“Fucking superb,” as David James mouthed after England kept another Slovenian attack out of their goal in today’s decisive World Cup game for our boys. Fabio Capello was wise today. Not only did he change the “tried and trusted” 4-4-2 formation (as Gary Lineker described it, although “tried and untrusted” might have been more accurate), to a sort of 4-1-2-1-2 with a diamond in the middle of it, but he also replaced the entire team we’d seen fail to beat the USA and Algeria with some much better lookalikes. The BBC commentator, Guy Mobray, said, “Rooney comes alive when Gerrard’s got the ball,” and he was not wrong. The Rooney that we have come to rely on – and rely on too much – was one touch away from scoring on more than one occasion this afternoon. But it was Defoe, who Capello – always a very wise coach, I’ve thought (aside: no I haven’t, I thought he was shit and secretive, just like everybody else) – placed upfront and who, despite his squeaky voice, scored all of England’s goals ie. one. Gabby Logan called it a “nervy” match, but aren’t they all? England had to win this. And they did. And, unfortunately for the dirty Slovenia, USA won in Pretoria, simultaneously, so they’re out. Rooney was “agonisingly close” to scoring (Gabby again), but was taken off before the end, because he’s got a bad ankle, apparently, and has to be looked after. Still, at least he’s actually going to be playing another game.
I managed to get my work done at Radio Times in record time, by about 2.10, so I raced home to watch the England match. I actually watched it about 30 minute behind real time, but in my house, it was live. It was fun to try and get home before kick-off, as I was travelling on the Tube and overground with lots of other people doing the same thing. I hope they all made it to the pubs or living rooms they were heading for. It’s cool to get caught up in World Cup fever. By the way, sorry to add to the latest cacophony, but wasn’t it nice to hear fans singing and banging drums in Port Elizabeth, rather than just the vuvuzelas? Do you know what? It sounded like a football match.
Fabio Capello has got a massive mouth. If the ball ever hit him in the face, it would disappear. I think he looks like Heston Blumenthal with a wig on.
Commiserations, of course, to South Africa, who went out after a valiant display against a rejvenated France, despite beating them 2-1, yesterday. Of all host nations, surely they have been the most loved. We even let them get away with the plastic horns. I would say that they’re not singing any more, but they probably are, somewhere. I loved seeing the team entering the ground, singing. Imagine if the other teams did that. It led them to victory, but defeat.
Good heavens, I am currently watching Donovan, of the victorious USA, being interviewed on the BBC, post-match, by an American reporter, who asked, “What emotions are currently coursing through your veins?” Donovan said he’s been on an amazing “journey”. Give it a rest. At least you wouldn’t get our tongue-tied players saying that. They’re too busy saying it’s “the end of the day.”
It’s fascinating to see how much disarray both France, out, and England, through, found themselves in, and in such an international spotlight. Surely the most shameful sight of the World Cup so far has been Domenech, the French coach, refusing to shake hands with Carlos Alberto Parreira, the South African coach, after France’s last game. This was shocking. The footage is worth looking at: Parreria approaches him and offers his hand, and Domenech pulls his hand away, puts it to his face, points at the pitch, and presumably says something about how cross he was that one of his players was sent off. This is not good enough. I daresay he’s already been sacked. Thierry Henry has apparently been summoned to explain to Mr Sarkozy why the French team fell apart. At least Gerrard won’t have to be summoned by our two prime ministers. Yet.
I obviously don’t really know who Milner is, but I know he was the man of today’s match.