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Soup of This Day #105: And Never, Ever Think Of Counting Sheep

November 26, 2011

Thomas Müller
Thomas Müller, a star for Germany. Or Australia – Photo: Steindy, 2011. Steindy is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

It was sort of a joke between my wife and I that as the 2002 World Cup rolled around she was amazed that I would try to watch every game, all 64 of them. ‘No compromises from me,’ I’d point out – I was going to watch every game, as I’d done in 1994 and 1998.

Except in 1994 I technically missed 1 match because I fell asleep during the final, un-shuttering my eyelids in time to see Roberto Baggio blaze his penalty shoot-out effort over the bar. Since I was only half-awake at that point it was a little disorientating seeing what looked like Billy Ray Cyrus taking a spot kick. Insert your own gags about achy, broken hearts – They probably won’t be funny.

And in 1998 I missed the final again because I was in a Kalgoorlie motel on a mining exploration gig. Yeah the hotel had a TV but my cheap boss had made me share a room with him so I couldn’t turn the TV on to watch the French triumph with 2 goals from their captain supreme Zinedine Zidane. Thanks for that Dave.

Still I had seen almost all of the matches and I was not going to pass up on the opportunity in 2002 of seeing close to 64 games of world class football.

I think I made it to 36.

The problem was that in 1994 and 1998 I was single, or at least sufficiently unencumbered, so that I could freely watch whatever, whenever. I was also mostly unemployed and bullet proof – I could avoid sleep and still be able to pull electrical wire through the bush for 10 hours a day. Even after drinking a half carton of beer. Not that I ever did that Dave.

By 2002 though I had a regular suit-wearing gig, a girlfriend (who would become my wife) and I had started to get hangovers. Crippling hangovers.

So I got tired, nursed ginger beers and dialed back on the World Cup marathon. Each World Cup since has seen a subtle decline in the number of matches watched.

In 2006 with Australia’s return to the world stage after a 32 year absence I saw slightly less than 30 games. I watched but didn’t really see Australia play Brazil – We were negotiating to buy a house at the time. I had no such excuses for the final, except that it was between Italy (They were cheating) and France (They were petulant) and I was emotionally drained and couldn’t muster the will to care. When I found out the next day that Zinedine Zidane had headbutted Marco Materazzi (for insulting his sister) and had subsequently been sent off I think I summoned an ambivalent shrug.

The cheats won by the way. Petulance doesn’t pay.

In 2010 I managed to watch 15 games. Embarrassingly I missed 2 of Australia’s outings and skipped the final once more. And even then I was still tired – In 1 match I inexplicably got confused and spent 15 minutes supporting Germany against the Socceroos. On the plus side this did give me a 4-0 lead to celebrate, even if it was fleeting. Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, Über alles in der Welt…

I don’t think I was giving it my fullest attention.

It’s not just World Cups either. Where previously I had prided myself on catching many of Liverpool’s games, now I’m lucky if I make a live broadcast, maybe 15 times a season. Sleep, work, The Noah, the wife, eating, sleeping again and did I mention The Noah? – I’m permanently without time and energy and so Liverpool FC just takes a backseat.

All of this is by way of explaining why I missed Liverpool’s crunch away game against Chelsea last Sunday night. Sure, it promised to be interesting – Chelsea and Liverpool are giants of the game, both in the running for a top 4 finish and to further spice the contest up the Londoners were fielding 2 players they had enticed from Anfield this past year. Fernando Torres and Raul Meireles haven’t lived up to the massive price tags but this could well have been the game for them to click at Stamford Bridge.

I considered all of this. For me though the game kicked off at midnight, work was the next day and the wife had been sick and… and… I just needed the sleep, ok.

Anyway I’ve now watched the replay and I feel like I can report on how it went:

Liverpool started with an interesting side. Had I been watching the game live I would have described it as a crap side – Maxi Rodriguez got his 1st start for the team this season and formed a front-line with Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy and Louis Suarez. For the record 1 of those players once attacked a teammate with a golf club, another is best described as a tireless but frequently fruitless Labrador, while the 3rd is on a racial vilification charge. Just for laughs I’ve mixed up the 3 descriptions there so that readers can play a kind of mix and match Cluedo-style with the players names and their crimes. It will be fun, you’ll see.

Fortunately Liverpool Manager and all-round-legend Kenny Dalglish knows his chops better than I do. That front 4 were ferocious early using their pace and energy to drive at a Chelsea defence that was set a bit too high. This pressure meant that the Reds got a free pass in midfield where Chelsea might otherwise have dominated. The result of this was a 1st half goal that was opportunistic at conception and clinical in delivery: Midfield supremo Charlie Adam caught Chelsea centre-back John Terry in possession, dispossessing him and feeding Craig Bellamy. Bellamy then played a neat 1-2 with Suarez, before shaping a slider across to the unmarked Maxi Rodriguez. Rodriguez had all the time in the world to gently lift the ball over the outstretched palm of Chelsea custodian Peter Cech, seeing it safely into the back of the net.

In the 2nd half Chelsea negated the Liverpool game-plan by taking control of the midfield. This quickly brought them an equaliser and set the scene for some staunch Reds defence as the Merseysiders fought to maintain parity. This they did before attacking hard themselves at the close. This paid dividends when Charlie Adam’s sweeping cross-field ball found surging full-back Glen Johnson, who’s 1st touch invited an Ashley Cole lunge. Johnson cut inboard, skinning Cole 7 ways to Sunday, before boring in towards the penalty spot. As Cech hesitated off his line Johnson held off 1 defender before slotting home a clean finish past Cech and the despairing John Terry for an 87th minute winner. That Johnson was a former Chelsea defender, winning the game when all of the focus had been on Torres and Meireles, made it all the sweeter.

So Liverpool up to 6th, level on points with Chelsea and separated from 4th by goal difference only. There’s no let-up this week though – Again it’s a crunch game, this time against league leaders Manchester City at Anfield. It should be a corker of a meeting – Man City have scored 3 goals or more in 10 of 12 league matches so far this term. Alas the match is again on a Sunday and again kicking off at midnight in these parts. Without me as it happens – I still need the sleep.

It’s ok though – I have a Liverpool scarf hanging off the bed-head. Or a German 1 – Honestly I’m tired and it’s hard to tell.

And Never, Ever Think Of Counting Sheep

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