I sleep in and only catch the last five minutes of England v. Paraguay. The Fox & Fiddle (a chain pub, meh) on Bloor is quiet, and I sneak out without ordering from the unappealing brunch menu. Beckie's Boys take it 1-0, from all accounts an uninspiring match. Me shirking my duties by showing up late but hey it's England - not too many cultural surprises - and like I said it was early. I'll catch some English action later at the Duke of Gloucester in Yorkville - that's soccer HQ for the Brits - but only if it's past the group of 16.
Things get crazy as I head up Dufferin in my car to Eglinton West aka the 'International Market.' Roti King has a great room, and the fans are wired for Trinidad & Tobago versus the mighty Swedes. The RK is jammed with Islanders and the odd bandwagonner like me: reporters scribble on pads while a ditzy blonde newswoman who looks absurdly out of place polls TNTers for emotion. It's Trinidad's first ever appearance at the big show, and as the smallest nation in Cup history the Soca Warriors are sentimental favourites.
The game is riveting. The crowd lives and dies with each Swedish rush and each Trini save. Everybody is on their mobile to get friends to come down to the party of the year there at RK. I am so riveted I don't move from my spot to order beer, roti, or even take a leak. Against the odds, with their top goalie injured, down 10 men to 11 (after Dwight Yorke is tossed early in the second half - followed by accusations of a 'Scandinavian conspiracy' in the bar), backup keeper Hislop comes out of nowhere to work miracles; he throws up the wall. Score is locked at 0-0. Trinidad ties (defeats) Sweden and gains the respect of the world.
Next time I order the roti.
I unrivet myself and head to Sky Ranch, landmark Argentine restaurant on Dufferin at Roselawn (still in the 'International Market'). The fried calamari is superb, the Patagonians go down easy, the screens wide and the waitress speaks no English: a perfect spot to think and watch a game. The Argentine fans there are numerous; I am asked to move from my table (as a lone patron). Feeling a bit squeezed I stay only for the first half, especially as Argentina pounces on Cote D'Ivoire 2-0, and the match becomes predictable. After Trini it's a letdown anyway (a title for a song?) . I can't wait for Thursday against England.