Author: Ian

The Heat Of The Moment

England 1-0 Paraguay Keep repeating the mantra: “it’s the result that counts, it’s the result that counts”. Time, I think, for a little perspective. Reading a few various blogs, messageboards and sites this morning, one would think that Paraguay had won 3-0, and that England should be packing their bags and withdrawing from their last two matches on the basis of “not being good enough to be there”. We should remind ourselves of several things before we join in with the criticism. Firstly, for all that it might sound like a cliche, the result is what counts at this stage in the tournament. England can now go into their match against Trinidad & Tobago knowing that a win is enough to send them through with a game to spare. I don’t think they were helped by scoring so early on. Extra reserves of energy can usually be summoned forth if there are twenty minutes to play and there’s no score. But would we rather have them 1-0 and not paying particularly well with twenty minutes to go, or level at 0-0 and playing well? I’ll take the former, thank you very much – sometimes, we’re almost masochistic on our self-loathing. Otherwise, for all that England failed to inspire yesterday, at no point in the second half did Paraguay so much as look like scoring. You could argue perfectly validly...

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Pole-axed

Ecuador 2-0 Poland This was an important match. These two teams were, according to the pre-tournament hype, giong to be battling it out for second place, so neither could afford to fall three points behind the other with only two matches left to rectify the damage. Before the action even started, though, there were other things to consider. The Ecuador flag deserves a special mention. It was everywhere. It is horizontal stripes in yellow, blue and red, but the dimensions of it exactly match someone wearing yellow shirts, blue shorts and red socks, so, from the television camera angle, it looked as if Poland were playing eleven flags. Their goalkeeper, Mora, even had it painted on his cheeks. Expect sales of white and red “Snazaroo” face paint to sky-rocket over the next couple of weeks. The badge in the middle of it also warrants attention – it appears to be a scene from “Seven Days In Tibet”, with a boat on a river overlooked by a mountain. The whole thing is topped off with a giant, angry eagle. Well, I say giant… it’s bigger than the mountain underneath it. Ecuador looked organised and workmanlike. The Poles looked strangely lethargic. Both goals were well-worked, though the second came about (again) as a result of a flat-footed defence that appeared to think that it’s primary job was to point out any...

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A Host Of Problems

Germany 4-2 Costa Rica Normally, of course, the World Cup starts with a match that makes everybody wonder what all the fuss was about. Four years ago, a singularly charmless Senegal team touched down in Japan and won an abysmal game against France by a single goal. It was living proof that everyone plays the European way now. Maybe the players just used to get dizzied and blinded by the opening ceremonies: the dancing, the ribbons and the speeches. Not this time, though. The Germans had provided us with an opening ceremony to be proud of. For once, it was kept relatively low-key – children in the kits of the previous winners being led around holding signs reminiscent of the the sign that Eric Morecambe held up in aa episode of Morecambe & Wise with “LUTON FC” written on it. We were singularly unimpressed by Sepp Blatter’s decision to hold a minute’s silence for “everyone in the football world that can’t be here today”, but fortunately, the referee seemed to agree with me. It lasted barely fifteen seconds before we kicked off. Well, you all watched it, so I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say that I never thought I’d see a German side playing in the style of Holland 74 or Brazil 70, but there they were, attacking all-out, even with the lead precariously balanced at 3-2....

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Sweden 1958

The remainder of these will be spread out this blog throughout the remainder of the tournament, in case you were wondering. It was a tall order, but I feel as if I’ve at least made a reasonable start on it. Obviously, I need to switch to the more pressing issues of this year’s tournament from today on. The tournament stayed in Europe in 1958. Sixteen teams again, and this time we’d finally reached agreement over the tournament layout that would remain until 1974. Still no goal difference, though. Teams on level points would have to go through a play-off match. Group Stages: For the first and only time (so far), all four home nations had qualified for the finals. Northern Ireland lined up in tight group with West Germany, Argentina and Czechoslovakia. After an opening victory against the Czechs, they were beaten by Argentina, and then edged through to a play-off with a surprise 2-2 draw against West Germany. They were lent a hand by both of their opponents, who beat Argentina. The Irish then beat the Czechs 2-1 in the play-off. The Germans qualified with them. Scotland, setting a pattern that lasts to the present day, under-achieved in Group B. Just one point from three matches, with the real eye-opener being a 3-2 defeat by Paraguay. France, for whom Just Fontaine scored scored six goals in the group...

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