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Day: November 21, 2007

England vs Croatia

Pre-match: Well, the BBC have managed to upset me already, by playing Labi Siffre’s elegant anti-Apartheid anthem “So Strong” while looking back over their constant close shaves in qualifying for the finals of major tournaments. Grrr. If the commentary for this match suddenly switches over to Wales-Germany without any warning, you’ll know the reason why. Elsewhere, Steve McClaren is still grinning like an idiot, though there is, just from looking at him, still the faint whiff of the condemned man about him. You know how you looked at Graham Taylor shouting and screaming during the 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign and thought, “oh no”? Yeah. It’s a bit like that. Meanwhile, it has been raining in London all day and the Wembley pitch is absolutely sodden. In all seriousness, I wouldn’t be half surprised if the match was abandoned, if the rain gets a lot worse. Mind you, there are some men out there prodding at it with garden forks, so the vast resources of the FA are already tackling the problem. The England team lines up as follows: Carson, Richards, Bridge, Campbell, Lescott, Barry, Wright-Phillips, Gerrard, Lampard, Joe Cole, Crouch. Now, I’m all in favour of picking youth where possible, but this team leaves me feeling uneasy. It could be Sol Campbell’s last match for England tonight, by the way. Also, Paul Robinson’s form may have collapsed of...

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Bad Omens?

Well, no matter which way you look at it, there aren’t many, are there? This will be a quickie, ahead of a live commentary of tonight’s match at Wembley. It’s probably not helping much that I’m watching England’s best international performance on DVD as I write this (the 2001 win in Munich, as if you need ask). Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first: this is by no means a done deal, and any talk of a carve-up between England and Croatia is as much nonsense as the talk of the possibility of Roman Abramovich paying off the home team in last Saturday’s match between Israel and Russia was. Professional footballers are like thoroughbred horses in that respect, although some are more like Red Rum than others, and some are more likely to be headed for the glue factory than others – they are coached for years and years to win. To say that Croatia will turn up tonight and, for some reason, not bother is, frankly, insulting to them. Before we go any further, here are a few things that I want no mention of in the press or from the crowd during tonight’s match and its inevitable aftermath: I don’t want to hear anything at all about bad luck. England are ludicrously lucky to still be in the competition at all going into...

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