Football matches can often hinge on a moment. On Saturday, had Leon Osman scored to put Everton 2 up on the stroke of half time, its hard to imagine the game ending in anything other than an away win. In his post match interview Tony Pulis correctly stated that Osman’s miss was the turning point. Having taken the lead out of the blue with Ryan Shawcross’ own goal, a second at that stage would have been difficult for Stoke to come back from. Like the opening goal, our equaliser was rather fortunate. It was a good ball forward by Shawcross and decent header by Kenwyne Jones but you really don’t expect a goalkeeper to be caught wrongfooted as Tim Howard was. Despite that, it’d be inaccurate to suggest we weren’t worthy of a point. As a spectacle it lacked style but both sides displayed great endeavour and a big appetite for the game. Overall it was an evenly contested game between two competitive teams. Most of the post match publicity has understandably focussed on Fellaini’s headbutt on Ryan Shawcross. To his credit David Moyes said his player deserved a ban. Fellaini’s violent attack was reckless on several levels. Two combative teams playing an evenly matched contest yet he chose to jeopardise his teams chances with his mindless assault… Fellaini knows he’s a very important player for the team. The other baffling aspect is that it wasn’t just an instinctive response. Fellaini knew exactly what he was doing. Before the butt he actually sneaked a quick look at the ref to make sure it wouldn’t be seen. Did he really think he could get away with it? Surely he’s fully aware that every moment of every match is filmed. Everton’s impressive first half of the season has seen them challenging for a top four place… they could also be well placed for an FA Cup run. As Saturday’s game hinged on Osman’s miss, Everton’s season could hinge on Fellaini’s idiocy, and his manager deserves better.
Fans of Zenit St Petersburg have asked their club not to buy any black or gay players. The plea was carried out by way of a letter which contains one of the most self contradictory statements on record… “We’re not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition,”. Their misguided request is steeped in bigotry. The clumsy attempt to justify the prejudice serves only to highlight how flawed their entire philosophy actually is. One of the reasons our game is still blighted by this venomous hate is the refusal of ruling bodies to take strong decisive action. Despite playing the usual vacuous superficial lip service, FIFA decided back in 2010 that the votes to decide the 2018 World Cup hosts must not be influenced in any way by the subject of racism. So what was the point of that campaign they have been running? Wouldn’t the threat of being cast aside in the World Cup bid have been be a just action and a deterrent?
Brazil’s Sao Paulo were awarded the Copa Sudamericana title on their home ground, after Argentinian opponents Tigre refused to return to the field for the second half. Trailing 2-0 Tigre stayed in the dressing room claiming to have been physically attacked and threatened with guns by security staff… the referee awarded the game to Sao Paolo. Surprisingly a major incident like this didn’t actually receive much media attention. The scale of the story is exacerbated further bearing in mind Brazil will be hosting the World Cup in 18 months. Had a similar brawl occurred in Europe it’s hard to believe the press would be so oblivious.
After eleven games of the A-League season Rado Vidosic has been replaced as head coach of Brisbane Roar by Mike Mulvey. Last time out there were encouraging signs when Roar drew 1-1 away at Melbourne victory. That may give views of Vidosic’s removal an unrealistic tint. The fact is that since taking over from Ange Postecoglou Brisbane have undoubtedly deteriorated and currently sit second from bottom on the table. It’s only a year since this group of players became the most formidable team in the history of Australian sport. The key lesson to be remembered is that Fabio Capello and Bob Paisley are exceptions that prove the rule…. promoting the assistant manager to the top job rarely brings success. The club have made a big point of emphasising that Vidosic was not actually ‘sacked’ as he has been moved into the technical director’s role. That may be the case but had Roar won the last six games would the same step had been taken?
The original inquest findings have been quashed and a new inquest is to take place into the deaths of the 96 who perished at Hillsborough. This is a huge step towards justice and testament to the work of the Hillsborough Family Support group. We can hope this news can bring the bereaved some comfort at what must be a deeply traumatic time of year for them.
The bridesmaids became brides. The kittens became cats. The ugly caterpillar metamorphosised into a majestic brightly coloured butterfly. The rebirth of an entire football culture was completed this morning in Johannesburg, after years of trying, finally, Spain won the World Cup. It’d be hard to claim they don’t deserve the honour of world champions. A 100% record in qualifying and only conceded two goals in the tournament. True, they started their World Cup Finals campaign with a disappointing defeat to Switzerland but they dusted themselves down and rectified things…. in exactly the same way that England didn’t! They are now the only team ever to win the World cup having lost their opening match.
Unlike many people I thought the final was a good game. It was an intense war of attrition. It was Johan Cruyff, the man who has significantly influenced both these nations football cultures, who once declared that football is a game you play with your brain. His analaysis has rarely been more appropriate. It could be argued that by sitting deep Holland had ruined the game as a spectacle BUT what are they supposed to do? Play open and let Spain walk all over them? Like when Stoke City play a big team, we aren’t there to entertain we are there to try and get something. And despite Spain’s dominance of possession Robben squandered the best chance of the match. That wasted opportunity will haunt Robben and his nation like Rensenbrink hitting the post in the dying seconds in Buenos Aires in 1978 did. It could be another thirty years until the Dutch get so close to the biggest prize of all. But Casillas was there to make the save, proving that in a successful team every player does their bit. And Casillas is a chronically underrated bit!!
Howard Webb got some criticism much of it unfair in my opinion. Had he played by the strict letter of the law yellow and red cards would have been handed out willy nilly and he’d have received as much criticism for ruining the game. He had to make allowances for the various factors and overall did OK. The real glaring error was failing to give Holland that corner. Van Marwijk was fuirious about Webb after the match. Well he would be wouldn’t he.
After all the speculation regarding Nelson Mandela’s appearance it was great to see him attend. The word was that he would be presenting the trophy. It must have been a downer for Casillas who must have been expecting Nelson Mandela’s stature and greatness receive the trophy off Blatter!! They must have wondered why they bothered!
So, thats the end of that then. In the end Dunga’s pragamtic approach didn’t work for Brazil. Domenech really is as rubbish as has been implied for several years. Maradona really does have little tactical knowledge… but it took a while for confirmation of that!! Lippi’s ageing squad couldn’t hack it, despite it only being seven games and amzingly, New Zealand were the only unbeaten side in the competition. BUT England were definitely absolutely rubbish.
Brazil 2014 next. 1235 days to go. Anyone coming?
As Holland were about to take that corner I was reminiscing about the many virtues of a good near post corner. Particularly I had in mind the Stoke City 82/83 Big Bren flick on phenomonon! Then hey presto the Dutch read my mind and bagged the winner. What happened to Brazil at half time? The first half consisted of Brazil keeping the ball well and Holland struggling with Brazil’s kaleidoscopic movement. In the second half Holland increased the pace of their game but it shouldn’t have been too much for the Brazilians to handle. The clumsy defending for the equaliser shook them and the collapse was well underway. Being undone by something as simple as a corner won’t please Dunga at all. Melo’s
daft stamp on Robben was the final significant act of Dunga’s reign. They never looked like remotely like equalising. The plethora of self inflicted wounds bringing the curtain down on their campaign. Two World cups in a row Brazil have been eliminated in the quarter finals which is a poor showing for a team of their immense stature. 2014 they will surely emerge victorious in their own back yard when they can finally lay the ghost of 1950 to rest.
I watched in the pub and Brazil might be the Man Utd of world football. For all the Brazil shirts on display there weren’t actually many Brazilian people. On the stroke of kick off I turned to wish a ‘Brazil fan’ good luck and he replied with a broad cockney accent. All the more bewildering that the cockney Brazilian seemed baffled to hear some of the Brazil shirt wearers actually talking Portugese!! The Albert Square soundalike looked on suspiciously. How can they support Brazil when they are Brazilian? It just ain’t right guvnor!
The real question about the Uruguay v Ghana game is the red card. No question the ref was 100% correct to send him off but why did he handle it when it would have been just as easy for him to head it??! It was going straight for his bonce. Gyan missing the penalty was one of the most pivotal moments of the tournament. In one fleeting moment the dream of an entire continent dissolved. Gyan will be haunted by that moment forever, although the point has to be made that to step up minutes later and score one in the shootout took admirable character. Agreu’s clinching penalty was the epitome of grace under pressure.
Clicking about on the interweb I just found this article. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup-2010/teams/england/7866942/World-Cup-2010-unlike-the-players-Englands-loyal-thirsty-army-really-will-be-missed.html
There were times when the notion that a host city would want England in town was unthinkable. The transformation is pleasing. Instead of places cowering at the prospect of an England visit the three lions are embraced. Instead of skinheads with NF tattoos there are family holidays from Carlisle. Of course there will be some English people who would prefer to see fear in the eyes of locals, but then again, some people still think the earth is flat. It’s just a pity the team let us down so pitifully.
Roy Keane has spoken and said the problem with England isn’t the manager at all it’s that the players. A fair point I agree with but the point has to be made that FabCap has made some big errors. There was that daft Capello index that would have made public his innermost thoughts on his players. A foolish inflammatory notion that was only ever going to divide the camp. In a rare moment of positive intelligent action The FA instructed him to scrap the silly idea. Another mistake was taking four forwards as usual. Surely, he could have taken note of his friend and compatriot Marcello Lippi’s decision to take six forwards in 2006. Instead of doing something different to create different attacking options it was same old same old. The most visible error was the whole approach to the players. It is widely alleged he used to the same unstinting sergeant major approach he uses at clubs and in normal England camps. This is usually his method but a tournament like this throws up a situation a rarely encountered by any manager of any profession. You can’t put the same rigid discipline programme in place for six weeks you usually have in place for five days. Grouped up together for weeks on end the players are bound to get bored and fractious with each other. Apparently, towards the end, FabCap wavered a bit in his dogmatic approach but to get to that point much damage had already been done. He says he wants to stay on as manager, but if there is discussions taking place in the dusty FA rooms his position could be more precarious than first thought. I hope he does stay, but these mistakes mustn’t be repeated if we qualify for Poland and Ukraine in 2012. But, the point has to be made, the majority of the 2010 bucks lies with the players.
Somehow the World Cup is bravely limping and stumbling on without England. And after the slow start it’s become a cracking competition. The six knockout games so far have had an average of over 3 goals a game with no penalty shootouts required. Brazil’s third against Chile was very special. They now face The Netherlands in what could prove to be an intense war of attrition. Argentina v Mexico saw the evil genius Maradona patrolling the touchline with his usual excitable unhinged demeanour. They were fortunate to get the offside goal but when Tevez scored the third he could be forgiven for wanting to tell a certain Shrekky scouser THAT’S how to write the future!
Portugal v Spain later. The first knockout match between two sides with genuine aspirations to win the trophy. Every side in a tournament like this will cause problems but they will both know that with the winner facing Paraguay or Japan there could be much harder ways to get to a World Cup semi final.
I watched our 2006 quarter final against Portugal in the pub. KO was 1am. It was well and truly a night of two halves. The first segment was the pre match part. Much ale was consumed and Vindaloo And Three Lions were sung and much frivolity abounded. The second part was from kick off onwards. Where earlier people had danced jigs, waved flags and scarves, and paraded their jolly demeanour to all and sundry, the mood changed completely. Joyous excitement was replaced by unreal calm and anxious scowls at our teams inability to impose themselves on the game. As extra time drifted towards it’s inevitable conclusion, which meant no immediate conclusion, Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows came into my mind. You can be sure that when he wrote his darkly brilliant anthem for bitter twisted betrayed lovers, World Cup quarter finals were the last thing on Len’s mind! But with another penalty shoot exit impending, the languid sinister mood of his tortured whispers accurately described the esssence of our slow sad shufffle across football’s bridge of sighs.
The shootout having reached it’s inevitable conclusion, the majority of the pub crowd quietly drifiting off into the night. My mate JD said exactly the precise words that were in my mind. “We are never going to win it in our lifetime” An accurate observation. Those moments were as sickening and horrible as any football moment I’ve ever had the misfortune to feel. Feeling as bitter as Len sounded, I drank three pints in about ten minutes. JD and I sat mumbling to ourselves and each other, bathing in the aftermath of the delicious nightmare. The scale of my misery wasn’t eased by the fact that, like now, I never expected to win the tournament. At that point a Frenchman came to talk to us who was, well, too French. He was so French we felt that he wasn’t French at all and was caricaturing a Frenchman for a laugh. He was good looking stylish and had all the mannerisms of the French stereotype. He was waiting for their game against Brazil and had come over to commiserate with us. A really top bloke but it was hard to talk with him because of our depression and the scale of the Frenchness was hard to get past. A quirky end to a horrible night (and early morning) of stomach churning inevitable loss.
SO to 2010. I am yet to go the pub for an England game in this competition. If we get knocked out could I feel as bad as I felt last time? OR if we get knocked out would it help if I was surrounded by other depressed souls? OR as this could be the last chance to get out and experience it should I just go? OR, we might win and….no, that’s a ridiculous prospect. What should I do? To drink or not to drink? That is the question.
“Football is a simple game complicated by idiots” Bill Shankly
So holders Italy rather fortuitously drew with Paraguay. Brazil who are, well, Brazil, only beat North Korea 2-1 with the late consolation being one of the more surprising World Cup moments with European Champions and highly fancied Spain beaten by Switzerland.
Bearing these results in mind, can we please put England’s draw with the USA in perspective?? Of course we’d have liked to start with a win, (who wouldn’t?) but the level of criticism it’s provoked is beyond reason. The fact is that in a competition like this every side you face will present problems, even North Korea!! Looking back plenty of teams have made slow starts and gone on to have a fantastic tournament, not least England in 1990. In 1982 Italy were dire in the group stage then came through the pack and proved themselves to be the best side there. It doesn’t mean everything is all right or that FabCap hasn’t made mistakes or have questions to answer. It does show that it’s more important to respond to a situation than to react to it. There’s still plenty of time to do just that. A defeat to Algeria would be the time for soul searching and navel contemplation. And if it isn’t a swashbuckling 8-0 victory so be it. It’s a marathon not a snickers. Just ask Spain….
Spain’s defeat wasn’t really the colossal shock it’s being made out to be. Until 2008 they were known for bottling at crucial times. Winning the Euro might have settled them down but could also have increased unwanted pressure. Whether they are strong enough to handle that pressure we’ll find out in the coming weeks. If the game against Switzerland is a pointer the answer would have to be that they aren’t. Hitzveld and his team did a remarkable job on their more illustrious opponents. For much of the first half they had to allow Spain to have the ball BUT only in areas they knew they couldn’t get hurt. They went back to the simple principle that they couldn’t out play them so they had to outnumber them. And in the centre of the park Spain rarely got the chance to flow. Great work by the Swiss. Discipline and strategy upsetting the flarier team isn’t always the popular outcome but alternatively Switzerland could have let them play with fluidity and got beaten 6-0. If you were Swiss what would you prefer?? And when someone claims to be a football purist it just tells me they don’t or haven’t experienced the game to the same emotional depth that I do. And YES I am arrogant enough to say that!!
Seventeen games gone and this World Cup is starting to ignite. Let’s hope the momentum continues.
Albert Camus once said “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.” I’m sure many of us have also learnt life lessons through our wonderful game. In 1978 I learnt about timezones. You see, despite 1978 being the year that Grange Hill started and Boney M told us about blarting near The Rivers of Babylon, it was also my first World Cup…..and that meant the challenges of a timezone……………….. Argentina’s matches kicked off at 11pm which created a problem. How could I persuade my parents to let me stay up and watch it? In the build up to the tournament I asked them repeatedly and the answer each time was an increasingly resounding “Don’t be so bloody stupid you aren’t staying up until after midnight to watch a game of football it isn’t even England playing etc”
Of course, the idea of being in bed while a World Cup match is happening on the telly was preposterous. So I decided to force myself to stay awake until 11, wait until they were both asleep in bed and sneak downstairs for the feast of football. I had to be quiet to avoid the mandatory within an inch of my life thrashing if caught.
In the second phase of the competition Argentina faced Brazil. Being fed stories of Pele, Garrincha and Di Stefano this one would be well worth sneaking downstairs for. The ticker tape blew and all seemed well with the world. It was surely going to display the glorious pride and fury of South American football. Well, the fury anyway!! Argentina v Brazil 1978 was a staggering show of violence! Within seconds of kick off Luque, whose brother had burned to death in a car crash a few days before, had violently hacked Batista and Brazil weren’t taking that lying down. They could hack a bit themselves and replied in kind. The game was little more than a vicious brawl. At half time, and getting increasingly cocky about not being caught downstairs, I decided that what would really bring samba skills to the fore was a lemon curd sandwich. For me not the players. I constructed the aforementioned snack and looked for a plate. For some reaason (the words ‘for some reason’ are often a prelude to a ridicuous incident) I decided to use a metal plate. As I took the clanking plate from the cupboard one of the cats, pleased with late night company, brushed against my leg startling me. I let out a loud cry of shock and knocked the metal plate off the worktop and onto the tiled floor. For a split second I watched in fascinated terror. The plate landed on the floor on it’s side and bounced several times CLANK CLANK CLANK, CLANKETY PHUQQING CLANK. I was terrified. It was obvious that mum and dad, or both, will have heard that din and would inevitably dash downstairs to see whats happening and administer a good belting. And, worst of all, I’d have to miss the second half of the violence. I cowered in the kitchen and waited. And waited. Five minutes passed and it was coming to the start of the second half. Miraculously, nobody heard. I continued watching the violence uninterrupted and enjoyed the lemon curd sandwich.
That the clanking went unheard, and I remained alive, can only be described as a miracle. It was the miracle of the World Cup. Once every four years there is a magical month full of wondrous mystery. SO, if you find yourself metamorphosising into a giraffe in the next month don’t be alarmed….it’s just another World Cup miracle!! But whatever miracles happen we’ll still go out on a penno shootout.