World Cup – Friday 18th June

It’s In The Eyes

Anybody that has predicted all the results so far clearly knows nothing about football. As for us experts we have all got it wrong…

Results – Friday 18th June

  Group D: Germany 0 – 1 Serbia
  Group C: Slovenia 2 – 2 USA
  Group C: England 0 – 0 Algeria
Post Match Review
Is there no respite from this malady for England’s brave? Princes William and Harry played royal witness to groundhog day as Algeria continued where America left off. On the day it was meant to be, it was not meant to be. They huffed and they puffed but they couldn’t blow the plucky Algerian defence down. James returned as custodian – a safe pair of hands. Barry swept up in front of the back four – a stablising influence. Heskey stood his ground – a solid anchor. Safe, stable and solid – watchwords for the career a la Capello – but we bought a ticket to see dangerous, mobile and flexible! Britannia but all shield and no trident. The fans know it. The players know it. The question is, “does the manager know it?”.

Capello, wooden in thunderbird caricature as in tactics will be hoping for international rescue. England still waits but it no longer expects.

Fixtures – Saturday 19th June

  Group E: Holland vs Japan
  Group D: Ghana vs Australia
  Group D: Cameroon vs Denmark
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 The Japanese squad numbers jump from 3 to 5 as the number 4 is considered unlucky in the country. Four is pronounced “shi” which is the same as “death.” This isn’t as strange as it sounds. In England the number 1 shirt is considered unlucky
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron What’s going on? Did I upset Doris Stokes? There’s trouble I the netherworld and my tea leaves are all over the place, so I’m switching to my crystal ball instead. Let’s give it a rub – I don’t know how my balls got so sticky! That’s better. I’m seeing an orange sun – that’ll be Netherlands vs Japan I suppose. I don’t know where I left the instructions so I don’t really know what that means. I’m all in a tis now! Oh sod it – Holland to win, Ghana to win , Denmark to draw. And I’ve just finished off the hob nobs.

View from the sofa

The captain gets first say tonight. In so much as you can say anything…

Captain Pugwash There’s an ill wind blows that makes the old ship creak from bow to foc’lse. Where it comes from no man can say and yet here is as again, like a foreboding. My steadiest hands are pale with the sickness yet they have sailed through this and much worse. Is there a smell of mutiny in the air? Me thinks it be time to pass the rum around. Ahargh!

Sick-as-a-parrot-ometer 18 June

Sometimes from amidst a dense cloud of confusion and chaos emerges stark clarity. The fog of war engulfed the England squad this evening as they fought a shadowy spectre on an unforgiving battlefield. Passes went astray, progressive play hard to come by. Fits and starts. A glimmer and then a gaffe. It was a nothing performance by a highly talented England side against an Algerian team that in playing to their potential were scant opposition for any team of calibre. So what went wrong?

There were so many clues. The pre-match hubbub about the keeper was an irrelevance. The stale and predictable tactics gave an early hint to the problem. The introduction of Barry provided some initial stability and impetus from the back but this again was a red herring. Every player performed below his best to one degree or another. Rooney was largely peripheral. Gerrard kept sticking when he should have twisted and vice versa. Lampard was away with the fairies. You only knew Terry was on the pitch when the ref blew for a foul. Here a truly world class spine was lost in some parallax an eyes blink to the left of reality. What can cause not one or two but all of a team to under-perform to such an extent?

Still confused? Were heads down? Not really. Were the team unfit? Not in the least. Were there flashes of temper or loss of disipline? No, just a booking for a block on a player. Were the team trying? You bet. So we have 11 fit players of quality all trying hard, playing with discipline and yet they under-performed and failed to deliver.

Everything you needed to know about the reasons for tonight’s performance (and hence result) was there to see in the player’s eyes. There was fear, pressure and frustration. Lampard was worst affected – he was paralysed. Gerrard was strong but – he appeared to be carrying the world on his shoulders. Carragher wore the look of a soldier about to leave the trenches. Football is a game you play against yourself. That shadowy spectre they fenced with all evening was England. There was only one team on the pitch and it played out a draw with itself.

So for all of the frustration and disappointment amongst the fans I would implore you not to judge the players because they are blameless, although they may blame themselves.

The best managers don’t appear to do anything. They gently guide a team in a direction. They define points of focus for individuals and create an environment where everyone knows what is required and expected of them but equally importantly they know why they are valuable. Individuals are given the latitude to express themselves and channel their hunger for the game into something positive. That is the art of management at this level because all of the basics are givens to these elite players.

Brian Clough is the perfect example. He would take an exceptional crosser of the ball and tell him in no uncertain terms that his job was solely to put the ball onto the head of the centre forwards. There would be no criticism for not tackling back and no request for the player to play a foreign position. That player would be in his element excelling at the thing he does best and being judged on those simple instructions alone.

Fabio Capello is the strict disciplinarian. There are many admirable facets to this approach, especially when dealing with multi-millionaires who usually rule the roost on their club turf. He rules the team with an iron fist, Iron is strong but it is also inflexible. The players are not happy with the formation or tactics. They can’t say it but it is obvious. Unlike the rebellious French team the England boys are heads down trying to deliver Fabio’s plans on the pitch, but they aren’t comfortable with it and each time they fail to execute these plans the manager is heaping the pressure back on them to do better next time instead of looking at himself. A great manager of men stands firm – at the right times – but crucially knows when to change course or take advice from elsewhere.

Capello’s legacy to his role as England manager rests entirely on what he does for the final group game against Slovenia. If he stands firm nothing will change, we will draw at best and exit the tournament. Alternatively if he drops the barrier he has erected between himself and the players, has a laugh with them and changes the squad and formation to allow them to express themselves we might just see the kind of exhillarating celebratory football that wins world cups.

What are you doing on Wednesday?

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