Anorak

Back pages | Anorak - Part 71

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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

The Plot Thickens

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peformance, but not without casualties: Rooney off in a tantrum after tiring in the second half, and Rio Ferdinand withdrawn after suffering a groin injury.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


Ghana Go

Portsmouth want Arsenal and England defender Sol Campbell (Sun)

Watford have bid £1.4m for West Brom defender Paul Robinson (Independent)

Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric says his club want to sign Benfica’s Nuno Gomes (Independent)

West Ham will bid £4m for Charlton’s Luke Young (Times)

Newcastle United and Middlesbrough are chasing Fulham’s Steed Malbranque (Guardian)

Reading have put in an offer for Ghana defender John Mensah (Express)

Wigan have denied making an illegal approach for Birmingham’s Emile Heskey (Mirror)

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


The Hot Seat

Winners

French striker Djibril Cisse’s father, Mangue Cisse, says his boy should get treatment for his broken leg in Africa. “He should return to his roots to get his form back and to be at peace with himself. We are Africans and there are things known only to us.”

South Koreans have go the best fans in the world. Having sung and danced throughout their side’s match against France, the supporters then cleared up after themselves. “Thanks to them our cleaners finished two hours earlier than usual,” said a city spokesman in Leipzig.

Ghana has declared a national half day holiday on Thursday so that everyone can watch the team play the USA.

So many people turned on their TVs in Ghana to watch their side play that the country’s gold mines were told to temporarily cut their power usage for fear of there being blackout.

Six of England’s footballers’ wives and girlfriends, the so-called Wags, spent an impressive £57,000 in an hour’s shopping in Baden Baden.

Losers

A villain who stole a ticket for Australia’s match with Brazil got a shock when he took his seat in the ground…next to the victim’s husband.

Security staff in Leipzig were amazed that despite all the bag checks and frisks, the French supporters still managed to smuggle a live cockerel into the ground for their country’s game against South Korea.

Gary Neville “entertains” his team-mates by playing Elton John songs on his guitar.

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


German Jokers

Quotes Of The Day

“I am a joker but the jokes on the live radio are below the belt and I think I am entitled to seek legal advice” – Germany’s Polish-born striker Lukas Podolski fails to get the German joke

“What’s that all about? Put it this way, I wouldn’t want him up on stage with me” – Prancing Mick Jagger fears Peter Crouch’s robot dance

“In this World Cup one could be forgiven for gaining the impression that the boys are in the business of ‘out-statting’ each other” – Des Lynam delivers reason 1459B on why he is needed at the World Cup

“I’m not saying England play primitive football. Let’s just call it typically English” – German ‘legend’ Gunther Netzer builds bridges

"If they make noise or cheer as they watch, they will lose their monkhoods" – Phnom Penh leader Non Nget tells Buddhist monks in Cambodia to calm down

"It was really difficult for us playing in the midday sun with that three o’clock kick-off" – David Beckham gets in a muddle (BBC)

Puns Of The Day

“Klose encounter” (Mail) Miroslav Klose scores two for Germany

“Woe de Cologne” (Sun) – England are woeful

“Kicked Up The Lars” (Sun) – Sweden’s Henrik Larsson scores against England

“Flipping Ecuador” (Sun) Miroslav Klose does a flip to celebrate one of his goals against the South Americans

“Joe de Cologne” (Mirror) – Joe Cole scores for England

“What a Cole!” (Times) Joe Cole scores again

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


The Best Laid Plans Of FIFA & Sven

Sven Goran Eriksson, we are told, is a national hero in Sweden. Indeed, such is the Swedish infatuation and awe for the English game, and so honoured are the Swedes that we have chosen Sven to be our Leader, that many choose to support England against their own country when the two sides meet.

Apart from giving a possible insight into Sweden’s infamous suicide rate, this old chestnut sounds distinctly dubious. It is one of those irresistible self-flattering stories that we love to hear, like the one about every foreign footballer growing up “dreaming of playing at Wembley”.

Well, judging by today’s Sun, one Swede is obviously in the mood for slaying such sacred cows. “OBSCENE,” screams the back page: “Swedish boss lashes ‘greedy Sven.’” The name-caller is Sweden coach Lars Lagerback, who with a name like that should definitely have got the England job. “If I had the same pay, I would be ashamed of myself,” he claims.

The paper points out that Lagerback’s annual £100k salary is the equivalent of Sven’s weekly remuneration by the Football Association. “No one – and I mean no one – is worth that kind of money,” he adds.

We should add that this is not a personal attack on Eriksson, whom the paper describes as “a close pal” of the modestly rewarded Lars. Cheers, Lars.

England fans might take a different view. Many would no doubt be happy to add a dozen noughts to Sven’s salary if he steers the team to a World Cup triumph – or at least gets them playing as if they want to win. The team’s exits from the last two tournaments, when they played as though they were coasting to victory in meaningless group matches, has raised serious doubts as to whether Eriksson is in fact an agent working on behalf of an international conspiracy to eliminate England from international competitions.

The blatant nature of England’s previous failures appears to have unnerved Fifa, which is worried that Eriksson is making the conspiracy too obvious. “FIFA WARN ENGLAND: PLAY TO WIN,” announces the Telegraph. The coded message from the game’s highest body obviously doesn’t mention The Plan. Instead, it refers to the possibility that if Germany finish second in Group A, then England might deliberately not win, in order to avoid playing them in the next round.

If one leaves aside the conspiracy, and pretends that Sven is straining every nerve and sinew to win the tournament, then there are good reasons for wanting to win the group – chief among them being the strong likelihood of avoiding Argentina until the final. But these carefully planned routes to the final are fantasies that rarely come true. The draw rarely pans out the way one expects: unfancied teams can spring shocks and giants can be slain.

As Martin O’Neill argues in the Times, the trick is not to worry about future games, but to concentrate on the here and now. O’Neill is not Mr Anorak’s favourite football man (that honour goes to the fondly remembered Alec Stock – a true gentleman), but he is right about this.

Strangely, his article is placed next to Daniel Finkelstein’s complicated guide to every possible permutation of England’s route to the final. Finkelstein reckons that the best possible outcome for England would be to finish second in Group B, with Germany finishing second in Group A. According to his projection, this would mean a quarter-final against Argentina, whom most people would consider to be the toughest possible opponents on present form. But for some reason Finkelstein reckons this overall route (which would then be expected to serve up Italy or France in the semis and Brazil in the final) would be England’s best chance. He quotes various statistical probabilities, which may or may not be a joke, and appears to be sincere.

As we said before, there is no point in worrying unduly about opponents, and the chances are that you will have to meet the best at some point. Indeed, many of us prefer to play the best teams, because the whole point is to prove yourself the best, not to squeak your way through lucky draw after lucky draw.

But if you must bring it down to probabilities, than the longer you avoid the best team, the more chances there are for someone else to catch them on a bad day and knock them out. And giant-killers are themselves usually culled soon afterwards.

In the meantime, we will be watching closely for signs of positive effort by England’s players, and more importantly, their manager. Anything less than ten goals will be regarded as highly suspicious.

Posted: 20th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


West Ham & Porkies

Quotes Of The Day

German journalist to T&T midfielder Densill Theobald: “So, Densill, do you miss the beach?”
Theobald: “What are you talking about? I play in Falkirk”

“Goalkeepers never like the ball. The only time they’d be happy is if it was square and heavy” – USA coach Bruce Arena

“I nearly singed Shevchenko when I was playing at West Ham but Lee Chapman was playing well at the time” – Harry Redknapp saves some money

“But don’t forget, we are tiny Trinidad and Tobago and there is no way that the referee (Toru Kamikawa) was going to blow that whistle and disallow the goal” – Trinidad and Tobago defender Brett Sancho says Peter Crouch fouled him for England’s opener

“To go on in the tournament they need to demonstrate some more patience, using Crouch as one option, but not the only option. When they play stronger teams they will need to start using the goods guys in midfield. It’s not criticism just free advice” – T&T coach Leo Beenhakker assesses England’s long-ball game

Puns Of The Day

“Late balls of fire” (Sun) – England leave it late to beat T&T

“Nice to see Roo” (Sun) – Wayne Rooney plays again

“Glee lions” (Sun) – England fans celebrate win

“Through Lions” (Mirror) – England are in the next round

“We’re ThROO” (Star) – Rooney and England move on

“Roo dares wins” (Star) – Rooney again

“Crouching lion, hidden Owen: England win but it’s a struggle” (Guardian – headline as Laboured as England’s performance)

Posted: 20th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


West Ham & Porkies

Quotes Of The Day

German journalist to T&T midfielder Densill Theobald: “So, Densill, do you miss the beach?”
Theobald: “What are you talking about? I play in Falkirk”

“Goalkeepers never like the ball. The only time they’d be happy is if it was square and heavy” – USA coach Bruce Arena

“I nearly singed Shevchenko when I was playing at West Ham but Lee Chapman was playing well at the time” – Harry Redknapp saves some money

“But don’t forget, we are tiny Trinidad and Tobago and there is no way that the referee (Toru Kamikawa) was going to blow that whistle and disallow the goal” – Trinidad and Tobago defender Brett Sancho says Peter Crouch fouled him for England’s opener

“To go on in the tournament they need to demonstrate some more patience, using Crouch as one option, but not the only option. When they play stronger teams they will need to start using the goods guys in midfield. It’s not criticism just free advice” – T&T coach Leo Beenhakker assesses England’s long-ball game

Puns Of The Day

“Late balls of fire” (Sun) – England leave it late to beat T&T

“Nice to see Roo” (Sun) – Wayne Rooney plays again

“Glee lions” (Sun) – England fans celebrate win

“Through Lions” (Mirror) – England are in the next round

“We’re ThROO” (Star) – Rooney and England move on

“Roo dares wins” (Star) – Rooney again

“Crouching lion, hidden Owen: England win but it’s a struggle” (Guardian – headline as Laboured as England’s performance)

Posted: 20th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Not Match Fit

Winners

Australian Prime Minister John Howard wants employers to go easy on their football loving staff. Such is the time difference between Germany and Down Under that fans of the Socceroos (a nickname that surely qualifies them for a permanent place in the ‘Losers’ section of this piece) are staying up way past their bedtimes. And then there is the added pain of defeat.

A poll by jam makers Duerr’s has found that most people would like to preserve Wayne Rooney for posterity. Robbie Williams was second and Peter Kay (aka Ronaldo) third.

Dutch researchers writing in The Journal of Sports Science found that players who attempt to outthink the goalkeeper by waiting to see which way he will move are most likely to miss. Chief researcher John can der Kamps says: “If a player places the ball just inside the post, it is almost impossible for the keeper to reach it in time.” England take note.

Losers

It’s a matter of do as I say and not as I do for one of ITV’s World Cup team. Tired of spending so long cooped up in coaches and hotel rooms, Ally McCoist, Gabby Logan and Andy Townsend decided to get match fit. They jogged to a park in Berlin and performed stomach crunches, push ups and sprints. McCoist wanted more. So next day they did ten sprints. And McCoist pulled his right hamstring.

German police were on hand to help a couple of England fans. They had fallen asleep in their van and forgotten to apply the handbrake. Result: they had rolled across the road into a parked car. Police pushed them back into position and applied the bake.

Thirteen coachloads of children had a nice tip to Germany. They saw the forests. They ate the gigantic pork sausages. They may even have laughed. But they never saw any live World Cup football. The tickets that had bought to watch the Czech Republic v Ghana in Cologne never materialised.

Former Labour leaders Neil Kinnock’s wife has been cheering on England’s opponents. Glenys Kinnock, a member of the European Parliament, says she will be rooting for Sweden today. She says she is looking forward to seeing England getting “thrashed”. Just like her Neil did all those years ago.

Posted: 20th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


West Ham & Porkies

Quotes Of The Day

German journalist to T&T midfielder Densill Theobald: “So, Densill, do you miss the beach?”
Theobald: “What are you talking about? I play in Falkirk”

“Goalkeepers never like the ball. The only time they’d be happy is if it was square and heavy” – USA coach Bruce Arena

“I nearly singed Shevchenko when I was playing at West Ham but Lee Chapman was playing well at the time” – Harry Redknapp saves some money

“But don’t forget, we are tiny Trinidad and Tobago and there is no way that the referee (Toru Kamikawa) was going to blow that whistle and disallow the goal” – Trinidad and Tobago defender Brett Sancho says Peter Crouch fouled him for England’s opener

“To go on in the tournament they need to demonstrate some more patience, using Crouch as one option, but not the only option. When they play stronger teams they will need to start using the goods guys in midfield. It’s not criticism just free advice” – T&T coach Leo Beenhakker assesses England’s long-ball game

Puns Of The Day

“Late balls of fire” (Sun) – England leave it late to beat T&T

“Nice to see Roo” (Sun) – Wayne Rooney plays again

“Glee lions” (Sun) – England fans celebrate win

“Through Lions” (Mirror) – England are in the next round

“We’re ThROO” (Star) – Rooney and England move on

“Roo dares wins” (Star) – Rooney again

“Crouching lion, hidden Owen: England win but it’s a struggle” (Guardian – headline as Laboured as England’s performance)

Posted: 20th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

Former England player Nicky Butt is to join Sheffield United for £500,000 (Mirror)

Portsmouth are interested in Lens striker Oliver Thomert (Mirror)

Manchester City will sign Quinton Fortune a deal if he passes a medical (Independent)

Celtic want to sign striker Middlesbrough’s Dutch striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Star)

Manchester United have signed 15-year-old Norwegian Magnus Wolff Eikrem (Times)

Celtic’s John Hartson is moving to West Bromwich Albion (Guardian)

Blackburn have offered Craig Bellamy £65,000 a week to stay at the club (Star)

Liverpool have bid £6.5million for Craig Bellamy, and the deal has been agreed (Mirror)

Posted: 20th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


West Ham & Porkies

Quotes Of The Day

German journalist to T&T midfielder Densill Theobald: “So, Densill, do you miss the beach?”
Theobald: “What are you talking about? I play in Falkirk”

“Goalkeepers never like the ball. The only time they’d be happy is if it was square and heavy” – USA coach Bruce Arena

“I nearly singed Shevchenko when I was playing at West Ham but Lee Chapman was playing well at the time” – Harry Redknapp saves some money

“But don’t forget, we are tiny Trinidad and Tobago and there is no way that the referee (Toru Kamikawa) was going to blow that whistle and disallow the goal” – Trinidad and Tobago defender Brett Sancho says Peter Crouch fouled him for England’s opener

“To go on in the tournament they need to demonstrate some more patience, using Crouch as one option, but not the only option. When they play stronger teams they will need to start using the goods guys in midfield. It’s not criticism just free advice” – T&T coach Leo Beenhakker assesses England’s long-ball game

Puns Of The Day

“Late balls of fire” (Sun) – England leave it late to beat T&T

“Nice to see Roo” (Sun) – Wayne Rooney plays again

“Glee lions” (Sun) – England fans celebrate win

“Through Lions” (Mirror) – England are in the next round

“We’re ThROO” (Star) – Rooney and England move on

“Roo dares wins” (Star) – Rooney again

“Crouching lion, hidden Owen: England win but it’s a struggle” (Guardian – headline as Laboured as England’s performance)

Posted: 20th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Kiss Goodbye To The World Cup

Quotes Of The Day

“We’re going to war. You can’t fight a war worrying about your wife or child. You give them a holiday before the tournament but for one month, kiss them goodbye” – Bobby Robson keeps things in perspective

“I expect Owen and Rooney to play like they used to, in the golden days,” Sven Goran Eriksson harks back to some supposed golden time (anyone know when it was?)

“Once you get into the knock-out phase it’s very tough whoever you face, but we haven’t started practising penalties yet” – Jurgen Klinnsman gives England hope

“Don’t expect him to be 100%” – Sven Goran Eriksson warns England fans about Rooney; although he may 110%, as is the way in football

“We used to have those kind of things going for us when we were on top of the world. But when you are not there any more, they seem to go against you” – Thierry Henry looks back at France’s disallowed goal against South Korea

“But you must occasionally have had occasion to lose from the Cabinet someone who can drop a good dead ball in?” – The BBC’s 6-0-6 host Adrian Chiles has occasion to ask Tony Blair the footballing questions that matter

Puns Of The Day

“Wayne’s out to get Roo” (Star) – Rooney can be England saviour

“ITV put to Shane over Warne farce” (Mail) – Broadcaster employs cricket expert Shane Warne to talk about Australian football, something he clearly has little or no idea about

“Spain ease pain” (Mail) – Spain 3 Tunisia 1

“Kaiser chief” (Sun) – Sven Goran Eriksson tells Rio Ferdinand he’s England’s Franz Beckenbauer (“Franz Ferdinand”)

“Let’s knock the Lagerback” (Sun) – England drink to Sweden coach Lars Lagerback’s failure

“Just Roo it” (Mirror) – Wayne Rooney advertises a sporting goods brand

“Owen de Cologne” (Mirror) – Michael Owen to play

Posted: 20th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


He’s A Card

Winners

Friends of Michael Blake, a Liverpudlian killed in a car crash, have taken him along to the World Cup. “We couldn’t go without him,” says Scott Macmillan. “He drank with us. And even goes out dancing with us.” Blake is remembered in the form of a life-size cardboard cut-out.

British tennis player Andrew Murray says he will emulate Ronaldinho and smile more when playing sport. If grinning Murray can grow some big gums and be a world champion he can be just like the Brazilian. Here’s hoping.

Losers

Peter Crouch has been called many things. Lofty. Rodney. Beanpole. And many more. But now Spanish newspaper el Pais has coined a new nickname for the gangly striker – “esparrago de dos-metro” (a “two-meter asparagus”). Italy’s La Repubblica just called him a “big stork”. And Portugal’s O Jogo labelled him a “battering ram”.

Gillingham chairman Paul Scally has told Brent Sancho, T&T’s burly defender, to get his hair cut when he returns to the club. He is worried that opponents will pull his hair, as England’s Peter Crouch is alleged to have done.

Two prisoners in Bulgaria have stitched up their mouths with thread and are refusing to eat unless they are allowed to watch the World Cup. The only thing they can fit between their lips is a cigarette.

Dutch fans saw their team play the Ivory Coast dressed only in their pants. Security took exception to the fans’ orange lederhosen. The offending garments carried the name of a Dutch Brewery – only the official beer of the World Cup can be mentioned. It being… er…

Posted: 19th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Window On United

Newcastle and West Ham are in the hunt for Fulham’s Steed Malbranque (Mail)

Celtic want to sign Japan midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata (Sun)

Wigan want to offer a new contract to Henri Camara (Mirror)

Portsmouth are interested in signing Arsenal’s Sol Campbell (Mail)

Celtic are looking to sign Chelsea’s Jaro Jarosik (Guardian)

Malcolm Glazer has appointed three more members of his family to the Manchester United board – sons Kevin, Edward and daughter Darcie join Joel, Avi and Bryan at the top table

Posted: 19th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Show Them The Money

Quotes Of The Day

“But it wouldn’t have happened if Brett was bald, would it?” – Gillingham chairman Paul Scally watches Peter Crouch get in a tangle with T&T player Brent Sancho’s hair

“We have to play like in a casino, you know. Go all-in with the chips,” – Croatia striker Dao Prso looks to his side’s match against Australia

“It’s a pity that at this level we do not use all the technology that we could” – France coach Raymond Domenech looks back at his side’s ‘second’ goal against South Korea

“I think he embarrasses himself. He’s just like a big baby, isn’t he?” – Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher remembers Jose Mourinho

“We want to see the money in our accounts; it’s the group that decides, not just one player. We have not seen any money yet. We reached an agreement in principle with the [Togo] Football Federation [yesterday] morning. Now we must wait and see” – Togo captain Jean-Paul Abalo and his team-mates will not play until they are shown the money

Puns Of The Day

“Roo’s G-Owen to fire me up” (Star) – Michael Owen looks forward to playing with Wayne Rooney

“Terry’s blank of England” (Star) – John Terry plans to keep a clean sheet

“Yellow fever” (Mirror) – Brazil beat Australia

“You’ll never walk Cologne” (Sun) – Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher says England can beat Sweden

“He’s a real Svensation” (Sun) – Sven loves Owen Hargreaves

“Thierry in Pak ‘n slide” (Sun) Thierry Henry and France draw 1-1 with Park Ji Sung’s South Korea

Posted: 19th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


No Prizes For Entertainment

“FOR me, the problem with the English is that they are very arrogant.”

Who do you think was responsible for the above quote from today’s Mirror? The ‘for me’ bit might lead you to believe that it came from the mouth of one of our own beloved pundits.

But the anti-English tone suggests otherwise: Alan Hansen and the other various former Scottish and Irish ex-internationals who ply their trade on TV panels are well aware of where their bread is buttered, and would never publicly insult the golden English goose in this way.

Here’s a clue – and we don’t have to go back to historical cliches about Prussia to find a good example – it’s the country that gave us diffident role models of humility such as Andy Moller, Oliver Kahn…

That’s right, Germany. This particular German is Bayern Munich’s general manager and “German legend” (as the paper describes him) Uli Hoeness. He thinks the English are arrogant because: “They think that football begins and ends within the borders of England. They think that no-one else can play good football.”

Uli seems to think that winning a few international trophies gives him the right to lecture England on tactics. (“What I have been reading about Eriksson’s tactic so far have made me think: “Thank you Mr Eriksson’, because I know they cannot work.”)

Herr Hoeness conveniently won his World Cup medal in a tournament that England weren’t playing in, so we can take that “legend” tag with a pinch of salz, but he’s entitled to his opinion. It’s just that he is COMPLETELY WRONG. We know he’s wrong, because the Sun has printed an international league table, and England are second.

Oh, hang on. Sweden are top. Wait a minute…. Ah…Hmm… It seems that this particular league table is based on the number of long balls played during the tournament so far. The paper points out that our boys aren’t far behind Sweden’s 194 hoofs, having “lumped upfield an equally impressive 189 balls”. Well, not “equally impressive” actually. That would be like saying England were equally impressive in the Euro 96 shoot-out, but let’s not go back to the subject of Andy Moller.

The point of the Sun’s table is to suggest that the two sides’ affinity for Route One might make tomorrow’s match resemble Wimbledon (the tennis, although the Fashanu version is equally apt).

One thing is for sure, anyone expecting fireworks from Sven’s team is likely to be disappointed. The history of the past 40 years suggests that England won’t win, and a stalemate is likely. Former Sweden captain Johan Mjallby agrees. “It smells like a draw,” he tells the Telegraph. Or, judging by England’s recent performances, a pair of drawers.

Nil-nil would suit England, of course, and even the most boring of games would be tolerated as long as they win the group. But John Terry puts a more positive spin on things. “If we come off that pitch having kept a clean sheet it’s like grabbing a goal for a striker or midfielder,” he says – proving, as he so often does, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The final word goes to Paul Jewell. “I cannot see Kallstrom being able to track a breaking Gerrard for 90 minutes,” he declares in his Guardian column. And given that Sven is planning to rest Gerrard tomorrow, neither can we.

Posted: 19th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Das Boot

Winners

Croatia are ready to bang some heads when they play Japan today. British rockers Deep Purple played a special concert outside the team’s hotel.

David Beckham has gotten too big for his boots. According to German Erika Wittman, who runs an Adidas cobblers, Becks’ feet have swelled from size 8 ¼ to 8 ¾. She says he orders 80 to 100 pairs a year.

Sven Goran Eriksson will earn a £1m bonus if England win the World Cup. That’s three times more than his players will receive.

Losers

The BBC “pundit team” for Iran v Portugal turned out in kit of blue and white striped shirts. Doubtless inspired by Argentina’s colours, Lee Dixon, Gary Linker, Ian Wright (who added a spotty tie) and Leonardo combined to bamboozle the audience.

Researchers at Loughborough University say that anxiety levels rise while watching games. Is there anything these brainiacs don’t know?

Ismail Bhamjee of Botswana, a member of Fifa’s executive committee, has admitted selling World Cup tickets at three times their face value. He has been ordered to resign from all his Fifa World Cup duties.

Posted: 18th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Real Deals

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is in talks to become Real Madrid’s new manager (News of the World)

Chelsea are interested in signing Spain striker Fernando Torres (Mail)

Birmingham’s Emile Heskey is set to join Wigan (People)

Tottenham Hotspur are chasing Charlton’s Darren Bent (People)

Manchester United have joined Liverpool in the chase for Craig Bellamy (Express)

Manchester City want Porto striker Helder Postiga (News of the World)

Newcastle and West Ham want to sing Fulham’s Steed Malbranque (People)

Arsenal are interested in signing Argentina’s Javier Saviola (Star)

Reading, Southampton and Watford both want to sign Brentford defender Sam Sodje (Star)

Chelsea’s Damien Duff is wanted by Tottenham (Express)

Posted: 18th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


A Khan Do Attitude

Quotes Of The Day

“Our hands and faces were blue at time, it was that cold” – A fan tells us about his journey by bike from Uzbekistan to Berlin to get Oliver Kahn’s autograph

“I am confident the further we go in the tournament the better we will play. The idea is to improve as the tournament goes on” – Steven Gerrard; so long as England don’t leave it too late to play well

“I didn’t intend to harm him”- Italy’s Daniele De Rossi explains what he meant by elbowing USA’S Brian McBride in the face; the American needed three stitches under his eye

“It was a vicious elbow and it could have broken his face” – American coach Bruce Arena has a different view of De Rossi’s elbow

“I just hope they’re peaking at the wrong time” (News the World) – Steven Gerrard wonders about Argentina

Puns Of The Day

“Art Deco!” (News of the World) – Portugal’s Deco scores a great goal against Iran

“De-Lbow bust-up” (NOTW) – Italy’s Daniel De Rossi elbows USA’s Brian McBride in the face

“Roon at the top” (People) – Wayne to start against Sweden

“England Aaron a new lever” (People) – Aaron Lennon is the man to make England champions

“Brazil-iant Ron’s still the man I fear most” (People) – Australia’s Harry Kewell says Ronaldo is the danger man

“Freddie and the dreamers” (Sunday Times) – Freddie Ljundberg and the Swedes expert to do well against England

Posted: 18th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Seeing Red

“BLOOD BATH,” screams the Sunday Times’s headline, and a chill runs through us.

The truth is somewhat less terrible than an entire bath full of blood, as Italy’s Daniele De Rossi gives USA’S Brian McBride an elbow-shaped weapon of mass destruction right in the face.

Looking at the shot of the American’s face – streaming with blood from a cut below his left eye – we imagine that some blood might well have dripped into the Americans’ post-match bath. But fill it? We think not.

But in case the water should turn a deep crimson, wise were two Americans – Pablo Mastoneni and Eddie Pope – to opt for early baths. Both received red cards from the Uruguayan referee. And in the spirit of fair play, Italy’s man with the elbow, De Rossi, also trotted down the tunnel early. (Who says sportsmanship is dead?)

The game was now nine against ten. As the Times says in its headline: “The beautiful game turns ugly.”

Of course, some would argue that football was never that good looking in the first place. The Times’s Rod Liddle calls Brazil’s roly-poly Ronaldo a “Peter Kay” look-alike and wonders is Ronaldinho’s perma-grin is “the recourse of a half-wit”.

Not every player can be David Beckham. But at least there’s that other Ronaldo to present football’s clean and, very possibly, moisturised face to the world.

The Portugal winger can be seen celebrating being voted sexiest player at the World Cup by a Dutch gay magazine on the cover of the New of the World’s “score” section.

And to put the cherry on the top of a good week for the Manchester United player, we read that he scored from the penalty spot as Portugal beat Iran 2-0.

Right he is to be happy. As the paper says, this is the first time in 40 years Portugal have made it to the knockout stages of a World Cup.

It’s 2006 and all that for the Portuguese as memories of 1966 are rekindled. Forty years of hurt are at an end.

Now England need to lay their own ghosts to rest. And that means seeing off Sweden in their next match.

But the Swedes are up for it. In a piece called “Revenge of the Rejects”, the Mail says that almost half of the Swedish squad are past or present Premiership players – “the majority of them had unhappy spells here.”

Now they are out to prove that they are as good as the top English players. Not that they should worry too much – the Swedes have not lost to England for 38 years…

Posted: 18th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Spot The Dot

“WAS this the best World Cup goal ever?” ask the Times on the cover of its “THE GAME” football supplement.

Well, Peter Crouch did rise like very long salmon to head home England’s first against the mighty Trinidad & Tobago, but the best ever? If anything, Steven Gerrard’s strike that made it 2-0 was better.

But we are mistaken. The paper is not talking about England but Argentina’s Estaban Cambioso’s fine finish to his team’s 24-pass move.

For anyone who wants to replicate the strike in their company car park or school playground – or if Sven Goran Eriksson wants to give his side an alternative to the long ball – the Times reproduces a graphic of that goal.

It’s an artistic move, a little Damien Hirst in its execution, what with all those yellow dots, but no worse for it. Over in the Sun, the “24 carat goal” is turned into a patchwork of blue dots and black lines.

Looking at the intricacy of movement and passing, the Sun thinks it would be good idea if England avoided Argentina. “Avoid ‘em like the plague,” it says. “Argentina! It’s just like watching Brazil,” it chimes. And not a bit like watching England.

But England need not worry. Argentina don’t stand chance. The weight of history is against them.

Sure the great goal was the second of six Argentina scored against Serbia& Montenegro. But, as the Times says, none of the past six sides to score six or more goals in a match at the World Cup finals has won the tournament.

That’s the kind of statistic Eriksson might like to post up on the changing room wall. You don’t want to peak too early, lads. Save your goals for when they really matter.

And goals will surely come England’s way. Now Rooney is playing, Sven can revert to Plan A and get the ball to him as quickly as possible and with minimal fuss.

But Rooney might not have yet returned if in the build up to England’s match against T&T he had done as Alex Ferguson had suggested.

The Express says that before the match Rooney received a phone call from the Manchester United manager.

The paper says Ferguson tried to persuade Rooney not to play. Even if selected, he should not face T&T. To do so would be wrong.

Rooney was less than pleased. And now he is said to be “fuming” – which is pretty much Rooney’s usual state of being.

And if Wayne can channel his anger the right way, he may yet score a better goal than Cambioso’s. And we might see a graphic of a little spotty red dot running all over the pitch.

Posted: 17th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


A Torres Time

Despite his injury, Marseille still want to sign Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse (Guardian)

Liverpool are willing to pay £6m for Blackburn striker Craig Bellamy (Mail)

West Ham are interested in Chelsea’s £2m-rated Carlton Cole (Mirror)

Manchester United will offer £25m bid for Spain’s striker Fernando Torres (Mirror)

Celtic will to sign Feyenoord teenage midfielder Evander Sno (Independent)

Posted: 17th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Toilet Training

Winners

Danny from Amsterdam entered a competition to win tickets for the World Cup final. All he needed to do was stay awake longer than anyone else. And he did, going without sleep for three and a half days. All the more impressive when you realise that he watched all the live games – including England’s…

He shoots… Oh! He misses. Urinals in Baden Baden, where the England team are based, are equipped with green rubbers mats, goalposts and an orange ball dangling from the crossbar.

Ecuador’s Austin Delgado says the goal celebration that saw team-mate Ivan Kaleides pull on a yellow Spiderman-style mask is a tribute to former international Otilino Tenorio who died in a car crash last year.

Losers

France midfielder Florent Malouda said he had missed his side’s opening game against Switzerland because his piles were playing up.

Argentina’ diminutive winger Lionel Messi wears boots saluting Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal scored against England in the 1986 World Cup.

Posted: 17th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


Do Or Die

Quotes Of The Day

“I’ve had one chance in the game, with my head, and I’m kicking myself because I didn’t score it” – Michael Owen improves his strike rate

“We have a lot of confidence that in the next match he will be able to do everything he is capable of to help Brazil to collect another win” – Ronaldinho backs Ronaldo to bounce back

“It’s the first time I’ve had anything like this but it’s behind me now” – France’s Florent Malouda thinks about life after an operation on his piles

“My players are ready to make any sacrifice. If any one gets injured or worsens an injury that keeps them out for 30 days so that Portugal wins, then so be it” – Portugal boss ‘Big Phil’ Scolari wants his side to go for it against Iran

“So far they don’t have enough about them to win it” – T&T’s Chris Birchall analyses England

Puns Of The Day

“It’s conga time as Van men pass the test” (Express) – Van Persie and Van Nistelrooy score for Holland

“Fat decrees it’s Germany calling” (Times) – England to face Germany, and Lord Haw-Haw gets excited

“Malouda back as pressure Piled on France” (Times) – France’s midfielder recovers from his haemorrhoid operation

“Pile of misery for Flo” (Sun) – More on Florent Malouda

24 carat goal” (Sun) – Saluting Argentina’s 24-man move that led to one of the World Cup’s greatest goals

Posted: 17th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment


West Ham & Porkies

Quotes Of The Day

German journalist to T&T midfielder Densill Theobald: “So, Densill, do you miss the beach?”
Theobald: “What are you talking about? I play in Falkirk”

“Goalkeepers never like the ball. The only time they’d be happy is if it was square and heavy” – USA coach Bruce Arena

“I nearly singed Shevchenko when I was playing at West Ham but Lee Chapman was playing well at the time” – Harry Redknapp saves some money

“But don’t forget, we are tiny Trinidad and Tobago and there is no way that the referee (Toru Kamikawa) was going to blow that whistle and disallow the goal” – Trinidad and Tobago defender Brett Sancho says Peter Crouch fouled him for England’s opener

“To go on in the tournament they need to demonstrate some more patience, using Crouch as one option, but not the only option. When they play stronger teams they will need to start using the goods guys in midfield. It’s not criticism just free advice” – T&T coach Leo Beenhakker assesses England’s long-ball game

Puns Of The Day

“Late balls of fire” (Sun) – England leave it late to beat T&T

“Nice to see Roo” (Sun) – Wayne Rooney plays again

“Glee lions” (Sun) – England fans celebrate win

“Through Lions” (Mirror) – England are in the next round

“We’re ThROO” (Star) – Rooney and England move on

“Roo dares wins” (Star) – Rooney again

“Crouching lion, hidden Owen: England win but it’s a struggle” (Guardian – headline as Laboured as England’s performance)

Posted: 16th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment