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The 200% World Cup: So What Can England Expect, Then?

Two of England’s World Cup group opponents were in international “action” this weekend. And Mark Murphy was there for 200%. Well, more “there” than BBC Northern Ireland, anyway… Uruguay 1 Northern Ireland 0 I’d all-but-overlooked this potential humdinger. Northern Ireland are on a two-match South American tour. And before Wednesday’s trip to Chile they were in Montevideo to provide cannon fodder for give “English-style” opposition to Uruguay. If such a far-away trip seemed expensively-grandiose for a normally cash-strapped Irish FA, then the BBC weren’t about to make the same mistake. After co-commentator Chris Morgan let slip that it was “one o’clock in the morning here in Belfast” there was none of the “the conditions are really humid here” claptrap that pervades so much studio-based commentary – such pretences usually exposed by an inability to spot offside flags and off-the-ball incidents. But during his commentary Michael McNamee blamed mistakes on (1) it being the wee small hours; (2) there being no researchers about as he & Morgan “are the only ones in the building at this time of night”; and (3) the picture quality being poor, suggesting that “if you are watching this on a hi-definition telly you’ve probably got a better picture than “here in the studio,” which can’t have pleased his employers. Still, here’s to not wasting the licence-fee. For an hour, Uruguay were as poor as the...

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When England Welcomed Romanians – USA 94

Free of the burden of England’s participation, the 1994 World Cup was an opportunity to get stuck into international football in a consequence free environment. The novel backdrop of an American audience, the sun kissed stadiums and late night kick offs contributed to a hugely enjoyable tournament. Purists may say there were better tournaments than 1994 but this World Cup had some crazy football, crazy referees and crazy Diego. It also represented a high water mark for Romania who had their very own ‘Maradona of the Carpathians’ Gheorghe Hagi. Hagi was, as we all know, a magnificent player and...

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World Cup Warm-ups: Nigeria v Scotland

“He’s just thrown it in the net,” noted BBC Scotland match analyst Kevin Gallacher. Twice he said it. In a match which had been newsworthy in its build-up because of claims it had attracted the attention of match-fixers. That’s it, Kev. You calm the waters. If the fix was in on Nigeria’s World Cup warm-up friendly against Scotland at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, why did Nigerian goalkeeper Austin Ejide so convincingly claim he was being fouled as he threw Shaun Maloney’s corner into the net? And if the fix was in, then why wasn’t at least as much attention paid to Scotland’s borderline-slapstick defending for Nigeria’s 90th-minute equaliser, especially as they had been a largely formidable rearguard to that point? Maybe the fix was in on the time of Scotland captain Scott Brown’s inevitable booking – who would have put money on the 87th minute? Had there been a sweepstake, would it have been worth printing any tickets higher than 50? Or was there some form of spread betting on the wide spread (sorry) of Nigeria’s shooting? The African champions had about a dozen shots off target which were a combined total of about a mile high and/or wide of their scheduled destination, Gallacher’s fair comment about one shot heading for “Kensington High Street,” showing an impressive, or impressively-researched, knowledge of West London geography. But if the fix was in,...

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