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Ticket to what you need?

June 25, 2010

It’s not exactly heart against head, because as an England follower I can be pretty lukewarm. Besides, the gymnastics going on in my brain during the long drive from Port Elizabeth were, I’ll readily admit, the kind of thing I love when travelling – there’s always a perverse fun in making things a little more difficult for yourself in pursuit of a previously unreckoned-for delight. Having access to tickets for both Argentina v Mexico (the original plan) and England v Germany leads to a pleasurable torment, and the usual battle of adventure vs common sense.

It is, I’m instantly told by friends at home, a no-brainer. It’s the first time England have faced Germany in a knock-out since 1990. It’s also pretty impossible to call (although a neutral would want Schweinsteiger to be fit for the Germans). With the Germany a genuinely attractive attacking force nowadays and England having departed slightly from the dour on Wednesday, it could also be a pretty good game – if not exactly epochal.

If I buckled, I’d be going for the occasion more than the match – when compared with the other option anyway. England supporters were, in Port Elizabeth, almost nice to be around (except for the pulsating vein of inexplicable anger stood to my left early on, but we gloss over that), perhaps helped by the wonderful setting, the beer on the lawns outside the stadium, the freedom of movement inside that meant yours truly spent the second half of the Slovenia game wandering around pretty much the entire circumference and standing where he pleased. More of the same in Bloemfontein would be pretty fun. It would also be the chance to take in another stadium and city at reasonable leisure. My friends Tom and Joe Pickover are planning a road trip via a stopover at a farm near Beaufort West. What’s not to like?

The dull, practical bit is that I’m already booked on a Premier Classe train to Johannesburg – a wonderful experience in itself, one that’ll occupy my time from 9am Saturday until 11am Sunday and has certainly occupied plenty of my wallet. That’s not cancellable at this late stage, but it does stop at Kimberley, just 150km from Bloemfontein, at 3am Sunday. I’m no stranger to hanging around sketchy train stations at inconvenient times (there is probably a witty retort here), but the appetite to do so is diminished by the fact that Sunday trains are non-existent and the same seems to go for bus services between the cities. Could rock up and pay a taxi driver, but….

…..but I’ve realised the whole thing isn’t quite enough to make me attempt contortions, however exhilarating. The football fan in me wants to see as many different teams, and styles, in the flesh as possible. England have had their go, and I’ll see them again in the final if they’ve been good enough (they’ll have to have been very good indeed). Argentina and Mexico has the potential to provide one of the most attacking, technically and tactically excellent spectacles of the tournament this time around; perhaps in contrast to one or two of the games I suspect are going to arise a little later on in my World Cup fixture list. One of these two fascinating teams I won’t see again after Sunday, and I’m not sure I like the idea of not seeing that team at all.

So there, I’ve said it – 10am on Friday, and I’m going to stick with Argentina v Mexico ahead of England v Germany*. The making-life-easier decision, and the footballistically sound one too. Whichever option I don’t take will prove to have been the best one in my critical little mind, I am sure. But above all, what a nice problem to have.

(*I reserve the right to a spectacular last-minute U-turn, naturally, provided I can get to Ellis Park on Monday in time for Brazil vs AN Other)

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