Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

EURO 2012 32 hours and 10 minutes to go – Expectation, Selection and Racism

June 7th, 2012 No comments

Have England ever entered a tournament with expectations so low?  It’s hard to find anyone prepared to confidently predict progress to the quarter final.  With England fans now having such a cautious view we can hope it alleviates some of the overwhelming pressure that stifles the England team.

In the midst of the Rio Ferdinand & John Terry controversy, the issue of how to cope without Wayne Rooney for two games has been all but forgotten.  Hodgson could have created more options for himself by copying Marcello Lippi.  The notion of Italy’s habitual caution is genuine and legendary.  It’s proved fatal on several occasions. But Lippi, wily old warhorse that he is, contradicted this regular policy of football suicide by taking six forwards to Germany in 2006. SIX. and more to the point, in the semi against Germany used five of them. That Italy side was there to attack. And it proved fruitful. Like Enzo Bearzot 24 years before, breaking the fear led them to victory. There was a lesson for Roy to take on board in all that. Instead of filling the squad out with holding midfielders take an extra attacker. Take 5 forwards. You can’t have too many attacking options.  It would have addressed the issue of Rooney’s absence with positive sympathy.

While lacking the diversity of a World Cup, one great thing about the European Championship is the sheer quality on offer.  There are few dud teams in the Euros and many have genuine aspirations to win the trophy.  Enjoy this tournament because in 2016 that will change.  The decision to expand the finals competition to 24 teams will dilute the quality.   Did they do it because the cash cow that is England didn’t reach the 2008 finals?  I’m guessing it’d be a significant factor. There doesn’t seem to be any other reason.  UEFA forget that England didn’t qualify because we simply weren’t good enough. Europe has 52 nations and almost half of them will be in the tournament.  Financial gain may be assured but stripping the prestige away could prove to be self defeating.  There are already problems finding bidders to host for the 2020 competition.  UEFA’s number crunchers are clearly oblivious to the current precarious state of the global economy.

The issue of racism has dominated the build up. Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s families have decided  not to travel  over fears for their safety.  Mario Balotelli has stated that if he is the subject of racial abuse he’ll walk off the pitch.  Michel Platini has stated that any player walking off the pitch will receive a yellow card, adding that only referees have the authority to halt a match.  He did emphasise that if  referees choose to delay a match for this reason, UEFA would support them.  How can the black players trust the relevant bodies to protect them when for so long they proved themselves to be inept?  Both UEFA and FIFA have paid vacuous lip service to the subject for years.  During the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup, delegates were even instructed not to take racism into account when voting.  The result being that Russia will host.  Russia where racism in football crowds is sickeningly prominent.  If a player does have the courage to walk off the pitch the ruling bodies will have to face up their own responsibility in failing to adequately address the issue for so many years.

stoketshirts co uk england and stoke city for Euro 2012

Mixing matching and incompetent administrators

September 21st, 2010 No comments

So, the BIG question,  who should start up front with Jonesy?  And the key word is start. It is increasingly clear that the manager sees the substitute bench an important part of the overall game strategy.  You can’t have too many striking options.  It’s reminiscent of Italy in 2006 who, as opposed to the usual four,  took six strikers to Germany in their World Cup squad.  In the semi against Germany alone they used five of them….. excellent use of the squad.  Different attacking possibilities are an important luxury to enjoy.  As long as we aren’t three down and game over before we get the chance to mix and match!   Although against West Ham our biggest problem was defensive.  It was a dreadful free kick for Collins to give away  that led to their goal.  Like  against Villa, we fell behind and got overran for a while.  We equalised with a well worked goal and had the better of the second half but didn’t really do enough for us to be able to say we really deserved to win the game.  Four points from the two home games isn’t a bad return though.  Newcastle on Sunday and a long overdue clean sheet will be a fine starting point.   Reaching the next round of the League Cup would be most welcome too.   Come on stoke.

Despite playing the usual vacuous superficial lip service, FIFA have decided that the votes to decide  2018 World Cup hosts  must not be influenced in any way by the subject of racism.  So what is the point of that campaign they have been running?  During the recent Russia v Andorra match the black players were targeted throughout.  Wouldn’t the threat of being cast aside in the World Cup bid be a just action and a deterrent?   In 2006 Ukranian coach Oleg Blokhin made a grand statement that black players shouldn’t play in Ukranian football at all… yet there he was participating in that inane irrelevant ceremony before his teams quarter final against Italy. If the administrative bodies are serious about eliminating racism from the game they can do it by properly punishing those who display bigotry and making an example of them.    The last time England played in Spain the black players were abused throughout the game.  An appropriate punishment would have been to make them play their next competitive game behind closed doors.  This means everyone would suffer and the knuckle draggers would be forced to consider the consequences of their actions on their fellow supporters.  The players would have to play a competitive game in near silence and, most importantly for them, their FA would miss out on a load of money. 

Brisbane Roar have existed for five years and for five years they have screamed out for a ruthless finisher. Watching them stumble to a 1-1 draw home to Adelaide on Saturday night (before heading to the pub for our game against the Hammers) was five years in one game.  Encouraging play but some dopey defending allows Adelaide in to take the lead.  Then Brisbane equalise but despite being on top rarely look like snatching a winner.  Five years of nearly but not quite.  But most importantly we do have   football matches to attend and meet mates before and after etc…  the social aspect is crucial, and the bars around the stadium are great!!   If the game to survive here it has to be supported.  However frustrating it can be!!  

Amusingly, Mourinho has already started to fall out with his board at Real Madrid!   He wants to manage Portugal temporarily for their forthcoming Euro qualifiers against Denmark and Iceland.   Initially he was saying that he’d be alone in Madrid with nothing to do for a week (yeah right!) so what harm could it possibly do?  He’s taken a step back now but that little disagreement could be the germ that metamorphosizes into a large damaging virus that infects his reign at the Bernebau.  Valencia sit at the top in Spain and after watching them masterfully hold off the energetic Hercules they are deserved league leaders.  Barcelona will be relieved to have got their defeat at Hercules out of the system with the  win at Atletico Madrid. The only problem is that Messi’s injury has taken attention away from the wonderful goal he scored which in itself took attention away from Pedro’s brilliant diagonal pass to unlock the defence.   It was just  a pity about the horrible black goal nets….. they weren’t a worthy receptacle for a goal of such skill.    Messi’s injury means he’ll have to miss a few games including one against mighty Rubin Kazan in Europe….which takes me onto another subject……..

……The European Cup started last week.  OR to give it a more fitting name… The overblown overhyped carnival of too much pointlessness started last week.  That competition doesn’t get going until March, and often in March the drama and quality of the knockout football on show serves to demonstrate how futile and irrelevant too many of the matches in the early stages are.  There were a few suggestions of romance when Chelsea travelled to MSK Zillna but by the thirty minute mark romance had given way to grim predictable reality.  Arsenal were indeed brilliant against Braga but, with all respect, it was Braga.  Obviously they some good qualities to be in the competition at all but is that victory a genuine benchmark for anything?  Quite simply, that tournament needs a revamp to freshen it up.  At the moment it’s lots of clubs playing lots of games with little to spark the imagination.   Don’t start me on that Europa league.

Liverpool were well beaten by Man Yoo.  The 3-2 scoreline is deceptive.   The strange thing is however did Liverpool get back to 2-2?  It’s lame at this point to say Berbatov’s second was marvellous but of course it was.  To control the ball on the thigh and overhead kick takes rare agility.  It’s always aesthetically pleasing to see goals bounce in off the underside off the crossbar too.   Elsewhere, it was disgraceful to see Arsene Wenger violently attack the fourth official.  It isn’t football when you reduce yourself  to vicious intimidation like that.  That kind of bare thuggery has no place in the game.  He needs to wake up to himself.

The National Football Centre in Burton is delayed again.  This saga has dragged on for years now.  In 2001 the idea was announced and it was all conceived to follow the lead and success of the French centre at Clairefontaine.  Nine years and 25m quid later it is no nearer to completion.  This whole ongoing yarn symbolises the FA’s inability to make change.  Change that is required to help English players develop into the kind of players capable of sustaining a place amongst the world’s elite.  Instead of seeing the importance of such a project it has been allowed to fizzle out and the administrators have dithered and fussed around.  But who is seriously surprised by that?

Germany are better at football than England

June 28th, 2010 No comments

If Germany hadn’t scored those two second half goals the sense of grievance over Lampard’s ‘goal’ would have clouded England’s multitude of inadequacies.   Instead our players many technical deficiencies  were exposed in front of the whole world.   And, as ever, the moment we face a team with genuine aspirations to win the trophy we get knocked out.  

There’s nowhere to hide anymore.  In ninety minutes against a ruthlessly efficient German team, the myths and hubris surrounding the England team were brutally blown away.  Outfought outthought outplayed and ultimately outclassed.    All over the pitch Germany left England little traps to fall into.  And, unable to change, fall into them we did.   Each time we got the ball in the attacking third our players were boxed in and isolated.   Unable to pass the ball properly, OR maybe even dribble past an opponent (outlandish suggestion though that is)  we just ran into brick walls time and time again.   Germany were happy to condense play trusting that Englands lack of skill and tactical flexibility would largely nullify any desperate lousy halfarsed  threat we might try to conjure up.    And, of course,  they were right.   All they had to do was wait for possession (and it was rarely a long wait) and play.  The third German goal came from an England free kick.  Lampard was shooting so why not leave three back?   It’s not as if we weren’t aware of Germany’s power and pace on the break.   TCUP.  Thinking Correctly Under Pressure.  So many decisions were wrong.  

The probem is everyone will revert back to the P word.  Englands exit isn’t to do with lack of passion its to do with a players lack of ability.  The passion we crave means playing at 100mph and you can’t succeed at the top level just doing that.  Sophisticated teams can absorb it with the minimum of fuss.   So why can’t the cream of English football play differently?   Because they aren’t footballingly bright enough that’s why.  In his excellent book  The Italian Job, Gianlucca Vialli refers to players being able to ‘think football’.  Thinking football leads to flexibility  and an eagerness to try different things and test different systems.  Instead we have a situation now where any alternative to the usual method leaves England players baffled and confidence visibly drains.   For example, Lampard and Gerrard, after six years and three England managers, still can’t grasp how to play together effectively.  The problem is that we hype up the Premier League, bring in foreigners to make it more tactically astute and more gifted than the qualities we breed, sell it to almost 200 countries because of its fast paced physical conflict and its relative honesty . . . and fool ourselves that this makes the rest of the world tremble.  However, it’s painfully apparent when decent teams play England, they are aware that a side that can barely string three passes together isn’t going to cause too many problems. 

So that’s the end of that.  What happens now?  To simply call for the managers dismissal is, in this case, a quick fix for the short sighted.   The inadequacies of England team lie much deeper than the thirst for a scapegoat.   For England to metamorphosise into a trophy winning team would require a huge change in approach and the philosophy of the English game would have to totally change.  Sadly, I have no faith those who hold the vested interests of the game are prepared to take altruistic action to improve the national teams chances.  This ladies and gentlemen boys and girls, could be as good as it gets. 

I’ve just listened to an interview with Frank Lampard on the 5Live website and he indicates his goal not being given was what the game turned on.  Does he really believe that?   If ever anyone wants to know the meaning of the word deluded refer back to that.     He’s probably sitting on the plane home feeling unlucky.  Unlucky after that campaign?  Amazing head in the sand.  Hasn’t he ever watched a game  of football and seen what happens?  Unbelievable.

Stokeless in South Africa

June 25th, 2010 No comments

Who could have predicted that?   In the build up questions were asked about the age of the Italian squad.  Lippi responded by pointing out that in a World cup you  only need to win seven games.  The world champions  tepid exit will come as a huge shock.  Expectations were low but failing to get out of the group is a disaster.   Surely the inclusion of Cassano and Balotelli would have brought some much needed energy.   The outcome of the group was particularly suprising  because Slovakia had been uninspiring and dull in the first two games.   Without wishing to demean Slovakia’s victory it was more about Italian lethargy than any silky Slovakian skills.  They got through but Holland don’t have too much to worry about.  And remember, my predictions are usually 100% wrong!!   New Zealand didn’t quite have the craft to open the Paraguay defence but they can be proud of the achievements.  To go out unbeaten is impressive.  In years to come the Kiwis will look back on this as a special time in their lives. 

For Japan’s first goal Tommy took a slight move  to the left as it was being struck and that wrong footed him.  That was the beginning of the end of Stoke City’s representation in the tournament.   The TV companies will be hoping that doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the viewing figures.   Across the globe millions will now turn away from the World Cup.   Would Adidas and Macdonalds been so keen to invest so many millions in sponsorship if they had known it’d be Stokeless from the second round onwards?   Surely not.  Blatter will have some explaining to do.  To make it worthwhile the TV cameras will be scanning crowds for Stoke fans in Stoke shirts just to satisfy the hunger of sponsors and get some Stokeness in.   Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Another big question that’s been thrown up is about Maradona.   Is he becoming normal?   Admittedly, he did say Pele should go back to the museum, but in other areas he’s been saying things other, more sane, less unhinged  managers say.   He’s even said that Brazil were favourites.   In itself, this wasn’t a particularly controversial observation but  it was a rare moment of chivalry towards the deadly rivals.   Hopefully the pressure of the knockout stage will bring around a bit more madness from him. 

So we now have one eye on the game against Germany.   One difference between this and the other three games is that we won’t be favourites.  Given the fragile metal state of  our players will that work in our favour?    A bit less pressure maybe?   Looking back to the 1990 semi David Platt observed that deep down inside, in their heart of hearts, the England players didn’t believe they could win that game.   Will we dogged by those doubts on Sunday?   It’s in the head.

MysticalDescent’s views on England vs Slovenia

June 24th, 2010 No comments

James – 7 – Good safe hands for the majority of the match. He looked a calm, experienced head in a crunch game.

Johnson – 5 – Anything he did in the match, of which there was little good, was completely overshadowed by his persistent cheating. He was eventually booked for exaggerating contact, but he was very lucky to get away with a couple of other dives.

Terry – 7.5 – I was actually impressed with Terry, he was good at the back, was unlucky not to score and put in an exceptional, vital block. More of the same please.

Upson – 6 – Made one good block, but the rest of his game wasn’t really up to much. Somehow, he’s even slower than Carragher.

Cole – 7.5 – Not up to the level he performs at for Chelsea, but much, much better. He really got down the flank and gave his full-back a nightmare. How much better would he be with a left winger to help him out?

Milner – 8 MotM – His crossing ranged between awful and inch perfect, but his all round performance was probably as good as any England player this tournament.

Barry – 7 – A good, quiet game from Barry, but his forwards distribution left a lot to be desired at times.

Lampard – 6 – He still hasn’t really impressed, he missed a good chance and everything he did well was cancelled out by a mistake.

Gerrard – 6 – He looked dangerous throughout the game, but he completely abandoned his position on the left hand side time after time.

Defoe – 6 – Got the winner, but that was almost his only touch of the game and I’m far from convinced by him.

Rooney – 6 – Better than his shocker against Algeria, but he looked low on confidence and was making poor decisions.

Cole – 6 – Didn’t have a huge impact on the game.

Heskey – 6 – Also didn’t have a huge impact on the game, but was at least a decent calming presence who was a useful get out ball in the tense last few minutes.

It’s been a long time in coming, but England has finally arrived at the World Cup. Like our tournament to date, we started off sluggishly but unlike the tournament so far, we had a real flourish in the 25 minutes prior to half time and it continued for about 20 minutes after the break. In that period, we looked like we could have scored three or four and it was a complete turnaround from the last two games. We mustn’t get carried away, however.

Defoe scores for England

England have scored in the middle of a good spell! What, really?

Slovenia is not a team of world beaters. Slovenia is a team who finished in third place in a bog standard World Cup group and who never had any real hope of getting beyond the group stage. They are not a top, top team and there are certain things that we got away with against them that we will not get away with against the likes of Spain, Brazil and Uruguay (who remain my tip for the trophy). For a start, I’m a long, long way from being convinced by Jermain Defoe up front. He scored the winning goal and that’s a big plus, even if it did go in off his shin. Would Heskey have gotten himself in that position to score? It’s unlikely. That was one of Defoe’s only touches over the course of the match, however, whereas Heskey would be involved in most of England’s attacks. It would be alright if Defoe were the sort of player who will pop up almost every single game with a goal, but he isn’t, at all. It’s all a bit of a quandary really, and I don’t envy Capello for having to make the call on Sunday. The more I look at it, we really are very, very weak up front. Defoe, Heskey and Crouch are all limited players and none of them is a world beater. Even in Euro 2000 we had two very good strikers to call on in Shearer and Owen. This year, we just have Rooney.

Secondly, Capello has to spend a lot of time thinking about what he does with his captain. Steven Gerrard simply does not work out on the left wing. He does not behave with any of the positional discipline that you would expect of a left winger. Instead, he plays the same game that he plays for Liverpool when he plays in the centre, apart from when defending in which case he drops back over to the left hand side. Throughout the game Gerrard appears all over the pitch when England has possession, but he is never where he is supposed to be. The ultimate effect is that we are left short if we ever move the ball over to the left and as good as he is, Ashley Cole cannot consistently take on two opposition defenders on his own. For what it’s worth I would move Gerrard to the middle, take out Lampard and put Joe Cole on the left. Bizarrely, Capello doesn’t seem to have considered this, as he showed when he brought on Cole to play behind the main striker while Gerrard stayed out wide. Gerrard’s indiscipline will cost us in both defence and attack against the better teams unless it is nipped in the bud now.

We can at least be pleased with the performance that James Milner put in. Aaron Lennon is a good player, but there was something missing from his game against the US and Algeria. His failure to use his pace to get down the line to put a cross meant that he offered just as little in attack as he did defence. Milner, however, was a revelation after his bizarre cameo against the US. He was constantly getting balls into the box and whilst they were a bit hit and miss, when he got it right he got it very right indeed. The cross for the goal was inch perfect and there were one or two others that he put into the right areas. He’s a player who has really come on quietly over the past few years and he is now starting to demonstrate why he is such a crucial player for Aston Villa. In a team that has been blighted by workshy, arrogant prima donnas, it’s nice to see a quiet and hardworking player who also has a bit of talent. Hopefully we’ll get a repeat performance against the Germans.

James Milner

James Milner's performance was a revelation, hopefully he could become the star of this tournament for England

I have already mentioned in this article and others that I think Wayne Rooney is our only world class player. For some reason, however, he just hasn’t turned up so far. A change of strike partners hasn’t helped him and every minute that passes over the course of the game just seems to place more and more weight on his shoulders. I think that he’s being affected by a combination of a lingering injury and feeling the massive, massive pressure that’s on him to perform. The press are quite happy to remind him every time he sees them that he’s seen as the single creative spark that England has who is capable of single-handedly winning the World Cup. He’s constantly told that he’s the best English player for a whole generation. I think once he gets one goal, he could well get another and the pressure would start to alleviate a little, but a lack of confidence caused by the pressure then begins to come into play. Against Slovenia, he quite often chose to pass when he would have been able to shoot, or shoot when he would have been better off passing. He had an excellent chance to score, but he fluffed his lines and ended up taking his shot with the ball already behind him. It was a top quality save, but a poor miss, regardless of whether or not he thought he was offside. I think we’ve seen the back of the player who will get so frustrated that he’ll lash out on the nearest opposition player, so with careful management that shouldn’t be a worry for us, but he needs something to happen for him soon because he’s currently becoming a liability. Worse than that, he’s an undroppable liability, somebody who England cannot do without, but who is holding England back.

Of course, a good 45 minute spell across the middle of the match won’t be enough for us to beat the Germans. There’s a reason that they haven’t failed to reach the quarter finals since 1936 and it is engrained into their football culture. We cannot afford to let the game go beyond extra time; we must win it before the dreaded penalty shootout. Do that and maybe, just maybe I’ll let myself suspect that it could be our year. We can potentially face Argentina in the quarter-finals and Portugal in the semi-finals, should we beat the Germans. It’s all lined up for us to take our revenge for so many footballing disasters over the years. I’m feeling strangely optimistic.

England lose to Germany on penalties

Let's try not to take on the Germans at their own game, let's just beat them in ordinary time instead.

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

Hope not expectation

June 9th, 2010 No comments
Tis the time to dream. Every four years this recurring dream recurs. This familiar one when England become world champions. However, even being as optimistic as possible, the dream is motivated by hope as opposed to realistic expectation.

The quarter finals are by any historical measure a good performance for England and the problem is that some  people seem unable to get their heads around that. Our record since 66 isn’t great. In the last 44 years we have reached a World Cup semi a Euro semi and several World Cup quarter finals. In the same period Holland have reached two WC finals and a semi and won the European championship. Bulgaria have reached a WC semi. Sweden have got to a WC semi and a Euro semi. Poland have reached a WC semi and finished 3rd in 1974. Soviet Union reached two Euro Finals. Belgium have reached a Euro final and a WC semi. Turkey have reached a World Cup semi and a Euro semi.  And, of course, Greece were European champions. That’s only looking at the middle ranking sides from Europe. In 2008 and 2002 the Germans were considered to be poor yet still reached the final of those competitions.

So since 66* our record, when compared to other European football nations, gives new meaning to the word average. Yet people got annoyed because, for example, we’d never ‘win anything with Sven.’ Its unlikely we’ll win a competition whoever the manager is! We’d all love to but  actually expecting England to win a tournament is wishful thinking. There’s no great tradition to justify that sort of demand. In a tournament, if we get through the group we’ve fulfilled expectancy. Personally, I always look at getting through the group then take it from there. Usually as soon as we face a side with genuine aspirations to win the tournament we get knocked out.  1990  was great fun but, with all respect, Belgium and Cameroon weren’t contenders to lift the trophy.

Sven was also unpopular because he didn’t  stand on the touchline with contorted face and clenched fists and blood spurting from his ears, displaying the ‘passion’ we English crave. The Premier League is popular throughout the world because its often exciting and fast paced mixed with physical tussles. This does make for exciting blood and thunder games but doesn’t necessarily help players to develop their technique and tactical awareness. The British public love blood and thunder too.   What’s the thing always thrown at the  England set up? Passion. England lack ‘passion’. ‘Passion’ manifests itself by way of crashing tackles and sticking your bonce amongst the boots to win a header. These aren’t bad attributes but at World Cup level you need more than blood and thunder. England’s players are lacking because many have never had to consider a wider range to their game. Partly because of the nature of English football. 

I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t try to win tournaments I’m just saying that we should keep our hopes in perspective. But 44 years never stops me dreaming!!

*our record before 66 wasn’t great…Bela Horizonte anyone?

Australia hopes….but doesn’t expect

June 7th, 2010 No comments

In recent years it has been exciting to watch Australia come to prominence in football.   I’ve never known this country as ecstatic as it was on reaching the second round last time.   Finally, after years of administrative haggling, football finally had the profile it deserves.   It also brought the realisation that football, and the World Cup in particular, provided a stage bigger than anything previously experienced.  

This is my home and a place I love dearly so while I can’t quite say I support Australia I do honestly wish them well.  Until they play England anyway!   A good campaign for the national team is good for the game here which, obviously, is good for any football fan.   Each time I walk through my beloved Brisbane the profile of the World Cup is growing. Shopfronts proudly displaying the green and gold and bars advertising live TV showings are more prominent each day.  How many are prepared to stay open until 4.30am to show some matches remains to be seen!!

Anything Australia achieve in South Africa, and contrary to some peoples views I think they have a good chance of reaching the second round, is almost entirely based on a rigid formation.  You can’t outplay them BUT you can outnumber them. Squeezing the opposition in the middle of the pitch and narrowing angles will stifle opposition creativity and help to get on top of them and grind them down. Another advantage of this is the KISS method. Keep It Simple Stupid. If in doubt kick it out.  There will be little scope to make a tactical blunder.   In the build up the media attention is largely focussed on Harry Kewell and will he be ready for the Germans on Monday morning.   It’d actually make more sense not to play him in that.  Why risk another breakdown in a game where Australia will likely be beaten anyway?  The extra days would mean he’s much closer to full fitness when the more realistic goal of beating Ghana arrives on Saturday night.   It’s crucial to use the whole squad and everyone plays a role in a healthy campaign.   But a big injury to Tim Cahill would make a serious dent in the hopes.   He’s crucial.
So next Monday morning at 4.30 it’ll be interesting to see footballs true believers out in force.    And it’s a public holiday so everyone can catch up on much needed sleep afterwards!!