Anorak News | The Plot Thickens

The Plot Thickens

by | 21st, June 2006

YESTERDAY we suggested that Sven Goran Eriksson is in fact an agent working on behalf of an international conspiracy to eliminate England from international competitions. We said we would be watching the Sweden match closely for signs of positive effort by England’s players, and more importantly, their manager.

We didn’t have to wait long to have our suspicions confirmed. A minute into the game, Eriksson’s boffins activated the telescopic studs fitted to Michael Owen’s boots. These gripped the turf like claws, causing the fun-size striker to twist his knee and collapse in agony. As he fell, the studs instantly retracted, preventing the TV cameras from revealing the ruse.

“OW-NO,” says the Star, above a picture of the crocked goal-machine. “Sven’s striker chaos as Toon ace is KO’d.” Sven could hardly contain his delight when asked his opinion afterwards. “I don’t know which knee it is – his right or his left,” admitted the beaming Conspirator-in-Chief. “But whichever one it is, it is not good.”

Eriksson’s squad selection baffled those observers who were not aware of the conspiracy. It included two injured strikers plus Theo Walcott, who won his place in the squad in a sponsors’ competition for children. (When asked about the prospect of Walcott playing, Sven always reacts as if the questioner is mad, and says that the lad is not ready to play in a World Cup.)

Once Jermain Defoe had been sent home, it left Peter Crouch as the only experienced, fully fit striker. Owen’s latest injury and Rooney’s lack of match-fitness now leave England’s attack looking threadbare.

Once Owen had been carried off, England got on with the serious backs-to-the-wall business of scrapping for a plucky draw against a team they have not beaten since the days when Alf’s boys were reigning world champions. It was a heroic peformance, but not without casualties: Rooney off in a tantrum after tiring in the second half, and Rio Ferdinand withdrawn after suffering a groin injury.

When England drew their opening match 0-0 in 1966, Alf Ramsey reassured his players that if they kept a clean sheet throughout the tournament, they would win it. In this tournament too, England fans have consoled themselves with the thought that however badly the team plays, they are keeping clean sheets.

But now the full extent of Sven’s plan becomes apparent. What with all the furore surrounding the strikers, nobody has been paying much attention to the defensive foundations. Perhaps it’s time we did. Half the back four (Ferdinand and Neville) is now injured. Cole and Campbell are not really back to their best after injury. And the previously rock-solid Terry and Robinson both had poor games yesterday. In the words of the Sun’s Shaun Custis, “it looks like we have forgotten to defend as well judging by the second-half shambles.”

As well as conceding two goals, the England bar was struck twice, a shot was cleared off the line, and there was a good shout for a Swedish penalty. “WOE DE COLOGNE,” announces the paper’s back page, and for once this is not mere hype.

But every cloud has a silver lining, and the Mirror has found it. “JOE DE COLOGNE,” it grins, referring to the one England player who showed true class yesterday. It describes Cole’s volleyed goal as “stunning”, and this too is no exaggeration. The paper shines as a beacon of optimism amidst the doom and gloom, and even goes so far as to plot “ENGLAND’S ROUTE TO THE FINAL” on the back page.

That route begins on Sunday, and by tomorrow the England media bandwagon will be up and rolling again, and looking past the group of 16 to the quarter-finals. So before all perspective is lost, it is worth noting a small story about the Ecuador match, headed: “We’ve got nothing to worry about.” The Sun quotes Ecuador’s Aston Villa defender Ulises de la Cruz, who says: “I don’t see any reason why we can’t carry on with a shock against England.”

He may well be proved right – especially if Sven’s exit strategy is also timed for 25 June. But he is wrong in one detail: it takes more than a last-sixteen defeat to shock us, senor.   

Posted: 21st, June 2006 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink