Sunday, July 09, 2006
It's All Over
Team of The Tournament...and other awards
My team of the tournament is (4-4-2): Buffon: Zambrotta, Cannvaro (c), Ayala, Lahm: Cristiano Ronaldo, Gattuso, Pirlo, Maxi Rodriguez: Klose, Tevez.
Subs:Lehmann, Thuram, Marquez, Frings, Henry.
Biggest Letdown: Zidane's sending off, Frank Lampard, Ronaldinho.
Must Do Better: African football - they need to find some decent strikers.
Best Manager: Jurgen Klinsmann - proving California psycho-babble can work
As an aside is it any wonder that ITV are in trouble? I happened to switch across during the Italian celebrations straight after the cup was awarded to see their take on matters and they'd already gone to an advert break. Compared to BBC I have to say ITV have looked bereft of ideas, they've had the brains trust of Stuart Pearce, Andy Townsend and Sam Allardyce working for them, add to that Steve Ryder (Mr Personality) and the excitable car salesman that is Terry Venables and what chance did they have against Hansen, Shearer and O'Neil, plus housewives favourite Leonardo? The best thing about watching the BBC has been the interactive service, being able to take Radio 5 commentary instead of John Motson or Jonathan Pearce has been brilliant.
Zidane begins the long lonely walk
Italy Win World Cup
What a way to celebrate your 100th cap.
Tonight we saw one team lay its penalty ghost to rest and one of football's all-time greats end his career in surreal fashion. Italy won their fourth World Cup against a backdrop of booing and jeering from the French supporters and were presented the trophy in what could only be described as scenes of organised chaos. It was a strangely un-German way to finish what has been a superbly organised competition, even if it was one short of either an outstanding team or any outstanding player.
It's a strange feeling watching one of your footballing heroes disintegrate in front of your eyes. Funnily enough I did mention Zinedine Zidane's sending off against Saudi Arabia in 1998 in an earlier post today but never in my strangest dreams did I imagine something happening the way it did tonight.
Italy had the best of the first half of normal time, recovering from the shock of an early penalty to equalise through Marco Materazzi and for a long period in that first half they were the better side.
Materazzi celebrates his equaliser.
After the break France were the more dominant but neither side looked like scoring a second and the match went into extra time. Whatever Matterazi did, a nipple twist and some verbals seems the most likely, what on earth was Zidane thinking of? You've seen the television pictures but to turn round take two paces and then head butt somebody in the chest with such force was unbelievable. He had earlier joined Vava, Pele and Paul Breitner on the short list of players who have scored in more than one World Cup Final but he will be remembered for the wrong reason long after he is remembered for the right ones.
Any feeling of empathy with France went out of the window in that moment, it's a pity the pictures weren't shown in the ground because it might have relieved some of the tension and animosity towards the Italian side from the French supporters and the French manager. In the end it came down to penalties and Italy finally won a penalty shoot out, it seems strange to think that this time tomorrow most of the Italian squad could be playing for a Serie C side when the results of the investigation into match fixing are announced.
For tonight Berlin belongs to Marcello Lippi and his players who kept their long unbeaten run going when it counted most.
Sing at the beginning, you never sing at the beginning
Of course we don't actually sing their anthem, rather we do a sort of jazz, scat, Cleo Laine stylie version that consists of doo-wops, bebops and scooby doobees. Ah, the pleasures of singing La Marseillaise have never been so great.
Tonight Matthew, I shall be singing Inno di Mameli -
the Italian National Anthem.
This is the end
Beautiful friend the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
Ill never look into your eyes...again
I'm sure Jim Morrison wasn't thinking about a French footballer when he wrote those lyrics but they seem appropriate with only four hours to go until kick-off.
In today's Sunday Times Brian Glanville places him equal 13th with Michel Platini in his all time list of footballers. I had him in my World Cup XI at the start of my blog and I've seen nothing to change my opinion.
He is probably the most naturally gifted attacking midfield player Europe has seen in the last twenty odd years. The vision, the passing, the change of feet they have all been there in this World Cup. When he plays poorly, or doesn't play, so do France, the Togo game being the only exception in the past four years. His performances in France 1998 and Euro 2000 (the stamp in the Saudi Arabia game excepted) have been exceptional and he will leave a huge void in the French side.
Tonight he will have to be at his best, the side of his game we saw against Brazil rather than the one against Switzerland and Portugal, Italy haven't lost in 90 minutes in a World Cup tie played in Europe since 1974.
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Saturday, July 08, 2006
How Did The Predictions Go?
Lucy tipped Italy as did two other visitors.
Span tipped England and I'm not sure whether Six choose Brazil or England.
What about other people:
The Independent in their pre-tournament magazine named Brazil as winners, with three from Italy, Argentina, Portugal and Germany as semi-finalists.
4-4-2 Magazine said: Spain, France, Germany and Argentina would reach the Quarter-Finals along with losing semi-finalists England and Holland, the final would be between the eventual winners Brazil and Italy.
What is apparent is that nobody expected any surprises, unless you count the eternal optimists who backed England!
Michael Owen - What A Sad Bitter Man
You're a spineless bastard Owen.
I've never had much respect for Michael Owen, the dives against Argentina in 1998 and 2002 showed that he has little character as either a footballer or a human being, but his outburst in The Sun, of all place, against Sven really takes the biscuit.
What a sad, bitter, weasely little man he has become.
So Wayne Rooney was playing alone up front which lead to his red card and it was all Sven's fault. Well tell me Michael, as you have 80 England caps at which point did you decide to abdicate your responsibility as a senior professional and not speak up? I'm not saying you are wrong but don't be so spineless to say it now a week after England were knocked out, you should have said something in the dressing room or at the training camp.
Owen also says that man for man England were the best team in the tournament. What complete and utter bollocks, has he looked around the dressing room? Paul Robinson is only in the team because David James had a nightmare in Vienna and he isn't fit to lace Buffon's boots. Peter Crouch is not an international, Gary Neville v Zambrotta? Rio v Cannavaro? Joe Cole v Henry? Lampard v Zidane? Beckham v Kaka or Pirlo?
As Chris Waddle put it lately even Wayne Rooney can't be classed as 'great' at the moment because the England set-up is so short of genuine class. Look at FIFA's 23 man squad of the tournament - only John Terry has made it.
Please Michael, when you've stopped blabbing and blubbing why not check into the Reality Clinic. Frank Lampard is a good club player but he's just had the worst World Cup any England player has had since Steve Hodge in Mexico in '86. If there's any justice in football we have seen the last of David Beckham and Owen Hargreaves will be in the holding role for the next four years.
Incidentally, spare a thought for the much vilified Cristiano Ronaldo. He was on the shortlist for the Young Player Award and apparently he won it, both the online vote and the panel of judges overwhelmingly gave it to him - but FIFA (probably rightly) decided that they couldn't give it whilst the dives and the 'wink' were still in the public's mind so they overruled the award and gave it to Podolski. Well Theirry Henry may not have got a ban for the dive against Spain but in the end justice has been done at some level in what has been so far a very average competition.
Friday, July 07, 2006
World Cup Daq
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Wednesday, July 05, 2006
For those not up to speed with Classical Mythology, Zeus was the ruler of other gods, and so tonight the man they call Zizou, the most famous Muslim footballer in the world, the prophet from the projects, bestrode the World stage and with clinical use of his right boot killed off Portugal.
Okay, enough of the Stuart Hall already.
As a match this was never far from interesting, a match of such little physical contact that you could be forgiven for thinking the Uruguyan referee had been told by Sepp Blatter under no circumstances was he to book one of the ten players who came into the match on a yellow card. There were 26 fouls, which was two fewer than the England v Portugal game on Saturday but at times it looked as if the players were scared to make physical contact.
Interestingly the match hinged on the slightest of physical contacts, Carvalho catching Henry with his outstetched leg. On BBC Radio Graham Taylor said Henry slipped and it wasn't a pen, on BBC TV Mark Lawrenson said it was a clear penalty, on Baldinio's Blog, I say it was a penalty. As the second half wore on Portugal got more desperate, eventually sending Ricardo forward for a couple of corners, but ultimately they didn't look like scoring.
And so from Munich to Berlin and what promises to be more like a Serie A game than an international match with France including five players who play or have played for Juventus.
My heart says France, my head says Italy.
Italy Show How It's Done
Yes, Germany are an ordinary side but Italy showed last night how to take a game by the scruff of the neck and keep shaking it until you win.
As I had predicted, they had the best players in key areas: Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Gattuso, and Pirlo and they kept going in a way that any Englishman watching could only hope will act as an inspiration to our team.
This hasn't been a vintage World Cup and there is an argument that says there is a shortage of genuine World class talent around at the moment but the Azzurri showed a desire to win from first to last and combined with exceptional talent they were irrisistable. All the problems back home with the match fixing and ex-players falling out of windows cluthcing rosary beads were put behind them as they outplayed and outclassed their hosts. The two finishes from Fabio Grosso and Bruce Springsteen were exceptional and Grosso's run towards the camera mirrored the famous Tardelli 'scream'.
There's an old pro saying that at any given time only six or seven players will be worth their place in a starting line-up, the rest will be there out of neccessity or reputation. Last night Italy had Buffon, Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Grosso, Perrotta, Gattuso and Pirlo added to which Materazzi and Camoranesi contributed tremendous effort and desire, leaving just Totti and the unfortunate Toni as lightweights. Given the two 'T's' contributions to this competition so far, what's the odds that Luca Toni and Francesco Totti both score in the final?
Same Old, Same Old
Edgar Davids has written an open letter criticising Holland coach Marco van Basten after the midfielder was left out of his World Cup squad.The letter, which was published in Voetbal International magazine, slammed van Basten for showing "a lack of personal class" over his handling of the squad's announcement.
"I find that van Basten has crossed a line in terms of respect and good manners," Davids said in the letter. With his remarks he shows a lack of personal class. Especially because this does not seem to be a single incident. In the past, he also spoke arrogantly about other players with a successful international career. A national team coach should not do that. Although I had many reasons to criticise the choices that van Basten made, I found it inappropriate to do that in public. But now that the coach finds it necessary to justify his sometimes-peculiar actions by attacking me, I am forced to react.
I have, by the way, waited to give a reaction in the hope that van Basten would have called me with an explanation. But I have heard nothing."
Davids' outburst comes after van Basten said that he would not pick the 33-year-old midfielder again. That appears to have effectively ended Davids' international career.
In his letter, Davids also expressed doubts about van Basten's qualities as a coach, and insists the Dutch side's early exit from the World Cup came as no surprise to many in the Netherlands.
He said: "The choices he has made look to be partly based on romance and idealism. It lacked the necessary realism though. Holland's failure during the World Cup was a surprise for the coach, as he showed.
"But, for many others, especially outside Holland where they do not let charm and personal sympathy hinder their judgement, these shortcomings were predictable."
The Dutch football association (KNVB) say they have no intention of responding to the letter.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
England Coming Home
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I had dividends of more than £28,000 paid to me today.
Second Semi Final
France have got better as the tournament has gone on, which wouldn't be difficult given the poor effort they put in against Switzerland. I think Zinedine Zidane has shown a desire that few people thought he still had in him. I found the pre-competition stories about the team being ran by Willy Sagnol, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry a bit disrespectful to Martin O'Neil's science fiction twin Raymond Domenech, but something has clicked.
As I've said below I think that the passion and the passing in the second half against Brazil was superb, one move in particular was up there with Argentina's 24 passes against Serbia.
For Barthez, Sagnol, Gallas, Thuram, Zidane, Vieira, Wiltord and Makele this is the end of the line at international level.
Portugal like France have a number of players who won't be around for 2008 never mind 2010: Ricardo, Figo, Carvalho, Costinha, Nuno Valente and Nuno Gomez. They haven't really hit the highs since their match against Mexico and that was the second string Portugal side playing. With Deco back after suspension I think they have the players good enough to give France their biggest test yet but not good enough to reach their first World Cup Final.
1. In 1998 France had three wins and two draws inside 90 minutes on their way to the semi final where they beat Croatia 2-1. In 2006 they have three wins and two draws so far.
2. In 1998 France played two European teams (Italy and Denmark), one from Asia (Saudi Arabia), one from South America (Paraguay) and one from Africa (South Africa) prior to meeting another European country (Croatia) in the Semi Finals. In 2006 they have met two European sides (Switzerland and Spain), one from Asia (South Korea), one from South America (Brazil) and one from Africa (Togo) prior to beating another European country in the Semi Finals.
Prediction: Old men to triumph again - France inside 90 minutes.
First Semi Final
Italy have had the best midfield in the tournament for my money, I think Zambrotta at wing-back is probably the best in that position in the world and I think that's the role Stevie G should be playing for England. 'Four lungs' has been his usual brilliant self, breaking up the play in the middle of the pitch and along with Andrea Pirlo he has been one of the outstanding players of the tournament and Simone Perrotta has got on with being a good team player. It's ironic that having broken the Serie A goalscoring record last season, Luca Toni has had quite a quiet tournament. It also helps if you have the world's best centre half and goalkeeper in your side.
Germany will miss Torsten Frings without doubt their most influential player, still that serves him right for not being able to keep his hand to himself after the penalty shoot out win against Argentina. Michael Ballack hasn't been brilliant or poor, just his usual self, that's the usual self that goes to ground too easily and holds his face when kicked in the stomach, should fit in well at Chelsea shouldn't he? Miroslav Klose has been outstanding so far, his five goals in five games taken his international total to 29 in 60 - which is up there with the best.
Jurgen Klinsmann in todays German Times sees the match as:
"We're convinced that by playing our own game in our own style we can beat [Italy]. That's how we're going into it. We are very confident - we are in good shape - and our confidence is based on what we have achieved so far. We want to overcome our next opponents and I venture that we will. We want to play good forward- orientated attractive football. Of course success has to be rated higher than performance, but I don't think we veered far from our philosophy against Argentina. In fact, it's a big compliment that Argentina changed their formation. I think that shows the rising respect for Germany among our opponents."
Germany can become the first country to reach eight World Cup finals.
Italy are unbeaten in 23 international matches, their longest undefeated streak since 1939.
Prediction: Italy to win
Memories of Germany v Italy
I was living in a caravan at the time close to the SBS base at Hamworthy and everybody was concerned with the Falklands War that summer. The war had actually finished the day after the World Cup began but there was still the waiting for the families of the serving armed forces. Everybody had hoped that, once England were knocked out, France would progress to the final but events in Sevilla when a tired French side went out on penalties to West Germany changed neutral allegiances to Italy.
Germany had some old fashioned figures of hate in their side, Harald Schumacher for obvious reasons, Uli Stielike the Real Madrid sweeper who kicked anything that moved, Hans-Peter Briegel whose name sounded like it should belong to a Dutch painter and Horst Hrubesch surely the most useless centre forward ever to play for Germany. On the plus side they had Paul Breitner (a survivor from the 1974 winning side) and they were captained by Karl Heinze Rummenigge one of his country's most elegant players.
Italy on the other hand came into the final courtesy of a last minute save by Dino Zoff in the second phase match against Brazil and a comfortable 2-0 win over Poland in the semi's thanks to two goals from Paolo Rossi. Italy had been poor in the competition up to the point where they played an over confident Brazil side, a Brazil side which some people rate as second only to the 1970 side which is an insult to the Garrincha inspired side of 1962.
The final itself played down to pre-match fears, Italy looked afraid throughout the first half, they played within themselves. Apparently the team talk at half time consisted of Enzo Bearzot telling his players that it was there's to win if they believed it. Twenty five minutes into the second half they had won it, thanks to goals from Paolo Rossi and that famous Marco Tardelli goal. I remember the Italians passing the ball from back to front and then a series of three passes inside the Germans box before Tardelli hit his shot and ran towards the Italian dug out.
Italy scored a third through Alessandro Altobelli ten minutes from time before Paul Breitner made history by scoring in two World Cup Finals seven minutes from the end.
Any omens that can be taken from that match?
1. Italian football was just recovering from a bribes and match fixing scandal in 1982 as it is now.
2. In 2006 the goalkeeper (Buffon) and the captain (Cannavaro) both play for Juventus. In 1982 the goalkeeper and captain both played for Juventus (okay that's stretching it as Dino Zoff was both)
3. In 1982 Italy played an Eastern European country (Poland) and an African country (Cameroon) on their way to the final, in 2006 they have played Czech Republic and Ghana.
4. In 1982 they scored 9 goals on the way to the Final (1 v Peru and Cameroon, 2 v Argentina and Poland and 3 v Brazil) - in 2006 they have scored 9 so far (3 v Ukraine, 2 v Czech Republic and Ghana and 1 v Australia and U.S.A) - so they would have to win today on penalties.
5.Today will be their sixth match in this competition, in 1982 the final was their seventh.
(It's a good job I've got the day off and time to do this research)
Monday, July 03, 2006
Quarter Final Reflections
Well having been in London for the weekend I've had time to watch and reflect on the Quarter Finals. I got some of my predictions right as you can see, Portugal, France, Italy and Germany were the teams I said would get through although I didn't necessarily want France to make it and obviously hoped that Portugal wouldn't. Straight after Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty in Gelsenkirchen I text Janis with the two word message "Oh Bugger," to which she replied, "Shall we take the flags down now?" I burst out laughing at that and it will be one of the more personal images of this World Cup I carry with me.
I watched the Argentina v Germany quarter final in the Town of Ramsgate pub, it was quite an experience especially when a group of German tourists arrived to watch the extra time and penalties. It was a strange atmosphere being in an East End pub where everybody wanted Germany to win, even the old men wanted them to win, it turned out that this wasn't a sudden urge to support the old enemy but part of an agenda which involved both England and Germany getting to the final and then 1966 being repeated again.
Peckerman made a dreadful mistake with his substitutions and had to resign on Friday night as a result. Why he didn't press home the 1-0 advantage only he will know but taking off Riquelme gave the initiative to the hosts and subsequently Germany had the better of midfield but I don't think they will be able to dominate the Italian's as easily.
The after match punch-up meant that the three players who dominated the headlines over the weekend all play for Man.Utd - Heinze, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, I've tried but I can't find any Chelsea connection other than Rooney's metatarsal.
German players celebrate the
penalty shootout win.
Italy's 3-0 victory over Ukraine was the perfect example of how intelligent foreign players are compared to those born in England (but more of that later). They controlled the game against probably the worst Quarter finalists since Peru reached the equivalent stage back in 1978. They said before the tournament began that reaching the Round of 16 was their goal and they played this match as if it interfered with their travel arrangements back to Kiev. Buffon, Zambrotta, Pirlo and Gattuso have been superb throughout the tournament and I can't wait for Tuesday night to watch them against Ballack, Frings and co.
And so to the big one...................................
Carvalho tries inserting his penis between the blades of Rooney's boots whilst Wayne is still wearing them.
Okay you can blame Rooney, you can blame Sven, you can blame Tony Blair but one thing that shouted loud and clear from this tournament and especially this game is that, whilst we are told week in week out by those with a vested interest that we have four or five World class players in the team, we don't have any chance in major competitions until we become more flexible in our tactics. Our top players either can't or don't want to play anything other than a 4-4-2 system, unlike the Italians who have evolved from the famous catanaccio through zonal marking to the present 3-5-1-1.
For people like Six, Rev Shed and others (including myself as argued on 606 and 5News Board) this match was the vindication of two things, firstly Owen Hargreaves was a good choice and secondly why Jenas and why no Bent? Sven obviously didn't trust Walcott, doesn't believe that Crouch is good enough and couldn't get Lampard and Gerrard into the same set-up. In future Rooney must play behind Dean Ashton or Darren Bent, preferably Deano because he is better than Bent at bringing players into the game.
We should be playing 3-1-4-1-1 with Terry, Ferdinand and Dawson at the back, Hargreaves or Carrick in the holding role, Gerrard and Ashley Cole as wing backs, with Lampard and Joe Cole in the central roles and then Rooney behind the main striker. You can argue that 4-4-2 is tried and tested and that England are happy with it but we don't win playing that way, have a look at how the four semi finalists line-up, each one has a holding player and a player in the hole behind the front player.
You can't fault the England players for their effort either, although for Frank Lampard this was a tournament to forget and I don't think that Peter Crouch, Rio Ferdinand or John Terry had a good competition either, it also struck me that Paul Robinson's handling was a little suspect at times. We played badly at the start and didn't get better. On the plus side Ashley Cole, Stevie G, Owen Hargreaves and Joe Cole all had a good World Cup and Aaron Lennon looked promising whenever he came on. Gary Neville was Gary Neville and both Michael Carrick and Jamie Carragher looked like a good Premiership players rather than World Cup quality. David Beckham, David James and Sol Campbell have probably played their last International games and the jury is still out on Stewart Downing.
And what's your name son?
In 1996 I had a client who was involved with the England set-up and he came back one day from being a guest of the FA raving about this 17 year-old who wasn't part of the squad but who was somebody Terry Venables had brought to training before the opening match. This player, who I knew about from the West Ham Youth team had made just one league appearance at the time, kept the senior players entertained with his ball skills and his general attitude about learning from players like Tony Adams and Gareth Southgate. He's now made five appearances in his second World Cup, making a total of 52 caps - I just wonder if Theo Walcott will develop in the same way as Rio Ferdinand did. The season after Euro 96 Rio was loaned out to Bournemouth for 10 games before coming back to West Ham where he played in 50 of the next 65 games. Given that Arsenal have paid Â£7 million for Tomas Rosicky I think Theo Walcott needs to go somewhere on loan next season otherwise his football development will be stunted before it's had the chance to grow.
And the old men go marching on............................
Well I said I wanted Brazil to win but I also said that I had a horrible feeling France would win (okay they can't beat Ukraine on pens in the final) and I have to say that France wanted this more than their opponents.
I can't forgive Henry for what he did against Spain but he was superb in this match and his movement, speed of thought and interplay with Ribery and Zidane was the best football of the competition so far. There was one passage of play just after France scored where you just had to applaud it - it was thebeautifull game at its most beautiful.
At this rate I might even have to get my France football shirt out and wear it for the first time (I have this strange hobby of collecting football shirts on my travels or getting people to buy them for me but not wearing them).
And what of Brazil? Well it's goodbye to Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Juninho and Gilberto Silva and possibly big Ronnie. Still when you have Cicinho, Robinho and Fred to come in the future is bright and yellow. And what happened to Kaka and Ronaldinho?
Friday, June 30, 2006
Friday On My Mind
Argentina have been the team of the tournament for me, because they have played with the right mindset and spirit, look how they came back against Mexico, yes Heinze should have been sent off but that may be their bit of luck for this year. Maxi Rodriguez has been my player of the tournament, not just for his part in two of the best goals but also because he seems to be everywhere, which is a sign of confidence.
Germany have had the luck of the draw and as host nation you could expect that, Poland, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Sweden are hardly the four most difficult teams to beat are they? They've also had nearly a week to rest and if they start at a high tempo I think they can give Argentina a good run for their money. I think the midfield area will decide the match, if Argentina can by-pass Frings and Schweinsteiger then any two from Crespo, Saviola, Messi or Tevez will be too good for the German centre backs Mertesacker and Metzelder. If Germany take control of the midfield they will win.
Italy v Ukraine is the match of the penalty winners, Italy with the dubious one and Ukraine beating Switzerland in the shoot-out. Italy look too strong on paper and if they come to the game with their heads right then I think they could score two or three goals, Shevchenko will be playing up front alone again and I think the back four of Italy will keep him quiet.