World Cup – Sunday 11th July

…It Is Now!

 This win for glorious homeland Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea will show the imperialist west that we are superior in every way. The lads will be welcomed home as heroes for an open-top tank parade. All hail me!

No – hang on. That’s not what happened…

Result – Sunday 11th July

  Final Spain 1 – 0 Holland

View From The Hotel Room

 Tonight we are going to do things a little differently. I watched the final in a hotel room so my normal colleagues are not around and it’s just me. Here are the match highlights as I saw them…

1 min: Referee Howard Web has polished his head in an attempt to look like Pierluigi Collina.

9 mins: Nothing happenend.

17 mins: Ohh – ahh – no, almost! Throw in.

24 mins: It’s good to see some proper fouling. In too many games up to now we have seen yellow cards given for soft fouls but Van Bommel’s deliciously crude tackle from behind that took out his man plus the mans dog was a joy to behold and much better value for yellow.

28 mins: Just when we thought that was good along comes De Jong and applies his studs to Alonso’s chest a’la Gazza. Again – excellent value for a yellow.

30 mins: BBC commentator Cliche Watch: “There will be a new name on the trophy whoever wins“. REALLY?!

42 mins: Sneijder shows consumate skill to jams his studs into a Spanish midfielder without getting booked. Now that’s how you do it.

44 mins: Cliche watch: “Van Persie has fed on scraps in the first half“. Perhaps if he would stop eating and concentrate on the game he might have been more effective.

Alan Hansen bemoans the fact that the game has been tight with lots of fouls and little flair on show. Yes Alan – it’s the World Cup final. This coming from a dour central defender whose playing career (and subsequent punditry career) was hallmarked by dull thuggery.

56 mins: Johnny Heitinga receives Hollands 5th yellow card – not for shooting as the felled Spaniard would claim – but for a something-and-nothing challenge. Not in Van Bommels class.

62 mins: Arjen Robben through on goal finds his shot saved prompting the commentator to spout yet more predictable cliches

66 mins: Capdevilla clips the heels of advancing Van Persie to get his name into the book. Snidey and not nearly dangerous enough.

69 mins: David Villa picks up a loose ball 2 yards out and with the goal at his mercy manages to win a corner.

73 mins: Cliche watch: After a promising Spanish move is brought to a halt by a foul – “If Spain score from this it will be poetic justice“.

76 mins: Sergio Ramos fancies an extra 30 minutes judging by his open goal miss from a corner.

79 mins: Quote of the match – Spanish winger Jesus punts the ball over everyone’s head and out of play. Commentator: That’s not his greatest cross. True, but a little insensitive on a Sunday!

82 mins: Robben is through again and with just the goalkeeper to beat manages to emerge with a booking.

84 mins: Cliche watch: “We are at the stage where one goals means you’re world champions“. Erm, no actually.

FULL TIME and Gary Lineker is clearly distracted – If it goes to penalties it’s going to be a knee trembler. I’m not sure if he’s talking about his own circumstances or whether FIFA have introduced a new way to settle tied matches.

92 mins: Three Spanish forwards dive simultaneously in the box. It’s beautifully choreographed.

94 mins: Fabregas wants penalties and so decides to miss when clean through.

95 mins: Mathaison also fancies pens so heads over from a corner when well set.

102 mins: Cliche watch: “We are still no nearer to finding out which of these two nations will be crowned world champions

Commentator to Clarence Seedorf – “How can Holland win this game now?“. Go on Clarence – just say it, please!

106 mins: Cliche watch: Torres comes on – “It’s the story often told – a substitute comes on and wins the match“. Name one of these stories…

109 mins: Heitinga sent off for second yellow card. Nothing too malicious unfortunately.

110 mins: Van Der Weil booked for allowing Iniesta to blatantly dive.

114 mins: Cliche watch: “You have to score to win a world cup

116 mins: INIESTA SCORES! Two more bookings.

117 mins: Cliche watch: “Holland are losing

120 mins: Xavi booked for kicking the ball away.

121 mins: Torres makes his only contribution to the world cup by pulling his hamstring.

122 mins: The ref blows – it’s all over! Dutch players crowd around the referee to dispute something or other in an attempt to get some late-late bookings but it’s to no avail. Just the 14 yellow cards this game.

It’s cliche heaven. Here we go…
Commentator: “Spain have won the world cup 1-0“. Really? Thanks for that – none of us had been watching.
Alan Hansen: “The goal was scored by Iniesta – the best player of the tournament“, which seems odd since Hansen hadn’t mentioned this up until this point.
Gary Lineker: “A victory for football I think“. Bingo!
Alan Shearer: “Iniesta has got magnets in both feet“. If only the ball were metal…
Perry Groves: “There was only one team that wanted to win right from the start
Commentator: As Spain alight the stairs – “Iker Cassilas was bred for this moment
Commentator: As the trophy is lifted – “Spain are the kings of world football
Perry Groves: “Spain play football like we all want to play it in our heads

Loose Ends

Let’s wrap a few things up before I call time on my world cup blog. The blog banner graphic includes the following footballing folk, in case you hadn’t already worked it all out.
WC Banner

From left to right…

  • Ray “the crab” Wilkins
  • Hoddle and Waddle in their Diamond Lights phase
  • Glen Johnson in his Stealing Toilet Seats phase
  • “Big Ron” Atkinson
  • Jimmy Hill. No seriously!
  • Statto, aka Angus Loughran, who was declared bankrupt in 2008.
  • Saint & Greavsie
  • John “Motty” Motson
  • Carlton Palmer – former England international in all but ability.
  • John Barnes – famous for his rap song and shiny suits. And failed management career. And crap punditry. He used to be a decent footballer mind.
  • Stan “The Man” Collymore & Ford Cortina. Unfortunately his dogging notoriety is far from the most shameful incident in his career.
  • Paul “Daft as a brush Gazza” Gascoigne. Just when you thought his life couldn’t get more screwed up he arrives in Rothbury to provide his good friend the deranged murderer Raoul Moat with his last supper. Pity his agent who he shares with Roger Mellie.

Thanks to all of my guests. BTW: Who’s going to pay for the massive biscuit and cake bill? And this poodle is going for a walk “down by the canal” tomorrow.
No thanks to the jobsworth “celebrity” agent who tried to close down my blog on the grounds that it somehow posed a threat to his D-list client.

Apologies to my non-footballing readers for the last months output – normal travel/baking service will be resumed forthwith.

As my grandfather would have said – “That’s yer lot

World Cup – Saturday 10th July

All Of Nothing

By my calculations there were 736 players at this years World Cup finals. Statistically that means 61 one of them will be a year older at the end of the tournament than the beginning. I suspect many more than this will feel that the World Cup has been going on for a year. Can we just have the final please?

Results – Saturday 10th July

  Third Place Germany 3 – 2 Uruguay
Post Match Review
 Everyone had been looking forward to this clash but I thought tonight I would let the fans do the talking. We have staunch German fan Fritz and Uruguayan supporter Carlos here to talk us through this exciting third place play-off match. The match was end-to-end with countless chances for both teams. Carlos, your team went a goal down but then fought back to take the lead. Did you think Uruguay were going to win at that point?

 I don’t know. I didn’t watch the game. I took the dog for a walk and when I got home I watched Uruguay’s Got Talent instead of the second half. Who won then?

 Urm, well Germany did. They showed real heart to come back after losing the lead to win. Fritz you must be very pleased with your teams performance.

 Ja, my neighbour told me we played very well. I was washing the car but he kept telling me the score.

 Well you both missed a great match. Forlan almost equalised at the end – it could all have been so different. It’s a shame you missed it.

So Carlos, who won Uruguay’s got talent then? Please tell me it wasn’t that singing Llama. That’s a complete load of rubbish but the audience seemed to love it last week.

Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Did you know that most Spaniards are allergic to vegetables? While Columbus and Drake brought potatoes and exotic fruit back from their travels to new lands the Spanish explorers of the age sailed back to their King with ostrich steaks and turkey twizzlers.
Scientific Siegfried’s Rational Assessment Of Football Results
Scientific Siegfried Fussball’s komming home! Ze ladz done gut. Eine match left jetz – Spainland against Holland. For zis very komplicated prediktion I haff much thought over. Spain zey are ze favouties, no? Holland ze underhounds.

Hmmm. Tricky.

Ah – hier ist mein assessment. Ze vinners of the 2010 world mug vill be Holland! Ja – naturlich. Zey haff done just enough every time und Sontag zey vill do zis also. Die Grossen Frau sings soon!

Und dass ist alles. Mein predictive verk ist now over und I must return to ze Max Plank Institute where I am writing a paper on dust particles. Of course I couldn’t say auf wiedersehen without one last item of kuchen…

Vat else than Dutch Apfel Kuchen?

View from the sofa

What is the point? Really. After several weeks away from home two teams have narrowly failed to make the final just when they are dead beat and want to get on a plane they have to play one more match to ascertain which of them is the bigger loser. The players just want to go home and many of the supporters don’t really care.

OK, rant over. The good points.

  • The unlikely appearance at a match in South Africa between Germany and Uruguay of an England flag behind one goal with “Chesterfield” written on it.
  • The opportunity to debunk the ridiculous notion that an octopus can predict the result of a football match.
  • The sound of Suarez (the guy who cheated Ghana out of a win with his last minute hand ball) getting booed every time he was on the ball. This was the only time you could hear fans above the vuvuzelas.
  • Another chance for Joachim Lowe to show off his wardrobe. This time a fetching Mourinhoesque scarf.
  • The sight of two teams who, at last, play with free abandon because they have nothing to lose. Against all odds it turned out to be one of the most entertaining games of the tournament.

World Cup – Wednesday 7th July

German Pain As Spain Reign

If you backed the prediction of Paul the psychic octopus at the bookies you would be squids in. He predicted a Spain win so the calamari is on hold, for now at least.

Results – Wednesday 7th July

  Semi Final Spain 1 – 0 Germany
Post Match Review
 This was never going to be the 90 minute classic some people were expecting. Spain held the majority of posession but looked unclinical in the final third. Germany were solid but their ocassional thrusts were met with the sort of reliable defending they hadn’t yet encountered in this competition.

Spain had the best of the few chances that were created and it was no surprise that the goal when it came was scored by a central defender – Puyol heading home from a corner. They should have doubled their lead when through 2 on 1 but Pedro reverted to Spanish sterotype by trying to beat the solitary defender instead of squaring to the spare man. Ultimately it didn’t matter – the Germans rarely troubled Casillas in goal and can have no complaints.

So now we know how the the finalists and whether Spain or Holland come out on top on Sunday we will have new World Cup winners – neither have lifted the trophy before.

View from the sofa

Spain beat Germany. Blah blah blah.

The really big news is that I am now about to announce the winner of the World Cup Golden Mullet competition! Back on June 20th I asked you to choose your top three worst ever hair disasters in World Cup history from a choice of 12 contenders. The moment of truth has arrived and I can announce the top three worst hair happenings as chosen by an expert judge (me).
Golden Mullet
Golden Mullet

Taribo West
Taribo West
In third place I have chosen former Nigerian defender Taribo West. Don’t get me wrong, we are talking about not only a very fine footballing talent but a true humanitarian responsible for great acts of charity and compassion towards his less well off fellow countrymen. Good deeds can only go so far however and there can be no defence for this hairstyle homage towards a little girl’s doll.

Second place Goes to the former Portugal and Everton enigma Abel Xavier. What can you say about the calimatous coiffure that you see before your eyes? What exactly (or even vaguely) was he trying to achieve? You see this is only part of the story. The lad has form – he’s had more bizarre hair arrangements than Avram Grant has had massages. I think it just comes down to the fact he wasn’t that great a player so had to make the news in different ways.
Abel Xavier
Abel Xavier

In this judges view first place is firmly taken by none-other than beaver toothed pie fancying Ronaldo (the original Brazilian one – not the car crashing, dive meister from Portugal). What can you say about this, this – thing. I’m genuinely trying to say something incisive or witty but for once words truly fail me. There may be some logic. Perhaps he thought that a totally dumb-assed removal of hair from the forehead back would distract people from his unfortunate teeth. However, the net result is that you notice both of these features instead of just the one. The knob.

Congratulations go to our winner Jim Patraeus of New Bedford MA. Jim didn’t agree with my ratings – in fact he didn’t actually enter the competition at all – but he did ask me for advice about a washing line, which was the closest thing to a competition entry that I received.

Jim “wins” the fabulous prize of the ball that has been in my garage for a few years. As promised I have faked a number of footballing signatures on the ball plus – for Jim’s personal appreciation – some Stateside tags: Abe Lincoln, Bill Shatner, Elvis and MC Hammer.

Signed Ball
Signed Ball

The ball would be in the post if I had your address but instead it’s back in my garage. Eat your heart out Jules Rimet.

World Cup – Tuesday 6th July

Ooh – some football just happened!

Look, you probably watched this match yourself. You don’t need to read about it here. There’s quite good coverage of this competition on the BBC website. You might as well take look there…

Results – Tuesday 6th July

  Semi Final Holland 3 – 2 Uruguay
Post Match Review
 Holland won this encounter by three goals to two. They scored one more goal than Uruguay and under the rules of football that means that they progress to the world cup final while Uruguay do not. Had this not been the score it is possible that the consequences for both sides would have been different but nobody can argue that the result speaks for itself.

It was a game in which both sides scored. On a different day there could have been more goals – or less – but fate decided tonight result. Holland were most likely playing in Orange with Uruguay probably in Blue. The first half saw both sides trying to score against the opposition and there were doubtlessly some occassions when defending was called for in order to counter the attacking teams intentions.

Things changed around at half time with each team kicking the other way. Neither manager chose to change tactics after the break with both Holland and Uruguay singlularly focussed on scoring and yet not conceding. Towards the end of the game the tension ramped up as Holland held onto their goal lead while Uruguay attempted to equalise in the attempt to force 30 minutes of extra time and then perhaps penalties, but the Dutch held out for the win.

After the match the Dutch players were very happy while the mood in the Uruguay camp was rather low. I would imagine that if asked about the teams appearance in Sundays world cup final the Dutch players would say they are looking forward to it and they believe they can win.

Tomorrow we find out who the opposition will be when Germany take on Spain. Now that’s a match not to miss. No siree – we won’t be missing THAT match. Definitely going to tuning in for that one. Oh yes!

Fixtures – Tuesday 5th July

  Semi Final Germany vs Spain
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Germany really are the footballing machine they are made out to be. In the last 14 world cup tournaments their record is: Champions 3 times, Runners up 4 times, semi-finals 3 times and Quarter Finals 3 times. Only in 1978 did they suffer the relative ignomony of getting knocked out in the quarter finals – like England this year.
Scientific Siegfried’s Rational Assessment Of Football Results
Scientific Siegfried Welkommen again fussball volk. Mein towel ist already on ze footballing seat. Are you ready for “das big daddy spielen” tomorrow? It ist irrelevent how you feel. Fools. There are facts only in this matter und ze facts are that Germany are “hot to trotting” as you Englanders say.

Ja, Spainland vill feel ze embarassment of failure before the might of my people. On ze night it vill be wiesswurst, nicht chorizo. It vill be Becks nicht San Miguel. It vill be Kraftwerk nicht Julio Igelsias. VW nicht Seat. Hanggen on, zey are die same no?

For you Spainland there ist only the crumbs of Spaincake comfort…

Spanish Cake

Crumbs because I have zis kuchen now eaten gobbelt. Adios!

View from the sofa

Erm – sorry missed it. Was it a good match?

World Cup – Monday 5th July

Orange or Blue?

Were you the loser everyone laughed at when you drew Uruguay in the office sweepstake? Are you now enjoying the glum silence from the no-longer-so-cocky Brazilian, Italian, Argentinian and French ticket holders? You probably realise that your smugness ends tomorrow. Or does it? That’s the beauty of football – you never quite know…

Fixtures – Tuesday 5th July

  Semi Final Holland vs Uruguay
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Holland have a curious World Cup record. They have failed to qualify on 7 of the last 14 occasions while making it all the way to the finals twice and semis twice. This is a very Dutch characteristic due in part to their complex psychological make-up and duality of mindset but predominantly their innate insanity.
Scientific Siegfried’s Rational Assessment Of Football Results
Scientific Siegfried Guten Abend. Hier ist ze prediktions for match Holland vs Uruguay. I haff programmed mein computer mitt ze permutations for zis fixture. Major inputs include absence of players for each side (Alpha factor), form of key players (Beta factor), managerial tactics (Omega factor) and ze variable “law of the sod” (Celebrity X-factor). Now must I press the “any” key for with the program to start…

…it ist processing…

…ach leibe gott – it hast gekrashed! Bill Gates ist ein dumbkopf! Zer ist die “blue screen of death”. Hmmm, since Uruguay play in blue this perhaps meanz zey lose, no? Ja – das ist so. Netherlands to win – piece of cake! Hmmm, cake…

Orange Cake

Vat could be more naturlich – ein grosse portion of Orange Drizzle Cake for mit scoffen, nein?

View from the sofa

Holland against Uruguay. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t have quite the same ring about it as Spain vs Germany. Can’t we just put Holland in the final and get on with it? Holland are going to win after all.

Whoa – hold on! In all probability Holland will win but unless they are 3-0 up in 20 minutes there will be sufficient doubt about the result to hold our attention. Don’t forget how close Paraguay were to putting Spain out of the competition. Even if a shock result is never on the cards there is still the potential drama of a booking putting a player out of the final. Imagine the trauma of a player getting a card 5 minutes from time with their team 2 goals up, with the sudden realisation they are going to miss the final. It’s not life or death but somehow it seems as large.

There’s also the fact that both teams will be desperate to win and unless it’s all square going into the end phase of the match the losing team will be throwing themselves forward leaving great counter-attacking possibilities for their opponents. It could yet turn out to be the game of the tournament. Still feeling 100% confident in Holland?

Uruguay hosted and won the first world cup back in 1930. Apparently they were chosen as hosts because they had won the Olympic tournament and on that basis were deemed to be the best team in the world. Here’s an interesting story I picked up about that tournament from the Buenos Aires Herald…

Uruguay were due to meet Yugolsavia in their first match – the first to feature any of the South American teams. Apparently the Yugoslavs sent spies to the Uruguayan team’s training session but the players noticed this. They began falling over each other and deliberately kicking the ball badly, so much so that the spies reported that these South Americans did not know how to play soccer. On the day of the match, the Uruguayan flag was raised the wrong way round and a Brazilian march was played instead of the Uruguayan national anthem. The third mishap was that Uruguay ran rings around Yugoslavia and beat them 7-0.

It’s a sweet story from an innocent time. Could this also have been Fabio Capello’s plan? Did it backfire when England forgot to stop playing like idiots when they met Germany? Maybe the truth will out in 80 years time in the morning edition of the African Sporting Gazette.

World Cup – Saturday 3rd July

Germany Calling

I recently mentioned how well the South American sides were doing compared to Europe and suggested Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay could make up the last four. This from the genious who swapped David Villa into his fantasy world cup squad tonight but contrived not to put him in the team (he scored). Needless to say, my blog is not a betting service…

Results – Friday 2nd July

Germany 4 – 0 Argentina
    Spain 1 – 0 Paraguay
Post Match Review
 If ever a game flattered to deceive. Nobody gave Paraguay a chance in this encounter and who didn’t expect Spain to win comfortably. What we got was a curates egg of a game with long periods of inaction interspersed with short bursts of drama.

Spain dominated the first half without testing the keeper while Paraguay had the ball in the net but were unfortunate to see the offside flag. The second half opened up a little and Paraguay were correctly awarded a penalty after some obvious pulling by Pique. Casillas saved the lame attempt and within a minute Spain were awarded a penalty at the other end. Alonso scored but was forced to take it again. His next attempt was saved and somehow it remained 0-0. Manager Del Bosque must have wondered if had walked under a black cat.

With Paraguay starting to tire Spain started to create chances and they finally took the lead after a shot rebounded off the post to Villa who put it in himself off both posts. Paraguay stormed forward and there were good chances at both ends but ultimately it will be Spain playing Germany for a place in the World Cup Finals. They are going to have to up their game for that one.

World Cup Classifieds
For sale: Small shiny suit. Only worn 5 times. Mostly good condition, just a few white powder marks. Would suit fat child. Ask for Maradona c/o Hotel Ranchos, Cape Town
Lost: Mojo, last seen in Barcelona. Believe I brought it with me to South Africa. Could be somewhere on a Jo’berg training pitch. Phone Lionel.
Found: Tall well built footballer found alone on football pitch in the dark still trying to score a goal. Answers to the name of Emile.

View from the sofa

I checked my mailbox today and thought I had an entrant for my Golden Mullet World Cup competition. I was therefore somewhat taken aback to discover the following message awaiting my attention…

“ i was wondering if there is a retractable clothesline that measures longer than 20 feet.looking for one that would cover at least 25 feet.if so i would appreciate where or how i may purchase one.i am located in
southcoast area of ma.(new bedford) thanking you in advance for any assistance that maybe fourth comming

      jim patraeus”

I haven’t the heart to disappoint Jim about his erroneous choice of message recipient and as such I have suggested the following product…

Clothes Line

Between you and me this baby is only available in the UK so the last laugh is on Jim – revenge for USA’s lucky equaliser against England. Ha ha ha!

A couple of years ago England played Germany in a friendly and the Germans were truly average at best and defensively poor. They were described as a team in transition and they seemed to have no spark. Coming into the world cup you might have upgraded their status to “useful but limited”. Now every time they take the field they seem to do what the great teams do – play seemingly simple effective football that wins matches without too much fuss.

England made it far too easy so that we might have been excused for thinking Germany were handed the match. Argentina looked tremendous going into today’s game and yet they were dispatched in a 4-0 beating. I’ve not seen the stats but I suspect both sides had similar amounts of possession and shots.

The key to Germany’s results has been getting the most out of their players, being tactically astute, disciplined in their play and liberated when going forward. Do you really think striker Klose is better than say Rooney or Messi? Well he has 4 goals this tournament now and the other two failed to score.

Don’t kid yourself, the Germans do have some very good players but the scale of their achievements so far is largely testament to Joachim Lowe’s management and the teams execution of his plans. Germanys results might look a bit exaggerated based on comparison against opposition players but think Lowe vs Capello or Lowe vs Maradona and suddenly it starts to make more sense.

Whatever you think about the players or the managers I think you might agree they are a team you want to watch. They face Spain next for a place in the final. What are you doing on Wednesday evening?

World Cup – Friday 2nd July

End Of The African Dream

Brazil out! That wasn’t supposed to happen yet. Holland seem to always do just enough – can they keep it up? The African dream is over as Ghana fall just short but if you are a neutral(ish) it’s a great game to watch.

Results – Friday 2nd July

Holland 2 – 1 Brazil
    (pens) Uruguay 1 – 1 Ghana
Post Match Review
Ron Atkinson We were all looking forward to see two giants of the game Holland and Brazil go toe to toe and the game didn’t disappoint. It was very much a game of two halves though. Brazil look more likely early doors and when the Dutch defence parted like the red sea after 10 minutes Robinho made his finish look like childs play.

Holland worked their socks off though and it was just reward when midfield maestro Sneider put in a telling cross and the lad Melo could only help it into his own net. He will have been gutted about that but he never got a shout from the keeper.

In the second half Sneider nods the Dutch ahead and if that wasn’t enough Melo gets his marching orders for some afters with Robben. Then it’s backs to the wall time for the boys from Brazil. All credit to them they gave 110% but at the end of the day it wasn’t enough and it just goes to show that the game’s not played on paper.

The evening match was a mouth watering clash between minnows Uruguay and underdogs Ghana. The South Americans lorded it early on and the Ghana were at sixes and sevens to start off with. Then just when we thought they weren’t at the races Muntari picks the ball up and just smashes in from a mile out. The keeper was caught off guard and all he can do is pick the ball out of the net.

Then in the second half it’s the African lads turn to pile on the pressure but what happens? Forlan drives in a free kick to level things up and it’s all square again. The Uruguayans come out of their shell and it’s end to end for a while. The ref blows up and it’s extra time.

There’s tired legs out there and at times it’s men against boys. The tension’s staring to show and then with literally the last kick of the game Suarez handles on the line and it’s an early bath! It’s a spot kick to decide the game but the lad Gyan stuffs it off the crossbar! He’s gutted – that was the semi-final!

Now it’s penalties and high stakes with every kick. Forlan nets for Uruguay. Gyan is straight back to put in a great kick after missing a minute earlier – that takes courage! Mensah hits a stinker and the keeper gathers it up – advantage Uruguay. But then Pereira knocks his kick into row Z – all square! Ghana turn again and they miss the next kick too!! This is seat of your pants stuff! It leaves Uruguay with a kick for a place in the semis. The striker runs up and dinks it down the middle calm as you like! He’s over the moon and Ghana are all as sick as parrots.

It could have been so different but it can be a cruel game. At the end of the day it’s been a great advert for the game and when the fat lady sings there can only be one team left standing.

Fixtures – Saturday 3rd July

Germany vs Argentina
    Spain vs Paraguay
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Curiously nothing is known about the Paraguayan football team. Indeed the country itself lives only on the fringes of western consciousness and even on the internet there is scant mention of it. The general belief is that this is a country in South America, possibly ruled by a strange bird like god but then it gets a bit sketchy.
Scientific Siegfried’s Rational Assessment Of Football Results
Scientific Siegfried Achtung football enthusiast. Hier ist ze prediktions for July 3. Spain vill Paraguay gethumpen. This ist obvious. Also there is played the Deutsche against Argentina. Diese match vill be “tight like ein gnats arsen” be.

Ze outkome of this match ist however simple. Die fatherland will triumph – this is the logikal result. The ladz know no fear und each stands 3 metre tall und fire breathen. For Argentina they are weak through grossen druggen gecheaten Maradonan dwarf.

Struesal kuchen

Meine celebration starts jetz mit drei stuck Struesalkuchen, und eine pack rennie.

View from the sofa

There have been two fantastic quarter final games today. It hasn’t always been a feast of beautiful football but there has been drama, triumph and tears all in good measure. Not all of the news is being made on the pitch however…

News from the England camp

  • England’s defence arrived back at Heathrow airport today, trailing the rest of the team by 2 days.
  • Emile Heskey has remained on the pitch by himself since the end of the England vs Germany match and has yet to score. He did have the ball in the net last night but was adjudged to be offside.
  • Fabio has received a vote of confidence from the FA. Apparently he is “still the man for the job” which of course has nothing to do with the fact it would cost many millions to oust him. The FA is at least consistent in presenting an incompetent public face.

In other news…
Following hot on the heels of Wednesdays role call of fantastic team names from the Ghanaian league we learn that the Nigerian President is called Goodluck Jonathan! How cool is that?

He’s in the news because he has threatened to stop the Nigerian team entering any tournaments for 2 years due to their perceived failure, having been KO’d in the group stages last week. Let’s hope this trend doesn’t catch on or England might find themselves grounded until 2014.

Finally – Dunga has resigned as manager of Brazil after their quarter final defeat. Are you listening Fabio?

World Cup – Wednesday 30th June

FIFA – Football’s Axis of Evil

There may be no game tonight or tomorrow but I’m in London all day Thursday so Scientific Siegfried will be looking forward to Fridays quarter finals matches a little early. As it happens I’m off to Lancaster Gate for discussions and if it all goes well I may have some FAB news for you in my next update! I’ve already said too much…

Finally before you launch into tonight’s grammatical crime wave here’s a reminder about my Golden Mullet World Cup competition

Golden Mullet
Golden Mullet

There’s a fabulous prize for the winner so if you haven’t entered yet click on the golden mullet above for the hairy scary details.

Fixtures – Friday 2nd July

Holland vs Brazil
    Uruguay vs Ghana
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Football was brought to Ghana as early as 1888 by visiting sailors but you probably have never heard of any of their top domestic teams. This is a shame because there have been some wonderful team names competing at the top level, such as: Hearts Of Oak, Eleven Wise, Great Olympics, Heart Of Lions, King Faisal Babes and my personal favourite Mysterious Dwarfs.
Scientific Siegfried’s Rational Assessment Of Football Results
Scientific Siegfried I haff been asked to bring to you this report one day early. This is most irregular and zer has not been time for me to conduct my pre-match analysis vith the appropriate rigour. My assessments provided with that context are as follows.

Holland against Brazil is what you Englanders call “ein tuff nut to crack” because each team has comparable team metrics. Regardless it is my judgement that when die grossen Frau sings there is the polka dancing in the strassen of Rio. Also more satisfaction in a job efficiently achieved will be for the happening in Montevideo with more polka dancing with also some Wagner. This is consequential of Uruguay beating Ghana though more unity in football playing as the team.

It is my considered opinion that today I am feeling down and hip mit der kinder. Exchange with me some skin Jimmy Hill. For this I reward myself a large amount of Gugelhupf cake.

Pre Match Comment
Most eyes may be on the big match as Holland take on Brazil but spare a thought for Uruguay and Ghana. One of these teams will take an unlikely berth in the semi finals. Could we see an African team in a world cup final? Might little Uruguay – a country inhabited by just 3 million people – make their first finals appearance since they won the competition in 1930? We could even have an all South American semi-final line-up. You would have got long odds on that 3 weeks ago.

View from the sofa

Since I started my world cup blog barely a day has gone by when somebody has asked me whether there actually is a sofa or whether I really do share it with high profile footballing dignitaries while taking in the matches. Well just to put this sort of speculation to bed here is a picture of me tonight on THE sofa…

View Of The Sofa
View Of The Sofa

Obviously there is no game tonight so I don’t have the normal crowd around. In fact I’m just taking in highlights of the Grand Prix now I have half a chance…

View From The Sofa
View From The Sofa

Let’s put something else straight. Just because I’m a single bloke watching every waking minute of world cup action it doesn’t mean I have knee deep in filth. Look – I have even tidied behind the sofa…

View Behind The Sofa
View Behind The Sofa

…I never did finish that book. So now when you are next reading view from the sofa you really will be able to picture that actual sofa and imagine the scene! I like to make you feel a part of my little journeys you see.

FIFA embarrassed yet again

Football’s world governing body FIFA – widely regarded to be the fourth member of the axis of evil – has once again found itself under fire. Their luddite insistence in rejecting the use of video technology during games has been shown in all of it’s absurdity several times during the tournament but “cock-up Sunday” marks a new zenith.

First a Frank Lampard shot comes off the bar and is seen by everybody in the ground except the officials to go a full yard over the line, but the goal is not given. Everyonw including the fourth official has seen it but the referee “is not allowed” to change his decision.

Later the same day Carlos Tevez puts Argentina ahead when he is clearly offside. The linesman doesn’t flag and the understandably furious Mexican players crowd around the linesman and ref pointing at the big screen as it replays the infringement. It’s obvious from the facial expressions of the officials that they realise they have got it wrong so what happens? They referee points to the spot – one nil.

The game generates untold millions around the world. There is a huge amount riding on these games for the fans (remember them?) and the vast majority of people who aren’t FIFA employees want the use of technology such as video replays and goal-line sensors to be considered. Earlier this year FIFA said it would not budge, insisting that the way the game is played should be the same at international level as at park level.

They are wrong for any number of reasons. The most obvious reason is that the sheer injustice of clearly incorrect decisions going unchecked – as in Sundays fixtures – makes a global mockery of the game. The notion that officiating standards are currently universal is also bunk. You don’t see park games adjudicated with the aid of headsets or 4th officials. Often the linesmen are unqualified volunteers and sometimes there aren’t even nets or corner flags.

Since cock-up Sunday Sepp Blatter has apologised to England and Mexico and said that in light of those matches FIFA will review their stance on technology. This is more evil manipulation on his part – using the situation to his political advantage. Firstly his suggestion that FIFA may backtrack purely on the basis of these two incidents is totally disingenuous – these sort of things go on in major leagues around the world every week but they don’t generate the same level of bad publicity as a game in a world cup setting. Secondly he has little intention of changing anything – it is just a political pawn he can use to his advantage in the forthcoming FIFA elections.

The world’s most popular and wealthy sport is run by unaccountable amateurs with political self-interest at the heart of their decision making. Individuals will always make mistakes – people are only human – but it takes an organisation to perpetuate and institutionalise failure.

World Cup – Tuesday 29th June

Misery has a name – Alan Green

We are down to the final eight now. The match schedule is thinning out and any respite is drowned out by the sound of punditry. At least we might have time to cheer ourselves up between Alan Green commentaries…

Results – Tuesday 29th June

(pens) Paraguay 0 – 0 Japan
    Spain 1 – 0 Portugal

Duncan’s Dive Watch – Spain vs Portugal

 Who hasn’t been looking forward to this competition between fierce Iberian neighbours Portugal and Spain! It promised to be a feast of falling but did it live up to it’s billing? Here are the highlights…

16 minutes: After a slow start we have our first dive – and who else could it be but Ronaldo? He raids down the right, cuts in between two players and it’s a classic legs together full length dive. No marks awarded by the referee who waves play on. I think that lacked a little commitment.

 34 minutes: Ronaldo again. Left flank run across the halfway line. He over-runs the ball and a defender gets there first. Ronaldo launches into the defender and executes a passable mid-air half twist culminating in a traditional arse landing, garnished with quizzical hands in the air. Still no marks from the referee, which seems a little harsh.

49 minutes: Man muppet Carlos Puyol – the sort of character parents tell their kids lives under a bridge – gets tickled from behind and slumps to the ground wearing the expression of a slain samurai. It’s disappointing fare with no technical merit and a lack of expressive arm movement so once again no points.

 57 minutes: David Villa plays a one two with Iniesta on the edge of the Portugal box. He’s not going to make the return ball and pulls off the imaginary trip with some aplomb. The ref waves away his appeals but I’m giving him 3 out of 10 for fake boyish innocence. “What me – diving?!”

74 minutes: Controversy! Substitute Pedro Mendes thinks he has pulled off a majestic fouled-from-behind back flip with an exquisite double leg slide. It’s a high scoring move, but what’s this? The referee actually awards it as a genuine foul! What a shame, that would have been a lovely dive.

 84 minutes: It’s Ronaldo again – you can’t keep a good man up. This time it’s an innocuous mid-air collision with Capdevila which Ronaldo free-styles into an awkward landing. It’s desperate stuff now with just 5 minutes left and once again there’s nothing given

88 minutes: The stroke of genius we have been waiting for Capdevila brilliantly pulls off a text book ghost slap in the box. He rolls around holding his head and Costa is shown a red card! Video replays confirm there was no contact – it’s a brilliant deception and that’s a full 10 to the Spaniard!

The whistle blows and it’s a Spanish victory despite Ronaldo’s bravest efforts. The king of collapso has his head in his hands and knows he will have to work hard on the training pitch to work on those polished cons he is famous for.

View from the sofa
You may think from my (seemingly) endless reportage of the World Cup that I catch all the games live on TV. Alas, my up-tight employers weren’t amused when I asked if I could spend a month at home on full pay watching every match live. I thought I was being reasonable as I had intended to go to South Africa and pass on my costs as expenses, but it seems you can’t get away with anything nowadays.

Anyway, the upshot of my workplace incarceration is that I have followed a fair few matches on Radio 5 (you see the BBC let their employees go to the world cup on full pay and expenses) while commuting. One of their principal commentators is Alan Green and if you have heard him you will probably know what I am about to say.

There can never have been such a negative, permanently dissatisfied football commentator in broadcasting history. He can suck the joy out of any occassion. The man must be a rain god because I can only imagine he walks under a continuous heavy black cloud of negative energy.

To repeat myself let’s just remember – he is paid to go to sunny South Africa and attend the worlds biggest sporting event. All he has to do is talk for a couple of hours, and yet even this can’t bring any light into Mr Green’s dark and burdensome life. He watches every game with disdain picking fault with everything he beholds. The games are all unremittingly dreadful and the players on show were born under a bad sign because they can do no right. The officials are always a disgrace and woe betide anything distracting him off the pitch because whatever it is will be a sham.

I can imagine his response to accusations of misery. “I’m not here to dress things up, I tell it like it is“. Let me put if to you Mr Green, there have been a few tense matches with little beauty on show but I have been listening to your commentaries for years and they are ALL THE BLOODY SAME. Driving home today you described Paraguay vs Japan as if it were some personal slight upon your unworldy standards. Well I got home and caught the end of the game and what I saw was an admittedly stuttering affair with plenty of honesty, grit and no shortage of half chances. It had an enjoyable tension that real football fans would recognise. When the stakes are high that’s what you get – if it makes you so unhappy pack in your job.

And on the offchance that you have children I would like to offer them my support and say that they must cast off the burdens of your impossible expectations and realise that nothing they could ever do would be good enough to warrant fatherly praise. It’s just your way.

World Cup – Monday 28th June

It’s not quite like watching Brazil

It’s kind of Brazil, but it isn’t. Sure it’s the same golden strip and many players go by glamorous single names but they have branched out and adopted the notion of “a defence”. Is this some kind of gimmick?

Results – Monday 28th June

Holland 2 – 1 Slovakia
    Brazil 3 – 0 Chile
Post Match Review
Ron Atkinson Holland haven’t been spectacular so far but they keep doing enough to win. They were always too good for Slovakia and it came down to the fact that they were able to field a team full of talented Dutch players. This in my view is where Fabio Capello went wrong on Sunday. You see he picked a team packed full of English players. If he had chosen Dutch players I can’t help feeling the result would have been different.

Brazil beat a useful Chile side quite comfortably. They have a very solid look about them with a great defence and flair when they need it up front. It will take a great team to beat them and her indoors has a fiver on them to win, which is the kiss of death. Stick to the dishes love! She makes a mean egg and chips mind.

Fixtures – Tuesday 29th June

Paraguay vs Japan
    Spain vs Portugal
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Here’s a curious fact for you. Did you know that the other 31 teams at this years world cup finals aside from England each come from different countries each with distinct cultures and identities? It’s true! Many England fans will be surprised by this due to a popular notion that all of the other teams are basically all the same and from a single “foreign country”.
Scientific Siegfried’s Rational Assessment Of Football Results
Scientific Siegfried Guten abend. Here ist my assessment of the probabilistic outcome of tomorrows football games.

There is a low statistical variance between team Paraguay and team Japan. The matching ist gutt and I expect there to be extra time. Japan, zey vill then be victorious. Next Spain against Portugal. There will be irrational sentiment in regard to the physical co-location of these nations. This is irrelevant and the players are fools. For this stupidity there may be the “early wash” as you say for some players. This match is also very close and hard to foretell. Based on the available data I predict Spain to win.

That is all. Now I must eat some black forest gatteau.

Pre Match Comment
In the first of tomorrows games Paraguay take on Japan in a match of the underdogs. Neither team would have been expected to reach the quarter finals but that will be the prize for the winner. Both teams have got this far on merit and each will feel they can win. No Asian team has ever beaten a South American team in a world cup final game but that record may be about to come to an end. There could be dancing in the streets of Tokyo.

The evening kick off in Cape Town sees the mouth watering tie of Spain against Portugal. Spain look formidable and the conventional view of Portugal is that they are past their best, but they have conceded just one goal in 12 internationals and Ronaldo has the look of a man on a mission. Throw in the “local derby” factor and who knows what to expect.

View from the sofa

Brazil. Football. Flair. Glamour. Beauty. Youth. Expression. Joy. All words that mean the same thing. Why do we think of Brazil in these terms? They have produced an endless line of iconic footballing names over the decades like Pele, Jairzihno, Rivelino, Socrates, Zico, Falcao, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Kaka, etc, etc, etc. It’s a brand and yet more than a brand. For Brazilians it really is a way of life – cliché or not.

We associate Brazil with all-out attacking football, irrepressible passing movements and casual as you like genius but the balance of power has shifted at international level. The cavalier charge forward has been tempered by a more balanced team approach that takes such concepts as “defending” seriously. This world cup we have seen full backs Maicon and Bastos terrorising defences at the nose-bleed end of the pitch but this hasn’t resulted in yawning England style gaps in their own defence. The 2010 Brazilian team can tackle, can mark, can track back – notions alien to their predecessors. In fact they have the best defence at this world cup based on what I have seen.

Yes they have an array of world class creative attacking talent at their disposal but for my money it is their defence that will provide them with the platform they need to mount a very serious challenge for this World Cup. Going into the competition I had them as second favourites behind Spain but based on what I have seen they have looked the strongest outfit on show, narrowly ahead of Argentina, with Spain and Holland not far behind.

So it’s Brazil but not as we know it. A new formula. A winning formula? We will soon find out.

World Cup – Sunday 27th June

Football’s Coming Home. Unfortunately.

You know the result. You know the performance. You probably have a good idea of the reasons. In times of darkness like these I can always find solice in a picture of a pig…

Is that better?

Results – Sunday 27th June

England 1 – 4 Germany
    Argentina 3 – 1 Mexico
Post Match Review

Fixtures – Monday 28th June

Holland vs Slovakia
    Brazil vs Chile
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Did you know that famous 80’s footballer Alan Brazil changed his name because he was such a fan of Brazilian football? He was so impressed by their football as a youngster that he changed his name by deed poll from Alan Scotland.
Scientific Siegfried’s Rational Assessment Of Football Results
Scientific Siegfried Attention Englanders. For you ze world cup ist over!

Your Mystic Ron is here no more. He was, how you say – “a fraud”. Now that the Fatherland have triumphed over your sorry boys I am taking over the predictions. This will be done with science. None of your silly astrology nonsense.

Tomorrow vill be a vin for Holland uber the Slovakia – because they are the superior team. Also, Brazil zey are to beat Chile. Both teams have gutt players but Chile are having less players suspended due to infringements. These are my considered opinions although they are subject to chance.

Now I will sit on this sofa and consume some battenburg cake. Whose poodle is this? It is pathetic.

View from the sofa

Beckenbauer was right. Not about kick and rush, but he said England were stupid and he has a point. We let ourselves get thrashed by a reasonable German side. There are only German 2 players who would get in the England first XI – Lahm and Ozil. How did we let this result happen? How did we let a rocky German defence get away untested for so much of the match? Why has Rooney been so anonymous?

Take a look at the opposing benches. Fabio Capello the strict disciplinarian with his inflexible systems foisted upon players who are forced to play out of position. When it’s not working he replaces like for like. Joachim Lowe the relaxed but passionate communicator gets the best out of his players. They are well drilled and play to their strengths. His young players are encouraged to express themselves and the team play with flexibility and confidence.

It can’t all be Capello’s fault. The clueless defending and almost unfathomable lack of pace or marking when on the back foot could be down to a long premiership season. The buck must stop with him however. If he had taken the players at his disposal and built a system around them that utilised their strengths we would surely have achieved so much more, and the fans would have excepted whatever limitations remained. We might have shipped some soft goals but in most matches we would have scored more than we conceded.

He has to go, and I’m not one to jump on such a popularist bandwagon. So many aspects of his management left onlookers bemused and the performances and results didn’t justify his actions. A metaphor for the chronic failure of his management style could be seen on the pitch when trailing 3-1 and needing to push forward at any cost he takes off the dangerous pace of Defoe and brings on the impotent Heskey. It completed an ironic circle given that it was his controvertial inclusion of Heskey on the England squad that resulted in Rio Ferdinand being crocked in training, resulting in the loss of any pace in our defence. The butterfly effect.

For what it’s worth Lampard’s disallowed goal was a good yard over the line and it’s another nail in FIFA’s farcical “we don’t need technology” stance. If the goal had stood if would have been 2-2 and the match might have run differently although it’s clear that our ingrained problems would only have caught us short around the next corner.

It’s over. The inquests will begin. Good luck to Germany. Their defensive frailties will be exposed by Argentina in the next round and this will only serve to emphasise our failure to play to our considerable strengths.

All along we were afraid of failure but only now will the England squad realise that what they should have been afraid of was under-achievement. We were stupid.

Captain Pugwash Woe is me! We be holed beneath the waterline and taking on water fast. I fear the old girl has a date with Davy Jones’s Locker. Twas a skirmish too far for the lads and they were over-run by a German man-o-war. Tis a dark day but the game is up. Abandon ship! Swim north lads, swim north! If the tide is with us we may be back to blighty in time to see Andy Murray lose at Wimbledon. Aargh!

Sick-as-a-parrot-ometer 27 June