Euro 2008 - Austria
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
# GHOSTS OF PAST TOURNAMENTS
"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"
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
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
- 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"
# WORLD CUP 2006 (GERMANY)
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- from Football365
It is without question the finest time to
- 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,
- Ad for convenience store Spar seen in a Dublin newspaper
ENGLAND, POOR ENGLAND
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
# EURO 2004 (PORTUGAL)
"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
- 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
"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
- 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
- The Financial Times pick Germany as the worse team of the tournament
"He looks like a dread-locked
- Ian Wright, as Edgar Davids defends the near post for Holland
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
"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"
# WORLD CUP 2002 (JAPAN & SOUTH KOREA)
"The World Cup continues
to be far and away the most exciting thing that’s appeared on television
- 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."
"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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Declan Lynch, "The Irish Independent"
"C'est la vie."
- Rio Ferdinand tries to win the English squad's random French phrase competition
# EURO 2000 (HOLLAND & BELGIUM)
"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".
# WORLD CUP 1998 (FRANCE)
"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
- 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
"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
- 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
- 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"
# EURO 1996 (ENGLAND - FOOTBALL'S COMING HOME)
"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
- 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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