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Football

The sixth post of pre-Christmas 2018: June

Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Football didn’t quite “come home” after this year’s World Cup but England did reach the semi-finals and lost, valiantly, to Croatia, who were beaten in the final by a superior French side. Our review of the year has reached the month of June.

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Back in June 2015, the former German Federal Minister for Finance Wolfgang Schäuble lost patience with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “Isch over,” he said. The context were the interminable talks about talks about talks to keep Athens funded and within the Eurozone.

Three years later, somethings have changed and more remain the same: “Tsipras Vows to Stick With Greece’s Euro Deal” is today’s Bloomberg headline. One thing has changed dramatically since 2015, however. Germany has lost its nimbus as a football power. Yesterday’s humiliating defeat by South Korea and the terrible performances against Mexico and Sweden mean “Isch over.” Over and out of the World Cup.

Apropos, in the Guardian, the former German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger says, “This was not the Germany we are used to – I feel completely empty.” He also places a finger in a fatal self-inflicted wound by team manager Joachim Löw:

“I’m aware there has been a lot of talk in England about Leroy Sané’s exclusion from the squad following his excellent season with Manchester City and, for me, he is a player who should be reintroduced immediately. He is exactly the calibre of player Germany needs, someone who is young and has raw, dangerous pace.”

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Since June, Löw has sobered up and Sané is now a regular fixture in the German team, where his ability and agility are beginning to add sparkle. Tomorrow, here, the seventh post of pre-Christmas 2018 dwells upon the new Empire of Evil: China.


Dier and football’s nominative determinism

Wednesday, 5 December, 2018

Following Arsenal’s spectacular 4-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, one expected Arseblog to react euphorically, and that’s exactly what happened on Monday. Intro snippet: “I think the fact that I’ve tried — and failed — with about six different opening lines to this blog is the best illustration of how I’m feeling this morning. As I said in yesterday’s preview, some games are more than just three points and yesterday’s 4-2 win over Sp*rs was 100% one of those. Yes, we won. Yes, we took three points. Yes, we went ahead of them in the table. But it felt like all of that and more, as a quite extraordinary afternoon played out at the Emirates.”

Apart from the euphoria, there’s vitriol and much of it is directed at the Spurs defender and England midfielder, Eric Dier. This is good:

“Dier, football’s greatest example of nominative determinism since Alf Crap, shushed the Arsenal fans, and you knew something was stirring within the Arsenal camp when the celebrations sparked a bit of handbags. Stephan Lichtsteiner was there (of course) and Matteo Guendouzi ran down the line to get hold of Dele Alli. Lovely stuff really, because it was different, it spoke to an attitude within this squad that hasn’t always been present — even in this particular fixture. Dier apparently told Aaron Ramsey, also involved, to ‘sit back down’, which he did … temporarily.

… We might have been punished after a Bellerin mistake, but Leno saved from Son who was probably thinking about how to dive before he shot and thus didn’t find the accuracy he needed, and then Ramsey won the ball in their half and fed Lacacazette. He still had a bit to do, but cut inside and his left-footed shot deflected off Dier and into the bottom corner off the post. Shhhhh that you balloon-headed wankpot. YOU sit down, eh?!”

Football. It’s all about passion. Innit?


World-class World Cup trolling by @qatar

Thursday, 14 June, 2018

Background: Saudi Arabia claims Qatar is a sponsor of extremist political movements in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Qatar denies the charges and accuses the Saudis of attempting to curtail its sovereignty. It’s a nasty feud and the pot is simmering, as they say.

Today’s World Cup opener between Russia and Saudi Arabia offered Qatar Airways a golden opportunity to indulge in some world-class trolling of the neighbors and the state-owned carrier didn’t miss the open goal in Moscow.

World Cup


The video game: England vs. Germany

Tuesday, 22 May, 2018

Just 23 days now until the World Cup kicks off in Russia. The deluxe match of the first round will be Portugal vs. Spain on 15 June, but Germany vs. Mexico on 17 June should be tasty because if it’s not a draw, the pressure will be on the losing side. Talking of Germany, no World Cup is complete without the prospect of a 1966 Final revenge rematch with England and it could happen, earlier rather than later. Here’s how:

If England finish second in Group G, they will face the winner of Group H which, according to FIFA rankings, should be Poland. Success in that game would take England into a quarter final meeting with Germany, the likely winners of Group F. Might happen. Might not. Until then, though, we have the videos of the selected squads.

First up, Die Mannschaft, with 28K+ views. The emphasis is on skills.

Next, The Three Lions, with 220K+ views. Here, it’s all about multi-cultural fun.

Result: England wins on YouTube. The World Cup, however, will be played in Russia.


Inspirational No. 10s

Tuesday, 19 September, 2017 0 Comments

Our new century began with the most open, exciting tournament in modern football: Euro 2000. The four semi-finalists all played classic No. 10s in the space between midfield and the opposition defence. France, Italy, Portugal and Holland had Zinedine Zidane, Francesco Totti, Manuel Rui Costa and Dennis Bergkamp respectively. Today? In a sign of the changing times, the No. 10 jersey is being assigned to inspirational players — Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. — rather than designated playmakers.

No. 10s


Christian Schreiber: 1965 – 2016

Thursday, 7 July, 2016 0 Comments

The death on Monday morning of Dr Christian Schreiber was a tragedy with many facets. Tania lost a loving husband, Ella and Alma a caring father and his colleagues at the German Heart Centre in Munich a brilliant cardiac surgeon who was doing ground-breaking work in the fields of paediatric and congenital heart surgery.

But that’s not the end of this list of tragedies. Christian was the victim of a truly terrifying disease: ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This progressive neurodegenerative illness affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and those who are afflicted suffer unbearable physical and psychological pain. The suffering extends to family and friends, who are forced to witness its degradation of a person they love. All of this was amplified in Christian’s case because he was so young, so gifted, so multilingually charming and had so much to offer to those who needed his life-saving skills.

In the coming weeks, many personal and professional tributes will be paid to this wonderful man, but on the day when Germany play France in the semi-final of the Euro2016 tournament, it should be mentioned that football for Christian Schreiber was more than a game — each match was a morality play and the fans were his tribe. After completing an intricate operation in Kiev, or delivering a paper in London or attending a conference in Beijing, he would dash back to Munich to make the best use of his season ticket at the Allianz Arena, the stadium of his beloved FC Bayern. It was my good fortune to be his companion on some of these occasions and each one featured a non-stop assortment of scandalous stories, informed commentary, hilarious observations and a never-ending stream of questions that sprang from a curious mind insatiable for knowledge. One of the most memorable of these get-togethers was on Wednesday, 6 December 2006 when Bayern played a hard-fought 1-1 Champions League draw with Inter Milan. It was a bitterly cold night, but we were well insulated and had excellent seats near the half-way line. While the TV cameras followed the ball, we spent the evening watching the mighty defender Lúcio and the great striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic “get it on” in a terrific mixed martial arts battle. And all was well with our world.

For those who believe in such things, Christian will be looking down on tonight’s Germany-France game, enjoying every moment. For those who are broken-hearted by the loss, the memories of the moments are what we are left with now. The old Gaelic expression, Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann (“There shall not be his like again.”), sums up this unique, loving, loved, very much missed man. RIP

Christian Schreiber and his daughter Alma at the Allianz Arena, Munich

Dr Christian Schreiber and his daughter Alma at the Allianz Arena, Munich


Hooooo! A Toast to Iceland

Sunday, 3 July, 2016 1 Comment

France vs. Iceland tonight in Paris, with the winner meeting Germany in the semi-final of Euro2016. During the game, most non-French people will be clapping their hands and chanting “Hooooo,” the Icelanders’ version of the New Zealand rugby haka.

The poet Jónas Hallgrímsson was born in Eyjafjörður on the northern part of Iceland. He studied Latin and Greek at secondary school in Bessastaor and then attended the University of Copenhagen. He coined many Icelandic words, including reikistjarna, meaning planet, from the verb að reika (to wander) and the noun stjarna (star).

A Toast to Iceland

Our land of lakes forever fair
below blue mountain summits,
of swans, of salmon leaping where
the silver water plummets,
of glaciers swelling broad and bare
above earth’s fiery sinews —
the Lord pour out his largess there
as long as earth continues!

Jónas Hallgrímsson (1807 – 1845)


Cymru am byth

Saturday, 2 July, 2016 0 Comments

The last time Wales were in a major football tournament was 1958, when they lost 1–0 in a quarter final to Brazil — thanks to a first-ever World Cup goal by a youngster named Pelé. He scored two more in the final, when Brazil beat the hosts, Sweden, 5–2. Fast forward to 2016 and Wales have reached the semi-finals of the European Championship after beating the hot favourites Belgium, 3–1, last night.

Aaron Ramsey was simply magnificent for Wales and the heart-breaking footnote to last night’s heroics is that he will miss Wednesday’s semi-final against Portugal in Lyon through suspension. He was rather harshly booked for handball, a silly foul.

Note: Cymru am byth means Wales forever, or long live Wales.

Wales


Hodgson’s choices (end)

Tuesday, 28 June, 2016 0 Comments

This is the third and final post in a series about the choices made by the England manager Roy Hodgson during the course of his team’s erratic odyssey through the Euro 2016 tournament, from the opening shambles against Russia to last night’s humiliation at the hands of gallant Iceland. The post dated 12 June was scathing, while that of 17 June was positive, mainly. “Later, he brought on the gifted young Marcus Rashford,” we noted on 17 June and last night Hodgson waited until the 86th minute to take off a fatigued Wayne Rooney and replace him with the dynamic Rashford. Too late.

It wasn’t all the manager’s fault, of course. Many of his players served up truly shabby performances. Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Joe Hart, were especially awful throughout.

Roy Hodgson made baffling, damaging, wrong choices from the start to the finish of England’s tournament and must now make the right one. He’s yesterday’s man.

UPDATE: Roy Hodgson resigns after England lose to Iceland


Hodgson’s choices (contd.)

Friday, 17 June, 2016 0 Comments

Our post here last Sunday criticized Roy Hodgson for his use of substitutes in England’s opening Euro 2016 game with Russia. With a one-goal lead, the manager opted for strength instead of speed and his introduction of the flat-footed Jack Wilshere and James Milner led to a draw, when a win was there for England’s taking.

Yesterday against Wales, Hodgson chose differently. At half time and a goal behind, he opted for the fleet-footed Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. Later, he brought on the gifted young Marcus Rashford. The result? A win for England thanks to goals from Vardy and Sturridge. The moral of the story? Who dares wins. Rashford was impressive in his competitive debut but starting with him against Slovakia on Monday might be too bold a move. Vardy and Sturridge should be on from the start, though, as they work well together and can magic goals out of thin air.

Slovakia lost their opening game to Wales and then went on to defeat Russia. They’ve got a good side and can be counted on for a surprise or two. At the end of May, they beat Germany 3-1 in a friendly game, and while Germany are no longer the gold standard of international football, they don’t lose too many matches, friendly or not. To win against Slovakia on Monday, Roy Hodgson will have to be daring. It’s his choice.


Hodgson’s choices

Sunday, 12 June, 2016 0 Comments

Roy Hodgson, the manager of the English football team, is a lucky man, mostly. He has at his disposal a fleet of greyhounds, generally. His young side is nippy and swift, lean and agile, mainly. To be sure, there are a few cumbersome lads in the squad, but only a few, which makes Hodgson’s choices last night all more puzzling. With a one-goal lead and the clock running down, he took off his valiant captain, Wayne Rooney, and he replaced him with the sturdy Jack Wilshere, while the lumbering James Milner was brought on for the non-stop Raheem Sterling. Precautionary choices.

And what happened? In the second minute of extra time, Milner let Georgi Schennikov go past him easily to deliver a cross to his captain Vasili Berezutski, who slipped in between Danny Rose and Dele Alli, and the Russian’s slow-motion header arched its way into the far corner of the net, to the dismay of Joe Hart and Roy Hodgson and England.

When he most needed to remember his Shakespeare, Hodgson forgot. With the game afoot, he choose safety instead of spirit; he retreated instead of charging and Vardy and Rashford were left in the slips. It was England’s undoing. Roy’s no Harry.

“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot;
Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,
Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!”

William Shakespeare, Henry V