Fabio Capello can be grateful he’s not managing France
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Sunday night saw me as recipient of the sometimes fateful words "you're not from around here, are you?". However, these circumstances were not in any way threatening, seeing as they came within the theme-park confines of Brazil v Ivory Coast at Soccer City.
The enquirer was a chap to my left, sitting with young sons both decked in Brazil merchandise. When, through ease of purpose, I informed him I was from Manchester, the father excitedly told his sons this information and a discussion of that city's football clubs soon begun. But then the inevitable came, words that reflected my own feelings. "We're so disappointed in England," he said. "We watch the Premier League religiously and they just don't look like the same players."
Who was I to disagree? In fact, I stopped short of telling him of the extent of my mounting anger at the way England's selection of tabloid-leakers and whisperers had seemingly sought to derail a team that I, at least while in this country at this tournament, am to be associated with.
That said, in the light of what had been occurring in both the English and French training camps, this World Cup can now truly be declared open. Forget the football, South Africa 2010 has twin scandals to rank alongside the Roy Keane affair of 2002, the West German coup d'etat of 1974 and the various fall-outs the Dutch have had through the years. And the French have done it far better, in much more spectacular style than their English counterparts.
If you're going to implode, air it all in public rather than double-deal, scapegoat and then pull back from the precipice when agents worried about commercial deals start telling you to calm it. English politesse has been superseded by French elan. By contrast, the French players' big problem seems to be with "a traitor" who was using the press while in the English case, pet reporters have been tipped the wink to stir the pot. Only now, after John Terry's reported forced climb-down, have his colleagues seen any sense in that to continue this ruinous revolt will result in serious consequences back home. The rotten tomatoes, figurative or otherwise, await at Heathrow Airport should they fail on Wednesday.
It amused me to read that the supposed showdown lost its insurrectionary air once a video of the Algeria game was aired. All that talk is likely to have been superfluous once footballing failings are so brutally exposed.