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Euro 2004: Round 4: Getting to that semi-stage

ND and PD reopen the X-Files
[Launch with traditional X-Files music: Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo... (stops abruptly as PD smacks ND on head with boot). The setting is a dark room, littered with files. There is no one present, except for Mulder, who is looking through a file at his desk, lit by a table lamp. Scully enters and ambles over ("Action!" screams ND before being laid low by an equally low blow from PD).]
Scully: Working late, as usual? What have you got there?
Mulder: A report just came in from Europe...
Scully [raises an eyebrow]: Not another abominable snowman in the Urals?
Mulder: No. This is much more...intriguing, I would say. It is from Portugal.
Scully [with her usual know-it-all toss of the head]: Western Europe, warm climate, powerful naval tradition, colonised parts of India in the last century... right! What does it say?
Mulder: It has something to do with a European soccer competition being held there. There have been reports of some paranormal phenomenon reported there.
Scully [with a sigh]: Mulder, I want to believe, but... there is no scientific evidence to disprove that soccer...
Mulder [stands up to tower over Scully and look down at her with his trademark half-smirk, half-smile]: It is something to do with a man called [he checks his papers] David Beckham...
Scully [irritably]: Not another one! Listen, Mulder, lots of men wear women's underwear, that does not make it a paranormal event. Anyway, we have already checked him out -- he cannot be an alien -- we have documentary evidence that his intelligence is subhuman anyway...
Mulder [interrupts]: It is not that type of information. Evidently, strange things have been happening to him in Portugal. Especially when he takes penalties.
Scully: Penalties? He is in jail -- perhaps he has found his place...
Mulder: No, it is a soccer term. [Goes back to his terminal, accesses the Web, explains to Scully as he reads the screen] Evidently, the penalty is a soccer ritual in which a player is allowed to kick the ball at the goal from a short distance. Only the goalkeeper can defend the goal and he has to do so without moving forward from the line that joins the two goal posts.
Scully [raises eyebrow again]: Fascinating stuff. Can't they just pick up the ball and carry it over the goal line?
Mulder [testily]: Why do you think? The British invented the game. Anyway, in most cases, a penalty results in a goal.
Scully [looking at her watch]: Are you going to get to the point, Mulder? Otherwise the corpse I have to perform an autopsy on will rot.
Mulder [ignoring comment; pushing thoughts of throwing up firmly to back of his mind]: Scully, Beckham has not been able to score from penalties. [Dramatic music] He has missed his last three. [Abrupt silence]
Scully [bringing the dramatic build-up down with a crash]: Could it just be a loss of form? Bad luck?
Mulder [shaking his head]: Three times, Scully, three times. He has missed three times consecutively.
Scully: There is something you are not telling me, Mulder.
Mulder [with the smirk of a man about to make a spectacular revelation]: Well, it seems that whenever he runs in to take a penalty, some unexplained topographical manifestations occur. The area either gets slippery, or the ground shifts as he is about to kick the ball, or the area becomes uneven. What is amazing is that this does not seem to affect other people taking penalties from the same spot.
Scully: That seems...illogical. What affects one player should affect others.
Mulder: That's my point, Scully. In a recent match between England and Portugal, a total of fourteen penalties were taken. Only two were missed and one was saved. But of the two misses, only one occurred because of irregular ground behaviour. Guess who took that kick?
Scully [trying desperately not to believe]: Beckham?
Mulder: Spot on. He says that the ball was actually moving as he ran in to kick it. [Picks up a paper] Evidently there is footage showing this -- some Dutch players claim to have noticed it as well! And, Scully?
Scully: Yes?
Mulder: Two of the three penalties that he has missed took place after he had a crucifix tattooed on the back of his neck!
Scully [raises eyebrow for considerably longer period and finally looks impressed]: Is it what I think it means?
Mulder: Yes, the X-Files will have to be reopened!
Scully: And that means...
Mulder [punching air]: A whole new season, with all of Beckham's sponsors wanting an advertising slot.
Scully [a smile lighting up her face]: As they say in some circles, rock on! Let's go to Portugal and rake in the moolah.
[Mulder and Scully do a quick jig before recovering their poise and going out of the room to the same hoo-hoo music that came at the beginning!
ND and PD open their wallets and wait for producers to throng their doorstep asking for the rights to the story...]

Final Whistle: Scores and scorers
Portugal 2 (Postiga, Costa) - England 2 (Owen, Lampard)
(Portugal won 6-5 on penalties)
Greece 1 (Charisteas) France 0
Netherlands 0 - Sweden 0
(Netherlands won 5-4 on penalties)
Czech Republic 3 (Koller, Barros 2) - Denmark 0

Sent off: None
Not sent off: None (really getting to be a gentleman's game, this!)

Offside: Trivia
The Czech Republic's 3-0 win over Denmark contained a number of firsts - it was the first time a team had won four consecutive matches at Euro 2004, it was the first time the Czechs had kept a clean sheet and quite amazingly, it was the first time in the tournament that the Czechs had scored before their opponents had! Clearly, this is one record-breaking team.

Net Crackers: Best of the Web
Martin Amis comes down heavily on the English team, saying that any success at Euro 2004 would have only prolonged an illusion.,14584,1248867,00.html

The BBC's Phil McNulty feels that Scolari has replaced Luis Figo as Portugal's football icon. We will find out how long that lasts after tonight's match but until then, read the article at

Richard Williams hails Stephen Gerrard's loyalty to his club (yup, the red one that ND supports).,4284,1250493,00.html

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