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Back pages | Anorak - Part 69

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Premier League news. Stories from the newspapers and BBC sport – sports news from tabloids Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star, the Guardian, Daily Mirror, the times, daily telegraph

Roo-in The Day

“SORRY!” So says the headline in the News Of The World. “Sven apologises after penalty heartbreak.”

But what is Sven apologising for? Surely penalties are in the laps of the gods. They are more about luck then skill and know-how. Should Sven be saying sorry for that?

Or should he be saying sorry for what the Times’s Hugh McIlvanney calls “dishevelling England’s World Cup challenge”; for moulding talented individuals into a perfunctory, non-scoring team; for making England dull, their reputation lest damaged by the drama of penalties than saved by it – at least the penalties were exciting.

But it is no use guessing what Sven is thinking. If his lover Nancy Dell ‘Olio doesn’t know what’s on his mind, what hope do we have?

So here’s Sven: “We lost on penalties and I am really sorry about it.” He continues: “We are out of the tournament and it hurts incredibly. It’s very painful.”

He goes on to say that the quality of his squad was so good that the team should have made it to the final. Curse those penalties. Forget the fact that they were poorly struck, and that England failed to score a goal in two hours of open play. And curse those penalties.

And curse Wayne Rooney. “NUTS!” says the Mirror’s headline. And there’s a picture of idiotic Wayne planting his boot into the tender parts of Ricardo Carvalho’s groin.

But wait a moment. Rooney is not as brainless as he appears. You see, stamping on someone as they lie on the ground is not his fault. We should blame that dastardly Portugal winger Ronaldo, Rooney’s team-mate are Manchester United.

“Ronaldo was goading Wayne before the game and said he was going to get him sent off,” says an England player. This sounds bad. Rooney was actually warned that he would be targeted. His actions now look even more stupid than they did before. And who would have believed that possible?

And then there are Rooney’s team-mates. Steven Gerrard says: “He won’t get any blame from me.” Frank Lampard says: “I am sure it was a foul on Wayne in the first place.”

And dear old Sven says: “I saw what happened with Rooney on a small TV screen and I need to see it again before I can have any more ideas about it.”

So, you see. Sven should not apologise about producing an ordinary team. And Wayne must not feel guilty about scuppering so much hope by kicking someone in the knackers. It was not their fault. It was just cheating foreigners and bad luck…

Posted: 2nd, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


This Is War

Winners

This isn’t football, this is war. Portugal is England’s oldest ally but it counts for nothing in the World Cup. Squaddies based at a British military base have been driving past the Portugal team’s hotel late at night honking their horns and generally making us much noise as possible.

“You can still smell the grass,” says the advertising blurb. “Which stadium you like, I can give you its air.” Chinese entrepreneur Li Jie is trying to cash in on his country’s love of football by selling bags of genuine World Cup air.

Ronaldinho gets in the mood by playing bongo drums on the team bus. Gilberto Silva is on guitar and Robinho provides the vocals.

Want to take Jurgen Klinsmann home with you? Now you can. Figurines of the German coach have been selling fast. Sold by the German FA, these statuettes are: “Absolutely lifelike and amazingly true to life”. And yours for €14.50.

Losers

The Germans are trying to make friends, right? Someone should tell newspaper Der Spiegle which called the Italian team “oiled up and greasy”. The article was late withdrawn.

The biggest team in the world Cup have been Australia. In a study comparing teams at the two World Cups to be staged in Germany (1974 and 2006), Australian had grown the most. In 1974 the average Australian player weighed 165lb and stood at 5ft 10½ in. Today’s Socceroo is 179lb and 6ft 1in.

And Goleo, the World Cup mascot, has been banned from making an appearance at a German school because he is naked from the waist down.

Posted: 1st, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Winning Ugly

Quotes Of The Day

“I am unconcerned. If they play poorly all the way to the semi-final and final nobody will give a damn if they finish up winning the World Cup” – Geoff Hurst forgets the beautiful game

“I get tense, especially when you arrive at the stadium. You arrive 1½ hours before and there’s nothing to do. You can’t speak for one hour to the players. So you sit there drinking tea and things like that” – Sven Goran Eriksson whips the lads into a frenzy

“For two or three days I did think about retirement” – Graham Poll. So which is it Graham, two or three?

Puns Of The Day

“You country needs Roo” (Times) – Rooney is ready for battle

“Our country needs Roo!” (Mirror) – Rooney is even more ready

“We’ll be in this till the very Svend (Mirror) – Sven says England will win

“Raise the Roof” (Mirror) – England fans get behind the team

“Phil’s highland sting” (Mail) – Scolari draws his inspiration from William Wallace

“Germany spot on for glory” (Mail) – You know win on you know what

“Germany hit the spot yet again” (Times) – Yes they did

Posted: 1st, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment (1)


Germany Defeated!

HAS a football supplement carried a more suitable name than the Mirror’s “FOOTBALL MANIA”? We think not.

A look at the front page shows a picture of Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scoalri (left) and Gene Hackman (right).

“Gene Hackman lookalike Scolari went Behind Enemy Lines to have “The Conversation” with the FA. They asked him to join The Firm. He said no, became an Enemy of the State and now he’s Unforgiven, but we’ve got Sven, who’s a Superman II. There’s No Way Out (Maybe you should have taken the Missus shopping down French Connection instead).”

All very good. But this is a headline of two halves. It begins well but runs out of steam under closer scrutiny.

But as long as Scolari doesn’t exert Absolute Power over Sven, get the Split Decisions to go his way, deploy The Replacements for the banned Deco and Costinha to maximum effect and become England’s Heartbreakers, things should go just fine.

Better had the Mirror just stuck with the tried and tested war theme that runs like a thin red line throughout just about everything England do. “Your country needs Roo,” says the cover of the Time’s The Game section.

Wayne Rooney points his finger at us all, a freckle-faced version of Lord Kitchener of Khartoum.

The Times says Rooney is “fired up” to take on Portugal. And that’s good – unless Rooney uses the fires that burn within to blow his top.

Mistakes can be made in the heat of battle. And so we read in the Mail of newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky’s gaff.

At six o’clock last night, Natasha’s “big news” was that Germany had been knocked out of the World Cup. Hurrah! On penalties. Hurrah!!

But breaking news just in told Natasha that the Germans had not been defeated. Nein!!! “No, I’m sorry,” said Natasha, “that is not the news at all.”

Were Lord Kitchener still recruiting for the fight we would suggest that Natasha pop along to her local Army office and enlist.

These are times of rare tension and we do not need her sort among us. Careless talk is dangerous.

Posted: 1st, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


The Didier Man

Wigan have offered Blackburn Rovers a player and money for Robbie Savage (Times)

Tottenham have signed Ivory Coast midfielder Didier Zakora (Mirror)

No sooner had Argentina been knocked out of the shop windrow that is the World Cup than Chelsea put Hernan Crespo up for sale (Mirror)

Anyone wanting to buy Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt will have to pay £14m (Sun)

Liverpool are interested in Birmingham’s Jermaine Pennant (Mail)

Rupert Lowe has stepped down as chairman of Southampton (Mirror)

West Ham have signed Chelsea’s Carlton Cole and Charlton defender Luke Young (Mirror)

Posted: 1st, July 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Adding Insult To Injury

Winners

"I took a woodcarving course and someone asked me if I had tried carving melons – and when I tried it – they came out really good." So says 64-year-old Amrat Parmar from Leicester. He has shaped melons to look like David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard. He displays his art in local pubs.

Sven Goran Eriksson is set to make another fortune from his time with England. Reports say the Swede wants £2million to tell the story of his life as England coach – the rows, the girls, and maybe a little about the football.

In a bid to get his players fired up for their match against England, Portugal manager Luiz Felipe Scolari plans to insults their mums.

They may have failed to get their man in the real world but in the world of fantasy Ronaldinho is a Manchester United player. Reports say that the Brazilian striker chooses to play as Manchester United in computer games with his team-mates.

A punter walked into a branch of William Hill’s bookmakers with £50,000 in a Fortnum and Mason’s hamper and put the lot on England. It took staff 30 minutes to count the money. And the next day he returned with another hamper full of another £50,000.

Wendy Hodson was so inspired by Steven Gerrard’s goal against Sweden she named her newborn son after the Liverpool player. No, not Steven – Gerrard.

Uses for Ronaldinho’s teeth No.12: bottle opener. A woman from Bournemouth, Doest, has fashioned a Roaldinho bottle opener (the RonaldinOpener), complete with ponytail, No.10 shirt and white boots.

Losers

It’s not easy getting a ticket for the World Cup. But you might have more a chance if you are in a wheelchair. Three Argentina fans were so eager to see their team play Holland that they obtained a wheelchair each and gained access to the disabled area. Problem was that when Argentina hit the post, they got overexcited and jumped up. A miracle!

James Curtis was delighted to be best man at his friend Alex Seal’s wedding – until he realised the do clashes with England’s match against Portugal. So he put his place up for auction on an Internet website. “I couldn’t believe it,” says bride-to-be Stephanie Monk, who has now persuaded Curtis to honour his vows.

When Victoria Beckham flew back to London to get her hair done, she travelled by budget airline Ryanair, and in the company of her mini-me Cheryl Tweedy. But reports say she did less than mingle with other travellers. Although the airline has a no reserve seating policy, the Wags were taken to their front-row seats on their own bus.

Posted: 30th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


The Daddy Of All Pep Talks

Quotes Of The Day

“You have to eat sensibly, drink sensibly – I mean water! – train hard and go to bed early” – Eric Cantona forgets to mention the seagulls in his recipe for footballing greatness

It’s my “Ecuadorian tattoo” – Owen Hargreaves shows off the nine-inch wound left in his leg by Ecuador’s Agustin Delgado

“Klinsmann’s decision was something I had to swallow. But I had to accept it because I realised I had another function – to contribute my wealth of experience in a different way. I’m growing into my new role as team motivator” – Germany’s Oliver Khan stops sulking and starts waving the pom-poms

“I am tooting my car horn for a bunch of thieves” – An Italy fans is unsure how to react to Italy’s victory over Australia

“Don’t tell me I don’t know what to do. I know exactly what to do” – Sven tells his critics that despite appearances to the contrary he does have a clue

“Maybe he hasn’t been told some French are black” – France’s Lilian Thuram responds to far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen’s comment there are too many non-whites in the French team

“I am happy that play is offensive – the only exception is England, who fielded just one striker in their second round match. That is not the kind of offensive football we would expect from a title contender” – Fifa president Sepp Blatter turns coach

Puns Of The Day

“Winstone Churchill” (Mirror) – Actor Ray Winstone gives the team the daddy of all pep talks

“Ray’s your game” (Sun) –Ray Winstone is still talking

“Becksy beast” (Sun) – Winstone starred in the movie Sexy Beast

“History Beckons” (Mirror) – England’s skipper dreams of being a hero

“You’ll cry Argentina” (Mirror) – Jurgen Klinsmann says German will win their quarter-final

“Maradona to suffer in the crying game” (Times) – More on those tears

“Nice little Hern-er” (Star) – Tipster says back Argentina’s Hernan Crespo to score first

Posted: 30th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Taking Michael

England’s Sol Campbell has negotiated a move to Portsmouth (Express)

Portugal’s Phil Scolari is favourite to become Real Madrid’s next coach (Sun)

Manchester United will off Tottenham more then £15million for Michael Carrick (Times)

Lorenzo Sanz, the Real Madrid presidential candidate, says he will sign Carrick if he is elected (Times)

Alex Ferguson says Ronaldo is not leaving the club (Mail)

Fabio Aurelio of Valencia is on his way to Liverpool (Times)

Chelsea’s Carlton Cole will sign for West Ham in a deal worth £2m (Mail)

West Ham are closing in on Charlton’s Luke Young (Times)

Charlton’sChris Powell is to join Watford on loan (Sun)

Liverpool are interested in Hatem Trabelsi and Dirk Kuyt (Express)

Blackburn want ‘fox in the box’ striker Francis Jeffers, who was on his way to Coventry (Mirror)

Posted: 30th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


He’s The Daddy Now

“SHUT it Blatter,” warns the Sun, following the FIFA president’s comments about the England team, whom he has branded “boring”, according to the paper’s interpretation of his latest remarks. “I am happy that the play at this World Cup has been very attacking,” declared the big Swiss cheese. “The only exception is England.”

True enough, of course – although he appears to have overlooked his own country’s 0-0 bore-draw against Ukraine, in which the Swiss achieved the remarkable feat of failing to score during the penalty shoot-out.

So England will face their crucial game with the criticism of the tournament’s boss ringing in their ears. And that’s not the end of it. The paper reports that match referee Horacio Elizondo (who is an “Argie” and a “poetry-writing PE teacher”) has now jumped on the bandwagon.

“England will play with one or two touches at first, then they’ll quickly hit the ball long upfield,” he predicts. “Portugal play it more on the deck. There is more technique to their game and it is more like Argentina’s.”

That final remark sounds like trouble, and when you are in trouble you need someone to help you. In the AA ads, there’s always a “very nice man” who comes to the rescue. Graham Poll was recently described as a nice man by none other than England captain David Beckham. He’s a FIFA referee, so perhaps he could return Beckham’s favour and say something complimentary about the team formerly known as England but now called “Team England”.

The problem with this is that it’s not really the best time to be asking Graham Poll for a favour, as he’s got a few problems of his own. “Poll quits after his nightmare,” announces the Mirror, referring to both the fiasco of the Australia v Croatia match and the subsequent “living nightmare” that Poll has suffered ever since. The paper says that Poll has “announced his decision to never again officiate in a major international”, although it his hard to imagine his being asked to do so after blotting his copybook in such a spectacular fashion.

“I got it wrong and I am sorry,” says the man who gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “three strikes and you’re out”. Don’t worry, Graham, before long you’ll be telling the story on the after-dinner circuit and everyone will love you for it.

There will be a less forgiving attitude to the England team if they cock things up, and the FA seems to be aware of this. The Mirror reports that in a bid to boost morale, the bigwigs have invited “the celebrity face of their Altogethernow campaign” to record a motivational speech for the players. And who is the celebrity in question? Here’s a clue. “Get some coal dust on them bruises, you black *******.” No, it’s not Robbie Williams. Here’s another one. “I’m the daddy now! Next time, I’ll ****in’ kill ya!”

Yes, that’s right, it’s Ray Winstone – or “Winstone Churchill”, as the Mirror’s headline has it. Ray visited the training camp and met the players, with whom he is pictured wearing a red England shirt that must be an XXXXL at the very least.

Beer and beef famously give a man shape, and Winstone looks every inch a 21st century John Bull. And will his speech rise to the occasion? “It’s mainly Ray’s own thoughts,” reveals an FA source, “but he’s thrown in a bit of Churchill and Henry V as well, to make it really rousing.”

We are not told what Ray’s thoughts will be, although he is likely to avoid anything controversial while wearing his FA hat. Seasoned observers will be hoping they are more effective than a similar Churchill ‘n’ Shakespeare tape that was played to the England cricket team during their Ashes defeats of the 1990s.

Altogethernow: Cry God for Harry, England, St George and their long balls!

Posted: 30th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Politics & Football

Quotes Of The Day

“It is a tough job. They get paid peanuts compared with the players who spend so much of their time abusing them, tricking then, and generally making their life difficult” – Alastair Campbell on football referees, or is he talking about the electorate?

“We want him to do some nice publicity shots and get injured in training” – Asda’s Nick Agarwal wants Luis Figo to represent the supermarket chain, which signed Rooney, who got injured, and then Owen, who returned home on crutches. They hope the jinx hits Portugal’s star player.

“They won’t lose us the World Cup” – Joe Cole says the Wags are just fine

“I believe there is a conspiracy to divert the attention of Muslim youth to an unproductive exercise” – Sattar Pathallur, of the Sunni Students Federation, India, worries about the effects of too much World Cup.

“Knowing they were there made it easier” – Italy’s Francesco Totti is thankful that his wife and son were in the stands when he took that penalty against Australia

Puns Of The Day

“I can take kicks to route ‘66” (Sun) – Rooney can take whatever the Portuguese dish out

“Posh’s airdo” (Sun) – Queen of the Wags Victoria Beckham has her hair done

”Das Sulk” (Mirror) – Germany’s Oliver Khan is upset he isn’t his country’s first choice goalkeeper

“Roo can roar me to glory” (Star) – Fans are England’s 12th man

“So who is up for the after eights?” (Mirror) – Which teams will go through to the last four?

Posted: 29th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Keep It Real, Madrid

Spurs will finally secure the services of Ivory Coasts’s Didier Zokora from St Etienne for around £5.7m (Independent)

Benfica have invited Liverpool to make a revised bid for Portugal’s Simao Sabrosa (Mirror)

Tony Adams is the new assistant manager at Portsmouth (Mirror)

Chelsea’s Glen Johnson has joined Portsmouth on loan (Mirror)

Atletico Madrid say Fernando Torres is for sale to anyone who can afford the £41.4m price tag (Sun)

Portsmouth are still in the hunt for Celtic midfielder Stilian Petrov (Independent)

Crystal Palace will sign Hull’s Leon Cort for £1.2m (Mail)

Ghana’s Sulley Muntari says Bolton want him (Mirror)

Ian Holloway is the new boss at Plymouth (Mirror)

Posted: 29th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Swapping Shirts

Winners

We’ve seen the countless shots of attractive females in the crowd. But one fan has been inducing women at the games to go further. Claiming to be from an adult TV station, he has persuaded many women at World Cup venues to take their tops off for his camera. He has yet to catch up with the Wags.

A fan bought World Cup winner George Cohen’s shirt – the one he wore in the 1966 final – for £38,400 at auction.

Pensioner Lucy Smith, aged 80, has decorated her Stannah stairlift with the cross of St George.

Losers

German broadcasters are threatening to prosecute any fans coming up behind their presenters and mooning. Even if the presenters are talking out of their…

German breweries are warning that the country could run out of beer. And England fans are to blame. In Nuremberg, 70,000 England fans quaffed 1.2million pints of beer – an average of 17 pints each!

Hampshire Fire and Rescue service has banned crews from flying the England flag on their engines. “We just want to support our country in the World Cup,” says one fireman.

Poor old Switzerland. When they lost on penalties to Ukraine, they became the fist country to be knocked out of the World Cup Finals without conceding a goal in normal time. They also became the first team to miss all their penalties in a shoot-out.

Posted: 29th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Fatal Distraction

TWO weeks ago, Tim Henman said that he enjoys playing at Wimbledon during the World Cup because it’s “a fun distraction for both the public and myself”.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and Tim’s good thing ended yesterday with a straight-sets defeat to Roger Federer. The Times reports that, when asked if he felt compassion for Henman, Federer replied that he did not.
Tennis correspondent Neil Harman’s verdict is straight to the point: “This is a brutal sport and Tim had just been brutalised.” Perhaps the paper will itself now show some compassion, and do what we at Anorak have been asking for years: change its name to “The Tims” during next year’s tournament in honour of this great servant of the game.

So now we are left with just the “fun distraction” – a football tournament in a far-off land. But the spirit of Henmania lives on. Alan Ball has already compared the England fans in Germany to the good folk of Henman Hill, and if they can muster a quarter of the energy and enthusiasm of the Wimbledon mob, then they can surely will the boys on to score a goal or two.

Wayne Rooney certainly thinks so. “Sing and we’ll win it – Wayne,” announces the Star. Well, we all know football is a simple game, but we didn’t know it was that simple. “It’s brilliant when the fans are right behind you,” says the man they call Roo (and sometimes, inexplicably Wazza). And who knows, he could be right: if the English army makes enough noise, it could indeed become the proverbial “12th man”.

An extra man would even things up a bit, because it looks like the Portuguese have already got theirs – and he’ll be on the pitch with a whistle. “England get Beckham’s red-card ref” warns the Mirror. But which red-card ref they mean? No, don’t worry, it’s not THAT one. But it’s still pretty bad. Saturday’s official turns out to be one Horacio Elizondo, who is not only an “Argie who writes romantic poetry” (the Sun), but also the man who had the temerity to send Becks off during Manchester United’s World Championship campaign in Brazil. (He later appeared to give Alex Ferguson a red card too, although he might possibly have been holding a small mirror in front of the fiery Scot’s florid face in order to alert him to an impending heart attack.)

Never mind, even if it is twelve-a-side on Saturday, at least we’re all square. Or are we? Let’s not forget that both managers will be on the same side too. As we have pointed out before, the much-hyped battle between Big Phil Scolari and Sven Goran Eriksson is just a smokescreen behind which the Swede can hide his plot to sabotage the England team for the third tournament in a row.

The Independent alludes to the fiendish scheme, reporting how Eriksson insists that “the tournament is unfolding according to plan”. Old Mr Anorak has been warning about this for weeks, of course, but many people dismissed his theory as the ravings of a senile fool. Surely they will now admit that he was right all along.

As the day of Eriksson’s retirement approaches, he has been dropping increasingly blatant hints about his true intentions. “Don’t tell me that I don’t know what to do,” he hissed at yesterday’s press conference. “I know exactly what to do.”

At this point the room fell silent. The hacks looked at one another. Had their ears deceived them? Then a thin smile appeared on the suave Swede’s face. He giggled quietly for a few seconds before composing himself and returning to his secret headquarters in an abandoned mineshaft three miles east of Gelsenkirchen.

Laughter echoed around its deep walls long into the night.

Posted: 29th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Flat-Pack Bullies

Winners

Germany supporters displayed something approaching comedy when they taunted their Swedish opponents when the teams met. “You’re just a furniture supplier,” they chimed. The Swedish reply is not known, although rumours are that it will arrive in a flat-pack cardboard box within the next 28 days.

The door Zinedine Zidane kicked in anger when he was substituted during France’s 1-1 with South Korea is to be preserved for the nation. Winfried Lonzen, the stadium director in Leipzig, says: “We will keep it deformed by a kick from one of the greatest ever footballers.”

The 15 "fan fests" in Germany are making loadsa money on water. Half a litre of water costs £2.40, 20 pence more than for the same amount of beer.

Losers

Germany’s Christoph Melzelder, who plies his trade for Borussia Dortmund, says he will not shave until Germany are knocked out. The final is on July 9.

More news from north of the border, where some sad Scots are desperate to spoil the World Cup for local England supporters. Englishman Alexander Clark was upset to return home and find the England flags he’d hung on his house removed. They had been dumped at a bus stop close to his home. “I get a bit of banter, but no one has gone this far before,” says the cleaner, who has lived in Scotland for 20 years.

Of the 500 England fans detained in Stuttgart, 129 have been banned from travelling to Gelsenkirchen for the quarter-final. As a police spokeswoman explains: “The ban covers the city, fan-fest and stadium.”

The new team manager of Italy’s biggest club, Juventus, is thought to have jumped from the roof of his office. Former Italy player Gianluca Pessotto, 35, ‘fell’ from the roof holding rosary beads in his hands. The news comes just four days after Juve were charged with match fixing.

Posted: 28th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


A Family United

The Glazer family wants Sir Alex Ferguson to kiss and make up with striker Ruud van Nistelrooy (Sun)

Middlesbrough are ready to sell their Australian striker Mark Viduka (Mirror)

West Ham want to sign Charlton and England defender Luke Young (Independent)

West Brom have offered Wigan £2m for Jason Roberts (Express)

Dietmar Hamann is on his way from Liverpool to Bolton (Express)

Celtic have turned down Portsmouth’s offer for their Bulgarian midfielder Stilian Petrov (Sun)

Mo Johnston, the former Scotland player, has been sacked as manager of US Major League Soccer side Red Bull New York (Mirror)

Posted: 28th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Off His Noodle

Quotes Of The Day

“We nullified Ecuador” – Steve McClaren scores null points for style, entertainment and passion

“I’m, sorry, but entertainment has got to go out of the window sometimes” – Sam Allardyce says we should not defenestrate Sven…yet

“Penalty! Penalty! Penalty! Grosso’s done it, Grosso’s done it. The great Italian left back! He succeeded in the glorious traditions of Italy! Facchetti, Cabrini and Maldini, their souls are infused in him at this moment! Grosso represents the long history and traditions of Italian soccer, he’s not fighting alone at this moment! He’s not alone!” – Chinese TV commentator Huang Jianxiang
celebrates Italy winning a dubious penalty against Australia

“England banked too heavily on Wayne Rooney, who did not have the support going forward” – the FIFA Technical Studies report into England versus Ecuador gets it spot on. Now if they can tell Sven…

“The way the players acted saw Angola walk into world football through the main door…they were good and dignified” – Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos salutes the team

“The World Cup is littered with cheats, cry babies and drama queens” – Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson

Puns Of The Day

“Portuguese man at war” (Mirror) – Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave Manchester United for Real Madrid

“We will hit the spot” (Mirror) – Owen Hargreaves says England will win on penalties

“Spot the difference” (Sun) – More from Hargreaves

“Fag wag” (Star) – Steven Gerrard’s fiancée Alex Curran smokes between shopping trips

“Sup for the cup” (Sun) – England fans are drinking Germany dry

“Frank you ‘n good night!” (Sun) – Franck Ribery scores for France

It takes skill – and guts” (Times) – Ronaldo is profiled

“I believe Roo now” (Sun) – Wayne’s recovery is a surprise to Rio Ferdinand

“Vier we go now” (Sun) – Patrick Vieira helps France into the last eight

Posted: 28th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Just Hot Air

“BORING, weary, lethargic, full of hot air, long balls, a lonely striker and a star midfield player who gave us a goal and a pile of vomit.” That’s the verdict on England of one Brazilian paper, quoted in today’s Daily Mirror. And as for the “WAGs”, well, they are “anorexics addicted to shopping with hollow, lobotomised heads," whose role is to “distract from their team’s poor football skills.”

Yes, but the Brazilian press are spoilt by their rich diet. Surely the other nations are more forgiving? Not former German international Stefan Effenberg, who proves himself a less than polite host. “I wouldn’t call this football,” he says of the efforts of Sven’s finest. “It’s a botch job.”

Bild, the Teutonic tabloid equivalent of the Sun, said that the only hot thing about England’s match against Ecuador was the air.

El Nacional of Spain pronounced England’s display “an embarrassing performance from the country that invented the game”, while El Pais summed it up as “a goal and a pile of vomit”.

La Gazetta Dello Sport was more sympathetic, declaring it “a boring, slow-moving and unimpressive match”, but admitting with typical Italian pragmatism that “for now it’s enough”.

L’Equipe found time to praise Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney, describing the latter as “a boy who sees, thinks, understands and imagines football as he lives and breathes… he improved with every ball he received”. But it handed out four-out-of-tens to John Terry, Michael “Masterclass” Carrick, and Joe Cole, and a cruel 3.5 to both Owen Hargreaves and Frank (Runner-up, World Player of the Year) Lampard.

And the Portuguese? Diaro de Noticias has no doubts: “Here come the penalties against England again!”

Those quotes are from the horses’ mouths. Then there are the stories to which the English press apply their own “spin” in order to spice things up.

“Roo are no Pele – Deco” might, for example, be taken to mean that Portugal’s Deco, who is suspended for Saturday’s quarter-final, is having a pop at England talisman, and running down his team. But the full quotes tell a slightly different story. Asked about Eriksson’s claims that Wayne Rooney is the best young player since Pele, Deco said that he is “young and inexperienced compared to Pele”, which is true, given that Pele is in his mid-sixties. He then described young Wayne as “very talented”. And Saturday’s opponents? “England are a strong team even if they are not showing what they can do at the moment. I just hope they aren’t at their best against us.”

And what of England’s favourite grumpy Portuguese? The Daily Mail reports the views of Jose Mourinho, who declares both teams to be “conservative”. “I don’t call them conservative in the negative sense of the term,” he explains, although it is unlikely that many Mail readers will have taken it that way. So what does he mean, then? “I simply consider that those who knew these teams two-years-ago [Daily Mail’s idiosyncratic hyphens] will not take more than a few seconds to understand the small differences, in the same way that when the World Cup finishes these teams will need profound rebuilding.” He is ambivalent about Saturday, however, saying only that “Portugal can win or lose against England”.

The Sun reports that Portugal are targeting goalkeeper Paul Robinson as the “England’s weakest link”, and quotes striker Pauleta as planning to “exploit” his “faults”. More revealingly, the Star reckons that Eriksson is beginning to have doubts about his skipper’s role in the right-midfield berth. “I’M NO RIGHT BECK,” announces the back page, claiming that Eriksson had planned to play Beckham as a full-back, allowing Aaron Lennon to play ahead of him. Beckham apparently declined the offer, reckoning that he wasn’t up to the job. Many are starting to say that he isn’t up to his present job either, and there is a growing feeling that he knows he is in danger of underachieving in his career.

Everyone is clear that for all the talk of results, nobody wins the World Cup without big performances. Saturday would be a good time to start producing them.

Posted: 28th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Going Dutch

Middlesbrough have offered £5m offer to Fulham for their French star Steed Malbranque (Times)

West Bromwich have signed John Hartson from Celtic for £500,000 (Mail)

Arsenal are interested in signing Holland’s Dirk Kuyt (Mirror)

Crystal Palace and Cardiff are chasing Charlton’s Francis Jeffers (Sun)

Chelsea’s Glen Johnson is mulling over a loan move to Feyenoord (Mail)

Inter Milan will offer £12.5m offer to Villarreal for their Argentine midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme (Times)

Mexico’s Rafael Marquez will sign a contract extension to remain at Barcelona until 2010 (Times)

Tottenham are in advanced discussions to sign Ivory Coast midfielder Didier Zakora from St Etienne (Mail)

Posted: 27th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Get It To Rooney

Quotes Of The Day

“Quito is 1,439 Peter Crouches above sea level” – BBC pundit Adrian Chiles

“If we give him [Rooney] the ball he will create chances or score himself – it is simple" – Ashley Cole gets to grips with Sven’s Plan A, B, C, D….

“Jesus Christ may be able to turn the other cheek, but Luis Figo isn’t Jesus Christ” – Portugal’s Luiz Felipe Scolari on his captain’s loss of cool against Holland

“We can meet England in the semi-finals and wouldn’t that be nice for the Australian and English fans” – Australia’s Lucas Neill speaks too soon

“A team that has a problem with a compact, but frequently inflexible Ecuador, can’t hope to measure up to a modern, strong and offensive side” – German newspaper Der Spiegel dismisses England’s chances

“Graham Poll sent me off when I tried to tell him he should have already sent me off” – Croatia’s Josip Simunic tells us about his three yellow cards

“I think you have to suffer in a tournament like this” – Sven Goran Eriksson makes anyone watching England suffer

Puns Of The Day

“Down and out” (Times) – Australia go home

“Luc of horror” (Sun) – Australia’s Luca Neill foolishly goes to ground in the penalty area with an Italian striker within ten yards of him. Result: penalty.

“Tot of the world” (Sun) – Franscesco Totti’s celebrates scoring for Italy by sucking his thumb

“Plane crazy” (Sun) – Steven Gerrard says England must play better or they’ll be on their way home

“Sleepy Swiss have to clock up overtime” (Mail) – The Mail goes to press before Ukraine can beat Switzerland on penalties

“We need more bottle” (Mirror) – England want to have more water breaks during matches

“Milla: They Ghan win it” (Star) – Cameroon legend Roger Milla backs Ghana to beat Brazil

Posted: 27th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Urs And Them

Winners

David Beckham has come under fire for his performances. But the statistics suggest that he is a potent attacking force. Thus far Becks has played 356 minutes of football. He has struck seven shots, of which three have been on target. He has been fouled five times, and fouled three times. And has delivered 51 crosses.

Ever wondered what happened to Urs Meier? England fans will remember him as the referee with the Duran Duran hair-do who disallowed Sol Campbell’s goal in Euro 94. Some less enlightened England fans bombarded him with threatening emails and letters. Well, he is no longer in hiding and is popping up on German TV to give the expert view on all those fouls – real and imagined.

Who says Americans aren’t into football, or soccer? After their victory over the Dutch, the Portuguese neighbourhood living in the Ironbound district in Newark, New Jersey, came out to party like they’d won the World Series of Superbowl Soccer. Way to go!

Losers

Is Franz Beckenbauer a true football fan? Der Kaiser took a break from things World Cup to get married in the Alps. “It was supposed to be a day for just us without any stress or troubles,” says the newlywed who married Heidi Burmester, with whom he has two children. “We wanted to avoid all the commotion. No one expected us to get married in the middle of the World Cup." Indeed they did not. During the World Cup, we expect men to only acknowledge women who: a) understand the offside rule; b) bring them meals and drinks on trays; or c) wear boob tubes inside the stadium.

World Cup organisers are less than pleased with one photographer allocated a precious pitchside pass for England’s match against Ecuador. For the entire game he trained his camera on the Wags in the stands.

Posted: 27th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Suitable For Miners

GELSENKIRCHEN is a mining centre in the heart of the Ruhr Valley – a “football-mad town” according to the Guardian, but one which “has never witnessed the kind of scenes it can expect when more than 50,000 English fans arrive for England’s quarter-final against Germany”.

Why, are there no televisions is Gelsenkirchen? Have they not seen the clips of England fans on tour in previous tournaments? Are there no newspapers? Have they not read the dire warnings? Come to that, have they never heard the theme tunes of the Great Escape or the Dambusters – not regular Sunday afternoon viewing in Germany, we admit, but surely not unknown to the city’s good burghers?

Even if they haven’t seen England’s barmy-but-sometimes-charmy army, they will certainly have seen the England team in action, and will know exactly what to expect from Eriksson’s workmanlike side, who have been workmanlike in the sense that they have conformed to the worst newspaper stereotype of English workmanship – unskilled, commanding extortionate fees, shoddy performances, and the rest.

With four more newspapers to go until the match, the papers have yet to dream up a suitable angle for the mining connection. They could talk about the “lumps of Cole”, but both Ashley and Joe are two of the more cultured players, and are disinclined to lump and hoof. Any reference to “strikers” is obviously out. Perhaps they will settle on “digging deep” and “mining a rich seam of courage”. This seems a better bet.

The ground is already being prepared for this, with a variation on the “lions led by donkeys” theme. The argument appears to be that Eriksson simply doesn’t have the passion to inspire his players. Indeed, the Mail reports “Sven’s astonishing plea” to John Terry to “be our leader”. Eriksson is said to have asked Terry to make a speech in the dressing room before the game. Perhaps Terry is at this very moment studying the recordings of Lord Birkett and other masters of the art. Or perhaps he is thinking more along the lines of head-butting the wall, Terry Butcher-style.

Either way, the implication appears to be that Sven doesn’t think either he or his captain is capable of rallying the troops. Of course, the most likely explanation is that Eriksson senses that Terry is going through a bad patch, and needs a confidence boost. All good psychology, no doubt, but in the context of Sven’s own anaemic style this is likely to be seen as a weakness on his part. Sitting impassively on the bench looks clever and authoritative when you are beating Germany 5-1 in Munich, but it looks like helplessness when you are drifting out of a quarter-final.

To make things worse, Eriksson is once again pitted against “Big Phil” Scolari, who is not only a highly successful shaper of attractive football teams, but also a man whose public displays of passion and commitment make Alex Ferguson look like Graham Kelly. The Star says that Scolari has “arrogantly” claimed to be a “better manager” than Eriksson – and “warned that England are in for a fight”. At this point it has to be said that Scolari doesn’t appear to be particularly arrogant. In his recent BBC interview he appeared to be polite and friendly. It’s not inconceivable that he does believe that he is a better manager than Eriksson, but who can blame him? In the last two international tournaments his teams have been winners and runners-up and knocked out Eriksson along the way.

“What we needed in there was Churchill, but what we got was Iain Duncan Smith." That was how Gareth Southgate described Eriksson’s half-time talk during the first of those exits, against Brazil. The papers have decided to return to this theme. In the absence of any new injury and selection developments to report, they focus on the differing styles of Sven and Phil. “MR BURNS v GENE HACKMAN,” says the Sun, along with a list of the men’s characteristics (Sven: sitting still, looking constipated, scratching head; Phil: letting players know who’s boss, waving arms about, etc). “MR MOTIVATOR SHOWS SVEN UP” declares the Mail. “Passion? Energy? Does Eriksson even know what those words mean?” asks the Mirror.

Sven remains calm. “I think you have to suffer in a tournament like this,” he reflected at yesterday’s press conference. “You have to trust me –
You don’t have any choice.” And with that, the icy Conspirator-in-Chief returned to his HQ to put the final touches to his master plan for England’s demise.

Posted: 27th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Sick & Tired

“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.

Posted: 26th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Cheap Shots

Winners

England fan Ben Marks has had his teeth decked out in the style of a St George’s flag. A dentist friend of the 27-year-old Bristol local fitted the specially painted veneers for less than the usual £14,000 fee.

The red shirt worn by England World Cup winner George Cohen in 1966 is to go under the hammer tomorrow. The Number 2 shirt is expected to fetch £20,000 and is being sold by Lothar Emmerich, the German player who died in 2003.

The good news is that England’s Frank Lampard has struck more shots than any other player in the World Cup thus far. The bad news is that his 21 shots have resulted in no goals.

When pounding on the treadmill at the gym in her Baden Baden hotel, Nancy Dell’Olio keeps her sunbed free by placing a huge red rose on it. So much more civilised than a Union Jack beach towel.

Losers

A war of words had broken out among the Wags. The Mail reports that Victoria Beckham is not taken with Joe Cole’s lover, 20-year-old Carly Zucker. A source says: “Victoria is aware Carly is very keen to steal her crown.” And she has, apparently, confided in Cheryl Tweedy, Ashley Cole’s fiancée. “She was overheard telling Cheryl how much attitude she thinks Carly has and saying, ‘Who the hell does she think she is. No one’s ever heard of her.’” Well, they have now…

More on the Wags, as the Mail hears that some of the orange-skinned band have been telephoning the players as late as 4am. The FA says the phone calls are a private matter. Until Joe Cole takes his mobile onto the pitch…

England and Germany fans flung bottles and chairs at each other in Stuttgart. Over 200 England fans were arrested.

Over 100,000 subscribers to Telewest cable TV missed the entire England match. The company’s customers in Bristol, Bath and the Cotswolds were unable to watch England scrape home when a mainline fibre broke.

And around 25,000 England supporters in Stuttgart missed the moment when Beckham scored because their jumbo TV went blank.

Posted: 26th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Us & Gems

Quotes Of The Day

“Jewellers reckon profits are up as much as 200 per cent because of the Wags” – a jeweller in Baden Baden looks on as the footballers’ wives and girlfriends spend £500,000 on designer watches

“We could have gone – but who would have looked after the children” – Germania Reasco, wife of Ecuador’s Neicer Reasco, explains why she did not follow her husband to Germany

“One of the chaps has a private jet which we take off from Farnbrough airport, while Ray sorts out the tickets” – A friend of actor Ray Winstone says how to do the World Cup in style

“Can you have someone [David Beckham] in your team purely because of their set-pieces? I don’t think so” – BBC pundit Alan Hansen shows why he is not a manager

“It was an ugly performance but the victory was what we wanted and we’re happy to take ugly performances” – David Beckham forgets all that guff about the beautiful game

“No-one has nicer teeth than me, why would anyone have to laugh at my beautiful teeth” – Ronaldinho jaws on

Puns Of The Day

“Stutter in Stuttgart” (Mirror) – England labour to a 1-0 win

“Here we throw!” (Mirror, Star) – David Beckham vomits on the pitch after scoring

“The spewtiful game” (Mirror) – More on that Beckham sick

“Queasy does it” (Sun) – Beckham heaves again

“Becks gave all he’s gut” (Sun) – And again

“One-ill to England” (Star) – And again

“Beckham provides sickness benefit as England luck turns” – And again

“Roosons to be cheerful” (Sun) – Wayne Rooney doesn’t break his foot

“Ashknee Cole” (Sun) – England’s Ashley Cole prevents a certain Ecuador goal

Posted: 26th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Sporting Chances

Portsmouth plan to offer £12m to bring back Yakubu from Middlesbrough (Mirror)

Harry Redknapp also wants Celtic’s Stilian Petrov (Sun)

West Brom will pay £2m for Wigan’s Jason Roberts (Sun)

West Brom are all set to sign John Hartson (Mirror)

Fitz Hall has signed for Wigan (Mirror)

Middlesbrough want to take Sporting Lisbon’s Rudolphe Douala on loan (Star)

Liverpool are threatening to withdraw from the deal for Seville winger Dani Alves (Sun)

Posted: 26th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment