OTTO Rehhagel doesn’t look 71, does he? Or at least, his hair doesn’t. The Greece coach today became the oldest man ever top lead a team in a World Cup finals match, and ITV’s Jon Champion couldn’t resist picking up on both that and his barnet.
“Still has that mop of unfeasibly dark hair for a man of his age,” Champion said. “Somehow appropriate that a Grecian coach should stand accused of colouring his hair.”
Champion came up with the best commentary line of Euro 2008, describing the mad, mad, mad, mad, mad closing moments of Turkey’s win over the Czech Republic thus: “If a spaceship landed in the centre circle, direct from Mars, I wouldn’t be surprised now.”
He isn’t heard much on terrestrial TV these days – even ITV’s official World Cup guide describes him as a former ITV man, on loan from ESPN – but he is going to be a very entertaining listen if he keeps up this level of curmudgeonliness. I almost hope he gets a string of terrible games, just to see how rude he can be about them.
Champion commentates with the air of a perpetually disappointed boarding school English master. He has been paired for this World Cup with Craig Burley, who summarises with the air of a perpetually disappointed comprehensive school PE teacher. The result is a football commentary equivalent of Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. And Greece’s performance in Port Elizabeth this afternoon gave both plenty to be disappointed about.
Rehhagel is revered in Greece for winning Euro 2004, but they haven’t done anything of significance in a major tournament since. They lost all three group games at Euro 2008, and have never scored at the World Cup finals. They rarely looked like correcting that record once Lee Jung-soo had thumped in a Ki-Sung-yeung free kick from close range seven minutes in.
Just going to take a break from this blog post for a moment to check out the mood in the England camp…
Fascinating stuff. OK, as you were…
As Greece laboured, Champion turned his attention top the names of the Korean players. Now this is dubious territory. One of the many, many lowlights of ITV’s appalling coverage of the 1994 World Cup featured Alan Parry, in the build up to South Korea’s opening game, chuckling away to himself that a lot of their players were called Choi.
Champion just about managed to stick to facts: “Of the 250 surnames used by Koreans, half the population answer to just three of them: Park, Kim and Lee. Worryingly, there are six Kims on the bench.”
Still not much sign of a Greek revival, so Champion and Burley began bemused grumblings about the vuvuzelas:
Burley: “We’ve heard a few of those vuvuzelas since we arrived.”
Champion: “Often at four in the morning.”
Burley: “Almost always at four in the morning.”
Rehhagel’s tactics appeared to consist of trying to hold on for a 1-0 defeat. He failed. Seven minutes into the second half, Park Ji-sung pounced on an error by Loukas Vyntra and slotted in the second goal.
Park Chu-young headed over a great chance to make it three, while Bolton’s Lee Chung-yong was denied late on by Alexandros Tzoras. Theofanis Gekas, the only Greece player to show any verve, saw a smart effort well tipped over by keeper Jung Sung-ryong.
South Korea have got half a chance of progressing from this group. Rehhagel, on the other hand, might not see Greece score a World Cup if he lives to be 100.