Day: August 15, 2011

The Under-20 World Cup: No Quarter Given

So… it transpires that England weren’t rubbish after all, just in an impossibly difficult group. Mexico sit proudly in the Under-20s World Cup semi-final line-up and Argentina should have been alongside them. The apologies of a nation are due to Brian Eastick and his team. Details of Mexico’s elimination of tournament hosts Colombia were impossible to find without possession of Eurosport HD among your package of cable channels, as the match was the only one not to feature on ‘ordinary’ British Eurosport.  This was a bizarre scheduling decision, almost as much of a surprise as Colombia’s defeat… and Nigeria’s… and Spain’s. But at least Sunday night/Monday morning’s quarter-finals also halted the tournament’s drift into general mediocrity. Portugal’s unfeasibly dramatic shoot-out win over La Albiceleste was a case in point. Whereas, for example, Spain’s group win over Ecuador allied technical brilliance with watchable goalmouth activity, this quarter-final lacked the latter to a soporific degree. Two hours of dreck (even the Fifa website, not noted for telling it like it is, admitted it was “a dull evening in Cartagena”) were partially redeemed, however, by the best shoot-out I’ve ever witnessed.  Portugal’s selection of spot-kick heroes/villains had already caught the eye as they attempted a 120th-minute introduction of substitute and David Luiz-twin Tiago Ferriera (rumours that Tiago beat Luiz himself in a David Luiz-lookalike contest last year cannot entirely be discounted). Unusually,...

Read More

Match Of The Week: Manchester City 4-0 Swansea City

In May of 1983, three clubs were relegated from the First Division. Brighton & Hove Albion were one, and the other two were Swansea City and Manchester City. Manchester City returned to the top flight a couple of seasons later but, for Swansea City, the intervening three decades have brought hardship and a couple of seasons during which even the league status of the club was thrown into doubt. This evening, though, they’re back, following an eight year period that saw them leap three divisions. Much has changed in that time. Maine Road and The Vetch Field are no more, replaced by The City of Manchester Stadium and The Liberty Stadium. The First Division is no longer the show-piece event of English football – it’s all about the Premier League. A lot has changed since 1983. Manchester City start this season with the burden of expectation that the lavish riches of Abu Dhabi brings with it higher than ever. An FA Cup win in May broke a curse of sorts, their first major trophy since 1976, but now the task is an even stiffer one, to bring the English championship to the sky blue half of Manchester for the first time since 1968. There has been plenty of denial of the fact during the pre-season white noise, but there can be little question that a serious championship challenge will...

Read More

The Premier League In Short: Opening Day Blues

The more something is hyped, the more difficult it will be for that thing to live up to said hype. Even allowing for the excesses if the media over the last couple of weeks or so, though, the new Premier League season started with a faintly ridiculous raspberry noise rather than a bang. Five of the eight matches played ended in draws, all of which made the league table look even more ridiculous than it usually does at this stage of the season. This air of absurdity made it onto Match Of The Day on both Saturday and Sunday nights – it didn’t prevent both programmes from taking a few moments to pore over it, though. There will be two clubs whose supporters may have awoken this morning with a feeling of, “stop the world, I want to get off” – those of Bolton Wanderers and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Thaw party balloons could almost visibly be heard deflating at Loftus Road, where Bolton’s 4-0 win against Queens Park Rangers said as much about the troubled summer that the Championship champions – as it were – as it did about the continuing steady progress that Bolton have made under Owen Coyle. They are top of the first Premier League table of the season. Wolves, meanwhile, also won away from home, a 2-1 win at Ewood Park, which they managed after going...

Read More