Five things from….Colombia 2 Uruguay 0

So how do you follow that game?  Brazil v Chile was nearly three hours of pure football gold, as Partridge would have said.  Penalties are the cruelest way to settle such an enthralling tie but you had the feeling that neither side would have scored again if they had played for another hour, such was the tiredness of all the players.  But football is about winners and losers so whilst Chile would be heading back home across the Andes, Brazil would be able to go out on the piss until Friday night.  But who will they play?

It’s fair to say that most football fans across the world would be shouting for Colombia in this game.  Not just for the ridiculous stance taken by Uruguay over Suarez – and let’s not forget that if the average man in the street had done what he did, he could be charged with assault but because the Colombians style of play is nice on the eye, not to mention the frequent close ups of some of their more photogenic fans in the crowd.

1. Clever corner-kicks – So what was wrong with that Colombian corner-kick where he tapped it and then left it to his mate?  Not enough of this type of sneaky innovation in the game today so it should be applauded rather penalised.  There is always the danger that they will go wrong, as Thierry Henry and Robert Pires will testify.

2. Proper goal – Rodriquez’s opening goal – wow.  Wow. WOW.  Perfect control, outstanding shot and to make it even better it hit the underside of the bar.  Goals are always so much better when they hit the underside of the bar and bounce down. Not quite in the Johnny Metgod class but close…Uurguay’s response?  Keep their 5-4-1 shape…of course.

photo3. Empty seats – Where did everyone who was sitting on the halfway line go?  Ten minutes after half time and it was still a mass of empty yellow seats?  The Brazilian authorities must have been taking lessons from Club Wembley.

4. The flappy man – Remember the bird man of Colombia from Italia 1990 and France 1998? Well Gustav Llanos is back here in Rio, although he has been stuck in the corner behind the goal. But when his moment came, with a corner to Colombia, he sprung to life and flapped his big wings.  The TV cameras seem to have been told to just focus on the pretty females in the crowd in this tournament.

5. Bogie team – The last four games between Brazil and Colombia, outside of the Copa America, have all been drawn – with three goal less games.  Expect next Friday’s game to be a corker now.

Football, Futbol , Futebol

Football, Futbol , Futebol: Travels Around a few Football stadia in Buenos Aires , Montevideo and Rio de Janeiro. February 2009. By Paul Whitaker.

“Two English football supporters, twelve days, three South American countries, seven football matches, eleven stadiums and one Diego Maradona tour”.

Walking up Wembley Way with my mate and fellow England supporter Glenn Hinch, prior to the 2007 European championship qualifier match between England and Estonia, I did not know this would be my last England match attended as a supporter. After 15 years following ‘Ingerland’ to two World Cups, two European championships, Athens, Baku, Glasgow, Warsaw and many more European cities between, I was to sit through just another 60 minutes before coming to the conclusion that my match day experience on and off the pitch with England, was no longer an enjoyable one.

At first I thought I was just going through a sort of football-supporting mid-life crisis that seemed to afflict each generation of my family. My grandfather had apparently bemoaned England getting a footballing lesson from Puskas’ Hungary in 1953 and my father still gets misty eyed over Gunter Netzer’s Germany or Johan Cruyff’s Holland, rather than Kevin Keegan’s England in the 1970s. I thought the late, great Bobby Robson had the best teams and chances to reach a World Cup final, but was thwarted by the Argentinians and Germans in 1986 and 1990 respectively. OK, perhaps that was just misplaced nostalgia, but I was struggling to understand why English football had not moved on since Italia’90. Whilst German, French and Italian supporters had all watched their national teams lift the World Cup in recent years, I was watching the England team of 2007 put in yet another ‘laboured’ performance, this time against a poor Estonia team. We had the full repertoire of English fallibility on display, including poor movement off the ball, losing concentration in defence and my particular favourite, an inability to retain possession of the ball.

Now, bear in mind it was 15 years since the formation of the Premier League (best league in the world so Sky keep telling me!’), whose central aim was improve the technical skills of home grown players and so help the England national team compete more effectively against the French, Germans, Dutch and Italians. Yet, at a time when there has never been so much money in the English game, the pool of technically competent players, eligible to wear an England shirt, was actually diminishing and England seemed destined to continue being tournament quarter-finalists, at best. If that was not depressing enough, the 2007 ‘Golden Generation’ of players were showing that their loyalties were to the Premier League (best league in the world, remember) and club football, rather than the FA and England. They seemed as motivated to play in an England shirt as I was to part with £30 for a cheap seat in the upper tier “just for Estonia”, £5 for a match programme, £5 pound for a pint and £4.50 for a pie. Continue reading

Knees up beats the Brazilian Samba beat

The win against Brazil on Wednesday night had the country falling back into the Olympic spirit but was everyone happy?  Our resident Daggers Diary team headed up to Wembley to test the mood of the nation.

Last July, I gave up my membership of England fans. After six years, and having attended a decent number of games in that time, I figured that I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to Brazil for the world cup, and so I gave it all up.

So of course my exile lasted all of one game, before I gave in and attended the qualifying game against San Marino last October. While it was great going again, the one thing I didn’t relish was the queue to get back to wembley park station after the game. That has always been the one part of the experience that I wish could be changed. Sadly, it still seems to be the same even though the stadium is so much better than its historic predecessor.

100_5761I suppose the one thing I miss is the opportunity to go to away games, which were always good fun. But in the end, finances won, and I am a home England fan only. So obviously, I am back tonight, in the cold for the start of the 150th anniversary celebrations for the oldest football association in the world.

The visit of Brazil always brings memories of the great teams of the past, notably the 1958 world champions and the 1970 side which is still regarded by many as the finest national team ever. It also brings the obligatory shots of the Copacabana beach, as well as various carnival images and the cameraman trying to find the most attractive female Brazil fans in the crowd.

There have been a couple of other stories surrounding the game. The first is the approaching 100th England appearance of Ashley Cole. Probably not the most universally popular player ever to play for England, Cole has been good enough to become only the seventh player to get to the landmark century of caps. The performances have been highly consistent and (if you can get past the tabloid headlines about various bits of his personal and professional life), it certainly marks him out as one of the finest left back in our long history. It’s also arguable that a lack of decent competition has helped, but even so, you don’t get to 100 caps by only being average. Continue reading

The worst penalty of all time?

America 1994 was a turning point in world football.  By awarding tournament, the stakes were raised and it became all about the money rather than the game itself.  You only have to see the logic of scheduling games at lunchtime in the middle of the American summer to realise that it was the TV companies and the major sponsors that dictated the play and not the sensibility.

All of a sudden we had Budweiser and McDonalds thrust down our throats at every opportunity, which is not a bad thing, but a Gillette razor or a Canon TV was a bit more problematic.  The US were awarded the tournament on the proviso that they had in place plans to launch their own professional league (The MLS was launched two years later), and benefited from the huge stadiums that had previously been built for the NFL teams.  Big stadiums meant big crowds and the tournament still holds the record for the highest average attendance at over 69,000.  And big attendances meant more money flowing into FIFA’s Swiss bank account in ticket sales.  Only $16.6bn for four weeks work – small time really. Continue reading

Life before the Mexican wave

To be sixteen again – who wouldn’t want to go back to such innocent days when compared with the stress and strains of modern life.  Sixteen when some of the good things in life were now legal, although growing up with a slightly wayward elder brother meant that I had tried them all long before the 13th FIFA World Cup kicked off in Mexico on the 31st May 1986.

Quite how the tournament was able to start was a miracle in itself.  Columbia were originally chosen to host the tournament but due to the escalation of civil unrest they withdrew their candidacy in 1982.  The USA, Canada and Mexico threw their respective hats into the ring and FIFA went with the safe choice of Mexico who had previously hosted the tournament sixteen years previously.  Just three years later the country was rocked by an earthquake that left the tournament in the balance.  FIFA were prepared to postpone the tournament by a year but the Mexicans insisted that all was in order so on the 31st May World Cup holders Italy took on Bulgaria in the Azteca stadium in the searing midday Mexican heat.  And so the curse of the champions continued as Italy failed to win the opening game of their defence. Continue reading