Is That All You Have England?

12 06 2010

We are officially up and running and it has been a mixed bag of a weekend so far which has had the good, the bad and the downright ugly (see France v Uruguay).

If we thought the bell ringer at Portsmouth was annoying, our irritation has reached new bounds with the constant echo of horns (or vuvuzels) at the stadiums in South Africa. It is however a frustration we will have to bear for the duration of the tournament so there is little point in dwelling or letting the horns get the better of us!

Saturday saw two of the pre-tournament favourites begin their campaign in England and Argentina, with starkly contrasting performances. It is difficult to contemplate how England were so poor. Lets be honest here; USA are no great shakes and are a workmanlike side with precious little going forward. Their three best players are Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Londan Donavan; decent players but hardly people who would strike fear into the best teams in the world.

It was astonishing how flat and average England were throughout and they made USA look better than they actually are. It almost seemed that scoring that goal early on was the worst thing that could have happened to them as they more or less immediately began playing cagey football and looked to be playing completely within themselves. This England side, like so many others in recent times, looked to be plagued by fear. It was almost as if they were trying to protect a one goal lead against an average side when scoring after just 15 minutes. Realistically, they should have pressed on and finished the game.

Some people suggest this negativity is Capello’s influence but it could be more a cultural deficiency which is borne from the tabloid media in England. The Sunday tabloid papers will unmercifully rip Green to shreds and he will not be allowed forget about the mistake in the terraces come August. The English side seemed more frightened of losing than confident of winning. Whether this is simply first game jitters remains to be seen.

It was a howler from Green of catastrophic proportions but it shouldn’t mask the other obvious problems scattered across the English general play. Yesterday confirmed that Lampard and Gerrard don’t operate well together as a midfield duo. That’s not to say they couldn’t be effective in the same team but not as a central pairing. They didn’t control the tempo of the game, break up the USA’s play well and provided no real service of note to their best player in Rooney. The United striker looked good when he got the ball but he wasn’t provided with one real chance against a team they should be dominating. England need to alter their system and get Gareth Barry into their team to provide a solid base and free up Gerrard and Lampard to have more roaming roles as it seems hugely unlikely either players won’t be picked. A 4-3-3 seems a better option with Heskey losing out and Joe Cole coming in to support Rooney along with Aaron Lennon.

The inevitable loss of Ledley King to injury has propelled Jamie Carragher into the centre-half role and this spells danger for England. After seeing him outpaced by Altidore, you shudder to think what Villa and Torres would do to him.

This is not a complete disaster for England and they could very feasibly still go on to win the group. However they certainly didn’t stamp their authority on the World Cup and the Spains and Brazils of this world will not be quaking in their boots on the back of this performance.

Argentina on the other hand looked more impressive and consistently dangerous and inventive. The one-nil victory didn’t reflect their dominance and the Nigerian goal keeper Enyeama produced some outstanding saves to keep Nigeria in it. Argentina didn’t exactly steamroll the Nigerians but showed enough glimpses to put themselves in contention as potential winners. Messi looks in good form and dangerous and this will worry anybody who comes in their path. He has the potential to steer Argentina the whole way.

South Korea also produced a great win over the Greeks but in truth Greece looked very poor and will do well to record a point.

We’re off and running and we’ve only seen a glimpse of what is to come. One thing is for certain: England will need to play an awful lot better if they are to make an impact at this World Cup.


First Quote – Which Footballer Would you Insure?

10 06 2010

With the World Cup coming up, FirstQuote took to the streets of Dublin to see which footballers would be the most expensive to insure..

Who would you insure?

Rooney Interview – Repressed Irishman

26 05 2010

Rooney’s first World Cup memory? Ray Houghton. USA ’94. Giants Stadium. Get in!!

Nike Write The Future [Full Version]

25 05 2010

World Cup fever is building. Check out full version of Nike World Cup Ad. Did they forget Ronaldinho didn’t even make the Brazilian squad?!

JT, Craig Bellamy and the Ginja Ninja.

8 03 2010

John Terry emerged from a torrent of boos and abuse at Stoke to power the winning header home. The affair with former team-mate Wayne Bridge’s girlfriend is the cause of all these boos but is it deserved? Yes. This goal will hardly mark the end of the boo boys but expect the English fans to back him 100% in the summer. In truth, Terry’s continuing defiance is no great surprise given his stubborn, wilful and determined nature. He was never going to be the shrinking violet and no one expected him to be. It poses a bit of an ethical dilemma for English supporters as it is these very brutish qualities which they will hope to see in abundance on the pitch in South Africa this summer. From illegal stadium tours to affairs with team-mates girlfriends, Terry doesn’t exactly exude class. If we’re honest, Terry has about as much class as Jordan and Jodie Marsh rolled into one. However, captain or not, Terry is still England’s best leader on the pitch. His attitude and commitment to the cause could perhaps be matched only  by Jamie Carragher at the back but he is no longer in the English frame by his own choice. Ferdinand is a quality defender at his best but can you imagine him taking one in the face like Terry did in the Carling Cup final a couple of years ago? When at his best, Ferdinand can be a silky defender but a man for the trenches he is not. If England really are to mount a strong challenge for this World Cup, they will need a strong character like Terry at the back. Who are the viable options in any case? Matthew Upson?

If you need an honest answer in an interview, there are really only two men you can bank on- Roy Keane and Craig Bellamy. Bellamy, for all his troubles, is actually one of the most honest and articulate interviewees in the game. He hit it spot on when asked about Terry after last week’s game. ‘We all know what JT is like off the pitch but on the pitch, he is an outstanding player.’ It is incredibly refreshing when a footballer actually gives an honest answer to a question. We hear the same drivel ridden clichés week in, week out. Footballer’s interviews after a game can be reminiscent of Jamie Redknapp- they say a lot without ever really saying anything. Craig Bellamy is not a big fan of clichés.

In summation, Terry has let his team-mates down and showed a terrible lack of class and loyalty but England will need him badly this summer as he is the kind of player who would take a bullet for a team-mate; or a wife….  Staying with the Bellamy interview for a moment, in completely unrelated news, Carlos Tevez should really learn English; he has been here for four years!

This weekend marked the 100th Premier League goal of the Ginja Ninja; Paul Scholes. He has been one of the finest midfielders of his generation and is up there with the very best the Premiership has seen. Admired by both his peers and fans alike, Thierry (hand of frog) Henry said Scholes was the best player he played against in the Premiership. Fifteen years of pure class speaks volumes for one of England’s most natural and gifted midfielders. Steven Gerrard said in his book that Scholes is the best striker of the ball he has ever seen. In the immortal words of Roy Keane, ‘Scholesy’s nasty!’ At 35, not too many more goals await but here are ten of his best.