June 30, 2010
30th June and 1st July 2010
New Article here (1st July 2010): Listen to da MAN!
Rest day's today and tomorrow and I normally use these days to get a bit of debate going about whatever is happening (usually England going home!) but, frankly, I'm footballed out and I think I'll have a couple of days break myself. The circular argument going on in England currently about England's World Cup demise are tedious in the extreme and redefining the words 'knee-jerk'
Take for example, a 'Your Number is Up, Fabio' headline in yesterday's Daily Mail (ok I know I shouldn't look at it but the wife insists on buying it... honest!). Amongst a number of fairly trite statistics was one that said 'Zero players from England's 23 played in the Champions League Semi-final but 7 Germans did.
June 29, 2010
29th June 2010
Comment on Sepp Blatter's announcement that FIFA will reconsider the use of goal line technology following Frank Lampard's 'goal' in the 4-1 defeat by Germany can be found here: 'Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word'
Elsewhere, there has been major surprise that Fabio Capello has hinted that the England players were 'tired' at the World Cup. It has surely undermined his own position particularly as, before the tournament began, it was Capello who insisted that all the players were 'fit and fresh'. Which were they? This, of course, will open up the old chestnut of the mid-winter break. Something so beloved by continental sides but shunned in England when it is almost seen as the peak season for football. It will doubtless be one of many debating points over the coming weeks.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has - astonishingly in view of his normal demeanour - apologised to the Football Association over Frank Lampard's "goal" for England against Germany and said FIFA "will naturally take on board the discussion on technology".
I think perhaps that even the normally truclucent Blatter has accepted that what happened on Sunday can no longer be allowed to continue. It makes a mockery of sport, the game and, of course - and this reason alone cannot be discounted for the FIFA President's U-Turn - Blatter himself.
June 28, 2010
28th June 2010
It's odd how this tournament looks different when your team have caught the last plane home. While you've still got an interest, every big name that falls opens up your half of the draw and raises a pleasing chuckle as you read of the chaos that occurs when your potential nemesis arrive at their local airport to a barrage of abuse.
After your hopes have been dashed though, you just want good football and a tournament that lives up to expectations and it's then that you realise the failure of some pre-tournament favourites has only served to weaken your viewing pleasure. Today was a case in point; hats off to Slovakia who emerged from Italy's group and Chile who turned in some good first round performances but today, in the 3rd set of Round of 16 matches, it was as if they knew their run had come to an end.
It wasn't that either side didn't try but it just seemed to be a case of running up against a brick wall, holding their arms aloft and then adnitting "Ok we know our place, you big guys take it on from here". Brazil and Holland march on to meet in the quarter final and those teams who provided shocks and entertainment earlier slip out of sight as somehow we all knew they would.
As I've said in my daily World Cup diary, this may well be the lowest point I've ever encountered in all my years of watching England - and be warned I've watched a darn sight more than many of you.
This is supposed to be a match review but i just can't find it in me currently to even attempt one and I figure most of you have seen it and, if you didn't, I'm sure the Soccernet review will unfold the horror for you in better detail than I can currently muster.
So, for a day or two at least, I'm throwing this open to you, dear reader. Just where do England go from here? (Other than the airport obviously) Let's hear from you. I'll reply to as many as I possibly can to get some type of debate going.
27th June 2010
...England went out following an awful 4-1 defeat to Germany...You know, in my head, try as hard as I might not too, I wrote a match review many times since it was revealed we were going to play Germany in the last sixteen. I'll admit many of them were 'England glory' type stories, a few were 'we've at last broken our penalty shoot-out curse' but I'd also bitten the bullet and imagined a few 'out to Germany again' type reviews. But never, ever - even in my fevered imagination - did I predict anything like I witnessed standing in a baking hot pub in Marble Arch, London.
I've seen the best of times - not many I'll grant you but there have been some - and I've seen the worst of times but the defeat in Bloemfontein is probably one of the lowest points I have ever had watching England. It's not only this World Cup and the disappointment, it's also the fact that we are now going to carry this over into months, nay years, of heart searching and investigations only to end up back where we started with little being done unless the FA finally moves its head from its collective arse and starts to dismantle football in this country from the grass roots up.
But, right now as I type this, it's the early hours of 28th and I've only just got in after seeing McCartney in Hyde Park - yea, it was great thanks! - and I'm not sure I can stand the thought of re-living yesterday afternoon's debacle at this late stage but I know you will all want to comment so I'm going to open up the England thread under the 'England Matches' section and I want to hear your thoughts there.
Be warned - I'm in a bad mood about this but I'm not willing to just go on the 'Sack Capello' or 'Replace Rooney with Crouch' type threads and I will play Devil's Advocate, if need be, so let's see if we can get some creative thoughts or where we go from here. Oh, and there will be no prizes for anyone who answers that with '...to hell in a handcart'.
Over to you!
June 26, 2010
26th June 2010
The start of the 'Group of 16' today and, as everyone never tires of telling us, where the competition proper starts. With respect to the teams playing today - and I really rate Uruguay who have an excellent couple of players in top form in the shape of Forlan and Suarez - there is a bit of a feel of '16' today - with the USA's FIFA ranking of 14th being the highest placing of any of today's teams.
The fact is, if you're English, then your mind keeps wandering to tomorrow afternoon's match against Germany that you know - win or lose - will be added to the history of games between the two nations and will be spoken of four, twelve or twenty four years from now. If you're looking for insight into what might happen then I suggest you consult the myriad of column inches and web sites dedicated to predictions of the game. Me? I'm getting too long in the tooth to predict anything becase I've seen both sides of this particular coin and I know how I want to feel tomorrow evening.
I'm going to need to catch the game in London tomorrow as I'm off to Hyde Park for the Hard Rock Calling concert after, so if anyone wants to treat me to a Roast Beef dinner and a pint of Spitfire then please feel free to contact me.
"Don't Mention the War"
With thanks to the USA correspondent Luda Hoe who forwarded me this comment..
"This World Cup is starting to resemble the Second World War; the French have surrendered early, the Italians have retreated in disgrace while the Americans have arrived late leaving it up to the English to fight the bloody Germans"
'But whatever you do, don't mention the war - I just did but I think I got away with it' Basil Fawlty
June 25, 2010
25th June 2010
It's been a bit hectic round at Blagg Acres this week and I've not always been able to post when I've wanted, so today is a bit of a catch-up. First thing I wanted to mention is I may have been a bit hasty when I suggested that Rooney had been substituted for tactical reasons against Slovenia.
It appears that the Manchester Unied strker had an ankle injury - something that was mooted at the end of the English Premier League season and doesn't seem to have entirely cleared up - and Capello took him off as a precaution. It seems Wayne will be fully fit for the Germany clash on Sunday though and that is good news for those of us who believe that, to progress, Rooney needs to be on top form.
Another thing I barely mentioned was the fact that the French limped out of the World Cup like whipped dogs - but what could I, or indeed anyone, say? Words failed me. Laugh? It was tempting I'll admit but then I actually think the World Cup is better when all the big guns get through and it's not really politically correct to point and guffaw at a squad that so spectacularly imploded
But then, no sooner had their plane landed at the airport, than the French started whinging - the French whinge nes't-ce pas? - saying that they had come home early because of the English, or at least the English Premier League. Apparently, our big tough football is too much for the wilting flowers of the French artiste and, although a cynic might suggest that Henry isn't half the player in Catalan that he was in London, it seems the blame for all the ills of Les Bleus can safetly be lain at the feet of their old adversaries across the channel. I said I wouldn't laugh but sometimes you have to, don't you? The French blaming the English for their own failings. Like shooting fish in a barrel....
June 24, 2010
24th June 2010
A major shock today as World Champions Italy slipped out of the competition at the group stage, losing to Slovakia 3-2 in a result that few predicted. Italy hadn't looked at their best in either of their previous two matches but this is a game the Italians have played well at previous competitions, seemingly struggling before suddenly bursting into life in the later stages, but they came up short this time and went out to two Robert Vittek goals, Slovakia qualifying with Paraguay.
My Italian neighbour's phone is off and I've not heard anything from the house, although the flag is still up. I suspect there is a morose Italian wandering no, staggering - around the West End of London as we speak. If found, please call as there's still some Peroni and a sympathetic ear left.
June 23, 2010
23rd June 2010
A fascinating day in South Africa but an even better one at home. The spontaneous explosion of car horns, the rocking of the tube train packed with those who had left work early - about 3 hours early - and had a few pints to make the journey better and the smiling faces of people just looking at each other and not saying anything, reminded you that there is a World Cup on and people really want England to do well. Sometimes when the flak is flying and the media are at their worst, you tend to forget it. It was even sunny and hot. A day to remember and one we want to repeat.
The USA's late, late goal and England's failure to score the second goal their play merited, meant that England were denied the top spot and now face a tricky game against Germany but it wouldn't be a World Cup unless England face their old foes and, cliché though it is, there really are no easy games in the last 16 (well, there are but let's just pretend shall we?).
I said from the off that Fabio Capello was going to be the difference and Sunday will be the time to prove it. Right now, I'm just going to enjoy tonight!
Venue: The Manor, Eastcote
Sustenance: Greene King beer and a bag of English Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding Crisps
At times it was exciting and others it was nail-biting - but that's England for you and you wouldn't have it any other way.... would you?
The introduction of Jermain Defoe for Emile Heskey and the recall of James Milner who had looked poor against the USA, made all the difference as the Spurs striker volleyed home from a superb Milner cross after 23 minutes. Around the goal, England looked bright, inventive and lively and caused Slovenia plenty of headaches and probably deserved another goal although the eastern european side did test David James with some good long shots and had England fans covering their eyes when the men in red had to do some last ditch defending late in the game.
June 22, 2010
22nd June 2010
The start of the third round of matches of the World Cup just serves to remind that we are now approaching the serious end of the competition. The final group games will be played simultaneously to avoid cheating - you know who you are! - and at the end of it all, will provide us with the final 16 to go through to the next round. It is where usually, despite all the bravado and name-calling that goes on in the previous weeks, things often find their level.
There will be shocks and big-names could and, almost certainly will, fall but there will also be a lot of realisation creeping in. It's amazing how often the final tables look exactly how you would have predicted them before a ball was kicked and, despite the sendings-off, shock draws, goal-keeping gaffes and squad soul-searching, things do have a fascinating way of reverting to the status quo. The fans and media may tear their hair out and produce columns of newsprint or keyboard pounding but the players, coaches and staff are often far more pragmatic. Ignore all that has gone before. This is the real stuff and we'll now find out who will stand up and be counted.
June 21, 2010
21st June 2010
I don't know about you but I'm starting to rather enjoy the in-fighting. If I had my way the World Cup final would between England and France, both desperately trying to win the game while also squabbling between themselves, swapping punches and foul language while berating the manager, throwing water bottles and laying into the trainer when he came on. It's what the tournament should be about.
So, how glad am I to find Fabio Capello hitting back at John Terry following the ex-Captain's comments made yesterday that vaguely suggested that it was he, Terry, who knew the best way to progress in this tournament. Capello, made it quite clear he was 'disappointed' by Terry's remarks but I wonder if that opinion wasn't more forcibly put when the Italian had Terry behind closed doors. Capello, lest we forget, is a man not afraid to pin a player or two to the wall. Personally, I'd pay good money to see anyone punch the living daylights out of the Chelsea captain.
In a remarkable turnaround, Terry's remarks have seemed to galvanise the rest of the squad who are now all pulling together in any direction providing its away from John Terry. This couldn't come a moment too soon as last weekend saw the beginning of the summer silly season with many tabloids - suddenly realising that the manager is Italian and now open to the kind of abuse usually reserved for 'bloody foreigners' - treating Capello to the type of nonsense best left for the likes of Graham Taylor.
Credit must be due then when Capello speaks sensibly of the type of man-management you'd hope to see at this level. ''My door is open always. If somebody wants to speak with me, he can speak. I always tell the players they can speak but yesterday nobody did.'' Capello added, referring to John Terry's decision to press the claims of Joe Cole for a starting place in Wednesday's crucial clash with Slovenia, the Chelsea captain indicating he would be urging Capello to pick Cole. Capello rightly pointed out that Terry was not treating the other members of his squad with respect by singling out his Chelsea team-mate for such lavish praise.
''Joe Cole is one of 23 players who are here but, when we speak about one single player, you have to respect the other players that played before. That's the most important thing, the respect of the other players.'' It may not be what Terry wanted to hear but it must have done wonders for the rest of the squad.
Still at least the ex-Captain managed to secure a round of drinks for the players on Friday night, apparently pleading with Franco Baldini to be allowed a beer in the aftermath of England's woeful display against Algeria in Cape Town on Friday.
Mind you, it would take a man with a heart of stone to not feel some sympathy for Terry, barely able to raise himself from the torpor of having to stay in a hotel all day wth nothing but a dart board for company. Where are the women? Where is the beer? You see, I know about boredom - after all, I've been working in I.T. for more World Cups than I care to speak about although I've never yet earned £50k a week for the previliege. Mind you, if anyone reading this wants to contact me...
During the interview, it was suggested to Capello that England's situation was similar to that of our cousins across the Channel and some sort of revolution was in the air. "Revolution? NO! No revolution" said Capello in a manner that suggested if there was to be any type of bloody insurrection it would be he holding the axe while heads rolled. ''Probably one or two are not happy but the majority are,'' Capello told the BBC. ''One player is not so important compared to all the others. The group is more important. For this reason it is no problem. We are here to play at the World Cup, not for a holiday
The great thing about all this is that somehow, someway England seem to have moved away from worrying about the football and are now doing what the English are best at, geting the right 'ump and complaining. We only need someone to bomb the training base and there to be no tea available in the hotel bar, then we can gripe about the weather before adopting that old 'Blitz spirit'
I think Fabio Capello is going to be pleasantly surprised on Wednesday; he's been trying to run a tight ship, plan meticulously and keep everything organised and nothing has gone right for him. Now everyone is arguing, the backs are against the wall and things look grim, and this is when the English perform to their best. My bet is there will be some gallows humour and then Fabio will soon learn the best way to get his team to show some fight and determination.
Watch for the moment on Wednesday when Capello trades a glance with Baldini and shrugs! "Those English, crazy eh?"
June 20, 2010
June 20th 2010
It was Father's Day in the UK so today's matches are fitted around lunch with my daughter and visiting my own Dad. If by any chance Blagg Jnr. is reading this, you only have several hours to contact me or you are being removed from my will.
June 19, 2010
I've been innundated with emails about England's performance - can I get sued for calling it that? - last night. Many thanks to everyone who wrote and I mean everyone including those idiots who want the whole squad taken out and shot. It's impossible to write to everyone individually but I've tried to run everyone's comments and attempted to condense my own thoughts into the blog 'The Man with the Iron Fist'
Keep writing - it does make it all worthwhile. And feel free to catch up on any Blogs including the daily Diary. You can access them from the 'Recent Posts' section on the right hand side of the Blog / Correspondent's page.
The great joy of football is that it really is a very easy game to understand. It's Eleven v Eleven with a net at each end that each team has to try and knock a ball into. The idea is to put more into the opponents net than you concede in your own. If the ball goes off at the side, you throw it back on and if it goes off at the ends, you kick it back.
OK there's a small complication that is usually best explained with the use of a Pepper mill grinder and a salt shaker but apart from that it really is - as the Meerkat says - 'Simples'!
June 18, 2010
June 18th 2010
Another day at work - you're impressed I'm so busy, aren't you? - meant the England game - reviewed elsewhere, - was the only match I saw today. Elsewhere though Germany surprisingly lost to Serbia and the USA drew 2-2 with England's next opponents Slovenia, coming back from 2-0 down at half time to get a point that may prove crucial to their opponents in the group. The Americans were annoyed they were denied what looked to be a perfectly good winner.
I'll be back later to discuss what England need to do in their remaining game...or I may just go to bed and try and forget it all.....
England 0 Algeria 0
Venue: Blagg Acres
Sustenance: Fish & Chips and a bottle of Abbot Ale
This was horrendous. Really, really bad. Woeful, abject and inept. Dismal and shocking....Shall I go on?
"We play not good game. We miss lot of balls. Not good enough" said Capello after the match. I suspect he is searching for words in much the same way as I am. Is it the usual pressure that the England team always seem to be under at the World Cup? Wayne Rooney trudging off after the game complained to the TV cameras as the fans showed their displeasure. "Nice to see the home fans boo ya" he moaned, apparently completely missing the fact that this set of 'home fans' have actually travelled thousands of miles to watch this pile of steaming rubbish.
June 17, 2010
June 17th 2010
A Load of Old Balls
I should point out from the off that I am not, and never was, any type of footballer. I was a Manager though and it was a club closely associated with the Sainted Bobby Moore - it's a long story, another time maybe? - and that gives me a right to pronounce on these things.
Today I was in a major West London store and I saw the new Jabulani ball, I picked it up in anticipation of seeing what all the fuss was about and I was, frankly, stunned. OK I'll freely admit I was never keen on those old leather balls that had laces in that cut your forehead open if you headed them - but a beach ball...? Seriously, take off the pattern and replace it with blue, red and yellow rectangles and you could blow the competition ball up and watch the wind take it out to sea. Surely this can't be right?
The problem with Fabio Capello's pronouncement that the new ball is the 'worst I have ever seen in my life' is that it may sound like sour grapes from a man whose Goal-keeper has provided a moment that will be replayed for as long as there are World Cups, but really I think we ought to realise that the Italian manger isn't fresh off the banana boat and has an impressive track record as both player and coach. If he says the ball is bad then perhaps we ought to listen.
I'm not sure if the German win over Australia had anything to do with the fact that they have been playing with the new ball for six months - and how did that happen, by the way? - but it does seem ludicrous that England only had sight and practice of the Jabulani ball just 15 days before the tournament began.
"For the players it is terrible. It's terrible for the keepers because it is impossible to deal with the trajectory. It's good when you play short passes but when you try to switch the ball with long passes it is really difficult to understand the trajectory" Capello was quoted as saying. "But the really big problem is that sometimes this ball is just impossible to control. Impossible. And when you shoot at the goal, you can see it's difficult. When you play on the floor, it's good. When you play the ball longer, it's more difficult."
Unfortunately, comments like that will only add fuel to the fire stoked up by Franz Beckenbauer who will doubtless retort "Don't play it long then" but it does seem a damning statement and I only wish I could see David Beckham trying to place a free kick with it and see how he got on
Wayne Rooney has said that the players were "starting to get used to it eventually" but also admitted: "I can imagine it's been a nightmare for goalkeepers but for forward players when you get your shot off it's an advantage I feel. So I think we're getting more used to it with every day that goes by so hopefully that will help the forwards and midfielders to score more goals throughout the tournament."
Rooney added that Germany had a clear advantage as five clubs in the Bundesliga used the ball last season. "I am sure the Germans will be a lot more used to it. They used it all of last year." I'm not sure if this means if the ball will be used in the Premier League next season or even if the national FA's are even forced to use a particular ball but it does make me wonder what Ken Aston (See Colchester's Contribution to the World Cup) would have made of it.
Still, perhaps we shouldn't complain, I suppose at the end of the tournament the players can just pull the rubber bung out, pack them away in their suitcases and take them off on holiday with them.
June 16, 2010
June 16th 2010
The End of the First Group of Matches....thank God!
The Spain v Switzerland match - admittedly a good game - brought to an end the first round of matches meaning we have seen all the teams in action. And what can we deduce from this? Well, not a lot actually. Italy, England, Spain, France, Portugal and the Ivory Coast are just a few of the fancied teams that will be looking to make their mark in the second round of matches after what could be described as 'disappointing' results in the first round but which may well turn out to be significant over the long haul.
My feeling is that it is extremely difficult for any team to win all three group games and then the four games from the sixteen to the final, so a draw here or there doesn't seem like the end of things - unless you work for the BBC Five Live, of course, in which case you will discuss England's 'demise' as if they were already on the plane home.
Of more relevance is the poor quality of most of the matches, with only a handful providing much excitement for the neutral. Even when teams have been dominant and the result rarely in doubt there still seems to be difficulty in breaking down a side to win by several goals - only the Germans really succeeding in the opening round (Don't admit it to Beckenbauer though, will you?).
It's perhaps a bit too early to start discussing if, as has happened before, football needs the introduction of something new to encourage more attractive and attacking football but it just seems that, no matter what a team can bring to the party in the opposing team's penalty area, there is always the opportunity to get back in large numbers and place a well-organised forest of legs between the attacker and your goal. In some cases, it seems that it's all some teams have to offer and, on a world stage and played in front of millions, I find that rather depressing.
The second round, hopefully, will produce more attacking and less pragmatic football as teams can see their World Cup hopes slipping away unless they produce the required results. Let's hope so anyway, I'd hate it if the one remaining memory of this competition in six months time is the bloody noise of the vuvuzela!
June 15, 2010
June 14th 2010
Der Kaiser puts der boot in!
This is just getting plain ridiculous now. It's bad enough having to put up with the opinions of people at home who take it upon themselves to watch a football match every four years and proclaim they know all about England and their tactics but now Franz Beckenbauer - normally the acceptable face of German arrogance - has put in his twopennyworth and you are left simply asking 'Why?'.
In a column for the South African Times, Beckenbauer is quoted as saying: "What I saw of the English against the USA had very little to do with football. It looked to me as if the English have gone backwards into the bad old days of kick and rush.
"I am not sure if the England coach Fabio Capello can still change much there. The English are being punished for the fact that there are very few English players in the Premier League as clubs use better foreign players from all over the world.''
Apart from the fact that this is an amazing assessment after only one game, it is also palpable nonsense. Much can be levelled at England and the Premier League but Capello has hardly taken us back to the 'kick and rush' days and the invasion of the English game is hardly confined to these shores is it? Perhaps, 'Der Kaiser' might like to take at look at his old club Bayern Munich and decide if all the players who appeared in the recent Champions Legaue final were of German descent. Or perhaps - Poor old Franz, he's getting on a bit now - has forgotten and still thinks France, Italy and Holland form part of some greater German republic?
Apart from all that, the result against the USA may have been disappointing but England played the better football and should have won and very little, if any, of the tactics employed involved pumping it up front for Heskey to chase. The only reason I can think that Beckenbauer has made these comments - apart from the fact he's trying to fan the flames of one of the great rivalries in football - is to ensure England raise their game to qualify for the second stage at which point they will almost certainly run up against Germany somewhere along the line.
Let's hope then that the tactic works and England get the chance to 'kick and rush' Germany out of the World Cup.
June 14, 2010
June 14th 2010
Netherlands 2 Denmark 0
Venue: The Sack of Potatoes - Birmingham
Sustenance: Edam Cheese Roll and a pint of Carlsberg
Managed to catch the second half of this game and the Dutch - who apparently had trouble breaking down some stubborn Danish defence in the first half - were in front in less than a minute of the restart. Robin van Persie's cross from the left was headed away by Simon Poulsen but in trying to head clear, sent it towards his own goal where it struck the back of Daniel Agger and went in.
The Danes never really recovered and their best opportunites apparently occured in the first half when Bendtner headed wide from a good position and Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg palmed away a Thomas Kahlenberg shot.
Dirk Kuyt sealed the points five minutes from time when Elia's shot was diverted onto the right-hand post by Sorensen and the Liverpool forward hit home between Danish defenders trying to clear. It could have been worse for Denmark, but Simon Poulsen's overhead kick cleared Ibrahim Afellay's shot off the line late on.
June 13, 2010
June 13th 2010
Is there a Doctor in the house?
As if last night's disappointment wasn't enough, there were even greater shocks for England when they awoke this morning with the disappointing news of further injuries. Billy Blagg, ESPN's Soccernet correspondent, is said to be in 'extreme discomfort' this morning following an ear injury sustained in the 'Wig and Pen' Colchester last night.
June 12, 2010
England 1 USA 1
Venue: The Wig & Pen - Colchester
Sustenance: American Hot Dogs and a pint of Ruddles
It wasn't exactly 1950 again and anyway we always knew it wasn't going to be easy, didn't we? - after all, it is England we are taking about here. It also has to be said that drawing the first game doesn't mean we are on the next plane home but, even so, there was a palpable sense of disappointment after this World Cup Group C opening game. The nature of the USA's equaliser just made it seem like so many other times where things just don't go England's way and if it seems puerile to start talking about bad luck and frustration at this early stage of the competition, the truth is that was how most English fans felt at the final whistle.
June 12th 2010
One has a right laugh, doesn't one?
In a quite ironic bit of timing that makes you wonder if the Queen isn't having a bit of chuckle over there in Buck House. Former Wolves keeper Bert Williams, who played 24 times for England and won league and FA Cup winners' medals with his club, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's birthday honours list.
Williams, of course, was the goalkeeper on one of the most infamous and blackest days in English World Cup history when the USA beat England 1-0 in the 1950 tournament. In fact, an interview with Bert was featured last night on the BBC and the whole game was discussed while rare film footage and an hilarious Pathe news clip were shown. Coincidence? I think not.
June 11, 2010
June 11th 2010
The Opening Ceremony
You know the drill by now. People with paper-mache heads dancing to ethereal music while a disembodied voice informs us that the endless movements and waving arms represent the circle of life, mans inhumanity to man or the realigning of the planets to welcome the age of Aquarius. Opening ceremonies are usually dull and frequently preposterous with an underlying sense of jingoism and cutural superiority. But this, at least, was different.
For a start if you are going to wear brightly coloured clothing, audacious headwear, play odd instruments and sing loudly then the South African nation is probably the place to do it, after all they've been doing it for a very long time now. But also, if you're going to celebrate the re-birth of a country whose citizens for too long lived through oppresive regimes and appalling inhumanity, many of whom can still remember when their country was ostracised by world sport then you can hardly complain if the opening of the 2010 World Cup just simply came to represent the opportunity to party as if never before.
OK the black beetle kicking the football was a bit odd and I could have done without R.Kelly but you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by the genuine enthusiasm and excitement that permeated the whole ceremony and, indeed, the whole country. The only down side to the day was the appalling family tragedy that meant that Nelson Mandela couldn't be at the ceremony. It was, of course, understandable but the moment did call out for the man who had done so much to change not only the face of South African but also world history. God can be cruel sometimes; the man deserved better than to just be shown on giant screens inside the stadium.
However, Archbishop Desmond Tutu dancing was surely worth either the price of admisssion or your year's licence fee as was the sight of the South African team taking to the pitch, singing and dancing after the ceremony. It fair made your heart sing with the emotion of it all
and was a welcome counterpoint to the showboating of Sepp Blatter who had the air of a man who believes his leadership has shown civilization the error of its ways and that we should honour him accordingly.
A far cry then from the day when Diana Ross missed an open goal, we can only hope the paper mache is being made in London right now for 2012. The world needs large heads again.
June 10, 2010
Readers of that fine football book 'Nightmare on Green Street' (Special World Cup deal now available - signed and personalised copies £2.50 inc P&P. Email me now!) of which no lesser luminary than Dan Brown was once heard to utter 'I was worried there for a few weeks', will no doubt recall my rather dismissive attitude to Colchester, the town that houses the current construction of brick, mortar and timber frame that is know locally as Blagg Acres.
You see, I'm a East London boy at heart and the sight of cows and grass make me feel rather queasy to be honest while the town in-breeding is particularly depressing viewing on a Friday night. But I was lured to the area by a sultry siren in the shape - and oh what a shape! - of Lady Blagg six years ago and, short of a change of financial fortune, it's difficult to imagine how I can get out.
June 8, 2010
Don't say I don't spend time working on this site. Top Lexicographers have been sent out from Blagg Acres to Africa in an effort to find interesting words and phrases that I can use here on Soccernet to try and encapsulate the spirit of the 2010 World Cup for those not lucky enough to be there. And you'll be pleased to know my time and money have not been wasted, just the other day I received a phone call from one of my minions and was presented with just one word: 'Cabanga'.
Apparently, it is a Zulu word that means 'Imagine' and it has been discovered that the chanting of the word itself or hearing it from the terraces has a positive impact on brain activity and heart rate. It has been 'proven' that footballers hearing the 'Cabanga' chant play better and feel more confident as a result. No lesser a light than ex-England and Arsenal defender Lee Dixon is an advocate of its use. 'I have seen the effects that the word Cabanga can have on a performance and believe it could make a very real difference' said the BBC pundit. I assume that Mr Dixon saw this effect at a football game - he dosen't say - either that or Mrs Dixon has had a few good nights recently.
Anyway, I digress, I have another word that I feel has exactly the same effect and I didn't have to go searching the Shorter Zulu dictionary for it. Ladies and Gentleman I give you: 'Capello'
June 5, 2010
While doing some research for the start of the tournament next week - stop laughing at the back there! - I came across my closing article following England's demise at the hands of Portugal at the end of the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
I thought it might prove to be an interesting starting point for 2010 particularly with regard to the closing paragraph and the difference Fabio Capello has had on the psyche of the nation. I notice my predictions for the Euro 2008 tournament proved disastrously incorrect but much of the rest seems as relevant as it was when I wrote it four years ago.
I reprint the original article here and invite comment on what the differences may - or may not - be. By the way, Mars have just wrapped the chocolate in a Union flag wrapper this time....
June 4, 2010
June 4th 2010
It wouldn't be a World Cup unless England suffer a major injury upset and, with Gareth Barry seemingly winning the race to be fit for the opening game, it was all looking worryingly positive for Fabio Capello's side until news came through that captain Rio Ferdinand had suffered an knee injury in training. A few nervous hours passed by before it was announced that the injury, picked up in a clash with Emile Heskey, was actually ligament damage and that the Manchester United player would be ruled out for up to six weeks sending his World Cup dream crashing.
June 1, 2010
June 1st 2010
Fabio Capello announced his final 23 for the 2010 World Cup on Tuesday and managed to pivot another story around Theo Walcott. Four years ago it was Sven Goran Eriksson who stunned everybody by naming the young player in the England squad even though he'd failed to appear in a single game for Arsenal after signing from Southampton. This time Capello turned the tables by leaving out the 21 year old when most thought he was likely to be on the plane to South Africa.