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Day: June 23, 2010

2010 World Cup Australia 2-1 Serbia

On a day when England had played and won and qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup, by the time the second set of games was ready to kick-off the day’s sports events were being overshadowed – or at least challenged for prominence – by an extraordinary first round singles match between two little known men at Wimbledon. I’d promised to cover this game though, so conscientious as ever I tore myself away from the tennis with John Isner and Nicolas Mahut locked at 45-45 in the final set. I had thought I might watch with BBC radio coverage for a change, but 5 Live extra were being less dedicated to the World Cup cause and were promising to switch to the football when – or if – the tennis finished.

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World Cup 2010: Ghana 0-1 Germany

If England supporters had reason to be concerned that their run of not having been knocked out at the opening stages of the World Cup finals since 1958 mind come to an end, then the question of what might be running through the minds of German supporters this evening probably also merits our consideration. Germany last failed to get through the opening round of the World Cup finals in 1938 and, unlike England, they have qualified for every tournament since then. Yet the precariousness of their position has gone curiously unmentioned in the British press. If Germany fail to beat Ghana this evening and Serbia beat Australia, Germany, who had everyone singing their praises after the opening match hiding that they dished out to Australia, will be out in the first round of the World Cup finals. Ghana, meanwhile, remain as enigmatic as anyone else in this most peculiar of World Cups. A late penalty saw them beat Serbia in their opening match, but their 1-1 draw with Australia surely felt more like two points dropped than one point gained after they played sixty-five minutes against ten men when Harry Kewell was sent off for the penalty that brought them back into the match. They are top of the group going into the final match without having scored a goal from open play, and perhaps is their youthfulness –...

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World Cup 2010: The United States Of America 1-0 Algeria

This match isn’t, as Gary Lineker insists twice, just for “you Americans and Algerians.” England’s struggles to date have turned this into a tight group where three teams need a win, so the natural choice for the neutral is surely the match with two of them. Such are the vagaries of the group that both sides are likely to still need the win right to the end, which could only help the entertainment value. They do. And it does. The BBC’s red button is very much the second team. We don’t get an on-screen clock until the 35th minute. Steve Bower is the newest commentator, and his inexperience isn’t, yet, offset by the throaty excitement he’s offered to moments of drama, mostly involving New Zealand, thus far. And co-commentator Martin Keown offers the considered perspective he showed every time Ruud Van Nistlerooy missed a penalty. And until today, every time a player does two things right in the same half, Keown tell us “Premiership managers will be looking at him” – even Nigerian keeper Victor Enyeama who, as Keown was gently reminded, played in the 2002 finals. We have to wait until 2.56 for the red button coverage to begin, which means we get another volley of Brian Blessed shouting “Cry God for Fabio, England and St. George” with a truly American sense of irony. For a while, Bowers...

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World Cup 2010: Slovenia 0-1 England

I think it’s fair to say that the introduction’s already on site, so I’ll just go straight into the game. England line up as a 4-4-2, with Gerrard on the left and Milner on the right, and Defoe partnering Rooney up front.  As with last night’s Nigeria-South Korea report, I’ll include how the group stands, and any changes. 1. Slovenia 2. USA 3. England 4. Algeria The start is slow – as it usually is at England games. Glen Johnson lunges in on Andraz Kirm, and referee Wolfgang Stark (seen as a controversial choice considering one of the teams may face Germany over the weekend) is lenient. Gerrard has already cut inside. Valter Birsa has his first run at Ashley Cole, cuts inside and fires at tame shot at David James. There’s a warning sign that this will not be as defensive as Friday night. Gareth Barry steams in from behind on Aleksander Radosavljevic. Most referees would have booked him, but Stark is surprisingly lenient. Johnson hits a diagonal ball to Rooney on the left, and he crosses to Gerrard at the far post, but Bojan Jokic heads it for a corner. Gerrard’s corner is deep, and there’s no England shirt to meet it. Lampard tries a long swerving free kick, around 35 yards from goal, but the wall is at least fifteen yards away, but Samir Handanovic holds...

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England v Slovenia Preview: Was it Capello’s Fault Against Algeria?

Many words have been written in many places concerning the England performance against Algeria on Friday. So many were written in the heat of the moment, without reflection and analysis. The mainstream media have already made manager Fabio Capello the scapegoat (and this was always likely to be the case, but that’s another column for another day), with the convention wisdom being that not all of the players were playing in their favoured position. This simply was not true. Capello did not line all the players up in their best positions, but 10 of them were. The eleventh player (deputising captain Steven Gerrard) took it upon himself to play in his preferred position, rather than the one his manager had earmarked for him. Gerrard has never made a secret over where he prefers to play – he devoted an entire chapter of his autobiography on his unhappiness of playing at right midfield for a season at Liverpool, despite it being one of the most productive of his career. England lined up in a standard 4-4-2 formation. Algeria lined up as a 5-4-1, with three centre-backs (Madjid Bougherra, Rafik Helliche and Antar Yahia), two defensive wingbacks (Nadir Belhadj and Foued Kadir), a packed midfield, and an attacking midfielder upfront (Karim Matmour). Such a formation was intended to frustrate and defend against a supposedly major nation. Every England midfielder and forward marked,...

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