Torn on the 4th of July
If you think Ghana got it bad, Martin Tyler suffers World Cup heartbreak at the hands of McManaman, and co.
Last Updated: 05/07/10 2:57pm
Friday, July 2nd
What a day it turned out to be! First of all we arrived in Port Elizabeth by private jet for a game that certainly lived up to the style.
For the first half it all looked like it was going to plan really and if youd've heard the Brazilian commentators near us jabbering away very happily at the break, you would've thought they were already in the semi-finals. After all when Brazil lead at half-time in a World Cup game, they just don't lose, do they?
Well, it all turned on a flick of fortune off the head of Felipe Melo and from then on, Holland seized the moment. FIFA have given the goal to Wesley Sneijder - after all, his free-kick was on target - who then added the winner with a very rare header.
Then came Melo's sending off and while we had all been expecting a strong Brazilian comeback, it just never materialised. In the end you had to be impressed with the way they left the field in such a dignified matter though, even if they were upset at the red card.
It has led to several of my Dutch colleagues, many of whom were around for the Total Football of the 1970's and had rightly put Johann Cruyff and co on a pedestal, to have a rethink and realise that perhaps in Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie they have a set of players who can go on and even surpass that side.
It is not so much Total Football, but it certainly is Tireless Football and the performances of Dirk Kuyt have epitomised that. I think we are all seeing what Liverpool fans see week in, week out; he may play poorly one week and better the next but one thing that never changes is his attitude and his workrate - and that has summed up this Holland side for me.
It was also a wonderful day for Andre Ooijer. Here is a player without a club, who celebrates his 36th birthday on the day of the final, yet was thrust into a game against Brazil at the last minute. We, or rather my co-commentator Efan Ekoku, noticed Joris Mathijsen struggling in the warm-up and such was the confusion, Johnny Heitinga even went over to Bert van Marwijk to find out who he would be playing alongside in the centre of defence!
In the end, wearing number 13 on his back, Ooijer emerged from the tunnel and once they had come to terms with the early confusion that gave Robinho his goal, Holland went through and Brazil were heading out of South Africa on a private jet of their own.
We were supposed to fly back to Cape Town at 10.20pm after the game, but one of the joys of such luxury travel meant that a few phone calls to air traffic control and our slot was moved forward. In we jumped, slammed the doors and lo and behold we were back at the hotel having only missed the first 10 minutes of Ghana-Uruguay.
I was actually sat watching it in bed and in all my years in football, I can't think of such a dramatic and controversial end to a game. You all know what happened but what you might not be aware of is the absolute outcry out here against Luis Suarez.
Even this morning (Monday), one of the main Johannesburg papers is running the headline 'You cheat' and there is complete and utter indignation from an entire continent. Personally, I think what Suarez did is something most of us would've done in the same situation and the thing to remember here, is that it was dealt with by the laws of the game. He has received his one-match ban so for people, Suarez included, to liken it to Diego Maradona (more of him later) and the Hand of God is a little over the top.
I think the Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is more guilty of cheating because he deliberately deceived the officials by gathering Frank Lampard's shot after it had crossed the line - and has since admitted afterwards that he knew it was over. You can understand Africa's indignation, but I think the only thing Suarez did wrong was celebrate the way he did when poor Asamoah Gyan missed that kick. I think his coach, Oscar Tabarez, should've sent him down the tunnel and told him to celebrate in the dressing room. The celebrations haven't helped matters out here, but believe me this will run and run!
Saturday, July 3rd
The giant bathtub in Cape Town was positively overflowing as we arrived - after a live chat on Sky Sports News with Nick Collins - to see Germany and Argentina do battle. And again, I don't think anyone expected what was to come.
Within three minutes Argentina had been Mullered. I know this is a phrase we are all familiar with in England, but my American colleagues had never heard of it, so maybe having used it during the England game, I will go down as coining a whole new expression across the pond!
I have been trying to find the origins of this - to no avail - and if I am to go down in American linguistic history I really should know, so if you can help, please fill in the feedback form below!
It was certainly a fitting phrase for the game, though. I have now covered three of Germany's five games at these finals and they have scored four in all of them - and that is on the back of the last time I saw the same players, beating England in last summer's European Under-21 Championship final, when they also scored four.
It is an amazing sequence and there have been amazing performances: Bastian Schweinsteiger gets better with every game, we all know about Mesut Ozil and the other youngsters, but what about Miroslav Klose? He couldn't buy a goal, or even a game, in the Bundesliga and here he is level with the great Gerd Muller with 14 finals goals, just one behind Ronaldo.
Maradona of course will forever be associated with the World Cup, but I do think it highlighted his inexperience as a coach because he had no answer, no change of plan, when his side started getting overrun. Before the game, it was all about El Diego as he strutted around the pitch in 'look at me' fashion, being interviewed behind the goal and going up to every one of his players to talk to them in the most dramatic way. You can't help but watch him, but as someone that was there in the Azteca Stadium in 1986, I have to say there was some satisfaction seeing him lose a World Cup quarter-final!
Leonardo DiCaprio was also in attendance and I am led to believe his mother is German, but he has also been spotted in our hotel lobby and having relayed this news back to the Tyler household, I now have another World Cup mission to undertake. Both of my children have degrees in drama and they have told me to track Leo down and tell him he is simply the best actor on earth! So that's Robben Island, Ruud Krol and now Leonardo DiCaprio on my things to do list and time is running out. I guess it's a case of Catch Me If You Can!
We then watched the first part of Spain v Paraguay at the airport before boarding a plane that included World Cup legend Lothar Matthaus. Of course we were blissfully unaware of the drama going on and although the pilot told us it was 1-0 as soon as we landed, we had no idea about the penalty. Or the retake. Or the saved one at the other end!We should've known David Villa was the man that got the goal but you wouldn't have thought Oscar Cardozo would've missed his given the nerves of steel he showed in the shoot-out against Japan.
Sunday, July 4th
Today was arguably the footballing highlight of the World Cup! Grant Best, one-time Sky Sports, now at ESPN, had arranged a shoot with five of our pundits to explain what a player actually goes through in a penalty shoot-out.
Ruud Gullit, Steve McManaman, Roberto Martinez, Alexi Lalas and John Harkes were all to walk from the halfway line, telling us what goes through their mind, talking about their techniques before trying to beat Shaka Hislop, who we had commandeered between the sticks.
It all went well but for me, it got even better when after the shoot, an impromptu eight-a-side game took place, with those very same players, a few crew members and yours truly. I was on the Martinez- Harkes team against McManaman, Gullit and Lalas and I am being completely objective when I tell you we were winning by a streak - until those dreaded words 'next goal wins'.
This was the cue for Ruud, who had been in goal after knee surgery, to come out on pitch and some 20 minutes later, up popped McManaman with the winner. The celebrations, led by Ruud, were akin to those that took place after Holland won Euro 88! We had been joking all game that he really needed a dreadlocked wig to look the proper part, but even though they don't train and perhaps find it harder to run, the professionals never lose that winning appetite!
In fact, one of the former pros, who shall remain nameless, actually whispered to me on the bus on the way home somewhat indignantly: "Martin, we really won that you know, we were at least three goals ahead!"
Regardless of the scoreline, it really was a thrill to be playing with such great names from the game - even if my old legs are paying the price today! I would say my role was plugging the gaps, although my crowning moment was nipping the ball (I use the sense loosely) past the great Gullit in goal and teeing up a nine-year-old from Soweto who was also on our side, to score from on the goal line!
We also used the Jabulani at altitude and I can honestly say I don't know what all the fuss is about! It is very, very light, but we soon mastered it, Shaka didn't have any problems with it and even John Harkes saved a penalty when they swapped places. The sight of an American crew member wearing a Michael Ballack Germany shirt and missing a penalty was surreal enough, but just to look round and be able to share a pitch with some great names is a memory that will live long.
You will see a promo coming up on skysports.com for the new season when Andy Gray, Jamie Redknapp et al, take on a bunch of children in a park game and although I kept a low profile in that match, I loved every minute of this game - right up to the well-earned vanilla milkshake at the end.
For the record it ended 8-6 to us, but of course as is the hard and fast rule, next goal won. And we somehow lost. So if Ghana and the whole of Africa feel cheated, if Paraguay are struggling to come to terms with their exit and Brazil are hurting, they should try losing a game when they actually scored two more than the opposition!