I’m no expert on rugby but it seemed pretty obvious to me that England were absolutely dire last night — neither possessing any organisation or any flair or imagination. The right hand literally didn’t seem to know what the left was doing, which isn’t surprising bearing in mind Lancaster’s indecisiveness and chopping and changing selection not just over the tournament but throughout his old tenure.
Tweeted by Twop Tips yesterday a thoughtful and intelligent comment on the England captaincy farce: ‘JOHN TERRY. Don’t be so modest. You don’t divide opinion – everyone thinks you’re a c*nt. /via @EatMyStoke‘
‘Having gathered his players far from the TV cameras, Capello announced: “John will be permanentnt captain again. He’s done well on and off the field over the last year. Anyone got any questions or things to say?” Silence. Terry said. “Anyone… who [has] something to say, I’d feel they should have the confidence to say what they feel. I would respect people if they came to me and we dealt with it one on one.”’
José Mourinho, with typical mischief, has apparently suggested England are blessed with many potential captains — Rio Ferdinand and, er, others. Look at some of the other potential candidates — Rooney (who has just as much commitment and courage as Terry and an infinitesimally better player but who’d be slaughtered by the media), Cashley Cole (the most hated man in the tabloid press), Glen ‘Toilet Seat’ Johnson, Wickle Feo Walcott?
I didn’t see the point in removing the captaincy from Terry in the first place unless there was something more to the story of him shagging a player’s ex-girlfriend than was commonly reported — as far as I’m aware she (who can remember the woman’s name now?) had finished her relationship with Wayne Bridge before taking up with Terry. Of course Terry was exposed as an adulterer, which would seem to undermine all his claim to the supposed heroic qualities of an England captain even though his wife ‘forgave him’ but it was the connection with the team-mate which seemed to cause the furore that led to his loss of the armband.
At least Rio Ferdinand, a prolific Tweeter, has had the dignity not to whinge about Capello’s disrespectful behaviour in public, although he can hardly be surprised that someone else is going to get the captaincy in the interim due to his appalling injury record. He may well get the last laugh anyway as Terry has to become the face of the players sitting in press conferences like a nodding dog to justify more of this joke of a manager’s terrible decisions in the future.
This could be applied to the England players as well but is more appropriate to all the idiotic pundits whose collective self-loathing of themselves and the country immediately emerges after the sort of disaster that England suffered yesterday.
People are queuing up on phone-ins and message boards to come out with garbage along the lines of England produces inherently technically poor players who are only motivated by money. Total bollocks. Admittedly, Capello committed professional suicide by selecting some poor (Johnson, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Milner, Upson), underconfident (Green, Carrick, Heskey) and unfit (Rooney, King) players — and in the case of Barry a combination of all of those. Capello also made some idiotic team selections and substitutions.
Nevertheless, players like Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, Cashley Cole, Lennon and Terry (and perhaps some others) are the among the best players in teams that include players who have shone in the World Cup. Brazil and Argentina contain players who are good but not head and shoulders above those they have played with in the Premier League — Heinze, Tevez, Gilberto Silva — and some who weren’t even good enough for Man City — Elano, Ronaldinho.
To say England as a whole lack technical ability is rubbish. Everything about the performance was psychological. The players were mentally weak — capitulating easily because, for some reason, they lacked any confidence. The defence was nervous and panicky, sat way too deep and the midfield dropped back accordingly — leaving the two up front isolated. There was no organisation or leadership on the field and certain players have to be held personally responsible — Gerrard’s performance looked like panic personified — he hit about three shots from long range in total alarm at having the ball anywhere near the goal.
And anyone who thinks the appointment of that referee — who has past form for exactly the same ‘errors’ — was just unfortunate chance is either totally naive or, like almost all football journalists, part of a self-preserving conspiracy to maintain the illusion at all costs of results being determined solely by honest endeavour on the pitch.
Under an hour and a half away from England against Germany — yet again.
I watched the Slovenia match in the place where the rules of association football were drawn up — the Freemason’s Arms in Long Acre, Covent Garden. It seems a bit of a football venue anyway — about half a dozen screens all around the walls — sensibly high up to ensure everyone has a good view.
The place was heaving to the rafters with ‘laads’ — as packed as terracing used to be at real matches and the floor was like a beer lake by the end of the match.
I patriotically consumed Shepherd Neame Spitfire throughout the game — that would be rather appropriate for this afternoon’s fixture given the opposition.
I shall have to watch today’s match virtually sober as I need to drive into London to see who, IMHO, is the greatest cultural figure of the 20th century — bar no-one: Paul McCartney. Ordinarily this would be the highlight of the day — or week — and it’s been expensive enough to get the tickets. It’s in Hyde Park so I guess by turning up late and, unfortunately, missing Elvis Costello and Crowded House, I’ll see a tiny little figure several hundred yards away and I’ll no doubt be too far away to see the screens properly. Nevertheless, he’s 68 now and how long is he going to be able to keep this up for? Even if his voice isn’t what it was, it’s going to be a very rare experience to hear some of the greatest pieces of music ever written performed live by their composer.
But to the match — I’m rather annoyed with the USA that they scored in the last minute to prevent us from playing last night. Anyway, I thought England were pretty useless in the closing stages of the Slovenia match — once Rooney had gone off. However, they’ve defended pretty well. The only goal conceded has been the error from Green. I think the Germans will find it hard to score against us. We can’t play badly indefinitely and I think the occasion will bring the best out of Rooney (if fit), Gerrard, Terry and, who knows, perhaps even Fat Frank?
I’m going for 1-0 to England — scored in the first half by Rooney — and then a second half of the Dunkirk spirit. If it gets to penalties I’ll be listening in the car so that will be agony.
Even the day afterwards, I’m stunned by the level of incompetence shown by England against Algeria. I’d watched the USA comeback against Slovenia and was encouraged that a win against Algeria and just a draw with Slovenia would ensure qualification provided Algeria could be beaten by two clear goals (more than they’d lost by to Slovenia).
I’d also thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the Hop Pole on Thursday night and watching the imploding France side being dismantled by Mexico. But England were even worse…
It’s difficult to think of a worse performance that I’ve seen by any team ever — even when non-league teams play Premiership teams in cup games or the champions of Andorra or Lichtenstein play in the qualifying stages of the Champions League.
For most of the match England could neither pass the ball nor retain it — countless times the Algerian players stepped in and dispossessed the likes of Heskey, Lennon, Lampard, Johnson and, worst of all, Rooney. There were also staggering displays of cowardice and loss of nerve — most particularly from Gerrard who a few times had the sort of opportunity that he regularly buries for Liverpool. Three of the team came from Liverpool — who’ve had their worst season in many years and lost a shocking number of matches. Surprisingly the right hand side of the defence was from Liverpool who conceded the third lowest number of goals last season and the left was from Chelsea, who shipped second least — Man Utd let in the lowest number which makes one wonder why Wes Brown was left behind. He couldn’t have been any worse than Carragher. Neither Carragher or Terry have any pace so they committed the classic England mistake of defending too deep and stretching the team. (How many offsides were there? Not many.) This leads to all sorts of sins, particularly defenders aimlessly hoofing the ball forward.
Barry played so deep as to be a sweeper so with Gerrard supposedly out left and Lennon isolated on the right we were left to Fat Frank to be the midfield — something that would be a challenge for him even in his Chelsea form. As it was, the game totally passed him by. He’s got to be dropped for the next match — accommodating this perpetual international level underachieved totally disrupts the team.
Rooney even said on television that he’d rather play as the only true forward and here was the proof he was right — Heskey was clueless — even popping up on the right wing at one point. Why? It’s typical of the media to try and build up Rooney as the villain of the piece for mouthing off about the fans. I tend to think fans should boo more, especially at England. They’re paying (a lot) to be entertained and the players should be reminded who pays for their over-lavish lifestyles — but at least Rooney was showing some frustration and anger. The likes of Fat Frank were just rabbits in the headlights. At least Gerrard admitted that England were crap.
So much for Capello instilling some purpose into England. After a qualifying campaign that saw them largely confident and purposeful they regressed into massive underachievement and paranoid nervousness last night.
I still can’t believe how bad some players were. The midfield was dreadful — Henry Winter has written in The Telegraph singing Gerrard’s praises but he must have filed his report after four minutes. Perhaps Gerrard was the best of a bad bunch and scored a good goal but hardly a hero. We also found again that Fat Frank Lampard seems to shrink to a point of insignificance when he put on an England shirt. It seemed like he was kicking that cauliflower around from the Tesco advert — or just maybe thinking he was in Tesco’s choosing a menu for Christine Bleakley. With two attacking wingers we needed two central midfield players who were both interested in the match and could be bothered to try and play together.
If there’s one sight that seems to suggest we’ll be lucky to even get to the quarter finals, it’s Jamie Carragher coming on to play in central defence, particularly as Johnson (the toilet seat hero) had such a brainless match — hoofing the ball aimlessly upfield in the second half. Seeing as Carragher was mainly cover for Johnson, we have the prospect of being stuck with both these lumps from a club whose defence was so poor they finished seventh in the league. Why didn’t Dawson or Upson come on instead? And Gary Neville or Wes Brown should have been in the squad. And Milner was a poor choice — you can’t haul every player off after they get booked so Capello must have realised he made a mistake. At least SWP had a go but if your midfield can’t supply the ball to the two wingers then it’s like playing with nine men.
At least Capello realised before the tournament that his midfield was lacking and it’s a shame he didn’t turn earlier to the best English midfield player of the last twenty five years — the Ginger Prince himself. At least he can pass the ball better than a cauliflower.
I was looking for a World Cup interactive fixture diagram (one that calculates the tables and predicts the next round) but couldn’t find one on the BBC or a newspaper website. I eventually found this one on a betting website. It downloads a template into Word.
I hope it works ok up to the quarter finals then I think it goes wrong. I’ve had to modify my draw below. I’ve entered some predictive scores based on my best guesses with a bit of randomness thrown in. These are the teams I had going through from the groups.
Winners: France, Argentina, England, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Brazil, Spain (no real surprises there)
Runners Up: South Africa, Nigeria, USA, Serbia, Denmark, Slovakia, Portugal, Switzerland
This leads to the following second round matches: France v Nigeria; England v Serbia; Germany v USA; Argentina v South Africa; Netherlands v Slovakia; Brazil v Switzerland; Italy v Denmark; Spain v Portugal.
I then predicted the quarter finals: Argentina v Germany; Netherlands v Brazil; England v France; Italy v Spain. Some corkers there.
Being patriotic I backed England all the way so ended up with semis of : Brazil v Spain; Argentina v England.
This led to a final of England v Spain.
So before a goal has been scored that’s the way I’m calling it. I predicted the opening match 0-0 by the way.
Those who paid out £11.99 for watching a blurry picture on a computer will have been rewarded by being first to see a thoroughly poor performance by England. I followed the highlights saga in the news and wasn’t too surprised to see the BBC showing the highlights at short notice but it seems very dodgy that they, in effect, colluded with the spivs who were streaming the match on the Internet by keeping quiet about the highlights being shown until after the last kick.
England were lucky not to lose 3-0 at least — with a missed penalty, the woodwork being hit and James making some spectacular saves. Nonetheless, they created quite a few chances with ten men. There are some who think that that England won’t be too sad if the result means that Croatia miss the playoffs when the final results are in on Wednesday. I’ll be a little sad if it means less chance of Blanka Vlasic making an appearance but that might be compensated by the likes of Eduardo missing out.
I wonder if we’ll ever be told how many people paid to watch this miserable non-event but it’s heartening that Rio ‘The Wanderer’ Ferdinand and Cashley Cole seemed to treat the occasion with the contempt that maybe comes of thinking that one man and his internet dog are the only ones watching.