Anorak

Anorak | Sick & Tired

Sick & Tired

by | 26th, June 2006

“SICK OF WAITING FOR A SVEN-SATION,” says the Star’s big Cheese Brian Woolnough, or “Woolly” as he is known to his fellow hacks when his immaculate coiffeur appears on the football chat shows.

Woolly is right – England looked tired and their captain was physically sick on the pitch. In this respect, he has now emulated Zinedine Zidane, who once puked up after scoring in the European Championships. In other respects, he is emulating the Zidane of 2006 – a shadow of his former self.

There has been “paper talk” for some time about whether Beckham should keep his place in the team, although nobody believes that Eriksson would ever drop him, despite his protestations that he is “not married” to Becks. They may not be married, but they have been cohabiting for long enough to ensure that the Swede will stick by him in through the rocky times,

The inevitability of Beckham’s presence, and the fact that he did, after all, score the winner for England, has encouraged the press pack to look elsewhere for scapegoats.

John Terry has been earning nothing but praise for the past couple of years, but now he is experiencing the sharp side of the tabloid tongue. He does what all good defenders do when they make mistakes, and holds his hands up (“Terry: I owe you one Ash” – the Star).

Few players receive plaudits. Even Michael Carrick, praised to the skies by the BBC pundits for what Alan Hansen called a “masterclass”, is awarded a paltry 5 in the player ratings in the Telegraph, Times, Guardian, Star and Sun. Only the Mirror gives him a decent mark (7), but that doesn’t look so great when you realise that they gave the same to Lampard, who managed a mere four out of ten in other papers.

Indeed, there is now a debate about whether “Lamps” is worth a place at all. He still gets up and down, thanks to his aerodynamic waxed torso, but where is the end product? Some say he’s getting nearer to scoring all the time; others, that he couldn’t hit Wayne Rooney’s arse with a banjo (nor should he, we hasten to add – that would be precisely the kind of inappropriate behaviour that we are all trying to stamp out).

With five days’ papers to fill before Saturday’s quarter-final, expect the selection debate to run and run. But don’t expect Eriksson to take any notice of it.

One further talking point, entirely of Anorak’s own invention: will there be an acknowledgement of Beckham’s puke after England’s next goal? A vomiting celebration, with the boys doubled-up and retching? Perhaps a more pertinent question is whether there will there be another England goal at all.

Saturday’s opponents are Portugal, who shared 16 yellow cards, four reds, and one goal with Holland last night. There is some ill-advised crowing in The Times about how Portugal will now be without Deco and Costinha (both suspended), and it has been noted that Ronaldo might not be fit after suffering a thigh injury. This is pathetic – what team with aspirations of greatness wants to win by facing weakened opposition? It also shows a dangerous underestimation of Portugal’s strength.

When one of England’s big names is injured there is panic, as nobody believes in the rest of the squad. But Scolari is used to making the most of his players, and his reserves will fit in without a complete overhaul of the system.

The Portugal fixture is billed as a “GRUDGE MATCH” by the Mirror, with Scolari cast as the villain who “snubbed the FA”. Interestingly, in a recent BBC interview with Leonardo, Scolari explained that he had been very interested in the England job, that the Football Association had been very pleasant and done everything by the book, but that he had felt honour-bound to turn them down because they wanted to announce his appointment before his contract with Portugal expired. This, he said, would have put him in an impossible position if Portugal had to play England in the World Cup. He also suggested that he would like to manage England in the future.

The Mirror prefers to ignore this, (presumably because the interview was not with a member of the press corps) and stick to the line that “Big Phil” snubbed the FA (who bungled the negotiations, but are, at the end of the day, “our” bunglers after all).

More plausibly, it is a grudge match for Eriksson in the sense that Scolari has proved to be his nemesis in both his previous tournaments as England boss. Scolari’s Brazil beat England in the quarter-final of the 2002 World Cup, and his Portuguese side beat them in the Euro 2004. And if England play on Saturday the way they did in those two games, then Scolari will beat them again, with or without his big names.

England can undoubtedly beat Portugal, if they play to their potential. Can they raise their game when it counts? Expect five more days of panic before we find out the answer.



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