Armchair Pundit

We have a tournament

Alex Chick

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Well, we've got a World Cup.

The opening goal by Siphiwe Tshabalala (a spelling minefield right up there with Eyjafjallajokull) was brilliant, uplifting, and although Mexico snaffled an equaliser they probably deserved, it gave South Africa genuine hope of progress in the tournament.

Tshabalala culminated a superb counter-attack by lashing a left-foot shot into the top-fight corner, then celebrated with a convoluted Macarena-style dance that was just a little too rehearsed to be truly enjoyable.

If you were picking nits, you might say there is something deeply patronising about the way everyone, from commentators to roving reporters to 'neutral' fans openly rooting for the host nation.

They certainly weren't doing that four years ago in Germany, the cynics point out, so why the fawning treatment of cuddly little South Africa?

Well, because Germany are Germany - they neither need nor want anyone's support. South Africa are a different matter.

You have to grasp just what this tournament means for the country, and an opening defeat for Carlos Alberto Parreira's clearly limited side would have been bad news for the hosts and the whole competition.

Eurosport-Yahoo!'s blog on the ground, Early Boers, has described the air of exuberant celebration that the World Cup has come to South Africa, and a good run for Bafana Bafana would be a truly celebratory experience.

So not even a Mexican could have got too upset that nobody wanted them to win.

I am pained to admit this all rather validates Sepp Blatter's mission to bring the World Cup to Africa, yet the FIFA generalissimo was not about to take his triumph with humility.

He strode out on to the turf and delivered a number of place-related shout-outs straight out of the World Wrestling textbook ('Finally, The Rock has come back to Cleveland, Ohio!' - that sort of thing) and garnered huge vuvuzela choruses just for namechecking Africa, South Africa and Soccer City.

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As for France-Uruguay, probably the less said the better. You're always going to get some clunkers  The much-publicised split in the French camp failed to provoke any intra-squad face-slapping (not in public, anyway).

In fact the only real highlight was Thierry Henry appealing in vain for a handball before quickly realising that Long John Silver had more of a leg to stand on.

Exchange of the day came seconds after the final whistle in Cape Town.

Gary Lineker: "I can confirm the sound you heard during the match was the vuvuzela and not our panel snoring."

Alan Hansen: "I had a great day until that match."

Say what you like about the Beeb, but at least their publicly-funded status means they don't have to pretend they are showing anything decent.

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Employers around the country are breathing a sigh of relief that England's opening game falls on a Saturday, but will see productivity plummet when England play Slovenia and Algeria on Friday 18th and Wednesday 23rd.

Over in Brazil, they have sensibly circumvented mass sickie-pulling by calling impromptu bank holidays impromptu bank holidays whenever the Selecao play.

Banks will close, the currency market will grind to a halt and government agencies will shut down on match days - of which there could be seven.

Officials claim the economic damage will be more than offset by sales of widescreen televisions.

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There will be more on England versus the US in tomorrow morning's blog, but I will leave you with this snidely amusing World Cup guide from The Onion, which  neatly sums up most Americans' continued apathy to 'soccer' - featuring pearls of wisdom such as: "Field has two goal areas, though usually one or fewer is needed."

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World Cup on Eurosport-Yahoo!

Report: South Africa 1-1 Mexico
Report: France 0-0 Uruguay
Live news ticker
Barry fit but on bench for US test

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