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Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Eu amo Brasil!

I have to say I'm not sorry to see Rivaldo miss out on scoring in every game in the World Cup, I have absolutely no time for conmen. On the other hand, you can't stop being astounded by the buck toothed wonder Ronaldo. To top off a magnificent performance in the semi final against Turkey today, the man with a merkin for a haircut scored what must be a contender for goal of the tournament. There's not a team in the competition to match them for skill, pace or sheer audacity and they deserve to be in the position they're in.

The same cannot be said for their opponents on Sunday. I thought Germany were lucky to sneak past South Korea in the other semi yesterday and being fair to them, they're a very poor side. I find it hard to believe the position they're in — one more boring, jammy draw, a penalty shoot out and they're World Champions. Saudi Arabia, a poor Cameroon side, Paraguay, USA and South Korea. It seems thats all you have to beat if you want to be playing in a World Cup Final. Lets hope the our boys from South America give those bloody Germans a proper slapping.

Transfer Natterings

Strong but suspiciously quiet rumours are linking Leicesters (World Cup Semi Finalist) Muzzy Izzet with a move to West Ham. Arsenal are being linked with everyone under the sun;

Ronaldo (I wish)
Edmilson (possibility)
Owen Hargreaves (unlikely but not impossible)
Hasan Sas (doubt it)
Kevin Hofland (probably)
Marc Van Bommel (just get it over with)

Going out of Highbury may be Ljungberg (never going to happen), Ashley Cole (nope) and Martin Keown (maybe). Forgotten 'keeper Alex Manninger will join Espanyol providing the Spanish team don't sign Coventry's Magnus Hedman.

Leeds will have to sell Robbie Keane and Lee Bowyer to keep (financial) hold of Rio Ferdinand. The former is said to be interesting Steve McLaren at Boro, but I find it hard to believe that Irelands star of the World Cup (along with Damien Duff) would take a step down. Jaap Stam has refused a move to Leeds on the basis that he said ages ago he'd never come back to England.

There's talk of Chelsea selling Eidur Gudjonsen as they need the cash, replacing him with a familiar name from Brescia. The divine ponytail Roberto Baggio may be joining the French ponytail at Stamford Bridge — but I doubt it.

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Friday, June 21, 2002

They Think It's All Over…

So I guess we can lose then. I blame Pele. I think it's called a kick up the arse, a jolt back into reality. We all knew that the remarkable form of Danny Mills, Nicky Butt and Trevor Sinclair couldn't last — but why did it have to end now? That isn't the most disappointing thing either. The question I would like to ask is what happened to Paul Scholes? He's been poor throughout England's tournament and he was dreadful today; ‘wait for the big games’ we were told.

The entire midfield (and I am including David Beckham) were below par, particularly Butt and Scholes, and this is where we lost the game. Even with us having an extra man on the pitch Brazil still managed to play keep-away; the older boys at school taunting the first years. In the final half an hour they were able to string 30 passes together before losing posession — which we then offereed straight back to them, usually via a hopeful long ball or over ambitious dribbling.

Even though — by his usual standards — Emile Heskey had a decent game, he was still poor on the ball. For all the hard work he did getting himself into dangerous positions, every time he recieved the ball his touch was so heavy that he could do nothing (useful) with it. Why oh why choose to substitute Michael Owen? Taking our only decent attacking player off was an awful decision from the usually shrewd Sven. There seems to be an extra factor at work, the reluctance to evict Heskey from the field of play is sometimes poderous, more often baffling.

As for the freak goal that won Brazil the game, I really feel for David Seaman. I'm reluctant to attribute too much blame to him, because I don't think that even Ronaldinho meant it. Everyone, the Brazil players, England players, ‘little Ronaldo’ and Seaman, thought a cross was coming in, and the ball couldn't have been dropped any worse for the big man. It just failed to curl; it wasn't until it had reached the edge of the box that anyone realised it was going right in the corner, stroking the crossbar. There was no way he could have reached it without standing right on the line at the post — which any 'keeper will tell you leaves you a little open on the other side! ‘Safe Hands’ will take the blame for England's failure to reach the semis, even though he saved the Argentina game and has been amongst England's best players this tournament.

Lets hope the red tops don't demonise anyone in the team though, because as far as I'm concerned England, you've done us proud. And anyway, at least there weren't any penalties.

And as for this afternoons game, it's a tricky one to decide who to cheer; the American arrogance and ignorance has really got my hackles up,

“I called the team. I know how well they are doing. I'm an American, I love winners”

On the other hand there are our cheery, beer swilling cousins. You know, I may actually be rooting for a German win. There's a little voice I can hear in the distance though…


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Thursday, June 20, 2002


Don't you just love Bulgarian journalists…

“The last time England played [in a World Cup] in a country with a constitutional monarchy and where you drive on the left, they won.”

Coupled with the hosts going out in the first round, three West Ham players in the team (well, squad) and Italy losing to Korea; we just can't fail to win it can we? Everyone looking forward to the final with ze Germans then?

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Thursday, June 20, 2002

We Don't Hwan't You Anymore

The boys at the Oxford English Dictionary have got their erasers out again for a second redefinition of the term sore losers in as many weeks. And this time the reason has nothing to do with Argentina. I've never heard anything like the pathetic, poor sportsmanship of Perugia president Luciano Gaucci who — following Perugia player Ahn Jung-Hwan's golden goal that knocked Italy out of the World Cup — proceeded to sack the Korean star. Dubious defence of the sacking…

“He was a phenomenon only when he played against Italy. I am a nationalist and I regard such behaviour not only as an affront to Italian pride but also an offence to a country which two years ago opened its doors to him.”

“I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian soccer.”

If it wasn't a mans job it would be hilarious.

The Big Match

Owen's fit, Lucio's injured (pleeeeease). Everyone in the England camp are certainly up for it, Brazil are overconfident? I'm convinced we'll beat them and I'm the most pessimistic of fans. Wouldn't you just love it.

If you want to try and make a bit of money out of it then check out Sporting Odds betting offers. Theres some decent bets on offer, including 3/1 on a direct free kick being scored 8/1 on Ashley Cole being first booked player (Cafu plus a tendacy to dive in equals decent bet!) and 7/4 on a goal scored from outside the box. Theres also an offer of two free bets if you're a new client.

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Monday, June 17, 2002

Bring on the Samba

After watching Brazils very average performance this afternoon I have to say I'm looking forward to Friday. If we keep it tight at the back and have the confidence to attack the South Americans I'm going to go as far as to say we will win. England have nothing to fear from Brazil. There's no doubt that they have quality all over the pitch and will create chances, England however have a strong defence, the best 'keeper in the competition and a midfield that I think just shades Brazil's. The key for our boys is work rate; Belgium demonstrated today that putting the wind up them will get you a long way (and to be fair to them, I thought the Belgians deserved something from the game). If we can hold on to the ball for a while and run at the back line then we stand more than an even chance of causing an upset.

Poor old Ireland. They deserved to win, they should have won, but at least it was an honourable — if painful — defeat. The only thing that really struck me about yesterday's game was the spirit with which it was played. By this I am not referring to the mythical and patronising ‘Irish Spirit’ or anything made in a distillery. I'm talking about the sheer good naturedness of the match, players of opposing sides helping each other off the floor, virtually no complaining to the referee and a real feel that the game was being played for the entertainment and enjoyment of the players and fans.

Games that are a tight as that usually descend into petty complaints, bad tempered challenges and a general antipathy towards opponents. To see the Spanish players mingle with Ireland after the penalty shootout, commiserating their opponents with dignity and genuine emotions was a wonderful sight, and in-keeping with the spirit of the World Cup. It's just a shame there had to be a winner. One thing is for certain though, all the players can come home with the head held a lot higher than one Roy Keane. Three words — Better. Off. Without.

Going [Seneg]all the Way?

Definitely my favourite team excepting England, Senegal have really impressed me so far. I always though they would do well, but I think they must even have surprised themselves (despite unanimous claims to the contrary). Well organised, talented, passionate and determined they deserve everything they get from this World Cup, and I feel a semi final place against England beckoning. Apart from El-Hadji Dioufs increasingly prevalent habit of falling over a bit easily, the team are a delight to watch and a credit to the game. I think Birmingham have bought a star in Aliou Cisse and I predict big things for Khalilou Fadiga and Henri Camara.

A Request

It's worth mentioning the USAs progression into the final 8; as not many people thought they'd make it into the second round, let alone the quarter finals. A comprehensive victory over Mexico this morning saw the land of the free progress in a match marred by some hideous challenges in the last quarter of an hour. The question I have is this — are there any Americans out there who give a damn? If you were up at god knows what hour in the morning to watch your team see off the enemy from the south then get in touch and let me know about it. Were you the only person in a hundred mile radius that watched it? Are all American ‘soccer’ fans girls? Just how much do the media care about it? Did it even make the national news? please send any stories to [email protected] I'll only be more than happy to hear from you!

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Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Adios Muchachos

Dont you just love it? Argentina, France — if only Germany could have been knocked out yesterday the set would be complete. For anyone who had a lie in and missed the game (shame on you) there wasn't a lot to miss; Paul Scholes hit a scorcher in the first half which was tipped wide, that's about it. Rio Ferdinand and David Seaman were outstanding again but the rest of the team couldn't have looked less bothered.

It does seem that England need a good 20 minutes of solid posession before even threatening a goal, something that will not help us if we reach the quarter finals — our likely opponents? Brazil. The team for whom retaining posession is easier than keeping goal against Saudi Arabia will make it nigh on impossible for England to mount any period of concerted attacting effort. I'm not worried about any attacking players facing us, as far as I'm concerned we have the best defence in the competition, the only real challengers for the crown being Sweden and Italy (and even the Italians have looked a bit dodgy at the back). It's going forward where we need to improve our efficiency, a problem not helped by the continual presence of Emile Heskey.

It's all very well saying ‘he's the perfect foil for Owen’ but what if Owen's having a bad day? He's had three so far and we could really do with an alternative method of attack on the front line. Teddy Sheringham has proven that he can be a threat, he would also help us retain the ball; dropping deep and linking midfield and attack. Darius Vassell is another noteworthy option, providing England with even more pace and flair up front. More importantly than that Vassell really seems to want it, within 2 minutes of being on the pitch today he'd skinned two Nigerians. Pace and a willingness to run at players scares the life out of most defenders, a big lad with a poor first touch who spends most of his time facing his own players doesn't.

I've just noticed on an old post that a comment was left (at the end of the post) by someone calling themselves Henrik Larsson. I realise that it is most probably some one having a laugh but… they've gone to the trouble of finding Larssons e-mail address and including the celtic website. It was also posted at 2:37 GMT which would be about 10:37 in Japan/Korea. Also why choose Henrik Larsson? seems a bit strange. I therefore am entertaining the (very slim) possibility that is was actually Henrik Larsson that left the comment, if it was could you get in touch and confirm please!! I know this is an open invitation to all practical jokers but it's worth a try. If you're watching Henrik well done, see you in the Semi Final.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2002

The Losers, Go Home! Bye Bye!

It all started on the 2nd June and Les Bleus have not recovered — time to find some French people and avenge the gloating from 1998. Were the World and European champions lacking in motivation? maybe. There's little doubt that tactically Roger Lemerre made some consiederable blunders. The decision to start the first game with LeBouef and Djorkaeff was certainly based more on reputation than form and the reluctance to use young players certainly let him down. With Henry suspended today I can't believe that Djibril Cisse didn't start the game. Constantly tinkering with the team has let him down too, Petit, Makelele, Djorkaeff, Micoud — make you mind up!

After Brazil and Italy, Senegal have been the most enjoyable team to watch in my opinion. They'll certainly give England a run for theire money if we manage to win our group. I'm not sure whether I'd rather meet Denmark or the African team, I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing though. Denmark seem to be more consistent over 90 minutes and John Dahl Tomasson is certainly a threat but Senegal have more raw talent and may either be…

a) more motivated, being the smaller nation and such or
b) quite chuffed at making the second round and just along for the ride.

Whoever England play I have to say I'm confident that we can progress to the quarter finals and who knows, maybe further.

To celebrate the dumping of our Gallic cousins out of the competition, I've finally finished orgainising the all things footie world cup wallpapers. Check out the stuff page for details on downloading and thumbnails of the desktops.

Just a quick word to wish Ireland luck against Saudi Arabia this afternoon, and don't forget to set your alarm clocks bright and early for the England Nigeria game at 7:30 tomorrow morning.

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Sunday, June 09, 2002


England 1 — 0 Argentina

Ungracious winners, bad losers — shove that up your collective arses you arrogant, self important tossers.

Don't cry, don't cry Argentina,
the truth is you're f*cking useless.
You always have been,
you always will be,
we f*cking hate you;
you Argie b*stards.

Well played everyone (in red). Sol, Rio and Ashley were magnificent. I'm in the process of taking back a lot of the things I've said about Nicky Butt and Trevor Sinclair deserves an apology from me too. Brilliant lads, keep it up and we'll lift the trophy. If you fancy cheering yourselves up with a bit of cash take a look at SportingOdds promotion for the Nigeria game, place a £5 bet on any World Cup match and they'll give you £5 for every goal England score against Nigeria (for new registrants only). Just click on the banner on the right to register.

I've got to say a few words on a couple of games form the past two days. Firstly Italy deserved everything they got losing to Croatia. Don't get me wrong, I thought the Italians were the better side, but any team who plays that negatively deserves to get caught out in the last half an hour. Brazil are just looking better and better, my tip for the player of the tournament — Ronaldo — is looking to do me proud; sharp, tricky and close to his best. Cafu was superb yesterday, he and Roberto Carlos must be simply terrifying to play against. Rivaldo was stunning too as was the new midfield recruit Rivelinho (who'd walk into any other side in the World Cup and he was a last minute call up to replace the injured Emerson).

A word of praise for Japan's superb performance today against Russia. Arsenal are going to do well to hold on to Jun-Ichi Inamoto after two marvellous midfield displays and the masked centre half Tsuneyasu Miyamoto excelled himself. I wouldn't be surprised if he's plying his trade in Europe next season, anothre couple to look out for are the left back Koji Nakata and flame haired midfielder Kazuyuki Toda. Just a tip.

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Monday, June 03, 2002

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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