The G20 will come and go, but the World Cup will keep on going. Yes!

Portugal fans blow vuvuzelas before the World Cup group G soccer match between Portugal and North Korea in Cape Town, South Africa, Monday, June 21, 2010. AP

John Doyle
The Globe and Mail
Published on Tuesday, June 22, 2010

As I write this, Switzerland, down to 10 men, is trying to hold out against a rampant, never-ending Chilean attack. This guy Alexis Sanchez is a thing to behold. Poetry in motion.

The TV commentator has just said, “Dear me!” The referee, a Mr. Khalil al-Ghamdi of Saudi Arabia, has been described by the online Guardian as “a card-happy lunatic.”

The World Cup is in full swing. These are the best of times. Hereabouts, it’s everywhere. It’s not just in the bars and restaurants. Tiny TV sets with rabbit ears have been hauled from the basement or attic and are in corner stores or the dry cleaners. A crowd will form in seconds if one person stops on the street to peer through a bar window as a penalty kick is taken. There is mass groaning and eruptions of glee. It’s one of those rare times when you actually feel that the whole world is watching something, together. Oh, there’s this G8/G20 thing happening. That will come and go, and the World Cup will still be unfolding.

There have been memorable moments. South Africa’s first goal in the opening game. The outpouring of joy at that. The sight of David Beckham on the sidelines, in his nice suit, doing what was memorably described to me as “the bitch-face” when England sputters and plays hopeless soccer. Lord only knows what he’ll look like Wednesday morning as England face Slovenia (pop. 2 million) in a game that is now so epic in importance that the word “epic” doesn’t do it justice.

Oh, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Chile just scored. On TLN, some guy just shouted, “gooooooooooooooooooooool!” Now the Swiss are on the attack. Switzerland beat Spain, so why not? This is mad.

By the way, if you want a taste of World Cup coverage, Latin style, check out the games on TLN. Commentary in Italian and Spanish. But at least there’s a clock on the screen all the way through. On CBC’s coverage it seems to fade in and out every two minutes. And TLN has a great soccer related doc How to Win the FIFA World Cup (this Sunday, 4:30 p.m.). It’s an eye-opener.

CBC’s devotion to the World Cup is admirable, but occasionally wonky. The pre-game, half-time and post-game analysis segments are too short and very often, pedestrian. There is also the faint whiff of the expat Brit factor. Jason de Vos, the ex-player and a pithy analyst is good, but there’s an awful lot of rushed remarks. Nobody on CBC has the depth and smarts of Bobby McMahon on the Fox Soccer Report (Fox Sports World Canada, weeknights at 10 p.m.). McMahon is the god of soccer analysts.

Over on The Score, they do a World Cup roundup (nightly, usually at 11 p.m.) which actually has highlights from the day’s games and analysis by James Sharman, Sid Seixeiro and Kristian Jack. These guys know their soccer and Sharman can be provocative but, please, gentlemen, lose the bit where Jack moves little toy figures around a toy soccer field. Honestly, it was fun the first time and then it got just a teensy bit comical. (I can say that. I’ve sat around and talked soccer with these gents. They can take it.) Whenever the England team is discussed with the toy figures, I expect a six-inch Peter Crouch to be produced (he’s about 6 feet, 7 inches tall) and made to fall over on the toy field, just for light relief.

Now then – the Swiss are making a last-ditch attempt at equalizing and expose Chile’s defence with ease. Look, the Swiss guy’s got the ball. He shoots. He misses! Nooooooooooooo! In the stands, middle-aged Swiss men are wearing plastic triangles of Swiss cheese on their heads and banging cowbells. That’s it. Game over. Chile wins 1-0.

Here comes Spain playing Honduras. It never ends. That’s the best part.

Also airing:

Downfall (ABC, CTV, 9 p.m.) is a new summertime game-show thing. ABC says “Downfall, a unique, high-stakes and adrenaline-pumping game show, will put contestants on top of a 10-storey building to see who has the focus and fearlessness to avoid his/her own “downfall” – literally. Along the way, they’ll have the chance to win $1-million and a slew of incredible prizes.” Seriously. That’s what ABC says. I think the prizes fall off the building, not the people. I think.

Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (TMN, MFEST, 6:50 p.m.) is an hour-long look at Strummer, the member of seminal punk band The Clash who died suddenly at the age of 50. It’s not a straightforward biography – Strummer’s life was too tangled for that. But we get a sense of his middle-class itinerant youth and then the many personae he invented and abandoned. To say he was mercurial is an understatement. A long list of music and Hollywood types turn up to talk about him, including John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Matt Dillon, Jim Jarmusch, Martin Scorsese and Courtney Love.

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