International week-end in football

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
October 12th, 2004 • 5:59 am

No English Premier League last week-end as players were off on international duty in various locations around Europe. In Canada, we were “fortunate” enough to get to watch the England – Wales game on Sportsnet and the France – Ireland game on TV5.

I put “fortunate” between quotation marks because the two games were rather disappointing. The England – Wales game was very boring, because England scored very early through a lucky deflection and seemed to lose all their enterprising spirit. As soon as they had scored, they switched to defensive mode, and it was very uninteresting. It makes you wonder: is it really all Eriksson’s fault or is there a problem with the players themselves? This time, Eriksson had opted for a less conservative three-pronged attack with Rooney, Owen and Defoe. And yet England still played the same unattractive football that they have played under him in the past few years.

Against more meaty opposition, England might have suffered the same fate as they did against France in Euro 2004, where they led 1-0 for most of the game and still managed to lose 2-1. Against lowly Wales, however, they ended up getting another one through a reasonably spectacular strike by Beckham (it was the kind of goal that would have been much more impressive if it had been scored against a tighter defense) — and the stupid twat promptly got himself injured and booked before getting substituted. And now he admits that he deliberately looked for the booking:

“I am sure some people think I have not got the brains to be that clever,” he said, “but I do have the brains. I could feel the injury, so I fouled Thatcher. It was deliberate.

Beckham obviously doesn’t have the brains to see that getting a booking in such a deliberate fashion was not all that clever, and openly bragging about that deliberateness to the press was even less clever. Sadly, he will probably get off with a slap on the wrist.

Elsewhere, France continue to be in “rebuilding” mode, with a 0-0 draw against Ireland. Interestingly, the British press glowed about Ireland’s performance, while the French press was more positive on France’s performance than a few weeks ago after the 0-0 draw with Israel.

In truth, I expected Ireland to be more impressive given that they have several players coming from leading EPL teams such as Chelsea and Manchester United. And I too found that France’s performance was markedly better than against Israel, even if the final result was the same.

Even though he was consistently booed by the 30,000 Irish fans for allegedly simulating a fall early in the game, Robert Pires had a good match. Wiltord worked hard until he ran out of steam. Thierry Henry didn’t score, but had some good runs. The problem was more in central midfield, where newbie Mavuba didn’t seem too comfortable. And what I really don’t understand is why French coach Domenech waited so long before making any substitutions.

Mathematically, everything is still possible for France, especially since there are still four teams level on points in this particular group. That said, France really has to start winning again, and will be expected to do so in Cyprus tomorrow (game not televised here). The next game after that will only be in March 2005. That’s a mighty long break from World Cup qualifications, and it would be much more encouraging to end this year on a good note!

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