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Back Home To Rome

Almost the end of the group stage and Italy join France on the trip home as the giant killings continue. Details below…

Also, don’t forget to enter the fabulous World Cup Golden Mullet competition if you haven’t yet done so. Even if you hate the football you have to love the hair!

Results – Thursday 24th June

  Group E: Denmark 1 – 3 Japan
  Group E: Holland 2 – 1 Cameroon
  Group F: Slovakia 3 – 2 Italy
  Group F: Paraguay 0 – 0 New Zealand
Post Match Review
Ron Atkinson “Silvio Berlusconi, Luciano Pavarotti, Julius Caesar, Leonardo Da Vinci, Giorgio Armani, Gino D’Acampo, Joe Dolce, Dale Winton can you hear me? Your boys took one hell of a beating!”

Fixtures – Friday 25th June

  Group G: North Korea vs Ivory Coast
  Group G: Portugal vs Brazil
  Group H: Switzerland vs Honduras
  Group H: Chile vs Spain
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Following Ronaldo’s world record £80m transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009 some 80,000 fans attended a welcome ceremony at the stadium. This beats Emile Heskeys transfer to Aston Villa when nobody turned up. Not even the press.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron Prepare for passion footy fans as Latin comes to town on Friday! Portugal and Brazil is going to be HOT HOT HOT! Brazil will come out on top but it won’t be easy and I expect a sending off for the fiesty Portuguese. Ivory Coast have too many dance moves for North Korea and will win that one.

In the evening Switzerland won’t have it all their way against the Hondurans with their slick hips and hot blood. That one will end honours even. Finally it’s going to be a love-in when Spain meet Chile as two beautiful footballing sides meet. But there’s a lovers tiff – a sting in the tail! Magnificent Spain will LOSE to Chile. Yes – you heard it hear first – the holiday romance will come to a crashing end!

Oh, and in case you are wondering what I’m dunking in my tea today I have chosen Macaroons to mark Cameroon’s last match before they travel home. TTFN biscuit lovers!

England Update

Injury Report
Bones As you know Wayne Rooney left the field early with an ankle problem. My tricorder reading showed it to be what we call a “niggle” and he is beaming up to sick bay on The Enterprise twice a day for an ice pack.
Tabloid Roundup
Scum Reporter It was a proud performance from our lads in red and white. Our headline today was “Hail Defoe! Now The Foe”. We are going to be building up to Sunday’s game with Germany with all sorts of racist incendiary rhetoric. On Sunday we will lead with “Let’s bash the boche” and on Monday it will be “You’re Goring home” if we win or “Down and Kraut” if we lose. Of course a win will probably put us up against the Argies so I have lots more jingoistic abuse for the front and back pages. We are just hoping we don’t come up against Brazil because it’s tough coming up with bigotted headlines for them.
Interview From Number 10
 We can all breathe a sigh of relief now that England are through to the second round. It seemed that the entire country came to a stand-still yesterday as everybody stopped to watch the match against Slovenia. Prime Minister David Cameron, did you manage to sneak away from affairs of office to watch the match?
 
 I managed to watch some of the game while I was attending to my in-tray. I would just like to say “Congratulations” to the entire England team for their performance.
 
 How were you nerves during the game? Were you always confident we would win?

 
 I never doubted we would win. I always back our soccer team to win over 60 minutes. I thought we were unlucky to lose our first two matches but it all worked out in the end.
 
 Erm, we actually drew the first two matches Prime Minister. So was there any player who stood out for you?

 
 The win was very much a team effort but I thought Michael Owen did well and David Beckham always tries his best. Also Dave Rooney was unlucky not to score later on.
 
 I see. Tell me Prime Minister do you normally watch much football?

 
 As much as I can yes. I’m a keen supporter of the Tottenham but unfortunately I never have time to go and see The Reds play. I try to follow their results and it’s good when they score the goals.
 
 Finally, how far do you think England can go in this competition? Do you think they could win it?

 
 I would like to think so! Of course it’s not going to be easy but we are a great footballing nation and it might just be our year. One thing’s for sure if we do lift the cup I will join the squad for an open top bus ride around London. And if we lose I will be sending Nick Clegg to the airport. Speaking of which, where have our coffees got to?

View from the sofa

There were incredible scenes as Slovakia beat world Champs Italy 3-2 to send them home early. It must spell the end of Lippi’s managerial reign although he will bemoan the lack of a cutting edge in his ageing squad. Also in Group E Paraguay earned the point they needed to go through but spare a thought for New Zealand who can go home with immense pride having draw all three games against all odds.

Group F was not without drama as a dynamic Japan beat Denmark thanks to two fine free kicks and a shaky performance from keeper Sorenson. I’m so pleased Japan have qualified as they are my “second team”. They play with such enthusiasm and happiness, there is no diving or play acting and there are no stars – just a great team ethic.

Speaking of Japan I actually thought for an instant that they had sponsorship on their shirts with name like Honda and Matsui on display. It would be fun if they could find a few more names like Nissan, Toyota or a guy called Rav to give the number 4 shirt to.

Holland meanwhile went about their business calmly to record their third group win without the need for any fireworks.

By the end of tomorrow we will know the full second round line-up. There have been a few very exciting games so far but with Brazil vs Portugal and Spain vs Chile to come Friday could become THE day of the tournament so far.

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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

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Back in August I posted some predictions for the forthcoming football season. That season creaked to a finish yesterday believe it or not with the division 2 playoff final at Wembley stadium, some two weeks after the final Premiership games. I thought I ought to revisit those predictions just to cap things off, so here goes.

It has to be said that the season has offered no end of entertainment whatever division you look at. Here’s a brief summary…

Division 2
Notts County have totally dominated the headlines on and off the field. They started the season with ex-England manager Sven at the helm and the promise of untold riches from a mysterious backer. The fans had to pinch themselves when England defender Sol Campbell joined and there was even talk of HRH David Beckham gracing Meadow Lane at one point. I myself was repeatedly stalked by Sol in the centre of Nottingham and it was perhaps the ASBO I had served against him that saw his departure from the club after just one game away to Morcambe. That or the grim realisation of what he had let himself in for. That was the start of the end as the backers backed out and Sven said sayonara. All doom and gloom then? Not so – Notts stormed to the title overtaking seemingly invincible Rochdale on the way. On balance I think the fans are very happy. Entertained at the very least.

Sven (now Ivory Coast) and Sol (Arsenal)

Sven (now Ivory Coast) and Sol (Arsenal)

Predictions: I got Notts right but that wasn’t so hard. Rotherham lost out to Dagenham and Redbridge a wonderful playoff final while Barnet just escaped the drop, so all-in-all my predictions weren’t up to much

Division 1
This was the season when dirty Leeds finally crawled back out of the gutter into the Championship. But top honours went to Norwich who ran away with it after the ignominy of an opening day 7-1 home defeat to Colchester. At the other end of the table Tranmere escaped the drop despite the best attempts of now departed “manager” John Barnes and his shiny suit collection.

A different John Barnes - I just liked his picture. Probably a better manager too

A different John Barnes - I just liked his picture. Probably a better manager too

Predictions: Leeds promoted, Stockport bottom – just 2 accurate predictions. This is a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey showing

Championship
They entered the season in turmoil after relegation from the Premiership and had a noose tied around their neck by their owner but Newcastle won the title by a wide margin. I guess they under performed in the prem, retained most of their players and them excelled this season but I for one didn’t see that coming. This achievement is eclipsed however by the season’s big story – promotion via the playoffs of little Blackpool who only just sneaked into contention with a late run of results. There isn’t a neutral in the land who won’t be rooting for manager Ian Holloway’s team next season as they take on the big boys although you have to think they are going to get some thumpings. It’s also great news for the seaside resort that can expect thousands of away fans to stay over and make a weekend of it. Whatever happens you can be sure that I will be tuning in to Match Of The Day just to listen to the whatever comes out of Holloways hilarious/cryptic/bizarre interview chest.

Ian Holloway - enough said

Ian Holloway - enough said

It went down to the final game at the wrong end of the table where Crystal Palace hung onto their status at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday. Palace only found themselves in this situation due to a points deduction for going into administration but with the existence of the club hanging in the balance this week it could all have been for nothing. I did say they would pay for signing up “Calamity” Claude Davis from the Rams.

Predictions: West Brom promoted, Plymouth relegated – only 2 again but a few close calls.

Premiership
Chelsea won through in the end at the expense of Manchester United and they probably deserve it on balance. They repeatedly demolished their opponents with goals coming from every quarter while United were solely dependent on Rooney whose astonishing efforts weren’t quite enough at the end of the season.

Rooney at work and at home

Rooney at work and at home

Arsenal played some great football to finish third while Spurs finally broke into the top four at the expense of Man City whose mega-bucks didn’t even earn them a Champions League place.

Meanwhile it all started to unravel financially. Portsmouth became the first Premiership team in history to go into administration with a simply staggering level of debt given their known accounts. There just HAS to be something dodgy going on there and I expect there to be some explosive financial revelations before too long (although based on my predictions so far don’t count on it). West Ham also wobbled under their debt and relegated Hull may take many years to get their finances back on an earthly scale. Financial question marks also hang over the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United.

Predictions: I tipped United for top spot so no points there, but Burnley and Portsmouth to be relegated were good calls.

Closer to home my team Derby County finished mid-table pretty much as expected, although not quite how I had expected. The team should have been good enough to finish 9th or 10th at best but in a season of cost cutting and unprecedented injuries (we had 16 first team players out at one point) we genuinely feared relegation for a while.

For me the defining memory of this season will be the integrity of manager Nigel Clough in the face of an ignorant and malicious hate campaign against him from a small but vocal section of the supporters. In a financial climate where many clubs face going to the wall and in the wake of numerous seasons where the Rams have thrown money at expensive players who delivered nothing Nigel and the board set out to reduce the debt and invest in youth. To improve on last years points tally given these circumstances and the massive injury problems has to rate as a satisfactory performance at the very least, yet these mouthy know-it-alls have been relentless in their cheap empty-headed yobbery.

Derby's Robbie Savage - he's eveywhere you look. Including here.

Derby's Robbie Savage - he's eveywhere you look. Including here.

I won’t pretend there aren’t problems or that mistakes haven’t been made but I fail to understand why people think they are entitled to be so offensive and nasty to a manager doing the best job he can in difficult circumstances. I would love these loud mouths to have the opportunity to meet Nigel face to face with nobody else in the room – would they have the guts to repeat the insults they have spouted every day on the internet? I rest my case.

So another season is over and the next one will be upon us once the small matter of the World Cup is played out. Is there too much football? Of course. Is it riddled with problems? For sure. Will millions of people like me be helplessly glued to the TV for the World Cup only to be raring for the 2010/11 season to start? What do you think…

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