It's Up For Grabs Now
Monday, January 30, 2006
The spirit of Ali Dia lives on in Norway, although surely the giveaway was when the false player declared that his skills were akin to those of Denilson. Surely there are more convincing comparative points in 2006?
Saturday, January 28, 2006
We know how to enjoy ourselves, which is why we spent much of last night watching an off-air ITV recording of Cameroon v Argentina from the 1990 World Cup.
The first thing to say in light of its status as one of the greatest shocks in finals history is how little it resembled one. Argentina did nothing at all bar a couple of Maradona runs and touches - a quite beautiful chip over the top was completely wasted by Fabbri, who shot straight at the keeper, while Abel Babo pretty much fell over the ball when it seemed easier to shoot on target in the opening minutes, but as the game wore on their only hopes came from getting free kicks in the channels, Maradona marked out of it, whereas Cameroon could easily have scored more than one, Omam Biyik shooting when the ball across was the better option, Mfede shooting just over, Pumpido at full stretch more than once, Makanaky and Massing bossing the midfield. It's also notable how cynical the Indomitable Lions were at times - famously they had two sent off but Kana Biyik, who was first off, was victim of a semi-accidental clash of legs with a running through but still a good 40 yards from goal with another covering defender Caniggia, and this after some piledriving challenges from behind and Maradona, down every five minutes on average, kicked on the upper arm by a follow-through, drawing visible bruising with no punishment.
The other oddity, watching the tape from this distance, is how different it all seems from just 16 years' perspective. There's only a couple of evident dives, nobody jostles and shirt pulls at free kicks and corners, and every player bringing the ball out of midfield gets quite a bit of room, even given Cameroon's close marking. There's very little handwringing when the neutral areas of the ground boo the Argentinian anthem, the Italians cheering on every Cameroon attack vehemently. Curiously, though, the pundits are almost loathe to give the Cameroon dominance any credit - of course they're referred to as 'naive', but that still happens now. What's more evident is the way everyone is more keen to discuss Argentina's shortcomings before predicting that with Maradona they'll clearly win out eventually. And actually, you do miss the permanent score display, especially with the paucity of score captions throughout. Cameroon's veteran number nine, brought on as sub and getting a late decent chance, is captioned 'MILLER', a mistake again nobody would let on TV these days. Brian Moore made special mention of how he'd been to watch "the joy" of their training yet for about ten minutes he rechristens one of their midfielders Cyril Makanowu for no good reason. Oddly, with about thirty seconds left there's a brief cutaway to a crowd closeup, a rarity during the game, of a man who seems to be in all sorts of trouble, almost as if he'd fallen out of the tier above, but Moore doesn't notice it.
Oh, and Benjamin Massing's foul on Caniggia after trip attempts by two team-mates is still spectacular, and Omam Biyik's goal is a joyful moment partly because of Lorenzo's wild Steve Hodge for Hand Of God-style setup swipe and Pumpido letting it cravenly under his body. But then you knew that.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Finally, an updated list of Premiership player injuries. Note Harry Redknapp very much not down to the bare bones, and take a wild guess who's top.
Of course abusing Wikipedia is neither big nor clever, but we were drawn to this Sir Jack Hayward entry addendum:
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Topical Notes & Queries-style question: why is it called a bung?
Yeah, we know we've not been of late, and we're sorry.
So, this Sven-Goran Eriksson era, which semi-amusingly seemingly survived monetary chancing, sexual impropriety, press naivety and public disenchantment, but as soon as he 'revealed' some football clubs have dealt in corrupt activities it was decided by the FA that he had to go. In fact, all current post-mortems on a career path not yet even finished - we don't know offhand if England are touring before the World Cup, but we'd suggest the players break stuff on the flight back to base just to square off the circle -are bound to be coloured by Eriksson's off-field activities no matter what the actual public response. The fan silence regarding the Fake Sheikh affair was deafening, not unreasonably as the press pack chose to lead on the idea that Sven had been conned by the News Of The World rather than any insight gained therein, the media alone in making a big thing of it long after phone-ins had been swamped by people asking why the media were making a big thing of it (and now we're sure the NOTW will now refrain from pre-finals cheerleading, obviously), mirroring the actual response to the two high-profile affairs, for all the effect they had on the abilities to do his job, and the Chelsea talks that have seen since him painted unilaterally as some kind of mercenary despite seemingly being willing to stay in an international position for eight years, if helped by a contract borne of unwarranted FA panic. Sven at Chelsea - there's one of the great What Ifs of our time.
In fact, if we put all this aside you could make quite a convincing case, even if one we may only see fully in retrospect - the best start to a coaching career in England history following Kevin Keegan's resigning with England bottom of their World Cup group, the almost forgotten Germany 5-1, the quietly impressive win over Argentina and matching of Brazil stride for stride until blowing up after conceding the 'dry leaf' free kick goal to Ronaldinho that was claimed at the time to be his signature set piece and as such has never as far as we're aware been tried out by him again, the four points off World Cup semi-finallists Turkey in qualifying for Euro 2004 where Eriksson was, in a somewhat unlikely development, hailed in some Continental quarters as a tactical innovator for his midfield structure even after the close-run penalty exit to Portugal and latterly qualifying for Germany by being the only team in the group to so much as win a point against Poland, never mind six. Some of the arguments against do border on the specious at times, such as columnists who bemoan his downgrading of friendlies having just filed a piece about how modern friendlies are worthless anyway. Maybe in the end his bad luck on the playing side was to be England manager at a time when the man on the street is more tactically aware than ever - after the Euro 2004 loss everyone centred on supposed inflexibility and a seeming lack of motivational attitude (the same thing that was called ice coolness when England won games) to such an extent you'd begun wondering if England had lost 4-0 rather than on sudden death penalties after coming back from a goal down in extra time.
So... now what? Despite the reported interest of Big Phil Scolari, which will be an experience for the tabloid hacks, and the out of thin air continual naming of Guus Hiddink as a possible candidate the feeling is at the FA that the next coach should be English if at all possible, a potentially pitfall-stricken road for more reasons than the idea that Steve McClaren or Sam Allardyce might become our national coach, the latter presumably the choice of those who berated Sven for tactical immovability. Observers have noted a decline in xenophobically motivated fan activity in the last few years of England away support, and while this may be partly due to the increase in travel restriction orders you can't help feeling it's as spurred on by it being shown that this coach is better than the last one or two, not overlooking that Howard Wilkinson might still have a technical role at the FA, and subconsciously a desire to prove the Daily Mail's Jeff Powell is the twat everyone knows he is once and for all. Not that this should be the only criteria Brian Barwick and his committee use, but it's worth a thought while you read another piece about money-grubbing naivety that fails to mention football.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
One day we'll get bored of people putting unfavoured players or managers on eBay, so we'll make Graeme Souness the last one mentioned here just so we can draw attention to the Q&A section.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Saturday, January 07, 2006
The modern footballer
January 2nd: Antti Niemi declares happiness at Southampton and declares they only need to strengthen rather than sell players during the transfer window
January 7th: Antti Niemi in talks with Fulham
Friday, January 06, 2006
Sorry for the lack of posting, we've been hanging around YouTube for too long. Luckily, it does throw up a few things of interest:
The top 50 goals ever, apparently. Quick note: the goal they've listed as Di Napoli is actually Di Canio for Napoli (ended Milan's record length winning run, too), and 'van der Faart'?
A controversial selection of the 2002 World Cup's ten best goals
A tribute to Ronaldinho at Barcelona. Don't worry, the slo-mo bit doesn't last too long.
Always worthwhile, a selection of player fisticuffs, fouling, diving and general violence
A decent tribute, with footage we'd never seen before, to George Best
A neat summation, even if it does lean slightly on the outlaw side, of Wayne Rooney to date