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

World Cup – Wednesday 23 June

Business as usual

The path to glory is rarely straight. The path to ignomony is always kinked. England remain on course for either following a richly deserved victory over Slovenia.

Results – Wednesday 23rd June

  Group C: England 1 – 0 Slovenia
  Group C: USA 1 – 0 Algeria
  Group D: Germany 1 – 0 Ghana
  Group D: Australia 2 – 1 Serbia
Post Match Review
 Twice denied by failings in their own camp England are no longer to be decried following this decisive group encounter. Where before there was tension there was determination. Where there was panic there was guile. Where there was Heskey there was – Defoe.

The words of Capello, Terry et al receded in our memories as the incisiveness of old opened up Slovenia time and again. Milner was a thorn in one side, Gerrard the other and Defoe the sole finisher in a game less close then the scoreline would suggest.

Slovenian chances merely served to provide the English defence with chances to prove themselves. And they did. Terry was collosal and James resolute. Rooney somehow denied was replaced by Cole and some team will later pay for his impotence today. The players left it on the pitch and Capello – impassioned – left it on the sidelines.

Today we witnessed the heart and spirit missing from previous games. This day the lions were restored to English shirts. This day the pride returned.

Fixtures – Thursday 24th June

  Group E: Slovakia vs Italy
  Group E: Paraguay vs New Zealand
  Group F: Denmark vs Japan
  Group F: Cameroon vs Holland
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 In 1992 Denmark they failed to qualify for the European Championships but were granted late entry after the withdrawal of warring Yugoslavia. They proceeded to win the tournament although they have yet to win a World Cup.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron Well done England! I’ve had my agent hang another flag out of my window. That’s 9 of them now. I’m toasting your victory with custard creams – the regal queen of biscuits!

Did you know that animals have an amazing foresight? It’s true you know. Only yesterday my fat poodle Kevin went to the front door and barked and moments later the postman arrived! Also, he always knows when it is meal time even before I have finished filling his bowl. Clever dog Kevin!

Kevin is going to predict tomorrows results and prove to you just how clever he is aren’t you Kevin wevin!. Choose a team boy! … He’s sniffing my right hand – that’s Italy! And again – which hand…Paraguay – clever pooch! Try again …. Not sure? No? I think that means a draw between Denmark and Japan. And one more – which hand Kevin, which hand? ….Urrrghhh. BAD BOY! I’ve told him about that before! He just won’t learn.

In the final match Holland are going to crap on Cameroon.

View from the sofa

Talk is cheap and there has been lots of it in the last week. Yes we have played poorly but here we are in the second round undefeated and yet to concede a goal created by the opposition. Our stock is on the rise and we have a platform to build upon. Germany awaits and then perhaps Argentina. Opportunities to lay ghosts to rest – we just have to take them.

If you aspire to win this tournament you have to beat these teams, and more. You need longevity more than a flash in the pan. If you want proof just look at todays play at Wimbledon – the fifth set between Isner and Mahut rests in the balance at a world record 59 all. Somebody will win through and that vistory will count for as much as a straight sets walkover. It’s all about the result.

A final word from the Cap’n…

Captain Pugwash Yo ho ho and a bottle of Baileys! The ships all a’merry with frolicks and unwholesome behaviour atop deck and down below. All the men are drinking to master Defoe and his moment of magic! There’s going to be some sore heads in the morning that’s for sure. I’ll let the lads enjoy themselves tonight for tomorrow we set sail for Germany. Tis not a happy tide that has greeted us there before. This time we will be ready for it…

Sick-as-a-parrot-ometer 23 June

World Cup – Tuesday 22nd June

Reasons To Be Cheerful

On the eve of Englands (latest) crunch match I have a good feeling about it. Groundless optimism? Not so – as I explain in View From The Sofa below.

Elsewhere Groups A and B are decided. Through go Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and South Korea. Meanwhile office bins across the country will tomorrow be full of bits of paper with the words South Africa, France, Greece and Nigeria written on them. Anyone for a Wimbledon sweepstake?

Results – Tuesday 22nd June

  Group A : France 1 – 2 South Africa
  Group A: Mexico 0 – 1 Uruguay
  Group B: Greece 0 – 2 Argentina
  Group B: Nigeria 2 – 2 South Korea
Spotlight on France
 There can be no doubt that the World Cup has been a disaster for France. They were poor in qualifying, they cheated Ireland out of a finals place with that well publicised hand ball and are going home early with just one point from their three group games. If anything their off the pitch antics have been even worse with players threatening to strike, the manager a figure of ridicule and Nicolas Anelka sent home early. Marcel, speaking as a typical Frenchman dans la rue how do you feel about the state of French football?

. . . . .

 I’ll take that to mean you’re speechless

Fixtures – Wednesday 23rd June

  Group C: England vs Slovenia
  Group C: USA vs Algeria
  Group D: Ghana vs Germany
  Group D: Serbia vs Australia
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Sheep outnumber people in Australia 6 to 1, yet none feature in the 2010 world cup squad.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron There are some huge ties today and today I’m going engage the ancient art of “spin the bottle” to predict the future. Ghana and Germany …. Germany to win. Serbia and Australia ….. Serbia to win. USA against Algeria is … USA. That’s your lot punters.

I’m just teasing! You want to know about England vs Slovenia. Here goes … Oh blimey, the bottle fell off the table and broke! Let’s say England then. I hope there aren’t any bits of glass in my plate of chocolate bourbons…

View from the sofa

As you know England have suffered the usual setbacks on and off the field since they arrived in South Africa and at times the doom and gloom has been overwhelming. On the eve of our final group match it’s time to find some positives, so here we go…

  • If England beat Slovenia they will qualify for the second round.
  • Fabio Capello says there are no rifts in the squad.
  • Tohn Terry backs the manager. We must have imagined his previous interview.
  • France are going home with squad problems that make the England camp look like the Waltons.
  • Plenty of other major teams may be going home this week.

…and your final reason to be cheerful…

Update from the Scotland camp with Kenny Dogleash:

 Things are quiet today as the squad continue to recuperate from last seasons domestic rigours. Some of the lads have gone on holiday to Benidorm. Others are playing a lot of X-box and watching the World Cup on TV. Of course it’s not all relaxation – there’s also an eye on pre-season training. The boys each have personal plans to hit the Glasgow night clubs, drink until they can barely walk and wind up at the kebab shop. It’s the Scottish way.

Are you feeling better about things? In a dog-eat-dog world the important thing is that there is always somebody worse off than you. Unless your name is Yakubu that is. If you haven’t seen his miss click here and prepare to suspend your disbelief. Forget miss of this World Cup, this must rate as the worst miss in any world cup ever. Enjoy!

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?

World Cup – Thursday 17th June

That’s why they call it Les Blues

We have now seen every team. Most of the opening matches have been cagey but now teams have to start getting results and that can only mean desperate measures. The last resort – they are going to have to actually play some football…

Results – Wednesday 16th June

  Group H: Honduras 0 – 1 Chile
  Group H: Spain 0 – 1 Switzerland
  Group A: South Africa 0 – 3 Uruguay

Results – Thursday 17th June

  Group B: Argentina 4 – 1 South Korea
  Group B: Greece 2 – 1 Nigeria
  Group A: France 0 – 2 Mexico

Fixtures – Friday 18th June

  Group D: Germany vs Serbia
  Group C: Slovenia vs USA
  Group C: England vs Algeria
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 England’s Glen Johnson was arrested in B&Q for stealing a toilet seat along with Ben May of Millwall.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron Can Germany continue their fine start to the world cup? Ja, naturlich! The force is strong in this one and they will deal with Serbia with little problem. The US face Slovenia and will be on a high after their draw with England. They will have to settle for a draw however as Slovenia will be feeling stubborn. The big one – England against Algeria? It won’t be a walkover but Fabios men are on a biorhythmic upturn and will win! Hooray!
Pre Match Comment
Today will go down as the day France imploded. We knew there were deep rifts within the squad and management team and the question was when and not if France would come a cropper. Manager Raymond Domenech knows that even a win in their final group game to secure qualification may well not be enough to secure his tenure beyond the world cup.

After their sticky start all eyes are on England and they are expected to improve. There’s a belief within the camp and it would be no surprise to see a more attacking formation to face the Algerians. There’s no doubt that the surprise defeats inflicted against Spain and France will have taken the spotlight off the England players. Let’s see how that translates to performances on the pitch.

View from the sofa

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday but life rudely intervened. Three fascinating games took place that really shook the competition up. First the Chile team won their game with a confident attacking verve that has marked them out from most other teams so far with their conservative performances. The final match of the first round of games saw the shock of the tournament with average Switzerland stunning joint favourites Brazil with a 1 – 0 victory. That result came from nowhere and we won’t know till the next game whether it was just an off day for Spain. The evening match saw hosts South Africa sensationally thrashed 3 – 0 by Uruguay. They were as poor as Uruguay were good and their participation beyond the group stages looks to be highly doubtful

Today served up more drama – things are certainly hotting up. Argentina followed up their dominant but narrow vistory against a useful looking Nigeria with a 4 – 1 defeat against a resilient South Korea. There’s no mistake that this team are genuine contenders – at least until manager Maradona screws it up. The appalling Greeks remained appalling but somehow contrived to beat Nigeria largely due to a sending off. They remain crap however. Yet more drama in the evening when France’s anticipated capitulation finally materialised. A dreadful performance saw them dispatched by Mexico and they are clinging onto hopes of qualification, although this would only prolong the inevitable.

It’s England tomorrow and suddenly our belittled victory over Mexico in a recent friendly is looking more impressive. I’m confident that our formation and performance will improve and – unless we are very unlucky – this should be enough to give us a much needed win against Algeria.

Anyway, this world cup thing. Is it worth it? FIFA have insisted that the Jules Rimet trophy is made of solid gold but Martyn Poliakoff of Nottingham University has calculated that this cannot be the case because the weight would prevent players from easily lifting it.

His contention is that it must be hollow. I feel that his theory is only half formed. The logical extension of his assertion is that it is not only hollow but made of chocolate and contains a toy. How great would that be – if the winning team hoisted the trophy, then sat circled on the pitch ripping off golden foil and breaking chunks of chocolate off. We can all dream…

World Cup – Saturday 12th June

Red, White, Blue and Green

If you are reading this I know what you were doing this evening. Here’s a full rundown of events today…

Results – Saturday 12th June

  Group B: South Korea 2 – 0 Greece
  Group B: Argentina 1 – 0 Nigeria
  Group C: England 1 – 1 USA
Post Match Review
Stuart Hall The plans of mice and men. Months of preparation, the team held close to Capellos Milanese chest until the first peep of the whistle. The dice cast into the red, white and blue cauldron of Rustenburg. Doubts? What doubts? Heskey to Gerrard, one-nil with four minutes on the clock. Joy unbridled for the captain fantastic and the door to the group stages ajar. There’s a first half swagger we can’t quite remember, and yet, for all the squeaks and shaves the presidents men refuse to lie down. And then from the African nights steals a chancer in stripes as Dempsey’s apologetic shot hops oh so innocently out of the keepers hands and rolls into the net. Green – fingered. So much talk of keepers all for naught.
A change of ends and one hopes luck. Heskey, Lampard, Rooney – remember him – all test the door but it will not budge. A scrap of redemption for Green as he claws a shot onto the upright. King Ledley is forced to retire. Crouch enters the fray. England expects but today is not to be the day of fulfilment. Capello is left to start all over again. Snake eyes.

Fixtures – Sunday 13th June

  Group C: Algeria vs Slovenia
  Group D: Serbia vs Ghana
  Group D: Germany vs Australia
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
Bambi Slovenia played their first national match in 1992. Previously their players turned out for Yugoslavia or the Republic Of Ireland.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron I had real trouble choosing between Algeria and Slovenia in Sundays first kick-off. You see an intersection of midfield biorhythms this weekend means there will be a conclusive result but which way is less clear. I’m going to give it to Serbia by a tea leafs width. Both Serbia and Ghana have cancerian defences and as you know this means that goals will be hard to come by so I predict a draw. Sundays glamour tie sees Germany take on Australia. Injured Michael Ballack is a Water Carrier and would have proven a match winner but in his absence the third quarter quintile leanings of Scorpio manager Joachim Lowe will lead his team to victory over the plucky Aussies this time around.

View from the sofa

We finally found out what Fabio had in mind. It was 4-4-2 with Green in goal, Heskey partnering Rooney and Milner on the left. You know what happened, Gerrard scored early on and Green’s howler gifted the yanks a point. The net result was a point, a recurrence of Ledley King’s knee injury, Milner substituted after 30 minutes and just a point to show for our opening encounter.

It’s more or less what I expected and I’m not torn up about what happened, although three points would have been nice. What we have learned is that we played the toughest opponent in our group, they played their best and had a great stroke of luck and we just played well in patches. We had much the better chances and another day we would have taken some. The awkward first game is out of the way, the team have finally got some African mud on their strips and we can now set out our stall and win the next two matches to finish top of the group. Anyone that thinks that any team strolls their way through all the fixtures on the way to a tournament victory is deluded but I’m sure the media will be pitching in to criticise the team. Rob Greens howler? He was a good keeper this morning and he is a good keeper now. But don’t do it again…

In case you forgot, there were other matches today. Greece looked woeful – not just useless but without any passion – as they were given the run around by a spirited South Korean side. Argentina were superb going forward yet somehow contrived to win by just a single goal. Nigeria actually looked quite decent and their keeper was superb. After the first round of Group B matches you have to back Nigeria to finish second to Argentina.

The final word, to the captain…

Aharh! Twas a rum night indeed. Good skipper Gerrard put the old girl on a fine course but then shipmate Green dropped the cannonball on his foot. Will he be made to walk the plank?

Sick-as-a-parrot-ometer 12 June