Oh, come on. It’s not as if you didn’t have any warning. Actually, most of you probably didn’t unless you read the final comment on Thursday’s post. To aid your recovery this morning’s playlist, The End Titles Are Playing, either here or in the right sidebar. As that weaves into your audial pleasure, consider this. Punditry is just pun dirty; perhaps the laugh is on us in more ways than one.
I don’t care if Arsenal are genuinely interested in Ivanovic, he’s the same as any footballer to whom a link is made. It would be nice, he’s decent player and the squad would be stronger with his inclusion. Mourinho would never let it happen, he couldn’t even bring himself to let Demba Ba, possibly the most ineffectual of his ineffective forward line, join Arsenal on loan last season. Anyone who thinks this deal will go through probably visits the faeries as the bottom of the garden every night, wondering why they don’t come out to play more often. In playing every transfer with a straight bat, Arsène produced the perfect antidote on this occasion: “We’re not close to signing anyone.”
Of course, he meant that he’s in Brazil and all his targets are elsewhere…didn’t he? He did, didn’t he? He did…
The World Cup is a welcome distraction in that sense. How much of a distraction, we’re about to find out. England are on their way home following Costa Rica’s astonishing victory over Italy. Astonishing in every sense of the word; unexpected, a surprise but thoroughly deserved because of their efforts and energy in executing a game plan. Like any ‘underdog’, they rode their luck as the Italians became predictable in their play, failing to reach the heights scaled in their victory over England. Complacent in every sense of the word. Joel Campbell worked hard, was cruelly and wrongly denied a penalty in the first half minutes before the goal-line technology finally earned its corn. Such was the poverty of the referee’s decision-making overall, the encroachment of technology into more areas of the game seems inevitable to me. Campbell’s day got better with Galatasaray’s reported interest seeming to save him from a fate worse than death; management by Tony Pulis.
Meanwhile, there seems some astonishment that Roy Hodgson is keeping his job. This from a media which confidently predicted exactly this fate. The question is being asked the wrong way; it isn’t the manager that is wrong, there’s a paucity if taker. We don’t have a Plan A player, a Plan B player. We lack that world-class individual or two. It’s been a problem for decades, And whilst it isn’t solved yet either, there is optimism that the style of play has evolved from the agricultural pragmatism to players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet. A large number of youth teams I see, in local leagues or tournaments my son plays in, embrace this. The rarity is finding a club that perseveres with traditional English values. And if you want a reason for hope, grounds for optimism, that surely is all you need.
But hats off to the Costa Rican’s, they had the power, the energy, the tactics and the passion to carry themselves into the next round. And let’s be honest, Jorge Luis Pinto’s hand-wringing at being denied a penalty was the most Liberace-esque ever witnessed in on the grandest stage. That alone will be one of the most indelible images of what has so far been the most marvellous World Cup for a while.
Elsewhere France proved to the Grand Fromage in the Dairy Derby, thundering five past the Swiss before feeling sorry for their neighbours and let them add some respectability to scoreline with two late goals. Karim Benzema proved he is perfect Arsenal material by scoring, missing a penalty and generally being a good bloke. Oh you’ve no idea how I’m waiting to use “Blaise of Glory” or “What’s the Matuidi, Gotta no respect”. That chance may yet arise as France are through with Switzerland needing to beat Honduras in the final group match. It’s not looking too difficult a task following the Hondurans defeat against Ecuador last night in a match that would not have looked out of place on ?Hackney Marshes.
Attention of the day turns to Per Mertesacker who joins an exclusive list of players with 100 caps to their name in international football. A few years back, FIFA christened them The Century Club which whilst it is exclusive, isn’t that choosy. Even Groucho Marx could have got in, not that he would have wanted to. Of that list, Mertesacker becomes the twelfth to ply his trade in the righteous side of north London. I was going to poke fun at Tottenham for having Robbie Keane in their list but I drew back from the edge; you’ll understand why later. The dozen includes eleven players and one manager – Billy Wright – and the BFG becomes the second member of the current squad to gain 100 caps, Lukas Podolski the other. It might be three, who knows who will sign. It was three last season and the trio graced the Wembley turf albeit not at the same time, Kim Kallström entering the semi-final fray after Podolski had departed.
The only surprises on the list are those who played for Arsenal, even though you did your best to forget they had. Step forward, Mart Poom. He’s second on 120 Estonian caps, three behind Thierry Henry’s total for France. Others include Vieira and van Bronckhorst who have actually played in a World Cup Final rather than just the final stages. It must come as some relief to Mertesacker though. No more will he have to duck into the broom cupboard at international soirées when he sees Igor Stepanovs coming; he can look him in the eye and comment, “I’m your equal.”
To satisfy your curiosity, the full list is:
|Pat Jennings||Northern Ireland||119|
|Kolo Touré||Ivory Coast||107|
|Giovanni van Bronckhorst||Netherlands||106|
|Igors N. Stepanovs||Latvia||100|
Today’s match offers the Germans the opportunity to assert their authority on their group. As if a four-goal victory over Portugal hadn’t already done that. Ghana played relatively well against the USA and were probably worth a point but like England, they were punished for not being able to finish. Germany made hard work of winning when the two nations met four years ago – Mesut Özil settling matters on the hour – but it is hard to see a repeat of that this time around; Germany look a lot better but I am not sure Ghana have improved that much. We shall see, perhaps there will be an element of over-confidence given the results of the opening matches.