France 1-0 England (And Other Trivialities)
So, another Wednesday and another week of international friendlies. I’m always somewhat confused over whether we’re supposed to care or not, and you had to at least be somewhat impressed by the marketing skills of the French Football Federation, who somehow managed to convince 80,000 Parisians that France vs England was some sort of major sporting event. Perhaps it said that it was a rugby match on the tickets. Or a recreation of The Battle Of Waterloo in which Napoleon won. I don’t mind the rounds of friendly matches too much, though there is a case for stating that FIFA doesn’t help itself with some of its scheduling. We’re a week or two away from the quarter finals of the European Cup and four to six weeks from the end of the club season. Could there be a more pointless time to schedule matches? If FIFA and the Big Clubs are facing up for some inevitable showdown, the battle for hearts and minds will be all-important, and FIFA should stop playing into the hands of the Big Clubs by putting on rosters of matches at ludicrous times of the year such as now. Still, the England players did their bit for that debate last night, by putting in a performance so dreadful that even I was wistfully recalling the last round of the European Cup. It’s almost as if some of them don’t want to play for England.
Last night was, in truth, a match between two mediocre teams that France just about shaded. The French don’t seem to have improved much since losing to Scotland in Paris last summer, and David Trezeguet’s impression of an Easter Island statue was indicative of the fact that they still look relatively disjointed without Thierry Henry in the team. The England performance, however, was so woeful that this wasn’t even a major concern for them. On the one occasion that they did manage to break through (thanks in no small part to flat-footed defending from John Terry), David James put in an act that raised yet again the question of how England are ever going to be able to do anything without a world class goalkeeper. He seemed transfixed by the ball, having made a decision to try and will the ball to pick up pace off the turf and roll into his arms. Nicolas Anelka was too quick for him, and there can be little argument that James would, in a competitive match, have been sent off. I like David James as a person (his weekly articles for The Guardian are a joy to read), but he retains an infuriating capacity to make terrilble errors of judgement. Robert Green must have performed a little jig.