oh yes there is. Ahead of their quarter-final against Guinea on day 16, Ghana faced the media to expand on injury concerns, talk up the opposition, downplay their chances etc and so on. Coach Avram Grant generalised affably but goalkeeper Fatau Dauda skilfully avoided answering the questions that he was asked. A press conference? Even the Ghanaian journalists cringed.
- There’s room for self-deprecation at this level. Avram Grant’s reputation in England as a coach is chequered. But he’s quite entertaining company. As Dauda deadpanned, Grant was nominative determinism. When quizzed about whether Ghana had practised penalties because their record in the competition isn’t good when that time comes, Grant said: “We need to prepare for everything.” And, without missing a beat, added: “I have some experience of penalties.” And so does many a Chelsea fan. Grant’s Chelsea lost the shoot-out against Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final. Skipper John Terry slipped and his shot hit the post and the world watched the ball go away. A few days later Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich suggested Grant do the same.