Cantona Stuns God With Prescient Wisdom

We’ve not heard from Cantona for a while so what better way to reintroduce himself than with the sort of bollocks he spouted when avoiding jail time for karate kicking his studded boots into that Crystal Palace yob in January 1995.

Sure the yob was a nasty, loud mouth but sticks and stones!

It’s always been my opinion that Eric, having been stolen from Leeds for a paltry £900K, was jealous of losing his Old Trafford adulation to Manchester United’s subsequent, then British record, signing, just 2 weeks before, of Andy Cole (who would surely have been as big a Man U legend if he hadn’t had both legs broken in a reserve game at Liverpool in ’96) for £7m, & King Eric decided to do something to make the Man U fans regret their disloyalty to him.

If that was his desire (and only he knows), some bollocks about Trawlers and Fish and sure enough, on October 1st 1995, just 9 months after his now celebrated Kung Fu kick, Eric was welcomed back onto the Old Trafford field with the joy and enthusiasm of the Second Coming.

Given that result, today’s little speech, almost certainly with UEFA’s approval, elevating guys who kick a bit of plastic around for obscene amounts of money, to saviours of mankind, was not just a slap in the face for UEFA & Eric’s shared nemesis, Michel Platini, but must surely herald Eric’s return, in some form or other, to football’s halls of power.

Personally, I’m predicting UEFA will give Eric a sort of Official Match Philosopher role, so rather than wonder why the game has been stopped, yet again, for some microscopic VAR infringement, we’ll get Eric’s “cryptic wisdom” and we’ll be too busy wondering what the Kung is on about now than to think about how the beautiful game is being destroyed by paper-shufflers.

World Awaits 2018 World Cup Kick off.

With the friendlies already YouTube fodder and only hours to go before hosts Russia kicks off the 2018 World Cup finals, no clear favourite has emerged.

There are however the usual suspects.

Brazil are the bookies favourite at 4-1 and following exciting performances against Croatia & Austria, most notably from Neymar whose brilliant goals in both games suggest not only that his ankle injury has healed but he is going into this tournament with a belief this is his chance to seize the golden ball from its MessTiano grip.

Brazil though have yet to remedy the defensive vulnerabilities which were exploited to such devastating effect in 2014 by Germany.  Whilst those vulnerabilities weren’t similarly exposed in qualification, the cracks were evident against Croatia and will be a real concern should that attack stumble.

Germany, at 9-2, are second favourites, despite Joachim Love’s head-scratching decision to leave Leroy Sane at home, who otherwise was surely set to become the break-out player of 2018.  Whilst Germany failed to impress in either of their two tournament friendlies, including a 2-1 loss to neighbours Austria, the strenght of their squad is undeniable whilst the awe that 7-1 humiliation of Brazil will carry into every game, guarantees at least a semi final berth. Probably.

Spain are third favourites at 6-1. Their managerial shenanigans have been well documented but won’t affect their chances – it will be the disgraceful antics of captain Ramos in the European Champions final, making him football’s public enemy no. 1 that will be too heavy a weight for their increasingly tiki-takked-out style to bear – even if the pressure on UEFA to actually punish Ramos now seems to have passed..

The following pack of France (13-2), Argentina (9-1) and Belgium (11-1) to me, seem better poised to leave Moskva with the trophy.

With a starting 11, on paper, as strong as any in the tournament, an impressive bench and the disappointments of Brazil & France as motivation, Belgium should waltz into the semi-finals.  From that point, their success will depend on how well Romelu, Michy and to a lesser degree Dries Mertens can convert the chances Eden and Kevin will continually supply.  This is a chance Belgium will kick themselves for missing, unless they don’t miss it.

Argentina, for the prospect of seeing Messi finally lift a trophy his country, is the team most neutrals will cheering for.

Unfortunately, the squad is so far below Leo’s level that the often Messi-free Argentina only just scraped through qualification leaving their chances of success in this tournament dependent on the rest of the footballing world, falling for Sampaoli’s bluff that his squad is good enough to leave out Internationale captain Mauro Icardi.

Sorry Leo but no one’s buying it.

France surely have the most gifted squad of players.  Such is the strength of their squad that coach DesChamps’ main problem has been fielding a side sufficiently grown up to play nicely together when star buddies are left on the bench.

With the 3-1 demolition of first-time-unfinalists-in60-years, Italy, it seemed DesChamp’s had finally solved that riddle only to then leap backwards with, excepting Mbappe, a wholly uninspired run (barely) out against USA.

That said, if sheer talent is to have its day in the Russian sun, France remain are my favourite to lift the trophy suggesting French composers can get busy penning a 2018 overture to match the one they following their last successful foray into Russia.

As for the outsiders, let’s go group by group for the first round.

Group A – Hosts Russia will qualify along with Egypt but neither will progress beyond quarters.

Group B – Going for an upset with Portugal & Morocco to qualify from the group at Spain’s expense.

Group C – This is a harder group than it looks. France should win but second place will be a squeaker with Denmark my top to squeak it, providing Eriksen can stay fit.

Group D – Supposedly the group of death but Argentina will ease through if Messi gets going leaving Croatia to edge second place from Nigeria. (No apologies Iceland. I’m still smarting over the humiliation you gave England in the Euros)

Group E – H to come !

England Equal U-20 Un-winner Record!

By recording a 0-0 tie against Mexico last Friday, their lucky 13th game without a win, England have equalled Mexico for the dubious title of “team-playing-most-games-without-a-win-in-the-U-20-tournament- finals”!

Moreover, England’s progression into the final 16 knock-out stage despite the complete absence of anything so unsightly as a goal, for or against, in any of their three games so far this tournament(thanks in no small part to a fantastic penalty save by keeper, Butland against Mexico), brings England’s hitherto secret aim, of becoming the first side ever to win any football tournament not only without winning a game but without scoring or conceding a goal, amazingly, that much closer.

England’s steely resolve to win the tournament with a blemish free goal stats sheet will  be severely tested when they face high-scoring, maximum-point Nigeria in the first knock-out round this Wednesday.

However, as a loss, or even a win on penalties, would see England claim the “Most Unwinnerish” team title all for themselves, Wednesday’s game is a win-win for England, providing, of course, the unthinkable doesn’t happen and they actually win against Nigeria*!

So let’s raise an Aguadiente toast (Colombia’s national liquor) to England’s perfect 10-0-0 winning formation!

Altogether now, “Nil-nil to the England!  Nil-nil to the England! Nil-nil to the England! Nil-nil to the England!”.

* A win on penalties isn’t really a win, just as losing on penalties is never actually a loss, especially against Germany.

England in U-20 Battle of Un-winners!

England go into their third U-20 Group F game in Colombia tomorrow having failed to win in any of their 12 games since their last win at the 1997 Malaysia U-20 tournament.

Failure to win their game tomorrow against Mexico will see them equal the tournament’s “most games played without a win” record of 13 games, a record currently, presumably unhappily, held by, of all teams, Mexico!

Still goalless after their first two games, England need the win to be certain of progressing to the knock-out rounds whilst Mexico needs only the draw.

Should make for quite the game, even if, probably, not a goal-fest!

The Cricket World Cup

With all the allegations of Pakistani match fixing in Cricket in the press over the past year, it would be interesting to know what the odds on Nederlands scoring over 290 in their World Cup match opener against England was, despite England’s scrambled 49th over win.

Nederlands, the lowest-but-one ranked team in the tournament, managed to set England, a team whose Swann, Broad and Anderson all feature in the top 12 of the current Reliance ICC One Day International bowlers rankings, “the third highest run chase in World Cup history”, according to the BBC website.

Of course, we are talking about England, so nothing of eyebrow-raising worthiness there at all.

Kaka sending off bites Coast!

Strange as it may seem, the refs appalling decision to penalise Kaka for the temerity to defend himself against the Ivorian Coast player who, apparently, deliberately ran into him, may well end up punishing the Ivorians more than Brazil.  With Portugals 7-0 thrashing of North Korea, the Ivory Coast (on 1 pt) need to beat North Korea and for Brazil (on 6 pts) to beat Portugal by a combined total of nine goals to put Ivory Coast through at Portugals expense in order to progress from the group stages.

Trouble is Portugal are on form right now and Brazil will need to be at their very best to beat them, let alone by the sort of margin that is going to be necessary.  Doing that with Kaka would have been a hard-enough task, but without him, Brazil /Portugal progressing looks like a banker.

Bet that Ivorian will be kicking himself or at least faking he did.

South Africa’s French miracle?

Down and almost certainly out after last weeks 3-0 defeat at the hands of Uruguay, suddenly things are looking a lot rosier for a South African team preparing to face a French side at a historic low, assuming the French actually turn up for the game, which given yesterday’s strike abandoned practice session, cannot now simply be taken for granted.

The plot thickens.

Roo’d boys

Okay so Wayne had a go at the crowd at the end of the Algeria game.  So what?

Quite honestly, after the appalling display the England team put up against Algeria I would have been more worried had he not been in a foul mood coming off that field.   And as pi&&ed off as he might have been I’m pretty sure the people I shared the bar with last Friday night were at least as pi&&ed off as Wayne given the nature of the comments being directed at the England team, most of which were far from constructive or helpful; although the actualisation of some of the wilder suggestions would have made for interesting tv, if any of it could have been broadcast.

However, before we start slagging off the England team/squad lets remember those players are if not the very best 23 players we have, certainly very close to it.  Our certainty of that is due to the fact that the Premier league is dominated to such a degree by foreign players that England has difficulty putting together a 23 man England squad comprising only premiership players.

Sure it’s great to be able to watch the United Nations of football such are the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City etc but the price for such a wealth of international talent is the reduced playing time available to even the most promising British youngsters – just 4 years ago Walcott was being hailed as the Golden Child of English football but thanks largely, one assumes, to the limited playing time he has received since then, he didn’t even make the squad this time – despite his game changing 20 minutes in Arsenal’s first leg against Barca.

To make matters worse, whilst Germany and Spain boast multiple players who play together week in and out for Bayern Munich and Barcelona, the English squad has been drawn from no less than eight sides, several of the squad are not guaranteed first team places and of the four who play for league and cup double winners, Chelsea, Joe Cole was identified as being surplus to requirements for next season, prior to the start of the tournament.

But before we slag off the clubs for actions which increasingly are threatening the hopes of the England team, lets remember, it’s the fans paying week in/ week out to gobble up Premier league fare who are rewarding and reinforcing the actions of those clubs.

And along with the guys complaining loudest and lewdest after Friday’s game, including our national media (which we also support), we are those “fans”.

Ball fix

Bit of a co-incidence that the two best performing teams so far – Argentina and Germany (yes I know Germany lost to Serbia but even with just 10 men they were by far the better side – how Podborski didn’t get a hat-trick is anyone’s guess) – just happen to be representing two of the leagues who used the Jabulani ball for the entire season just finished.

Whilst the rest of the world is having real problems controlling and hitting the ball desired distances, particularly with crosses and free kicks, the Argentines and Germans are making it look easy.

Sure it might just be co-incidence (those two teams do have some of the tournaments best players) but then again knowing how radically different this ball would be, wouldn’t it have been prudent for FIFA to introduce the new ball for the World Cup qualifiers two years ago and add a jolly “South Africa” paint job for the finals so every team had the same chance to get used to it’s unsual flight and avoid the suggestion that certain teams have an unfair advantage?

As for the defence that certain unexpected behaviours are as a result of the altitude, were the ball’s developers not aware that the tournament was to be held in South Africa where the altitude, although obviously a factor, hasn’t changed since South Africa was announced as hosts 6 (?) years ago or were the ball’s developers just having way too much fun in the wind tunnel to think about anything else?

Not, of course, that Adidas will be complaining if Argentina and Germany continue to shine.

Blame Canadian

So Robert Green’s hot-ex Canadian girlfriend dumping him so close to the World Cup finals was what caused his aberration against the Americans.   For his sake I hope not.

Much as I, as a recently separated man, can sympathise with his emotional state after being found surplus to requirements by his partner, if, as a professional keeper whose total concentration was required for such limited periods in that US game, that was all that was required for him to become a liability to his team then he might as well turn in his fat gloves now.

Given the publicity the gorgeous pouting yet previously unknown Elizabeth Minett has received over her possible role (roll?) in the howler, isn’t it much more likely that Green just had one of those days that has plagued England keepers since Gordon Banks’ time and her agent, seeing the opportunity to get her on the inside pages, leapt and grasped that chance with considerably more skill than Green demonstrated in the fraction of a second that will haunt him for the rest of his England career.

Ironically, whilst Ms. Minett reportedly comes from a family famous for its intellectual accomplishments and has been described as very bright (with a 2008 economics degree from the university of Waterloo) either that particular family trait really wasn’t passed in the genes or when, as reported 0n theRecord.com, she said, “I started learning French when I was 3 and am pretty much fluent. I even have a cousin living in Paris who is married to a Frenchman” she suffered a howler of her own, albeit an intellectual one.

I have Italian cousins, real ones born and bred in Italy, yet I can’t speak a word of Italian.  Except the swear words that is.  There is no correlation – not that theRecord.com noticed that (although to be fair they may have been trying to decide which picture to go with at the time).

Then again, of course, since Ms. Minett has dual Canadian and US citizenship and presumably knows things about Green he might not want made public (such as my soon to be ex knows about me), maybe the howler really is evidence of truly sinister forces at work and we should view everyone less than 100% English as potentially part of a conspiracy to stop England from winning what should rightfully be ours this year.

But wouldn’t that mean we should be keeping a very close eye on Fabio, the Italian guy who put the love-sick Green in the net in the first place?

Just one more reason this Anglo-paddy will keep watching, for all our sakes.