England let it slip but no need for panic!
June 13, 2010

Get over it – I’m sure Fabio and the boys will! Despite the harbingers of gloom in this morning’s media castigating Robert Green for his costly goalkeeping slip, we did negotiate a potential banana skin and showed enough to suggest we can grow into this tournament.

As far as England World Cup openers go, and I’ve seen a few, believe me this wasn’t too bad and I still remain confident that we will top the group and be there or there about in the final shake up!

In 1966 we hardly got off to a flyer, with a goalless draw against Uruguay at Wembley and remember, last time around, the eventual 2006 winners , Italy (not the best team in the tournament, in my book) drew 1-1 in their group game against a USA side which was arguably not as strong as the one we saw last night.     

Yes, I was surprised that Green started in the keeper’s jersey, but clearly Fabio must have got wind of my Fantasy Football team selection and the posting I made earlier this week,  suggesting ‘Calamity James’ might eventually come good for England in this tournament. I need to transfer in a replacement now! Any suggestions – the Nigerian keeper, Enyeama, looked pretty handy yesterday?

What is it with England goalkeeping? For years it was the only position in which we had strength in depth but recently it has become a bit of an Achilles heel – Seaman, Robinson, Carson and of course ‘Calamity’ all producing howlers in big games. However, eternally the optimist, I would love to see Fabio give Green the chance to redeem himself and it’s a funny enough game for him to turn national hero in that penalty shoot-out that’s bound to come our way later in the competition (you heard it here first!).

If the glass is half full: there were fine performances from Gerrard, who really stepped up to the mark as captain, Heskey, whose ability to hold up the ball and link up play,  more than justified his selection, and Glen Johnson as an attacking full back.

If the glass is half empty: Rooney worked hard as usual but never got into a clear-cut scoring position, Lennon and Wright-Phillips still need to put in better quality crosses and  King (due to fitness) and Carragher (due to lack of mobility) are not the answer at centre back. For me, the latter is more of a worry than the goalkeeping position.

Is Fabio brave enough to throw in a rookie, Forest old-boy, Michael Dawson? I guess Matthew Upson will get his chance first, in the Algeria game, next Friday, when I expect us to win comfortably!       

Incidentally my Fantasy Football jinx also seems to have put the kiss of death on Lionel Messi’s chances of winning the Golden Boot – he created and missed at least five goal scoring opportunities as Argentina had to settle for 1-0 against Nigeria.

 Mind you, in true football parlance it’s ‘early doors’!

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Look to the stars!
June 12, 2010

Bafana Bafana momentarily reached for the stars while France looked anxiously to the stars in their opening World Cup matches yesterday. And lest we forget, England take on the stars and stripes of the USA this afternoon!   

The pride and emotion emanating from the Soccer City Stadium in Soweto yesterday was tangible, to say nothing of the incessant buzz of vuvuzelas! For 45 minutes Bafana Bafana  were clearly overawed by the situation and could have gone 3-0 down to a Mexican team who, sadly for them, had been cast as party poopers!

The second half was different. Bafana Bafana began to play the flowing football of which they are capable and the tournament was up and running after being set alight by a slick passing team move and stunning finish from Tshabalala that set the standard for goal of the tournament!

However, the reality check came when  Bafana Bafana, always prone to lapses of concentration at the back, were found ‘ball watching’ and  Rafa Marquez  ‘shinned’ the equalizer. South Africa came back gamely and might have clinched victory late on as Teko Modise rolled the ball, past one of the dodgiest international keepers I’ve seen for a while, against the post!

The sense of euphoria that greeted the final whistle was tempered by the reality that this is going to be a tough group for Bafana Bafana to climb out of, and all eyes turned to the up-and-coming France v Uruguay game.

The notion that cheats should never prosper  is hanging like a big black cloud over Les Bleus, given their fortuitous qualification courtesy of the hand of Thierry Henry. There is also the issue of the impending departure of their eccentric coach Raymond Domenech, a keen amateur astrologist who looks to the stars for guidance in his team selection, or as Alan Hansen described him in BBC’s pre-match build up  ‘a bit of a nutter’!       

Well as it turned out the stars weren’t  shining on either side and this potentially fascinating struggle between two decent teams  suffered from ‘after the lord mayor’s show’ syndrome, finishing goal-less.

Attention now turns to the big one in Rustenburg this evening and let’s hope there’s no reality check for Capello and the boys and that 1950 doesn’t repeat itself, 60 years on, when the three lions take on the bald eagles! You just know it’s going to be an edge-of-the-seat job so everything crossed and  vuvuzelas at the ready!