Day: June 16, 2006

The Late, Late Show

Paraguay 0-1 Sweden With five minutes to go in this match, you had to feel some sympathy for the Swedes. For 175 minutes, they’d battered their oppositions, doing everything except for putting the ball in the back of the net. Then, in one moment, the Paraguayan defence was opened up, Freddie Ljungberg scored, and justice was done. For a team that needed a win to be all but certain of going out, Paraguay played appallingly defensively. How many teams are going to try the same thing this summer? Turn up, do the bare minimum to stay in the tournament, and then depend on getting a result in their final match to go through? To be fair, Bobadilla, the Paraguayan goalkeeper, deserved better, even if very few of his team-mates did. He made brilliant saves from Kallstrom and Larsson, and when he was beaten in the second half by Allback, Caniza raced ack to hack the ball back from the goal-line. He received a smack in the moouth from the frame of the goal for his troubles. They seemed fated not to score until Larsson intelligently headed across the goal for Ljungberg to keep Sweden’s hopes of winning the group alive. The question is, of course, this: where does it leave England? Well, Sweden are unlikely to get as many chances as the seventy-odd that they have missed in their...

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Reasons To Be Cheerful

Sweden-Paraguay to follow this afternoon, I promise. In the light of England’s performance yesterday and the storm of criticism that has come their way, I woke up this morning feeling a bit negative about this whole World Cup thing. Time enough, I think, to take a look at some positives from this year’s tournament so far, yes? It’s best to remind ourselves of why we’re here, because it has been a terrific tournament so far. This is a personal selection, in no particular order: 1. Terrific Matches – We’ve had some great games already, and we’re not even half-way through the group stage yet. There have only been a couple of goal-less draws so far, and even those matches were gripping. There’s plenty of drama to come yet, and the gulf between rich and poor isn’t as big as it has been in previous years. 2. Extraordinary Goals – From Germany’s opening strike through to Steven Gerrard’s perfect twenty-yarder for England last night, players aren’t afraid to shoot from distance. We’ve already seen a good half-dozen goals fit enough to grace any World Cup finals. 3. England’s Supporters – There’s anything from 50000-100000 out there at the moment, and all indications that they’re behaving themselves. It’s too early to say for certain whether it’ll stay like this, and there’ll be more than a few of us that’ll be keeping...

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