JOHANNESBURG - The Danish translation for the word goat is “ged.”
And for several hours in Copenhagen Monday afternoon, there was no bigger “ged” on the face of the planet than Denmark’s Simon Poulsen.
Early in the second half of a scoreless game between the Danes and the high-octane Dutch in front of an orange-clad crowd at Soccer City, a cross by Holland’s Robin Van Persie was headed by Poulsen, who was trying to clear the ball.
He cleared it, all right.
Into his own net.
“The ball practically hit me in my face,” Poulsen said. “I remember thinking ‘This can’t be happening.’”
It happened all right.
And, at that moment in time, his face buried in his hands, Poulsen was a world-class “ged.”
It would be the turning point of the game, one which the Netherlands would go on to win 2-0, Dirk Kuyt providing the insurance marker late in the game.
Several hours later, Poulsen would be taken off the hook. Somewhat., anyway. There was, in fact, a new “ged” in town in the form of Denmark’s Daniel Agger.
After reviewing the play, FIFA decided several hours after the final whistle that Poulsen’s header had glanced off Agger’s back before entering the net.
Imagine that. Two “geds” on the same play.
The way this World Cup has played out, we shouldn’t be surprised.
Through the first four days of South Africa 2010, the on-field product has been, to be perfectly blunt, mediocre at best. Goals, for the most part, have been lacking, as has excitement.
The England-U.S 1-1 draw definitely was entertaining, while Germany’s 4-0 crushing of Australia featured the type of offence so painfully lacking thus far. And yes, the electrifying Lionel Messi came as advertised in Argentina’s 1-0 triumph over Nigeria.
There have been other riveting moments, too. But far too few of them.
Instead, the dominant theme running through this tournament has been the number of fumbles, stumbles and bumbles turned in by players who should be much better.
Indeed, there has been no shortage of Steve Smith-Tommy Salo-Scott Norwood-Bill Buckner moments, to be sure.
Even in Monday night’s Italy-Paraguay match, Paraguay goalie Justo Villar completely whiffed on Simon Pepe’s second-half corner, allowing a wide-eyed Daniele De Rossi to deposit the ball into the empty net to give Italy a 1-1 tie.
As goaltending flubs go, it paled in comparison to that of England’s Robert Green, whose complete butchery of an easy shot against the Americans earned him the label “Hand of Clod” from the unforgiving Fleet Street fishwraps.
It also wasn’t as bad as the brain cramp suffered by Algeria goalkeeper Fawzi Chaouchi just 24 hours later. A Robert Koren 20-yard shot with 11 minutes remaining brushed off Chaouchi’s arm and inside the right post, the deciding moment – a “ged” moment at that – in a 1-0 win for Slovenia.
There will be all kinds of explanations for the sloppy play, most of them hollow at best.
The players, for instance, are distracted by the grinding drones of all the vuvuzelas in the stadiums.
And let’s not forget the balls, those cursed Jabulani balls, that weave and wobble en route to the various goaltenders.
That’s the trouble.
Too much talk about plastic horns and imperfect orbs and smelly goaltending and humiliating own goals.
And not enough talk about the play on the field.
Look, it’s still early.
As of Monday, powerhouse teams like Brazil and Spain, two sides many prognosticators picked to go to the final, had yet to play their respective openers in South Africa, leaving the door open for a more promising end to a rather moribund first set of games.
But at this point, the “geds” have ruled. And that’s definitely not a good thing.