Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Obscure World Cup Kits From History #1

France (v Hungary, 1978)

A strange thing happened on June 10th 1978. The scene was Mar Del Plata in Argentina. The time: 2.30pm. Two teams lined up in the Parque Municipal stadium to play a first round match in the World Cup finals - France and Hungary.

It was any wonder the match came to be played at all. Argentina was a country still viewing television broadcasts in black and white back then, so all matches had to feature one team wearing a dark-coloured strip, the other a light-coloured strip. As France's blue shirts and Hungary's red ones were deemed to be of too similar a shade for monochrome TV, France were asked to wear a change strip. They didn't have one.

When it was looking like the match would have to be called off, someone had the bright idea of borrowing the shirts worn by the local team, Kimberley. So they did, which is why the French team on that day strode onto the field wearing green and white striped shirts, blue shorts and red socks.

Christian Lopez scores the first for France against Hungary

It didn't affect their play - as a matter of fact they went on to win 3-1, despite having a goalkeeper called Dominique Dropsy (but that's another story...)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Greatest Squad of My Life (Part I)

While watching some archive World Cup footage from 1982 the other day, it struck me that Paolo Rossi must be just about the best player ever to appear in the Finals wearing a number 20 shirt. Let's face it, there can't be many other players that have given the number 20 such classic status... or has there?

What about Michael Owen and David Trezeguet in 1998? Or another star player from 1982, Poland's Zbigniew Boniek? Even Ronaldo pulled on the number 20 back in the 1994 World Cup Finals. And as for Peter Beardsley in 1986...

So it got me thinking... if I was handing out the shirts from 1 to 22 to the greatest players ever to grace the World Cup Finals during my lifetime (i.e. from 1971 onwards) who would get to wear which numbers? Who would be in that amazing squad?

Wonder no more. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you part 1 of my list showing the Greatest World Cup Squad of My Lifetime. Some of my selections are bound to be a little controversial to say nothing of ill-advised, but this is my blog and I don't care.

Actually I do care. You see as well as showing the player I've selected for the appropriate numbered shirt, I've also listed the other candidates I've turned down. This means you can tell me who else you might have picked instead and why. Just do it politely rather than using insulting language, that's all I ask.

So here goes with squad numbers 1 to 11. Read 'em and weep...

1. Zoff (ITA)
Other candidates: Kahn (GER); Schmeichel (DEN); Zubizaretta (SPA); Taffarel (BRA); Dassaiev (USR); Jennings (NIR); Schumacher (GER); Shilton (ENG); Ardiles (ARG); Clemence (ENG); Arconada (SPA); Tomaszewski (POL); Maier (WG)

2. Ardiles (ARG)
Other candidates: Cafu (BRA); Petrescu (ROM); Ferrer (SPA); F. De Boer (NED); Baresi (ITA); Gerets (BEL); Vogts (WG); Haan (NED)

3. Brehme (WG)
Other candidates: Maldini (ITA); Babayaro (NIG); Rijkaard (NED); Bergomi (ITA); Albert (BEL); Cabrini (ITA); Camacho (SPA); Brooking (ENG); Breitner (WG)

4. Vieira (FRA)
Other candidates: Kanu (NIG); Smertin (RUS); F.De Boer (NED); Koeman (NED); Dunga (BRA); Souness (SCO); Hoddle (ENG); Cabrini (ITA); Bossis (FRA); Bremner (SCO)

5. Beckenbauer (WG)
Other candidates: Staunton (IRE); Maldini (ITA); Falcao (BRA); Coppell (ENG); Hansen (SCO); Gentile (ITA); Krol (NED)

6. Gentile (ITA)
Other candidates: Roberto Carlos (BRA); Roy Keane (IRE); Hierro (SPA); Baresi (ITA); Branco (BRA); Passarella (ARG); Junior (BRA); Butcher (ENG)

7. Jairzinho (BRA)
Other candidates: Raul (SPA); Figo (POR); Beckham (ENG); Bebeto (BRA); Larsson (SWE); Overmars (NED); Maldini (ITA); Burruchaga (ARG); Littbarski (WG); Robson (ENG); Strachan (SCO); Molby (DEN); Keegan (ENG)

8. Socrates (BRA)
Other candidates: Desailly (FRA); Hamann (GER); Bergkamp (NED); Matthaeus (GER); Dunga (BRA); Caniggia (ARG); Scifo (BEL); Olsen (DEN); Wilkins (ENG); Francis (ENG); Panenka (CZE); Dalglish (SCO); Zico (BRA)

9. Ronaldo (BRA)
Other candidates: Morientes (SPA); Sukur (TUR); Eto’o (CAM); Batistuta (ARG); Kluivert (NED); Shearer (ENG); Suker (CRO); Milla (CAM); Sanchez (MEX); R.De Boer (NED); Careca (BRA); Voeller (WG); Butragueno (SPA); Francescoli (URU); Van Basten (NED); Beardsley (ENG); Krankl (AUT); Hoddle (ENG); Haan (NED)

10. Maradona (ARG)
Other candidates: Zidane (FRA); Rivaldo (BRA); Owen (ENG); Mboma (CAM); M. Laudrup (DEN); Raul (SPA); Sheringham (ENG); Hagi (ROM); Matthaeus (GER); R.Baggio (ITA); Scifo (BEL); Bergkamp (NED); Stojkovic (YUG); Gullit (NED); Lineker (ENG); Platini (FRA); Zico (BRA); Francescoli (URU); Elkjaer (DEN); Cubillas (PER); Wark (SCO); Kempes (ARG); Rivelino (BRA); R. Van De Kerkhof (NED); Rivera (ITA)

11. Ronaldinho (BRA)
Other candidates: Larsson (SWE); Eto’o (CAM); Asprilla (COL); Veron (ARG); Romario (BRA); Brolin (SWE); Barnes (ENG); Baresi (ITA); Blokhin (USR); M. Laudrup (DEN); Rummenigge (WG); Waddle (ENG); Smolarek (POL); Kempes (ARG); Ceulemans (BEL); Eder (BRA); Lorimer (SCO); Riva (ITA)

Part 2 coming soon...

Sunday, May 28, 2006

World Cup Warm-Up Round-Up

Well not long to go to the start of the 2006 World Cup now and many teams have effectively finished their warm-up schedule prior to action starting on June 9th.

In case you've missed any of the results from those games during the last week, here they are for you:

June 5
Ukraine 3 - 0 Libya

June 4

Brazil 4 - 0 New Zealand
Netherlands 1 - 1 Australia
Ivory Coast 3 - 0 Slovenia
Japan 1 - 0 Malta
South Korea 1 - 3 Ghana

June 3
Czech Republic 3 - 0 Trinidad and Tobago
England 6 - 0 Jamaica
Luxembourg 0 - 3 Portugal
Poland 1 - 0 Croatia
Spain 2 - 0 Egypt
Switzerland 4 - 1 China PR

June 2
Angola 2 - 3 Turkey
Germany 3 - 0 Colombia
Italy 0 - 0 Ukraine
Liechtenstein 0 - 1 Togo
Sweden 1 - 1 Chile

June 1
Netherlands 2 - 1 Mexico
Norway 0 - 0 South Korea

May 31
Iran 5 - 1 Boznia & Herzegovina
Paraguay 1 - 0 Georgia
France 2 - 0 Denmark
Saudi Arabia 0 - 1 Turkey
Slovenia 3 - 1 Trinidad & Tobago
Switzerland 1 - 1 Italy

May 30
Argentina 2 - 0 Angola
Chile 1 - 1 Ivory Coast
Czech Republic 1 - 0 Costa Rica
Engalnd 3 - 1 Hungary
Germany 2 - 2 Japan
Poland 1 - 2 Colombia
Tunisia 3 - 0 Belarus

And that should be all the pre-World Cup friendly matches. Game on!

Friday, May 26, 2006

World Cup Links

Hey folks, there's only 14 days to go to the start of the World Cup! As you'd expect, everyone's going completely mental about the whole thing, and rightly so, with websites cropping up all over the place to celebrate the event in various ways.

So to ensure you don't miss out on the smorgasbord of entertainment just waiting for you to pay a visit, check out the list of World Cup-related sites below. There'll be more sites being added as we go along, so be sure to check back and see what's here later on.

BBC World Cup 2006
Tons of stuff to keep you amused including Auntie's video archive, England squad picker and all the latest news from around the world.

Heal Rooney
A frankly silly site that encourages you to do your part in healing Wayne Rooney's injured foot.

FIFA World Cup 2006
Follow the tournament with The Management.

World Cup 2006 Football Prediction League Game

And now for all you competitive types out there, here's something that'll surely tickle your fancy. Our good friends at SpursWeb would like to invite you all to play in their rather spiffing World Cup Prediction Game. Just visit:

...follow the instructions, and enjoy. It's dead easy - all you need to do is register your username and password, then after that just predict the results for each World Cup match that takes place. You get 3 points for a correct score and 1 point for a correct result. Unsurprisingly, the winner of the competition is the one with the highest total at the end of the tournament.

And that's about it really. So if you fancy bragging to your mates down the pub that you're the sort of psychic phenomenon that makes every high street bookmaker quake in their boots, get yourself along to the Prediction League site and show them what you're made of!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Collect the set

They say life is full of little surprises, and I got one the other day on a visit to my local petrol station. Having deluded myself briefly with the premise that I could fill up my tank with £30 of Unleaded, I trudged off to pay the bill.

The forecourt shop assistant took my credit card, I entered my PIN number and along with the receipt he handed me three small red square sachets. I gave him my thanks (although frankly I didn't know what for) and returned to my car.

What were these shiny packets all about? Did they contain some secret ancient symbol of mystery and wonderment? No. Dan Brown needn't have worried about me stumbling on his next plot line. It seems Texaco are running a promotion in the lead up to this year's World Cup whereby for every £10 of petrol you buy, you get a free 'coin.'

For those of a certain age, the Texaco campaign will spark off memories from days gone by. Back in 1970, Esso famously gave away England World Cup coins every time you filled up at one of their petrol stations. And make no mistake - these were proper metal coins. None of the plastic-coated cardboard rubbish I had in my sweaty palm. What's more, they featured portraits of all our lads heading off to Mexico that year. Bobby Moore, Jack Charlton... hell, even Emlyn Hughes was immortalised in metallic form, and they looked the business in the accompanying presentation set (available by post - ask at your petrol station for details).

So there I was looking down at my cheap modern-day equivalents feeling like my coins had left me short-changed. OK, so I'd got David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand. Fine. And these coins had a mini-description on one side telling me about the player on the reverse. Great. But these collectable souvenirs just smacked of cheapness. Whatever happened to the undeniable quality you'd get from World Cup souvenirs of the past?

Quite honestly, when it comes to collecting four-yearly football ephemera, you can't beat Panini football stickers. The sheer excitement of opening a packet and finding you'd got the shiny silver Brazil badge was complemented beautifully by the despair of getting your third swap of Francois Van Der Elst. An emotional roller-coaster guaranteed with every packet.

Petrol stations invariably get it wrong when it comes to football tie-ins. Back in the early 1970's, Esso offered us the chance to collect 'Squelchers'. These were booklets containing football facts that helped you discern the truth behind the bullshit your friend was spouting in the school playground. Yes, according to Esso they helped you "squelch arguments about football".

Moving swiftly on, there were a proliferation of schemes going on in the 1980's whereby your average petrol purchase would get you a scratchcard. Reveal the letters hidden away, tear them off and if you were able to make up the name of someone in the World Cup that year - say, Yugoslavia - you could win a set of 6 glass tumblers. Except there were never any letter 'Y's so even that was out of the question.

Yes, it's a fruitless business visiting your garage when there's a World Cup going on. Such high expectation at the free gift you might be able to get your hands on, but it always ends in tears. Perhaps they should just give us some cheap petrol instead.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

World Cup Memories #4

by Chris Oakley

And now a different sort of World Cup memory. We go back to the summer of 1998. People all over the world are gearing up for the Finals to be held in France and on their way from South America are the Brazilians.

Any true football fan finds no difficulty in conjuring up images of those yellow-shirted maestros and their amazing silky skills, but Nike obviously thought we needed some help.

So to publicise their new range of sports apparel, they created a fabulous TV commercial featuring the stars of the Brazilian team playing football in and around an airport.

It was inspired. We may not have all rushed out in our droves buying Nike t-shirts, but many of us did allow a broad smile to break out on our face as we watched Ronaldo and co. playing the fools in a non-footballing environment.

Sadly, like the end of the advert, Brazil's luck ran out in the 1998 World Cup Final, losing 3-0 to the host country, yet with a raft of similar adverts showing football stars doing their thing following on in its wake ever since, who's to say this advert wasn't a success in it's own right? I loved it then, and it's just as good when you watch it now.

Monday, May 22, 2006

World Cup Memories #3

by Smart

The following is a true story, and happened in the summer of '82.

I say that because even to this day I still cannot believe what I saw, what the watching world saw, but the referee and other officials quite obviously didn't.

On July 8th 1982, West Germany were to play France in the World Cup Semi-Final. Both teams were very strong and had been fancied to lift the trophy since the competition began. Platini would captain his attacking French side against the likes of Littbarski and Rummenigge of the more defensive and cautious Germans.

1-1 at half-time, the two teams re-appear for the second-half and no-one could have anticipated the events that were about to unfold. In the 70th minute the in-form Platini plays a through ball and Patrick Battiston is away, leaving the turning German defenders in his wake. Harold Schumacher, the German goalkeeper is alert to the danger and rushes off his line towards Battiston - and when I say TOWARDS Battiston, boy do I mean TOWARDS Battiston.

Schumacher forgot that the ball was a small white spherical object, and continued at pace before leaping into the oncoming French Striker. The two collide and fall to the ground. Battiston was unconscious.

The foul itself is possibly the most outrageous 'challenge' I can remember seeing in my life. But possibly more amazing than that was what followed - a goal kick. The ref didn't acknowledge the incident. No free-kick, no booking, no sending off. Schumacher feigned injury after mugging Battiston. Battiston didn't have chance to check if he still had his watch and wallet as he had to be stretchered off.

From that moment on the crowd and watching millions were screaming for a French victory and the match itself is still regarded as a 'classic', despite the horror tackle. 1-1 at full-time, the French took a 3-1 lead during extra-time, only for the Germans to score 2 extra-time goals themselves to force the match into a penalty shoot-out. There was to be no fairytale ending to this match - Platini's men lost the shoot-out - the Germans were in the Final.

My story doesn't end there, however. Oh no. Upon returning to school the following morning to carry on with the usual 20-a-side playground World Cup, you'll get no prizes for guessing which incident was being re-enacted.

Sometimes sportsmen forget what important role models they really are.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A Spaniard in the works

If the World Cup's just around the corner, it must be time for us all to dismiss Spain's chances of winning it. Yes, Spain, that footballing nation brim-full of world famous teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona that set the heart racing at the very mention of their name.

So here goes, then:
Spain won't win the World Cup this year. Discussion over.

But wait a moment, surely a country that can boast talented players like Luis Garcia, Jose Antonio Reyes, Xabi Alonso and Raul shouldn't be written off so quickly? Well maybe so. Back in 2002, Spain breezed through an easy first round group but squirmed past Ireland on penalties in the second round and eventually fell to South Korea in the quarter finals.

Once again they have an easy first round group, but if history repeats itself, 2006 could see them facing Switzerland in the second round and Brazil in the quarter finals.

Squad-wise, they have plenty of star names that grace the top leagues of Europe, but coach Luis Aragones hasn't been able to settle on a starting line-up. His defence is almost certainly pencilled in but up front he remains a big fan of Raul who has been decidedly ordinary since the last World Cup. Others have called for Aragones to select this season's La Liga top scorer, David Villa of Valencia, but the coach remains undecided.

In the qualifiers, Spain finished second in their group to Serbia and Montenegro, but their form away from home against half-decent opposition was somewhat average. A two-legged play-off against Slovakia was called for in which Spain won convincingly at home but could only draw 1-1 away.

So there we are then. Spain's hopes of lifting the big gold trophy for the first time look decidedly small. So can we now finally hand over the label of 'dark horses' to someone else more deserving? Like England, maybe?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bodyform for you. Sir?

By Smart

Another World Cup, another deluge of TV and Radio ads from purveyors of fine goods wanting us to purchase their wares.

The usual suspects are there - Coca-cola, McDonalds, the Scottish Tourist Board, and of course Adidas with Jermaine Defoe in goal (which seems like his best bet for Germany) – but more and more irrelevant companies seem to be jumping on the World Cup band wagon as it rolls into town. Annoyingly.

Continental Tyres- which is one of my ‘favourites’, and the best way they could find a link to football was to make the goalies gloves out of tyre tread. Genius.

It gets worse. Have you seen the Durex advert with the strapline “He shoots, he scores”? How about the SlimFast advert “Lose the equivalent weight of Michael Owen during the World Cup”.

The one that gets me every time however, is the slow motion footage of a female footballer doing an overhead kick whilst someone wails “WAAAAAAHHH BODYFORM!”.

You haven’t seen any of those? Well you wont have, as I made them up. But if you believed them does that prove my point?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Unlucky mascot

So here's the res: there's a World Cup just around the corner and FIFA give you a call to make you, yes you, the designer that will create a mascot for the tournament. How are you going to do it and can you make it reach its full potential?

This was the situation faced by the people that created Goleo VI, the mascot for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

And as you can see by clicking here, Goleo VI is a friendly looking lion, bedecked in football shirt, often accompanied by friend and talking football, Pille. (Who conjures up such images in their head we may never know...)

All well and good, perhaps, but it turns out that the German company that won the contract to make the little fluffy toy Goleos has now gone bankrupt. How could that be? Does the lion lack sufficient charm to make the kiddies of the world beg mercilessly for a toy just like him?

Well let's see... Goleo VI was designed by the Jim Henson Company, so straight-away it's got a high pedigree where amiable outsized members of the animal kingdom are concerned. But wait a minute: isn't the mascot supposed to have some connection with the nation it's representing? It's a lion, and forgive me for elbowing David Attenborough out of the way on this one, but I don't recall lions being indigenous to Germany? Their national symbol is the eagle, so why use a lion - especially when rivals England have three of them on their shirts?

Next, we witness our lion's attire. Very natty shirt he's wearing but wait a minute - no shorts?? What sort of message does that send out to the footballing community? The World Cup mascot's some sort of big, hairy pervert? Apparently so, if the German response was anything to go by.

The good folk of Germany apparently never quite took to Goleo VI when its identity became known. That's a shame, but you can't help thinking that these days designers are just trying that bit too hard.

Back in 1986 when the World Cup was held in Mexico, the mascot was a green chilli pepper called Piqué that sported a moustache and a sombrero. For the 1982 World Cup in Spain, the mascot was Naranjito - a smiling cartoon orange wearing the red and blue football kit of the home nation.

Simple. And just to rub salt in the wound, England started the whole thing back in 1966 with a lion mascot of its own - World Cup Willy - and what's more, he DID have the dignity to wear shorts (to say nothing of socks and boots too).

So take a tip all you designers out there: if the phone rings and it's someone from FIFA asking you to design a mascot, don't try and be clever. Grab a piece of fruit or a vegetable, draw a face on it and you'll be pretty much home and dry. But please - no Americanised members of the big cat family. And definitely no talking footballs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

World Cup Memories #2

To continue the England theme set in part 1 of this ever-expanding series, I take you back to Wednesday 11 June 1986.

What had seemed like an easy First Round group in the World Cup Finals that year was rapidly turning into one long nightmare. England had lost to Portugal 1-0 in their first match and drawn with Morocco 0-0 in the second. Both matches had warranted little concern before the tournament started, yet here we were needing a win in the third game against Poland just to get through to Round Two.

This was the situation every England fan was coming to terms with (my Dad and I inclusive), as we sat down in front of our TVs at 10 o'clock that evening to watch the match. Fortunately, despite the absence of inspirational and hard-working captain Bryan Robson through injury, it wasn't long before we could stop biting our fingernails.

Nine minutes into the game, Peter Beardsley ran down the left wing, crossed the ball into the penalty area and running in to fire the ball home was Everton striker Gary Lineker. The relief at England scoring their first goal of the tournament was palpable. Even Jimmy Hill could be heard to laugh with joy while BBC commentator Barry Davies announced Lineker's arrival on the world stage.

At a stroke, the England team were afforded the chance to play in a much more relaxed and confident way. Five minutes later there was a second goal, and by half-time a third had earned Lineker a hat-trick. England were on their way to the Second Round and its fans had finally caught sight of the kind of football they'd always hoped to see from its national team.

The second half was a formality. No more goals were scored, Gary Lineker was replaced by Kerry Dixon, and normal service had been resumed for those of us starting to wonder what on earth was going on with the England team.

I remember going to bed happy that night, but slightly bewildered at where such an incredible performance had come from all of a sudden. Luckily there was more to come in the days ahead, but right there and then we knew we'd seen a turning point in England's fortunes in the 1986 World Cup and at last it was time to celebrate.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The names are the same, only the shirts are different...

As is always the case at the World Cup, there comes that moment when you'll be staring vacantly at the screen during Venezuela v Qatar or some such nonsense and you'll hear a player's name mentioned that rings distant bells of familiarity.

Yes, the World Cup gives you the chance to see those players that grace the football pitches of Great Britain every weekend playing for the country of their birth. Or their mother's birth. Or their mother's father's birth. Or somewhere they once had to write a school essay about when they were eleven.

But where once upon a time the British game was played by British players, nowadays it's all a bit more international, so to help you realise which parts of the world your favourite players represent, here's a list of who you may well be seeing during the World Cup in Germany:

Andres D'Allesandro (Portsmouth); Hernan Crespo (Chelsea)

Mark Schwarzer and Mark Viduka (Middlesbrough); Craig Moore (Newcastle); Lucas Neill (Blackburn); Tony Popovic (Crystal Palace); Brett Emerton (Blackburn); Josip Skoko (Stoke City); Tim Cahill (Everton); Harry Kewell (Liverpool)

Dado Prso (Rangers)

Czech Republic
Petr Cech (Chelsea); Milan Baros (Aston Villa)

Ulises De La Cruz (Aston Villa)

Jean-Alan Boumsong (Newcastle); William Gallas and Claude Makelele (Chelsea); Djibril Cisse (Liverpool); Thierry Henry (Arsenal)

Robert Huth (Chelsea)

Michael Essien (Chelsea)

Robin Van Persie (Arsenal); Arjen Robben (Chelsea); Edwin Van Der Sar and Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Man United); Jan Kromkamp (Liverpool)

Ivory Coast
Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue (Arsenal); Didier Drogba (Chelsea)

Junichi Inamoto (West Brom); Shunsuke Nakamura (Celtic); Hidetoshi Nakata (Bolton)

Jared Borgetti (Bolton)

Artur Boruc and Maciej Zurawski (Celtic); Jerzy Dudek (Liverpool); Kamil Kosowski and Grzegorz Rasiak (Southampton)

Maniche, Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea); Cristiano Ronaldo (Man United); Nuno Valente (Everton)

Serbia & Montenegro
Nemanja Vidic (Man United)

South Korea
Lee Young-Pyo (Tottenham); Park Ji-Sung (Man United)

Asier Del Horno (Chelsea); Luis Garcia and Fernando Morientes (Liverpool); Jose Antonio Reyes (Arsenal)

Olof Mellberg (Aston Villa); Fredrik Ljungberg (Arsenal)

Philippe Senderos (Arsenal)

Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal)

Trinidad & Tobago
Kevin Jack (Dundee); Marvin Andrews (Rangers); Ian Cox and Brent Sancho (Gillingham); Denis Lawrence (Wrexham); Christopher Birchall (Port Vale); Carlos Edwards (Luton Town); Kenwyne Jones (Southampton); Russell Latapy and Densill Theobald (Falkirk); Jason Scotland (St Johnstone); Stern John (Derby County); Shaka Hislop (West Ham)

Mehdi Mafti (Birmingham); Radhi Jaidi (Bolton)

Carlos Bocanegra and Brian McBride (Fulham); Eddie Lewis (Leeds United); Claudio Reyna (Man City).

Friday, May 12, 2006


by Smart

It's Wednesday night and Boro have just been thumped 4-0 by Sevilla in the Wafer Cup Final. Another poor performance by the club team managed by the next England national coach, McLaren. I sit here, dreading the future of English football.

For starters, Sven has lost the plot. Picking 12 year old Theo Walnut whom he admits to never seeing play says it all. And then we have McLaren to 'look forward to'. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think he has managed anything decent since the Sex Pistols.

In an attempt to get my World Cup enthusiasm back, I wonder which of the minnows are worth supporting. Scotland aren't there, so they're a non-starter. Usually for me its Cameroon. For some reason I've always been a fan of Cameroon. Perhaps its because I was stationed there during the war...? I even invested in a Cameroon national top many a moon ago. It was a daring, off the shoulder number in the colours of the national flag (green, red and yellow) with a large yellow star in the middle. Similar in some ways to a McDonalds uniform. But alas, they took a leaf out of Scotland’s book this year.

So just who is there?

I log on to the FIFA website, and the qualifiers are listed in alphabetical order:

  • Angola
  • Argent... ANGOLA! Why the hell not?

Well, I know nothing about them for a start, that’s why not. But you've gotta start somewhere, right? That’s how my love for Cameroon started. How about Senegal in the 2002 World Cup Finals - need I say more? Nope, Angola it is for me!

So what can I tell you about Angola? Well cast your eyes over these tasty morsels of trivia...

  • Players to watch: Fabrice Akwa and Pedro Mantorras
  • World ranking : 58
  • Odds : 400/1
  • The Angolan official language is Portuguese
  • The country is one mistyped letter away from being classed as a rabbit, goat or knitting yarn.

Not a lot to go on really is it? Well I'm sure their opponents will be given exactly the same details as I've just highlighted above. It's for them to exploit the opponents weaknesses from such a wealth of information.

Me, I'll just sit in my chair nursing an ice-cold beer, voicing the "GO ANGOLA!" chant that I'll be working on in the forthcoming weeks.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sven for a day...

by Smart

Quite simple (this topic, not Sven) - click here to visit the BBC website and select your England team.

For the purpose of this exercise we will assume everyone listed will be fit. You know who I'm talking about...

Also, you can select any formation you like. Sven, however, loves his 4-4-2.

Heres my team :


G.Neville ---------Terry (c)-------- Carragher ----------A.Cole


Beckham ------------J.Cole


Rooney ------------------------Owen

Sainsbury's - Buy something you didn't intend to today...

While shopping at Sainsbury's last night (well who wants to watch Middlesbrough anyway?), I happened upon a new promotion of theirs. The deal is if you buy certain products from their vast range, you could win any one of a number of World Cup-related prizes.

It's rather impressive. If you use your Nectar card when buying, say, a bottle of Coke or a pack of Budweisers, you could win tickets to see England play Sweden. A humble bottle of Pepsi could see a 40 inch Samsung LCD TV heading your way. Pop a packet of Jaffa Cakes in your trolley and you could win a family holiday in Brazil, for crying out loud. The list goes on and on.

But being the cynic I am, though, I can't help feeling that they could have made the whole scheme a bit more literal. Let's say for instance you bought some cheese - well then you could win a trip to Switzerland or if you bought coffee you could get yourself a holiday to Brazil?

Better still, if you bought a pack of butter and a pair of gloves together, then why not offer people the chance to win a goalkeeping course with David James? A bag of lemons could mean you get to meet the England team?

I could go on, but I won't...

World Cup Memories #1

Written by Smart

Welcome to the first in what could potentially be a series of just one.

Every four years, when the domestic season has finished, my focus of attention is diverted towards the World Cup finals. The anticipation. The drama. The smell(?). The World Cup Finals have it all, but we have to wait another month...

...and that’s when my mind takes a leisurely stroll down memory lane (although being an England supporter, misery lane may be more appropriate). Memories from my childhood come flooding back, and so I thought I would share some of them with you. The first one I have chosen is:

Spain 1982: Bryan Robson’s 27 second wonder

When Spain was chosen as the host nation for the 1982 World Cup the Spanish rejoiced. And so did the English. After years of bringing home 'Spanish donkeys' as gifts from holiday, it was time for the English to have their revenge – and take some donkeys to the Spanish.

It was Ron Greenwood who was given the task of picking the 22 donkeys that would be collectively known as 'The England Squad.' After several visits to Blackpool beach his squad was complete and amongst his selections were Graham 'Lock up yer Daughters' Rix, Bryan 'Bupa' Robson, Ray 'The Crab' Wilkins and Tony 'Woodcock' – which was a reflection on his performances in an England shirt, as well as his surname.

England's opening game of the '82 World Cup was against France. Platini. Tigana. Rocheteau. Such famous names were to face Englands might.

So as a boy of 11 years of age, I sat down to watch the game. With my Panini sticker album situated close by, and open on the French squad pages (mainly for reference purposes, but also to see if any of the player stickers that I had yet to collect were worth collecting) the game kicked off.

England were wearing a rather fetching red strip, which obviously dazzled the Frenchmen, as it was only a matter of seconds before England won a throw-in inside the French half. Steve Coppell took a long throw towards the penalty area and by a stroke of good fortune Terry Butcher a) heads it, and b) towards a team mate – an unmarked Bryan Robson - at the far post. With just the keeper to beat, Robson leaped athletically to volley the ball past the French keeper.

With just 27 seconds on the clock it is still one of the quickest ever goals at the World Cup finals, scored in a match that England went on to win 3-1.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A few words on the Coach...

Anyone remember the 1974 World Cup? No? Thought not. Well anyway, back then the Finals of the world's greatest football competition were held in West Germany and were a great success. During the opening ceremony, fans in the Olympic Stadium, Munich, were treated to a parade of coaches driven around the athletics track, each one adorned in the colours of each country taking part in the tournament.

Yes, those crazy Krauts certainly know how to party. Anyway, with the World Cup being held in Germany once again this year, the organising committee thought it'd be a spiffing wheeze to have yet another parade of coaches in the opening ceremony. To add to the fun, FIFA organised a competition on its website where fans from around the world were asked to provide a slogan to be displayed on the coach of their national team.

Sadly my entry - "National Express to Heathrow from £18" - wasn't chosen for the England coach, but I'd say they missed a trick there. The advertising revenue alone could have made it worth while.

Instead the winning entry for England's coach was "One Nation, One Trophy, Eleven Lions." Or 23 lions to be exact. Wouldn't be worth having a huge coach for just eleven, would it?

So what slogans will be appearing on the sides of the other national coaches? Let's have a proper snipe at the best of those on offer:

Argentina: "Get up, Argentina are on the move"
The last time they said that was before the Falklands invasion. Be warned...

Brazil: "Vehicle monitored by 180 million Brazilian hearts"

Costa Rica: "Our army is the team, our weapon is the ball. Let's go to Germany and give it our all"
Clearly a country looking for a war. Has George Bush been informed?

Ivory Coast: "Come on the Elephants! Win the cup in style"
I'll let you make up your own jokes for that one...

Iran: "Stars of Persia"
More appropriate might have been "Go Nuclear With Iran", perhaps...

Netherlands – "Oranje on the road to gold"
...and banned substances on the way from Amsterdam, presumably...

Spain: "Spain. One country, one goal"
...which is the total number they usually score during the World Cup...

Switzerland: "2006, it's Swiss o'clock"

Sweden: "Fight! Show spirit! Come on! You have the support of everyone"
Not so much a slogan - more a rambling conversation, really...

And before we descend into even more ardent cynicism, check out the others at or why not submit your own suggestions for other World Cup coaches?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Don't call us...

Over the last few weeks, the BBC Football site (see link right) has been looking at some of the less obvious players that could find their way into Sven's squad. Now we know who's in it, let's see who from the BBC list didn't get onto it.

Andy Johnson
Scott Parker
James Beattie
Darius Vassell
Kevin Nolan
Phil Neville
Darren Bent
Kieron Dyer

Out of those, I'd say Darren Bent is entitled to feel the most aggrieved at not being chosen by Sven. He's scored a goal every other match this season on average, and that alone gives him higher precedence than Theo Walcott.

As for the others, Vassell should at least be on the Standby list, as should Phil Neville - both are experienced at national level and are useful to have in an emergency.

Kevin Nolan's had a good season and might be given a try out by Steve McLaren when he takes over after the World Cup. As for Kieron Dyer... is he injured at the moment or not? Well he probably is, so let's forget about him... James Beattie has his moments but isn't quite the star striker we're all looking for, Scott Parker perhaps doesn't have the skill and temperament to play for England on a regular basis and Andy Johnson... plays for Crystal Palace.

All of which leaves me probably more excited at who McLaren will bring into the England team for the Euro 2008 qualifiers than who Sven's brought in for the World Cup. How strange...

Monday, May 08, 2006

England squad announced

So Sven has named his provisional squad for Germany, but what's this - Theo Walcott? Who he? Well we know he plays for Arsenal (rarely) and he's a budding new talent, but that's about it. Does Sven know something we don't?

And who else has he got in his line-up... Rooney (unlikely to play through injury)... Owen (extremely lacking in recent match fitness)... Hargreaves (...Hargreaves?) Hmmm, I'm not convinced.

On standby we have various talents, some more inspiring than others. Jermaine Defoe, who we know can play well but hasn't scored many of late, Luke Young, who had a good run earlier in the year with Charlton before getting injured, and Andy Johnson who's been playing against the likes of Cardiff and Stoke for the last nine months.

Here's the details in full:

Provisional squad
Robinson (Tottenham), James (Manchester City), Green (Norwich); G Neville (Manchester United), Ferdinand (Manchester United), Terry (Chelsea), Cole (Arsenal), Campbell (Arsenal), Carragher (Liverpool), Bridge (Chelsea), Beckham (Real Madrid), Carrick (Tottenham), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Hargreaves (Bayern Munich), Jenas (Tottenham), Downing (Middlesbrough), J Cole (Chelsea), Lennon (Tottenham), Rooney (Manchester United), Owen (Newcastle), Crouch (Liverpool), Walcott (Arsenal).

Scott Carson (Liverpool), Luke Young (Charlton), Nigel Reo-Coker (West Ham), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham), Andy Johnson (Crystal Palace).

With this collection of players, how far do you think we'll get in the World Cup?

Sunday, May 07, 2006


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