Day: July 2, 2006

The Voices Of Experience

Brazil 0-1 France Ah, the almighty, all-conquering Brazil. Ever since they qualified at a canter last year, we’ve been told that, really, no-one else need turn up for this year’s World Cup. They were a shoo-in to win. No question. And now… they’re off home, leaving an all-European semi-final round for the first time since 1982. Last night against France, they were feeble. It was the first time that they had come against really world class opposition, and it showed. The French used their experience to snuff out the Golden Quartet, and Brazil were limited to just a couple of shots on target all evening. This wasn’t samba football. This was a disgrace to the famous yellow shirts. For the last two weeks, those of us that dared to question Nike’s yellow machine after anaemic performances against Croatia and Australia were shouted down. They improved against a dispirited Japan side, but even in the second round they were flattered beyond belief by the scoreline against Ghana. They had the look of a team that wasn’t going all the way. For the first sixty minutes, France played like world champions. Gallas, Makelele and Sagnol swept up everything that the Brazilians could throw at them, and Henry’s goal, while there may have been a touch of the offsides about it, was brilliantly taken and thoroughly deserved. Ronaldo couldn’t get near anything,...

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Over & Out

England 0-0 Portugal (1-3 on penalties) As you have may have noticed, it has taken me quite a long time to consider my thoughts in a rational manner over this match. A suspension that cost one player the chance to play in a semi-final, a harsh sending-off, the sly wink of a cheating foreigner, a handball claim… this match had it all, but, as I said before, England are now packing their bags to go home after their best performance of the tournament. They were unable to patch over their shortcomings, but there were some tentative signs that maybe, just maybe, the future may not be quite as depressing as one might think. England’s biggest problem was the lack of options to change once things started to go wrong. There was, as I suspected, no Plan B. When Rooney was sent off, the only option for Eriksson was to bring on Peter Crouch as a lone striker. They weren’t going to score. They could have kept going for hours, but they weren’t going to score. Rooney’s sending off was a touch harsh, but I’ve seen players sent off for less. He was a silly boy. Having said that, though, part of the reason that he was back on the halfway line trying to get the ball in the first place was because of Eriksson’s tactical system. He’s an impatient...

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