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World Cup 14/6/10 - Day 4

I have a brand new alarm clock here in Jo’burg – a pigeon who sits on the thatched roof above my bed and issues its mating call to all and sundry at 7am sharp every day without fail. It even coos in a different ‘language’ to your common-or-garden British variety. It’s still intensely annoying, but on reflection, entirely preferable to a vuvuzuela in your ear at an ungodly hour. There's calls to ban those things from all World Cup games due to the noise making it difficult for players and coaches to communicate properly during matches. A noble idea, but I think they've flogged rather too many to stem the tide, and there's not much else to do with a vuvuzuela other than emit that shrill note is there? Perhaps seal the horn end up with a piece of plastic Blue Peter-style and then use it for yard-of-ale competitions? There must be pissed up England fans out here who've tried that already.

I’m fast discovering that for South Africans, health and safety is an afterthought rather than a consideration. Alvin and I were being driven to our next commentary game between Algeria & Slovenia and we approached a riotously busy set of traffic lights, whereupon we were greeted by the sight of 2 young men dressed in multi-coloured garb and faces painted grey who were, unbelievably, performing a spinning, twirling dance routine in between the lanes of traffic, regardless of whether the lights were on green red or otherwise.

Given the lane indiscipline I’ve mentioned before now on the roads here, surely such performances have a limited shelf life, shall we say? Only needs one taxi driver to perform a signature lane shift at the wrong moment and – kapow. Is this indicative of the lengths people go to here to earn a pittance of Rand, or is it just part of the passion they have to live life to the fullest? Nutters, I say – but bless them for their enthusiasm.

Germany became the first side to properly announce themselves in this World Cup with their demolition job on Australia last night. They look to have goals everywhere in their team – Klose & Podolski are obvious sources, but add into that Muller, Gomez, Schweinsteiger, Khedira and Ozil appears to show a potent mix of teutonic grit with sublime skill. Bloody Germans – they always defy our expectations of them.

Time for the Italians to get going tonight against Paraguay, but the perceived wisdom is that this Italy squad is the worst ever assembled by reigning World Champions. Lippi has an ageing group of players and he will miss Pirlo’s passing from midfield through injury desperately for the group stages. It’s all about whether Paraguay have a go at them, or just see this game as a bonus and take it easy knowing they have easier games to come in New Zealand & Slovakia.

That’s how Nigeria approached Argentina in my opinion, and they missed a trick against a side who, for all their extraordinary attacking options, look weak and exposed at the back. I’m looking forward to seeing young Oscar Cardozo up front for Paraguay – he’s already a God-like figure to Benfica fans and I’m almost certain he’ll score tonight. Do not rule out a shock – but then I predicted Germany and Australia would draw, so what do I know?

As yet, there have been no ‘Big Brother’ style confrontations between members of our team in this lodge where we’re all based, but I’ve resolved to join a gym up the road for the duration of my stay to escape the potential for cabin fever. Gyms are not my usual port of call – the peer pressure that accompanies a visit there with the gazes of bronzed adonises following your abject physique around the room aren’t my idea of a jolly good time. But it has a nice pool and sauna apparently.

So there you go.

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