Australia 3, Japan 1
I never knew Hemingway's in Yorkville was an Aussie bar. But sure enough the owner has an accent. For once I arrive on time for the 9am start (credit 7:30am Pilates for getting me out of bed). First thing I notice about this matchup: the Australian players have some pretty ugly yellow jerseys.
At the bar I sit and order an Aussie croissant, an Aussie fruit cup, then down an Aussie coffee (just kidding - none of these things are Australian). Helen, the newly minted bartender, is serving her first ever shift in Canada. She's from Sydney or Melbourne or Perth, one of those round-the-world-live-in-Toronto-for six-months-then-Vancouver-for-six kind o' Sheilas. And much like a beleaguered Australian goalie, Helen has to fend off offensive forays from the Japan fan beside me, a drunken Japanese-Canadian (drunk at 9am, yes) who once lived in Australia himself and who since it's Japan v. Australia considers himself The Most Interesting Man In The Bar.
Anyway, the game: the Japanese team fell victim to heat stroke under the afternoon sun, because after scoring first and defending well for 80 minutes, their discipline dissolves completely, and Australia hammers hard with three explosive goals in the final 10 minutes. A comeback in stunning fashion. Helen has the last laugh over Tokyo-Jack Daniels, and the Socceroos carry the morning, vile jerseys and all.
Czech Republic 3, USA 0
I drive out to Etobicoke, the undervisited Kiping-Lakeshore area, for Czech Republic v. USA. There's a whole other Toronto tucked away past Mimico, past Alderwood into 'New Toronto', an area long populated by Eastern-European immigrants. Downtowners can discover this waterfront area by taking the 501 Queen Streetcar right to the end of the line.
Google research tell me the Woodhouse Pub is Czech soccer headquarters. But when I get there it's actually closed! The internet has lied to me again; now the game's almost over, and I don't even get to sample any pork + dumplings.
Miffed about my poor intelligence, I head to Di + Gabby's, the nearest hole in the wall with tv screen. It's already 3-0 for the Czechs. There's three other Czech fans, nonagenarian-alcoholic types, borderline comatose. Nothing to do but drink at this time of day, in this part of the city. I think about ordering a massive Slovakia-sized can of beer, but then I think about the drive home, and order a Coke instead. I'm a party animal.
Forza Italia! (2-0 over Ghana)
"I bet a lot of people called in sick today, with a case of Ghanarrhea." ~bad pun by bad football punster, made over the telephone
As I may have indicated, I'm Italian in origin (cupcake in inclination). I cheer for Italy when the opportunity arises (once every four years). In '94 and '98 I lived and died with Roberto Baggio's exploits and embarrassments, when he had short hair, when he had long hair, when he missed that goddamn penalty kick against Brazil. What's more, I actually live in the vicinity of Little Italy. What's super-more - I actually got Paolo Rossi's autograph back in January of this year.
Does that make me a knowledgeable, hardcore fan of gli Azzurri?
Not in the least.
I can name the following Italian players off the top of my head: Totti, Del Piero, Nesta, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Buffon, Toni ... that's about it.
I am joined by my friend the lovely Tricia who also boasts il sangue italiano and more importantly, had the day off to watch ragazzi nostri take on the newbie Ghanaians (and I'll keep using parole italiane - Italian words - until it gets really annoying). Little Italy runs along College from Shaw to Euclid; all the Italian-themed bars are packed with Italian-themed fans (I say 'themed' b/c as we all know the real Italian bars are up in North York and the 905) . Tricia and I take refuge in Southside Louie's, opposite Bar Italia and the Big Dip (with its mammoth patio and dozens of outdoor flat-screens, the Diplomatico crowd gathered round prohibits civilized viewing) - but if anybody asks I was at Gatto Nero from start to finish.
Southside offers no Peroni, Moretti or Mennabrea so I drink Moosehead instead and order deep-fried onion rings. Somewhere Garibaldi is spinning violently in his grave. Anyhow we watch the game: Ghana hustles, but talented Italy is too much. Iaquinta scores on a Ghana giveaway to make it 2-0 ("he's Ghana pay for that") and set off the tricolour celebration.
Garibaldi rejoices. As do the fans along College, with their horns honking and drapeau bravado. It's no Portuguese beer-bottle brawl - but it's good loud fun. I can only imagine what things were like on the St. Clair Corso or at Nino D'Aversa's at Keele and Finch. Bravo!