Euro 2008 - Austria & Switzerland
World Cup 2006 - Germany
Euro 2004 - Portugal
World Cup 2002 - Japan & South Korea
Euro 2000 - The Low Countries
World Cup 1998 - France
Euro 1996 - England: Football's Coming Home
World Cup 1990 - Italia


"In terms of story the greatest nation in the history of football is Germany. A World Cup without Germany would be like Star Wars without Darth Vader."
        - David Winner

German football teams traumatised their neighbours. The worst memory in French football history is the defeat to Germany in the semi-final of the World Cup of 1982. The worst Dutch football memory is the lost World Cup final of 1974, recently mourned in a bestselling book. The worst English memories are probably the defeats to Germany in 1970, 1990 and 1996, summed up by the phrase "Thirty years of hurt" in the English football hymn "Football’s Coming Home"... they entered the last World Cup as perhaps the first team in history built around a goalkeeper — Oliver Kahn.
        - Simon Kuper, on the decline of Germany, "The Financial Times"

Penalty shoot-outs test the ability to beat a goalkeeper from 12 yards while exhausted and with tens of millions of people watching. Clearly there is an element of luck, as in almost everything. However, measured over time, some players and countries will outperform others. There are reasons why the English do badly. First, they rarely wait for the keeper to dive before choosing their corner. Second, they take their kicks knowing that their countrymen historically lose on penalties. When a team plays at a World Cup, the ghosts of their past players sit on their shoulders whispering in their ears.
        - Simon Kuper, "The Financial Times"

When England get knocked out of this World Cup, an ancient ritual will unfold. Perfected over England’s previous 13 failures to win the World Cup away from home, it follows an all too familiar pattern. Phase one: certainty that England will win the World Cup. Two: During the tournament England face a former wartime enemy. In five of their last six World Cups, they were knocked out by either Germany or Argentina. The matches fit seamlessly into the British tabloid view of history, except for the outcome. Three: The English conclude that the game turned on one freakish piece of bad luck that could happen only to them. Four: Moreover, everyone else cheated. Every referee opposes England. His decisions that support this thesis are analysed darkly and his nationality is mentioned to blacken him further. Five: England are knocked out without getting anywhere near lifting the cup. The only exception was 1990, when they reached the semi-final. Otherwise they have always gone out when still needing to defeat at least three excellent teams. Six: The day after elimination, normal life resumes. The one exception is 1970, when England’s elimination probably caused Labour’s surprise defeat in the general election four days later. Seven: A scapegoat is selected. The scapegoat is never an outfield player who has “fought” all match. Even if he caused defeat by missing a penalty, he is a “hero”. Only after a defeat to Brazil is no scapegoat sought, because defeats to Brazil are considered acceptable. Eight: England enter the next World Cup thinking they will win it.
        - Simon Kuper, "The Financial Times"

A major reason for Brazil’s superiority over England, for instance, is that they can select the most able players from among 186 million people, while we select the best from among 50 million. The relationship isn’t a simple one — some big countries don’t play much professional football, while some small countries do well — but it is strong nevertheless. To cite one study, 69 per cent of the variation in the strength of teams in Europe is explained by differences in population size.
        - Daniel Finkelstein, "The Times"

The World Cup is the biggest feast of nationalism on the planet. But it is also, simultaneously, the biggest feast of non-nationalism. We want our boys to win, but at the same time, we want to find brilliance, beauty, wonder; strength, character, resolve. And we admire these things wherever we find them, even if we fear them as obstacles in England’s path. It is the essential contradiction of the World Cup. It is a festival of the most strident and often ghastly jingoism and a celebration of multinationalism, multiculturalism and human diversity.
Partisanship is one of sport’s joys. All sports can be enjoyed in a pure way, a quiet way, for the sake of themselves, as well as in a one-eyed, noisy way because we want one side to win.
At the World Cup, we switch from one mode to the other with effortless contradiction. For three days you are a professor of football, an aesthete at the beautiful game, a scientist seeking new specimens of brilliance, and then on the fourth day, when England play again, you become a frenzied supporter, seeing a world filled with imaginary injustices, happy to win by any means possible, untroubled by thoughts of beauty or, for that matter, justice. And the next day, you are back to an Olympian calm, surveying all of football spread out before you, seeking nothing but perfection — perfect match, perfect drama, perfect skill. We can do this because we are human, which means that we have our being in contradiction. Patriots for England, yes, but also patriots for Fußballstadt: Fußball uber alles.
        - Simon Barnes, "The Times"

There is something striking about Africa. It is the only continent in the world that supports its teams as a continent — although for some strange reason, Black Africa does not usually support the North African teams like Tunisia or Morocco in quite the same way as sub-Saharan teams. South American, European or Asian countries will largely support their national teams in the World Cup finals. Most Africans — even those from countries whose teams are not represented — refer to the participating African teams in such terms as "Our first game is on Friday" or "Why are we losing chances for scoring?" The World Cup is not only a collective African effort. It is also a deeply emotional and political event. It will never be simply an entertaining sporting event. For Africans, the tournament represents the noble and desperate struggle of a historically downtrodden, enslaved and impoverished man to assert himself — to demonstrate that he too counts on the world stage. That is the psychology and collective feeling that accompanies any African team into the World Cup finals, particularly the Black African teams.
        - Timothy Kalyegira, of Uganda's "Daily Monitor"

# EURO 2008 (ALPINE)

It was the charm of the competition that everyone looked beatable, including Spain, who might have lost to Italy but for an accomplished save by Iker Casillas. In its capacity for preserving doubt Euro 2008 teased the public before Spain confirmed that they are a team apart. Cynicism was diminished as people saw a tournament in which Italy, France and Germany were no longer so intimidating. Croatia, with a win over Joachim Löw's side in the group stage, illustrated that hierarchies can crumble. The tournament has been wonderful yet we may have to preserve those memories. There appears to be unanimity among Uefa's 53 cash-hungry members that, from 2016, there should be 24 teams rather than 16 at the finals. The structure can only be unwieldy and the quality must be diluted from its present potency. We may look back in horror and appreciate that Euro 2008 was too great a success. Excluded sides wanted to be part of all this at any price, even if that cost came in tarnishing so excellent a tournament.
        - Kevin McCarra, "The Guardian"

Couple Of Bores At Death's Door.
        - The Sun after France and Romania labour to a 0-0 draw

As I wrote before, the format of this tournament -- with the two halves being kept apart until the final -- was a major blunder on UEFA's part. Meeting teams you already faced in the group stage just one game after the end of the group stage is not a good idea. And in Group C we've seen exactly why. We have a bizarre situation where it may be in Holland's interest to lose to Romania. Doing so would knock Italy and France (which, on paper at least, look like more formidable opponents) out of the tournament (and, because of this silly format, the Netherlands would risk facing one or the other in the semifinals).
        - Gabrielle Marcotti, "SI"

Whether or not Germany win the European Championships final against Spain here in Vienna on Sunday night, most German fans won’t mind much. Other countries’ supporters have begun making the same mental shift. This is a new stage in football history...
“Football is about emotions, and emotions are now stronger in the party than in victory,” says Albrecht Sonntag. “And for sponsors it’s more interesting. What can you do with a team like in ’82 that finishes second in the world but commands no sympathy?”
The point of international football was always proving your nation’s superiority through victory. But that now feels so 20th-century: football as a surrogate for war. Some other countries have begun edging away from it. Italian players led by Gennaro Gattuso agreed before the last World Cup that win or lose, they would convey a better image of Italy than certain whingeing Italian teams of the past had. At Euro 2008, Swedish fans didn’t mind so much that their team lost, but that it played boring football. And Sonntag says his French friends in Angers tell him they wish they had a cheerful team like Germany’s... The battle to be nicest will only confirm suspicions among outsiders that Europeans have succumbed to a peculiar mixture of innocence and decadence. Those Germans secretly hoping for a tragic defeat on Sunday night won’t mind.
        - Simon Kuper, "Beautiful Losers" (FT)

Dutch striker Ruud van Nisterlooy is to spend the rest of Euro 2008 standing on the opposition goal-line. Holland coach Marco Van Basten made the bold tactical shift after it became clear Van Nistelrooy was invisible to both referees and linesmen. Meanwhile Italy has lodged a formal protest and demanding the Dutch share the secret of their 'invisibility potion'.
        - Seen on The Daily Mash

Every two years a show rolls into town and captures the attention of a nation. Its unjustified hype tinged with nostalgia and a pantomine villain who only reveals himself at the death engrosses viewers who adore the show's stars for nine months before turning on them when the summer rolls around. It rivals 'Big Brother' for car crash entertainment except it involves people with talent. Unfortunately, this year, the England football circus is closed... A football tournament just isn't the same... When the encounters are as dull as the Czechs and the Swiss, a looming England catastrophe provides a welcome distraction... Their presence in 2010 should be welcomed purely for the entertainment value of an impending implosion. Once they don't win it of course.
        - Aidan O'Hara, reflecting on England's absence, "The Irish Independent"

We're in a blissful world, where people who know nothing about football aren't suddenly taken with talking incessantly about it just because England is in a tournament, there's no tedious faux-patriotic fervor where England's fate becomes a metaphor for world survival, the jingoistic tabloid nonsense has been minimized and, best of all, we've had to put up with refreshingly few commercials where footloose multi-nationals try desperately to claim passion for our country, culture, national team and game. Yes, dear readers, watching Euro '08 here has made football feel like it's one's hobby again, an interest and, dare we say it, a sport, rather than an over-hyped commodity. We're enjoying it so much that we might even move across the border to Wales, which never qualifies for anything.
        - Team Limey, covering Euro 2008 from England for America's "SI"


I just checked on the internet, and it says the world outside the World Cup still exists.
        - Simon Kuper, surrounded by soccer journalists, "FT"

Learning to live without the World Cup is like being jilted by the perfect girlfriend for no fathomable reason.
        - Ed Power, "The Irish Independent"

The Olympic Games do not in any sense make a community of the world. Quite the reverse, for the most party, people only take what they want to see of their own nation. US television usually show events Americans are likely to win. The World Cup is different: it gives us not just football, but raging, worldwide controversies — this year over players fooling the referee, not to secure just a free-kick, but in order to get another player sent off. Thousands of millions of people of all cultures and religions probably have an opinion about what happened to Wayne Rooney. Whatever the topic, the World Cup creates a global family out of strangers, one that is passionate, sympathetic, angry, hostile, engaged and joyful, and far more emotionally meaningful than anything the UN could ever achieve. It is the closest ething to the unification of mankind that we can aspire to — so enjoy it while it lasts.
        - Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent"

Which club's players have had the most impact on Germany 2006? A detailed Financial Times analysis suggests that footballers from two clubs - Chelsea and Italy's Juventus - have been the most effective, with the Turin side just pipping the Londoners at the top of the pile. The analysis took account of a range of player contributions, good and bad, such as goals scored, assists, clean sheets, red and yellow cards and interventions in penalty shoot-outs. It included all matches up to and including the semi-finals - 62 in all. English clubs feature prominently in the table, with Arsenal fourth and Manchester United eighth, in addition to Chelsea.
        - David Owen, "FT"

A victory for Machiavelli over Napoleon.
        - Dion Fanning, on Italy's final victory, "The Irish Independent"

Italy's response came largely through corners, but what corners, Andrea Pirlo looping the ball up to hang over the six-yard line where the big men could attack it like dolphins leaping for fish.
        - Jonathan Wilson, on Italy's final equaliser, "FT"

A game not of beauty but of a terrible, exhausting power.
        - Roger Cohen, describing the final in the "International Herald Tribune"

France-Italy wasn't by any stretch the best game of the tournament. It did display, though, that the world is so manic about the beautiful game precisely because it's so often anything but beautiful. A soccer match is a frequently boring, occasionally tragic, and periodically triumphant affair, all compressed into 90 minutes. Yesterday's game, and Zidane's moments of mastery and mayhem, displayed the sport's full range of emotions.
        - Robert Weintraub, "Slate Magazine"

"We think he either called him a terrorist or a son of Harkis," said Mokhtar Haddad, one of Zidane's cousins who with friends and family studied the pivotal scene on a big screen in the family's home village Aguemoune, 260 kilometers, or 160 miles, east of Algiers. The Harkis reference is a term for collaborators in the Algerian war of independence from France, a severe insult in that country.
        - Doreen Carvajal, "International Herald Tribune", on the mysterious insult to Zidane

"It is cheating, but they are Italians"
        - William Gallas, of France and Chelsea

"I'm a man, and I'm telling you that I would rather have been punched in the face than have heard those words. But I heard them, and I reacted."
        - Zinedine Zidane, on Materazzi's insults to his mother and sister

Even though it could have irrefutably damaged his team, even though it was over-the-top and violent and kind of insane … we think it's one of the coolest things we've ever seen in a soccer match. We know it's wrong to say that. But it's true.
        - Internet blog Deadspin on Zidane's moment of madness

How was Zidane's head-butting technique? Impeccable. Experts in self-defense and mixed martial arts say Zidane's head butt was a flawless demonstration of the form. He positioned his feet close to his opponent and stepped into the blow, contracting his abdominal muscles to curve into the attack. He was also careful to keep his chin down as he approached, which helped him land the strike with the top of his head as opposed to his brow or face.
        - Daniel Engber, "How to Headbutt like a Pro", "Slate Magazine"

The World Cup begins now. Eight teams, mano a mano. Two men enter, one man leaves. Welcome to Thunderdome. It's good to bear this in mind in a few months' time when you look back on this World Cup. Whoever wins will be anointed a genius. The winning players will become household names, their fame will far surpass their ability or contribution (the fact that Christophe Dugarry is relatively famous to this day proves the point). And the losers will be chastised as incompetents, as cowards as men of little worth... but remember the difference between winning and losing is tiny and, in 90 minutes, anything can happen.
        - Gabrielle Marcotti, preparing for the quarter finals, "Sports Illustrated"

Italy must have dreaded the prospect of penalties: they have lost all three shoot-outs in their World Cup history, while Germany always win them. Against their nature, they therefore resolved to attack, bringing on del Piero and Camoranesi, so that they ended up with two forwards and two creative midfielders.
        - Simon Kuper, on Italy's late late victory over Germany, "FT"

Islamist gunmen in Somalia killed two people protesting a ban on watching the World Cup. Witnesses said the pair were shot and killed late Tuesday when soccer fans barred by Islamists from watching the semi-final match between Germany and Italy complained at the prohibition in the central Galgadud region.
        - An AFP report

The most extraordinary performance in the semi-final came not from Zidane nor even Ronaldo, but from Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Potuguese manager. Scolari expended far more energy during the 90 minutes than any of the mere footballers. He stalked the touchline, looking like the landlord of a particularly rough pub at chucking-out time, desperate to get rid of the drunks before the police arrived. He alternated between serious attempts to control events and frequent gestures of complete despair.
        - Matthew Engel, "FT"

In Brazil the verdict on Scolari - and it is certainly one that does not preclude a recall to his nation's cause the next time they believe they have reached a dead end - is that he is at his best in the extreme demands of big-time tournament play. "Scolari is, we believe, a better coach for a month than a year," says a Brazilian insider. "Over a longer period, things can go wrong with Scolari. He is very stubborn, and sometimes he can go beyond logical arguments. But then when the big pressure is on he is at his best. When we assess Scolari we say he is bold and he is lucky - it is a fantastic combination at this level of the game." David Beckham could rifle in another free-kick. And what would Big Phil do then? Maybe his greatest strength is that long ago we knew the answer to that question. He would get to his feet and he would roar against his fate. He would come ferociously alive. The chances are so would his team.
        - James Lawton, "Scolari: The Touchline Commander", "The Independent"

"Zidane delivered the coup de grace, and you can almost say that it was a good death. The last thing we saw while we were still alive in this World Cup was the gallop, the dribble, the shot by Zidane."
        - Spanish newspaper "As", on Spain's elimination by France

The creativity of Zidane and the dash of Henry may be the image of the French team, but its heart is its back four and the two veteran midfielders who screen it: Claude Makelele and Patrick Vieira.
        - Peter Berlin, "International Herald Tribune"

Perhaps the most telling image was of Barcelona team-mates Deco and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, of Portugal and Holland respectively, who were both sent off, ending the game sitting next to each other, two friends looking bamboozled as to what had just happened.
        - Richard Milne, "FT", after four players are sent off during Portugal v Holland

"The victory belongs to Italy, to Grosso, to Cannavaro, to Zambrotta, to Buffon, to Maldini, to everyone who loves Italian soccer! Hiddink... lost all his courage faced with Italian history and traditions... He finally reaped fruits which he had sown! They should go home. They don't need to go as far away as Australia as most of them are living in Europe. Farewell!"
        - Huang Jianxiang, of Chinese TV, revealing his true allegiance after Italy v Australia

Perhaps no match at this World Cup better demonstrated the modern confusion over national identity than the meeting in the group stage of Australia and Croatia. Both teams were stuffed with Australian-born children of Croatian emigrants to Australia.
        - Peter Berlin, "International Herald Tribune"

France's former striker Youri Djorkaeff was rumbled on Saturday after telling employers New York Red Bulls he was away attending a "family emergency". Djorkaeff was spotted in the crowd at the France v Brazil quarter-final.
        - seen on BBC website

Blaming Brazil's cautious football on their coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, is simplistic. The coach of Brazil is not an omnipotent being, but merely a guy who sits in the dugout and watches his players along with the rest of us. The Brazilians who meet France in tomorrow’s quarter-final are probably the most experienced football team ever. Brazilians know that you win World Cups by conserving energy for the last few matches, or at least for the party afterwards. That is why they haven’t been putting their full weight into tackles. For any Brazilian starter, the biggest risk to his winner’s medal is not defeat but injury. Brazil’s bench is so strong that anyone getting hurt may never regain his place.
Ronaldinho has grown so frustrated that against Ghana on Tuesday he actually stopped smiling. A German observer of their 3-0 victory over Ghana described the Brazilians as “Harlem Globetrotters who have forgotten to go to Weight Watchers”. But the Brazilians knew they didn’t need to cut down on the cakes to beat Ghana.
        - from "The Financial Times"

Africa's hopes of a third quarter-finalist, to follow Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal four years ago, were slim after an unfavourable draw saw the best teams (Ghana, Ivory Coast) pitched against stronger opposition than the weaker sides (Angola, Togo, Tunisia).
        - Phillip Cornwall, "Football 365"

"We haven't started practising penalties yet."
        - Jurgen Klinnsmann, on a potential knock out tie v England

"The way to paradise is not laid just with roses, but with thorns as well. We probably needed this trial, so we can rise from the humiliation and walk even further."
        - Hrihoriy Surkis, president of Ukranian FA, after their rout by Spain

This morning Ukraine's defender Vladislav Vashchuk said that Ukraine's humiliating 4-0 defeat at the hands of Spain was not the fault of the players — but was down to the frogs. Frogs outside the team's hotel in the scenic east German town of Potsdam had croaked all night before the game, leaving the team tired and out of sorts, he said. "Because of the frogs' croaking we hardly got a wink of sleep," the defender explained. "We all agreed that we would take some sticks and go and hunt them."
        - Luke Harding, "The Guardian"

No veni, vidi, vici for Vidic.
        - Headline from "The Irish Independent" after Nemanja Vidic is ruled out

"If we had attacked them from the start, we could have scored. We also might have lost by several goals but at least it wouldn't have been in such a cowardly fashion."
        - Ognjen Koroman, after Serbia & Montenegro (S&M) lose 1-0 to the Dutch

"It was 10 minutes of probably the most exciting soccer that Australia has ever seen."
        - John Aloisi, on Australia's late comeback against Japan

"I will slightly, not totally, apologise for that. Everyone in the stadium can see the replay but not the coach... That's why I was in a little scrum with those guys."
        - Gus Hiddink, explaining his altercation at Australia v Japan

Just tell people Karl Rove put the soccer team together so that it's impossible to be competitive. You see, the Americans actually lead the world in soccer players, but we're held in such low regard overseas, Rove made the decision not to make matters worse by playing our stars. And we've actually got sleeper CIA funded soccer players on the Mexican team, hence their big win over Iran.
        - Email seen on National Review's blog site, explaining US team's performance

No sooner had the word spread around the water coolers that Team USA actually had a chance in "your" game, the Czech Republic had crushed our hopes by a three-nil count. Worse, Team USA's manager, Bruce Arena, and his players were exchanging very pointed barbs, which is not the way of American sports teams. We may lose, but we go down to together. To hear Arena tell it, none of this is the fault of the leader himself... If that's how soccer coaches react, maybe we don't know your game after all.
        - Bill Center, with an American view of events in "The Times"

With the Dow Jones average down over 600 points, factory productivity in a downward spiral, and workplace attendance down by nearly a third, experts say the U.S. World Cup team's heartbreaking 3-0 defeat at the hands of Czech Republic on Monday has brought life across the soccer-crazed nation to a virtual standstill. "What happened in Gelsenkirchen has indeed dealt a grievous blow to the morale of the American people," said President Bush, who had promised his constituency a swift and speedy victory in the World Cup this year and whose popularity has taken a 9 percent hit since the U.S. team's loss. At press time, the U.S. team is scheduled to play Italy on Saturday and Ghana the following Thursday, and the National Guard has reported moderate casualties while attempting to contain hooligan activity in the nine largest U.S. cities.
        - from "The Onion"

Poland: The current Baltimore Ravens squad. Ostensibly a defensive team, but without any real defensive ability. Should be offensive to watch.
England: Like the New York Mets. Massively, ridiculously overrated by their media, always involved in some sort of comic downfall, insane injuries, woeful management. A car crash waiting to happen, at which stage the local media go berserk.
Switzerland: Name any boring, bad NHL team and this is who the Swiss are.
        - The Boston Globe, previewing the World Cup USA style

"Which one of these will put us out this time?"
        - caption underneath photo of World Cup referrees in Spanish sports daily Marca

"I deserved more respect. Apparently I am not even part of the 30 or 40-man list. I don't know where I am and I don't know whether I am part of any plans in the future. So I am off to Australia for a month. I will do some canoeing among crocodiles, kangaroos and penguins."
        - France's Ludovic Giuly, taking a cue from Roberto Baggio on how to handle rejection

Togo's players have been warned they will be dropped by coach Otto Pfister if they speak to South Korean, Chinese or Japanese press. Midfielder Junior Senaya broke the news to the Asian press and says he will not put his place in the team at jeopardy to answer questions.
        - From Sky Sports

Paraguay's Roberto Acuna could face a FIFA ban after he asked a Swedish photographer out on a date. According to the Daily Mirror, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheters' photographer Emelie Asplund reported the veteran playmaker to FIFA after he asked his translator Manuel Hoffman to call her in the early hours of Saturday and invite her to join him. Asplund claims she was offended by the late night call and now Acuna faces an anxious fate as football's governing body meets to discuss the consequences.
        - from Football365

It is without question the finest time to be alive.
        - Tom Dunne, looking forward to the World Cup in Dublin's "Evening Herald"

As Ireland didn't qualify for the World Cup Finals, we'll just have to cheer players from other countries, players like McBride, Kennedy, Cahill, Carragher, Donovan, Dempsey, Rooney, O'Brien, Lennon, Milligan...
        - Ad for convenience store Spar seen in a Dublin newspaper


England winning their quarter-final in Gelsenkirchen will be the dividing line between what will be seen as success and failure in this campaign.
        - Tim Rich, setting the stage for England v Portugal, "The Telegraph"

12 yards of pain.
        - Henry Winter, on England's penalty disasters, "The Telegraph"

There is always a tale of woe every time England exit a tournament. It just wouldn't be England without the dramas of self-destruction and the cruel twists of fate, would it?
        - David Brown, "News of the World"

And here we are again. Glorious in defeat. The brave losers. Missed penalties and misfortune. Aren't you just a little sick of it?
        - Martin Samuel

"England didn’t fail because we didn’t have enough good players. Man for man, we had better players than Portugal, better perhaps than any of the semi-finalists. We failed because the team was not properly prepared. Look at every single thing that went wrong: the penalties, Wayne Rooney’s red card, key players underperforming, the preposterous situation with the WAGs, the injuries. Each was caused by a fundamental lack of preparation. To lose in the manner we did is unforgivable and cannot be allowed to continue if we’re serious about ever winning a major tournament. It is the fifth time in eight championships that we’ve gone out on penalties. The chances of winning a World Cup without coming through a shoot-out are small, so to not prepare adequately is both criminal and amateur. Was Rooney thinking correctly under pressure when he was visibly frustrated at playing in a formation that did not suit him? No, because he hadn’t been coached to do that. Walcott’s a smashing player, but he was a waste of a key squad place."
        - Clive Woodward, England's Rugby World Cup Winning coach, "FourFourTwo"

"He is the golden boy of English football. Please, for your sake, do not kill him. You need him."
        - Sven Goran Eriksson, on Wayne Rooney's sending off

To Rooney I commend the example of Diego Maradona. Maradona got himself sent off against Italy in the World Cup of 1982. Hacked, tugged, harried and niggled beyond endurance by Claudio Gentile, Maradona lashed out, got sent off and Argentina were out. Four years later, Argentina — that is to say, Maradona — won the World Cup. There’s something for Rooney to aim at.
        - Simon Barnes, "The Times"

On the pitch for less than 45 minutes all told, but probably scared the life out of more defenders in that half of football than any other English player in the whole tournament.
        - Football365's assessment of Aaron Lennon

"It's a shame England aren't playing tonight, it's the game Theo Walcott probably would have played in."
        - Gary Lineker, introducing the third place playoff

Eriksson deserves to be pilloried for reversing the laws of arithmetic and somehow having England’s whole add up to less than the sum of its parts. How could John Terry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who are outstanding week in, week out in the most competitive league in the world, look so ordinary against the also-rans of Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago and Ecuador? Why can’t Lampard and Gerrard function together? What is the point of Paul Robinson kicking the ball from one penalty area to the other with only a midget centre-forward to aim at? Answers on a postcard to Timid of Torsby, whose tactics and team selection were as flawed as at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004.
        - Joe Lovejoy, after England lose again to Portugal, "The Times"

There have been few managers who have contributed as much to their own team's downfall as Eriksson. If you take the three major tournaments he has led England through, Eriksson has done progressively worse as the players available to him have got better. In Germany, from the selection of the squad, to the final match against Portugal, there were mistakes everywhere. Eriksson asking Rooney to play on his own was an accident waiting to happen. He would come back chasing the ball, attempt to win it back in his own half, and so become more tired, isolated and frustrated.
        - Alan Hansen, "The Telegraph"

There is a strong argument to say that, when McClaren sits down on holiday to start composing his ideas, he should use a permanent pen and put Gerrard and Wayne Rooney in their best positions. They are England’s two undoubted world-class talents. Coax the best from that pair by playing them as attacking midfield player and second striker, respectively — close to each other, which they enjoy — and all that matters is having players capable of making the system work around them. There are many lessons from the Eriksson regime, but perhaps the most pertinent, at least as far as McClaren is concerned, is that picking the best players is no guarantee of the best team.
        - Matt Dickinson, "The Times"

As for all these supposedly "world-class" players, a closer look reveals this hardly is Brazil, circa 1970. In fact, England's problem is that it's stacked in certain positions (box-to-box midfielders, central defenders) and totally thin in others.
        - Gabrielle Marcotti, "Sports Illustrated"

In a perfect world every football team would try to play entertaining football and win matches but, as Sven-Goran Eriksson pointed out earlier in the week, there's no bonus points in the World Cup for winning it with style. Winning it is all that counts. With so many entertaining talents, such as Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard and Beckham, of course this England team can entertain. But I think we will only really see them play to the best of their exciting abilities when they go a goal behind. That hasn't happened to them yet in this competition and it will be fascinating to see how they respond to that challenge if Portugal go ahead tomorrow. We saw it earlier in the week when the French fought back to beat Spain and I am confident England are more than capable of doing the same against Portugal.
        - Kenny Dalglish, "The Telegraph"

"If we had only one system you would ask, 'Where is the Plan B?' If we have two systems you say, 'We don't know which way to play'. How do you expect me to answer that? We have a clear vision and we know exactly what we are doing."
        - Sven, finally losing his temper with a reporter at an England press conference

The Treaty of Windsor, signed with Portugal in 1386, may well be the longest lasting alliance in English military history, but it will be superseded by the less formal, 90-minute Treaty of Gelsenkirchen between Scotland and Portugal. If the Portuguese win their World Cup football game against England, there will be immense jubilation north of the border. If England win, however, the infuriated Scotch will most likely go on the rampage, attacking any convenient English target. The knowledge that the English habitually cheer for Ireland and Scotland when they’re playing real foreigners only seems to inflame the Celts even more. On the football field, Scotland has long punched way above its weight for a nation of just five million people. But the sad thing — and I mean that without irony or superciliousness — is that the tide of history is against them. I suspect that never again will they compete in the World Cup finals, which is a shame, if only because as an Englishman I have thoroughly enjoyed their previous campaigns.
        - Rod Liddle, "The Spectator"

"The Italians are in Scotland’s Euro 2008 qualifying group. Three quarter-finalists — Italy, France and Ukraine — are in it."
        - Clive Tyldesley, with a cheering message for Scots on ITV

In recent years the greatest nights of English football — Manchester United v Bayern Munich, Liverpool v Milan, Middlesbrough's stirring Uefa Cup victories over Basle and Steaua Bucharest — have been brought about not by adopting tactics, but by abandoning them all together. Even England's recent wins over Argentina and Uruguay were achieved when the team had cast aside all show of strategy and simply bombed forward in crazed all-out attack.
    - Harry Pearson, possibly tongue-in-cheek in "The Guardian"

How much was the heat responsible for draining England's performances? The skies over Stuttgart were heavy, sultry and humid. But it could hardly have been worse than in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City when an England team who had been maligned throughout the 1986 group stages demolished Paraguay and then ran Argentina desperately close. Putting on an extra defender to nurse a 1-0 lead and having your goalkeeper booked for time-wasting against a side with an attack led by Agustin Delgado is hardly sending a message of intent to the footballing world.
In the starkest terms, Beckham forced the own goal that saw off Paraguay, he provided Peter Crouch's decisive header that beat Trinidad and Tobago and has now delivered the free kick that has taken England into the quarter-finals of a World Cup. On the surface, he has had a fine tournament, except in almost everything else, Beckham has looked completely innocuous.
        - Tim Rich, "The Telegraph"

England progressed almost despite themselves. Even the introduction of Jamie Carragher with 13 minutes to go, part of Eriksson's now customary attempt to recreate the siege of Mafeking in the England box, failed to draw an chronically unambitious Ecuador into a sustained spell of attacking.
        - Jonathan Wilson, after Ecuador game, "FT"

Time and again the two attacking midfielders have failed to function as a doublebarrelled weapon. The thoroughly embarrassing opening hour against Trindad & Tobago demonstrated conclusively their inability to operate as the central duo in the midfield of a 4-4-2 formation, even against such modest opposition.
        - Richard Williams, on England's duo of Gerrard and Lampard, "The Guardian"

If Germany have not beaten Ecuador, finishing first is of questionable value, although it is unlikely that the World Cup will witness a repeat of the undignified scenes in the Tiger Cup in 1999 when Thailand and Indonesia began attacking their own goals in an attempt to finish second in the group and avoid a semi-final against the hosts Vietnam.
        - Jonathan Wilson, ahead of Swedish game, "FT"

You'll Never Walk Cologne.
        - Headline from The Sun ahead of Swedish game

Crouching Lion, Hidden Owen.
        - The Guardian, after the T&T game

The truth is that England have no real strategy beyond a reliance on the individual qualities of their big names, on the most rudimentary tactics handed down through the English game for generations, and, now, on an almost random infusion of youthful zest.
        - Richard Williams, "The Guardian"

There is always a case for boldness in selection and a case for conservatism. And normally victory validates the chosen course. But if England beat Argentina 5-0 in the final, nothing can justify Eriksson's vacillating incompetence. Should England win the World Cup, it would glorify everything that is atrocious about football.
        - Matthew Engel, "FT"

More accuracy and less trajectory is needed.
        - The Telegraph sums up England's long ball game

This was a lead earned so late there was not even time to call on Owen Hargreaves to protect it.
        - Jonathon Wilson, after England's late defeat of T&T, "Financial Times"

"England have two days of R&R in preparation for T&T."
        - Garth Crooks, looking forward to England v Trinidad and Tobago

This new Eriksson is a remarkable beast, sarcastic in press conferences, willing to defy Sir Alex Ferguson, and prepared to take shocking tactical risks — even if they do replicate those that have been deployed against him in the past.
        - Jonathon Wilson, "Financial Times"

José Mourinho, the Chelsea manager, has often spoken of the need to “break the lines” – that is, to prevent the defence, midfield and attack becoming rigid strata across the pitch. English football has always struggled both to deal with players who do that, while at the same time being unable to do it themselves, which is one of the reasons Wayne Rooney is so important.
        - Jonathan Wilson, "Financial Times"

Eriksson blamed the heat for England’s lethargy. Whether that is an acceptable excuse for professional athletes is open to debate – after all, World Cups are always held in the summer, and German conditions do not compare with the humidity of Japan in 2002. Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz’s jibe that England might win the World Cup but only “if it’s raining” was accurate enough to sting. Even in the opening half-hour, when Eriksson claimed England played well – “first-half good; second-half not so good”, one feels, will be his epitaph – there were too many long balls hit at Peter Crouch. Route one should be an option; not the default. After Saturday, more than ever, they await the return of Wayne Rooney. That, or a change in the weather: Wayne or rain – either will do.
        - Jonathon Wilson, after England struggle to beat Paraguay, "Financial Times"

England have two options if they want to win the World Cup. Either they can get God to stop making it hot in summer, or they can learn to play football on hot days. The English footballer cannot get his mind around the idea of warm-weather football. Of course, he will pour contempt on foreign players who fail to make the opposite adjustment: he looks great in August, but how’s he going to cope at Newcastle in January? But playing in warm weather is also something that sorts out the men from the boys.
        - Simon Barnes, "The Times"

1: The number of Scottish fans stabbed in Glasgow on Saturday afternoon after fighting broke out at the end of the England v Paraguay match.
85: The percentage of all the money placed in the UK for Paraguay to beat England that was staked in Scotland.
        - Football365's Mediawatch crunches some numbers

"We'd still prefer to be bombing Germany, but after 60 years there's a dawning suspicion that those days aren't coming back any time soon, and in the meantime we must rely on sarong-wearing multi-millionaire pretty boys to kick the Argies for us. We're not happy about it, but what can we do?"
        - Nick Hornby, on England fans, in "The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup"

My fondest moments so far have been the faint glimmerings of the sort of football I’m used to. Tim Cahill winning a game by himself for a rugged Australia side; Trinidad & Tobago keeping 11 men behind the ball and kicking out at anyone who moves, more than happy to settle for a goalless draw in every match. The islanders play precisely the sort of football with which I’m familiar. Indeed, I’ll be watching a fair few of their number in League One next season, at Gillingham and Port Vale, for example. And much as we tell ourselves that the World Cup is at its finest when the underdog wins through against the odds, the profusion of red and yellow cards accrued by Trinidad & Tobago suggests that the authorities wish to eradicate such joyous eventualities in 2006; heroic, desperate, last-ditch defending and crunching challenges are not really wanted.
But football without the gritty tackling ends up a bit like basketball, a silky, rapid, unhindered canter from penalty area to penalty area — which is what we witnessed in Argentina’s beautiful demolition of Serbia & Montenegro. Prohibited from playing their normal game and penalised every time they attempted to, the Serbs simply succumbed. The point of closing down players is to eventually put your foot in and harry the opposition attackers off the ball, but you’re not allowed to put your foot in any more, so the closing-down process becomes almost pointless. The old Italian 'catenaccio' teams of the 1960s and 1970s would not get past the group stage now
       - Rod Liddle

>> Quotes from British & Irish TV Commentators
>> Quotes about England manager Sven Goran Eriksson


"You need dictatorships and poverty to produce great footballers."
        - Eamon Dunphy, explaining how rising prosperity doomed Italy and Spain to elimination

"This not just about football history, it is about real history and what went on 60 years ago."
        - Ruud van Nistelrooy, being diplomatic as the Dutch face Germany

"Das Boot"
        - Britain's "The Sun", sad to see Germany knocked out

"I'm not talking to you people ever again. None of you may judge me as a man because I am more of a man than all of you put together."
        - Christian Vieri, putting the Italian media in its place

We make jokes of England and their missed penalties but it would be a brave man who tried one now. This has gone beyond a joke. It is a failure of both nerve and technique... It left us with the bleak conclusion that while a penalty shoot-out is a gamble in every corner of the football world, for England it is nothing less than an investigation of the soul. And each time it happens, that soul is somehow diminished.
        - James Lawton, "The Independent"

David Beckham must never go near a penalty kick again!
        - After three misses in a row, the truth dawns on "The Sun"

The good news is that Saddam Hussein is facing the death penalty. The bad news is that David Beckham is taking it.
        - Anonymous internet joke, as Saddam's trial begins during Euro 2004

"You'd better take Peter Schmeichel's belt and shoelaces off him before things get any worse."
       - Mark Lawrenson, as Czech Republic go 3-0 up against Denmark

Even if eternity brings an ice age, and a new world arises from that age, and that world burns down, even then a Luigi or Pietro will sneak up behind us Scandinavians and scream: "2-2!".
        - Simon Bank, writing in the Swedish press

"Death needs a cause."
        - Thomas Sorensen, Danish goalkeeper, as Italy crash out because of that 2-2 draw

"If I was the manager of Denmark and the Swedish coach came to me and said 'We'll do it', if you were really ruthless, you'd say 'All right, we'll go first, we'll go one up, then 1-1' and then when we went 2-1 up we'd stuff 'em."
        - Eamon Dunphy, with a plan to outwit potential cheaters, only on RTE

"Machiavelli was an Italian... Wasn't he, John? Who did he play for?"
        - Eamon Dunphy, terrifying his co-pundit John Giles on RTE

"I wonder why in the English language it’s called the Czech Republic when they have a name of their own — Czechi. That’s one for the pedagogues out there among the football-watching public."
"So are we calling them Czechi now George?"
        - George Hamilton, terrifying his co-pundit Ray Houghton on RTE

"We could be in for the Greece-Latvia final. Ha ha."
"Yes. You never know. Stranger things have happened."
"No! No they haven't."
        - John Toshack, terrifying his co-pundit Stepehn Cullinane on TV3

"Is this really what football at international level has come down to? Guys who are big and strong motoring up and down the pitch. Is this the beautiful game? Is this the glory game? I could get in the Greece team. I've played with guys like that. I don't want to see them picking up a cup."
        - Eamon Dunphy, bemoaning Greece's success, on RTE

"It used to be the case that if you were fit, organised and had tons of team spirit, it got you to the First Division play-offs. Now it gets you into the quarter- and semi-finals of the major competitions. If you look at some of the teams in the last eight, you've got average Premiership players."
        - Alan Hansen

I once made the error of informally referring to a side’s chances of winning a trophy as being zero when in fact their chance was 0.3 per cent. Unfortunately, I was referring to Greece and the tournament was Euro 2004. I have not repeated this mistake.
        - Daniel Finkelstein, in "The Fink Tank", "The Times"

"We’ve a big game tomorrow night. And of course it’s a big game for us as well."
"Yeah, let’s hope everyone is watching."
"You’re very sarcastic tonight, John."
"I’m not being sarcastic Bill. It’s very important... ratings."
"That’s right John."
        - Bill O'Herlihy and John Giles have one eye on the ratings and one on England

"No dissertations from you about tattoos or whatever tonight, Eamon?"
"No, Bill, but I know where Beckham's tattoo came from."
"No libel on air, Eamon, please."
"I'll tell you later then."
        - Bill O'Herlihy and Eamon Dunphy have one eye on Beckham and one on his lawyers

"That boy Abramovic will end up broke. He’ll be selling programmes at Chelsea. He's only got 6 billion!"
        - Eamon Dunphy is unimpressed with Chelsea's new Dutch signing Arjan Robben

The instant they lost the pug-faced Wayne Rooney, the remaining 10 best footballers in England no longer believed they could string two passes together... England are now a wonderful team when they dare to be but remain a traditional British team at heart. The new found technique and continental manager are a mask, which slips at the first panic. This time it was induced by Rooney's departure. One man gone: discard the game-plan. When England get a lead against good opponents, you can see them thinking: "Time for the backs-to-the-wall Dunkirk battle culminating in glorious defeat."
        - Simon Kuper, article for "Financial Times"

As Sol Campbell's goal was disallowed by a referee with, presumably, eyes on stalks in the back of his head, it was tempting to see England as a bunch of cursed Bill Murrays, doomed to Groundhog Day their way through a lifetime of cruel penalty shoot-outs. What was it, precisely, that was meant to be Beautiful about this Game?
        - Kathryn Flett, sensing deja vu for England, "The Observer"

A vicious circle mugged Europe's maestros in Portugal over the past three weeks. The salary demands of lauded players force clubs to stage more games, placing greater physical and mental pressures on leading players who are exhausted when it mattered most. Zinedine Zidane fizzled out at Euro 2004. David Beckham, Thierry Henry and Raul never got going. Luis Figo had one great game in six. The stars were hidden behind the clouds of a congested calendar. With due respect to the Greek champions, few schoolchildren outside Athens were running around playgrounds at break-time yesterday, shouting: "I want to be a man-marker like Georgios Seitaridis." They want to emulate Zidane, Figo, Beckham, Henry or Raul.
        - Henry Winter, "Stars Pay A High Price", in "The Telegraph"

A country of 82m people has achieved the statistically astonishing feat of producing zero natural goalscorers.
        - The Financial Times pick Germany as the worse team of the tournament

"He looks like a dread-locked tea pot!"
        - Ian Wright, as Edgar Davids defends the near post for Holland

"Freddie Ljungberg desperately wants to suck in Cocu."
        - Andy Townsend, on ITV, maybe he could try that one again?

"Testing times for the Italians and the beautiful people who watch them."
        - Peter Drury, watching Italy v Denmark

Half a dozen times a match a Greek feigns not injury but death; motionless on the turf for several minutes, having first peered beneath a prostrate arm to ensure that his demise has been noticed.
        - David Miller, reviewing Euro 2004 for "The Observer"

If they beat Portugal in Sunday's final, it will be the biggest Greek victory since the Trojan War, perhaps bigger.
        - Simon Kuper, writing in "The Financial Times"

"The Greek commentators are going mad, and they're standing in front of us. Sit down!"
        - David Pleat, forgetting how to celebrate, as Greece stun France

"How would you stop Thierry Henry?"
"I would kick him... if I got near enough."
        - Gary Lineker asks pundit Terry Butcher for advice during Euro 2004

"I hate them, and you know the worse thing? I'm going to have to spend every evening for the next three weeks pretending that I want England to win!"
        - The "Big Impression" does Scotland's Alan Hansen for their Euro 2004 special

Biggest mistake of the tournament from either channel: ITV allowing Mick McCarthy to co-commentate on the Sweden-Denmark game, not realising that his voice is the most painful, gut-wrenching and hideous sound ever to grace this earth.
        - from Football 365's review of the tournament

Football tournaments are like black holes: even if you don’t watch them, you know something’s afootie, because everything else is distorted by its gravitational pull... The best way to appreciate football on television is to walk down a city street when a big game is on and listen to the synchronised roars coming out of the buildings over the empty pavement. It gives you a very strong sense of alienation, of not being invited, of being alone.
        - AA Gill, "The Times"


"The World Cup continues to be far and away the most exciting thing that’s appeared on television this century."
        - AA Gill, Tv Critic, "The Times"

"Footballers from Montserrat and Bhutan are preparing for the World Cup final to find the worst national team. The game between the bottom two Fifa-ranked teams will take place on Sunday in Bhutan - the same day as the real World Cup final. The Fifa-authorised match is described as a celebration of football. Montserrat are ranked 203. Their opponents are 202nd."
        - Ananova.Com

"There have, of course, been worse moments in English history - the Roman Conquest, the Black Death, the Civil War, the fall of France in 1940 and virtually the whole of the 1970s, for example."
        - The Times attempts to put England's defeat by Brazil in perspective

"Beckham puts the world to rights."
        - Headline in The Times, describing England's 1-0 revenge over Argentina

"After watching yesterday's match, I understand now why all four of my sons are physically incapable of watching a penalty kick. For 10 seconds yesterday, David Beckham was the most important man in the world."
        - Tom Utley, on that penalty, "The Daily Telegraph"

"The Prime Minister pointed out to the Cabinet that nothing was more important to England's World Cup arrangements than the state of David Beckham's foot."
        - Official spokesman for Tony Blair, after Beckham breaks a bone in his foot

"The man can carry out a multi-variable physics calculation in his head to compute the exact kick trajectory required, and then execute it perfectly. That is why the man is a football physics genius."
        - Dr Keith Hanna, University of Sheffield Sports Engineering Department

"After the match against Greece, I actually sent David Beckham a letter. That goal was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen."
        - Oona King, Labour MP, after Beckham scores in the last minute to send England to the World Cup

"The more time I spend with him, the more Irish I feel."
       - Bobby Robson on his ITV co-pundit, Andy Townsend.

"Who do you think you are having meetings about me? You were a crap player and you are a crap maanger. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country and you're not even Irish you English c**t."
        - Roy Keane to Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, prior to his expulsion

"I wouldn't send a player home but, if I would, it would probably be the best player in the world."
        - Satirical text message, combining a Carlsberg ad and the Roy Keane saga

"Sometimes, I think he thinks he's Alex Ferguson."
        - Ireland's Jason McAteer on Roy Keane's attitude

"I will be supporting Germany and Saudi Arabia in the contests ahead."
       - Eamon Dunphy, Irish TV pundit and friend of Roy Keane

"I can buy you, I can buy your house, your family and I can buy that mountain we were running on in Slovenia during our preparations!"
        - Zlatko Zahovic to Slovenia coach Srecko Katanec, prior to his expulsion

"The definition of a shirt is that it is an item of clothing with sleeves. No sleeves, no shirt. No shirt, no play."
        - Keith Cooper, Fifa spokesman, on Cameroon’s desire to wear vests.

"A fat little toy with bulging eyes."
        - Italy's La Repubblica describes Byron Moreno, referee in their defeat to Korea

"He has the appearance of a depressed cow."
        - La Stampa of Italy, with another description of Moreno

"They aren't referees, but the thieves of dreams."
        - Il Messaggero, after one too many decisions go against the Azzuri

"We burn referees like that at the stake."
        - Paolo Maldini on Graham Poll, after Poll referees Italy's defeat to Croatia

"Never in the history of the World Cup have so many injustices been committed against one team."
        - Corriere della Sera of Italy

"That gentleman will never set foot in Perugia again. He was a phenomenon only against Italy. I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football."
        - Luciano Gaucci, president of Perugia, on Ahn Jung-hwan of South Korea

"I am sorry for Italy, but I play for the South Korean team. The Italians only know how to win, not how to lose."
        - Ahn Jung-hwan, formerly of Perugia

"Italy? I don't know whether Italy deserved to go through or not, I didn't watch. I know they are disappointed and I am sad for them, but I was sad too when Trapattoni left me out of the 23. So I went hunting in Argentina to get away from things. I take my holidays seriously."
        - Roberto Baggio

"I'm leaving the referee to the South Koreans. We sacrificed a thousand soldiers here to defend Korea and now one Korean has killed 70 million Turks."
        - Halak Ulusov, Turkish FA, unimpressed with South Korean ref Kim Young Joo

"Kim Young Joo could not even referee in the Turkish second division. Now a referee from Benin will be in charge of our game against Costa Rica. I ask you, do you know where Benin is? Do they even have a league there?"
        - Halak Ulusov, Turkish FA, again...

"A win would have an influence on the negotiations over the Northern Territories. This is the way it usually happens in international politics."
        - Shintaro Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo, as Japan face Russia (still technically at war)

"If you put all the German players, except Kahn, in a sack and hit it, you would get someone who deserved it."
       - Franz Beckenbauer assesses Germany's performance against the USA

"The Fat Controller runs from his box."
        - Peter Drury of ITV describes portly Uruguayan coach, Victor Pua

"Personally I wish the U.S. well too — though as a friend I feel obliged to tell you what I'm sure you already know, that if U.S.A. wins outright it will mean Americans can't travel safely anywhere except possibly London and Dublin."
        - Anonymous British journalist

"The world will hate it when America wins the World Cup."
        - Daniel Henninger, "Wall Street Journal"

There are just two things about the World Cup that prevent Americans from caring: it involves soccer and the rest of the world. When I hear that Tunisia is playing Belgium for the crucial Group H runner-up spot, all I want is a map. The only way Americans are going to learn another country's name is if it attacks us.
        - Joel Stein, "The Rest-of-the-World Cup", "Time Magazine"

"It is the goal of every nation to be free, independent, and well into the qualifying rounds, but this can only happen when the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions, and a 4-5-1 formation utilizing at least three defensive midfielders."
        - SatireWire.Com's version of President Bush's Middle East speech

"This will be, by some measures, the most popular international festival in human history. Television and other media have made the World Cup the mark that the Olympic Games were for the Ancient world. Much of the tribal enthusiasm, as it was for the Olympic Games, is patriotic, if not chauvinist.
From its beginning more than two centuries ago, The Times has risen far above such narrow nationalism. We are the oldest international paper of record. We support underdogs and justice. We look forward to enjoying the magic of such footballing stars as M Zidane and Señor Veron. We shall enjoy the Viking defence of Sweden and the Latin fire of Argentina.
There is more to football than winning. England invented the beautiful game. It is beautiful because it can be played by anybody on a street or a beach with improvised equipment. It combines the beauty of the ballet with the courage of battle and the miracle of grace under stress.
We cheer for surprises from such underdogs as China and Saudi Arabia. We admire the statesmanship of FIFA in sharing the World Cup between two such hostile neighbours as Japan and South Korea. We look forward to triumph and disaster, surprise and certainty, temperament and stoicism, and to a celebration of sport that extends far beyond local loyalties. May the best side win, and may that side be England."
        - editorial in The Times (of London)

"It is madness. It is genius. The World Cup, after all, electrifies every waking minute, and trying to absorb it all is more than any one brain can handle. No event, not even the Olympic Games, comes close to matching the impact of what is, in effect, the staging of three Super Bowls every day for the 15 days that constitute only the tournament's first round. Every act is magnified beyond reason. Nearly every match comes weighted with issues bigger than sports. Senegal takes on its former colonial master, France, in the opener and produces one of the sport's greatest shockers. England's Swedish coach tries to beat Sweden, Cameroon's German coach tries to beat Germany, and Ireland's English coach tries to keep his team from beating itself. Two games involved nations that once went to war with each other, Argentina v England and Russia v Japan, and the entire event is built on a relationship keyed by the brutal subjugation of Korea by Japan in the decades before World War II."
        - SL Price, "Sports Illustrated"

"Something has changed for ever in the relationship between Ireland and England. Something that we have cherished is no more. The fact of the matter is, that when England were playing Argentina at this World Cup, I felt different about it. I felt like I wanted England to ... how can I put this? ... to not lose, and maybe even to ... I think the technical term is 'to win'."
        - Delcan Lynch, "There Is More To Life", The Irish Independent

"The media of every nation on earth is unacceptably, disgracefully, triumphalist about the success of their national team. To single out the English is completely silly. Even if the English media has been unacceptably, disgracefully triumphalist ... about the Irish team."
        - Delcan Lynch, "The Irish Independent"

In the studio, Des Lynam's line-up of pundits resembled an evolutionary wall-chart of human articulacy, starting with Paul Gascoigne at the primaeval end and peaking, surprisingly, with Gary Neville. The admirable Sir Bobby Robson has not been knighted for services to punditry. Terry Venables, ever versatile, shed murk upon any subject which came his way. As for Gazza, calling on him to explain football is like asking a fruitbat to explain sonar. It's unfair to Gazza, unfair to the fruitbat, and certainly unfair to us viewers.
        - David Bennun, commenting on ITV's coverage of "England v Denmark", "The Mail on Sunday"

"The hero Sven Goran, Son of Eric, matchless of managers, is now turned his own matchmaker, masterful at matchplay. Of all the heroes who feast in Valhalla or Villa Park, or the gods in Odin’s Highbury Hall or Old Asgard, he is the wisest. At nine skills he challenges them. A champion at chess. Runes he rarely spoils. He reads books. He writes and talks little to Loki, the evil television camera. He’s skilled at skiing and shooting and selecting, and more! He’s mastered music and verse, and the wisdom of the East. That’s where his next battle lies."
        - From 'The Saga of Sven', composed by The Times

"What are we going to do for the next four years? In a meaningless universe, how are we supposed to go on living without the one thing that makes us aware of our common humanity?"
        - Declan Lynch, "The Irish Independent"

"C'est la vie."
        - Rio Ferdinand tries to win the English squad's random French phrase competition


"My presence keeps the linesmen extremely busy for the whole 90 minutes."
        - Filippo Inzaghi, engaged in a running battle of wits with officials

"I don’t know the words of the national anthem but I enjoy the Turkish culture and the food."
        - Muzzy Izzet, of Leicester City, England and Turkey

More Euro 2000 quotes from "It's Up For Grabs Now".


"That happened to us at Newcastle in a playoff against Grimsby."
    - Kevin Keegan, wins 'most parochial comment' of WC98 for this line in reference to David Beckham's sending-off v Argentina

"I can only see one team winning this game and that's England. I hope I am not tempting providence in saying that..."
        - Kevin Keegan, with 5 mins to go. Final Score Romania 2-1 England.

"One is not amused at that."
        - Reported comments of Queen Elizabeth, as Sol Campbell's goal against Argentina is disallowed

"It's men against boys. No, it's GODS against boys!"
        - Clive Tyldesley, on Brazil v Morocco

"Three reds and two yellows; Stephen Hendry would be pleased with that..."
        - Chris Waddle

"Even if we lose, we will take to the streets — we'll just chant: 'Death to America' instead."
        - 16 year old Amir-Khosro prepares to watch the Iran-USA match at home in Teheran

"I spent four years at Millwall so I'm sure thats prepared me for whatever happens on Sunday."
        - US keeper Kasey Keller looks forward to the Iran-Great Satan clash

"It's the most important game in the history of humanity."
        - Alexi Lalas becomes the first American to understand sarcasm

"Winning the World Cup is the most beautiful thing to have happened to France since the Revolution."
        - Emmanuel Petit

"We're not sending anyone out to the airport to meet him. If I did go it would be to throw eggs at him. But, no we are not sending out anyone to the airport."
        - Unnamed South Korean FA official on the return of sacked coach Cha Bum-Kun

"They lost 3-0, but had France had even an averagely competent striker, it could and should have been 5-0 or worse. Guivarc'h, weighed down by his apostrophe, missed three sitters and Dugarry another."
        - Matthew Norman describes the World Cup Final on Soccernet.com

"My soccer boots and an inflatable doll because a month without a woman will be difficult."
        - Belgian defender Eric Deflandre, asked by a French newspaper what he would be taking to the finals.

"It was really meant as a joke."
        - Deflandre again. Hmm...the first Belgian to understand humour?

"It is as if they have been signed up as textile testers."
        - Sepp Blatter on the plague of shirt-pulling

"It must be possible to find 30 excellent football players among 80 million people."
        - German FA president Egidius Braun on rebuilding the national side

Norway beat Brazil who beat Chile who drew with Italy who beat Norway. Therefore clearly Norway are a much better side than Norway.
        - Steve Jones...the official Steve of WC98, rec.sport.soccer

Bilic collapsed as if he'd heard Howard Kendall was back in charge of Everton.
        - One reporter's view of Slaven Bilic's dive in the WC Semi

I was not captain of the French side for my own benefit, it was for the glory of the country, so there will be no one happier than I if France win the World Cup

If I spend the whole of this week thinking about Brazil and all their great players, I would probably be terrified by Friday. They leave their section of the ground cleaner than it was when they arrived. "Its not exactly Club Tropicana - and you always get a lot of carless whispers in football." "My first thought was he had produced the wrong colour by mistake."
        - Morten Wieghorst of Denmark on his sending off against South Africa.

"What makes me laugh is that they were losing 1-0, they had 10 men behind the ball and they expected us to come forward. We're not as stupid as the other teams they played."
        - Paolo Maldini, after Italia beat Norway 1-0

"Sing when you're whaling — You only sing when you're whaling."
        - Scotland supporters' chant to their Norwegian counterparts

"No football team will win this tournament. This tournament will be won by the faceless empires of corporate greed. The Jules Rimet trophy has become hijacked by the world of big business bastards, sold to the TV networks of Satan. There will be a final on July 12th. It will have no soul. It will be between Nike and Snickers."
        - RTE's "Apres Match" team 'do' Eamon Dunphy

As a footnote to the World Cup, it seems in retrospect that Ireland was fortunate in one respect in having no part of the proceedings. One of the linesmen for the final was a member of the West Midlands Police.
        - Declan Lynch, in Ireland's "Sunday Independent"

"The night before the opening match of the 1998 World Cup, the holders Brazil against Scotland, I attended a huge party in Paris. The highlight of the night was Sir Sean Connery telling about 400 well-oiled football fans to shut up while Fantasy Football's Statto read out some spread-bet markets for the tournament: amazingly, they did."
        - Rory Bremner recalls a World Cup moment in "The Times"


"Why didn't you just belt it son?"
        - Gareth Southgate's mother reflects publicly on her son's penalty miss.

In 1996 Terry Venables had a plan for England. He called his tactical innovation 'The Christmas Tree'. This tree involved the team lining up in a pyramid structure which reached a point with a lone striker...
After a couple of dowdy performances, the press decided they didn't like the Christmas Tree. It became a national crisis. The newspapers made their feelings clear and, just before the European Championship began, Venables announced that he wouldn't be putting up the Christmas Tree again. All went well in the championship, particularly on the evening when, facing the nation which he held responsible for all that was good in modern football, Venables' England took apart the Dutch. The English won 4-1 with a performance that was skilful, controlled, fluid and ruthless. But Venables had a secret. Against Holland he put the tree up again. England played in Venables' preferred formation, with only one striker and plenty of men coming from deeper positions. England's manager didn't speak of it in press conferences, he didn't crow about it afterwards. He didn't say a word. But he took delight that nobody had noticed.
        - Dion Fanning, in Ireland's "Sunday Independent"

# WORLD CUP 1990 (ITALIA '90)

"Maradona and ten others."
        - Argentine manager Carlos Bilardo, announcing his team before the tournament

"It may be that I am marking Maradona in the opening match. We know all about him, but he doesn't know anything about me."
        - Charles Ntamark, of Cameroon, before Cameroon stun Argentina 1-0

"Come on you blacks in green!"
       - England fans turn Ireland's "boys in green" chant towards Cameroon

"When it is the Egyptians's turn, they may think back nostalgically to the days when all that inflicted them from the heavens were frogs."
        - David Lacey, writing in "The Guardian", as Ireland's long ball style earns a draw v England

"I have Gary Lineker's shirt up in my room and it has only stopped moving now."
        - Mick McCarthy, with a trophy after Ireland v England

"I think the goalkeeper went for the sod of grass Cas kicked as the ball bobbled under him".
        - Mick McCarthy, after Tony Cascarino finds a novel way to distract the Romanian 'keeper

"You've got to believe that you're going to win and I believe we'll win the World Cup until the final whistle blows and we're knocked out."
        - Peter Shilton

>> More quotes from "All Played Out" (The Story of Italia' 90) by Pete Davies


The linesman who saw Maradona score his infamous 'Hand of God' goal against England in 1986 says the referee was an "idiot" to allow it. Bulgarian Bogdan Dotchev added the Tunisian official was "more fit to herd camels in the desert than take charge of a World Cup game."
        - from "The Sun"

1. Almost all of the players have extremely hot wives... bald French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez was married, until last year, to rainbow-haired supermodel Linda Evangelista. Think about that as you watch him flap his textured gloves and bark inaudible instructions at a teammate 500 yards away.
2. Remember that Colombian guy who scored the own-goal in the 1994 World Cup? Dude, they killed him. That's how much this matters. It's life or death, baby. Seriously.
3. Barthez included, every national-team goal-keeper is completely insane and liable to start dribbling the ball suicidally towards the enemy goal at any moment.
4. Someone might score.
        - from "Why To Watch The World Cup", in America's "Gear Magazine"

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