Let the Dancing Begin – Samba or Flamenco?
June 15, 2010

Four days in and the 2010 World Cup hasn’t caught fire yet. To be brutally honest, in the main, it’s been downright dull. With the exception of Argentina, flattering to deceive against Nigeria, and our old friends the Germans, running in four against the pretty inept Socceroos, there has been very little to write home about.

Yesterday, one of the favourites, Holland were well off the pace and a million miles away from the ‘total football’ of yester year, whilst current holders, Italy, put in a characteristically dour display against Paraguay.       

The tournament is in desperate need of some dancing feet and spectacular goals. Let’s hope that Kaka and the samba boys of Brazil ignite the competition this evening in their game against North Korea.

North Korea have hardly been regulars when it comes to World Cup finals (twice in 44 years) but they will forever remain in football folklore for their spirited performances in reaching the 1966 quarter finals.  

The smiling faces and twinkling skills of the little Koreans (they were all about 5 feet nothing!) won the hearts of North East England. Totally unexpectedly they removed Italy from the tournament, with a 1-0 group stage win at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park, courtesy of a goal from Pak Do Ik (right). It’s one of those names that remains with you, and it’s certainly one the Italian journalists never forgot. For years after they referred to him as ‘il dentista’ (the dentist) for the pain he had inflicted on the national psyche!    

And, as if that wasn’t enough, North Korea then set about Portugal in the quarter-final. Playing,  in front of 50,000, at Everton’s Goodison Park, they took an amazing 3-0 lead, in the first 24 minutes, before eventually succumbing 5-3 to the ‘golden boot’ of the legendary Eusebio, who collected 4 goals!  If tonight’s game is anything like that it certainly will set the 2010 tournament alive. And of course all of those memories will come flooding back again when North Korea meet Portugal in Cape Town next week!  

Tomorrow the rhythm of the samba will be replaces by the foot tapping flamenco of Spain, as Fernando Torres (if he’s fit) and the European Champions take a bow against Switzerland in Durban. In 2006 the Swiss, better known for their mountains and cuckoo clocks than their footballers, set the dubious record of being the first team ever to be eliminated from the group stages without conceding a goal (harsh but true!). I don’t expect them to be a push-over but if Spain play as we know they can it could be fiesta time!

While the heart still says ‘England’, over the coming couple of nights we could be watching the dancing feet of the eventual tournament winners but will it be  the samba or flamenco?