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Last look at the weekend

Fifth Official: Fabio sweats, Ray slays the Trapp

November 16, 2009
By The Fifth Official
(Archive)

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a five-star weekend.

• World Cup Gallery
• Qualifying round-up

Doha donuts

Jermaine Jenas and Kaka
GettyImagesJermaine Jenas resorts to fouling Kaka

After Saturday's inept showing it's fair to say the only way Darren Bent or Jermaine Jenas are going to make England's World Cup squad is if nuclear war breaks out in the next seven months and they somehow manage to survive.

They probably arrived in Doha with so much hope, too. A glitzy friendly in the Middle East against the No.1 ranked team in the world? Perfect. So, Bent and Jenas, fall in line, do Fabio proud. They were eager to please and frequently came near the touchline for instructions but Capello's yawning sweat patches were driving them back in field to deal with Fabiano and Kaka. It's a no win. The headmaster is shouting 'Quicker, quicker!' but the only thing you're rushing towards is international ignominy.

Bent hardly had a kick but the same couldn't be said for Jenas. Half way through the second period he decided to grasp the nettle and take a quick free-kick out wide to James Milner. Decent idea in principle, shame about the execution. The ball was so bad all Milner could do was try to prevent a goal kick, and fail. The cameras cut to the bench, and a fresh, juicy bead of sweat dropped from Fabio's funky pit.

Adebayor bonus To-go

Emmanuel Adebayor, not content with being Manchester City's go-to-ego, swaggered into Togo's dressing room at the weekend and instantly promised to match the team's win bonus with one of his own if the country beat Gabon.

I wonder how the lads felt. Patronised? Belittled? Honoured? Jealous? Whatever their feelings, they were multiplied by ten when Togo won a penalty and the self-confessed bonus donator stepped to slot the spot kick. 'Will he shank it just to save a few bob?' they legitimately wondered.

They needn't have feared, for Emmanuel despatched his pen calmly, after realising that his weekly wage could happily support Togo's entire economy for a week. No World Cup place for Emmanuel, though Togo are heading to the African Nations Cup. I wonder if Mark Hughes offered him double to blaze wide any chances that came his way during the qualifying campaign and thus ensure he's around for the month of January...

The Pyramid of drama

Yes, the pyramids are pretty impressive but Egypt has never known drama like this. Their nerve-shredding win over Algeria was almost written in the stars. Egypt hosted Algeria knowing that a 2-0 victory would prompt an unprecedented play-off given that both sides boasted the same record: games played, games won, games lost, goals scored, goals conceded, pants worn and bribes considered (allegedly).

As the match neared its fifth minute of stoppage time and the Egyptians had almost given up hope, Emad Moteab plucked a header from nowhere and caused the entire city of Cairo to lose its collective, precious marbles. You've never known noise like this, unless you once rented a room in a hoover.

Moteab's fateful goal means a World Cup play-off with a difference on Wednesday, in Sudan, and another chance for both countries to tickle the chin of fate and see who comes out smirking. I, for one, will be watching.

All-White on the night

Ryan Nelsen
GettyImagesNew Zealand captain Ryan Nelsen celebrates their win over Bahrain

For once, it's fair to say New Zealand has gone football mad, after the All Whites edged past Bahrain and qualified for their first World Cup since 1982. A tournament of such stature usually prompts a predictable choke from their rugby-playing counterparts who spend the four years in between looking all conquering only to fall dismally at the penultimate hurdle.

But seeing as no-one in their right mind would fancy the Kiwis to get out of their group, perhaps coach Ricki Herbert will be able to remind his jobbing players that they are under only a fraction of the pressure their egg-chasing colleagues face, and they'll start playing like Brazil.

Let's give particular praise to skipper Ryan Nelsen, for throwing off the shackles of Big Sam's teaching and inspiring a side that has nothing but average footballers to a World Cup. I look forward to them knocking England out of the tournament on penalties in the second round.

Ray slays the Trapp

God bless the Oirish. Surely, there's no more intimidating place to go for a World Cup play-off than a Croke Park full of Guinness. But, whatever his faults, the joke man of French football managed to procure a 1-0 win and a real chance to qualify for the big cheese itself, where his spectacular and special brand of foolishness can get the global audience it deserves.

Even though France sneaked a narrow win, via a rather cruel deflection, Raymond Domenech still found himself answering questions about bust-ups before and after the game, as the press got a large, garlicky whiff, of an argument between him and Thierry Henry in the build up to the game. Big Ray, of course, poo pooed the rumours.

You have to salute the nuts of the man, though. In the build-up to the game he and his players took in a game of tennis in Paris and when the cameras panned on Ray the entire crowd jeered him like they would a pantomime villain. Ray just smiled, waved and bought himself another lifeline to take to Paris on Wednesday, when surely even he can't stuff it up.