I'm not going to South Africa. So instead I'm gonna try and watch a bit if not all of every game at work, or at home or in a bar or wherever. On the telly. With a beer. And I'm gonna predict who I think is gonna win. And talk about football stuff. So there.

Tuesday 29 June 2010


It took Spain to expose Portugal for the side they've become - a side totally reliant on stolid, ultimately boring defence, and the skills of Ronaldo. Aside from that, they have very little going for them, and not so much to look forward to.

The Figo, Simao, Nuno Gomes, Pauleta era is over. The young Portuguese side that dominated the youth game in the late 90s now all retired, save for Simao who must be close to hanging up the coloured boots.

If only Ronaldo had been around in their day, perhaps they may have won something. But the future looks like Ronaldo will become the equivalent of Giggs at Wales. A fantastic player with absolutely no one else in his team anywhere near as good. Ah, well.

10th: JAPAN

They came a penalty shoot out away from getting further in the tournament than they've ever been. But it wasn't to be. But the Japanese can still be proud of their performance in the tournament. It was their game against Denmark in which they really came to life, two great free kicks the abiding memory of that one. Other than that, it could be said they did little to leave their mark, but I think their fans will be happy enough they stayed involved as long as they did.

Last 16: Spain 1-0 Portugal

Games like this need to stop being bigged-up by the pundits, as there's a general rule of thumb that the bigger the build up, the bigger the let-down the game is. And so it proved.

It was all down to Portugal's negativity and Carlos Queiroz's questionable tactics. Ronaldo hardly put a foot right all tournament and will be thankful his 'mate' Rooney had an even worse time. Spain were all over the Portuguese in this one, clearly the better footballing side. But it took them just over an hour to break the deadlock.

And a game that started in a disarmingly friendly manner when Ronaldo hugged all the Spaniards as the team walked the line after the anthems, ended with a red card for Portugal and a Spanish defender clearly offering a Portugeezer 'out', though seeing as they were already outside, this would have to have been an offer in.

Terrible let down the game, though.

Last 16: Paraguay 0-0 Japan (Paraguay win on penalties)

Saw very little of this as work rudely got in the way. But from all reports both sides concentrated on not getting beaten rather then going for the win, which is very disappointing, and certainly not in keeping with the way Japan have approached the competition thus far.

In the end it gave us a chance to see the first penalty competition of this World Cup. And it was one where there was no hero, only a villain. The Japanese guy now joins the list of the unfortunates to blast one over the bar and cost his team a place in the next round. Chris Waddle is a member of that group, as is Roberto Baggio. So he's in good company. Well, fairly good.

Monday 28 June 2010

SHORT ESSAY: Are England really that bad, or just really unlucky?

Yes, yes, yes, England were poor against Germany and the other three teams we played in this World Cup. But are things really as bad as people would have us believe? The 44 years of hurt and all that? Are our players lagging so far behind the rest of the world? Sure, we play a different game, that's not so pleasing on the eye. But not everyone can or should be playing the same way, or the same formation of 4-2-3-1 or whatever it is.

There are few advantages to being as old as I, but one is the fact that I was of legal drinking age (just) during Italia '90, so I witnessed what has been our best World Cup with a pint in my hand and eternal respect for the legend that is Lineker. Two penalties to turn it round against the Cameroon, a goal and a penalty in the semi. Can't ask for more.

So that's a semi-final that we lost on penalties. Yeah it hurt, but getting to the semis was an awesome experience.

But since then, yes we've been poor in places, but we've also been very unlucky. And it's mainly been down to refs and linesmen seeing incidents we don't want them to see, and not seeing incidents we do want them to see. And the odd goalkeeping eff-up.

The evidence is all there/here/ right in front of you ref-er-ree...

The Koeman incident that stopped us qualifying for USA '94. Ref should have seen it. And obviously, the likes of Carlton Palmer would have led us to victory in LA over Brazil...

The Beckham sending off in '98 during a game we would have gone on to win. Why did the ref see that petulant flick of the leg? It only took a second for heaven's sake. Why was he looking right at it, eyeing up Beck's leg? He could have and should have been looking at whoever had the ball, his linesman or some fit bird on the terraces. Sol Campbell also had a goal disallowed in the game, because the ref saw a push by Shearer. Why see that? Look somewhere else and we score and go onto thrash the French in Paris.

2002, Seaman should have seen that one coming from Ronaldinho. A bit more awareness and our lads would have taken it to extra time, beat the Brazilians on penalties and thrashed the Germans in the final. Easy.

2006, why did the ref see Rooney stamp on Carvalho's nuts and then see fit to listen to the winker Ronaldo and give Rooney his marching orders? If we'd have kept it 11 vs 11, Rooney would have wreaked his revenge against his cheating team-mate and scored a hat-trick that would have fired us all the way into a final against the Italians in which he would have scored four more and led us to another triumph.

And now there's 2010 to add to the list of eff-ups by match efficials. Thank you, the linesman and ref who didn't see the ball cross the line against Germany. Had Lampard's strike counted, we'd have gone in at the half all square, our tails up having fought back from two down. And we'd not have had to chase the game and not been caught out by the sucker punches of the counter attacks. We'd have gone on to replicate the 1966 4-2 scoreline, and gone on and on after that to do the Dutch in the final.

Alack, poor Yorick, England are not one of the World Cup luckies. The same teams seem to get all the breaks. Can't remember a controversial decision going against Brazil. Or Argentina. Or Germany. That helps explain why these nations are always there or thereabouts.

Yes, England sucked several eggs during this World Cup, but until officialdom stops making eff-ups that eff-up our confidence, what we gonna do, but keep losing out...

11th: CHILE

They looked good in the group stages. An exciting team to watch with a few stars who know where the goals are (at either end for the stars who don't - mainly English). But they never really looked like causing a shock against the Brazilians. They certainly had a go, but there's no room for have a go heros in the World Cup. You've got to have the skills to back it up and a fair share of luck besides. The luck seems to reside with the same handful of World Cup teams, every time. And Chile, like England, just ain't in the lucky club.


The pick of the Eastern Europeans. Getting this far has to be deemed a success by them and their fans. From what I saw of them, they always seemed to be prepared to give it a go, even against what seemed like insurmountable odds. The Dutch were always going to be a tough side for them to beat, and so it proved, but they blazed a trail for other nations of their size, showing that with a bit of positivity, you can get out of your Group and into the knockout stages.

Last 16: Brazil 3-0 Chile

Not the most exciting of games. Brazil just turned up, played some lovely football, banged in three goals, soaked up some Chilean pressure and shook the ref's hand at the end. Job done. Now bring on the Dutch.

It's a sad indictment of our game, but the best performing Englishman at this World Cup has been and will be referee Howard Webb. He didn't take any nonsense in this south American derby, and could be a good bet to get the whistle in his mouth for the final. His linos didn't put a flag wrong all game either, snapping up offsides and letting non-offsides go wherever and whenever they occurred.

Chile kept going, but once it got to three there was never any likelihood that they were going to win 4-3.

Last 16: Holland 2-1 Slovakia

The late, late equaliser from the spot makes this one look closer than it probably was. I say 'probably' because I wasn't able to get much of a look at the game, having returned to work after my ten-day break, the day after England's exit.

My only remaining hope is that Holland take home the trophy and win me a ton, as I put a tenner on them at 9-1 at the start of the tournament. I've not seen much to dissuade me from thinking they can't go all the way, save the fact that they're likely to be playing Brazil in the quarters.


13th: MEXICO

The stats will say that this is the fifth World Cup in a row in which the Mexicans have been knocked out in the Last 16. And the second in a row that Argentina have done the knocking out.

But it was close up until the lino failed to see a blatant offside that gave Argentina the lead. And when the stadium telly man accidentally played a replay of the goal on the big screen, the Mexicans surrounded the linesman raising their arms as if to say that's what you should have done with your flag, speccy. Tevez was clearly offside. But the linesman's mind was not for changing. And neither was the Mexicans' luck.

They played well this tournament, coming out of a pretty tough Group A. Hernandez looks a good player and will be off to Man Utd in the off season. But up against the class of Argentina, they were always going struggle. And struggle they did.


Piss poor really. I thought that England would tumble out in the quarters against the Argies, having scraped through against Ghana in the last 16. But that all went to pot as soon as we failed to score enough against Slovenia to win the group.

You can't say we even came close. No one put in a stunning performance all tournament long, and if our group hadn't been one of the weakest, it's doubtful we'd have made it even this far. Which is not far at all. And certainly not far enough for a team of millionaires with a manager who's paid £6 million a year. Dear? Dear o dear.

Last 16: Argentina 3-1 Mexico

What a pleasure watching this was, compared to the pain of the earlier afternoon game. Both sides looked confident on the ball, and never in any rush to pass it inaccurately to the next man in order for him to waste possession.

Tevez scored a spectacular goal, the like of which Gerrard had tried and miserably failed a few hours previously. And the Mexicans, although defeated, looked better organised and more dangerous than England had all tournament long.

Maradona built team spirit from the sidelines and wasn't afraid to kiss every sub he took off. Maybe that's how he plays it. He warns his players at the start that if they don't put in a decent shift, they'll be off and he'll greet them on the sidelines with a wet one on the smacker...

Last 16: England 1-4 Germany

Ugh. All the talk before was what would happen if this went to penalties. How to take the perfect penalty. How the England players would have the weight of history on their shoulders when they stepped up to take their spot kicks.

This didn't get anywhere near penalties, and England got nowhere near winning the World Cup. Before the game, player for player you'd probably say Lahm and Schweinsteiger would get in a combined XI of the best players from the two teams. After the game, that XI would be totally German.

Not one English player performed to their potential. The defending was embarrassing to say the least. Ball watching. Ball chasing. All left me ball scratching on my sofa at home. Yes, the goal that was disallowed should have stood, another example of luck going against England in a major tournament. But even if we'd had gone in 2-2 and rallied in the second half to pull out a win against the odds, the Argies would have put us to the sword in the quarters.

And no one would say this was the best German team to play a World Cup finals. Shorn of their captain Ballack in the run-up, they looked a bunch of unknown youngsters on paper. On grass they were well drilled. But to pull a quote from one of the rags, it looked like soldiers against pop stars. And there was no doubt who thought they were the pop stars.

Saturday 26 June 2010

15th: USA

Landon Donovan's last gasp winner against Algeria was their high. It won them Group C and ensured England would have to battle through the toughest half of the knockout stages.

The stage however was set for the US to progress. Ghana stood in their way - the team that knocked them out of the 2006 tournament. And so it was again. I don't think the US performed their best in their last 16 tie. They looked tired, like the Algeria game had been their final. The Ghanians were younger, hungrier. The US, despite being cheered on by Bill Clinton, were unable to lift themselves after trailing yet again.

In fact, an impressive stat wheeled out by the ITV pundits revealed they only led a World Cup game for the 3 mins of added time against Algeria. That's 3 mins in front out of 360 minutes played. They probably call that catch-up football Stateside. Whatever they call it, it's not the way to win a World Cup. Maybe next time, as long as Ghana don't get in the way.


An honest team. An attacking side. No histrionics. No trying to get other players sent off. Just good, open, attacking football. Yeah, they were never going to win it, but a side that reached the semis in 2002 has to be taken seriously, and they were unlucky not to take their last 16 game into extra time. But they were one of the most enjoyable teams to watch. They knew how to score goals and they can feel very proud of their contribution to the 2010 World Cup.

Last 16: USA 1-2 Ghana (AET)

Thought this one had penalties written all over it, as both sets of players seemed dead on their feet after 90mins. But a cracker by Gyan (in which he seemed to outwit two centre backs, one of whom was staring to the heavens for no apparent reason) settled it.

Africa's interest in their World Cup lives on, and they'll fancy their chances against Uruguay in the quarters, though it's going to take some miraculous miracle for them to progress further than that. But tonight they will be content with a performance in which they edged out the States, showing a willingness to attack and shoot for most of the first half and all of extra time. They let themselves down a little in the second half, being too content to sit back and soak up the pressure. And like so many sides no longer with us in South Africa, they nearly paid the price.

Last 16: Uruguay 2-1 South Korea

The vuvuzelas and a fairly heavy luncheon sent me to dreamland for most of the first half of this one, which by most accounts was dominated by the Uruguayans. But the Koreans looked dominant in the second half and weren't shy of going forward, an attitude that soon resulted in an equaliser. However, the winner was a pretty decent cracker from just inside the area, in off the post, hurdle the hoardings (nearly kicking a photographer in the face) and celebrate with the subs in the rain. Great stuff.

Round of 16 - Predicted vs Actual

Here's how I thought the Round of 16 would shape up:


Sadly, only 8 of the teams I predicted would make it actually did. Quite a poor effort. Which nicely sums up the World Cups of South Africa, Honduras, Nigeria, France, Slovenia, Italy, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast.

Here's the actual Last 16 ties


So, I predicted the Holland v Slovakia tie dead-on. I'm not exactly beaming with pride here...


The kind of team that pre-tournament you'd probably put a bit of money on not to make it through the group stage. I didn't put money on this time, but am not surprised that their World Cup has ended after three games. I don't know whether it's a lack of confidence, of good players or a combination of the two, but the Swiss always seem to qualify for the major tournaments then fail to do themselves justice once there. That said, they did beat the record for the number of minutes in which a goal is not conceded in World Cup finals, 500-odd I believe, stretching back to 2006 when they kept three clean sheets but still failed to make it out of the Group stage. So a big-up for their defence, which can only mean their attack was a big let-down.


have to be contenders for worst team in the tournament, alongside France, Serbia and Cameroon. The Hondurans failed to trouble the scorers and any defences for that matter. I can't remember any highlights for the team, a shame when you consider this was the first time they'd made the finals in 28 years. On this showing it could be another generation before they return. So why did they put in such a weak performance. This was a chance to make themselves famous. To put their nation on the world football map. They didn't take that chance, preferring as many seem to, to seek damage limitation rather than offensive aggression. Shame. Bye.


An easier group and I think we'd be seeing the Ivorians in the last 16. In the end, their failure to beat Portugal coupled with that team's drubbing of North Korea proved the deciding factors. Drogba, on whom they were always going to heavily rely, was never fully fit, having broken his arm in the run-up to the tournament, but IC still had enough good players across the park to rate themselves as one of the best African teams in the competition. Sadly for the continent, only Ghana were to have any involvement beyond the group stage.

GROUP H FINALE: Spain 2-1 Chile; Switzerland 0-0 Honduras

Spain narrowly avoided making it a hat-trick of big-name European teams to fall by the wayside with their win over Chile, who must now face Brazil in the last 16. Didn't see much of the Switzerland game, but it seems a win for them by a decent margin would have seen them through. Don't know why I predicted Honduras would qualify from this group. Madness, as they showed absolutely nothing. 1 SPAIN 2 CHILE 3 Switzerland 4 Honduras

Group G FINALE: Ivory Coast 3-0 North Korea; Brazil 0-0 Portugal

Once more, one of the big ties of the group stage proved to be a big let-down. Both sides knew a draw would do them, barring the Ivory Coast mauling the Koreans, and that just didn't happen. Seemed to get a bit spicy between the players, but in the end the group ended with a whimper, and not exactly as I'd predicted. 1 BRAZIL 2 PORTUGAL 3 Ivory Coast 4 North Korea

Friday 25 June 2010


It all came down to the last game against Japan. And Japan outplayed them. Kicking off against the Dutch was always going to leave the Danes chasing the rest of the group and so it proved. They don't really have any stars, the likes of the Laudrup brothers long since retired. And it's hard to say the Danes set the tournament alight in any way, even though their last game against the Japanese was pretty good. To spend all that time qualifying, then to put in a hat-trick of average performances makes you wonder if it was all worthwhile.


Entering the tournament, if you'd told the All-Whites they'd finish above Italy in their group, they'd have been delighted and would have assumed that meant qualification to the knockout phase. Not so. But NZ remained unbeaten, no small feat for a team who were predicted by many to be the whipping boys.

What they lacked in class they more than made up for in determination, and could be said to have outperformed near(ish) neighbours and rivals Australia. Their 1-1 draw against Italy will go down as one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history, and the fact that they narrowly failed to make the last 16 one of the biggest shames.

22nd: ITALY

Wha? The reigning champions? Out this early? It's no more than they deserve. They had no decent striker. And an ageing defence (still all younger than me, but that's no yardstick anymore). The draw against New Zealand was the first nail in the coffin, and the first sign that all things were not well in camp Italia. Just not enough good players in the end. Shame, as I'd tipped them to be runners-up...

Thursday 24 June 2010

GROUP E FINALE: Denmark 1-3 Japan; Holland 2-1 Cameroon

One can only assume the powers that be decided to conclude Group F before Group E because viewers in New Zealand would be able to watch their side go out at a reasonable time. But it probably means plenty of Japanese missed their side put in what has to be one of their best World Cup performances.

Two great free kicks and some great individual brilliance from Honda ensured another European team would deservedly fall by the wayside. The Dutch and the Japanese fully deserve their place in the last 16. There'll be inquests over how Cameroon managed to lose all three of their games. I thought they'd finish runners-up to Holland, but instead they find themselves propping up the rest. Symptomatic of how badly the African teams have fared in their own back yard. 1. HOLLAND 2 JAPAN 3 Denmark 4 Cameroon

GROUP F FINALE: Italy 2-3 Slovakia; Paraguay 0-0 New Zealand

The game of the tournament, by a country mile. The Italians, deposed as World Champions by an Eastern European team that were everything their less successful but near neighbours Serbia and Slovenia weren't.

Slovakia went for it, created chances and reaped the rewards. They played like they wanted to win, not like they wanted to avoid being embarrassed. And as a result, they're in the round of 16.

Italy? A toothless defence of their title, though they played their part in this exciting game, capped with a wonderful chip. They'll be wondering whether Skrtel really did clear that ball before it went over the line, and whether the offside decision that went against them really should have. But Italy can't blame losing here for their failure to progress. The damage was done when they failed to beat New Zealand. Speaking of them, doesn't seem there's much to report from their game vs Paraguay, other than it was enough to ensure the South Americans win the group, something I failed to predict. Though I did predict Slovakia would go through... 1. PARAGUAY 2 SLOVAKIA 3 New Zealand 4 Italy


They'll always have a go, the Aussies. And this tournament it seems they wanted to have a go at each other, much to many fans' amusement.

A four-nil drubbing in the opener was always going to make it hard for them to progress, and the fact their talisman Cahill was sent off during that game made it doubly hard. And when Kewell received the same fate early in the Ghana game, the difficulty level tripled and you kind of knew it wasn't going to be a great tournament for the Socceroos.

Chinks in the usually stolid Aussie sporting armoury? Recent losses in cricket and rugby union to us Pommies would suggest so, and Germany aside, there wasn't really much for the Aussies to fear in their group. It seems indiscipline let them down the most, not to mention playing nearly half the tournament with ten men.

24th: SERBIA

See 25th: Slovenia. Just replace Koren with Vidic.


Koren aside, I still couldn't name any Slovenian players. They've not really made any kind of impact on the tournament, though they've not disgraced themselves either.

Sometimes you have to consider that teams like Slovenia, who don't really believe they can win the World Cup when they turn up, just make sure they don't get humiliated. So it's more about keeping a clean sheet than troubling the keeper, and snatching a draw or a narrow win rather than going for goals.

It's a shame, as teams that go out after having a go are far more memorable than ones who keep it tight all tournament and slip out of the back door unnoticed.


They certainly made their mark, worrying all England fans to distraction after we failed to score against them in a very disappointing nil-niller. Algeria didn't really have any stand-out players, but like most international teams these days, they were well organised and difficult to break down. However, they'll realise that it's very difficult to progress in a tournament if you don't score any goals. And the Algerians certainly drew a blank, if not the crowds, with their style of play.

GROUP D FINALE: Germany 1-0 Ghana; Australia 2-1 Serbia

Watched these games through the clouds of several pints of cooking lager imbibed during England's win earlier in the day, so wasn't really taking everything in. Seem to remember the Germans scoring a pretty decent goal, Schwarzer handing the Serbs an easy chance to pull one back, and them being very angry with the ref about some handball they feel should have earned them a penalty.

Feeling a little bit smug about the way this group finished, as it looks very very similar to my predictions.

1. GERMANY 2 GHANA 3 Australia 4 Serbia

GROUP C FINALE: England 1-0 Slovenia; USA 1-0 Algeria

Oooo, me hangover. I'm sore but we're through and deserved our win. Enduring memories are Terry putting his head and health on the line to defend our goal line, Rooney hitting the post, and of course, shouting very very loud when Defoe scored. I don't think England has set the tournament on fire by any means, but we're through. Bring on the Germans.

YouSir left it late to not only join us in the next phase, but beat us to the top spot in the Group, and secure a route to the semis that looks easier than ours on paper. One of Uruguay, South Korea, USA or Ghana is going to be in the World Cup semi-final. Hope it's Ghana. The celebrations when Donovan sealed the win in added-on time were as you'd expect, raucous. Fair play to them.

Here's how I predicted the Group would end up. Here's how it really did: 1 USA 2 ENGLAND 3 Slovenia 4 Algeria

Tuesday 22 June 2010

27th: GREECE

Few will mourn the elimination of Greece. And although they weren't as dastardly as the French, the way Rehhagel likes his teams to play wins few admirers outside Athens and the surrounding sun-soaked islands, towns and cities.

I guess they make the most of what they have though, and they certainly weren't humiliated at any stage, and could have still qualified from their group right up until Argentina scored midway through the second half of the final game.

But there's no attacking flair, no attempt to take the game to the opposition. It's all sit back sit back, soak up soak then breakaway breakaway. Any opponent with any tactical nous will know how to negate this way of playing and eventually pierce the resistance. And so it was.


What a poor World Cup the African nations are having. I'd have put a little money on at least two making the knockout stages, but there's a very real chance that zero of them will make it through. I think many will be pinning their hopes on Ghana tomorrow night.

I fear this Nigerian campaign will be forever haunted by Yakubu's miss in the last vital game against South Korea. I'm still haunted to this day by Gascoigne's outstretched, grey-socked leg at Wembley failing to make contact with the ball at the Euro 96 semi-final against Germany. Many Nigerians won't forget Yakubu's miss in a hurry.

I'd tipped Nigeria to make it to the semi-finals of the World Cup, so what the hell went wrong, I just don't know. They were always playing catch-up after starting with a loss against Argentina, but losing to Greece and drawing with South Korea after leading in both games is going to be a bitter pill to swallow. Meanwhile, I'll have to swallow my pride and admit that so far, my predictions have been shocking.

GROUP B FINALE: Argentina 2-0 Greece; Nigeria 2-2 South Korea

Much as I'd like to not like them, I like watching Argentina. There's a confidence and flow to their game that's lacking from many other nations. And there's a player called Messi who's lacking from every other nation. It took them a while to break down a Greece side that had come to defend and get eliminated with a whimper and that's exactly what happened. Rehhagel's got a way of playing and he's sticking to it, whatever the cost. Maximum points from the group for the Argies.

Nigeria will be kicking themselves for not winning this and taking second place in the group. Yakubu's miss has just been described by Shearer as the worst miss he's ever seen and it's hard to argue. Four yards out. Open goal. Wide. It's hard to tell if the miss cost Nigeria their place in the next round, but it won't have helped. That said, South Korea are an enjoyable side to watch and shouldn't be begrudged their place in the last 16, and with Uruguay awaiting, they could go a bit further in this competition.

Bizarrely, I had Nigeria down to win the group. Here's how it really finished: 1 ARGENTINA 2 SOUTH KOREA 3 Greece 4 Nigeria

Is the sound of the vuvuzela sending Rooney to sleep?

It's been reported before now that the low, constant drone of a hoover sends Mr Rooney to sleep when he's at home. Is the low, constant drone of the vuvuzela having the same effect on him on the pitches of South Africa?


The strength of Mexico and Uruguay meant the hosts had given themselves a very tricky group to negotiate their way out of. Every host team before that had managed to do that, and but for goal difference, the South Africans could well have kept that tradition going.

It wasn't to be. The hosts will probably be remembered for introducing the vuvuzela to football grounds, more than their performances on the pitch. Will the vuvuzela endure for as long as the Mexican Wave has - still in evidence at nearly every game during this tournament? It's unlikely.

Any tournament will mourn the loss of its hosts, but the South Africans must double their efforts to ensure the stadia in the knockout phases are full to bursting with fans, flags, and yes vuvuzelas.

30th: FRANCE

If England were/are bad then you can double, maybe treble that for the French. An utter shambles. They shouldn't have even been in the tournament in the first place, of course. It wasn't meant to be like this, and without the unlawful intervention of an arm we would have been spared the spectacle of seeing a once great team literally fall apart over the space of 11 days.

Imagine how much more colour, interest and excitement having the Republic of Ireland and their fans at the tournament would have added. Instead, we had the perennially under-supported French and their prissy, in-fighting, sulky collection of losers. France added absolutely nothing to the tournament. You can't even call them a team, without doing that word a serious injustice.

They were boring to watch, the nil nil versus Uruguay being the nadir. They only made the headlines by crying and squabbling on the training ground, and sending home a striker like a naughty schoolboy. And there were players who were just a waste of space, most of their surnames beginning with the letter 'g'. I can't remember their actual names, Govou may have been one, but they were all utterly and unrelentingly poor.

Here's hoping they get drawn in the same qualifying group as the Republic of Ireland for the next World Cup, and that the Irish whup their sorry asses.

GROUP A FINALE: South Africa 2-1 France; Uruguay 1-0 Mexico

And so the final games in the group, and what a disgrace France are/were on and off the pitch. Another woeful performance, and the manager at the end refused to shake hands with his South African counterpart. Dear oh dear. Good riddance France.

South Africa should have but didn't go for the jugular in this, after France were reduced to ten men after another dubious red card. Couldn't happen to a nicer team. Although I wear glasses and have been called four eyes before, I don't actually possess that number of see-ers so couldn't watch anything but the highlights of the Uruguay game, but they've done the business and win the group, with the Mexicans edging out the hosts on goal difference.

Here's how I thought Group A would finish. Here's how it actually did: 1 URUGUAY 2 MEXICO 3 South Africa 4 France. I got it totally and utterly wrong.

Monday 21 June 2010

SHORT ESSAY: Half Time. And it ain't half better.

As Jon Bon Jovi once sang, we're halfway there. And there's a fair few nations living on a prayer. Only two are definitely out, but of the big names, France are destined to be a casualty, while alcohol will need to be imbibed by the fans of Germany, Spain, Italy and England, who all need a win in their final game to definitely make it to the next phase.

Now everyone's had a second outing, patterns are emerging. The Africans are having a mare. As are the Europeans. But all the south Americans are enjoying themselves, and putting in some good performances it has to be said.

The 'second round' of group games were far superior to their edgy predecessors. Teams realised they had to go for it. Some free kick takers even managed to keep the ball lower than Row Y. But we've yet to have a truly stunning freekick disturb the netting.

I've seen nothing to dissuade me that Holland won't do well in this competition. Brazil look the best team at the moment though, and it's going to take some massive transformation for the Italians to make the final as I've predicted.

But most worrying is that in less than 48 hours, the World Cup will be all over for England for another four years, if they perform as they have been. Roll on 2014 for more disappointment...

Spain 2-0 Honduras

Should have been more than just two as from my sofa this looked as one-sided as something with just the one side. A missed penalty, countless missed shots that someone actually did count, Spain might rue not giving the Hondurans a hammering, as Chile on Friday isn't going to be easy.


And so the winners of the wooden spoon that's not quite so wooden as the one Cameroon got are North Korea. No one likes to see a team getting thrashed, unless you support the team doing the thrashing. But seven from Portugal kind of took the gloss off a very creditable performance against Brazil in which they only lost by a goal.

A lot of media surrounding the North Koreans was to do with how the population back home was being fed highlights of their games, reportedly hours after they'd taken place and allegedly edited to make it look like NK had emerged victorious against the capitalist infidels.

Whether this is true or just western banter, the fact remains I never saw one North Korean feign an injury, argue too much with the ref, or dive to get another player in trouble. Sure, they never looked like getting out of the toughest group in the tournament, but put anyone of say twenty five other teams in their place and they'd struggle too. But they'd resort to cheating, feigning and diving, something that - like South Korea - is below North Korea.

Chile 1-0 Switzerland

Pretty much sums up all that's wrong with footballers today, this game. If FIFA don't start handing out yellow cards and fines after games to players who are clearly feigning injury and looking like they're dying, then the game is doomed.

Both sides were at it, rubbing thighs crazily like they contained lead from a shotgun, after having been merely grazed by an errant boot. Diving without the merest hint of any contact. Pretending a raised arm was an elbow to the face.

Sure the ref and his assistants were fools (this mild world replaces an earlier stronger one) for buying the theatrics, but they had front row seats and should have seen more of the faked incidents than they did.

But in the end, the future of football comes down to the players. If they want to be part of a game in which the key skills needed for success become deceiving the referee, play acting like a bunch of kids and going down at the merest hint or threat of contact, then so be it.

Hopefully, the paying public won't accept it for long. But we need the suits at FIFA to make an example of the thieving tarts of this World Cup before the tournament becomes any more of a farce.

Portugal 7 North Korea 0

Scores above six always get spelt out in results shows, but I've resisted the urge here. It was raining heavily during this game. Goals that is. Though I left it at half-time with the score just 1-0, thinking I'd come back to it and it'd be a stale 1-1 or something. Not sure if Portugal are that good, or North Korea that bad, but the latter are out now, while the former must hope Ivory Coast don't batter the Koreans by a similar scoreline on Friday...

Sunday 20 June 2010

Brazil 3-1 Ivory Coast

Ah, they'll always get a reaction out of the armchair, the Brazilians. An 'ooo' if they're under performing. An 'aaa' if they turn it on a little bit and remind us of Brazil circa 70, 82, 94, 98, 02 etc etc. Today was an 'aaa' with some goals that pleased the eye and some passes that delighted the other eye. Sure it got a little spicy towards the end as the tackles went flying in. But by then, we'd seen enough to know that this Brazil team could go all the way. Even without Kaka, who was sent off for moving his arm, fractionally and without aggression, into a body part of an Ivorian who then pretended it was his head. Bless.

Another defeat for an African team though. Sven seemed as reluctant as ever to change things, even when 3-0 down. Some things never change (mainly Sven's tactics during a game). In his defence (and he deserves a defence as he was a good England manager) he was probably focused on damage limitation in the hope his team will twonk North Korea in the last game, while Brazil put away the Portuguese. But if life teaches us one thing, it's never rely on other people. And if it teaches us another, it's always make time to watch Brazil.

BINGO! No.4 comes in (sort of)

4. Shot of Platini in the crowd during France game.

There was a shot of Platini. In the crowd. During the Brazil v Ivory Coast game. Seeing as the French squad is in disarray, Michel probably thought he'd be better off watching this than getting embroiled in the French farce.

SHORT ESSAY: Overpaid, mollycoddled European stars getting their comeuppance.

It seems the camps reporting the most unrest behind the scenes and putting in the worst performances on the pitch come from the old, established 'super powers' of European football.

Players are kicking off because they've been taken out of their comfort zones, and shacked up in not quite luxurious enough hotels for a month. They think they're better players than the Algerians, New Zealanders or Mexicans of this world. Well, maybe they are more talented individuals, but they make pathetic team players, compared to the well-drilled units of the three teams mentioned above.

This tournament is giving Europe's big, rude boys a long overdue wake up call. Sure they're better paid players, but on the evidence of the tournament so far, the antics of the English, French and, to a lesser extent, the Italians are nothing short of disgraceful. Their squads deserve to earn nothing other than the wrath of their fans. In the six games these teams have played in this World Cup so far, they have registered precisely zero wins, and just three goals.

Utterly pathetic.

The big money bubble of European football surely has to burst before the next World Cup, if these are the kind of performances these so- called stars of the World game are churning out. They're clearly putting individual needs ahead of the team good. They're playing how they want to, not how their coaches or the rest of their team wants them to.

It's time to start refusing to pay over-inflated ticket prices to watch these over-inflated egos strutting their stuff for tens of thousands per week.

Let's get back to the days when playing football was barely more lucrative than getting a decent office job. At least we might get more players who're in it for the love of the game and not the love of the pay packets.

Italy 1-1 New Zealand

The kind of result that'll go down in the annals. The world champions held by minnows with players from the likes of Plymouth Argyle, Wellington FC and the Nowheresville Rovers. Well played to the all whites who certainly deserved their point, maybe more. There's big question marks hanging over the traditional 'giants' of European football. Italy's start mirrors that of England - two draws against two teams they would have expected to have beaten. The Germans are faring only slightly better with a win and a loss to their name. And the French? They are imploding. Anelka sent home, the rest of the squad off home. Sweet music to South African ears, who need to beat the French to stand any chance of continuing in their own tournament.

Paraguay 2-0 Slovakia

The Paraguayians look a decent outfit, good enough to reach the quarter finals at least, I reckon. In place of the Slovakians whom I predicted to qualify from the group. But they offered diddly squat in this game, so should expect to be heading home when Italy beat them on Thursday.

Saturday 19 June 2010

BINGO! No.8 comes in.

8. Mention made of how quickly the sun sets in South Africa.

This happened during the Ghana v Australia coverage on ITV today...


And so, the first victims of Africa's first World Cup is the African team Cameroon.

I predicted they'd get to the Round of 16, and they had the players to do so. The question is, did they have the temperament. Or the leadership. That's two questions. The answers to both are the same.

On the telly before their final game, ITV showed the team arriving at the ground and they looked like a bunch of sulky teenagers. They actually played well against the Danes, but the damage had been done against Japan. There's obviously been rows behind the scenes. I suspect Eto'o wasn't too enamoured at being played out on the right against Japan. Switching him to a more familiar central role today seemed to do the trick as he scored.

But their defence looked none too convincing. And they wouldn't have beaten the Dutch in the final game had the match mattered to either side. Now it doesn't. But having waited so long for the tournament to arrive on their continent, Cameroon represent the tip of Africa's underperforming iceberg, if such an analogy is decipherable. The African teams have now played 11 games and won only 1.

Cameroon 1-2 Denmark

The most exciting match of the tournament so far. Didn't look much on paper, but these are the kind of games the World Cup throws up, which is why it's always worth taking a look at all of them.

The game was helped by poor defending, yes, but the players were willing to have a crack. Neither team was risk averse, to use a business cliche. Sadly, only Denmark did the business leaving Cameroon to deal with the ignominy of being the first team to be eliminated from the tournament. The Danes have a few big players, and will fancy themselves to beat Japan and take second place in the group on Thursday. We, as they say, shall see...

Ghana 1-1 Australia

The Aussies were reduced to ten early on again. Why Kewell protested so much at what was a deliberate handball is a bit of a mystery. You've got to take your medicine in those situations and hope the ensuing penalty is blasted miles over the bar.

It wasn't.

But the Socceroos played well after that, never really looking like they were a man short - well they have played most of the World Cup that way, so should be second nature now. This result makes Germany v Ghana next Wednesday a biggie, with the winner of Australia v Serbia likely to qualify too...

Holland 1-0 Japan

Their defence is their weakest link, some said of the Dutch. Well, it has yet to be breached in 180 minutes of World Cup action. And with Robben still to return, my tips for the title look strong. And speaking of strong, Sneijder certainly got hold of the ball for his goal. Don't think too much blame should be laid at the door of the Japanese 'keeper. It was a rip-roaring thunderbolt of a shot that would have broken his wrists had he got anything more on it.

SHORT ESSAY: England, Bye England. World Cup Obituary.

And so that is what we waited four years for. A hat-trick of insipid performances from a team that refused to gel. Lampard went missing in inaction. Rooney dropped back to midfield time after time, picked up the ball but had no one to pass to. Gerrard wandered aimlessly up and down the left. SWP tried to take people on and got tackled every time. Heskey jumped, chested down and lost the ball. Carragher raged red and got burned. Ashley Cole shook his head in disbelief. Joe Cole was left on the bench.

The only mark England left on the tournament - a howler by Green for a future World Cup Blunders compilation on some minor satellite channel. A lost World Cup. The last for Gerrard, Lampard, James and who knows how many more. The last traces of England's so-called 'golden generation' buried under a mound of banality in the land of gold and diamond mines.

The world will not remember England's contribution to the 2010 World Cup. For there was nothing to remember, bar the red, despairing faces of the inadequate players and the draped flags and vociferous support of the loyal fans.

England has one more chance to make the above not become so...

USA 2-2 Slovenia; England 0-0 Algeria

Grouped together these group games to keep the vitriol about the latter down to a minimum. The first game was a joy to watch, exciting and inventive. Two teams who deserve to get through to the next stage, and who very well may get there. Algeria, well, no one expected them to beat England but they really could have.

It was the worst performance in a World Cup from an England team that I can remember. Comparable maybe with the 0-0 vs Morocco in '86. Rooney is having a shocking World Cup. He doesn't look fit and plays most of the time as a midfielder. He should have been subbed last night. And should be dropped for the next game. Lampard is Mr. Invisible. Drop him too, no one will notice his absence. Give the captain's armband back to Terry with the brief to fire rockets up the arses of the under performers. That's pretty much everyone, save David James who justified his status as our number one last night.

Drop Heskey, him and Rooney isn't working. AND PLAY JOE COLE FFS. Ploughed through six cans of Heineken last night. Will probably need double that on Wednesday, when we really have to win. But I really can't see us doing that. Slovenia look the best team in the group and unless Capello weaves some magic, our lads will be back home this time next week. And no one will be able to say they don't deserve to be...

Friday 18 June 2010

Germany 0-1 Serbia

Ref...errr...ree! Dunno what he was playing at. Some kind of conspiracy to stop the Germans winning this perchance? Podolksi had the chance to level it from the spot, but the damage had been done in the bizarre first half dismissal of his strike partner Klose. Certainly breathes life into a group that was heading straight up the autobahn in Germany's favour. Now a win for the Aussies against Ghana tomorrow will make it all square going into the last round of games...

Thursday 17 June 2010

England Game Eve

The one factor that gave me more confidence than at any World Cup since the Robson era, Capello, now doesn't seem so powerful. The decisions he made in the YouSir game all went awry, and made him look a little ordinary, unfortunately. Even a convincing win tomorrow will only go some way to rebuilding faith in the man. Still, he's sticking by his guns and refusing to reveal his team until a couple of hours before kick-off. Only Barry, it seems, knows he'll be in the line-up for the national anthem, and I suggest he doesn't ask Milner the words. If I were Capello, here's who I'd be telling in a thick Italian accent 'you're in':

GK Hart
LB A Cole
CB Terry
CB Dawson
RB Johnson
ML J Cole
MR Lennon
MC Barry
MC Lampard
AMC Gerrard
ST Rooney

France 0-2 Mexico

That French coach lad with the eyebrows hasn't gelled together a group of players who are individually good. Still riding high on taking them to the final of the last World Cup, I suspect. A truly awful performance from them for a second time. If there's any justice, they'll be on their way home.

But I'm gonna give credit to Mexico. They play well as a team, know how to pass it about with confidence and deserve their place in the last 16. A nice little draw with Uruguay should see to that, though what the host nation would think should that handy little result look 'arranged' remains to be seen. I'm sure both teams will go for it though, he hastily adds, covering his ass somewhat.

Greece 2-1 Nigeria

The Nigerians have disappointed. I thought they'd be much more dangerous in the tournament. I've actually made the huge error of predicting they'll get to the semis. I think that can now be safely disregarded. They're very close to being the first team to be eliminated, but the calculators show they can still make it through, however unlikely that eventuality. Greece on the other hand had never scored in a World Cup before this, so happy times for them. I think the Argies will beat them in the final game, leaving the winner of Sth Korea v Nigeria to take second...

Argentina 4-1 South Korea

It's a shame to see Maradona looking so pleased with himself, but his side did well here. A hat-trick for Higuain, though his finishing wasn't exactly carried out with anything approaching what Motty would have once called aplomb. I like the look of South Korea and think they may well snatch second in the group.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

South Africa 0-3 Uruguay

The stewards are on strike. Fans were streaming to the exits with a quarter of an hour to play in this one. South Africa seem to be the hosts with the most problems. They're not going to make it to the knockout phase on the evidence of this, though they're not out of it yet the mathematicians will say. But this was a toothless performance, as toothless as they nearly left a Uruguayan striker after a second half clash. Whatever tactics were being employed by South Africa didn't work. The home side didn't look like scoring. The Uruguayans looked like they wanted it more, which surely wasn't the case. Maybe SA wanted it too much. They'll be SAD tonight.

Played One. Drawn None.

And so every team has taken a bow. And a long, loud plastic tube has taken the headlines.

Complaints about the vuvuzela have been embarrassing. The World Cup is in South Africa. That's what the fans over there use when watching football. Deal with it.

Complaints about the quality of the football have been justified. Balls flying miles over bars. Free kicks blasted into walls. Posts slapped. Crossbars shuddered. If it wasn't for goalkeeping errors, the scorers and statisticians would have been even less troubled. Either way, the tournament thus far will have failed to draw non-football fans to their television sets.

Picking a potential winner from the bones of a first round skinny on skills is tricksy. It's easy to big-up the Germans, but just as easy to put-down the aged Aussies they thrashed. Brazil weren't exhilarating against a team many expected them to rack up a cricket score against. My tip, the Dutch, looked bright, but who could fail to in that incendiary orange.

An inauspicious start then. Here's hoping things open up, nets fill up, and people shut up moaning about the background noise.

Spain 0-1 Switzerland

A veritable, genuine, cast-iron shocker of a result. I've not joined the bandwagon of those waxing lyrical about Espana (I think they'll get knocked out in the Last 16). But there's no way I expected the Swiss to do a job on them here. The winner will certainly be a nominee for the messiest goal of the tournament. Bollocks, thighs, posts and ankles all played their part in ensuring leather ruffled netting. But it's the pundits and the Spaniards who'll be most ruffled tonight, I'll warrant.

Honduras 0-1 Chile

Mmmm. The twelve thirty kick offs are proving hard to watch. Not just because of work, but also the quality of football. Didn't see much of this but heard Chile were OK, and worth the win. Shame, as Honduras are one of my predictions to reach the last 16. That prediction is looking wide of the mark, a bit like a lot of the Honduran shooting.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Brazil 2-1 North Korea

Ah, at last. The Brazilians. Time to breathe life into a cagey tournament, where goals are at a premium. The Zilians looked good, Robinho in particular. Their first goal was a stunner if Maicon meant it, and a flukey stunner if he didn't. Elano passed in the second, before the impressive northern Koreans grabbed a well taken what proved to be just a consolation goal. Just the four teams in Group H left to open their accounts tomorrow, then we'll get to the second round of group games, during which some teams may find themselves getting eliminated.

Ivory Coast 0-0 Portugal

The biggest match-up in the first round of games. From what I could see while glancing over my shoulder in between feigning work, the Ivory Coast dominated this, with wave after wave of attack, without actually really threatening. I don't tip Portugal to make it out of the group, because Ronaldo aside, there's no other world-class player in their ranks. IC looked strong all over the shop. If Drogba had been on from the start, they could well have snatched this.

New Zealand 1-1 Slovakia

Watching this one was pretty tricky. The office telly was on, but it was hard to justify interest in what was effectively a minnows derby. That said, I did manage to grab some drab action. An end of injury time equaliser breathed life into what was a pretty dull encounter. Fair play to the Kiwis. Rank outsiders before this. Still rank outsiders now, but with a World Cup point and goal tucked under their belts. Just like England.

Monday 14 June 2010

Viva La Vuvuzelas

They're what the South Africans take with them to watch football. This tournament is in South Africa. Leave them be. Yes, they were annoying for the first game, but now they're just a lively backing track that's easy to ignore if you need to, but very atmospheric. Yes, they're tuneless, but then again so are a lot of the chants and songs and singers I've heard at many a game.

The Ball

What's the hoo-ha all about? I've not seen the ball do anything untoward. I've seen many a keeper do plenty untoward, including diving toward the ball and completely missing it. The standard of keeping has been poor from a lot of teams. Bring back Shilton.

Italy 1-1 Paraguay

Much of the telly chat afore, during and after was about the age of the Italian squad. Could they retain their title? Does their age matter? How do you spell Camoeronaesi? (Not like that). I've not tipped Paraguay to progress but maybe I should, as they looked OK. Think Italy will still win the group, despite a less than less than convincing draw here. There's a couple of players in their line-up whom I've never heard of before, and both were subbed off for being invisible, to be replaced by more recognisable names from the last World Cup, Cameranaysi being one of them.

Japan 1-0 Cameroon

Tried streaming this one to my laptop, but there were a lot of meetings going on in the rooms nearby, so had to cover my tracks and only saw bits of the second half. Cameroon were my tip to win, and having correctly forecast the previous eight results (not scorelines, but results) I was confident enough to put a fiver on a Cameroon win. So obviously not in the best of moods. Seems the crossbar was hit, but all in all another disappointing game. The tournament has yet to come alight...

Holland 2-0 Denmark

Ah, a nice, comfortable start from the team I tip to win it. And good support in the stadium for them, no doubt from a few locals with Dutch descendancy. Their first goal was a trifle fortunate, and Aggernising for the defender concerned. Their second, a lesson for the young strikers out there - always follow up a shot cos you never know where it'll rebound. Kuyt caught it sweet to make it two. The Danes were far from great from what I could see from my desk, which wasn't a lot.

Germany 4-0 Australia

Caught a snippet of the second half when the Germans scored their third. A much more convincing win than most were expecting. Worries now are for England if they don't win their Group, having to face Germany in the Last 16, and the inevitable early exit. I'd still fancy us to beat the Germans - as long as it doesn't go to penalties.

Australia has the oldest squad at the tournament, apparently. They need to draw on all that age and experience if they're to stay involved any longer.

Sunday 13 June 2010

Ghana 1-0 Serbia

Seven games in now, and only one team has scored more than once. We're still waiting for a classic game. Ghana looked good in this one. I've predicted them to finish second in the Group, and on this form, I'm sticking to that. A well taken penalty, and plenty more other chances besides, including one off the post. Vuvzelas no longer an annoyance.

Algeria 0-1 Slovenia

Neither of these teams seemed anywhere near as motivated as they will be when they take on England, who should dispatch the pair of them as long as they can smash through the bus that's liable to be parked in the opponent's half.

South Korea 2-0 Greece

The Greeks have never scored in the World Cup. That's a damning stat. Otto Rehagel worked wonders in 2004, but Greece look like a one-trick pony. Everyone knows how they're going to play. Defend defend defend, hope to steal a 1-0 lead, then defend defend defend a lot, lot more. Credit to the southern Koreans, an exciting team to watch with no lack of skill. I haven't predicted them to go through from the group, but they're the first team that's made me think, hmm, maybe they could...

Argentina 1-0 Nigeria

A predicable result, though I predicted 3-1, so not that predictable I suppose. The Argies have the players to win the group, and I think Nigeria have the players to qualify in second. With better Nigerian finishing and better Nigerian defending this could have been a draw. So basically, if Nigeria were as good as, say, Brazil, they'd have won. But they're not. So they didn't. Waffle waffle.

England 1-1 USA

Several Heinekens and Carlings may well have muddled my brain, but this seemed a shambolic England performance. It's easy to criticise, they say, so here goes.

MILNER. Looked like a startled hen. And that was just during the national anthem. Maybe he never learnt the words, but he needn't google them as we won't be seeing him again this tournament. Being hauled off after half an hour will have shattered his confidence.

GREEN. The newspapers will have covered this. A right old howler. He's another player that shouldn't play again this tournament.

KING. Someone so injury prone shouldn't be in any tournament squad. Is someone suddenly expecting him to put all his injury woes behind him because it's the World Cup? Ain't gonna happen.

LAMPARD. Where was he for the first hour of the game? I don't think the commentator mentioned him once. Though he did improve in the last half hour.

CAPELLO. Clearly starting Milner was a mistake. And Green was not the right selection. Hart was. A baptism of fire for a man who hasn't managed in a tournament before, but I'd back him to turn it around.

They're the negatives. Now the up-side:

JOHNSON. England's best player. Looked confident going forward and reliable at the back.

HESKEY. Although one-on-ones with a keeper aren't his speciality, he's a formidable presence up front and set up the goal with an incisive pass. That said, he was a spent force after about 65 minutes, and Crouch probably would have come on earlier, had we not already burned two substitutions.

The other players just did OK. The Americans looked dangerous on the break, but they were really motivated for this. Can't see them being as 'up' for the Algeria and Slovenia games.

Friday 11 June 2010

France 0-0 Uruguay

Lineker made light of the feck up at half time, when a report on the England team mysteriously cut to some Dutch fans. They re-ran the clip and all was well. Lineker's as cool in front of the camera as he was in front of the Cameroon keeper when he slotted home those penalties against them in 1990.

Not much about the game recommends itself. Uruguay had a man sent off, which given their reputation isn't even news. The French manager made some baffling substitutions, also not news. If either of these sides makes the quarter finals, I'll eat someone else's hat (but not that someone else whose hat I've already eaten, as they've no hat left.)

South Africa 1-1 Mexico

The incessant drone of the vuvuzelas soon became relaxing as I pretended to work. These crude instruments seem destined to provide the backing track for every game in this tournament. The Mexicans had their wave in 1986. The South Africans shall have their trumpets. I thought South Africa would win this one, swept along by the tide of emotion, but poor defending let them down, and a post got in the way right near the end. If either of these sides reach the quarter finals I'll eat someone else's hat, as I don't own one.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Play World Cup Bingo

Simply tick off these situations as and when you see or hear them during the World Cup Group Stage Coverage...

1. 'It's 12 years since the hosts won the World Cup' is mentioned during the opening game.

2. Shot of female Brazil fans in hotpants.

3. Someone digs up Pele's old quote about an African side winning the World Cup before the year 2000 and says they're ten years late.

4. Shot of Platini in the crowd during France game.

5. When both teams need a draw from their final group game to qualify, the Austria v West Germany farce from 1982 gets a mention.

6. Witty commentator says ' the winner of this game would be a foregone conclusion if this were the Rugby World Cup' during the Italy v New Zealand game.

7. Hastily arranged interview with Beckenbauer before Germany game.

8. Mention made of how quickly the sun sets in South Africa.

9. 'Shouldn't you be at work' gag delivered with a cheeky, knowing look/tone of voice during the England v Slovenia coverage.

10. Reminder that the last World Cup to be played in winter was Argentina 1978.

Motivation Maradona Style

Seems the Argentinians have a new way to punish the players who lose a training match. They have to line up on the goal line while winning squad members fire balls at them. I wonder what the unfortunate players do to protect themselves. I'm sure Maradona is all for them using a hand.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Literally Hours To Go Til Kick Off. Hours.

The flags of the Saint who was christened George flutter atop each corner of the off-white van's roof. And the small hatchback's passenger window. Chancers cash in by putting hastily drawn red crosses on white t-shirts in the hope to make a sale.

The fans of 32 nations await in eager anticipation. Is it our turn? Will we lift the cup for the first time, or the first time in ages (or the first time since the last time if you're Italian).

There's a buzz in the pubs. Invites to barbecues are accepted. Or rejected, as sorry, I'm busy - going to another barbecue, don't you know. How the cows will suffer this footballing summer. How those 'strange ones' who don't follow the game in any capacity will take pride when they show disinterest and answer 'what game?' when asked 'did you see the game?'

How the footballing part-timers will become experts for a month, getting sucked in and pulled along by the fervour. How the pubs and supermarkets will stock up on their supplies, especially when the home nation's in action.

Workers will be drawn away from their tasks at twelve thirty and three pm each day as a group stage game kicks off. New Zealand v Slovakia can't be missed. South Korea v Greece could be a classic.

Welcome back World Cup. How eagerly we await your drama, your tension, the agony you will put us through, the fleeting joy you may bring.

Group Stage Home Beers Are In

I've plumped for Peroni. Bottles thereof. And just a dozen. Not very many, but I will be watching the England games elsewhere, so these beers are for consumption during the non-critical games I'll be watching at home. Games that I'll be fairly relaxed during. But if Paraguay v New Zealand turns into the edge of the seat classic absolutely no one is expecting, I may need to replenish stocks afore the group stage is completed.

Monday 7 June 2010

Platinum Stars 0-3 England

If there's a football and an England boot anywhere in the vicinity, someone will televise it live, it seems. And so it was today that I was able to watch this warm-up live on the BBC website.

Totally missed the first half, and could have quite easily lived with myself had I missed the second. Either way, I missed all the goals live. But I didn't miss Heskey's miss, nor Lennon's skier.

Wasn't sure which of the opponents were the stars. But it didn't take me long to work out why they weren't called the All Stars. Anyway, the most pleasing aspect of the game has to be that all the players came through unscathed.

Sunday 6 June 2010

Great Armchair World Cup Moments No.4

1986. England had made a poor start to the tournament. A 1-0 loss to Portugal had been followed by a goalless draw against Morocco. That left us needing a win against Poland in the final group game to progress to the knockout phase.

And so the Lineker legend was born. But enough has been written about Lineker's hat-trick in that game. This Armchair Fan's highlight was hearing Jimmy Hill in the background in the commentary box unable to stifle his delight as Lineker stuck away those three goals.

You can hear the legend that is the Hill shouting in delight like one of the fans, as Barry Davies tries to keep it as cool as he could. Good lad, Jimmy.

Graphic Portrayal Of My World Cup Prediction

The BBC has produced a neat and very arty predictor tool. This is how my prediction looks.

Saturday 5 June 2010

The World Cup Ball.

What's all the fuss about? It's spherical. It's decently designed. And it probably smells nice. Just because it moves in the air as unpredictably as a dog's fart, doesn't make it a bad ball. And at least it doesn't have laces.

The Pointlessness Of My Predictions - Holland To Win The World Cup

Well, I was going to announce that my tip to win the World Cup was Holland. Not the best Dutch side to ever grace the tournament, but I think their time has come. They have historic links with South Africa and the Boer settlers. They qualified with ease and have an easy-looking group.

Then Robben goes and pulls a hamstring, and suddenly that's a major player of theirs potentially out. That said, I'm going to stick with my prediction. Holland to beat Italy 3-1 in the final. But I won't be putting much money on it.

Dropping Like Files

I dropped a pile of files once and it was hard work picking them back up. There's a few players who are going need a pick-me-up after falling down injured in the week before the start of the World Cup. Ferdinand. Drogba. Mikkel. Now Robben. Ballack went a couple of weeks ago. Beckham and Owen before that. All players that would have improved the quality of football at the World Cup. File all those names under 'Rich But Unlucky'.

World Cup Telly Programmes

They've started big time. The World Cup's Greatest Goals. Worst Moments. Top 50 Linesmen. Worst Misses. Best Anthems. Silliest Haircuts. Fattiest Left-Backs. And any more you can think of. they'll be on over the next month. Enjoy.

Friday 4 June 2010

This Time Next Week...

We'll know the result of the opening game. That's how close we are to kick-off.

Cheer Rio

Bit of Bad News No.1 for England. Captain and centre back Rio Ferdinand looks to be out of the tournament after injuring his knee in a training ground tackle with Emile Heskey. More ammunition for the Heskey Haters? Or Divine Intervention for Dawson? Either way, the captain's armband looks to be heading Gerrard's way.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Getting Shirty

Not getting a shirt numbered between 1 and 11 isn't cause for any player to throw his shinpads out of the coach window. I doubt any team in this World Cup will start any game with players numbered one to eleven. Nevertheless, here's how the England team numbers up:
1. David James
2. Glen Johnson
3. Ashley Cole
4. Steven Gerrard
5. Rio Ferdinand
6. John Terry
7. Aaron Lennon
8. Frank Lampard
9. Peter Crouch
10. Wayne Rooney
11. Joe Cole
12. Robert Green
13. Stephen Warnock
14. Gareth Barry
15. Matthew Upson
16. James Milner
17. Shaun Wright-Phillips
18. Jamie Carragher
19. Jermain Defoe
20. Ledley King
21. Emile Heskey
22. Michael Carrick
23. Joe Hart

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Comparing squads

I selected my 23 back in April. 17 of them will be on the plane.

I think we're a few players light to have a genuine chance of the trophy. We don't have a nailed on No.1 whom we can rely on between the sticks. We can't afford Ashley Cole to get injured. Lampard is having a penalty-taking crisis right at the wrong time. And Rooney and Defoe are far from on top form.

I'm not going to do any Heskey bashing as I reckon he gives us something up front that no other striker does. And yes, that's probably a defender. But seriously, he provides his fair share of assists.

Wouldn't be surprised if Capello starts with just Rooney up front though...

Panini Sticker Album - Finished

It's done. Possibly the first sticker album I've ever completed. It was fun at first, but it was much more fun when younger. Back then, securing every 50p (or however much it was) to buy a packet was hard work and involved raiding the piggy bank, doing errands, grovelling, or getting a finger trapped in a door and crying until some kind of 'pick-me-up' was proferred.

Now that I'm earning, I could have theoretically waltzed into WH of the Smith and bought a wad of packs and completed the album that way.

Anyway, Walcott's in the England team in the album. And Beckham. As well as Owen I think. I'd be happier if the final two really were on the plane heading south right now. Walcott's time will come.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Yaaayyy. What A Day.

Without doubt the biggest football story of the day is the seeming survival of Crystal Palace. Seems like the bankers saw sense. Well done to the fans who marched from London Bridge to the bank's HQ to make their feelings known. Now I can enjoy the World Cup safe in the knowledge that I'll have a domestic team to support next season. Oh, and here's the England squad.

Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth), Robert Green (West Ham).

Defenders: Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ledley King (Tottenham), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (West Ham), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa).

Midfielders: Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham), James Milner (Aston Villa), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City).

Forwards: Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).