Das Schlusspfiff Blog – 2006 World Cup

15 June 2009

Three years on an we are one year away from the next world cup in South Africa.

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12 July 2006

The more I think about the final the more bizarre Zidane’s actions were and the more sordid everyone’s reactions have been.

Zidane was 10 minutes away from a penalty shootout, in which Italy had a horrid record. He was 10 minutes from possibly leading France to two World Cup titles. He needed to stay on the pitch.

What was he thinking? Indeed, was he thinking at all. It was simple rage.

What he should have done immediately after Sunday’s game was apologize to Materazzi, his teammates, France and all of soccer.

Instead he has yet to speak a word. It’s coming, they keep saying.

Zidane has instead received the silliest MVP award ever seen and Italy got a world championship.

Thanks goodness this doesn’t happen again for another four years.

10 July 2006

You have to be joking: Zinedine Zidane has been awarded the Golden Ball as the best player at the World Cup, despite his sending-off in the final last night.

So head butting an opponent is OK with FIFA.

It was the 14th red card of Zidane’s career, so he’s probably used to showering alone.

At least he can console himself with the knowledge that, hilariously, journalists last night voted him player of the tournament. Maybe they were not watching the final.

10 July 2006

I fell asleep towards the end of the world cup final and woke as the penalties started to find that I had not missed anything. It was a poor game.

The Italians probably shaded the first half. After 19 minutes they equlaised a dodgy French penalty. That was it for the first half.

The French dominated the second half. The Italians rolled on the ground, feigned injury and passed balls 60 metres back to goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. Their approach was physical from the start.

In time we will probably find out what provoked Zidane ten minutes from the end of extra time.

TV replays showed the thunderous look on his face, as he approached Materazzi and butted him powerfully in the chest. Materazzi of course made a meal of it. Zidane had to go. You cannot do that; whatever the provocation.

9 July 2006

Well done Germany; they were terrific hosts. They found a new sense of patriotism. And they finished third playing thoroughly honest and entertaining football.

Best chant of the world cup – English supporters singing “I’d rather be a cabbage than a Swede.”

Saddest cheat – and there were too many – Thierry Henry. He really is so much better than that.

Best pre tournament prediction (none of mine !!!): The Boston Globe: ‘ENGLAND: like the New York Mets. Massively, ridiculously overrated by their media, always involved in some sort of comic downfall, insane injuries, woeful management. A car crash waiting to happen, at which stage the local media go berserk.’

Best girlfriend: forget the WAGS. Gianluigi Buffon’s 6ft-tall model fiancée, Alena Seredova. No wonder Signor Buffon has not dropped a ball in this world cup !!

Alena Seredova, girld friend of Gianluigi Buffon, goalkeeper of Italy’s soccer team Juventus Turin poses during a soccer fashion show in Munich, southern Germany, on Wednesday, June 7, 2006. [AP]

6 July 2006

It’s all over – with dripping irony Portugal go out of the world cup to a penalty! And not a great penalty award either. Henry did get a tap on the shins. But the theatrics of his fall were spectacular.

France leads 1-0 after more theatrics from Thierry Henry. That one would get a 10 from all the judges. It got a penalty for Portugal and Zidane showed the English how to take a penalty with very little effort !

The Portugese talent for falling like leaves in a slight breeze seems to be working against them.

5 July 2006

Why the French need to be careful. The Portugese team have seen their opponents draw 23 yellow cards and 4 red cards. Some of the Portugese do fall over terribly easily.

4 July 2006

This is the Arrividerci Pizza that the Bild tabloid hopes Germany will be serving up to Italy tonight.

Heck – a German sense of humour! This World Cup is a revelation.

Maybe the pizza will get served up by hardman Thorsten Frings who has been banned for one match for throwing a punch in the argy-bargy at the end of the Argentina game. FIFA is such a shambles – The Foolish and Incompetent Football Association. The Argentine team which was at the heart of the post quarter final fight have had no suspensions or even a hearing. This should have been dealt with by FIFA after the tournament. The Germans have every right to feel aggrieved.

And where did FIFA get the video pictures of Frings from – Sky Italia! Smells like a big rat.

3 July 2006

This just about sums up the Eriksson years – from the Independent:

Will we learn this time from Eriksson’s years of misrule?
Published: 03 July 2006

Blowing forlornly into the gutter here in the morning breeze in the gritty Ruhr town of Gelsenkirchen, so far from the glory and the drama that will engulf Berlin as it stages the final of the 18th World Cup in a few days’ time, is once again the question that haunts all those who care about English football.

It asks quite simply: will intelligence and courage ever again be applied to the shaping of our national game on the international stage? Will the lessons of Sven Goran Eriksson’s disgraceful stewardship of England be properly learnt or, under his successor and right-hand man, Steve McClaren, will the old mythologies build again? Will we talk ourselves once more into the preposterous argument that we are in a position to beat the best of the world game? Here, despite the defiance displayed by England’s 10 men after Wayne Rooney’s natural brilliance was so terribly negated by that fundamental lack of discipline that in the past has been conspicuously ignored by the England coach, it is impossible to provide an encouraging answer.

Eriksson, a broken man but vastly richer than when he arrived as a symbol of knowledge and winning experience five and a half years ago, was not simply a beaten coach on Saturday night.

The charges against him were many and serious, but the greatest of all was that he was a disastrous example of all that follows too many easy choices, when investments are made in such myths that David Beckham was the man to put at the centre of the hopes for a “golden generation”, and that you can keep changing your team, as you might your aftershave, and still expect coherence and rhythm and confidence when the big issues have to be settled.

Beckham spilt more tears yesterday when he announced that he was giving up the England captaincy, a decision which guaranteed him another burst of personal publicity at the end of his fifth major tournament – and how much of it would be tempered by the hard truth that in all of his appearances in three World Cups and two European Championships his influence and his impact have been negligible? Probably not much. He was applauded from the room in Baden-Baden despite the unassailable fact that the manner of his resignation summed up all that has been wrong with the Eriksson-Beckham regime.

The captaincy of England is a rare and precious gift and should be received and returned at the bidding of the man in charge – the coach of the team.

Zinedine Zidane was the man of 1998, Ronaldo of 2002, and this time it could be the great Frenchman again. And where has Beckham been? The most celebrated and rewarded player of his generation has never stirred, when it mattered, from the margins. He sobbed in the dug-out after being withdrawn from yet another match in which his captain’s armband represented not a natural right of leadership but a privilege granted to him, and unchallenged, in all these years of numbing underachievement.

However, Eriksson, even as he neglected to find solutions to the enduring failure to exploit the talent of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, has always insisted that Beckham was the natural captain of England – and that he never once considered changing that assessment. There, maybe, we have the central problem of Sven Goran Eriksson, an intransigent ninny.

But if we are bound to catalogue the failures of Eriksson, the relentless decline in belief that he could supply any of the necessary answers to the problem of England’s failure to begin to match the standards set by Sir Alf Ramsey 40 years ago, the blame cannot be completely isolated.

A coach, of course, creates the ethos of his team, but it may also be true that Eriksson perhaps believed that slavish loyalty to those players favoured, in the face of all evidence, would inevitably bring at least one dividend. Maybe if he told them they were indeed the golden generation often enough, they would first believe, then prove it. They believed it all right. Even after the final, sickening denouement, the tragicomic failure in the penalty shoot-out, Lampard was lambasting the media for its criticisms. It was an astonishing departure from reality.

This, unquestionably, was England’s worst World Cup finals campaign since their first in 1950 – when they were ambushed by a team of American part-timers and amateurs. Portugal, though denuded of bite by the absence of their playmaker, Deco, had rarely looked like being breached before the dismissal of Rooney, and this was the first serious team England had faced. They were appalling against Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago, played one half decently and another catastrophically against Sweden, who were eaten up by Jürgen Klinsmann’s Germany, and the victory over Ecuador was a triumph for the lesser of two inept teams.

Yet how could it be otherwise? Apart from chopping his men and his tactics from one match to another, he picked a squad which defied all logic, and in the selection of the untested Theo Walcott stepped on to ground which Pele, no less, described charitably as “unique”. Yes, that was the word – unique. Uniquely misguided, uniquely uncaring for both his squad and the boy, uniquely indicative of a man not serious about his business.

If the “great generation” has once again been revealed as one made not of gold but clay – the likes of Lampard should not complain about such an assessment but simply reflect on their lack of achievement – it is possible only to weep for what might have been if the Football Association had taken the decision that would surely have presented itself as inevitable to any organisation of spirit and nerve after the failures of Japan four years ago and Portugal in 2004.

On both occasions the combination of Eriksson and McClaren was found to be utterly wanting. They had no tactical initiatives. They sat transfixed as Luiz Felipe Scolari guided Brazil and Portugal past them as though he had arrived at the traffic lights at precisely the moment they turned green.

It is reasonable to imagine that if the FA had acted on either of those occasions something of the “golden generation” could have been rescued.

Could we imagine for a second the confusions and meanderings of Eriksson happening under a Guus Hiddink or a Scolari, or the best of the rest of the shortlisted candidates, Martin O’Neill? Could we begin to believe for a second that the stupidity of a Walcott decision might occur, that England would have come here to Germany with a strike force of one player who had both full fitness and a modicum of experience? Would it have been possible that, confronted with the years-long evidence that Gerrard and Lampard simply did not have the natural instincts of true midfielders, any one of those serious candidates for the job would have allowed the situation to drift into the impotence that was displayed on Saturday?

A Hiddink would surely have recognised, as Rafa Benitez did at Liverpool, that Gerrard’s remarkable talents did not sit easily in any conventional midfield format. It would have occurred to him, surely, that a solution would have been to play him alongside the right, where he has generated so much power and dynamic intervention for Liverpool, along with his freedom to move into striking positions from various points behind the front line. Beckham would, of course, have had to move. To where? Maybe a place in his life where he had to produce more than a daily forest of headlines.

Eriksson is gone now but then who takes his place? McClaren, the willing assistant or the reluctant ally in decisions which were plainly wrong? Take your pick. Certainly he was the man who was supposed to provide flair and intuition at Eriksson’s shoulder. The evidence mounted here that his influence has been either too much or too little. Whatever the reality, it is hardly possible to imagine a man less endowed with the aura of someone who can easily bring in a new mood, a new sense of the possibilities of the future.

The image of England in defeat was tear-stained, but, as we might ask of Beckham, for whom was the crying? For the disappointed nation, for all those flag-waving, “football’s coming home” optimists who believed they had a serious chance of competing with the big guns? Or the implosion of their own inflated belief in who they were and what they represented? Could it really be the surreal circus that surrounded their headquarters?

One Brazilian observer, though consumed by despair that his own team had failed to respond to the challenge of winning their sixth World Cup, offered a view painful to English sensibilities. He said: “We know England founded the game, but it it is amazing that every four years they seem to assume that they have a right to win the great trophy. But on what is it based? What have England done since they won at home in 1966? They simply have not been in the big league – they haven’t even won a European Championship…”

Such realism surely needs to be applied at home, within and without the game. But then where is the encouragement? One of the runners to succeed Eriksson, Sam Allardyce, yesterday told the readers of the highest-selling Sunday newspaper in the land that the cause of England’s demise here on Saturday was a cheating referee.

The mind – and the heart – recoils at such drivel. Rooney, who had carried so many hopes, who remains a young footballer of brilliant talent, stamped on Ricardo Carvalho in the region of his genitals – and inspired an Irish wit to remark that the real question had turned out to be not whether the problematic foot would stand up to a tackle, but whether Carvalho’s “tackle” would stand up to Rooney’s foot – and anyone who had thought such a flashpoint was not possible had been living deep in the Eriksson land of myth and legend.

Not so long ago in the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Rooney lost control of himself in a friendly against Spain and was withdrawn by Eriksson, wisely in that it was clear the referee was on the point of showing a red card. But then later he said, no, there was no long-term problem. Rooney would not be taught a lesson, not dropped for a game or two, as an indicator that merely being a superbly promising talent was enough to guarantee your place in international football. As we saw so devastatingly here at the week, chickens do have that bothersome habit of coming home to roost.

Of course, Cristiano Ronaldo, who showed some of the less appealing aspects of his nature while performing formidably on the field, and dispatching England with a confidence and authority quite beyond Gerrard and Lampard, is the available scapegoat. Alan Shearer, who is being lined up as a McClaren assistant, and perhaps a man with the prestige to defuse future criticisms of the England operation, suggested that Rooney was entitled to chastise his Manchester United team-mate forcibly when they next meet at the training ground. How easy, how convenient, to forget that it was Rooney who caused his own downfall – and betrayed his team.

But then, also, how typical of the English football psyche, one which has been so easily lulled by the platitudes and the inaction and the sheer futility of the Eriksson years. Yes, he qualified for major tournaments, but who did he beat, what force did he topple, except Germany on that beguiling, deceiving night in Munich nearly five years ago? That he succeeded where Kevin Keegan was plainly failing and Graham Taylor had fallen eight years earlier when the challenge was against Dennis Bergkamp’s Netherlands, was an achievement hugely inflated when you considered Eriksson’s reputation and rewards – and the level of opposition he faced. In Munich it did seem that the church bells were ringing for the dawn of a new age of English football, but again it was a myth. England struggled desperately in their next game, against Albania, while Germany began to rebuild, all the way to the World Cup final less than a year later.

Once more Germany march on a World Cup, once more their team play with a strength and a conviction well beyond the sum of their individual talents.

Once more England fall well below the mountain top – and yet again England pile up the excuses. But they do not wash; they are beyond the blurring effect of Beckham’s self-regarding tears. The truth is indeed blowing along the gutter here. What happened, give or take some passing heroics, is what England deserved. They simply didn’t come up to scratch, and they never will until they are given a little leadership – and some basic truth.

Swede’s smell of success – and failure


Sept 2001: Thrash Germany 5-1 in Munich, rescuing qualification for the 2002 World Cup finals.

June 2002: Beat Argentina 1-0 in World Cup in Sapporo.

Apr/Oct 2003: Beat Turkey 2-0 in Euro 2004 qualifier, then draw 0-0 to reach finals in Portugal.

Oct 2005: Secure qualification for the 2006 World Cup.

Nov 2005: Two Michael Owen goals in three minutes snatch 3-2 friendly victory over Argentina.


June 2002: Knocked out by Brazil in World Cup quarter-finals.

June 2004: Eliminated from Euro 2004 quarter-finals on penalties by hosts Portugal.

Sept 2005: Shock 1-0 defeat by Northern Ireland in World Cup qualifier.

July 2006: Knocked out of World Cup quarter-finals by Portugal on penalties.


In competitive matches


38 26 9 3 69 26

All matches


67 40 17 10 128 61


Apr 2002: Affair revealed with TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson.

March 2004: Pictured attending meeting with Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon.

July 2004: Exposed for affair with secretary Faria Alam at Football Association. Eriksson has “no case to answer”, says FA.

Jan 2006: Exposed by the News of the World’s “fake sheikh”. Admitted could leave England after the World Cup, criticised senior players and made claims of corruption at Premier League clubs. FA says contract will not be renewed.


Real Madrid: Possible destination, depending on outcome of club’s presidential election.

Internazionale: Another failure to win the scudetto may result in Roberto Mancini’s sacking.

South Africa: A lack of funds could scupper this idea, but the 2010 World Cup hosts want a big name to lead them.

Aston Villa/Newcastle: Neither is available, yet, but a few poor results into the new season and Eriksson’s name will be linked.

Beckham resigned as Captain – the arrogance. Annoying little bit of cheap self publicity. The best job in English football is given to you and then taken from you by the coach/manager that you are accountable to. Everything that is wrong with English football was summed up in that statement. The players became bigger than the game.

McLaren is not the man to cut them down to size. McLaren is part of the old guard. He is as culpable as the overpaid, oversexed Swede. Nothing will change; more of the same. Great expectations only……

Maybe worth noting that the only Englishman who could score in the penalty shoot out is in fact Canadian !Ask Mr. Hargreaves where he was borne !

The Rooney/Ronaldo feud simmers on! A far bigger headache for Grumpy Ferguson than worrying about Rooney’s metatarsal.

If Ronaldo turns up at pre-season Old Trafford he can expect a good thumping from Mr. Rooney and his mates. In the meantime Ronaldo seems to be saying that a deal has already been done with Real Madrid.

Personally I think they deserve eachother – if they merged they would be Roonaldey – sounds like a nice peaceful Scottish town !

2 July 2006

A hilarious leader from the Observer newspaper who cannot have been watching the same game as me:

“Floored heroes

Sunday July 2, 2006
The Observer

Rarely have English nails been so fiercely bitten: an epic display of football; a drama to jangle the nerves of the hardest fan; a feat of collective bravery by 10 men. Hearts stopped. England lost. On penalties. Again.

To wonder what might have been had England played at full strength, had Wayne Rooney not had a moment of folly and been ejected from the pitch, is scarcely relevant. The determination that galvanised his remaining team-mates was inspirational. Like David Beckham eight years ago, Rooney was the victim of youthful impetuousness. He has much to learn, but he still has a glittering career ahead.

The consolation, if there can be any, is in the performance that brought us so close to victory. When the squad come back from Germany, for all their flaws, they deserve to be greeted as heroes. We salute them.”

What is this serious newspaper thinking: utter nonsense:

Flawed surely – not floored

Heroes? – underperforming, overpaid, and in some cases useless. The only payer to emerge with an enhanced reputation was Owen Hargreaves. The rest should be ashamed of themselves.

They are not coming how as heroes: They’re coming home for a bit of a rest, a few mumbled excuses and then training before the start of a new season.

So bye bye Sven. For gbp5 million a year England deserved something better. The national team reached the quarter finals in two World Cups and one European Championship. Not good enough with such talents available. Or is there really that much talent? Probably not. False expectations. The Premiership has too many foreign players.

1 July 2006

All too predictable. A foolish sending off – who else but Rooney. An acrimonious game; some shameful play acting. Neither team good enough to fashion a goal in normal time or in extra time.

So to penalties. Lampard and Gerrard should have been bankers. But Lampard could not hit a barn door right now; and Gerrard was flat out exhausted, England had played the last hour with 10 men in 29C heat. They were wilting.

Poor Eriksson. Not a happy end to an England coaching career full of what might have beens.

Mind you the Man U dressing room will be interesting at the start of the new season. There will be little luv between Messrs Rooney and Ronaldo….here are the simple facts of what happened:

“The incident occurred near the halfway line with Rooney battling to retain control of the ball and being pursued by defender Carvalho and captain Luis Figo.

The England forward appeared to be pulled back by Carvalho while at the same time Figo wrapped his legs around Rooney who then seemed to tread on his opponent’s groin as he tried to disentangle his leg, but with no malicious intent.

Carvalho’s reaction prompted Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo to sprint some 40 metres to the referee, apparently to demand a card against Rooney who pushed him and was sent off.

Television pictures appeared to show Ronaldo winking towards the Portugal bench as Rooney made his way off the pitch.”

Portugal had been winding up Ronaldo – the wink said job well done.

Portugal now play France – surprise, surprise! France beat Brazil 1-0. So the semi finals are all European affairs. And to be honest the rest of the world will lose interest. Suddenly it is not the world cup but a rather parochial European affair. I doubt I will even watch the remaining games.

By the way – goalkeeper Ricardo saved 3 of 4 England penalties and almost stopped the fourth!

No one else to blame. Rooney was the villain. An accident waiting to happen.

30 June 2006

Strange – English commentary on Thai TV.

But welcome.

Argentina imploded in Berlin. Creating few chances Argentina took the lead to be pegged at 1-1 by a well constructed German goal.

And so to penalties – and an inevitable German win.

Jens Lehmann was the hero with two penalty saves – though Argentina’s penalties lacked any conviction. The result was taken with supreme gracelessness by Gabriel Heinze and Carlos Tevez, who waded into the celebrating German melee swinging haymakers. Expect FIFA to review this carefully.

Their coach Jose Pekerman similarly disgraced himself, though in decision rather than deed. Argentina finished the match with all their best players on the bench: Juan Roman Riquelme and Hernan Crespo had been withdrawn to protect a precarious one-goal lead, while Lionel Messi, who had illuminated Argentina’s display during the second-round win over Mexico, never saw any action at all.

Argentina who for so much of this tournament had looked the best side in it, let themselves down badly.

29 June 2006

Is Thierry Henry a cheat? Yes. Collapsing like a Canadian pine he feigned being hit in the face by Puyol; that could of had the Spanish player sent off. He was booked and from the free kick France scored their go ahead goal.

He used to have class. Now he is a simple cheat. Someone should rescind his footballer of the year title. Henry denies it. Watch the replay.

A pity. It spoiled a genuine resurgence from the French side.

James Lawton: Perhaps the best of the British soccer writers previews the quarter finals:

“Yes, it’s true, the Netherlands essentially fashioned a riot, were peevish and mean where their great predecessors generally behaved like a mutinous crew even while playing football of spell-binding quality, the Italians pulled a Machiavellian move dark even by their own standards, and Thierry Henry besmirched the night when France reminded themselves they were once the best in Europe and the world.

Yet there is still a way to measure the enduring quality of this 18th World Cup which persuaded some of us even before the opening action that it had the potential to rise above anything we had seen since Diego Maradona 20 years ago invaded Mexico with as much single-minded purpose as any conquistador.

The litmus test is to ask yourself to whom you would now most willingly say goodbye when the quarter-finals are over.

Now no doubt the question is most challenging for those who remain loyal to either England or Ukraine. These certainly are the teams who have arrived at this point trailing least glory. Though Ukraine fought hard after being dismantled by Spain in the opening game, their round-of-16 match with Switzerland brought new nuances of tedium. That the Swiss lacked the poise to convert a single shoot-out penalty made its own bleak commentary on all that had gone on before, but then when you think of the convulsions that have shook their country in recent years you are bound to give at least a little sigh when the Ukrainians succumb, as they surely will, to the machinations and brilliant defence of Italy, in this department way out in front of all their tournament rivals. But then Ukraine do have impressive spirit – and Andrei Shevchenko.

So far England have played just one half of reasonably coherent football. Their squad selection is increasingly a bad joke. Their tactical pattern is unfathomable. But then how do you easily say farewell to players of the quality of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, the currently demoralised Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, who has performed the formidable trick of playing himself into form under the greatest pressure any professional footballer can experience?

Rooney would be the most killing loss. Even as he fights for fitness, and operates in a team that sometimes suggest they have been told to go out to play a version of blind man’s bluff, he carries the most extraordinary promise every time he touches the ball. It is the blinding hint that, for all his difficulties, including thus far a lack of intelligent service, he is capable of anything.

But then here we are still talking about possibilities. In Berlin tomorrow the choice is between two sets of already formidable achievement.

Germany have grown before our eyes, especially the striking pair of Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski. Not so long ago, when it was still fashionable to disparage Jürgen Klinsmann’s team, the front two were sometimes sneered at as scurrying, “Polish rats”. Now everyone agrees they are authentic eagles of the Fatherland. The consensus was reached, thunderously, when they combined to destroy Sweden in just a few minutes the other day. Klose is the craftsman, a pro to his toes. Podolski is the young runner, hugely emboldened by the idea that he is halfway to being a national hero of the ages.

It is cruel that Germany may be denied the chance to discover destiny’s hand on the last day of the tournament. However, if they are to fall in crushing anti-climax in Berlin’s magnificently renovated Olympic stadium tomorrow, no one has a better right to administer their fate than Argentina. Germany have hosted the World Cup brilliantly, but it is Argentina who have furnished it with the most extravagant skill.

Though it is bewildering to note the reluctance of the Argentina coach, Jose Pekerman, to give the breathtaking Lionel Messi more than cameo roles, and even that some say it is a straight choice between the playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme and arguably the most arresting pure attacker since the days of George Best, there is no way to minimise the impact of Argentina.

Then, hauntingly, there are Brazil and France, a replay of the 1998 final and the possibility that, second time around, we could have the sublime duel that dwindled the moment we heard at the Stade de France that the young Ronaldo was suffering something close to a nervous breakdown. It turned out to be Zinedine Zidane’s day and it is beguiling to think that, eight years on, it could be his again.

In France’s opening game against Switzerland, a low key goalless draw, some said they had seen Zidane’s officially assumed status as a football relic.

They said it was tragic to see him struggling through the motions. Not everyone agreed, and for those who said so, who saw in his work traces of the old brilliance, and a genuine attempt to impose himself on the action, there was a beautiful satisfaction when he allied himself so skilfully with the thrusting young French idol Franck Ribéry in what some saw as the shocking defeat of Spain.

Spain had encouraged our hopes, but they tend to do that every four years. In the end the Spanish fault line was plain enough. Their defence was too deeply flawed to maintain an authentic challenge.

Brazil? They were the sleeping representatives of football genius in the early going. Now they are at least half-awake and Ronaldo is as near to being half fit as he is ever again likely to be. However, as a predator he is proving that, as in boxing, it is a true striker’s “shot” that is last to go. Ronaldinho is also at last stirring to his responsibilities as the world’s most talented footballer. Those who have backed Brazil, as a recurring romantic gesture, have no reason yet to panic.

When you mark down the names of the survivors you are drawing a plan of wall-to-wall intrigue. Four years ago the last eight included teams like Turkey, the United States, Senegal and South Korea. Even allowing for some brilliant coaching, it was not a roll call of football excellence. It is different now.

Here, without doubt, are still the makings of a truly great World Cup.”

28 June 2006

Brazil got a little lucky – one goal seemed well offside and Ghana could not take their chances…..and the Spanish as always continue to under-perform.

Lots of protests from Africa – but in the end did Ghana score a goal? And other than one header they did not look likely to score either !

So the quarter finals are:

Germany v Argentina
Italy v Ukraine
England v Portugal
France v Brazil

27 June 2006

One piece of good news – no more “Aussie Aussie Aussie oi oi oi” – which is almost as bad as you-ess-eh.

Interesting. In Thailand we are all complaining that all we receive is the Thai language commentary.

On ESPN tonight there were complaints about how poor the English language commentary is. And they are right – it is poor.

How it works is FIFA provides what is called the World Feed. Broadcasters can take this if they are not using their own commentary team. The World Feed is in English with only a single commentator at each game. There is no expert analysis or colour commentary.

In between describing the game John Helm, the commentator, was telling is what a nice journey he had enjoyed by train…..

27 June 2006 (just)

Poor old Aussieland – welcome to the joys of international football. This is how the Guardian wrote up the last minute of the game that just finished…..”No sooner had the ball hit the back of the net than the referee blew the final whistle. What a sensational finish to the game. Lucas Neill looks gobsmacked – it was a soft enough penalty. Grosso was dribbling in from the left, Neill foolishly committed himself to the tackle and the Italian committed himself to falling over in as extravagant a fashion as possible. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Going so close only to be shafted by a last-minute Italian winner…”

It is never over until its over. Italy had played most of the second half with 10 men and had struggled. But the game looked set for extra time and with neither team looking like scoring penalties would have been a fair bet.

The trouble is that in this world cup the referees are becoming the story – not the teams – and that is wrong.

26 June 2006

There has been some terrific attacking football in this World Cup. None of it was on show last night. England beat Equador 1-0 with a goal from a Beckham free kick. The game was almost entirely played out in the middle third of the pitch. Dull.

Meanwhile my tip to win, the Netherlands, lost 0-1 to Portugal. I did not see the game but there appears to have been very little football played. Plenty of drama but little to commend. Here is the Guardian’s description:

“An evening of mayhem and spite, sometimes synchronised cheating and complaining – and one goal – ended with nine men against nine men, 16 additional bookings, no handshake between the distinguished managers Luiz Felipe Scolari and Marco van Basten, at least on the pitch, and Portugal in the quarter-final against England in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday afternoon. It was a night when a lot of people forgot a lot of things, not least how to behave but also that the logo of this tournament is A Time To Make Friends.”

Beware Figo; he is getting so old that he seems to fall over even more readily now. This is a man who really does think that the football pitch is a stage.

Globalisation – sitting in an Australian owned bar in Bangkok, Thailand, watching England play Equador, delivered via a Satellite from Africa; so that the half time advertisements are for Nigerian banks and Kenya Airways. Very strange.

25 June 2006

What the best painted football fans are not wearing ! Brings a whole new meaning to football strips!

24 June 2006

So at last the World Cup proper begins. The sideshow is over. In 1966 there were only 16 teams. There are now 32 to bring in teams from Africa and Asia and even the Yanks. But these teams will not win anything; not in my lifetime.

48 games gone; 15 that matter left; and a silly third place play off that no one will remember.

So how were my predictions? Well I got 13 teams right; it is an early goodbye to Poland, the Czechs (who were awful) and Croatia. And a big welcome to Equador, Ghana and Australia. This is good as it keeps the world cup global with interest from Asia, South America and Africa.

Predict: Real:

NETHvsMEXICO Netherlands v Portugal

ITALYvsCROATIA Italy v Australia


ENGLANDvsPOLAND England v Equador

ARGENTINAvsPORTUGAL Argentina v Mexico
BRAZILvsCZECH Brazil v Ghana

SWISSvsSPAIN Swiss v Ukraine

So what next:

Germany vs Argentina
Italy vs Switzerland
England vs Netherlands
Brazil vs Spain

Semis: Argentina vs Switzerland and Netherlands vs Brazil. And I still get to my Argentina vs Netherlands final!

Switzerland have done well; their win over the Koreans was a strong result.

23 June 2006

Soccer-mad monks hit for missing alms-giving – from The Nation newspaper

Local villagers have complained that monks and novices in this northern province have been watching World Cup matches throughout the night, causing them to skip their morning walk to beg for alms.

A woman who asked that her name be withheld said she and her family had prepared food to give to monks at a temple on the occasion of her birthday.

However, at the temple she found a sign saying the abbot was not in.

So she gave alms to a monk who told her that most monks had been watching all the World Cup matches and were too exhausted to wake up next morning.

When she was about to leave the temple, she saw the abbot and some other bleary-eyed monks stumbling from the residence where the sign declared that the abbot was not in.

Wallop Namwongprom, a member of a monks’ administration committee, said it was not against the rules for monks to watch football.

“But their viewing TV will be considered against the rules if it affects their morning activities,” he said.

It would surely be considered a serious violation if they were involved in gambling, he said.

“We beg senior monks to act properly and warn their juniors to refrain from any improper activities concerning the World Cup,” he said.

Meanwhile, Phra Kru Sophonkaweewat, deputy abbot of Jedee Lung Wiharn Temple in Chiang Mai, said the temple has a school and a university for monks under its jurisdiction, attended by some 700 ordained students.

“We have issued strict regulations for the student monks during the World Cup,” he said.

“We allow them to watch some matches but they are prohibited from watching all of them and engaging in noisy cheering.

“And no gambling is allowed,” he said.

If anyone violates the rules or excessive TV viewing affects their studies, the maximum penalty is dismissal, he said.

Well done Australia. They beat Japan and drew with Croatia and survived being refereed by the awful Markus Merk and the even worse Graham Poll.

ENGLISH ref Graham Poll may have blown his chances of taking any further part in the World Cup after a series of bungles.

Poll showed Josip Simunic three yellow cards before sending him off and missed two clear penalties, a wrestling foul and a second and clear handball.

His conduct and performance will now be investigated by FIFA who may decide not to give him any further assignments in Germany 2006.

He was extremely poor.

Was last night the death of soccer/football in the USA. Around the world hundreds of thousands of people watch the games on the streets; even in the middle of the night in Korea and Japan.

In the USA about fifty people gather to watch the big screen in Time Square.

Time also for a change of coach. Arena has so far managed to blame everyone but himself.

23 June 2006

It may only be a game but there is something wonderfully symbolic about the USA being beaten by Ghana. The world’s richest nation beaten by one of the world’s poorest. The whole of Africa and much of the rest of the world celebrates. And frankly the USA have been feeble throughout the tournament.

The USA must rank as the most patronised and, possibly disliked, side in the World Cup.

Ghana looked a capable team and quite at home with forceful tackles and time wasting to preserve their lead. Sadly influential midfielder. Essien will miss the quarter final after a second booking. German referee Markus Merk was officious and card-happy. The Ghana penalty to go 2-1 ahead was very doubtful. Ghana will meet Brazil in the last 16 unless Brazil fall to a sensationally heavy defeat to Japan.

The Guardian Blog on the fussing Mr. Merk; There is even a suggestion that Merk was helping FIFA to ensure that Africa is represented in the last 16. Consciously or not there may be some truth to that.

“Something needs to be done about incompetent referees. Seriously, a rebuke from some bureaucrat is nowhere near severe enough for an infuriating official such as Markus Merk, who today deformed a potentially beautiful Group D clash between Ghana and USA. But of course, Merk won’t even be rebuked: his pernickety, at times perverse performance will in fact be praised by Fifa blazers. Which is outrageous because if the German dentist took the same approach to his first trade as he does to his refereeing, then his hometown would be teeming with gummy youths who had their teeth wrenched out during dinner for getting food on them.

Merk, who drew the ire of Australian players in his previous match at this tournament by allegedly jeering them over their defeat to Brazil, today booked Michael Essien in the first few minutes for a tackle that was about as dangerous as Bob the Builder. Moments later, he cautioned Eddie Lewis for not spontaneously amputating his hand, which was the only way he could have prevented the ball making contact with it after it was smashed straight at him. Two minutes into time added on for fussiness, Merk awarded Ghana a penalty after Oguchi Onyewu refused to step aside to allow Razak Pimpong to control the ball and score. It was an absurd decision, one that could only have been made by a referee whose vision is warped by a determination to be centre-stage.

The upshot was the players became nervous and uncertain, knowing that at any moment they could be penalised for running too fast or kicking the ball with excessive force. John Pantsil dared to try something special in the 58th minute, but instead of admiring the defender’s acrobatic overhead kick, Merk punished him for raising his feet too high.

Watching a match with Merk in charge – or, for that matter, one run by equally annoying Englishman Graham Poll – is like going to the cinema and finding yourself sat behind a gigantic fool who spends the film guffawing inappropriately and farting most pungently. But at least the theatre-owners don’t invite that offender back and pay for him to have the most prominent seat in the house. Fifa, on the other hand, are no doubt planning to unleash Merk and Poll several more times throughout this World Cup, possibly even in the final.”

22 June 2006

Come on England !!!

21 June 2006

So England stumbled to a 2-2 draw with Sweden. A strange game with some interesting messages. Owen, injured after a minute, may be out ofr the rest of the tournament. But instead of giving Theo Walcott a match, the coach brought on the gangling Crouch who is simply not good enough at this level.

Joe Cole scored a great solo goal. Owen Hargreaves was just what England needed as a ball winning midfielder. Campbell, on for the injured Ferdinand was horrible. And Beckham was invisible. Carrick for Beckham? Terry as captain. Eriksson’s loyalty to certain players is hurting this team.

Now maybe England will be forced to play 4-5-1 and that should at last play to England’s strengths.

20 June 2006

One helpful observation from the USA: What do NASCAR fans and soccer fans have in common? More of them should keep their shirts on.

All those chants at the US Golf Open – “Get in the Goal” don’t seem to be a great help to the US team and must have distracted the hapless Mickelson (such a shame – not!).

19 June 2006

The world cup coverage on Thai TV is getting plenty of well deserved abuse. The coverage is only in Thai which is fine. But I put the TV on with the Thai commentary and then come and play on my pc. I cant see the TV from here.

But I assume I will know when there is an incident on a goal by the hint of excitement in the commentators voice – but there is no change in tone – they may as well be reading the weather forecast – and because the commentary is from a Bangkok studio the crowd noise is hardly noticeable. So Switzerland scored twice and the commentators were probably reading promotional advertising.

Then there is half time; a full 8 minutes of advertising. And then the two talking heads appear. They are separated by a TCL laptop. The trouble is there appears to be no power to the laptop and neither of the presenters has ever dared to touch the computer ! And they look totally bored by the whole event.

15 June 2006

Good news. No goals conceded. Bad news. England look like Bolton but without the talent or the energy.

13 June 2006

Durex company has produced a range of World Cup condoms in three varieties (England, Germany and Brazil).Durex World Cup Condoms.

There must be some jokes there ! Clearly anything that maximises England’s performance must be a good thing.

The German condoms come in different flavours; bratwurst or sauerkraut.

The Brazilian Condom is likely to be on the subs bench for the entire match!

11 June 2006 Health Special

This little gem of benevolent thinking comes to you care of the Hong Kong Government:

Health tips for the World Cup fans

Soccer fans are reminded to stay health-conscious while watching World Cup games, which kick off tomorrow.

 A spokesman for the Department of Health said today (June 8) that even though delicious snacks such as potato chips and fried food as well as alcoholic beverages could add festivity to the World Cup, it is important to maintain healthy eating, avoid tobacco or excessive alcohol, and get enough sleep.

 "Insufficient sleep can lower your immunity and make you prone to illnesses. It will also affect your work performance and subject you to higher risks of accidents and injury," he said.

 The following are some tips for soccer fans to keep healthy while watching this international event:

Snack smartly:

  • Snack only when you are hungry. Do not snack for the sake of snacking.
  • Avoid fatty and sugary snacks such as potato chips, candy bars and buttered popcorn.
  • Choose items such as fresh/dried fruits/vegetables/vegetable juices without added sugar.
  • Drink plenty of water or plain tea (without added sugar).

Drink sensibly:

  • Avoid excessive alcohol. Drinking large quantities of alcohol is harmful to health. Know your drink and its alcohol level.
  • Sip your drink slowly and do not gulp. Don’t get into rounds.
  • Never drink and drive. Use public transport.
  • Have a trusted person bring you home if you should become drunk.

Stay away from tobacco:

  • Both active and passive smoking are hazardous to your health.
  • Offer co-watchers some healthy snacks and drinks if they are about to light a cigarette.

Don’t forget:

  • Ensure good ventilation of the venue.
  • Stretch and move around while watching the matches.
  • Sit properly while watching the soccer match to avoid muscle aches afterwards.
  • Make sure you have enough sleep. Insufficient sleep can lower your immunity and make you more prone to illnesses; affect your working performance and may make you prone to accidents and injury.
  • Watching soccer matches is not enough. Do some exercise yourself.
  • Strike a balance between watching matches and fulfilling your social commitments. Members of the public can call the health education hotline 2833 0111 or visit the Central Health Education Unit’s website http://www.cheu.gov.hk for related information.

11 June 2006

England were horrible. But a win is a win; even if it needed an early own goal to win it. Lampard worked hard in the second half. Joe Cole and (I hate to say this) Crouch showed real effort. No one else turned up.

Shaka Hislop – immense for 10 man Trinidad as they held Sweden 0-0.

Group B is poor.

And here is some more class from the England team: good effort by BA!! Spoiled brats !!

Lampard partner removed from flight

Press Association
Saturday June 10, 2006 10:18 PM

The partner of England football star Frank Lampard was kicked off a World Cup flight when she threw a tantrum on the Tarmac, British Airways said.

Elen Rives, 28, swore at plane staff when she was told at Heathrow she had too much hand luggage to take in the Club Class cabin to Stuttgart, Germany.

The Spaniard refused to allow her belongings, including a push chair, to be put in the aircraft’s hold as an alternative.

An airline source said: “Staff tried to reason with her but without success, so the decision was made to take her off the flight.

“She was being very aggressive and disruptive.”

Following her dismissal, Ms Rives was later allowed on an evening flight after calming down and apologising.

Her partner, 27-year-old Chelsea midfielder Lampard, faces Paraguay in England’s first World Cup fixture.

A BA spokeswoman said: “Frank’s partner was yellow-carded after she tried to board a plane with too much hand luggage and would not play ball with suggested alternatives.

“But we made sure she jetted away on time to see Frank play Paraguay.”

9 June 2006

It is the Battle of Wounded Foot. Imagine the language that was used: “Ferguson voiced his misgivings in the strongest possible terms during a series of fractious top-level telephone calls to, among others, the FA executive director David Davies.”

Mr. Ferguson does not want his boy Rooney to play in the world cup; protecting his broken foot so that he is fit for the start of next season.

The World Cup must be every player’s dream. It is held every four years. It’s like taking a kid to a candy store and saying none for you.

There is no love lost between Eriksson and Ferguson. England believe the United manager has been guilty from the start of exaggerating the seriousness of Rooney’s broken foot, and has misled the public with the depth of his pessimism. England have always been confident that Rooney would heal in time and greeted each negative interjection from Ferguson with angry bemusement.

The risk is that Rooney’s toe break again and a rash of lawyers pour off the substitutes’ bench.

Rooney cost Man U a cool £27m. If he is not available at the start of next season expect United to pursue the matter in court. United are clearly making sure that if anything happens it will be down to England acting contrary to United’s wishes.

Honestly, bollocks to Ferguson. He is Scottish, he is managing a side that is now American owned and he has never managed an international side and unlike 40 million other folk he probably does not care how well England do. He is charmless and well past his sell by date.

5 June 2006

There are many reasons not to love the England team heading to the World Cup. This is a real love hate affair. I would love to see England do well but this is an English team utterly lacking in charm or goodwill.

Rio Ferdinand sets a leading example by failing to piss in a pot despite being reminded of his drugs test half an hour before he should have attended it. Instead, he sauntered off on a shopping trip, looking for another pair of ripped jeans or a dubious hair cut.

John Terry and his Chelsea team-mate, Frank Lampard, enjoyed abusing American tourists in a hotel lounge immediately after 9-11. That was classy.

Wayne Rooney is gifted except with his mouth. This is a lad who told the England bench to ‘fuck off’ after being withdrawn (for his own sake) from a friendly in Madrid.

He is only 20; yet has signed a five-book deal, to reveal his innermost thoughts. Perhaps he will tell us why he tore off a black armband on that shameful night, worn in honour of Emlyn Hughes, a former England captain, and flung it to the ground.

Otherwise it will be five very short books with a lot of pictures.

David Beckham has been sent off twice in an England shirt for acts of petulance, yet is retained as captain by the manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson. Why?

The Beckhams’ lifestyle is beyond parody. He has all the fame that he wanted; but at a cost.

There are other alleged tales. The player who casually handed a cabbie £1,000 for a journey back to Manchester after a night’s carousing in London; the one who told a police officer who was warning him about his drunken behaviour: ‘The youth of today look up to people like me.’

It is this lack of class, of goodwill, of humility, that is so depressing. Patrick Barclay wrote in a recent essay: ‘It’s time football declared itself bankrupt, morally bankrupt.’

It wont happen; you cannot be bankrupt when there is too much money sloshing about.

The English fans will presumably terrify some of the good people of Germany. As they have most of the rest of Europe. Why is it that rugby supporters (of both codes) can enjoy a day out without brawling. There has never been and never will be segregation at rugby matches.

The English football fan, when surrounded by hundreds of his kin, remains a national embarrassment. The German police have announced that they will not tolerate Nazi salutes or offensive songs during the World Cup? Good luck to them.

The trouble is that football brings out the worst in the English. Meanwhile cricket and rugby, sports that reveal more about human character, tend to bring out the best. It is a massive pleasure to watch Flintoff and Vaughan and Strauss and Cook and Hoggard battle away. They interview with dignity. They recognise the talents of their competitors. You only have to recall the scenes form last year with Warne and Pieterson to see that great rivalries can produce great friendships.

So, yes I will be supporting England; but honestly I dont want to see them do well. A little humility is needed. The game is greater than they are.

26 May 2006

The start of a new blog of things that vaguely amuse me that may or may not be related to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

The fitness of England’s Wayne Rooney is clearly a concern.