Archive for June, 2010

What We Learnt From Spain vs Portugal (1-0)

Tippy Tappy Tikki Takka At Last

We’re at the halfway point, three and a half matches in, a little way into the second half and Iniesta finally gets the ball. He pivots, circles around, the ball trapped to his feet, blocking the way in for the two defenders around him, and passes the ball to the nearest Spaniard. And on it goes. They play it around the park, back to front, left to right. The Portuguese can’t buy the ball. Ronalda is totally isolated. He barely sees the ball for the rest of the World Cup. He goes back to Madrid and ignominy.

So after three games where it seemed as if Spain had had a complete crisis of confidence, they emerged back where they started, tippy tappy tikki takka chicken tikka masala. Bastards.

Like all the Second Round matches, bar the Argentina one and Engerland’s spastastic display against Germany, this was a dull, dull, dull, dull, dull match. Very few chances. Very little ambition from Ronalada and his Portuguese winkers. In fact, the most interesting thing to watch was Portugeezer Carlos Queroz, who is looking more and more like that John Travolta chap out of Saturday Night Fever. Except Carlos goes for a black outfit rather than the full on Bee-Gee-tastic white one. I said it was a shame that the two Second Round matches with Brazil and Spain weren’t intercontinental affairs and the familiarity Spain and Portugal have for one another’s football made this, like the Brazil Chile match, a bit tedious. I thought the Portuguese would defend better and have something more than a carthorse for a main attacking threat. But no. They had the Iberian Penninsula’s answer to Emile Heskey up front. Only he was worse than Heskey. Once they went a goal down, again thanks to a goalkeeping error and David Villa’s fast response, there was no way the Portuguese could get back in the game.

And the tikki takka began.

56 Down 8 To Go 8 Teams Remaining

Archive for June, 2010

What We Learned From Paraguay vs Japan (0-0)

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

Both these teams are like bad Premiership centre halves approaching the opposition half and suddenly realising where they are and immediately falling into panic mode. They have achieved beyond their wildest dreams. For Paraguay, this is as far as their nation has ever gone, while Japan, prior to this tournament, had never won a World Cup game not held in Japan. Their coach, who was prepared to resign during the team’s charabanc tour of every footballing venue in Europe, can now retire gracefully to his farm, where he will always be addressed as Football-Manager-San and probably won’t have to pay for anything ever again.

The saddest thing about this match was that it was essentially a throwback to the very First Round of matches. Both sides emerged like frightened rabbits, too scared to attack, happy to pass it around their back four and stultifyingly dull. The Japanese actually seemed to have the better of it, making more vaguely attacking moves, but none that had the cutting edge of their match against Denmark.

You sense that there is a huge unseen psychological impact that the World Cup exerts on teams and players. For Japan, you sense that they gave it all in the match with Denmark and somehow felt that they had reached the summit of their achievement, that this match was one match too far. You can see it writ large in the dreadful, painful Third and Fourth place play-off that neither side wants to be in and which too often collapses under the pressures of the previous semi-finals. Paraguay just don’t seem very good, yet, thanks to the failings of Italy and Slovakia, have lucked out into this, the easiest of Second Rounds. How Engerland would have like to be playing Japan. Actually, on second thoughts based on our previous friendly with Japan, we’d probably lose that one 4 – 1 as well.

It went to penalties. Paraguay won’t get past Spain.

55 Down 9 To Go 9 Teams Remaining

Archive for June, 2010

What We Learned From Brazil vs Chile (3-0)

It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (But Not Mad Enough)

So the fantastically deranged maddest side in the World Cup take on the most successful, most assured, most bloody excellent footballing nation in the world. And for the first half hour they held their own. Only Chile don’t know how to hold, they don’t know how to defend, they barely know how to midfield. No, all that Chile know is how to attack. So that is what they did. I guess some wars were like this, wave after wave of devoted patriotic fighters launching themselves at the enemy with no thought of their own safety. Sadly the Brazilians have no sense of romance for things like this (plenty for all sorts of other things, but not this).

The Brazilians are like a seabreak, their defence extends from the halfway line and the wave upon wave of Chilean attacks ended up broken and diffused. They simply could not make any headway beyond the 18 yard line. No matter how mad the attack, how ambitious the movement, there was nothing they could do.

And then the Brazilians came. Last year in the Confederations Cup Brazil surprised everyone. Not because they won it, but because of the way they won it. Lots of set pieces, corners mainly. Headers. Not the sort of thing you normally associate with Brazil and the beautiful game, but somehow quite enticing. Anyway, they did it again. Juan scored from a corner, a  nice, well timed header. And then it was game on.

Because Dunga’s side don’t just embody the old skool Brazil, they epitomise the very best of the Mourinho Discipline. The tightest of defences, well not the tightest of defences, because they’ve conceded two goals, one of them to the North Koreans, the North Koreans eh, remember when we thought they might actually be worth a damn? Seems like a thousand years ago, but it was actually only last Tuesday week. But, in any case they run a pretty bloody tight defence. Tight enough that the mad, mad, mad, mad Chileans couldn’t get through it.

And as the Chileans tried, so the Brazillians just had to get back at them and started playing some neat football. Not so neat that you’d call it crazy samba football or anything, but neat nonetheless. Sort of Inter on a very, very good day. Nice.  But not that nice. That is coming later.

54 Down 10 To Go 10 Teams Remaining

Archive for June, 2010

What We Learned From Holland vs Slovakia (2-1)

Here Come The Jets (Oh No, There They Go Again)

Unlike gasping toddlers Slovenia, Slovakia has entered its protracted adolescence. And it’s not a pretty sight. Collectively they look like some kind of Newtown estate gang, almost certainly led by evil looking tatmeister Skrtel. They’ve got those ‘nit nurse’ bald cuts and close ups reveal them to have ugly, skulking faces full of contempt and loathing. They’ve even got their part time punk Hamsik, who’s had his mohican specially polished but hasn’t had a chance to brush up on his skills. And they’re not crap, certainly nowhere near the uselessness of their first two outings here. In fact they’re like those feral urban kids in Dublin who ride horses bareback, like street apaches.

And the Dutch are like those sophisticate 6th formers. Five or six years older than the street rabble, you can see they have an air of sophistication and experience that the Slovaks crave. “Hey big kid, yes, you, big kid…” they implore,  tugging on the Dutch boys’ sleeves and looking up with big, red rimmed eyes, “what’s it like? you know, in the Second Round?”. And then they are told.

Four matches in and the Dutch still haven’t had to get out of third gear. They were able to start with Robben, but not overwork him. They didn’t worry overmuch about Slovakia’s pretty please passing because as often as not there was no clear final third finish. They played it calm and then bashed them over the head for the first goal, then pressed a little harder for the second when, once again, the Slovak keeper got it horribly wrong. Out at the same stage as Engerland, the Slovaks will regard getting this far as a massive coup.

One day soon, like Friday soon, the Dutch will have to wake up and play Brazil. And then we’ll see whether they’re genuine contenders, or have just been moseying along in a Dutch stylee.

53 Down 11 To Go 11 Teams Remaining

Archive for June, 2010

What We Learned From Argentina vs Mexico (3-1)

Say Hello To My Leetle Friend

One of the more entertaining elements of the tournament has been the class acts that are the managers. Obviously most of them are tedious, rather serious looking rich dudes like the Fab or, less so in your international manager, tracksuited twats who’ve lucked out on some foreign dosh. But some are stars. like the various Eastern European looking, chain-smoking, corpses who haunt the African and Central American sides or Mr Disco the Portuguese manager, who has his open shirt and vaguely hairy chest and desperately, desperately needs one of those solid gold chains like P Diddy to complete his world or the Sartorially Ineligant Twin Managers of Germany, Jochim Loew and his dynamic ward Robin, whose matching outfits would be the pinnicle of bad taste if only West Ham’s David Sullivan didn’t have a penchant for kinky militarywear or that Brazillian toff Dunga hadn’t nailed the storestaff and got hold of all the pukka jackets. But best of all, top of the managerial shitpile are the entire oiled, bequiffed, pompadoured managerial staff of Argentina, who bestride the touchline like collosal gangmaster football pimps. Chief among them Mr Hand of God Maradona. He is great. Plump, fantastically well-oiled and suited in the kind of garish class act whoremeister-wear you’d expect someone in Dallas or CSI:Miami, Diego is top drawer. Just like his lovely boys.

Here is Leetle Carlito. He is good. Runs very fast. Very, how you say, agile. Very squirmy. Can find hees way through even the smallest cracks in your defence. Yes, you will lov Leetle  Carlito. Even when he is completely offside, the linesman, he makes no complaints because Leetle Carlito, he knows joost how the linesman likes it. And if it peeses off a few Mehicos, well, that’s just part of Leetle Carlito’s charm.

And then there’s Higuin. He is a big boy. Likes to lead from the front, always pulling about those defenders. They just can’t keep him under control. First it’s one side, then it’s the other, then your centre back has no idea where he is and, hoop-la, it’s in the back of the net. And if that confuses those Mexicanos a leetle more, then that’s fine.

And Leetle Carlito, you will love him so much, he just doesn’t stop. Always taunting, always teasing, he is like a leetle minx, if you have minx wherever you come from, if not, well, he is always taunting. And those defenders, they are like putty in his hands. He pulls them one way, he pulls them the other, just like Higuin, just like the big boys do, but Leetle Carlito, he is not so big, he has to work so much harder than Higuin to pull those defenders about. But when he does, Blam! Oh the goal is open for just a second, maybe only a half a second, the blink of an eye, but Leetle Carlito can tell that the goal is winking at him, the goal is a cheeky bad girl who wants Leetle Carlito. She wants him so much. Leetle Carlito, he cannot resist. 20 yards, 30 yards, who knows, who cares, Leetle Carlito he shoots and like great explosion the ball is in the net.

Only Pepito Messi is a problem. He dances, he sleeps and slides, but he cannot score. Oncle Diego is going to have to teach Pepito Messi how to behave or Pepito Messi is going to have a long talk with Oncle Diego’s leetle best friend. And that wouldn’t be good for Pepito.

Sure those pesky Mexican kids fight back, like they did against Engerland in the friendlies, like they did against the South Africans. And sure that kid Hernandez is interesting, but against Diego’s boys he isn’t much. Mexicans ptah! Breeng on the Germans.

52 Down 12 To Go 12 Teams Remaining

Archive for June, 2010

What We Learned From Germany vs Engerland (4-1)

Ouch! That Was A Spanking

Well, we have seen some bad Engerland performances and we’ve seen some shocking Engerland performances, but this was simply a disaster (that’s worse than bad and shocking in the lexicon of tragicomical footballing parlance in case you’re worried). Buoyed by the victory over Slovenia (Slovenia for god’s sake), Engerland played the same side. Only on this performance you wouldn’t have thought these guys knew each other let alone had played together only four days earlier and that some actually played together professionally in the same football clubs. Now in their last five matches Engerland have been simply shocking against Mexico, Japan, USA, and Algeria and only rancid against Slovenia, but at least there has been some vague shadow of a collective understanding between the players, if only the collective understanding not to pass accurately to one another or do anything that might constitute a coherent attacking move. Not so here. Here our defence, comprised of Glen Johnson (who is better going forward than defending), Titface (who has lost a yard of pace since Rio left him), Far-Too-Slow-Son (who never had the pace to begin with) and Ashley Cole (who truth be told is actually good), looked like they’d never seen a football, let alone played professionally for a number of years. The positioning of Titface and Slow-Son for the first goal was just shamateur, and for them to then be outmuscled by Klose should shame them both into quitting international and probably club football. Sadly this wasn’t their low point in the game.

Admittedly there was a moment when, through sheer ineptness on the Germans’ part and the law of averages, Engerland looked somewhat dangerous. We even scored, not that that will in any way exonerate the useless Slow-Son, but he will at least have a World Cup memory that isn’t of himself being ripped a new one by the Germans. We even scored a second, a beauty from Lampard and the only memorable thing he has done in an Engerland shirt for at least a year, which was so obvious that no one believed the ref when he disallowed it. It could have changed the game in a sad, wallpapering over the cracks sort of way, but disallowing it could have given Engerland the spur they needed to really punish the Germans. Amazingly, for about 3 or 4 minutes, Engerland were on top and Germany looked really flaky.

But then Engerland imploded. Again tactical insanity was our undoing. Putting 9 men into the Germans’ penalty area might seem like a good idea when you have the ball and it’s a free kick about 28 yards out. Two seconds later when Barry has conceded possession and the Germans are running at your lone man defence it’s starting to look a little less intelligent. It’s even less clever when you do it again after they’ve scored the third.

Admittedly the fourth German goal was a great example of the beautiful rush play that England’s top teams have been doing for years. You think about Man U and Arsenal and Chelsea and what comes to mind is fantastic flowing counterattacking, movement of the ball from box to box in seconds, transforming turnover of the ball into opportunity. That’s what the Germans did and have been doing for the whole of this World Cup and what Engerland have not looked like doing in the best part of a decade. The saddest thing is not that so many of the players in Man U, Arsenal and Chelsea who are doing the moves are foreign, but that some of them are clearly English and never display this form for Engerland.

So What Has Gone Wrong For Engerland? And Where Do We Go From Here?

Where do we start? It’s clear that we’re now going to see a rash of international retirements because many of these boys clearly do not have it in them to go through this all over again. The so-called golden generation have been revealed as Knockout Round Nohopers. I think it’s the end of the road for:

  • Green (no chance after that spooner into his own net)
  • James (he just won’t be around for Euro 2012 and beyond)
  • Carragher (wasn’t he already retired – ed?)
  • Upson (too fucking slow)
  • Rio (too knackered)
  • Ledley KneeKnack
  • Titface (too slow, too irritating and too divisive)
  • Barry (holding midfielder my arse)
  • Gerrard and Lampard (they can’t play together you know and yes, we have tried)
  • Hoofitto Heskey
  • Defoe (offside!)
  • Wrighty-Wright-Phillips

Whoever is the manager, and Fab’s position is far from certain, he has to rebuild with pace and ball control rather than reputation as his criteria for inclusion. We went to this World Cup with an old squad essentially comprised of Sven’s Quarter-Finalists minus David Beckham and Theo. I think Fab missed a big trick by relying too much on stolid experience rather than youthful exuberance, or at least a balance. Maybe Theo Wallchart can’t put a cross in all the time, but he does often scare the shit out of defenders, even international ones. Maybe Adam Johnson wasn’t ready, but he better be now. Maybe Hart didn’t have the experience, but now he’s been to a World Cup and he’ll still be around when the next one comes. I think we need to develop a new defence, a controlling midfield, a potent attack and we have to find a way of bringing Rhino into the games.  Because he might as well announce his international retirement and do a Scholes if this is how he’s going to be played for Engerland. In the 4 World Cup games and the half dozen or so before he has been starved of service and support and has barely had a touch of the ball. He is a shadow of the force he was at Euro 2004 and might as well take his talent and put it in a cupboard and forget about it, because he isn’t going to get a result from it from Engerland if this carries on.

51 Down 13 To Go 13 Teams Remaining