Sunday, 2 July 2006

At last, somebody said it.

Considering the low standard of the football over the past few weeks, you can’t say the world cup hasn’t thrown up its fair share of surprises.

Who had England AND Brazil going out yesterday? Not me that’s for sure.

Like most results in the last few weeks (try ever) I called these two dead wrong. My “sinister feeling” that England were going to go all the way must just have been the result of some dodgy seafood.

England deserved little more than they got, but to be fair, they were the more likely side even after the sending off.

I never thought I’d ever find myself sympathising with the English over football, but the diving and constant moaning of the Portuguese, who managed to couple obnoxious behaviour with terminally dull play, annoyed me more than even the cavalcade of Mike Parry types we’ve had to endure in recent weeks.

On England – Yes, they showed guts, but never in the tournament did they show any real class.

Why? Well, as I’ve been saying about this crop of England players since 2000, they are nowhere near as good as they think they are. It’s only a pig headed refusal to look at 4 reasonably tame major tournament exits that’s stopping some England fans realising the same.

To be fair though, one of the reasons I have felt some sympathy with the English rank and file this time round is that I have seen evidence for the first time in years of pragmatism, if not downright pessimism.

While the media continued to plug the same old message “…best team in decades…blah…blah…blah…”, no-one really went along with it the way they did in 2002.

Their talisman, Wayne Rooney looked nothing more than a good player struggling a poor side. And that is another problem for England.

Last night Brazilian BBC pundit Leonardo said the unthinkable - “ Rooney is just good”. Applause applause, at last, somebody said it.

Ok, the guy is carrying an injury, but personally when you are a striker, cost over 30million quid and have the national side built around you, I’d expect to have to deliver some goals and would also try to remember not to stamp on an opposition players knackers a foot from the ref in a really important match.

Rooney has temperament issues that have failed to improve since his arrival on the scene at 16 along with his general skills and qualities.

He has failed to progress in the last couple of seasons for me, and in fact has slid backwards, maybe because of the two serious foot injuries he has suffered.

You can’t tell me this lad is a better player now that he was in 2004. He just isn’t. But that’s not even the main reason why I feel he is overrated. He’s only 20 after all, and still has time.

It’s the fact that guy doesn’t score enough goals. For 30 mil I’d want 30 plus goals a season, especially if you play in the Premiership, where it’s considerably easier to score than it is in one of the genuinely tough leagues.

For me, 16 goals from 36 games for a club like Manchester United is not good enough for a so-called great player. It’s Joe Jordan form – fine but nowhere near genius.

And so, you build your team around a quick-tempered striker who doesn’t score goals regularly, your chances ain’t exactly going to be the brightest are they?

Of course, taking more than one fit striker you intend to use makes you look a lot less daft as well eh? Erickson must have been counting his cash or porking some mad slapper when he made that stupid decision.

The other big talking point about last night was of course the demise of Brazil and the exit of Ronaldinho, the guy many including myself thought would OWN this World Cup and the re-birth of the guy who looks as if he will emerge once again as the world’s best, Zinadine Zidane.

What a pleasure he has been to watch in the last 2 games. It’s nice to be reminded that football can be played this way having endured a generally poor standard of play and awful refereeing throughout the competition thus far.

I’m personally hoping for a France v Germany final. Both sides have lacked the cynicism of the other two semi-finalists (Portugal and Italy) and I would have no problems with either team taking the trophy.

The winners? My heart says France, my head says the Germans.

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