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Day: June 20, 2006

A Mixed Bag

England 2-2 Sweden / Trinidad & Tobago 0-2 Paraguay A mixed bag indeed, but at least the Sven-bashers haven’t got quite as much of a leg to stand on as they had previously. His hand was forced by the horrible first minute injury to Michael Owen. Well, I hope that the Owen-bashers are happy too. There’s a good chance that he’ll be out for the rest of the tournament. And! (I can only hope that this feels them with glee and delight) He suffered a tremendous amount of physical pain, as well! DOUBLE BONUS! The injury to Owen not only forced England to more or less throw their attacking plans out of the window, but also meant that theyessectively lost a substitution. Don’t tell me for a second that this didn’t make a difference in the closing minutes. As it turned out, the first-half performance was, considering everything, outstanding. Rooney looked sharp, latching onto Beckham’s superb long pass and almost scoring. If a Brazilian had scored the goal that Cole did, we wouldn’t hear the end of it for the remainder of the tournament. I’ve already seen his goal described on another blog as a “fluke”. Make of that what you wish. It was an excellent team display, with Lampard and Rooney peppering the Swedish goal with long-range shots, but the pick of the crop was… hold your breath…...

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Deutschland Uber Alles?

Germany 3-0 Ecuador / Poland 2-1 Costa Rica So, now we know what England have got to do, or not do, to get through to the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Or, rather, we don’t. Because Ecuador put out half of their reserves this afternoon, we haven’t learnt too much about either of them. So… what little have we learnt about them? Well, let’s start with Germany. For one thing, they’re growing in confidence. Today was their best performance so far. Ballack was excellent – getting forward considerably more than he did against Poland, and Klose took his chances well. Having said that… Podolski, supposedly still the golden boy of German football, still needs approximately seven chances to put one away – his confidence will have grown as a result of his performance today, but is that enough? The key to stopping Germany from playing effectively would appear to be to stop Ballack getting forward, but… how to do that? A stopping midfielder like Hargreaves? It’s a tough call. I still think that England could beat Germany. They haven’t had anything like a defensive test in two matches now, and the sight of Wayne Rooney (if he can achieve anything like his full pelt) would be a fairly fearsome sight for them. We’ll have more of an idea of whether that’s likely after tonight – but then we’ll know...

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Who Do We Want?

I’ve been reading a right load of old guff this morning on the subject of who England would prefer in the second round of the World Cup. Would we rather it was Ecuador, because they’re not as good as Germany? Oh, hang on a minute – they’re in really good form at the moment. Or would we rather it was Germany? Oh, wait, but they’re the hosts, and they put four past Costa Rica, but we beat them 5-1 in 2001, and… Could I just take this opportunity to ask all of you to SHUT UP. By the time that England walk out onto the pitch in Cologne this evening, they’ll know what they need to do, and the answer is… it doesn’t matter. If England want to win the World Cup, then they have got to beat whoever they’re lined up against – if that means Germany in the second round, Argentina in the quarter-finals, Brazil in the semi-finals and Italy/France/Holland/Whoever in the final, they’ve still got to beat them. If it’s Ecuador, Tunisia, Ghana and Burkina Faso, then they’ve still got to beat them. Of course there are pros and cons to every team that we could play between now and whenever we get knocked out. Of course it would be nice to have a nice easy stroll to the final without having to make too much...

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A Spain Of Two Halves

Spain 3-1 Tunisia For sixty minutes or so, it looked as if all of our predictions had gone wrong. Last week, Spain had been pretty damn impressive – fluid going forward, comfortable and tight at the back. Just the right balance. Earlier this evening, Ukraine had dumped all over Saudi Arabia in a match every bit as one-sided as that between Argentina and Serbia. All of this seemed to indicate that this match would be another massacre. Of course, all of these predictions were premature, but we probably should have guessed that. If Germany 06 has proved anything so far, it has been that we should start to expect the unexpected. No-one is safe. France, Italy and the Czechs have had their fingers burnt. Brazil and England came perilously close. Spain, if they were feeling complacent before the match, would be foolish if they are again. As it stands, they’re through to the second round with a bit to spare, but it could have been quite different. In the first half, Spain were poor. They seemed to be having difficulty finding the final ball, and on the few occasions that they did get it right, Torres and Sergio Garcia seemed to be having an off-night. It all looked if it was going horribly wrong after eight minutes, when Mnari scored for Tunisia. Commentator Jonathan Pearce commended Casillas for saving...

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