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The 2010 World Cup’s impact on Team USA

July 6th, 2010 No comments

The 2010 World Cup is now in the books for the United States. What will the history books write about it? Disallowed goals? The England Equalizer? Winning the group? The performance of Landon Donovan on the world stage? I think the legacy of this World Cup will be the emergence of “soccer” as a major sport in the United States. That’s right I think the game has finally turned the corner and will move into the top three here in America. I could not believe the people that were interested here in the States during the World Cup. Old, young, middle aged people were tuning in like never before to take in the international spectacle that is the World Cup. Offices would change the channel from CNN to ESPN to take in the games. Here in the middle of the day US televisions were tuned in at the highest rate ever to the beautiful game, numbers never seen before.

What next now for the game here in the US? Well a push for the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 is the logical progression. World Cup 94 remains the best attended and run World Cup in history and the next one here in the US will be bigger and better. But will FIFA bite? Will the remorse of horrible referees disallowing legitimate goals help our chances? Of course not, but money talks for FIFA and if we can get them to make an objective decision based on revenue and profits than we should be leading the pack for hosting the biggest sporting event in the world.

Even more important than hosting the tournament in the future is the growth of the domestic league: Major League Soccer. With an ESPN contract and steady expansion into solid soccer markets it continues to grow responsibly. Reportedly attendance has been up over 15% since the World Cup. The standard of play is considered at the Coca Cola Championship level which I think is great, and should put it in the top 15 leagues in the world. With the Youth Soccer boom showing no signs of slowing down you can’t help but consider soccer to be on the verge of a boom here in the US. Long may it continue.

Another thing I would like to talk about is how much the national team has progressed. No one can say we had the most talented bunch at this World Cup but I will go out on a limb and say we were one of the 16 best teams at the tournament. If we could just finish we would probably still be playing. The amount of chances we wasted bordered on criminal and you had to feel for Landon Donovan seeing all of his great service being wasted. The main culprit was Jozy Altidore, but that being said I do not want to batter the lad too much. He did a lot of things well at the tournament, first and foremost relying on his strength and size to become a real handful for most defenders. Add his pace and we could see the development of a new type of target man in the game whou could revolutionize the 4-5-1. Crucial this young player makes the right move before next season and gets into an English team with a coach who can mentor and develop him. I vote for Tony Pulis’ Stoke City. A guy can only hope!

MysticalDescent’s views on England vs Germany

June 28th, 2010 No comments

James – 6 – Did as well as he could given the defence that was stuck in front of him.

Johnson – 4 – Does this guy ever actually bother defending?

Terry – 3 – Exposed, once again, as a national joke.

Upson – 4 – Credit for the goal, but the man is a Championship defender at best. “Go on Matty, pretend it’s just Ricardo Fuller…”

Cole – 5 – I kind of sympathise with him because he was left completely exposed by his left winger, but this was pretty poor all the same.

Milner – 5 – Put in the only decent cross of the day, but contributed very little otherwise.

Lampard – 4 – Just as woeful as he’s been throughout the tournament.

Barry – 4 – One paced and incapable of moving the ball forwards.

Gerrard – 3 – No positional sense, no discipline and no guts, but an almighty ego.

Defoe – 4 – Hit the bar while standing offside. Other than that, he made no contribution whatsoever.

Rooney – 4 – Yet again, almost every time he touched the ball it went to a German.

J. Cole – 5 – Looked no better than anybody else when he came on.

Heskey – 5 – Did absolutely nothing.

Wright-Phillips – 5 – Came on because Johnson had hurt himself. Capello should have left him on the pitch instead.

How embarrassing it was to listen to the BBC’s pre-match broadcast, where we were told by their panel of ‘experts’ that England had a much stronger team man for man and that you wouldn’t swap any English players for any German players. Straight away, I knew that that statement was nonsense, and I suspect that plenty of other people knew that as well. Off the top of my head I can honestly say that I would have quite happily swapped Mertesacker for Upson, Schweinsteiger for Barry, Ozil for Lampard, Klose for Defoe, Lahm for Johnson and Friedrich for Terry. That’s just off the top of my head. But, of course, this is England’s ‘golden generation’, a collection of, ahem, the world’s greatest players who are better than everyone else and anything less than winning the World Cup is underachievement. This ridiculous level of media hype, that certain England players appear to have started to believe, is crippling the England team. As Phillip Lahm said after the game, ‘maybe they underestimated us because our players are not as famous as the English players’. Germany showed us how to play and win football matches at this level: possession is nothing; you just need to have a solid defence and a team with no stars but one creative spark. Whenever you get the ball, you move it forward as quickly and accurately as possible with the object of creating chances. Everybody works hard and does their job for the team. That is why the Germany is a successful footballing nation, while the latest adventures of the ‘golden generation’ have resulted in a second round humiliation.

Lampard and Schweinsteiger

Lampard for Schweinsteiger: two that I'd have loved to have swapped before the game.

I can’t go much further without putting the ‘golden generation’ myth to bed. You could look in almost every position in this current England team and replace the incumbent player with an England player from the last 20 years. In fact, let’s just look at the four year period in between Euro ’96 and the 2002 World Cup, the last tournament before the ‘golden generation’. At this World Cup England have been able to choose Rooney alongside Defoe, Heskey or Crouch up front. Even in the botched Euro 2000 campaign, England had two very good strikers in Shearer and Owen, with the likes of Phillips and Cole in reserve. That’s four strikers who are better than any of Rooney’s potential partners, without even considering Sheringham at Euro 96. If you go back to the World Cup in 1998, you could have Michael Owen in the best form of his career before the injuries took their toll, so from the last 14 years, I’d have Owen and Shearer up front. In goal, Seaman is a better goal keeper than Green or James, while at centre-back Tony Adams was a much, much better player than John Terry currently is and anybody out of Sol Campbell, Gareth Southgate, Martin Keown and Rio Ferdinand would be better than Upson. Gary Neville in his prime easily beats Glen Johnson and it’s only really at left back where you have to actually think about replacing the current player. Ashley Cole is one of the best left backs in the world, no doubt about that, so it’s a complete toss-up as to whether or not you’d put his polar opposite, Stuart Pearce, in his place. In midfield, even at his current age Paul Scholes is much better than Lampard, Gerrard or Barry so he’d breeze his way into the centre, while Paul Gascoigne had more creativity than the rest of the current squad put together. To be honest, I’d probably prefer Paul Ince, David Batty and David Platt to the likes of Barry and Carrick. On the right, a fully fit David Beckham from 2002 would be better than James Milner and would offer the England team more from set pieces. The left of midfield has always been a problem position for England, but even Darren Anderton or Nicky Barmby would be a better option than watching Gerrard spend the full 90 minutes abandoning his position and leaving his full-back exposed. So there you have it, the best England team that you could put together from the last 14 years is Seaman, G. Neville, Adams, Campbell, Pearce, Beckham, Scholes, Gascoigne, Anderton, Shearer and Owen. The only player from the supposed ‘golden generation’ to even come close to getting a look in is Ashley Cole. Going back even further, I don’t think that it’s too much of a push to say that the ‘golden generation’ has, in fact, produced the worst England team for at least 20 years. That sounds like hyperbole or exaggeration, but when you look at the teams and players that could potentially have been fielded over the years, you realise that it is actually true.

The Golden Generation

The last hurrah for the last stragglers of the 'gold generation', thank goodness.

The long and short of it is this: asides from Rooney, who is a world class player despite his awful performances, and Cole, who is still one of the best left backs in the world, the England team is massively over-rated. Steven Gerrard may be the chest-thumping talisman figure for Liverpool who pops up every now and then with a vital goal, but it’s no coincidence that as soon as Xabi Alonso packed his bags, Liverpool sank down the table. Most of England’s star players are somewhere in between mediocre and good, but are made to look like world beaters thanks to their superior foreign team-mates. Would Lampard have developed into the type of player he is for Chelsea without Makelele? He’s a good player, but he only flourishes in his role at Chelsea because he’s got plenty of superior foreign team-mates surrounding him. Chelsea tried playing in a 4-4-2 system, but Lampard couldn’t fit in and they were forced to revert to 4-3-3 so that he could benefit from having two players to back him up. If John Terry wasn’t surrounded by the likes of Alex and Carvalho, who are there to mop up every single mistake he makes, he’d be seen as a very mediocre Premier League player. I have seen him mauled and rag-dolled all over the Britannia Stadium pitch by Mamady Sidibe, a free transfer from Gillingham. I have seen his superb man-marking allow Abdoulaye Faye to score an easy header while completely unmarked. I have seen him get so fed up of failing to win a single ball in the air against Stoke that he rolled around on the floor clutching his face pretending to be injured in an effort to get a Stoke player sent off. If you couple this with his general demeanour during the game (for example, when he had realised that the referee wasn’t going to send the Stoke player off, he got straight back up to play and shouted at the referee for making him go off the pitch in accordance with the rules), you begin to realise why England fail so frequently. Pampered mediocrities led to believe that they’re the best in the world and given a free rein on the pitch by the referee.

For my money, then, a second round defeat against a strong team is probably the most that this England team were capable of. A lesser manager probably wouldn’t have even gotten us through the group stages, so there’s no sense blaming Capello. That said, he has made some very strange decisions during the tournament and they have not benefited the team. Gerrard has absolutely no positional discipline on the left hand side and so the manager should have removed him and put him either in the middle or on the substitutes’ bench. Matthew Upson is not up to Premier League football, never mind World Cup football, and so Capello would have been better off picking Dawson to partner Terry in the middle. Up front, Darren Bent was forced to miss out despite probably being a better option up front than Defoe, whilst Capello became just another in a shamefully long line of England managers to completely ignore the country’s best target man, Kevin Davies. He may be well past his best and playing for an unfashionable club, but that says more about the state of English football than it does about Kevin Davies. Capello was right to stick by his system, but he persevered with the wrong players. Lampard cannot play without two holding players behind him, so bin him, bring in someone who fits the system and move on. Gerrard doesn’t work on the left, so put him in the middle, put a real left sided player out there and move on. Rob Green is a Championship level goalkeeper and James has had a poor season, so play Joe Hart from the start and move on. Unfortunately, plenty of other things were out of Capello’s hands. Somehow, Glen Johnson is the only right-back that this country can produce. He is a player who offers little in attack at international level and whose defensive frailties are even more exposed than usual. Capello cannot single-handedly overcome the ‘player power’ culture that has come to dominate the likes of Chelsea over the years, either. If John Terry doesn’t like the manager at Chelsea, he forces him out, just like Shearer forced out plenty of Newcastle managers over the years. The England players don’t like a bit of discipline and being made to work hard, so the likes of Terry openly question the manager’s authority and methods in public in an attempt to make his position untenable and force him out. Capello cannot simply dispose of him though; if Terry went, Lampard would likely follow and then there would be media outcry as two of the darlings of the ‘golden generation’ had been senselessly exiled, despite obviously being two of the best players in the world. This current crop of England players are simply unwilling to work unless everything is dictated according to their terms and it is yet another reason why they will consistently fail to achieve anything.

The Germans gave us an exhibition of what modern football is all about. England had something like 55% of the possession in the first half, but the Germans demonstrated that possession is virtually nothing. The opposition can do what they like with the ball in their own half, so long as when they eventually give it you back, and they will if you defend properly, you move the ball forward quickly and accurately, with the focus on creating chances. England tried to play with two defenders and the Germans punished them for it. Germany was patient when England had the ball and every player kept to his position. England did a good job of forming a back eight against the USA, but as soon as the Germans invited pressure upon themselves, the England players completely lost their shape. Typically, when the Germans launched a counter attack, Gerrard would be somewhere in the vicinity of the right sided attacking midfielder’s position, Cole and Johnson would both be somewhere near the edge of the box and Lampard and Barry would be in the middle, preparing to jog back at around half the speed of their German counterparts. Three of the four goals came as a result of the Germans counter-attacking ferociously and catching the English players completely off guard and out of position, while the first was simply a routine they’d worked on in training to take advantage of one of the English defence’s weaknesses. To be honest, the Germans were a joy to watch.

So what now for the future of the English game? Well, I personally wouldn’t advocate a change of manager, although it appears to be on the cards. Capello is a very good manager who did the best he could with a bad hand and he should be given a chance to clear out the rubbish ‘stars’ from the England team before he leaves his post. It is pretty obvious, though, that fundamental changes to the English game need to be made. These are already being discussed at length and so I shall not go into that here, but I do think that the national football centre at Burton is an absolute must. As for the short term, if we must have a change in manager then there is likely to be a clamour for Redknapp or Hodgson. This is pretty reasonable, seeing as they’ve both been successful in recent seasons, but I fear that they’d just bring us more of the same. They’d go on telling us that the current English crop of players are amongst the best of the world and then try to take on the Spanish or Brazilians at their own game, resulting in defeat. If the top international teams formed a kind of ‘Premier League’, England would be the team with a big reputation but players who are, technically, massively inferior to their counterparts. There are two men in the Premier League who are good at getting results with this kind of team, Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis. As Pulis is Welsh, that leaves us with Allardyce. It may not be pretty, but it sure as hell will be effective. Allardyce would get the current crop of England players playing to a system which accentuated their strengths and focused on the team, rather than putting a bunch of individuals into a formation and expecting them to perform as they do for their clubs. At Newcastle, Allardyce failed because he was stuck with prima donnas who didn’t like being made to work hard and play as a team. For England, if the players didn’t want to work then Allardyce could just ship them out and bring in two destroyers instead. Defending resolutely and bullying top teams into submission may not be the prettiest way to play football, but in the short term it’s probably the only way to get the best out of the current team.

The ‘golden generation’, however, are a dead loss and need to be cut adrift as soon as possible.

Team USA – SOP, We Win and we are in!

June 23rd, 2010 No comments

Well the Slovenia game has come and gone. Myself along with the rest of the USA ran the whole gamut of emotions during that contest. As per our Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) we fell behind a goal early, wasted numerous scoring chances, and then paid for our anemia in front of goal by getting caught out on the break. At the half down 2-0 many of the pundits and oatcakers believed our World Cup to be over – done and dusted. However, as per our SOP , we mounted a furious comeback, tied the game on two beautiful goals; one by the talismanic Landon Donovan and the equalizer by the coach’s son Michael Bradley. I was over the moon at this point to just be staring at an unlikely point from this contest when a tropical storm cut off the TV. Of course this was between the 84th and 87th minutes so I missed the highway robbery that occured. Luckily for me it has been replayed a million times since .. Needless to say that goes down as the worst call in the history of US soccer. (Had the referee been trained by Alan Wiley?) But no more time to cry over spilled milk. The scoreless draw between England and Algeria was just what the doctor ordered to give us a chance of moving on.

As for the next game, we win and we are in! Algeria will be tough, but they also have to play for a win if they hope to advance. If we can get the first goal I like our chances. We do not deserve to advance if we cannot win a game in the group. I’ll be pulling for an England win but they have a difficult tie against a well organized opponent. More to follow tomorrow …

MysticalDescent’s views on England v Algeria

June 19th, 2010 No comments

Player Ratings First:

James – 6 – Did all that was asked of him but never looked confident and his defence looked like strangers to him.

Johnson – 5 – Can’t defend and he never showed any of his supposed attacking prowess. Unfortunately he’s all we’ve got.

Carragher – 6 – Even if he’s slow and clumsy, he did a decent job of getting the basics right, unlike everybody else.

Terry – 5 – Another shaky performance.

Cole – 5 – Was more willing to get up the flank, but was poor in his control of the ball and his he ultimately contributed very little.

Lennon – 5 – Struggled to get into the game and when he did, he made some very poor decisions.

Lampard – 4 – His tournament must end now if England are to progress.

Barry – 5 – Some good defensive play in the first half, but as the game went on his distribution got worse and worse.

Gerrard – 5 – Showed promise when he drifted into the middle, but you cannot, you absolutely cannot, just abandon your post like that with absolutely no discipline whatsoever. He was played on the left wing and he left that area of the pitch completely empty most of the time.

Heskey – 6 – Not as good as he was against the USA, but once again he was the only player in England’s attack to actually turn up and do a job. He gets more criticism than he deserves.

Rooney – 4 – The pressure seems to be really getting to him. When I’ve seen him in person, he has almost never given the ball away. This time, every time the ball touched him it would almost instantly return to Algeria.

Wright-Phillips – 5.5 – Just plain not good enough.

Defoe – 5 – Offered absolutely nothing.

Crouch – 5 – Barely touched the ball.

Let’s make no bones about it; this performance was simply not good enough. We weren’t stifled by a team that set out to defend, as Algeria had no such intention and were just as courageous as us. Like the USA, Algeria is a very poor side comprised mostly of players who play several levels below England’s superstars. The fact that one of their biggest stars, Madjid Bougherra, spent a large portion of his time at Crewe Alexandra and Sheffield Wednesday should tell you an awful lot about the quality of player that they have. Responsibility has to lie with both the players and the manager. You may disagree with the team that Capello fielded, I know I did, or even his system, but the 11 players out there should have been capable of scoring at least one against such a poor team. Lampard have several opportunities to put England players through on goal, but instead chose to take a hopeless shot from thirty yards or give it away, Gerrard cost the team width and balance by choosing to spend the entire game sitting in the middle and Rooney seemed to completely buckle under the pressure, having now failed to do anything productive in 180 minutes of football.

Rooney with Djamel Abdoun
A good night’s work for Algeria, but more pressure on Rooney

I worry that the manager has fallen prey to one of Sven’s biggest weaknesses. We all knew with depressing certainty in Euro 2004 that no matter how poorly David Beckham played, he would be guaranteed to play the full 90 minutes. I get the impression that the manager thinks that certain players seem to do so well for their clubs and are so highly rated by everyone that they must play, no matter what. The fact is this: England have only one world class player, Wayne Rooney. The likes of Gerrard, Lampard and Terry are good players, but are massively limited and selfish in an England shirt. They stand out in the Premier League, but that is because they get away with murder thanks to the assistance of their superior foreign team-mates and the referee. All three can do the spectacular stuff, but are simply nowhere near world class. They get all the plaudits simply because they are English players who do the spectacular stuff for their side. Gerrard may still score screamers from the edge of the box in the last minute for Liverpool, but it’s no coincidence that he’s been powerless to stop their slide since the sale of Xabi Alonso. The manager must make some gutsy calls in time for the next game. He’s the man who shipped Ronaldo out of Real Madrid, so I don’t think it’s beyond him.

He would do well to learn from Stoke City’s example. On paper, most teams would probably fancy themselves against Stoke, but there is a rigid system packed full of players who fill a very specific role in that system. If players don’t fit in, they don’t get in the team. People may tear their hair out when the likes of Tuncay and Kitson can’t hold down a place, but the right players play in the right system and it works. For what it’s worth, I believe that England has the right system, but we are picking the wrong players for that system. The midfield is currently the weakness and 2 chances created in 180 minutes of football goes a long way to showing that. Gerrard finally seems to have hit form for England and he’s been sandwiched into the left wing position. On a good day, he’s ineffective there, and on a bad game like last night he’s completely free of discipline and just wanders about doing whatever he pleases, completely abandoning his post. Joe Cole, the only player in the England squad with experience of playing on the left wing at international level and one of England’s few creative sparks, seems to be behind Lennon, Wright-Phillips, Gerrard and Rooney in the picking order for the left wing position. This just does not make sense. Gerrard is probably England’s best central midfielder and is wasted out wide, keeping somebody who can play in that position out of the team (sound familiar, Stoke fans?). The odd one out is Lampard, who for all his superstardom is simply not good enough. I suspect some supporters will be unable to cope with the loss of somebody who is ‘obviously’ good, but if you cannot fit in, you are nothing to the team. Barry should partner Gerrard, but we’d be much, much stronger in the centre if Paul Scholes had been convinced to return. He’s done his job very quietly this season and he doesn’t get forward as much these days, but Scholes is still the best English central midfielder. He can receive the ball off the defence and his range of passing is then superb. England sorely misses somebody like him. Up front, the Heskey and Rooney partnership is probably the best we have, but their roles need to change slightly. Heskey should drop a little deeper and Rooney should focus on spearheading the attack as an out and out striker rather than falling back into midfield. At the very least, those small tweaks would us through to the next round, but Capello must have the guts to stand by his system and get rid of Lampard.

Capello on the touchline

Capello must be strong enough to stand by his system and wield the axe on some of his over-rated stars

So what of last night’s game? I think ‘nervy’ is a bad description, but the pressure certainly showed. Every single player on the pitch was so desperate to stand out that they made some very poor decisions and were not playing for the team. Carragher nearly scored an own goal trying to unnecessarily clear a cross that was going straight to James, Terry headed a ball into a dangerous position when it was sailing out for a goal-kick. In attack, Rooney and Cole were guilty of taking on too many defenders, while Lennon was obsessed with fancy flicks instead of doing the simple job of getting down the line and putting balls into the box. Gerrard wanted to take the starring role in the middle rather than settling down on the left. Lampard went for long shots when there were better options while Barry did a decent job of winning the ball but tried ambitious passes that almost always failed. Perhaps Capello has kept the players on their toes too much and now they are desperate to stand out in case they lose their place. I think the old ‘fear of failure’ is starting to creep back in as well, something that Sven combated pretty well. This is going to be a very big few days and the manager must handle the players well. Clough always said that his players were at their best when they were relaxed and enjoying themselves and you’re inclined to agree. A bit of team spirit and camaraderie would not go amiss. It’s all well and good to see Rooney mouthing off at the camera last night and complain that the players are living in a bubble, but Capello must create a bubble for the players now, isolated from the prying eyes of the press and the criticism of the supporters. 6 days is no amount of time to create a hard working team ethic, but it is what must be done. They must learn to fight tooth and nail for each other and for their nation.

Ultimately, few players played well. Heskey was average at best when it came to doing what was expected of him and Carragher was better than Terry, but that really is as good as it gets. The midfield was absolutely dire and chance creation was minimal. It’s unlikely that we’d have taken any chances that were created because the top English goalscorer last season had to come all the way back into the middle at actually touch the ball. Ashley Cole would probably have been more effective on the left if he had a left winger to help him out, rather than having to do all the work on his own. England failed to outshine the Algerians in a game that was ultimately a stalemate. Great if you’re Algerian, a disaster for England. This was simply not good enough.

My team for Slovenia:

James

Johnson Terry Dawson A. Cole

Lennon Gerrard Barry J. Cole

Heskey

Rooney

Thank goodness that game will be on the BBC. If I have to listen to another 90 minutes of commentary from those idiots at ITV I may end up putting the television through the window. Everything ITV do is amateurish, cheap and pathetic, be it their football coverage or shows such as the X-Factor. There are too many adverts to make it watchable, but when you listen to Tyldsley, Beglin, Southgate and all the rest trying to talk about football, you realise that the adverts are actually the best bit. Tyldsley and Townsend are so incapable of tactically analysing a game that when somebody suggests something novel like changing the system, they become like a dog with a bone and will just not shut up about it, despite it being apparent that it will simply not happen. In the studio, the panel just spout some extra nonsense to go with it all. The fact that Adrian Chiles, a decent bloke whose forte is a more informal, jokey programme such as Match of the Day 2, is fronting the supposedly ultra-sleek and professional World Cup show says it all. The BBC’s standards are pretty low as well, embarrassing even, so thank goodness for the insights of Mick McCarthy.

ITV World Cup Panel

Somebody please shut them up.

England can beat Slovenia and fulfill their potential, but they must play the right players for the system.

Do or Die for Team USA

June 18th, 2010 No comments

Just a few quick lines before the USA’ HUGE World Cup game/match tomorrow against a well organized Slovenia. Sitting here on the Gulf Coast on Marco Island, FL waiting for the oil to come ashore in an empty beach resort it gets easy to put this game into perspective. Do or die for our World Cup hopes, but very insignificant compared to the pending environmental disaster. That being said most of the “soccer talk” at the resort is about England – Algeria! Seems like the only people in this hotel besides me are England fans! Oh the irony! At the end of the future nuclear armegeddon there will only be cockroaches and England fans left on the earth!

Not used to the USA being a favorite in a WC match and it makes me nervous. I predict 1-0 USA on a set piece where Landon Donavan’s 13th. beautiful set piece is finally put into the net by the wasteful Jozy Altidore. Tim Howard cements his place as the top goalie of the tournament and the USA is into the final 16. A guy can hope!

MysticalDescent’s World Cup Blog – An Introduction

June 12th, 2010 No comments

Just a brief first blog here. As a lifelong supporter of Stoke City and England, I’ll be watching every England match at the World Cup and analysing it on here in the aftermath. The games between South Africa and Mexico and France and Uruguay have been fairly disappointing so far, but I have no doubt that there will be some real fascinating and entertaining matches on display.

I’ll be back with my report after the game against the USA. I’m afraid to say I have a horrible feeling about it, but I’m sure that Capello’s England will prove me wrong.

The miracle of Berne

June 11th, 2010 No comments
Hungary went into the 1954 World Cup widely ackonowledged as the best team in the world. Hammering England 6-3 and 7-1 were two matches in a 32 game unbeaten run. This form continued and they reached the final. Narrowly beating  South Korea 9-0 on the way.

West Germany were the opponents in the final competing in their first tournament since the end of the war. They had many experienced players….and that was considered their biggest problem. They were all considered to be too too old! Despite thrashing Austria 6-1 in the semi West Germany weren’t expected to prove too much of an obstacle to Puskas and the lads on their unstoppable march to the trophy.

Expectations were entirely justified when, in the unfortunately named Wankdorf Stadium, Hungary raced into a two goal lead. Puskas, although not fully fit, scored after six minutes, the 2nd came two minutes later and all was on track. To Hungarian astonishment the West Germans responded quickly and by the 18th minute had got two goals back to level at 2-2. The game reached half time at that score despite both sides missing chance after chance. Hungary were clearly rattled by Gerrman resistance.

In the second half the ‘Magnificent Magyars’ regained their composure and piled forward in search of the winner. Resilient German defending from their aged legs and masterful goalkeeping foiled them. In the 84th minute the unthinkable happened…West Germany scored. Hungary could hardly believe it and rallied for a final push for the equaliser…and it came, or so they thought. Puskas got the ball in the net but the Welsh linesman ruled it offside. That was their final chance and West Germany had won the World Cup…one of the biggest shocks in football history.

The victory sparked a wave of national pride through West Germany, their first major celebration since the end of the war. Many have stated that the World Cup of 1954 was a huge turning point in German post war history. It was the first time the German national anthem had been played since the end of the war and motovated the nation to continue rebuilding their devastated country. But, the greatest player of the era….. Puskas… never won the World cup.

See video below that has a strange French Commentary!
1954 World Cup West Germany vs Hungary

06 Days 18 Hours 54 Minutes to go – Countdown

June 4th, 2010 No comments

The 2010 World Cup in less than a week away.   In South Africa the cast is assembling for the greatest show on earth.  For football supporters here in Australia it means a month of late nights early mornings and self inflicted fatigue.    

I have lived in Australia for just over fourteen years.  The first timezone tournament was Euro 96.  Gazza’s goal against Scotland was a particularly memorable middle of the night mental!!     One benefit is that there are fewer distractions in the middle of the night.   Less chance of a phone call or a knock at the door.    My family and I were visiting the UK during  Euro 2008 and it felt odd to be watching an international tournament while it was  light outside.    Most football supporters here  have adapted to the nocturnal aspect of our passion BUT it is still strange to leave the house at 2am to go to the pub and watch a match!   Being English, and therefore an England supporter, the subject of how to celebrate a World Cup win when the final finishes at 7am isn’t a problem unfortunately.  A more relevant poser is how to get through the day when we’ve just endured our usual penalty shootout pain.  But we’ll keep hoping and dreaming.  And hoping and dreaming…..

One of the many marvellous aspects of our game is the global unity it generates.  So next Friday when South Africa play Mexico think of us watching at midnight.  And we’ll think of those watching over breakfast in San Salvador!!!

Art and The Real Banksy – Is this him unmasked?

May 12th, 2010 No comments

 

The Artbay in Fenton is holding a “Spirit of ’66” exhibition which runs from May 22nd. to May 29th.
The exhibition is to celebrate the incredible feeling of togetherness, which comes along for every major football tournament.

Gordon Banks will be creating a piece of Art very shortly at the Artbay and this piece will be auctioned for his Safe Hands charity fund which, over the last 10 years, has raised more than £150,000 for sick children at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

He will also be involved in judging and presenting the winners of a children’s art competition that is being organised to coincide with exhibition.

Under-16s are being asked to produce a piece of artwork reflecting the feeling of camaraderie, charity and goodwill surrounding international sporting tournaments.

A shortlist of 10 entries will be framed and put on display in the gallery and all the young artists will be invited to meet Gordon at the gallery on Friday, May 28.

Closing date for the exhibition is Friday May 21st.

A panel of judges including local artists and Gordon will then choose a winner who will receive a prize of a perspex/acrylic print of their work worth £300.

More info here

http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/new….il/article.html
and here
http://www.creativestoke.co.uk/80430/info.php?p=3

All submitted pieces will be available to view throughout the week-long exhibition in binders.

10 winners will have their pieces framed and shown alongside the other exhibitors’ works and will be invited, with a guest, to the gallery on Friday 28th May to meet Gordon Banks and receive their prize. One, overall winner will be announced on the night and will receive the top prize of a perspex print of their artwork signed by Gordon.

Requirements. Artist must be aged 16 or under. The size of the submitted work must be A3. There are no restrictions on media. Entries will be judged on the degree to which the artist has captured “The Spirit of ’66” in his/her piece and the artistic quality of his/her piece, commensurate with age. All pieces must be received by the gallery no later than Friday 21st of May. The judging panel’s decisions are final.


This got me thinking (which as you may know is dangerous). Gordon Banks football career finished in the mid 70’s. During the next few years did Gordon study art?

The prominence of an artist, who has managed to rise to fame while keeping his identity hidden is goes under the name of Banksy!!

 

Our depiction of Gordon is shown below and this was proudly modelled by the great man himself.

 

The belief is that when Banksy’s football career ended, he went off to study art and witnessed Crass play Tunstall Town Hall in April 1982 and started to create artwork for the collective.  This preceded his rise to fame with various artworks around the Bristol area.

Banksy - Flower Thrower

Think About England – Head The Ball ENGLAND 2010 World Cup Song

February 12th, 2010 No comments

Ian Dyer’s (aka the Boothen End Bard) latest project is a world cup song for South Africa 2010. It is called “Think About England” and has been recorded by the band “Head The Ball” which he is the lead singer of.

Have a look at the video here and let me know what you think