Category: Latest

Going Dutch

Holland 1-0 Serbia & Montenegro We’re always going to feel to down by the Dutch. You see the luminous orange shirts on a football pitch, and instantly your mind turns back to Cruyff & Neeskens in 1974, Arie Haan and his fabulous long-range strike in 1978, and Marco Van Basten coming from nowhere to become, briefly, one of the greatest strikers that Europe has ever seen, before injury robbed us all of his best. The Dutch allowed us to dream. In 1974, they played “total football”, the nearest that the game has ever embracing hippiedom. In 1978, they allowed the story to circulate that Johann Cruyff was boycotting the tournament on account of the Argentinian military junta, although popular belief now has it that his wife insisted in him staying at home after his extra-curricular activities four years prior. As recently as 1998, Dennis Bergkamp brought about a near-universal gasp with a goal of sublime individual brilliance in the last minute of their quarter-final against Argentina. Nowadays though, they’re just the same as everybody else. Workmanlike, solid, and, on this display, not playing to their full strength. Robben looks as impresssive as he does in the Premiership but is, as I understand it, flakey. They can’t depend on that level of performance from him in every match. Van Nistelrooy just looks bored with football full-stop. Having said that, Serbia...

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The Real World Cup Starts Here

Argentina 2-1 Ivory Coast If you believe the press reaction to this match, football has been taken to a new plane of skill, athleticism and excitement. Like so much press reaction, the case has been overstated to a frankly disproportionate level. It was, to be fair, an entertaining game. Both teams set out with an intention to attack and score goals. Argentina were, simultaneously, unfortunate not to win by three or four goals, yet at the same time were lucky not to come away from it all with a draw. What I did see were two teams that were attractive going forward, but occasionally suspect defensively. The first goal came about as a result of panic in the Ivorian defence. They lost control of the ball inside the six yard box and, momentarily, of marking Hernan Crespo. You can’t really afford to do that if you want to win the World Cup. Even for the second goal, even though it was a delightful pass to set up Saviola to score, the Ivory Coast’s defence appeared singularly lead-footed as the ball was threaded through to him. The Ivory Coast’s attackers also wasted too many chances. Didier Drogba may be able to do this for Chelsea, where he has a seemingly infinite number of perfect passes put through to him, but at this level one is reminded of Glenn Hoddle’s remark...

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The Perfect Result

Trinidad & Tobago 0-0 Sweden From a jingoistically English perspective, we couldn’t have asked for much more than this. Trinidad have lost a man for a game. Sweden have now got something of a mountain to climb, and could be out by the time they play England next Saturday. And, as per the post below this one, England now only need a win on Tuesday night to secure their passage into the knock-out stages. It was, of course, a fantastic result for Trinidad & Tobago. Sweden didn’t play well, and missed far too many chances to suggest that they are going to make the sort of major impact on these finals that many people seem to think they will. Trinidad were defensively well-organised, though they did rely on profligate finishing from the Swedes and a once in a lifetime performace from Shaka Hislop, who only started because regular first choice Kelvin Jack injured himself in the warm-up. Trinidad did, of course, break away a couple of times and contrived to hit the crossbar, but for them to have snatched a win would have been utterly unfair on a clearly superior Swedish side. Sweden have learnt a lesson, and they’ve learnt it the hard way: you can’t waste a dozen chances and expect to win at this level of football. Not even against the tournament’s rank outsiders. They need to...

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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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