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Ing-er-land and the Vuvu Voodoo

Posted by on Jun 16th, 2010 and filed under Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

So, England start another World Cup campaign with an uninspiring 1-1 draw against a colonial team we should, on paper, annihilate. Don’t think so? Name one Major League Soccer club apart from L.A. Galaxy. You can’t. American football is, comparatively, a non-entity on the global stage. We should be dismantling their backsides like the Germans buckwheated the Australians: 4-0, if not more. But no. Here’s England v USA rendered in Lego: 

If we were up against the Aussies we’d probably scrape another nervy draw, and why? Because we have no balls. We are world footie’s castratos because the level of our domestic game and the patriotic rabidity of our media requires us to deliver, and that requirement supresses true freedom of expression.

Why is it so harrowing to watch England? Because we don’t do ‘loose’. We stutter and falter, flail and rarely flair. In four decades I can remember only two wholly convincing performances – against the Dutch in Euro ’96, and the Germans in a 2001 qualifier. Pathetic. And will this year’s crop do any better? Nope, because only Rooney remains world class. Lampard, Gerrard, and Terry have all peaked and the rest are makeweights. Carragher, for God’s sake, coaxed out of retirement by Capello, who’d also play Beckham if he wasn’t crocked, and that says it all. In fifteen years, Rooney apart, no-one has emerged to eclipse Goldenballs’ skill & passion. Defoe isn’t Owen, Crouch isn’t Shearer, and King isn’t Campbell. Only Rooney is Gascoigne, and was he ever enough to win the cup? And where are the comedy dugs? I demand Wayne don prosthetic breasts immediately. And play Algeria in them.

Heskey, meanwhile, is Heskey. A striker who never scores. A forward who’s best going backwards. A target man who’s even second choice at his own club. When he beats every defender you just know he’s going to bounce it off the keeper’s chest when most strikers would bury it: 2-1, job done, top of the group and the pressure off, in a parallel universe, where Heskey is helping Port Vale lift the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Yes, I know he’s a fantastic team player because I fondly remember the Argentina game back in ’02 when his constant tracking back to dispossess midfielders helped edge our nemesis out of the group by a single goal. Everyone knows his workrate is peerless, but can we afford to carry a man upfront who never finds the net? Would Italy, or Brazil, or Germany? Of course not. Emile’s only on the plane because Rooney prefers a less predatory partner, and so Fabio’s biggest problem is spotlit once again. It’s all about Wayne.

So how far do I think we’ll get? If we miraculously top the group we’ll get stopped by Brazil in the semi’s, but as runners-up we’re probably going to hit Germany in the second round. As the last roll of the dice for this ‘golden generation’ it’s probably as much as they deserve, so why not forget about England, relax, and revel in the wonder of the Rainbow Nation.

The opening ceremony was a triumph of native drums and giant plastic dung beetles. I don’t know whose idea it was to give a dung beetle the first kick of the games, but I hope their carers feed them with spoons on poles. The Soccer City stadium was apparently modelled on a traditional african pot, either that or the kind of garish bloated ashtray you might find in Demis Roussos’ living room. The stadium itself was shockingly only half full, which the authorities put down to folk gridlocking all approach roads by refusing to risk local transport.

Elsewhere, people just haven’t turned up, leaving supposedly sold-out stadia looking tens of thousands below capacity. Transport systems intended to get people to the games just haven’t materialised in time, while private security workers strike outside the stadiums, protesting that they’re not being paid as promised. A reminder of the chasm of equality that still plagues the continent, a chasm that this tournament will do little to close. The World Cup may raise South Africa’s profile, but most of the actual profits will be pocketed by FIFA.  

The games themselves have been largely lacklustre, but then first matches usually are. Certainly the stakes were high for the opening game between South Africa and Mexico. I imagine the authorities secured some leverage to ensure the home team didn’t lose. Perhaps locking the players’ offspring in a corrugated iron garret under the sweaty eye of an AK47-wielding mercenary? Who knows. I can hear their sinister demands now: “If you win, you can take your children home, but if you lose, they will die, screaming.”

“And if we draw?”

“Then you may see them again. In the sordid pages of certain ‘specialist’ publications.”

In the end it was, indeed, a draw. No-one lost. The only winners, perhaps, the paedo rings of Jo’burg. But on a brighter note, bosses have refused to ban the vuvuzela, traditional horn of the South African plains. They have, however, banned Zulu vulvas, a dyslexic slip that guarantees the eventual extinction of an entire ethnic line (and that’s Peter Serafinowicz’s gag, not mine. Follow him on Twitter, he’s a scream.)

Finally, there’s also been some controversy about the actual ball – called ‘Jubilani’ – being a lot lighter than regular balls. It’s been in global circulation since December and more than a few professionals have been a smidge scathing about it, including, after England’s friendly against Japan, David James:

“The ball is dreadful.There are undoubtedly going to be some goals scored in this tournament which in previous tournaments with different balls wouldn’t have been scored. It’ll allow some people to score extra goals, but leave some goalkeepers looking daft.”

You don’t say.

Oh sod it – COME ON ENGLAND!

+++UPDATE: 19.06.10 – England V Algeria. The Nadir of English Football. The worst performance I’ve ever seen from any national team. They made the Algerians look like Brazilians. No guts. No spirit. No desire to play for the badge. Slack defending, woeful Sunday League backpasses, first touches so heavy they needed bellywheels, every other ball either overhit or dribbled to an opponent. Abject.

One positive: it may be the last we see of Emile Heskey. Bearing down on goal, with a defender on his back and a glimmer of the net, he didn’t even try to shoot – had no intention of shooting. Instead he tried to square it to Rooney. The final proof that Emile has talked himself out of any goal-scoring ability he may have had in the belief that assists are worth far more than any stupid goal. Unfortunately, when the man he’s assisting plays as pitifully as Rooney played last night, Heskey’s utter worthlessness is exposed for the world to see, so bye bye big boy. It’s about time.

Capello now has to give Rooney some competition upfront. Someone he can play off, but also allow to score. Crouch, Defoe, I don’t care who. Getting on the score sheet has to be more of a team effort because, on last night’s evidence, Rooney can’t handle the pressure alone.

Another positive: perhaps this will convince Capello to drop Lampard. Forcing Gerrard to play on the left is wasting our Captain in every way. As Lee Dixon pointed out, it distracts him from his most natural position: powering down the centre of midfield. A 3-5-1 pivotting around Gerrard with Rooney roaming free ahead of him has to be more effective than Stevie cutting in from the left then tracking back to cover our flanks till he’s knackered. 

The final positive: somehow we’re still in this competition. If we beat Slovenia on Wednesday we might even top the group. If we come home on Thursday then it’ll be our worst result for over half a century and someone – i.e. Capello – is going to get the sack. The players, meanwhile, will lose themselves in the cash-quilted bosom of The Premiership and try to forget how they tainted the Three Lions with their underachievement. I hope the fans make that treacherous act of amnesia particularly difficult, for what is a World Cup next to a domestic double? Only the status of Eternal Legend, that’s all. These boys are turning their backs on all that. They don’t need it.

I hope the pay packet’s worth it lads. If not, then please, for your own sakes, play with your fucking heart!+++  

+++UPDATE: 24.06.10 – That’s more like it. Commitment. Tenacity. Defoe starting and scoring the only goal. So what if we backpedalled for the last twenty minutes despite Fabio screaming for attacks from the touchline? So what if we were one-on-one with the cornerflag for the last five? England 1 Slovenia 0 and somehow just two goals have got us in the last sixteen. Against Germany. And if we beat them, Argentina; and if we beat them, Spain in the semis. The odds on reaching the final? Only 10-1. Keep your money in your pocket, but it’s going to be a hell of a ride.+++

+++UPDATE: 29.06.10 – Yes, a ride in an overpaid dump truck of shite to a septic tank of soullessness via Disappointment Town. Germany 4, England 1. They well gutted us, and forget about Lampard’s ‘goal that never was’. Why would any Englishman worth a damn let that misfortune drop his head? And why would any manager worth a damn, in desperate need of a goal, take off Defoe and put on Heskey? Although in a way I’m relieved he didn’t throw Crouch on because at least it means Crouchy can walk away from this debacle with his dignity intact. Every other player should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. This farce has shown up The Premiership for what it really is - a sprinting billboard of billionaires; a blustering vaudeville act animated only by enough money to govern most African countries. And its heroes? Rooney? Gerrard? Lampard? Losers, reaching for a now receding Nike cheque. Methinks it’s time to dig out my old Port Vale scarf and bestride the stadia where bullshit walks+++  

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