The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Positives beat the pompous
- Ignore the intellectuals, this has been an entertaining Cup

Seeing precisely how the World Cup has unrolled in front of us all is not a pleasant sight, apparently, for those with a higher, eclectic and intellectual perspective on our modern world.

A gentleman named Erich Fischer took out a chunk of advertising space in a German national newspaper to decry, on behalf of the Foundation for Culture and Civilisation, the fixtures structure of the finals.

Seeding teams in their groups and then watching the best ' mostly ' come out on top is, apparently, uncivilised. That is, according to Dr Fischer.

Personally, I think he is in a minority. A very tiny minority.

Try arguing imbalance to the fans who will pack Germany’s finest stadia to capacity yet again for the second round ties, then the quarter-finals, the semi-finals, even probably the third-place match and certainly the final in Berlin in a fortnight’s time.

Or, rather, do not waste your time trying.

This has been one of the most entertaining World Cups in years and that has been created not by any formal structure but by ambitious and talented players and coaches of not only the winners but the losers -- in particular, outstandingly positive losers such as the stars of Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Ivory Coast and Angola.

Many of their players and officials are already home. But, for an exclusive minority of the original 32 finalists, the party thunders on a little longer. And the beauty of structure now is that this World Cup can provide us with the best football and the most deserving of winners.

That is nothing for which tournament directors such as Fifa president Sepp Blatter and German organising leader Franz Beckenbauer need apologise. This is, after all, the shop window of the game.

England, Italy and Brazil ' against second round new boys in Ecuador, Australia and Ghana --- should all impose their ambition, will and experience. Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Cafu and their champion teammates are at home in this rarefied atmosphere; they have been here before. The likes of David Beckham and Francesco Totti will probably never have another chance.

It is now or never and structure favours them edging closer to glory.

But between Portugal and Holland ' with its fascinating battle of minds between 2002 winner Luiz Felipe Scolari and managerial debutant Marco Van Basten ' the decision may rest on a lucky bounce, an unsighted referee or even (whisper it!) a penalty shootout.

Same for France and Spain in a repeat of their Euro quarter-final in 2000 when a late penalty miss by Raul did indeed spin the dice in favour of Les Bleus. But that was a far better French team than the one who stuttered in the group here; it was also a far less confident Spain than the one we have enjoyed watching over the past fortnight.

If Dr Fischer really wants to see unfashionable outsiders making their mark at the highest level then there is a place for him --- in Cologne on Monday. That is where Ukraine (finals newcomers) take on Switzerland (first time this far in 52 years).

All depends, of course, on Dr Fischer finding a spare ticket. Frankly, I doubt his chances. The SRO (standing room only) signs are up in Germany. And that says far more than any piece of intellectual pomposity about the dramatic success of this 2006 World Cup.

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