Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category


Brilliant Germany, Hapless Brazil or a Bit of Both?

July 9, 2014

Vista busy cursor  It will take Brazil a long time, if ever, to get over their 7-1 World Cup Semi Final mauling by Germany.

Brazil built up the game to be all about passion, emotion, riding the fans’ wild support and “doing it for Neymar”. While about it they seemed to entirely forget about discipline, shape, organisation, patience, control. The Germans couldn’t believe their luck. Thomas Muller was quoted after the game saying every time the Brazillians got the ball they rushed forwards with it and left the Germans masses of space to get at their defence on the counter.

Taking nothing away from the Germans, they were awesome. Movement, passing, vision, pace. Wonderful. But not 7-1 worth of wonderful without a lot of help from their opponents. Would that German side have stuck seven past Costa Rica, who got to the quarter finals while only conceding one goal (penalty shoot-outs aside)? Costa Rica don’t have stars or flair players but they know how to set themselves up to be solid and competitive.


Brazil have been shown up as not that great. They do have some decent players but got further than they deserved thanks to the incredible local support, occasional bits of brilliance from Neymar and moments of luck. Without their two best players, with the weight of expectation upon them and up against a very good team they were unmasked as not up to it. Worse, their over-reliance on emotion rather than organisation allowed the Germans to start sticking the goals in, and the realisation they were undone broke Brazil’s spirit so that they went utterly to pieces and the flood-gates opened.




England players seeing red over Green

June 22, 2010

I go along with much of James Hamilton’s analysis of the current malaise in the England camp, leading to the abysmal showing against Algeria.

The key to it is clearly the awful and unsettling treatment of Robert Green. Like Hamilton, I saw Capello’s handling of the incident as nothing short of torture for the unfortunate keeper. Sure the mistake was criminal at this level and utterly inexplicable. But Capello should either have announced there and then that Green was being dropped or immediately given him his unequivocal backing.

Despite the seriousness of the error, the best option would have been to back him. How likely was Green to repeat the howler against Algeria or in any other match? How much better for morale to show the squad that he has faith in his players and will stand up for them, at least after a one-off mistake. Particularly bearing in mind how hard Green worked to atone for his error in his second half performance and the open, honest and brave way he spoke to the media after the game.

Instead, Capello heaped the pressure on poor Green by telling him he was on probation during training. This just dragged the whole episode out and put Green under intolerable scrutiny. No wonder he cracked, underperformed in training and had to be dropped. Worse than that, it sent a very unfortunate signal to the whole squad. It left them worrying that their coach was likely to disown them and hang them out to dry if they messed up even once during a match. Hardly a recipe for encouraging them to express themselves confidently on the pitch.

I also take on board Hamilton’s first point about Capello’s disciplinarian regime being tolerated during qualification but resented when it carried on into the World Cup finals themselves. But I think the players know Capello is that sort of a manager and was unlikely to suddenly turn blokey and become “one of the lads” on arrival in South Africa. They would have put up with the discipline if at least they could believe Capello was right behind them. But the treatment of Green after the USA match put paid to that.

What is happening in the England camp has its analogue with the French debacle which in fairness is far worse. The French squad have also reacted badly to what they perceive as unfair treatment of one of their number, in their case Nicolas Anelka, leading to a complete breakdown of relations between players and coach. There are differences. Domenech was already due to leave after the tournament so staying on the right side of him was less of a concern. And the French players have gone much further than their English counterparts, effectively going on strike. And with less cause. Anelka deserved to be sent packing and the players have a duty to their country which should have overriden their loyalty to any one team-mate. In contrast with the French players, the England team have too strong a sense of duty to their nation to engage in open revolt, but the effect on their morale is harder to shake off.

The French are a lost cause. Tant pis. As for England, well, in Capello’s shoes I would be apologising to both Green and the whole squad. He should be letting them know that he is there for them, aloof or not, and then getting on with the job.

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Owls v Palace: The relegation play-off final

April 27, 2010

Five years on and it’s almost like a re-run of the League 1 play-off final.  In 2005, I and my son Jonny were among 41,000 Sheffield Wednesday fans at the Millennium Stadium Cardiff to watch the Owls take on Hartlepool (with 17,000 fans of their own), with promotion to the Championship as the prize.  I remember holding on the phone for hours to get tickets.  Every Wednesday fan, however peripheral, felt caught up in the occasion and wanted to be there.  On that occasion Wednesday won and the ensuing cup presentation and celebrations were so joyous and glamour-packed you might be forgiven for thinking we had just won the Champions League or the World Cup.

Sunday’s match against Palace is technically just a scheduled Championship fixture like any other, but for practical purposes it is a play-off final.  As in 2005, two teams are playing against each other in a single match for a place in the Championship next season.  The loser will be playing in League 1.  It means as much as 2005, captures the imagination just as much and Owls fans will be clamouring to be in the crowd.  Futile attempts to get through to the ticket office by phone, or to get a response from the club website, took me straight back to 2005.

I should have been on the website even before the final whistle at Selhurst Park last night confirmed that Palace had failed to beat West Brom, missing the chance to secure Championship survival and setting up the dramatic finale on Sunday which, as fate would have it, brings together the two remaining candidates for the last remaining relegation spot.  Thankfully, Jonny managed to get through on the website at around 1:50am and secured 4 tickets together in the South Stand.

While there are practical and emotional similarities with Cardiff in 2005, there are also some differences.  No extra time or penalties.  No cup to be presented.  Palace need only draw; Wednesday need to win.  Against that, Wednesday have home advantage and will have a full house urging their team on.

2005 was about the euphoria of promotion.  2010 is all about avoiding the anguish of relegation.  We win to stay where we are, not to go on to greater and more hopeful things.  In Cardiff, both sets of fans milled in the streets in a friendly spirit.  Everyone was enjoying their day out and there was a genuine party atmosphere.  There was nothing to lose, and the chance of a big gain.  This time, the atmosphere will be far more tense and grim.  The winner gets away with a narrow let-off; can breathe again.  No great hike in status to get euphoric over.  For the loser, there is the despair of the drop.

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England football team promoted to the bigtime

September 10, 2009

I remember writing a distinctly gloomy piece about the England football team after the ignominious defeat to Croatia, at Wembley in  November 2007, which finally took the  Euro 2008 finals out of reach.  It was called “England football team relegated to the wilderness” and speculated about how the resulting fall in world rankings and consequent lower seeding in future qualifying tournaments would add significant extra hurdles to England’s chances of making it back to the final stages of major international football competitions such as the World Cup.

England have now banished that fear by qualifying for South Africa 2010 (and in some style, it being Croatia’s turn to suffer a bit of ignominy) but I don’t think I was wrong to write what I did.

Without even coming close to the mess they made of Sven Goran Eriksson’s departure and choice of successor, they might easily have replaced Steve McClaren with another inadequate appointment.  If they had then it is not hard to see how England might by now have found themselves wandering in that wilderness, occasionally bumping into Scotland, Wales and N Ireland.  I guess the FA deserve credit for settling on Capello but, as I explained in a comment to this post, they rather lucked into a situation where the outstanding candidate had helpfully just been fired by Real Madrid and was on the lookout for a high profile International appointment so he could end his career on a high.  All the FA had to do was stand firm in the face of the misguided media baying for the appointment of Jose Mourinho.

And my faith in Capello was entirely justified.  He may or may not win the World Cup next year (for starters, Spain and Brazil will not roll over for anyone) but he has got the best out of the remnants of our “golden generation” and blended in a bit of the upcoming platinum generation in the likes of Lennon, Defoe, Milner, Walcott.  We’ will not disgrace ourselves.

Interesting that in that post I wondered about whether Capello would play “British football”, the same point controversially raised by Croatia coach Slaven Bilic before last night’s game.  He accused Capello of changing England’s game away from their traditional style.  Quite possibly Bilic is right, and we have our answer.  Capello has either moved away from or redefined “English football” depending on how you look at it.  Not a problem so long as we win with confidence.  And also by playing good football, laying another of my fears to rest.

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Can you see what it is yet?

August 5, 2009

Vista busy cursor It took me a while to work out what this is, and I had the advantage of knowing the background to where my son took this photo.

Give up?

It’s a side view of the steering wheel from Jenson Button’s F1 car, sitting on the front section of the car itself.

Brawn GP kindly loaned one of last season’s Honda cars (painted in this year’s Brawn livery) to a children’s summer science camp in Manchester. My son is very friendly with Philip Rose who runs the camp and was invited to come along and look at the car.

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2008 and all that

January 1, 2009

Vista busy cursor On 28 December 2007 I published my “Eight for 2008” in response to another blogger’s challenge.  The idea of the aforementioned viral meme was “to list eight things you’d like to see happen in 2008”.

Now that 2008 is over, let’s look back and see how many of my eight came about:

1. A democratic Pakistan

Preferably combined with “Mr.” Pervez Musharraf getting his come-uppance as quickly as possible.

Things are not 100% hunky dory in Pakistan, but democracy has clearly returned and we no longer have Prez Pervez.  That’s 1 out of 1 so far.

2. Global financial meltdown is avoided

I confess to feeling decidedly nervous about how well world financial markets will handle the continuing reverberations sparked off by the sub-prime mortgage debacle in the US. A soft landing can only be achieved if the key institutions follow the right policies. If they get it wrong we could all be in for a very rough ride.

Groan ….   1 out of 2.

3. The Arab world takes a lead by recognising Israel unilaterally

Unlikely, I know, but such a bold move would lead to peace quickly because it would send Hamas and other hard-liners a signal that their campaign to remove Israel in toto no longer had widespread sympathy throughout the arab world. The game would be up for them and a settled peace would quickly follow, including the creation of a Palestinian state.

Well they should have listened to me.  We could well have done with Hamas getting the rug pulled from under them last year.  If that had happened we wouldn’t be seeing what’s happening  in Gaza right now.

It’s not too late, Arab states, disown those Hamas thugs now!  1 out of 3.

4. Either the Blu-ray or HD-DVD camp win the format war.

I don’t mind which, but a winner needs to emerge quickly lest it prove to be a pyrrhic victory and consumers will lose out too.

Blu-ray won, but proceeded to try to milk their hard won monopoly by keeping prices high so market penetration has been very weak.  I think it was a pyrrhic victory.  With increasing broadband speeds, users will be turning to Internet downloads for their HD content.  Still, it’s 2 out of 4.

5. Jesse James snoozie movie misses out at the Oscars

I’m referring to “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”. It’s hard enough to stay awake through the title, never mind the film.

And indeed after missing out at the Baftas and the Golden Globes, it failed to collect an Academy Award. 3 out of 5.

6. Lewis Hamilton is F1 World Champion 2008

A great guy as well as a great racer. The pressure got to him right at the death this year. But he’s still very young. He’ll toughen up.

Boy, did he leave it late! But heck, it was an exciting way to win and who said F1 was boring! 4 out of 6.

7. Jethro Tull revive “A Passion Play” and take it on tour

The world may just about be ready for it now.

Jethro who? Duh …    4 out of 7.

8. Sheffield Wednesday beat Preston on 1st Jan.

That would be a great start to 2008.

They did, although they made extremely heavy weather of it and the football was unspeakable.  Still, it’s 5 out of 8.  Not bad all told.

A bonus 9th might be Microsoft apologising to the entire world for Vista.

That was never going to happen, but I’d take a well-received Windows 7 in 2009 as a good way to make amends.  As I’ve recently observed, Vista these days works just fine and there are reasons to be optimistic that Windows 7 will be a hit.

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The limp pigs and my troubled sleep pattern

August 17, 2008

I’m really not sleeping well at the moment, and haven’t been for the last 10 days or so. A new and troubling pattern has emerged.

Sometime in the middle of the night there will be a pop then a disturbing light appears. It always seems to come from a roughly rectangular source, about eye level, and it bears down on the bed from a height. It isn’t a static light. It has colours, often changing colours, sometimes changing quite fast. And then there are the voices. They can be quite loud, and sounds as from cheering crowds. Occasionally I hear gunshots!

The voices are sometimes very excited. Other times two or three more restrained voices. They always seem to talk about tables, and records and “meddling”. It is freaky.

This phenomenon is clearly disturbing my wife. These weird lights and sounds always seem to coincide with her sitting bolt upright in bed. She is in the dark, as I am, but concentrating intently on the rectangular light and sound source, as if it has taken control of her. It is almost like a ritual. She always seems to be holding something in her hand … like a short stubby stick with little buttons on it. Sometimes she presses the buttons and the sounds and lights change.

In my semi-slumbering state I might say something like “What’s that noise, darling?” and she’ll stop me with “Shoosh! The ladies pursuit sprint final is about to start, and we’re guaranteed both silver and gold …” or something like that. Other times she might squeal with delight “Look how many golds we have now! We’re third behind China and the US, can you believe it? These are the best limp pigs in a century!”

Limp pigs? Why would we have any pigs? We keep a Kosher home.

I generally manage to get back off to sleep but wake up drained and exhausted, as if my night’s sleep had totally failed to reinvigorate me.

I went to see my doctor and described these symptoms. He didn’t seem at all fazed, not even by mention of limp pigs.

“Look,” he said “these symptoms are quite common at this time. Take a sleeping pill at night and you’ll find the symptoms will clear up completely in around another week”.

I couldn’t believe he was taking it so lightly. Another whole week of this? Damn those limp pigs.

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