Wednesday, November 21, 2007

England vs Croatia

Pre-match: Well, the BBC have managed to upset me already, by playing Labi Siffre's elegant anti-Apartheid anthem "So Strong" while looking back over their constant close shaves in qualifying for the finals of major tournaments. Grrr. If the commentary for this match suddenly switches over to Wales-Germany without any warning, you'll know the reason why. Elsewhere, Steve McClaren is still grinning like an idiot, though there is, just from looking at him, still the faint whiff of the condemned man about him. You know how you looked at Graham Taylor shouting and screaming during the 1994 World Cup qualifying campaign and thought, "oh no"? Yeah. It's a bit like that. Meanwhile, it has been raining in London all day and the Wembley pitch is absolutely sodden. In all seriousness, I wouldn't be half surprised if the match was abandoned, if the rain gets a lot worse. Mind you, there are some men out there prodding at it with garden forks, so the vast resources of the FA are already tackling the problem. The England team lines up as follows: Carson, Richards, Bridge, Campbell, Lescott, Barry, Wright-Phillips, Gerrard, Lampard, Joe Cole, Crouch. Now, I'm all in favour of picking youth where possible, but this team leaves me feeling uneasy. It could be Sol Campbell's last match for England tonight, by the way. Also, Paul Robinson's form may have collapsed of late, but I'm not certain about Scott Carson starting such an important match in goal. My final massive concern (I haven't got the time to go into my feelings on Gerrard and Lampard both starting, on recent form, right now) is the lack of fire-power, with Peter Crouch starting more or less on his own up front. What a brilliant move it was, playing an injury prone striker like Michael Owen in Vienna last Friday night. Anyway, back in fifteen, in time for kick-off.

20.00: The pitch looks as bad from a distance as it did close up. The referee looks like Arsene Wenger, which is very unsettling indeed.

20.05: Who are these people that insist on taking big bass drums into football stadia? What on earth makes them think that this is what I want to hear? If I wanted a big bass drum, I'd switch this off and listen to "Physical Graffiti" by Led Zeppelin instead. Actually, England haven't started badly. Now, there's a hex.

20.08: Goal - England 0-1 Croatia: What did I say? What did I say? A moderate shot from outside the area from Krankjar, and Carson spills the ball in to give Croatia the lead. It's all gone quiet over there.

20.11: Wright-Phillips gets the ball in space and shoots, but is blocked. This is followed by a wholly unconvincing claim for a penalty. With eighty minutes to go, where is this goal going to come from?

20.17: Wembley has gone almost eerily quiet, now. Steve McClaren is holding onto a concrete post in the manner of a man about to have a heart attack, and his head has gone very purple.

20.21: Bloody hell. The BBC are getting desperate now. They're still saying that England are still home and dry because (you're going to like this) Russian haven't scored against Andorra yet. Yet.

20.28: Awww. He's cuddling his umbrella now. For all the effect that they've had so far, neither Gerrard nor Lampard could be playing, and it would have made no difference whatsoever.

20.33: Croatia, John Motson has just told me, have been down to ten men for the last five minutes, and I hadn't even noticed. England are starting to look busier, but it's all haste and no speed. They're just going to keep lumping balls into the penalty and nothing will come of it. Believe it or not, I haven't got a crystal ball.

20.41: Hooray! Russia have scored against Andorra!

20.43: Carson flaps at a shot from distance like a nun swatting a fly. This could end up 4-0 or 5-0, at this rate.

20.46: Half-Time - Absolutely awful. Gerrard doesn't look fit, they all look as if they going out of their way to not pass to Shaun Wright-Philips, and there is simply no point in having a player like Crouch there on his up front on his own to knock the ball down when there is no-one to knock the ball down to. The delivery from free-kicks has been atrocious and, generally, they're playing like Notts County - thumping the ball forward for the Croatian defenders to sweep up. They could keep going at this rate for the next twenty-four hours and they won't score playing like this.

Second Half - Defoe and Beckham on for Barry and Wright-Phillips. He's going to 4-4-2, but it won't make any difference. Oh - ha ha ha. I'm sure that the crowd just booed them onto the pitch for the start of the second half.

21.05: Terry Venables watched the first half in the Royal Box, apparently. I'm almost surprised he's not wearing a crown. Gerrardwatchers might be interested to know that it took one minute and six seconds of the second half before Gerrard to let the ball bounce off his knee.

21.08: England free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, but Beckham's tame shot is deflected over. Croatia break quickly and England's defence is presumably still on the edge of the Croatian penalty area, having some sort of tea party. I think that Terry Venables may be constipated.

21.10: Eduardo gets free, and Carson, after hesitating, saves with this feet. The replay indicates that the shot was probably going into the side netting anyway.

21.13: GOAL - England 1-2 Croatia: Terrible penalty decision - Jermaine Defoe was held back by Simunic, but he'd have needed legs like Inspector Gadget to get anywhere near the ball. Notably, it appears to have been given by the referee rather than the linesman. Lampard scores it comfortably.

21.15: It's starting to open up. Croatia hit the cross bar, and then Carson makes a brilliant save from the resulting corner.

21.20: Olic is put through on goal after another terrible piece of defending by Bridge, but he snatches at the shot and Carson, who is actually starting to visibly grow in confidence, saves. Croatia are about six times as likely to score as England right now, by my reckoning.

21.22: GOAL - England 2-2 Croatia - Oh, bloody hell. Beckham crosses from the right and Crouch, of all people, finally does what he's paid to do and finishes brilliantly. Croatia had plenty of chances to finish this off at 2-1 and, up to a point, have brought this about themselves.

21.26: Just when you start thinking, "oh, fair play England for coming from two down", the crowd start singing "God Save The Bloody Queen", and I want Croatia to score again.

21.33: Croatia, I get the feeling, are starting to just run down the clock a little bit with this match. I still fancy them to sneak a third goal, mind.

21.35: GOAL - England 2-3 Croatia: Croatia were starting to wind down a bit, but Lampard starting throwing himself about in the middle of the pitch. A minute later, Petric curls the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area.

21.40: They're not going to score, England, just in case you were wondering. They've had every chance to get back into this, got back into it with a massive slice of luck and still managed to throw it away. They haven't so much as looked like scoring since. I'm not a believer, but there are wider forces at work here. They're getting what they deserve in a very profound way.

21.43: Bent gets though and shoots just over. I hadn't even noticed that he had come on.

21.45: I think that John Motson might be about to burst into tears. "Surely, there's got to be one more chance, surely. Say something, Mark, say something". I'm not making this up.

21.49: FULL TIME - England 2-3 Croatia: And that's your lot. There's no part of this that England, and the whole money-centric, insular world of English football doesn't deserve. They have been outplayed by one reasonable and one moderate team, and do not deserve to be amongst the top sixteen in Europe next summer. Even when they got back to 2-2, they still managed to get themselves carved open and throw it away. There was a part of me that, on account of the general bad-minding about England almost wanted them to win but, ultimately, they didn't deserve it. Now, can we get rid of McClaren, Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham and all the rest of them, forget about trying to win the next World Cup, and start trying to rebuild a team around young players that want to win and that don't act like the sort of people that you'd want to punch if you ever met them. It won't be enough to get rid of McClaren, though that would be a start, of sorts. His position, however, is almost certainly untenable. The likes of Brian Barwick, though, should also be considering their positions.

Ballhype: hype it up!


ijon said...

Ha ha ha! Now that goal has cheered me up no end.

Odin said...

"Oh dear"

Odin said...

"Oh dear, oh dear"

200percent said...

It's quite artistic, they way in which they are managing to make a mess of this. The problem doesn't look much like the attackers (though I remain convinced that 2 goals is beyond them), but with the defence. The two goals were both staggeringly easy for Croatia.

ijon said...

I was quite impressed with just how far onside Wayne Bridge kept Ivica Olic for the second goal.

Odin said...

Is it too late to bring on Shearer & Wright for the second half?

Amorous Badger said...

WHY has he put on Defoe over a player is getting games and goals for is club?

Does he have incriminating pictures of Senior FA types?

Amorous Badger said...

Softest penalty EVER.

200percent said...

Well, you may well ask. I'm quite interested in the fact that some of the England players seemed to be almost going out their way to not pass the ball to Shaun Wright-Phillips in the first half, and then he gets taken off at half-time.

ijon said...

I think it's quite a revolutionary tactic from Maclaren. Play with ten men for 45 minutes and then overwhelm the opposition by bringing the eleventh man into play for the second half of the game...

Amorous Badger said...


The tournament itself's going to be pretty embarrasing assuming the scores stay as they are.

Amorous Badger said...

Oh dearie me.

*resumes search for Holland replica kits*

200percent said...

No part of what has happened this evening has surprised me. Seriously. The only thing that would surprise me now would be if England scored again.

ijon said...

Mark Lawrenson's lost for words. So that's something positive to take from the game.

Amorous Badger said...


*blames the ref, the russian pitch and your mum*

Odin said...

"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear"

ijon said...

Thank fuck for that. I can now look forward to Euro 2008 without my enjoyment being coloured by how badly England are doing.

200percent said...

Steve: That's partially my opinion. I won't have my summer ruined by Sun Bowler Hatted fools with sunburn and bottles of alcopops squawking at me in the streets.

France is the only other European country that I have any connection with, but I don't much want to support them, either.

Amorous Badger said...

McClaren: 'I won't quit'

We'll see shall we Steve?

200percent said...

I thought that s small part of the reason they took him on was that he was relatively low cost - they couldn't afford much on account of the cost of Wembley and the Eriksson pay-off. He won't quit, but he'll be quite inexpensive to sack.

bluerat said...

The biggest plus from this result is that Test Match Cricket might take its place as the focal point of Englands sporting Summer.

Anonymous said...

How does one go about getting rid of Barwick anyway?

Ed said...

The FA's method for choosing a new national coach works as follows.

Firstly, factors such as domestic achievements are ruthlessly expunged.

Then the remaining CVs are sorted according to criteria such as Patriotism, Englishness, England Caps and Bulldog Spirit.

They are then fed into the FA-o-tron 3000 computer in the basement at Lancaster Gate. This machine carries out 10,000 calculations every second, before producing a print-out with the identities of the ideal matches for McClaren and Venables' successors.

I just tried it out, feeding the data from the League Managers' Association into an online FA-o-tron simulator. I'm proud to be the first person on the internet able to announce that the new England manager will be Gary Megson. Assisted by David Beckham.

ian said...

You should have a look at that Ipswich place that Neil has linked your comment to there, Edmund - somebody managed to get Douglas Bader and Norman Wisdom.

I've just had a go, it pulled out:


That bloke that stands down the front on the last night of The Proms with a Union Jack wrapped around his shoulder, holding a baton and pretending that he is the conductor.

Assisted by:


The Ghost of Pickles The Dog

(I may have a got at actually trying to make one of these, this evening).

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