Early Doors

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Early Doors

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In football, as in life, there are certain grim predictabilities.

For every piece of bread that lands butter side-down, there is the summer transfer saga that begins in mildly diverting fashion before rumbling on interminably for so long that football fans are soon gouging their eyes out with their own thumbs in an attempt to avoid having to bear witness to another breathlessly uninformative tabloid 'exclusive'.

For every indiscriminately pooing pigeon, there is John Motson disinterestedly describing a match-winning 35-yard overhead kick from an ageing defender who's never been glimpsed outside his own penalty area before getting incredibly and inexplicably excited about a meaningless throw-in that's just been awarded on the halfway line.

And for every proverbial black fly in your proverbial glass of Chardonnay - which, much like everything in that Alanis Morisette song, is actually just Very Annoying, rather than genuinely Ironic - there is the German national side.

No matter how down the chips or how high the odds, they always manage to prevail, and so it was last night, when, despite the best efforts of a commendably spirited Austrian side, they limped into the quarter-finals thanks to Michael Ballack's second-half net-buster.

So it is with Italy, who won the 1982 World Cup after starting with three straight draws, made it to the final of the 1994 World Cup despite losing their opening game to Ireland and won the last World Cup despite almost being beaten by the USA - the USA! - in the group stages.

And yet there are people out there who genuinely subscribe to the notion that Germany and Italy can be dismissed on the back of one or two indifferent results.

Yes, Italy have been singularly unimpressive so far, but Early Döorß is willing to bet that, if they make it out of Group C tonight, they'll more than likely go on to reach the final.

Much like the bad guy in every teen slasher film ever made, you can never actually be sure of Italy's demise until the stake has been driven through their heart, the surviving characters have chuckled at the obligatory end-of-film joke and the final credits are starting to roll.

For all the fluid football of the Dutch, the Spanish and the Portuguese there's no match for the battle-hardened cynicism of the Italians, and ED is gleefully anticipating the sight of millions of pure-hearted football purists weeping at the 'injustice' of the Netherlands being knocked out on penalties by the Azzurri in the semi-finals.

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Having spectacularly failed to make his mark on the tournament so far, Germany striker Mario Gomez finally gave everyone something to talk about last night when, after about four minutes of the Austria-Germany game, he was guilty of one of the worst misses in football history.

Miroslav Klose picked him out four yards from goal, but with an empty net to aim at he let the ball strike him on the shin and loop up into the air, whereupon it was gratefully headed off the line by Austrian defender Gyorgy Garics.

Still, he can console himself with the knowledge that he'll soon be a household name, because that miss is likely to earn him a place on every celebrity-peddled Yuletide football bloopers DVD from now until the end of time.

And if that sounds cruel, just think about what it's done for the legacy of Ronnie Rosenthal.

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What with Rio Ferdinand swanning around Africa charming the locals with his headdress-donning skills and the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres lighting up Euro 2008, Early Döorß was beginning to worry that the world would forget what the Premier League is all about.

So thank goodness for Craig Bellamy, who displayed all the heralded grit, speed and never-say-die attitude characteristic of the English top-flight when he [allegedly] duffed up a charity worker on a trip to Sierra Leone.

As reported in The Sun, the mild-mannered Welshman is accused of flying into a drink-fuelled rage and wrestling an innocent bystander to the floor after an unsuccessful session in a Freetown casino.

According to an eyewitness, "Bellamy's eyes were glazed over and he was in a rage. There were casino chips flying in the air and all hell broke loose. It took the local bouncers several minutes to drag Bellamy out of the club and all the time he was shouting and screaming abuse at everyone."

Bellamy was visiting the war-torn nation to explore the possibility of setting up a football academy there. The Sun was quick to assert that Bellamy's thuggish antics have jeopardised his plans, but ED thinks he's actually given the would-be footballing superstars of Sierra Leone a pretty good impression of the kind of social life they can expect if they ever succeed in making their way to the promised land of The Best League In The World.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If there is some doubt over the service Coleen especially will be upset" - a source close to the Rooneys responds to news that their wedding is not considered valid by the Catholic church because it was performed in a deconsecrated venue; a wording which suggests that Wayne's not really all that fussed about this marriage malarkey.

TALKING POINT: International tournaments are a potential minefield of embarrassment for British commentators, what with all the Jakub Blaszczykowskis and Christos Patsatzoglous running into each other.

claire881's patience has been repeatedly tried by a certain thatch-haired BBC pundit:

"I nearly put my foot through the TV after Mark Lawrenson called Artur Boruc something like 'Boritz' for the 5 millionth time."

dons8321, meanwhile, has been getting his blundering commentator fix from ITV:

"Had to laugh when David Pleat was commenting on the failure of the Italian midfield in their first game... he said that when you have a threesome you only need one destroyer..."

Early Döorß has particularly enjoyed Pleat's persistent references to "the Czechoslovakia Republic", but what are your favourite commentatorial blunders?

Legend has it that the words "that must be the longest nutmeg in captivity" once passed between the lips of the great Ron Atkinson. If anyone has any kind of proof, ED would be eternally grateful to see it.

COMING UP: It's do-or-die in the Group of Death, as France and Italy face off in the final group game while hoping Romania don't upset the odds by beating the Netherlands, and those of you who are really clever can follow our live coverage of both matches side-by-side in a simultaneous split-screen football fest beyond even the wildest dreams of those clammy-handed hyperbole merchants over at Sky.

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