Day: June 19, 2012

“Stop Bunching!” – Are Tactics All They’re Cracked Up To Be?

Ex-professional football players occupy a unique position in British society. For anyone else of any other profession or social standing, years having engaged in an activity on a professional basis day-in day-out would afford you with a modicum of respect and a reputation for expertise. You have been there, on the inside. You have seen all of what there is to see. Not so for ex-professional footballers. Their years in the trenches are, uniquely I think, rewarded only with scorn, derision and pithy 140-character reminders that they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. Now, I know it is hard to face up to the realisation that you might possibly live in a world where Alan Shearer or Gareth Southgate might know more about something than you do, but I am afraid we do live in such a world. The simple fact of the matter is, however garbled or mangled their way of expressing it may be, unless you also spent a 20-year career playing and coaching soccer, Alan Shearer knows more about professional football than you do. I’m afraid he does. And so here we are, in a brave new world. Alan Hansen may have made your parrot finally decide to end it all last night with his carefully illustrated talk about “Croatia’s two banks of four”, but this is in fact merely a demonstration of the...

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Euro 2012: Group C – The Final Day

Despite Group C containing three of its best teams, the tension of the final games nearly unravelled the quality with which Spain, Italy and Croatia have sprinkled this tournament to date. Spain’s light blue kit was, dare I say it, a bit scruffy, i.e. it suited players such as the Sergios Ramos and Busquets. They produced, for them anyway, a performance to match. And this made for one of the flattest games of the tournament to date. It was well-documented that a 2-2 draw would have knocked Italy out regardless of their result, just as it did in 2004 when Giovanni Trapattoni’s team went home despite being unbeaten with five points. But if Croatia and Spain had finished 2-2 after that first-half the fix would all-too obviously have been in. Among Spain’s best first-half efforts were long-range strikes by Ramos and his centre-back partner Gerard Pique, which spoke volumes. And Croatia would have gone into the break thinking “job well done,” especially with the shock news that Ireland were still 0-0 with Italy after five minutes. Indeed, Slaven Bilic’s side should have been ahead. The tournament hasn’t overly-suffered from officious officials. But their mistakes have been doozies. And Ramos’s studs-up leap at Mario Mandzukic was one of those tackles which “would have been a free-kick anywhere else on the pitch”, as ITV’s Craig Burley dutifully noted. Actually, Burley’s first...

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The Realignment Of Great Expectations: On England In Ukraine

When England take to the field in Kiev this evening to play Ukraine in their final group match at this years European Championships, the task ahead of them will be simple enough, mathematically, at least. A draw will be enough to take the team through to the quarter-finals of the competition, while a win may, depending on any margin of victory and what happens in this evenings other match between France and Sweden, be enough for them to win their group. Win the group and they would play Italy in the next round, finish second and they would play Spain. Lose and they will almost certainly be on the next flight home. Yet on another level, things are far from being this simple, because England have so far largely failed to fulfil expectations at this summers European Championships. The team has already been involved in one of the more dramatic matches of the tournament so far when it was widely expected to bore everybody to tears, whilst the egos that those who despise this team love to hate so much have been broadly absent. Indeed, when Wayne Rooney was asked by a journalist whether he thought England could win the tournament the other day and answered in the affirmative, his response was taken by some as proof that the rampant egos so beloved and beloathed by so many had...

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