Archive for the ‘World Cup Bolleaux’ Category

A week in the life of football – Chelsea, Tony Pulis, Man city, QPR, Brisbane Roar and more!

August 31st, 2010 No comments

The international break arrives at the right time for Stoke City.  Two weeks to take stock and for the new players to train together and prepare  for the challenges ahead.  The performance at Chelsea had some positive points.  We got some much needed luck when Lampard wasted his penalty.  After going behind we stayed strong together and the floodgate remained locked.  Whelan’s long shot was nearly one of the goals of the season.  It’s disappointing that after grafting so hard to stay in the game we clumsily gifted them the decisive penalty, it’s hard enough going to Stamford Bridge without helping them out.  Jonesy and Walters looks as if they could become  real stars for us.  Walters has shown quick feet in the box and can give our attacking play an extra dimension.  Only three games played but an encouraging start for him.  Overall on Saturday we showed resilience and if we continue as we have in the last game and a half we will soon get some points on the board.  But with two home games to come we really do have the chance to get points on the board…. and that chance mustn’t be wasted.  

It occured to me the other day that Tony Pulis has spent more time managing Stoke than anyone since the great Tony Waddington.  In November it’ll be eight years since his first dugout appearance at Walsall.  We are a much different club than we were then. I, like many thousands of Stokies, love being in the Premier League. Long may we stay at football’s top table. 

It’s amusing that after Manchester City’s masterful dismantling of Liverpool, they came down to earth with a reality induced bang against Sunderland. Wasting first half dominance and succumbing to a late late penalty is the kind of thing the Man Citeh of old would have done. The Tevez open goal miss was astounding! The ruthless winning mentality Mancini needs to instill is a quality money can’t buy…. however much you might have.  Overturning a culture of hard luck stories and glorious failure is his biggest challenge.  If he could spend a few million on some resilience and the knowledge his side could turn an even game into a winning one he’d do it in a shot. 

Talking of big money takeovers, are QPR finally starting to justify the vast sums of money the club has at it’s disposal?  For a while the only difference the high profile gold encrusted owners had made was Naomi Campbell in the directors boxes and extortionately high ticket prices.  Elsewhere at Loftus Road, their late comeback at Derby suggests Neil Warnock may have instilled some of that resilience into his players. He might have to lend some to Mancini!

Barcelona have carried on where they left off last season.  The effortless win over Racing Santander was as every bit as easy as the 3-0 scoreline suggests.  Racing Santander held out for three lengthy minutes until Messi put his side ahead.  It was game over from that stage.  At 0-2 down they missed a penalty but they rarely looked capable of troubling Barcelona for sustained periods.  The self proclaimed ‘Special one’ will be only too aware that the season has barely started and already his new team are two points behind their  nemesis.  Barcelona only lost once all last season so Mourinho won’t be allowed many more mishaps.

On Friday Brisbane Roar beat Wellington in a patient measured performance.  Three games seven points and no goals conceded.  Things are looking good.  Another pleasing thing about the game here is that two players who dived at the weekend have been suspended by the FFA.  (Football Federation of Australia)   It’s a common sense measure that appropriately punishes cheats.  It would be good to think other administrative bodies in the game could adopt the same rule for diving and implement it as swiftly and effectively as it has been here.  Is that really such a pipe dream?

As a football fanatic and shameless football propogandist I can only look on with feint amused detachment at the Pakistan cricket match fixing scandal.  I take no great pleasure in seeing a sport facing this scale of corruption (even a sport that isn’t football) but the pompous sanctimonious way in which the media swoon with mock horror at any level of inappropriate behaviour when it’s football related….and often refer to nurses wages in the process, is as melodramatic as it is empty.   The way rugby is seen as a beacon of righteousness is especially nauseating.  There have been times when a footballer has shown dissent on the pitch and some have shook their head and mentioned that it wouldn’t happen in rugby.  This overlooks the ‘bloodgate’ scandal of last year.  Or Lawrence Dallaglio’s drug scandal of 1999.  Or the accusations of inappropriate behaviour made towards England’s team in New Zealand.  I can’t and wouldn’t ever pretend football is a game of moral purity.  But in the future it would be pleasing if we are spared the head shaking and the pretending to be shocked to the core from the press the next time a footballer’s ethical mishap is exposed.

Blatter, technology and a missed header

August 23rd, 2010 No comments

There’s no question that Bale’s second was an impressive strike but, the point has to be made that Lennon being allowed to carry the ball unchecked was shoddy on our behalf.  And for the first Collins was caught square and ballwatching as Bale ghosted in past him.  Its going to be tough if we give sides that kind of help.  Especially sides with the quality of Spurs.  The second half we played well.  Tuncay’s introduction added some much needed skill and our forward play got a new dimension but that header was a bad miss.  When Jonesy returns and is fully fit hopefully he’ll put chances like that away with the minimum of fuss.  After half time we took the game to Spurs and we were worth a point.  The point we’d have got if the ref had given the goal we scored.  It’s depressingly similar to Shawcross’ disallowed goal at home to Manchester Citeh last season.  The ref was right next to the incident yet got it horribly wrong.  That Huth fouled the keeper is irrelevant.  If the ref had thought it was a foul he’d have immediately blown for a free kick.   Chelsea next week.  One good thing about going to Stamford Bridge in August is that we’ll get it over with.  it’ll be an exercise in damage limitation so we have to hope we limitate it better than we did last time there!   Barring a miracle next week it seems we’ll head into the international break with zero points.  Obviously there’s a long long way to go and no need to panic.  If Jonesy returns fit and we can show the same appetite we did in the second half against Spurs we should be OK.  But we mustn’t forget to win games of football.

One of the fascinations of this season is to see how Jose Mourinho fares at Real Madrid.  The club who regard style and panache as important to the culture of their club as their illustrious historical trophy haul.   In choosing Mourinho they have effectively chosen a U turn.  Mourinho’s brilliance is as a motivator and   his tactical manoeuvring.  His teams, as successful as they are, haven’t always played exhilarating thrilling football.  The pragmatism and attention to detail being the cornerstones of his glittering career.  Moving to Madrid is actually a masterstroke. His previous connections with Barcelona are now forgotten and there is animosoty between the self proclaimed special one and the club that was his football classroom.  This will only help to endear him to the Bernebau.  It’s known Real Madrid is a notorious  managerial graveyard.  If the internal politics are too much and he walks away he’ll probably be able to do so with reputation intact and will still be able to pick up a job at a European powerhouse.  That Jose isn’t stupid!

**The debate about goal line technology rumbles on.  Surely if it’s available it’s  foolish not to use it.  It’s unlike many topics of debate that arise that surround refereeing decisions in a game of football.  For example, last week Joe Cole was sent off for Liverpool.  It was my opinion that the red card was harsh and a yellow would suffice.  However, mates I spoke with and looking at assorted internet message boards many felt it was a good decision by the ref and the sending off was fully justified.  There are varying opinions and that is part of the soul of football.  The difference between a situation like that and whether a ball crosses the line or not is that whether the ball crosses the line isn’t a subject of debate, it’s a matter of fact, and also the key factor in a match…. scoring a goal, or not as the case may be.  In these days where lost points can lose a club millions, and to implement the change would be relatively straight forward, isn’t it prehistoric to refuse to accept it?   Mr Blatter would be OK, he should think of the favours it could generate from the companies who want to get the contracts to put the equipment in place! 

Talking of Blatter, how kind of him to visit England!  We can hope he enjoyed beer and crisps at Downing Street.  And Nick Clegg was appropriately ambassadorial is meeting him and his delegates.  This visit is an important part of the bid, especially at this late stage.  But where was the Prime Minister?  It’s understandable that he wants time with his family but Prime Ministers don’t have holidays.  Hosting the 2018 World Cup could be one of the biggest things in the history of England.  It reaches parts of the nation the Olympics can’t.  The big cheeses of FIFA have egos the size of  Heathrow  airport.  Hopefully the decisive factor won’t be that Vladimir Putin went to meet them last week.

It’s pleasing that Brisbane Roar have made a healthy start to the A league season.  A win and a draw is a vast improvement on last seasons lame capitulation.  Some stylish football has been played too which is an important factor in Australia.  The league here is a huge marketing exercise to generate interest in the game of football.  It’ll be more pleasing if Brisbane’s enterprising start can be maintained.  The politics of football here can be overwhelming.  Hopefully we, the people of Brisbane, can focus on the pitch instead of the meeting rooms.   Home to Wellington Friday night!

**  The bit about  goal line technology was written before our incident against Spurs on Saturday.  Honestly.

Elation and deflation

August 16th, 2010 No comments

Welcome back football, my friend, my strength, my passion and of course, my eternal frustration!   Over a month since the World Cup ended and  Weekends are just inconsequential without you football my darling.  A return to midnight (or 1am) kick offs then retiring to bed accompanied by liberal doses of fatigue and deflation.  

And deflation is the key word to describe the lasting effect of our performance at Wolves.  After Jonesy went off injured our players joined us in the deflation collective and allowed Wolves to get over the top of us and dominate.  Our inability to keep the ball combined with our players bad decisions all over the pitch led to a very, well, deflating day for us. There can be no doubt at all the first goal we conceded was a brilliant piece of skill but we have to remember our part in it.  Whitehead lunging into that challenge was foolish and unnecessary.  Foley was actually moving away from goal when Dean steamed in.  The physical approach is part of what we do but football is a bit of everything if and when it’s needed and flying in like that was just asking for trouble.  The second goal may have been slightly unlucky for us but to cling to that for comfort after a performance as undisciplined as Saturday would be to hide our heads in the sand.  Even when we got the goal back we rarely showed the required energy or imagination to drag an unlikely point out.  In the last minute Rory had a throw that, to the euphoric gloating  of the home fans, just skidded out of his hands… an appropriately embarassing end to a bleak day for Stoke City.  Ah well, upwards and onwards.  Easy games to come…. Spurs and Chelsea.  Will we get a point on the board before the international break?  It feels like we won’t BUT, this feeling of dread is nothing a win wouldn’t put right!   I wonder when it’ll be.

Could it be that Capello’s comment that Beckham is too old was a joke that missed the mark?  His lack of English skills render that a feasible possibility.  If that’s an irrational suggestion it’s no more irrational than the media pandemonium that followed his comment.   Saying that publicly before discussing it with Beckham was ill advised and clumsy but does it really merit the media examination that followed?  The Telegraph declared that Capello had reached a “New low”.  The News of the world solemnly announed that it’s been “One of the worst weeks of his (Beckham’s) soccer career”.  Both melodramic statements which are more in line with Fabio Capello’s current lowly standing than any substantial rational coverage.  The News of the World in particular should be aware of the ups and downs of Beckham’s career and that he’s had much worse weeks than this.  It was after all, that very tabloid organ which gleefully printed the story of his affair with Rebecca Loos in 2004. In fact, Sunday’s comment came as they kindly told the world that his sister has had to claim benefit payments.   After the 1998 World Cup Beckham had to face the prospect of an effigy of himself hanging from a roof and The Mirror bullishly gave readers a David Beckham dartboard.  The England manager forgetting to tell him he’s out of future plans isn’t going to mortally wound him…. or anyone else for that matter. 

Spurs and Man City started the Premier League season with a fantastic entertaining game.  Spurs started at an incredible pace and made their possession count by creating a sequence of excellent chances.  Hart was a colossus.  Surely Hart is now well and truly England’s number one keeper…. better late than never I suppose!  It was a much better game than 0-0 suggests but if Spurs can maintain that level of pace and creativity to their play surely they can contend for a top four spot again.  Blackpool were the romantic story of the first day of the season.  Whatever else happens this season, their fans will always be able to treasure that memory, the kind of memory we all love this game for.  Wigan Athletic and their fans will remember the day less fondly!  The real daunting thing about Chelsea’s effortless dismantling of WBA is that WBA didn’t really do much wrong.  In fact for much of the game they tried to get forward and got a few decent crosses in.  That Chelsea hit six without really breaking sweat hammers out a warning to Man Utd.  Talking of Man utd, I sit typing thins during their game against Newcastle and the main talking point has to be Joey Barton’s moustache!  What’s he done that for?  Apparently he’s refusing to shave it until they win a league game.  Now that’s risky!  Otherwise Rooney looks as if he’s carried his world cup form into the new season.   Berbatov just scored.   

Aston Villa’s win over West Ham had an air of crisis what crisis?  O’Neill’s decsion to go hardly the ideal way to prepare any team for the first game of a season.  We can only come to the conclusiion that Villa is now a hard club to manage and Randy Lerner a difficulty man to work for.  The ongoing talk of funding players and having to sell to buy and whether the Milner money would be available must have just worn O’Neill down.  Can anyone blame him?  Does a manager of his reputation need that kind of aggravation?   Where will he work next?  Will he work anywhere?  All will be revealed now the emotional rollercoaster of football has returned!!

Spain are better at football than everybody else

July 12th, 2010 No comments

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?

Germany aren’t as good at football as Spain are

July 8th, 2010 No comments

Will the Dutch finally emerge from the stains of the 70s?  Down the years, the ongoing style of their play has been tarnished  by internal bickering creating at times laughable self induced implosion yet the elephant in the room of the collective Dutch football psyche is the memory of Munich on July 7th 1974.  Even lifting the European Championship trophy (ironically in Munich) has only papered over the cracks.  On Sunday they have the chance to exorcise their demons.  Their style is more pragmatic than their predecessors of 36 years ago but if the post semi final euphoric scenes in Amsterdam are a any barometer they are prepared to forego that for a chance of a crack at the big one!  Mind you, despite modern pragmatism, Cruyff or Neeskens would have been proud of Van Bronckhorst’s opener. 

If ever there was a 1-0 thrashing it was the semi final between Germany and Spain.  Germany missed the forward mobility of Muller but it’s unlikely his presence would have altered the result.  For minutes on end Germany just couldn’t get the ball.  Pedro was important.  His movement dragged the German defence out of their comfort zone.  Del Bosque proved he  could make the big decisions by omitting Torres from the starting line up and the decision making throughout the team was just as excellent.   The real decisive factor was that all the possession Spain had, and there was plenty of it, it was all for a purpose.  They played positive skillful football and played with their mind.  The irony was that for all the style and skill in this brilliant generation of players, the goal came from the old warhorse Puyol from a simple a method as a header from a corner!   And when Germany did press Spain didn’t just get men behind the ball… they had men behind the ball defending.  There was five of them everywhere.  And when it was required Casillas did his job well.   Class throughout the whole team.  I wonder how Raul feels seeing his compatriots making their mark on history.  His nation’s rich potential only started to be fulfilled when he’d been dumped…. coincidence?  Both semi finals were cracking games.  Well worth getting up at 4am for!!  

That sodding octopus was right again.  Paul is turning out to be my least favourite octupus ever…. and that’s saying something.  Never mind squelching around in a tank, if he had any sense he’d be at the bookies raking the money in.  What a waste of talent. 

It’s been a groundbreaking World Cup.  The first to be held in Africa.   The first time the hosts have failed to get through the group stage.  If Spain win the trophy it’ll mean the only unbeaten side in the tournament will have been New Zealand.  If Spain win it’ll be the first time a team has lost the first game and gone on to win the competition.  And whoever wins  it’ll definitely be be the first time a European team has won it outside Europe.   History being made all over the place.  Milestones appropriate to what has been an excellent tournament. 

Alex Ferguson has spoken out to say the pressure on Wayne Rooney was too high.  Well it’s understandable he’s defending his player but the point has to be made that Rooney was happy to declare he was about to ‘Write the Future”.  The pressure was intense but could it be any other way at an event of this magnitude?  The weight of expectation may well be overpowering at times but in choosing to do those adverts, for which we can assume he received handsome financial rewards, Wayne willingly contributed to his own burden.

Gazza, it was twenty years ago

July 5th, 2010 No comments

Early in the 88/89 season I went to Anfield to watch Liverpool v Tottingham Hotspurts.  Back then every close season saw a flurry of spending by clubs  trying to compete with Liverpool.  Spurs always seemed to be at the forefront of the spending and in the summer of 1988 saw Spurs buy the young prospect Paul Gascoigne. 

1988 was the days before every single moment of every single football match was filmed and each tackle pass and fart analysed by cameras placed at six different angles.  As a result, we knew there was a young talented portly player named Paul Gascoigne from Newcastle and some of his goals were shown on Saint and Greavsie, and he was a bit of a character who loved Mars Bars, but we weren’t as clued up on him as we would be now.  Nowhere near in fact. 

At Anfield, The first time Gascoigne got the ball a collective gasp seemed to encircle Anfield. Was this fat Geordie lad any good?  Well, yes he was, in fact he was better than anyone could have imagined.  He joyously sprayed accurate passes around and whenever Liverpool attacked seemed to be the one who received the ball to initiate a fresh wave of possession. He’d gleefully skip past opponents, ball at his feet, and his grateful teammates would know an incisive pass was on the way.   The Spurs supporters cheered him warmly and if they didn’t he told them to, then emerged with a big grin.  When The Kop chanted to tell him that he was a fat bar steward, he smiled waved and did a silly walk.  The endearing thing about Gazza at this time is that he clearly loved being a footballer.  At the end of the game (it finished 1-1) he ran up to the Kop with a big smile and they responded in kind and chanted his name.  This was in the wake of Englands 1988 European Championship calamity and new talent and faces were needed for 1990 so Gazza was a breath of fresh air. Paul Gascoigne could become a superstar, and he’d enjoy every minute of it. 

After several appearances in England’s  friendlies he gradually established himself. Bobby Robson described him as being “As daft as a brush”.   This wasn’t a personal criticism it was more meant with affection to show what a livewire character he was around the camp.  He eventually cemented his place in the World Cup squad.   He was a special player at Italia 90.  The real pivotal point was during the game against Holland when he turned his man with skill on the byline and crossed for Lineker. A top quality player who could make the difference for England.  And he often did.  So much went through Gazza, his hyperactive presence charging around Italian football pitches.  We left it late against Belgium, dodged a bullet against Cameroon and finally found ourselves in a semi final against West Germany, and we all know what happened next. 

This week saw the 20th anniversary of that huge landmark game. We’ve never been that close since (will we ever be that close again?) to landing the ultimate prize.  At the end of the extra time, and with Gazza sobbing his broken heart out, Bobby Robson tried to console him by assuring him that “You’ve got your whole life in front of you, this is just your first”.  Of course, Robson wasn’t to know, but it was also his last.  He’d never have believed it as he left that tear drenched Turin pitch, but that proved to be his last ever game in a World Cup Finals.  Sadly, That was the highlight of Gascoigne’s England career. He never seemed to fully recover from The self inflicted injury he recklessly acquired in the 1991 FA Cup Final.  In Euro 96 we saw some flashes of brilliance and in assorted qualifiers we got some difference making moments but we hardly ever saw the happy excited Gazza that used to illuminate football grounds with a flick of a  Geordie boot.

In the build up to the 1998 tournament Gascoigne was clearly unfit. Glenn Hoddle made huge headlines by omitting him from the squad.  But what initially seemed a controversial decision turned out not to be controversial at all.  More just an obvious management decision that simply had to be confirmed.  Gascoigne’s lack of fitness and drinking had become a serious problem, and being  photographed buying a kebab didn’t help.  In his autobiography Paul Gascoigne described his own violent reaction to the news and that his mindset at the time in itself was enough to justify the decision.  He was clearly unhinged and being at close quarters with the squad for a month could have led to all sorts of problems.  And him being too unfit to play effectively meant it just wasn’t worth the risk.  Paul Gascoigne’s life had been unravelling for several years and in Hoddles room at La Manga his England career finally reached a sad undignified end.

Since he finished playing Paul Gascoigne’s numerous problems have been well documented.  He’s rarely far from the headlines and I,like many others, fear the worst when I see his name in a newspaper headline.  As Terry Venables has said “Only Gazza can save Gazza.”

So much has surrounded him but as we acknowledge  the 20th anniversary of that epic night in Turin, and a turning point for English football, I prefer to think of the great Matt Busby’s words when talking about George Best……  “We had our problems with the wee feller, but I prefer to remember his genius” And when I think of Paul Gascoigne I like to think of the Geordie who charmed Anfield and ran Cameroon ragged and scored that free kick in the FA cup semi final. 

20 years.

Germany are better at football than Argentina

July 4th, 2010 No comments

“Football is a game you play with your brain”
Johan Cruyff

At the end Diego Maradona’s Argentina cut sad figures.  The victims of a Germany performance which combined discipline and strategy, with style ruthlessness and panache that, quite frankly, had world champions written all over it.  They outnumbered and overpowered Argentina.  Schweinsteiger carried the Germans forward with pace and skill and the incisive precision  of their overall play proved as victorious as it was thrilling to watch. While watching I couldn’t help wondering how much difference  a holding midfielder with the guile of Cambiasso would have made.  Argentina moved forward and tried to impose their skill on the game with varying degrees of success, but rarely looked likely to break down the German power.  And when you consider the pandemonium surrounding the future writers… Ronaldo, Rooney, Messi and Robinho, bear in mind that with the minimum of fuss, Miroslav Klose got his 100th cap and 52nd goal for his national team and has now scored more World Cup Finals goals than Pele. They reached yet another semi final as yet again they weren’t widely fancied at the start of the competition.  This may not be their time, perhaps 2012 will see them lifting a trophy BUT remember this Germany team is so young they could play at this level for another two World Cups.  Their time will surely come. 

So Spain in the semis.  Thursday morning will be the biggest football match in Spanish history. The habitual stage fright that has dogged them for so long has been well and truly shed.  They didn’t play with the swagger they are capable of showing but a wins a win.  They responded well to the exhausting passage of play when the penalties were taken and resilience saw them through.  To demonstrate that in a successful campaign everyone plays a part Casillas late double save was as much a part of their victory as Villa’s goal.  That save denied Paraguay a draw they would have deserved.  In the end Paraguay’s lack of creativity proved costly but overall they can reflect on a splendid tournament.  They have earned the acclaim they will receive on arriving home.  Spain close in on what could prove to be a titanic struggle with Germany. If Spain are at their best Germany won’t be able to get the ball off them.   But Germany’s strategic brilliance is a match for anyone.  Another war of attrition and a game for thinkers.  But the German knowledge that their penalty shootout technique and experience is far greater surely gives them an edge.  Knowing that if you are taken to the absolute end you have an ability superior to that of your opponents must provide a psychological advantage. 

The noticable thing about both South American powerhouses is the first time they faced serious pressure they crumbled completely.  Neither side had a plan B.  Particularly strange that Brazil with Dunga’s studious organisational approach were totally undone when facing a side with the armory to attack them. 
So despite the excitement of all the South American sides reaching the knockout stage we reach the final four with one remaining.  Pleasing to see a nation like Uruguay, who are as football mad as anywhere in the region, achieve something special.  Often there is an outsider in the semis and this time it’s Uruguay but they have earned the right to be there.  As for the aftermath of the Suarez red card, well, cheats didn’t prosper…he was red carded and a penalty awarded.  Some have even suggested a goal should have been awarded.  How can a goal be awarded if the ball hasn’t gone into the goal? If Gyan had scored the penalty it would have all been forgotten.   Although, like I said in my previous post, I still think he could have headed it away!!


Offers on Rory Delap Longthrow Merchandise

Brazilian agony Gyan’s pain Orange ecstasy Agreu’s swagger

July 3rd, 2010 No comments

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.

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.

Paraguayan pride and pundits

July 1st, 2010 No comments

Typically, as soon as I mention the second round having a healthy goals per game ratio we get two games with one goal between them.   It’s pleasing that Paraguay got through, albeit by a penalty shootout.   When they played Slovakia the camera scanned on them singing their national anthem and at the end they all cheered and clapped and looked at each other smiling.  A brief miraculous moment, players actually ENJOYING participating in the World Cup.   Such a refreshing change from the usual surly scowling young men with the weight of the world on their shoulders talking of which… Christiano doesn’t help himself does he?  He hasn’t written much future either.  He’ll meet his friend Wayne and they can drink champagne and decide who to blame for their lack of influence.  Then can blame Nike for not paying them enough to do those adverts.  Wayne and Steve Gerrard has decided to pull out of an event in London to find the worlds most skillful footballer, and they have had to lose their payment of half a million quid.  Poor loves, lets have a whip round. 

The decision of the remarkably named Nigeria president Goodluck Jonathan to suspend their national team is as foolish as it is melodramatic. It seems the decision is more to punish their FA than the players. This is in the wake of their chaotic preparation which resulted in friendlies cancelled and even the plane to take them to South Africa unable to take off. However, FIFA take a dim view of political leaders meddling with football.   If the two year ban is upheld it could be that Blatter and his mates decide to bang an extra ban on top.  This will harm the players in several ways but most of all deprive the Nigerian people the chance to see their team in competitive action.  Hopefully Goodluck is using this as a chance for a spot of self promotion.  Otherwise we can only wish bad luck on Goodluck. 

Bastian Schweinsteiger’s digs at Argentina got a staggering response from Maradona, because there wasn’t one!  Where you might usually expect him to react by smashing a glass or baring his arse or something, he didn’t react.  This is the calm before the storm.  You can bet there will be a reaction if Germany knock them out.  There is still bad blood after their quarter final in 2006 and nothing stokes the fire like a sense of grievance.  If, as is extremely possible, Argentina meet Brazil in the final the terms  mind games and antagonistic will have to be re-defined!   And antagonism is rarely as antagonistic as it is when Brazil play Argentina.

Reading some articles it seems the punditry on UK TV is rather poor.  The most annoying aspect is that in the first few weeks when they said something about one of the more obscure sides players they got ridiculed for being a swot.  Before Slovenia v Algeria one of them sort of shrugged and admitted he knew nothing about either team.  How lazy can you be?  Have they never heard of this thing what was invented called the, er, internet like?   This  attitude does nobody any favours.  In fact they just present themselves as ignorant and insular.  It’s not much to ask to provide some background information, otherwise why are they there? 

Blatter has apologised for Lampard’s phantom goal, how very kind of him!!   Three cheers for good old Sepp.  What happens now?  This apology means nothing unless measures are taken to ensure mistakes like this aren’t repeated.  They are happy to accept technological developments when they develop the new ball the players can’t play with.  Or when they have those big videoscreens that carry sponsors advertising.  Maybe, just maybe, they can use technology to help the game and not just so they can vacuum up money.

Capello’s errors but the world continues without England!!

June 29th, 2010 No comments

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.