Football

And now the sport...

I'm becoming increasingly annoyed with sports reporting in the UK. I woke this morning, and heard on the news 'and now the sport'...

What followed was news about the football premiership, the scottish football, some football transfer speculation, something about arsenal, and then the weather.

Anyone would think that nothing else was played. What about the Rugby Union Guinness Premiership? What about the cricket?[*] In Rugby League, Leads have just been crowned world champions. What about the threat to the Tour de France this year? What about Williams and Rosberg?

Whilst football is a sport, sport is not synonymous with football. If you're going to do football news, fine. But don't prefix it with 'and now the sport....'

[*] AKA: The slowest form of animal life. Except Golf.

On to Euro 2008

So, we've finished the World Cup, and on to Euro 2008, beginning with a friendly against Greece. No David Beckham, which isn't too much of a bad thing, he wasn't one of the most inspiring players in the squad in the summer (though he did resign the captaincy with dignity).

John Terry acquited himself well in the summer, memorably clearing a goalbound ball inches from the line.

Greece won't be easy opponents in this friendly, they're the current European champions, a good opponent to start the Euro 2008 campaign, our first match in the qualifying round will be on the 2nd September, which coincidentally marks the start of the English Rugby Union Premiership.

I wonder why they're playing in the reserve strip, when the Greek strip is blue, and wouldn't have clashed with the regular England kit?

Update: John Terry scoring the first goal. What a good start for the new captain.

Update: Four - nil, with a second goal from Frank Lampard and two from Peter Crouch. Why didn't they do this for the world cup?

Ronaldo vs. Valencia

This was sent to me by an email acquaintance:

Pass it on..................

There is a very real danger that Cristiano Ronaldo will be voted the fans' best young player at the World Cup despite his pouting, diving, pretty boy antics designed mainly to get himself a lucrative transfer to Real Madrid and thus avoid the good kicking he deserves from Wayne Rooney at Manchester United training.

He is currently 1st in the FIFA voting just ahead of Luis Valencia of Ecuador. Please can everyone go to:

http://fifaworldcup.yahoo.com/06/en/w/bypa/eligible.html

and do the decent thing by voting for Valencia. It doesn't matter who you support or if you haven't seen them play, just stop Ronaldo.

Takes 30 seconds...You know it makes sense!!!!

Well, we don't want Ronaldo to win, do we?... wink wink....

It's currently 27% Ronaldo, to 25% Valencia, with almost 211000 votes to Ronaldo. Valencia is on 195000, and the next (Messi of Argentina) is on 115000. Theo (why bother going) Walcott is on a statistically insignificant 3000.

Update: The deadline for voting is today (5th July). If you're going to vote, click through now!

Portugal knocks out England

So, Portugal are through at England's expense - though England did play well once Rooney was sent off. This brings with it several questions.

1) Why Theo Walcott? 2) Why don't we get Rooney sent off more often? 3) Finally, Why Theo Walcott?

In all seriousness, though we played well with 10 men, I can't really say it was the wrong result overall. We were unfortunate not to get one or two goals, but then so were Portugal.

I do think Rooney being sent off was the wrong decision (he had tangled legs, I don't think he trod on the guy intentionally). (Update: Admittedly, he did lose his cool - never a good plan, but if memory serves he was being provoked. I'd need to see it again to be sure)

Contrast England's reaction to being knocked out with Argentina's.

Germany vs. Argentina?

For the English supporter, this is a tough call... who do we want to win? Whenever I've asked someone today who they'd prefer to win, the answer has been 'neither'!

We have a history with both (both on and off the field), so we can't just look at that. I think I'd prefer Germany to win, as assuming that England get through (not a safe bet in my opinion), a final against Germany would be preferable to one against Argentina. This is because Argentina have looked the stronger team, and playing Germany at home (and hopefully beating them) would be sweet.

Admittedly, there's another match before the final, so it's possible both could get knocked out.

... and there are still two major obstacles before England has a chance at seeing the final. If we survive Portugal, the last obstacle is Brazil - although admittedly they're no longer as formidable as they once were, they're still fairly scary.

The laws of narrative suggest that an England/Germany final in Germany would be a good end to this world cup. 40 year of hurt and all that. Does the real world run on narrative?

England 1 - Ecuador 0

This was taken prior to the England/Ecuador game

So, England are in the last 8. I remain to be convinced - Beckham's goal was excellent, but it wasn't a convincing win, there were several places where Ecuador could have turned it around.

Once again Sven has said 'we can perform even better'. It'd be nice to see some evidence of this! Yes, it should be hard, but should it be quite so hard against Ecuador?

The next game is either Portugal or Holland. This will be a crunch game (as it should be for a quarter final). I want to believe England will get through, at the moment I'm rather cynical about this. I'm not the only one.

Argentina and Mexico

Argentina and Mexico was a fantastic game, it had everything, talent, drama, dodgy decisions and a fantastic winning goal. There were a couple of potentially (or actual) game changing decisions. First, the referee gave a yellow card to the wrong guy. Secondly, there was a yellow card awarded for a foul when a red was warranted). The ref pointed to another defender saying that he was the last defender... he could not have reached the attacker in time. Thirdly there was a shot on goal (from Mexico, I think) that grazed an Argentinian's outstretched. A goal kick was given, should this have been a corner? This was very subtle though. Finally there was the Argentinian goal disallowed in the closing minute of normal time, this definitely would have affected the game, it would have meant no extra time.... but no wondergoal in extra time.

That linesman must be breathing a sigh of relief that his decision didn't change the result now he's watched the replays!

Dreaming the Impossible Dream

Time for a spot the difference. The first is the original, the second is the modified version which was on TV prior to the England-Sweden game.

I really like this ad, it's supremely silly, it's reminiscent of Evel Knievel, and it's got a nice soundtrack.

Update: The ad is discussed here, along with a comment on the History of Honda and the hidden symbolism in the ad(!)

You have to know something about Honda to "get" this ad. It tells Soichiro Honda's life story symbolically...and it is utterly brilliant. As such, it is the best commercial I have ever seen:
-Soichiro Honda the outsider... the guy living in a trailer by the sea, an outsider.
-Soichiro the grease monkey...this guy looks like a grease monkey.
-The seagull in a nest tending to it's young...His dream in the earliest stages.
-Two Seagulls on the rock....Soichiro and Takeo Fujisawa (Honda's alter-ego)
-He begins his journey with a simple mini-bike...symbolic of the Honda Cub.
-The dogs chasing him as he sings "to fight the unbeatable foe"... the resistance that dogged him from MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) and the Gakubatsu (Japanese old Boys network).
-The sheep moving together as a group... the Japanese culture of group over the individual. Meanwhile, he motors on by in the background on his individual journey past the group. Two horses overlooking the field in the background-...I haven't figured this part out yet.
-The succession of cars and bikes as they progress through advances in developement.
-The boat flying off the waterfall...his death.
-The balloon rising out of the mist, with him singing "to reach for the unreachable stars"...on his way to heaven and still dreaming. A Very Happy ending.
-Underlying the entire commercial is the humor of this guy singing like Andy Williams as he blasts down the road.
Honda had a great sense of humor.

Duncan's TV discusses the England modifications

The Trouserless Dutch

Sponsorship deals have officially gone mad. If one turns up at a world cup game with anything bearing the logo of a competitor to the sponsor, it is denied entry. A Radio 5 Live commentator, for example, had the label ripped off his water bottle.

The is ridiculous, it annoys the individual, and would never be noticed by the TV audience.

Well, 1000 Dutch fans showed up all in orange, and wearing orange trousers which bore the logo of a dutch brewery. As Budweiser sponsor the world cup they were denied entry. The fans promptly removed their trousers and watched the game in their underpants!

This simultaneously highlights the absurdity of the rule (on TV can you really tell what brand an individual's trousers are?) as well as potentially providing publicity for the competitor.

A masterstroke. Well done the Dutch!

FIFA are saying this was an attempt to hijack the marketting - but even if it was, would it really have been noticed by the TV audience? In any event, they also say that they don't care what individual fans wear.... it's conceivable that 1000 fans could decide to wear the same type of orange trousers, it's not as if orange is that common in trousers!

The Dutch beer on the trousers was Bavaria, the beer is reviewed here.

Group B

So, Sweden has won their game. This means that Paraguay is definitely out and playing for glory. Sweden have 4 points in the group, England 6 and Trinidad & Tobago have 1. If T&T beat Paraguay, and England beat Sweden, then T&T could still qualify on goal difference. Should Sweden draw or win, then they go through along with England.

The interesting question is England's strategy. We will play knowing who won group A, so we have to decide whether we want to play to face Germany or Ecuador, whether we just want to play to win, whether we want to use the game to experiment. There's also the recovery cycle - winning the group would give one extra day of preparation time (but one less day to prepare for the quarter finals).

Despite the wins, the performances so far have been pretty poor - so they'll probably have to simply forget the meta-game and play for the win, a momentum building exercise.

One thing's for sure, after seeing Sven standing there mute during the national anthems today it will be interesting to see what he does on tuesday! Will he sing the Swedish anthem?

If we finish in the same position as Brazil does in their group, I think we'd meet them in the semi finals. If we finish in a different position to Brazil it'll be the finals.