Day: June 19, 2010

World Cup 2010: Netherlands 1-0 Japan

Patrick Viera’s role on ITV’s panel is increasingly to give reassurance to the others that France are worse than England, which should be money for old rope but, after the Algeria game, isn’t. Attempts to shoehorn Edgar Davids into a similar role representing the Dutch are foundering, as they are now two wins out of two insipid performances. Davids’ voice sounds like mine does the morning after a heavy, heavy drinking session, but he seems entirely sober – although alongside Kevin Keegan, this is hardly “your mission, should you choose to accept it.” Inevitably, the build-up is all about the night before the morning after. Matt Smith has to say, eleven minutes before the kick-off: “We will talk about Holland and Japan, I promise.” I suppose I should be used to this by now. But it would be nice if Gabriel Clarke’s “news from the England camp” would, just once, acknowledge the first three letters of the word “news.” For a while, though, Holland are England, except with a nicer kit (apart from the shirt numbers, which are out-takes from a failed school art project, or are from the last piece of letraset left on the planet). Early in the game, Jon Champion seems convinced that Japan’s Yuichi Komano is feigning injury, greeting the appearance of a stretcher with “this usually sparks a recovery.” But two replays have already...

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World Cup 2010: Ghana 1-1 Australia

This game sees us pass the halfway point of the group stages. By the end of Friday, we’ll have lost half of the teams, and we’ll know the shape of the knockout stages. Once we reach the knockout stages, most of the contrasting games (whether in ability, age or experience) will be over, and the main contrasts we’re likely to get between opponents are playing style and location. Ghana and Australia are as big a contrast as you can get. Australia are an aging team, with a wealth of experience. The nucleus of the squad is from the team that reached the last 16 in Germany, with six of them being aged 30 or over. Their youngest player on duty today is 25 year old Carl Valeri, with just three squad members being younger. Ghana on the other hand are a young team. Only Hans Sarpei (33), Richard Kingson (31) and John Paintsil (who turned 29 last Tuesday) are older than Valeri. Lee Addy, starting at centre half today, was born the day before the 1990 World Cup Final, and is five days older than his central defensive partner Jonathan Mensah. They replace John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah, the centre halves from the Serbia game, who are both carrying injuries, but John Mensah is named as a substitute. Unlike the commentators of the last generation, any description of Addy...

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World Cup 2010: England 0-0 Algeria

It would appear that Wayne Rooney is of the opinion that the England football team (and, especially upon this evening, his performance in particular) is worthy of the undying support of the English people and, in particular, of those that have given up valuable holiday time and a fistful of cash that they may or may not be able to afford to travel to South Africa to watch their national team. That any of these people made actual, material sacrifices to be in Cape Town this evening has, presumably, never occurred to him. There are plenty of criticisms that can be levelled at England supporters, but to assert that they are not “football supporters” only serves to emphasise the unreality of the world in which the likes of Wayne Rooney live. To be frank, if Wayne Rooney doesn’t want the criticism that comes with a sub-standard performance (especially when he has performed so far below his capability, and at a time during which he is earning more money in a week than most people in England earn in three years – it’s a simplistic argument, but the fact that it is simplistic doesn’t make it any less true), he should probably retire. And Manchester United supporters reading this and chuckling should probably stop laughing now – if you think that he holds you in any less than contempt than...

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