Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Please, monsieur... enough with 1966!

OK, I'm no authority, but once in four years we all get the chance to play 'chief-strategist-at-large' for FIFA - at least in our own world lah.

So I will say it: I am fed up of hearing anything more about England and their (meagre) chances of success in June.

Fed. Up.

I will state for the record that as long as Sven Goran Ericsson is in charge - which will be for the next 39 days, at best - England can forget about progressing, speak nothing of winning any competition of note, in international football.

As it is, it think England won't have it as easy as they think against Paraguay - they may even struggle to cope. They have thus far under-estimated the unknown T&T, and if World Cup history has thought us anything, the lesser brothers can at times steal a point when you least expect them.

Then of course, there is Sweden. They provided a stiff test for Angleterre in JPN/KOR four years ago. Messers Larsson, Ibrahimovic, Ljungberg et al form the true test if the boys in white can hope to take two steps beyond the group stages. For if they fail to beat Sweden and take the top spot in Group B, guess who lie in wait in the Round-of-16?

Oui, monsieur: L'Allemagne. Alemania. La Germania. Jerman. The home team!

For all the banana-skin-like, slippery carelessness and dourness of Herr Klinsmann's team, oh so surely will they pip Costa Rica, Ecuador and Poland to the top spot in Group A, and lie in wait for the runners-up in England's group.


SGE is a poor tactician for a team of England's calibre, at a competition like this. The ground will quake before he ever departs from his rigid "4-4-2, Owen plus whoever", sorry excuse for a strategy. No Rooney? OK, let's move to Plan B. Who ELSE can we play in the 4-4-2??? Egad! Wie dumm k├Ânnen Sie erhalten? (which is "How stupid can you get?" in the language of the home team... or at least that's what I think it is).

Too many pundits have said it before, and I will say it again: England's strength lie in its midfield. For all the stout defensive qualities of Terry and Ferdinand, they are often exposed by short passing through the opponent's midfiend and/or could often be found napping during set pieces. Plugging Gerrard or Lampard (or as SGE would have it, inter-changing them) in the 'Makalele role' has been a folly of the past, and the center-backs are often exposed when the two instinctively gallop forward, as is what they do best. It is just the lubang the opposition need to break through.

Of all the seeded teams (bar Mexico) England have the poorest strikeforce. Rooney's metatarsal is a national team crisis, and I doubt we'll see a "It's Wayne's World" headlines in The Daily Mirror, not at this World Cup at least. Owen lost his lustre two seasons ago. It is quite frightening when one is forced to admit that perhaps Peter Crouch may prove the glimmer of hope for St. George's boys this summer.

No, their strength is in their peaking midfield. If only SGE would unleash with liberal abandon Gerrard and Lampard to foray up front where they are at their acid best, with minimal defensive duties, and if only Joe Cole is left to roam in from the left flank, with Beckham on the right, if only he plays perhaps a Michael Carrick just in front of the back four in the holding (defensive) role, with a sole striker (Owen, Walcott, or whoever the hell that may be)... then maybe, just maybe England could have a chance of advancing into the deeper end of this tournament. That's right, brothers... 4-1-4-1.

They have the players for it, so why not, Sven?

I'm watching, I'm waiting, but I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, save the date, brothers: The Allianz Arena, Munich. Friday, 30th June (1st July in Malaysia). Round-of-16. Germany v. England.

1-5 again? Don't you bet on it.