Sunday, July 02, 2006

English Press Review: The Joy of the Postmortem

Ah, English sports journalism...possibly the only thing I find more entertaining than, y'know, the footie itself. Start off with this leader in The Observer:
Rarely have English nails been so fiercely bitten: an epic display of football; a drama to jangle the nerves of the hardest fan; a feat of collective bravery by 10 men. Hearts stopped. England lost. On penalties. Again.

The Independent's Joe Lovejoy savages England in a piece he entitles simply "the end of the embarrassment."
It will go down as the year they had two World Cups — one illuminated by disciples of the Beautiful Game, the other played by England. When Sven-Göran Eriksson and his long-ball sect were eliminated on penalties by Portugal last night, it ended the embarrassment it has been to be an Englishman in Germany this past month.

The uncouth behaviour of some of the camp followers has been a minor consideration. The real philistines have been on the pitch, although some dignity was salvaged in a battling display by England’s 10 men in Gelsenkirchen. The extent to which England have regressed since that 5-1 win in Munich at the start of Eriksson’s reign is a terrible indictment of players and management alike. The so-called golden generation came here with high hopes, yet leave as underachievers, beaten at the quarter-final stage for the third tournament in succession.

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.
Opinion seems to be split on whether Rooney deserved his red card. On the one hand, there is consensus on the proposition that crotch-stomping (ouch!!) is not nice. On the other hand, it didn't look intentional.

In the first camp, we have The Guardian's Sean Ingle on Rooney seeing red:
Tomorrow's headlines will, inevitability, be about Rooney's red. Initially it looked to be for a instinctive stamp on the tender area between Ricardo Carvalho's left and right thighs, but in the melee that followed the England striker also pushed Cristiano Ronaldo. The stamp deserved red. The push definitely didn't.

There were I'm-innocent-me protests. With Rooney there always are. But he has always been Testosterone Central: raw brilliance fused with brooding menace. According to sports scientists, the optimal range of testosterone for an athlete is between 600-900 ng/dl. Rooney's veins overflow with the stuff. He is the ultimate grunt - the sort of man that future generations will clone to go to war - a player you would always want on your team, even though you know he's always primed to explode. Today he did.

In the second camp, we have the doubters. In a bit entitled "Ronaldo's double betrayal," The Times's Martin Jol picks up on the way Cristiano Ronaldo ran up to the referee to ask him to card Rooney:
The pleading of Cristiano Ronaldo for the referee to take action against his clubmate Wayne Rooney was not surprising, but it was a disgrace for football.

When Rooney trampled on Ricardo Carvalho, he didn’t do it on purpose. Before that he was being impeded and should have had a foul anyway. The referee blew his whistle and paused and was thinking of what to do when Ronaldo ran over and asked him to show a card. It’s how Ronaldo always behaves, trying to influence referees, and it turns my stomach when players do that.

I thought to myself, how could he do that? You could argue that Ronaldo is playing for his country in a World Cup, so it’s okay to do anything to win. I don’t believe that. What about sporting values? Rooney is his club teammate, and judging by the way they walked out together at the start, joking, his friend? It was a double betrayal, a disaster for football.

And then there's this friendly bit of advice for Wayne Rooney from former England captain and now BBC commentator Alan Sherer: 'He should go back to the Manchester United training ground and stick one on Cristiano Ronaldo.'

The Observer has this to say about the Eriksson-Scolari grudge-match:
Football being the sort of drama that rarely resists a cliche or a corny plot, there was a certain inevitability about England meeting Portugal in the World Cup quarter-final, and even though Sven-Goran Eriksson had several reasons to hope for a happy ending this time, the eventual denouement was wearily familiar. Penalties again. Defeat again. And just for good measure, no Wayne Rooney - again.

Luiz Felipe Scolari still has not lost a game in two successive World Cup finals. He is unbeaten in 12 matches and two of the victories have accounted for England at the quarter-final stage. Since his Portugal team also proved England's nemesis at the European Championship two years ago, Scolari is left looking every inch the coach the Football Association should have secured as Eriksson's replacement, while Eriksson looks even more colourless and insipid than when put out of the World Cup by 10 men in Shizuoka four years ago.

And The Independent's headline on Eriksson pretty much says it all: "Farewell Sven. You seemed to prefer women to trophies."
This failed World Cup campaign has again revealed the caution of Eriksson's tactical style and his innate cupidity, with sterile football and an apparent eagerness to do a book deal as his departing images. His legacy may be even more damaging, as the best generation of English footballers for 40 years come to terms with his inability to turn them into a coherent team. Meanwhile, he will walk away to another lucrative coaching job, possibly at Real Madrid. The American film business has a cute phrase for this phenomenon - "failing upwards".

And then, Eriksson's lame attempt at self-justification: 'We have practised [penalties] so much I don't think we could possibly practise them any more.'


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A cast of pod about it.

3:58 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home