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 – 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 – 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 – Friday 11th June

There’s people on the sofa – they think it’s all started!

It has now! Across the land in the countries workplaces people are starting to fake mild cough symptoms so that come next week they can claim to have have full blown flu and take a sickie to watch the football. The whistle has blown on today’s games and this is what happened…

Results – Friday 11th June

  Group A: South Africa 1 – 1 Mexico
    Uruguay 0 – 0 France
Post Match Review
Big Ron People might think that France being held to a draw is an upset but I’m not surprised. They have an unsettled squad and an unpopular manager. As for the hosts this match was make or break – win it and you have hit the ground running, lose it and you are playing catch up.
Motty That’s right Ron. The omens were always stacked against France. I was watching Raymond Domenech’s kit man after a France B-Side friendly against Vietnam last month and some of the football tops were still stained after the wash cycle. With standards like that there were always going to be question marks against the first team in this fixture.

Fixtures – Saturday 12th June

  Group B: Korea vs Greece
  Group B: Argentina vs Nigeria
  Group C: England vs USA
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
Bambi Artifacts recently discovered in a Crete monastery include an ancient team sheet for an early national side, managed by Zeus. Players include Athena, Apollo, Hermes and Artemis amongst others. Atlas is depicted in a defensive midfield position with Proetheus playing just off strikers Poseidon and Georgios Samaras.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron All three of tomorrow’s ties are very interesting. In the early game I expect Korea to win. Greece is typically piscean and they will struggle with the early kick off. Argentina will beat Nigeria but expect at least one sending off. The flags are not aligned – can you see – vertical against horizontal stripes – so expect some fireworks. Finally the game everyone is talking about. Managers Capello and Arena are closely matched on all astrological fronts today so expect a draw. Fear not England fans – Capello’s aura will be in the ascendency from Tuesday. I’m going to be watching the match sat on my poufee with a pack of jammy dodgers.
Pre Match Comment
This is how I imagine a goalkeeping discussion with David Icke
 Motty In the lead-up to England’s opening game in Group C much of the talk has been about who will be first choice keeper. I have my own views but here to provide an inside view is former goalkeeper and presenter David Icke. David – who should we see between the sticks on Saturday night – David James, Robert Green or Joe Hart?
The question we should be asking is – “who is leading our civilisation?”. I have proof that the world leaders are part of a reptilian race that have been sent to earth to control us. They control our goverments, they control our media and they control out monarchy. You need to know this and you can find out more at my website
 Motty Erm, so you say David, but what people are currently debating is who Fabio Capello will choose as his first choice. You played at the top level for Coventry City so I expect you have so shrewd view on his likely choice.
Look, what the public needs to understand is that what we see isn’t actually real. Society as we know it is an illusion. We are living in a matrix style optical illusion that the authorities have created so that they can control us. We are being used, you are being used – I am being used.
I’m sorry David, I’m going to have to press you on this. Your first choice keeper would be?
 Well, OK. David James.
 Motty My god – that really is mad! I think you may have a point about the royals though.

View from the sofa

I had visions of sitting with my feet up watching the opening match on my sofa but instead I found myself at work like many other people trying to get first half coverage of South Africa vs Mexico on the ITV website. Perhaps you also got the “website unavailable” screen with the strikingly inappropriate message apologising for the outage and asking whether I would like to click on a link to view a mother and baby programme instead.

I arrived home for the second half however and after repositioning the sofa and TV for optimum viewing pleasure enjoyed a NOISY 45 minutes of football. It’s what I expected. Mexico held sway with endless short passes but always looked toothless and narrow in the final third. The hosts were nervy and a little wragged but showed glimses of pace and skill. It’s a game Mexico should have won but nobody can begrudge South Africa a draw from their opening fixture on home soil.

After the match I read on the BBC website that fat druggy cheat Maradona – now manager of Argentina (!) – has called for fair play at this years world cup. Here is a slime ball that doesn’t understand the word “irony”.

The evening sees 1998 World Champions France face Uruguay. The French are in disarray with manager Domenech a figure of hate in his homeland due to his eccentric behaviour. Uruguary are a talented collection of parts.

The malign influence of Domenech manifests itself throughout the course of the match. He has a squad with a decent level of talent, flair and pace yet his side is set up to play with a chronic shortage of width so everything gets slowed down and compressed into a tedious impotent terminus. Uruguay have less at their disposal and progression beyond the group stages would say more about the rest of the teams in the Group Of Dearth.

Mystic Ron got it mostly right yesterday – a draw in the opening encounter and a sending off for Uruguay, although France never did clinch the winner that was just waiting to be claimed. Moment of the match? In a level of irony to match FDC Maradona’s earlier outburst, Thierry Henry (a man with a cheating pedigree of his own) makes a great big fuss about a claimed handball against a Uruguayan defender in the box.

If you watch the replay in slow motion and look into Henry’s eyes you can just catch his flicker of realisation about what he is doing and I would like to think that for a split second the image of a crestfallen Irish player flashes into his conciousness. Henry, cursed with intelligence and self awareness, will think back to his actions on that cold Parisian night for a long long time.

World Cup – Thursday 10th June

The Big Kick Off

A warm welcome to the first instalment of my World Cup 2010 blog. Over the next month I’m going to detach myself from society so that I may dedicate myself to full immersion in the worlds greatest football competition. My concession to sociability will be a daily update to be posted here each evening. You can try phoning or emailing but don’t be offended if the response is intolerant, slow or non-existant. No change there then…

If you really hate football or just don’t see the point in it don’t stop reading quite yet. You see I’m not going to compete with the other media channels with their dry and predictable content. Things will be different here…

  • There will be some unique features to read, if I come up with any
  • I will be fabricating all sorts of facts to help you enjoy the tournament
  • A whole host of celebrities have not agreed to join me in my living room to react to events on and off the pitch, including the likes of Mystic Ron, Stuart Hall and Jimmy Hill
  • You would be mad to miss the competition I have lined up for you. There’s a very special prize for the lucky winner. More soon…

Obviously this is all a whole lot of innocent fun and a creative invention on my part. You would have to be mad to think any of this was anything other than made up.

With the tournament due to kick off tomorrow let’s waste no more time in looking forward to the opening games with todays panel of experts.

Fixtures – Friday 11th June

  Group A: South Africa vs Mexico
  Group A: Uruguay vs France
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
Bambi Hello and good evening. Your starter for 10 today regards France. Did you know that Just Fontaine holds record for most goals (13 in 1954) in a finals?
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron Everyone wants the home nation to do well but a partial moon over Uranus means there will be a cheeky twist in the tail when they play Mexico on Friday – they can’t expect to have it all their own way and it will end honours even. In the evening kick off Uruguay may find themselves short of players by the end of a match that France will win. Their sign is in Mars which means those latin tempers are going to be on a short fuse! So my message to all four teams is to get a feng shui expert in to align their dressing rooms before the game.
Pre Match Comment
Hansen That’s just plain drivel. I don’t know where ye get it from man. The key to all of these games is defence. The teams that defend best won’t concede goals and that’s the key to winning matches. When I played for Liverpool … blah blah blah boring dull Kenny Dalglish drone tedious monotone dull

View from the sofa

Thanks for that guys. It sounds is if you are as excited as me about the opening games. There are some really intruiging groups and Group A is a case in point. Hosts South Africa don’t inspire me with any confidence, but they have home advantage which is bound to help, while former world champions France are in disarray. It really is anyone’s group.

Here’s a question for you. What would a major media event be without some gratuitous graphics? John Snow has his swing-ometer and Jim Bowen has his Bully animations so I’m not going to be left out. I introduce to you a fabulous feast of football fun designed to help keep your finger on the pulse of the nation – the Sick-as-a-parrot-ometer.

Throughout the course of the tournament Captain Pugwash will be plotting the mood of the public as we all ride a roller-coaster of emotion following England. He will be updating it at various junctures throughout the tournament, do keep an eye on these blogs.

Captain Pugwash Ahoy there me hearties and welcome aboard the good ship Engerland as we try to navigate the rocky straits of South Africa! There be rumours of a golden trophy at the end of our passage but first there’s no telling what we may come upon along the way. The portents were against us when master Heskey was allowed to board and already shipmate Ferdinand has come down with the sickness. We be due a fair wind in our sails now, time will tell me hearties, time will tell…


Thanks captain – you have certainly shivered my timbers with that introduction. Let’s leave it at that for now. The plan is to post a daily update around 9:30pm each evening until I get sick of it. See you Friday as we build up to England’s big opener against the United States world series soccer team, sponsored by Dunkin Donuts.