While we are all intoxicated by Belgium’s firepower, Mexico’s giant-killing, Nigeria’s potential and Australia’s presence in their company, there’s another world going on near you right now. This Backpage column from May 2008 is a reminder of Sunday morning coming up! for thousands – on and off the field.
THE THRILL OF NIL-NIL
One of the criticisms thrown at football is the probability of a game ending as a scoreless draw. Why would you want to watch a game for that long for no result? For no "excitement"?
Of course, as anyone who sat through last weekend's FA Cup final could confirm for you, through gritted and seriously disgruntled teeth, the mere presence of a goal cannot elevate a game. The 116 minutes of tentative, too-scared-to-lose, where-is-Ronaldo? business was not obliterated by a few seconds of Lampard/Drogba skill and four minutes of desperate last throws/throes.
No way Jose. Dull is dull is dull.
But as I discovered the following morning, on the sidelines of a ground about as far - metaphorically, structurally and literally - from the "New Wembley" as you could get, goals can be vastly overrated.
The under-13 girls team are more your Walsingham Amateur FC in the pub league than your Chelsea FC in the Premier league. They've scored one goal this year, from a penalty, and are not likely to run up a cricket score any time soon.
(Which is why when we only had one net available at the beginning of the game the consensus was that as long as the net-less goal was the one our girls were running to in the first half we'd be fine.)
In the "stands", we were bracing ourselves in the early stages of the game but not only was the defence holding, the midfield was spreading the ball. There was even a sequence of passes. And another one.
Our goalkeeper was kept busy but didn't falter and some players who only a few weeks ago lacked the confidence to push forward were making the occasional forays. Half-time found everyone buoyant.
Not because anyone thought a win was imminent but because you could see on the faces of the girls that this game was starting to make a bit more sense every week. And, yes, because not a goal had been conceded.
The second half - with nets now in both goals - followed a similar pattern to the first. But this time you could feel the difference off the field. Voices tightened as little slip ups in defence allowed the opposition strikers a chance or two. The applause for the keeper was a little more urgent with each save.
The call now was less for a clever pass or a darting run but more to clear that ball, to kick the bejesus out of it. Right now!
As we approached full-time, glances at watches were becoming more frequent and it seemed there were half a dozen Thomas Kenneallys around us, muttering "blow that whistle ref, blow that whistle".
Finally, after an interminable wait, he did and we roared. 0-0. Beautiful numbers. Top that Sir Alex bleedin' Ferguson!