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All Things Footie | Monday, June 3 | Jordan

A World Party?

The most noticeable thing about the 2002 World Cup is the volume level in stadiums holding the best part of 70 000 people — it's like a cross between the prawn suite at Old Trafford and the family enclosure at Millwall. I guess it's because over three quarters of the crowd is made up of Japanese/Korean spectators who insist on being quiet and respectful to the players and officials. Whatever next?

I've also been trying to find the most amusingly named player; so far it's a joint award for Paraguay's Chiqui Arce and Ecuador's Clever Charla. If you notice any more just drop me a line by filling in the contact form. While I'm on the subject of names I think I've spotted a couple of impostors in the Costa Rica squad. Amongst the likes of Paulo Wanchope, Gilberto Martinez and Rolando Fonseca are the suspiciously monikered Harold Wallace and Steven Bryce. Millionaires with a dream of playing the in the World Cup and a direct line to the president of Costa Rica? Who am I to cast such aspersions? If you can shed any light on these nomenclatury anomalies then let me know.

I'm not sure I like ITV's graphics either; all the chromed ovals look a bit early nineties for my tastes. Coupled with their insistence on displaying the team sheet in squad number order it's a struggle to work out who's playing where for some of the less well-known teams. I have to say I approve of the FIFA ruling regarding substitutes, it does remove a difficult part of the manager's job (is that a good or a bad thing?) but it also makes the squad players feel a bit more involved which is nice.

There've been some decent games so far, Denmark vs Uruguay was enjoyable — Everton's Thomas Gravesen tussling with Stig Tofting for man of the match with a cracking performance. Uruguay's goal wasn't bad either. Italy's victory over Ecuador was a decent match too, maybe because I've got money on Christian Vieri for the golden boot. Congratulations to Ireland, coming back from a goal down against a strong Cameroon team to salvage a draw. Roy who?

Monday will be remembered as the day that a real team announced their entry into the competition.


I don't know about looking forward to the England v Argentina game, I just can't wait to see Brazil again. Anyone who had the pleasure of seeing them beat Turkey this morning witnessed the best match of the World Cup so far; and not just because of Brazil's dazzling samba skills. Credit has to be given to Turkey, and particularly Hasan Sas who not only scored a superb volley but — more than once — out brazilled the originators of the art of dazzling the crowd. My only concern was his uncanny resemblance to Mola Ram from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Hasan Sas mola ram

Talking of resemblances, has anyone else noticed that Brazil's forward Ronaldinho looks frighteningly like the Crypt Keeper?

The Cryptkeeper Ronaldinho

It's without a doubt worth noting the contribution that his strike partner, twice FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldo made to the game. A great goal combined with tireless running and the return of that first touch that strikes fear into the heart of Alan Hansen made this one to remember for the man who could eat an apple through a tennis racquet (thanks to Gary Lineker for that one). Ronaldo was — if not quite at his best — certainly on the up after a terrible 4 years spent injured or recovering.

Rivaldo was also impressive, though he spoiled a decent performance by attempting to convince a linesman (2 feet away) that a ball striking his knee caused serious damage to his face. The really incomprehensible thing was how unnecessary it was. Standing at the corner flag waiting for the ball, Hakan Unsal — already on a yellow card — violently kicks it towards him. He's going to be sent off whatever happens, but the Brazillian feels it necessary to grab his face, fall to the ground and writhe around like he's been punched.

Run of the Mills

I suppose I'll have to comment on England's first World Cup game. It's pretty universally acknowledged that a 1-1 draw is a disappointing result, but I'll happily challenge that assumption. In my opinion Sweden were always the team we were going to find it most difficult to beat, their style of play was always going to smother our assets. The tight marking was always going to trouble Owen and Heskey's poor first touch and the speed with which the whole team closed down England was bound to put pressure on any creative force — especially one not quite fit enough.

The underperformance of our big players was the biggest disappointment. In the — encouraging only because of the goal — first half our best players were Hargreaves, Vassell and Ashley Cole and by the end of the game only David Seaman was able to hold his head high. Paul Scholes and Michael Owen were under-par to say the least, most blame the long ball tactics but I suspect that they simply had an off day.

There's no doubting Sven's dodgy tactics were partly to blame, a little naïve playing the long ball game with two forwards under 5 foot 10 playing against a defence of giant Vikings. England would have been much better served keeping the ball low, getting men into the box and using someone out wide who could actually cross a ball (and preferably left footed).

Argentina will be a different animal all together. I actually think we have a better chance of beating them that we did Sweden, as I've said before I think they're over-rated. For that rather controversial comment I promised an explanation and I think it deserves one.

Firstly it's worth mentioning that the defence is easily broken down, especially if England use a combination of pace and cunning (or Michael Owen and Teddy Sheringham as they're otherwise known). Aside from Roma's Walter Samuel the defence is vulnerable or non existent and only Simeone will really track back from the midfield. After his season with Man Utd the English players know Veron well and are aware of his work ethic (or lack of it), which can be exploited so long as we don't give him too much time or space. The same goes for Ariel Ortega, a superb player but quite easily closed out of a physical game.

Batistuta is no longer quite as sharp as he once was and I have the utmost confidence in Sol and Rio keeping him shackled. I believe our biggest problem will be Claudio Lopez who for me has just about everything you'd ask for in a midfielder/striker combo. If Crespo plays then we'll have to be equally wary of his influence but it seems Mario Biesla will start with Batigol.

My personal view is that Sven should re-arrange the formation and exchange the ‘talents’ of Emile Heskey for Teddy Sheringham. Using Scholes, Beckham and Hargreaves in midfield and deploying Sheringham behind Owen and Vassell would give England so many more options and a much better chance of keeping the ball in that vital area just in front of the midfield. I'm not going to chastise Danny Mills too much but it really was not only suicidal but and elemental error to chest the ball down in your own box. Unfortunately I don't think we have another option (so much for a left back problem) as Wes Brown is far too accustomed to playing at centre half now and would be torn to pieces by Lopez on the flank.

Whatever Sven does with the team and whatever the team does for Sven (and the rest of us) good luck to them.


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