Never mind the World Cup, there's only one match that I've been waiting for all week... Nagoya Grand Palace versus ETU!
With the previous episode bringing us right up to the kick-off, the game starts almost right from the off this time around, and immediately we see the kind of danger that Nagoya's trio of Brazilians can muster, thwarted only by an offside call that the Arsenal back four of old would be proud of.
Indeed, this entire episode sees ETU on the defensive, with Sugi marking one of the three Brazilians, Pepe, leaving Nagoya's manager convinced that ETU have entirely forgotten that they have attacking players other than those foreigners on the pitch. Of course, this isn't the case at all - Tatsumi has spent plenty of time watching videos of previous games between these clubs, and thus has explicitly switched the positions of his two centre-backs so that Kuroda can mark Itagaki, a player who has never managed to best Kuro in a one-on-one match-up according to Tatsumi's research.
So this cat and mouse game between Nagoya Grand Palace's attack and ETU's defence continues throughout the episode... but surely simply tight defending isn't going to win our team the game? Certainly, there's little sign of any offensive intent from the away side to speak of, and with what could be a problematic injury on the cards as this episode closes (yes, that's right, it's an entire episode and we haven't even reached half-time in the match yet) all is still far from rosy in the garden of Tatsumi and his charges.
While this wasn't quite the explosive match and turn-around in East Tokyo United's fortunes that I was hoping for from this episode, it does offer the kind of fascinating circumstances that makes football what it is - A lot of people can't understand how a dedicated football fan can walk away from a 0-0 draw and call it a good game, but these kind of individual battles and tactical match-ups can be just as interesting to watch as a high-scoring game. Giant Killing actually provides a pretty good demonstration of it here, while also offering some amusing (and borderline racist at times) insight into the kind of banter that occurs on-pitch between opponents. No doubt things are even less civil in the real game, but you can just imagine the kind of snide comments and remarks that go on between players in your average league or cup game.
Anyhow, I digress - As episodes go, this was just like one of those intriguing 0-0 draws of which I was just speaking. It's relatively thin on action, but has enough character and personality to make up for that.