Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The World Cup

I love World Cups.

Just thought I'd share that with you.

I vaguely remember the '74 final but none of the other games. It was Argentina in '78 that sparked it all off for me. The exoticism of the far away country, the late night games but most of all the ticker tape frenzy that accompanied the home games. Wonderful, wonderful theatre.

I had little concept of the history of the tournament at that stage. Obviously I knew England had won in '66 but there was much that escaped me. I didn't realise the importance of the event to so many people. I didn't know the lengths that people would go to to try and win the competetion.

Is the glory sullied by the desire to win? No. Not in the slightest. And boy has there been some sullying going on in the past! The Battle of Santiago in '62... What was that all about? Italy and Chile just about declared war on each other and an English referee just stood by and watched. I suppose the armed millitia ringing the pitch must have influenced him somewhat but if you are not aware of what happened on that day then when you find out, which eventually you will, you'll be shocked. Even by today's standards.

On to '66... Geff Hurst, the Russian linesman, Rattin, North Korea and the rest. England apart the remarkable thing was the way Pele was literally kicked out of the tournament to nullify his threat. Referees really didn't seem to do much in those days.

On to '70... Guadalajara!! Two up against the Germans and cruising to victory. Substituted Bobby Charlton and lost 3-2. Incredible. It upsets me to this day even though I was only 5 at the time and don't remember it at all.

1982. Spain. Keegan and Brooking unfit but went anyway. England get knocked out despite being unbeaten. That apart the tournament was notable for Gentile's man-to-man job on a young Maradona. Awesome in it's cynicism and brutality; icily efficient in it's effect. The match that stands out for me was the semi between France and Germany. The French, a wonderful team full of flair and ability, were cruising to victory against the Germans until Harald Schumacher's unbelievable assault on Patrick Battiston. It was so bad the French team though Battiston was dead. The French caved in. The Germans scented blood. Victory was theirs. In my opinion the most exciting match I have ever seen. They lost in the final, though, and serve them bloody well right!!

1986. I didn't see much of it. I was sitting my final exams at college and leapt onto the back of a motor bike and went to Glastonbury when they finished. Missed the infamous Argentina game altogether but Lineker's miss, the Hand of God, that goal.

1990. Turin. Gazza. Penalties. Heartache. I promised myself that I would never get that upset about a game of football again. By and large I have kept that promise apart from the Blackburn game, David Speedie and relegation in '92). Nice to see Maradona miss a penalty in the semi shoot-out and fantastic to see him blub in the final even though the Germans won.

1994. USA. Maradona's comeback cut short by failing a drugs test. What goes round goes round as they say. England weren't there in 1994. Turnipped by Ronald Koeman and another incompetent referee in the qualifiers.

1998. France. Argentina. Penalties. Oh well. Then there was the mysterious and to this day unexplained Ronaldo episode in the final.

2002. Japan and Korea. Silly kick off times. Bloody David Seaman!!

And so on to Germany this time...

Who knows what will be thrown up in the coming weeks but rest assured there will be heartbreak, glory, controversy and a planet held in rapt attention while it all goes on.

Can England win it?

We've got a good goalie, the back 4 is sound, we have an abundance of talent in midfield. So who knows?

My worry is that we are short up front. We have only taken 4 strikers and one of them is Rooney who may be injured throughout. That leaves Owen and Crouch, who seem to be a good alternative pairing, and Theo Walcott.

I'm all for Walcott's inclusion. He is young, fast and has never known failure. Could it be the most inspired selection of all time? I hope so.

So, once again... Can England win it? Why not. It'll be great fun if they do. I just hope we don't get cheated out of it or fall apart and throw it away. If we are to lose I want us to lose fair and square so that we can leave with our heads held high.


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