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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

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

He’s A Card


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.


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

Das Boot


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.


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


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.


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

For Whom The Chimes Chime

Chelsea’s troubled defender Glen Johnson is set to join Portsmouth on loan next season after rejecting a transfer to PSV Eindhoven (Express)

Paris St Germain are looking to sign Newcastle defender Jean-Alain Boumsong (Sun)

West Brom will sign Celtic’s John Hartson for £500,000 (Mirror)

Wolves and Birmingham are both chasing Spurs centre-back Calum Davenport (Star)

Bayern Munich say they will reject any attempt by Chelsea to sign defender Philipp Lahm (Telegraph)

Huddersfield will sign St Johnstone goalkeeper Matt Glennon (Star)

Posted: 16th, 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

England Have A Prayer

“THANK HEAVENS,” cries the Telegraph. “HEAVEN SENT,” opines The Times. Notice a theme emerging?

The latter paper’s Simon Barnes says that the chants of “Rooney! Rooney!” that filled the Frankenstadion during England’s increasingly desperate performance were emitted with “a force that was almost prayerful”. Amazingly, the prayers were answered: the Chunky One appeared. And suddenly everything changed.

“The bizarre thing about the whole business is that the hype is actually right,” says Barnes, “It really is all about one player. With Rooney back in the team, England are back with a chance.”

A chance, yes. But Rooney aside, there are still grave doubts as to England’s prospects. Even the Mirror’s aptly-named World Cup Mania supplement splashes the damning verdict of Trinidad & Tobago boss Leo Beenhakker “You’re impatient long-ball game merchants who will struggle against the top sides.”
Sour grapes? Maybe. Others share his view, though, and some of them are working as fifth-columnists among our boys in the media. “Witless England dig their way to victory,” sneers the Guardian, while the Mail offers the more balanced view that “Sven’s men have a stinker… but they’re in the next round.”

Still, never mind, Sven’s boys are through to the last 16, and it’s a time for looking forward, not backwards, as Tony Blair would say if his party’s publicity people had any knowledge of basic grammar. (And by the way, why is Blair keeping such a low profile in this year’s Eng-er-land circus?)

The Times is looking forward – rather presumptiously, some might say – all the way to Berlin. It has printed the “route to the final” depending on whether England qualify as group winners or runners-up. As winners, their likely opponents would be, in order: Ecuador, Portugal/Holland, Brazil, Argentina. As runners-up they would face Germany, Argentina, Italy/France, Brazil. Sounds easy put like that, doesn’t it?

Earlier in the week, we reported how Tim Henman described the World Cup as “a fun distraction for both the public and myself”. This of course depends on two factors: how long Tim survives at Wimbledon and how long England survive in Germany.

A clue to the football side of the equation might lie in the Star’s picture of Peter Crouch celebrating his goal. Crouch promised not to do his “robot dance” when he scores in the World Cup, and he was as good as his word yesterday. However, his new celebration is hardly an improvement. Indeed, having scrutinised the picture, we have come to the conclusion that he has pinched his new routine from Tiger Tim himself. It’s all there: the fists, the roar.

An omen, clearly, but what kind?

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

Weighty Issues


Holland coach Marco van Basten wants to repeat the performances that won the Dutch the 1988 European Championship. Back then, the Dutch team attended a Whitney Houston gig. If they reach the World Cup final, he has promised his players a night at a pop concert.

Germany are using a psychologist to help them prepare for games. Players are made to visualise reaching the final and winning the cup.

Greg Boyd has named his week-old son after England winger Aaron Lennon. “Lennon did us proud,” says Greg – “and at 52cm, he’s almost as tall as his namesake!”
Trade union Amicus has published advice to its members on how to skive off work to watch the World Cup. ‘World Cup Fever – Can You Play Away?’, a guide to bunking off work, is available on the union’s website.


A joke about Ronaldo’s weight is proving popular in Germany:
Ronaldo goes into a Burger King.
Ronaldo: “Two Whoppers please.”
Waiter: “You’re not fat and everyone loves you.”

Mauro Camoranesi, Italy’s Argentina-born midfielder, did not sing his country’s national anthem before their game with Ghana. He does not know the words.

While the England team in Nuremberg was kept awake by chants and shouts from their fans in the streets outside their hotel, Ukraine’s players are losing sleep over frogs. Defender Vladislav Vaschyuk says: “We will take fishing rods to hunt these frogs.” Let’s hope he and his team-mates have better luck catching them than they did chasing the Spanish attack.

Police in Dortmund say there were 429 arrests after the Germany v Poland match, including 119 from Poland and 278 Germans. Who were the other 32?

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

Toe To Toe

“JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG,” intones the Sun. What’s this? A sober recapitulation of Abby Mann’s indictment of Nazi atrocities?

No, something much more important. This is “OWEN ON TRIAL”, not Eichmann. But on trial for what? Match-fixing? Impersonating an off-duty police officer? Being a tiny bit dull in interviews? No, not that kind of trial. This “trial” is the match against Trinidad & Tobago, in which he has the opportunity to “prove why he is England’s No 1 striker”.

Shaun Custis reports that Eriksson has finally admitted why he took Michael Owen off during the Paraguay game – because the team were losing the ball too much. Custis reckons this is “the closest Eriksson has ever come to criticising Owen, 26 [love that 26, Shaun] – and it is clear the Newcastle striker’s position is under scrutiny.’”

Opinions differ as to whether Owen’s substitution was a “snub” or a pragmatic decision. Similarly, it is by no means clear whether Owen is “on trial” in Sven’s eyes or simply being protected until he is fully fit and in-form.

However, today’s match could be a “trial” for Owen in the other sense of the word, ie, an ordeal to be endured. “DIRTY SANCH,” the paper splutters. “Brent: I’ll give crock Owen a hard time.” The headline appears to allude to Dirty Sanchez, the home-grown version of Jackass, in which various Welsh nut-cases staple their scrotums to surf boards, squirt sulphuric acid up each other’s rectums, and generally torture and humiliate themselves for the amusement of a jaded public.

It further appears to suggest that Brent Sancho, the brickshithousesque Trinidad & Tobago defender whose name is the excuse for the tortuous headline, is planning to give the fun-size England striker a hard time. What kind of hard time? Well, Sancho has “promised that he will take no prisoners in Nuremberg tonight”, so presumably he doesn’t have plans for anything as dignified as a proper gallows. “I won’t be pussy-footing around,” he hints. “We are a tough band of players with a tough nose and we take that onto the pitch.”

Hmm. We at Anorak don’t like the sound of this. Especially that “tough nose” they intend to take on the pitch, which must surely be in breach of some FIFA directive or other. Sancho’s assurances that he is “hard but fair” don’t allay our fears either. On reflection, perhaps this isn’t the best game in which to be risk players recovering from foot injuries.

Which brings us to the other damaged foot. Eriksson’s announced yesterday that Wayne Rooney is fit, and that he has not had a falling-out with FA boss Brian Barwick over whether to play him. But the papers sense a smokescreen, and are urging Eriksson to stand up for himself. The FA problem with this is that if Eriksson goes against medical advice and plays Rooney too soon, there could be claims for compensation and a nasty situation with Manchester United to boot.

“It all points to Rooney,” announces the Mirror, but others are more circumspect, and they are probably right. Despite intense media pressure yesterday, Eriksson wisely declined to make his decision public, and this has allowed time for various medical experts to examine Rooney again.

Their decision, whichever way it goes, could save face for Sven while also getting the FA out of a tight spot. With the prospect of a tough physical game in very hot temperatures, it could be a blessing in disguise if Rooney’s return is delayed until next week. Then Olof Mellberg can stamp all over him without risking the FA’s cash.

Posted: 15th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Fortune Hunting

Benfica’s Portugal midfielder Armando Petit says he has been contacted by Manchester United (Mail)

Eidur Gudjohnsen says he was told he “had to leave” Chelsea – he has moved to Barcelona for £10.5million (Sun)

Manchester City want Quinton Fortune on a two-year deal (Sun)

Leroy Rosenior is the new manager of Brentford (Sun)

Bob Murray has resigned as chairman of Sunderland (Sun)

Wigan are to offer Scotland international Lee McCulloch a new contract (Mirror)

Wigan will offer £4m for Newcastle winger James Milner (Times)

Niall Quinn’s consortium expect to know on Monday if their £80m takeover of Sunderland will go ahead (Express)

Posted: 15th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Ministry Of Funny Walks

Quotes Of The Day

“As captain you have to notice things like that. I think I just said to Crouchie, ‘You don’t have to put your arms up to jump’ – because, at the end of the day, no one’s going to out-jump him” – David Beckham stops Peter Crouch getting a second yellow card against Paraguay.

“If we were to beat them, Trinidad & Tobago would be closed down for month – it would be a non-stop party” – T&T’s Carlos Edwards looks forward to playing England.

“England have had problems in the past winning major tournaments, which is a bit of a worry for them” – Arsenal and Germany’s Jens Lehmann examines the English mind.

“I think they should show more respect to our hosts but if they are sung in good humour we have to accept them and hopefully our German hosts can see the humour” – Assistant chief constable Stephen Thomas, in charge of the British police operation in Germany, hopes the Germans’ famous sense of humour will help them see the funny side England fans goose-stepping in Nuremberg.

“We’re here for a war. It’s do or die. We’re going to do whatever we can, whatever it takes” – USA’s Eddie Johnson keeps things in perspective

Puns Of The Day

“Roo as we say” (Star) – Sven is forced to seek medical clearance from the FA before picking Ronney

“I’ll crock ‘n roll Owen again” (Star) – T&T’s Brent Sancho vows to fight for his country

“Alonso targets Spanish reign” (Mail) – Spain’s Xabi Alonso scores in his sides 4-0 win over Ukraine

“Toebago” (Sun) – Rooney to play

“Use TNT on T&T” (Sun) – Rooney is ready to explode

Posted: 15th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Shout Of Order


England fans are now able to turn off the commentary on the BBC by pressing the red button on their remote controls. Viewers can replace John Motson with Alan Green of BBC Radio Five Live. Or just turn all the voices off. Hurrah!

Trinidad & Tobago’s players are to receive a barrel of their local Angostura Rum each if they beat England. If successful, the team should not see the barrel as a challenge, but are allowed to dine out on it for years to come.

Dutch magazine Gay Krant has voted Cristiano Ronaldo “the most beautiful, the most attractive and the sexiest player” at the World Cup


Arsenal and Brazil’s Gilberto Silva was left stranded at the stadium after his team’s victory over Croatia when the team bus left without him.

England have been staying at Nuremberg’s Le Meridien Grand Hotel. It’s opposite the main railway station, by the bars, just up from a spot where fans congregate to watch matches on TVs. You can’t miss it. Players can hear chanting throughout the night as fans sing them a drunken lullaby.

Fans should not shout too loudly. Professor Carsten Stick, of the Institute for Climatological Medicine at Kiel University, warns fans that in yelling “you risk fainting when you breathe too quickly and too deeply”.

Saudi Arabia’s footballers are forbidden from accepting any man-of-the match award because the prize is sponsored by a beer company.

Posted: 15th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Owen’s Goal

“AT times in Frankfurt I felt proud to be English,” reflects Stephen Thomas, in conversation with the Mirror’s Oliver Holt (“SPORTS JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR – AGAIN”).

Stephen Thomas is over in Germany with a bunch of mates whose idea of a good time is to visit another country, dress up in uniforms and tell people what to do. Thomas is Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, and for the duration of the World Cup, his jurisdiction extends beyond Salford and Stockport and takes in whichever city the England fans happen to be occupying at the time.

The idea, of course, was to work with German police to control England supporters, but so far there has been little sign of trouble. Indeed, in a strange turn of events, it is the England fans that are being held up by the authorities as “role models” for other nations.

The Telegraph takes up the story, explaining that Fifa has noticed the increasing numbers of black and Asian fans following the England team, and has been working with the organisers of the Kick It Out campaign.

There could be another reason for the unthreatening nature of modern England fans. Most seem to be too busy booing Owen Hargreaves to worry about the opposition, and it has got to the stage where David Beckham feels obliged to comment about it during his press conferences (he’s against it, by the way).

Hargreaves himself has spoken to several papers, and the Star reports that the “boo-boys’ target” has pledged to “turn the jeers into cheers”. By retiring? No, by winning the World Cup, “I’m not there to spray balls with the outside of my boot and do step-overs,” he explains, for the benefit of anyone labouring under that particular misapprehension. So what is he there for? “I’m in there to win tackles, lay it off and make the game easier for the team.”

The Mirror’s headline sums up Hargreaves’ position: “I’d rather be a World Cup winner than Mr Popular.” The truth is, it’s not a case of one or the other, but of both or nothing. Help England win it, Owen, and you’ll soon be forgiven. If not, you’re in line to be the scapegoat for Eriksson’s shortcomings.

Yesterday’s matches included the unexpected sight of Ronaldo being taken off during the second half of Brazil’s opening match, Unexpected, that is, until he walked onto the pitch looking as though he was expecting to film a Carlsberg ad for the greatest pub team in the world.

During the pre-match team talk, captain Cafu had told his players that winning the World Cup was like walking up a set of stairs. At this point, the great Rotundo must have been feeling worried indeed. Fortunately, there were no stairs on the pitch, so he waddled about for 69 minutes until he was substituted.

“We have just walked up the first step,” continued Cafu after the match. “There are now six left.” Don’t expect to see Ronaldo again, unless he receives special dispensation to use a stair lift.

From now on, our thoughts will be on England’s own chunky striker, who is looking lively, but is also unlikely to play in the near future. “Team England” is apparently worried that their insurance might not cover Wayne Rooney in the event of an injury during the group matches, and the Daily Mail says that FA chief Brian Barwick is putting pressure on Sven to keep him out until the knock-out stages.

With Owen still no properly fit, and Owen Hargreaves cemented in the holding role, expect to see Michael Carrick to make his tournament debut – up front next to Peter Crouch.

Posted: 14th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Eidur Gone Too

Manchester United are bidding £25m for Atletico Madrid’s Fernando Torres (Star)

Chelsea are interested in a £10m move for Bayern Munich’s left back Philipp Lahm (Mail)

Chelsea’s Shaun Wright-Phillips could be loaned out to Portsmouth (Sun)

Manchester United player Quinton Fortune’s move to Celtic could still be on (Record)

Liverpool are interested in signing Seville’s Brazilian right-back Daniel Alves (Times)

Chelsea’s Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen is all set to move to Barcelona for £8m (Sun)

Sheffield United are looking to take Nicky Butt from Newcastle (Mail)

Posted: 14th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Rio Or Bust


Coleen McLoughlin’s brother has taught his pet parrot to squawk “Rooney…Goal!”

West Ham fan Gary Marling received a free ticket after his flag was mistaken for a Nazi symbol and seized.

According to the Co-ordination Fan Project, there are more England fans in Germany than 12 other countries combined. Aside from the Germans, the 100,000 England fans in Germany make them the biggest contingent, ahead of Poland (80,000) and Holland (65,000).

Because of soaring gold prices, the 11 lb World Cup trophy is worth twice as much as it was in 2003. It is valued at £57,000.


An Italian court prosecutor has called for Brazil’s captain, Cafu, to be jailed for alleged passport fraud. Now if we can get Ronaldinho jailed for crimes against dentistry, and Ronaldo for being overweight, England may have a better chance of winning.

Fifa officials are to warn Mexico coach Ricardo Lavolpe about his habit. Lavolpe was seen puffing away during his team’s victory over Iran and it will not do. “We looked at the tape and in fact we realised he did smoke,” says Fifa’s head of communications Markus Siegler. “An official letter will be sent to the Mexican federation underlining that neither the coaches nor anyone else on the sidelines is allowed to smoke.” What will happen if Lavolpe ignores the directive is not stated.

A bus driver in Bedford refused to allow a mother onboard because her son’s buggy was flying an England flag.

Posted: 14th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

Oz & Them

Quotes Of The Day

“The start of 32 years of bad luck, missed opportunities, and false dawns for a team and sport considered by many Australians as suitable only for Sheilas, **** and poofters” – The Sydney Morning Herald looks back to the last time the enlightened nation was at the World Cup.

“He has everything. The whole package. He has the figure, the look, the hair, everything. He is metrosexual” – Miss World Unnur Birna Vilhjalmsdottir eyes up David Beckham.

“Some people tend to have an opinion who don’t know me, they don’t see me week in and week out” – Owen Hargreaves hears the England fans boo him.

“We have a back four of players from Gillingham, Wrexham, New England Revolution and San Juan Jaboleth – heard of them?” – Trinidad & Tobago coach Leo Beenhakker asks the questions.

“I find it sad that one person drops to the level of criticising my family, but it is one sad person thinking what they can do to put me off my next game” – David Beckham responds to a German newspaper calling his sister Joanne a fat pig.

Puns Of The Day

“Kaka Cracker Starts Party” (Mail) – Brazil’s Kaka scores decisive goal in win over Croatia

“Boys from Brazil are Kaka hoop” (Star)

“Sven does a Roo turn”” (Sun) – Wayne Rooney will not play against Trinidad & Tobago

“Girls just want to have Sun” (Sun) – Footballers’ wives wear bikinis

“Thierry’s drought of order” (Star) – Thierry Henry fails to score as France draw 0-0 with Switzerland

Posted: 14th, June 2006 | In: Back pages | Comment

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