2010: Annus Mediocris

After the World Cup we had, it’s not too difficult to feel at least a twinge of sympathy with our near neighbours, although on the other hand it’s also quite difficult to suppress any giggling.

In some respects the French campaign in South Africa was so wonderfully dysfunctional that it’s hard to imagine any other team self destructing with such panache; at least Italy nearly made it to the second round although at least they have some previous when it comes to underperfoming in Africa.

The sanctions the French FA imposed on their squad in the aftermath of both the performance on the pitch and the histrionics off it look like a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted.

Tonight’s friendly can be seen from two contradictory angles. On the optimistic side, it’s an opportunity for both sides to field players with minimal international experience who wouldn’t normally make a contribution in the hope that a couple of them will make a breakthrough. From a negative point of view, the game will feature ‘experimental’  (ie under strength) sides and concludes a year that arguably could and should have been more successful for both sides. That’s certainly the way French manager Laurent Blanc seems to see it (some knowledge of French required).

The problem we’ve got – again – is goals. Montenegro’s clean sheet was the first time that we’ve failed to score at home since February 2007, when a goal from Andres Iniesta was enough for a Spanish win at Old Trafford. Fab’s hands have been tied with the usual crop of withdrawals and injuries, which is why the (ahem) ‘troubled but talented’ Andy Carroll of Newcastle will probably start up front; presumably he got the nod before Cardiff City’s Jay Bothroyd because Cardiff aren’t in the Premiership…yet.

The only other confirmed starters are Sunderland’s Jordan Henderson and Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs – when there’s some kind of news about what the team actually is, we’ll have it here.

With just under two weeks to go before the announcement of the host nation for the 2018 World Cup, it’s fair to say that – for whatever reason – our chances of winning the bid are slightly worse than they were at the beginning of the year.

The incident concerning Lord Triesman was regrettable even if there may have been something to it; the perception of the Sunday Times enquiry into vote buying may have damaged the bid even though it seems public perception refuses to blame the journalists, who were right to investigate what was happening.

So the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia will be made by a discredited body that won’t even have enough time to investigate itself before announcing where the next two competitions will be held.

Don’t hold your breath and be prepared for more disappointment. However, if by some miracle we actually win the bid, then mine’s several pints of Bombardier.

Update: starting line up against France:

Foster, Jagielka, Ferdinand, Lescott, Gibbs, Walcott, Henderson, Barry, Milner, Gerrard, Carroll.

Didn’t Ferdinand Lescott-Gibbs discover the Zambezi?

One Night In Turin

4th July 1990: I’d like to say I remember it like yesterday, but it’s coming up to 20 years ago now which is genuinely scary. After a dreadful group stage, England beat Belgium with David Platt’s goal with the last kick of the game in the second round and generously allowed Cameroon to take the lead in the quarter final with under half an hour left before finishing them off in injury time.

The win set up the mythical semi final with West Germany; despite giving away the lead again to one of the most ridiculous goals I’ve ever seen, hitting the post 57 times (or so it seemed) and having arguably the most skillfull player England has ever produced booked for causing a German to fall over and roll about, England very nearly made it to the final for the first time in 24 years.

The combination of two missed penalties and the ‘Nessun Dorma’ theme tune used by the BBC plus my outrage that the Beeb didn’t scrap the rest of the evening’s television traumatised me to the point where I couldn’t watch the video tape for a decade; I managed to watch most of it once but I’ve never watched it all the way to the end.

So in a way, the release of One Night In Turin this week will hopefully provide some kind of personal catharsis to those of us of a certain age:  the film is launched with a special premiere supported by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation at the Gateshead Metro Centre, which includes a live Q&A session that will be screened simultaneously accross the UK via the Arts Alliance network. The session will hosted by Jim Rosenthal with the film’s director James Erskine, Pete Davies (author of ‘All Played Out‘) and some of the Italia 90 squad (the most recent confirmed player is Stuart Pearce); if you want any questions answered (who was Chris Waddle’s barber for example) or want to find the nearest cinema showing the film in your area, please go to www.onenightinturin.com; the Arts Alliance Network can be found here and the Sir Bobby Robson foundation is here.

We’re looking forward to the film at 11 Lions; I’m planning to watch the whole videotape…but only under the right circumstances.

See if you can guess what they might be.

On Tuesday, ‘One Night In Turin’ is released with a special premiere with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation at the Gateshead Metro Centre, which includes a live Q&A session that will be screened simultaneously accross the UK via the Arts Alliance network. The session will hosted by Jim Rosenthal with the film’s director James Erskine, Pete Davies (author of ‘All Played Out’) and some of the Italia 90 squad; anyone watching will be able to either text questions to ( ) or send them via ( )
To find the nearest cinema showing to yo, go to www.onenightinturin.com; the Arts Alliance Network can be found at www.artsalliancemedia.com and the Sir Bobby Robson foundation is at Sirbobbyrobsonfoundation.org.uk

Sven’s Footballing Adventure Continues…

Having left Notts County at the beginning of February and seemingly doomed to wander the earth forever, Sven-Goran Eriksson was appointed coach of Ivory Coast today. Not much of a chance of our boys running into him and his new charges this summer: they have to face Brazil, Portugal and the thousand mile horses of North Korea in the group stage and would only play us in the semis – assuming get that we both get that far. Still, it’ll be fun to see how Svennis gets on with his new team, who begin their campaign with Didier Drogba versus Cristiano Ronaldo in the 10m men’s diving competition on Tuesday 15th June.