- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 15, 2002

Is it sleep deprivation or am I hallucinating? Are pre-tournament favorites France and Argentina really out of the World Cup? Was that Portugal and World Player of the Year Luis Figo catching an early plane home?
Could somebody please pinch me? I picked France, the current champion, to win the whole thing. Argentina was my second choice.
"If you look around this World Cup and you had to try and predict these games, you wouldn't be making a very good living, " said U.S. coach Bruce Arena.
He's right. I'm embarrassed to look at my picks.
Nobody, and I mean nobody, predicted France would fail to get out of the opening round. The French didn't even score a goal, which is amazing considering the team has this season's top goal scorers from leagues in England, Italy and France on its roster. That's the World Cup for you. It's a funny game.
Amazingly, the U.S. team is through to the last 16, albeit thanks to the South Koreans. That should keep the soccer bashers who come out of their caves every four years sitting on their hands for a little while longer.
So far it's been a wonderful tournament but a burden to follow live on U.S. television.
Rising every morning at 2:30 a.m. for the last two weeks to watch the games beamed in from Asia has resulted in a Herculean struggle between mind and body. But so far soccer has triumphed over sleep.
I've been camped out on the couch in front of the TV set since May30, and there are two more weeks to go. I miss my bed, but it's essential that I be near the remote control. A match between Belgium and Tunisia might not get many people's juices flowing in this country, but like millions around the world, I have to watch. Who knows, I might be driving in a taxi one day with someone from Tunisia.
Nearly every videotape in my house, including some of my favorite movies, has been sacrificed as I studiously tape every game. I even wrestled Disney's "Dumbo" from my 8-year-old, pleading with him that he was too old for it now and that I would take him to see the new "Star Wars" movie sometime in July.
I'll probably never watch the tapes, but I feel the need to keep a record of everything. The tapes look so good on the shelf. If nothing else, the World Cup has been a geography lesson: We all know where Senegal and Slovenia are on the map now.
The lack of sleep must be getting to me. On Monday, I found myself driving toward Frederick, Md. That's strange because I work in the District. When I saw fields full of cows, I knew I had a problem.
My work productivity is way low. The lawn mower is disappearing into a sea of green. I'm even forgetting the names of my children.
My wife allowed me to watch the games in the dead of night on the condition that I scream into a pillow when a goal is scored so as not to wake the neighbors.
It's Sweden against Senegal tomorrow at 2:30 a.m. My alarm clock's set, and I can't wait.
World Cup notes Fifaworldcup.com has shattered records since kicking off May 31. From then through June7, the site registered more than 464million page views, making it the most successful sports-event Web site ever.
On June 7, it registered 106,736,781 page views, a single-day record. Previously, the record for a sports site was 350million by NBCOlympics.com and Olympics.com (combined) during the Salt Lake Olympic Games. …
You have to feel sorry for Argentina's Claudio Caniggia. The veteran forward failed to see a minute of playing time but still got a red card in the game between Argentina and Sweden, presumably for a comment he made from the bench. …
Brian Hall, the first American-born official to referee at a World Cup, did a great job officiating the England-Nigeria match and didn't hand out one card. Compare that to Spaniard Antonio Lopez Nieto, who handed out a record-setting 16 yellow cards and ejected two players in the Germany-Cameroon game.
Where's Ben? This should have been Ben Olsen's World Cup. If the D.C. United midfielder had not injured his ankle while playing in England for Nottingham Forest last year, you can bet he would have been on the American team in South Korea.
This week Olsen had surgery on his ankle for the fourth time. But he's not down. "I've got my foot up," said Olsen. "Just whooping up, rooting [the U.S.] through to the second round."
Get well soon, Ben.


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