Okay, I’ve used this image before, but in the circumstances it’s well worth digging up again…
Okay, I’ve used this image before, but in the circumstances it’s well worth digging up again…
At long last, the World Cup has produced a game worthy of taking centre-stage in the world’s most important sporting event.
If you didn’t catch tonight’s semi-final game between Germany and Italy, then I would recommend you make sure you sit up to the small hours for the full re-run (on BBC1) and I guarantee that you will see a game which lives up to everything that football is and should be about. Two skillful and 100% committed teams giving their all, no quarter asked and none given for the full duration of the game - and yes I am deliberately trying to avoid giving too much away so as not to spoil things for those who prefer the drama of not knowing the result in advance.
If you do stay up then you’ll see a game which, above anything else, epitomises what football is and should be about; fast, skillful and combative; a game played in good spirit with no cheating - well, all but the occasional player making a little more of a minor knock than it genuinely deserves to gain a short breather and a trip to the sideline for well earned drink before re-entering the fray. And, joys of joys, all this was capped off by a superb refereeing performance (by a Mexican) who quite clear understands that his first duty to the ‘beautiful game’ is to allow the game flow and intervene with authority, yes, but only when absolutely necessary, and who, therefore, earned the respect of the players and made his own contribution to what was, by any measure, a superb game.
None of this should, however, be allowed to detract from a simple, inescapable, fact…
…the worst thing to even happen to World football is FIFA President, Sepp Blatter.
One can all too easily put forward a plethora of arguments in support of this contention, not least of which is the near constant subliminal hum of alleged financial misdeeds, dodgy deals, flagrant politicking and general corruption, which have accompanied his period of office. To a genuine football fan, however, all this pales into insignifance when set against the most basic of all facts - the man knows absolutely fuck all about football.
Blatter, or should that be Blather - so often does he open his mouth only to put foot straight in it - is, in footballing-terms, a complete fucking imbecile and, yet, in keeping with his monsterous ego and massively over-inflated sense of his own self-importance, he seems firmly to believe that not only has the absolute and unequivocal right to voice his ill-informed opinion on anything and everything to do with the game, but that he deserves to be taken seriously - he doesn’t. but as FIFA President, sadly, too many people who do count and who genuinely have a contribution to make to the game have to listen to him and put in practice his dumbass ideas, or else find themselves stuck firmly on the outside looking in.
The heart of the problem is a fundamental divergence of opinion between genuine football fans and Blatter over the nature of the ‘beautiful game’.
Football, as any real fan knows, is a game of many different but equally valuable qualities and skills which, when blended carefully together by a first-rate coach/manager and endowed with tactical knowledge and organisation, all go in to making a first-calls football team. The genuine fan is unstinting in his (or her) admiration and appreciation of excellence however this manifests itself on the field of play. To such a connoisseur of the game there is as much pleasure to be found in the perfectly-executed tackle and the impeccably-timed interception as there is the raking 40-yard pass and even the most spectacular and skillful of goals. A true fan sees as much value in commitment, strength of purpose and a player’s determination and will to win as they see in the most elaborate of set-pieces and the most extravagant display of on-the-ball artistry - and when watching a goalkeeper at work, the true fan will applaude not on the spectacular save but show appreciation of save made easy by good positioning. To such a fan a 3 or 4 goal victory may still be a poor game, while a skillfully contested 0-0 draw may be considered a classic.
None of this means the slightest fucking thing to Sepp Blatter, who’s idea of the ‘beautiful game’ is a 90 minute highlight reel of step-overs, ball juggling and extravagant attempts on goal, a dressage competition for statistics-obsessed attention-deficit Americans with a nice - and extremely lucrative - ad-break every 10-15 minutes. Make no mistake, here, if you could offer Blatter a game between a team of Ronaldino clones and team of Christiano Ronaldo clones, not only would he bite your hand off for the TV rights but he’d drop to his knees in a flash and suck on your dick like it was a MacDonald’s milkshake…
…just as long as Maccy-D’s were the official fucking sponsor for the game.
In case you’ve not caught Blatter’s latest wizard wheeze, it seems he’s now just about cottoned on that with referees handing out yellow and red cards as if they were council parking attendants handing out parking tickets on a commission basis - all courtesy of Blatter’s idiot tinkering with the laws of the game and his latest string of half-wit directives, naturally - then shock, horror and amazement, it just might turn out that one of two of his favoured wet-dream galacticos might just wind up on the wrong end of a suspension for a high-profile full-fat-advertising game like the World Cup Final.
And how does Blatter respond to this predicament? Does he, as any sensible human being might, realise the surest route to avoiding such a situation is to shut the fuck up and stop fucking around with a game you know absolutely nothing about?
Nah, course not - this is Sepp ‘I’ve got a bigger ego than Graham Poll’ Blatter we’re talking about here.
No, you can always rely on Blatter to take the dumbest route possible in any given situation - in fact, if you live in London you can thank your lucky stars he’s not a cabbie as nowhere in the Knowledge will you find a recommendation that the best route from Marble Arch to Finsbury Park requires a detour via Penzance.
Fifa will consider allowing three yellow cards before a suspension in future World Cups following the record number of cautions at the 2006 finals.
Two bookings in the group stage or knockout phase currently leads to a one-match ban for a player.
"In future perhaps there should be three yellow cards in a round before a suspension. It’s something we will take up," said Fifa president Sepp Blatter.
Now follow this, if you can.
Under World Cup tournament rules, as long as a player does not pick up a second yellow card in the final game of the group stages - remembering that each team plays three games at that stage - then they start the second phase with their personal yellow-card slate wiped clean.
In other words. if we do take a trip to planet Blatter and make it three bookings for a suspension they, hey presto, it suddenly becomes impossible to pick up a suspension at all during the group stages, short of getting sent off.
Follwing that, a team that goes all the way to the final will play 4 further games - last 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final - which would also mean that, but for a sending off, a player would have to be booked in every second phase game up to and including the semi-final in order to pick up a suspension and, in fact, could theoretically collect six yellow cards in successive games through the tournament before getting a ban - fuck me, just what is Blatter expecting here? Roy Keane to come out of fucking retirement in time for the next World Cup?
Why not keep it simple, anyway, and follow Graham Poll’s lead on three yellow cards?
On second thoughts, no, shut the fuck up, Unity - last thing we want is Poll thinking he’s some sort of fucking innovator - the man’s fucking insufferable at the best of times.
For my penultimate word on Blatter, its worth knowing that there is good news and there is bad news…
The good news is that his current term of office is up next year…
…and the bad news is that he intends to stand for re-election - and it gets even worse as it sbeing reported as well that he’ll be running with the full backing of ‘Der Kaiser’ Franz Beckenbauer, who many thought could well be a genuine contender for President this time around on the back of his successful role in organising the current tournament - those who recall that Germany’s main rival for the privilege of hosting this current tournament was, in fact, England, will surely be thinking dark thoughts at this particular piece of news - at least until they remember just how bad a fuck up the FA have made of the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium.
How could any reasonable fan respond to this news?
Well, after one gets over the mandatory wailing and gnashing of teeth and you’ve despatched a few religious wingnuts to scour the Book of Revelations and the prophecies of Nostradamus, just to be absolutely sure that Blatter is not the Antichrist - and I’m certainly not offering odds on that, either - then I suppose one could set aside ancient enmities in the true spirit of the entente cordiale, get behind
Arsenal, sorry I mean the French national team, and give them our support and then plead like fucking mad for Michel Platini to throw his hat into the ring against Blatter.
Is it really so much to ask the President of FIFA, Football’s world governing body, might not only know something about the game but might actually have played at the highest level. I mean come on, its not as its difficult to hire in the bureacrats and administrators need to do the boring scut work, like cutting TV deals, sucking up to corporate sponsors and counting the backhanders, especially not the kind of incompetent and (allegedly) corrupt one that FIFA need. Let’s face it, at the rate Blair’s going, in a couple of year’s time there’ll be no particular shortage of ex-Special Policy Advisors looking for a nice, cushion, Mandelson-free job, who’ll fit the bill to a tee.
How bad is Blatter - well put it this way, I rather vote for Doug Eliis - and that’s saying a lot for a Baggies fan!
As for my last word on Blatter, I leave that to the great John Cooper-Clarke:
What kind of creature bore you
Was is some kind of bat
They can’t find a good word for you,
but I can…
- - -
I suppose I can’t really leave the subject of the World Cup without making some effort to join in the England post-mortem, so here goes…
THANK FUCK SVEN’S GONE!!!!
Will that do? No? Oh well…
Look, as I see it’s like this.
Keeper/Defence - a few distinctly ropey moments and a complete ‘mare in the centre of defence in the second half against Sweden. On the plus side, at least they turned it around after that and played exceptionally well in the Portugal game, in which Rio was immense - why the fuck can’t he play like that all the time?
Sorry, that’s not me asking, that question just came in by e-mail from a Mr Alex Ferguson of Manchester (???)
Seriously, on the strength of the Portugal game, Rio would be a shoe-in for the obligatory ‘best of tournament’ team, were it not for the fact that Italy’s Cannavaro is, by a street, the best defender in the tournament - and the world.
Moving on to the midfield - absolutely fucking shocking - with the players we have we should be playing total football not total crap.
Owen Hargreave’s can, of course, consider himself mostly exempt from such criticism, even if he is still a bit too fond of the old ‘hospital pass’ for my personal liking and Michael Carrick has every right not only to feel hard done by but to have put one on Sven as a leaving present after the way he was treated throughout the tournament.
As for as playing 4-5-1 goes, its all very simple - it doesn’t work.
This is mainly because our players had no room to play in midfield in that formation… because Lampard kept getting in everyone else’s way. Actually hold that thought for a moment… even when we played 4-4-2, Lampard still kept getting in everyone’s way.
Gerrard showed a few decent flashes of his dominant Liverpool form - when Lampard wasn’t getting in his way - and Joe Cole put in a couple of good performances, especially in the first half against Sweden… until we went to the 4-5-1 formation and Lampard started getting in his way, as well.
Lampard just got in everyone’s way.
As for Beckham, well Lampard didn’t appear to get in his way - although this had more to do with Beckham’s inability to move fast enough to trip over Lampard than anything else - Sorry, Becks, but its the glue factory for you, mate. Man’s the got the turning circle of Brazil’s Ronaldo without any of the ‘who ate all the pies’ excuses.
And, to be fair, Lampard also didn’t get in Aaron Lennon’s way - not that Lampard stands a cat in hell’s chance of catching up with him in the first place.
Strikers - Theo Walcott - why? As the story goes, Walcott made the squad, sight unseen, on the recommendation of Arsene Wenger… so someone clearly forget to remind Sven that Wenger is FUCKING FRENCH and, therefore, NOT ON OUR FUCKING SIDE DURING THE WORLD CUP!
Owen - at this rate it’ll be a seat next to Beckham on the bus to the glue factory before long.
Crouch - should be second in the queue to put one on Sven, behind Carrick.
Put it this way, we have at least four players in the squad - Cole, Gerrard, Rooney and - okay, I suppose - Lampard - all of whom are pretty damn good at breaking from midfield into the box and playing off flicks and 1-2s from a striker who can hold up play while others get up to him - a style of play which just so happens to be Crouch’s main claim to fame (other than his uncanny resemblance to Rodney Trotter).
You work it out…
…Sven obviously fucking didn’t.
And finally, we come to Rooney.
For those of you inclined to believe in footballing omens, its worth remembering that during the 1982 World Cup, won by Italy, a short, squat, wonderfully talented young player, who was expected to set the tournament alight, also suffered the indignity of being sent off in a quarter-final tie after kicking an opponent squarely in the nads - and yet, four years later, that same player, having grown in maturity and stature, stepped up to the mantle of greatness and near single-handedly dragged an otherwise mediocre team to the ultimate glory of becoming champions of the world…
… and so was the legendary status of a cheating cunt named Diego Maradona assured for all time - or at least until eight years later when he became the single most obvious candidate for the ‘here, piss in this bottle test; in footballing history.
(Note, we English are renowned for not holding grudge - or for anyone actually visiting from Argentina, just remember,,, Malvinas es Inglés!)
Fear not, gentle folks of England, for in four years time the core of our present squad; Robinson, Terry, the Coles (Joe and Ashley), Gerrard and yes, Rooney too, will all be reaching their footballing prime. Lampard may even have learned how not to get in everyone else’s way and Michael Owen may well have played , what, half a dozen consecutive games, by then, without picking up an injury..
And without Sven keeping careful watch over his flock - and crawling up Beckham’s arse at every available opportunity - Steve McLaren may even have developed the managerial acumen of a Brian Clough or a Bill Shankley…
…nah, hang on second, I’m fucking dreaming there aren’t I.
But I’m looking too far ahead, I suppose. Such things are for the future and there are more pressing matters to deal with in the mean time…
..Christiano Ronaldo’s knackers stuffed and mount over the fireplace in the Rooney household by August will do me for starters!