Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Final Countdown and a sober reflection on EnGerLand

Yesterday was Bastille day, a holiday in France which celebrates the birth of the new France, the death of the Ancien Regime, although in reality with most overblown French things it really was a rather small event as apparently there were only seven inmates in the Bastille prison at the time.

The events of the next twenty five years transformed the face of Europe, as first the terror and then Napoleon shaped the way modern Europe looked. The revolution was powered and some of the worst atrocities committed by what were known as the "Sans Culottes" (without trousers) .

If France are to win today, and achieve what Napoleon failed to do, come home with a victory from Russia (He did capture Moscow but it was a Pyrrhic victory.) It would be fair to say that they have been led there by the modern version of the Sans Culottes, who were the mainstay of the Grande Armee in the early stages of the revolution, consisting of such players as Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and N'golo Kante. These players all hail from the poor suburbs of Paris, the urban ghettos which are not the most pleasant of places to grow up in. Yet here they are, one game away from being crowned world champions and what stands in their away is the ancestors of the old Hapsburg empire.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, as they say. (the more things change the more they stay the same)

Croatia, who as you may remember, I said would be the dark horses of the tournament have got to the final the hard way. All three of the their knock out games have gone to extra time. I would say this shows a remarkable resilience and fortitude, a never say die attitude which they will need against a vibrant and robust French side. This Croatian side will not wave a white flag, something of course which we all know the French are very good at doing.

I suppose I want Croatia to win, but to be honest if the French do win then it will have been deserved as hard as that is to admit.

Two to watch
Lloris, best keeper in the tournament by far

Lovren, will be kept busy today

A word about EnGerLand which I know you have been waiting for. They finished fourth as they did in 1990, a performance better than anyone expected before the tournament started. Obviously once the games were underway and the draw opened up for EnGerLand, the hype rose to a deafening crescendo with all that "it's coming home" stuff.  In the end however as a neighbour of mine put it to me yesterday, the world returned to its natural order.

There have been no recriminations this time round, no looking for a scapegoat, this is a young team with a young manager who hopefully can build from this. There is one other fact which offers real hope. I would imagine that not many of you know that EnGerLand are currently world champions at the U17 and U20 levels.

I can already hear the scoffers going, so what, most of those players will not make it anyway, as the youngsters will not improve as they will not play enough minutes at the highest levels. In the past, this may have been true  but a steady stream of young English talent have already been snapped up by top clubs in Europe, a double bonus as one they are guaranteed playing time and two they are widening their football horizons.

The real import of being double champions is the change in perception. These players are growing up with a winning mentality, no longer the scars of past teams failures. The current EnGerLand team were just not good enough, but they did not exhibit the usual fear we have come to expect.
The next generation expect to win, it is normal for them and you can not stress enough how important the mental side of the game is.

So as we say goodbye until the Euros in 2020, I hope that you have enjoyed reading the blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I will leave you with the highlights of last Year's Under 17 world cup final between Spain and EnGerLand. It is a six minute clip, concentrating on one of the bright lights, Manchester City's Phil Foden. Enjoy and maybe next time it will be closer to coming home

Hard to believe this is an EnGerLand team playing the Spanish

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

EnGerLand are technically ninety or more probably one hundred and twenty minutes away from a possible world cup final appearance. The last time this happened was almost exactly twenty eight years ago, it was the fourth of July 1990, to be precise. (they should have known that is a cursed day).

A date which will live in infamy to quote FDR.  Ze Shermans beat EnGerLand four to three on penalties to send the English dreams crashing to the earth in flames, rather like a Messerschmidt downing a Lancaster bomber. A day in English football which shall always be remembered for the the tears of a clown moment as you can see here.

Gazza and Lineker

We now know that the Les Bleus await the winner of tonight's game and that will be an added incentive for EnGerLand to win, but we must not get ahead of ourselves here.

What stands in their way this time is Croatia, who have no real history with EnGerLand, not surprising since it has only been in existence since 1991. There is however one thing that we can not avoid despite wishing it had never happened. The one piece of footballing history that has been seared into folklore in that short period is one of the most bizarre own goals you will have ever seen in world football.
The type of goalkeeping error, we hope will not happen tonight.

Any golfer will tell you to replace your divets, or else.

How did EnGerLand get to be in this position? Not many people really believed that they would advance beyond a probable quarter final appearance against either the Samba Kings or the old nemesis, Ze Shermans when the draw for the tournamnet was originally made.

However, as we have all been witness to in this tournament, "It is a funny old game" as the great England striker Jimmy Greaves was fond of saying. An interesting aside on Greaves, (apart from that we share a birthday) He was the main striker for EnGerLand going into the 1966 world cup and played in the first three games. During the third game, he was badly fouled by some dirty froggie garcon, who raked his studs down Greaves leg to leave him needing fourteen stitches in the wound and putting him out of the team. His replacement was one Geoff Hurst and the rest as they say is history.

Anyway back to the matter in hand, EnGerLand found themselves facing IKEA in the quarter final and dismantled them in a style and a manner which EnGerLand fans found very, very disconcerting.

A number of you have contacted me asking why has there been no match report or reaction to that game and I have to apologize as I did write that I would publish one. However, for once I was just lost for words. EnGerLand do not win in that fashion. Where was the drama ? Where was the nail biting ? Where was the pulling ones hair out ? Where were the stupid mistakes ? Where was the shouting abuse at your screen, despite the obvious fact that the players can not hear you ?

This was an experience that I do not think I can recall having been through in the forty four years or so that I can remember watching EnGerLand in games that matter.

It seems I am not alone in this feeling judging by the pictures come out of old Blighty. Social Media is flooded with videos showing delirious fans breaking out into spontaneous singing and dancing, liberally aided with the odd bottle or ten of the amber nectar of course. One of my favourite is the residents of the quiet Shropshire town of Leek, marching down the high street to the strains of Vindaloo. Middle England epitomized.

The chap front and center looks like he likes a pie and pint.

The usually miserable English are just happy, as you have just seen. People are walking around with a permanent grin, even people who do not know anything about football are infected. Has anyone noticed apart from die hard tennis fans that Wimbledon is apparently in its second week?  Did anyone notice that the foreign secretary resigned this week ?

Of course, this could all change in the bounce of a ball, but at the moment they are enjoying it while they can. Croatia should not be underestimated, firstly they have reached this point as have EnGerLand which has them level on points so to speak.

They have not looked that amazing in beating the Vikings and the Russian Bear on penalties in their last two games.  However they were impressive in the group stages winning all three of their games.
They have some world class players especially in the form of Modric and Rakitic from Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.

I expect a cagey game, in their last two games Croatia have gone behind only to equalize almost immediately. If EnGerLand can get ahead and stay focused immediately after the goal, it will force the Croatians to change their game plan and I am not sure if they have a plan B, much as the root vegetables did not.

Two to watch

Man mountain maguire

Mandzukic will be looking to get round the mountain

EnGerLand always seem to find a way to disappoint when they are favourites, I do not think they are by the way, but a lot of people do. Anyway, EnGerLand to win but not before they put their fans through the grinder.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

All for One and One for All v Herge's adventures of TinTin

Four teams left and four more matches to go, because we must not of course forget that world cup institution, the third place play off, where the two losers of the semi finals have to stay in country to play each other in a meaningless farce.

Who will it be from the four nations left,  Belgium, Croatia, EnGerLand and France ?  I am loathe to call it an all European quartet. Whatever one thinks about Brexit, the English have never considered themselves European, they are unique unto themselves.

There are so many things that people assume are French but are not. I bet the majority of you did not know that Tintin was Belgian and not French.  Did you also know that French Fries should really be called Belgian Fries? What about Hercule Poirot, the great fictional detective ? Yep he is Belgian as well. Last but not least, especially if you are an EnGerLand fan, Waterloo, that great defeat of Johnny Crapaud by the Duke of boots is located where?  No, not in La Belle France but of course Belgium. This all goes to show you can not trust a Frenchie further than you can throw him, as they try to take the credit for everything.

I also thought that there would be more of a rivalry between the frogs and the sprouts, but really it is the clog makers that the sprouts do not like, as Belgium came into existence after breaking away from Holland in 1830.

Despite the fact that Belgium is a relatively young country as opposed to France, it still managed to rack up a serious colonial presence in Africa, (which was problematic to say the least). not quite to rival the French but enough to mean that their team, like France has a very well represented African influence. I read somewhere that fourteen of the French squad could play for African countries, while seven of the Belgian squad could.

This is a good thing, it has enriched the football of both nations and also means that Africa as a continent has retained an interest in the outcome of the tournament, as opposed to some of the other continents.

The South and Central Americans I work with have lost all interest. North Americans have been concentrating on such great sporting events as how many hot dogs a sort of  human can eat in ten minutes, (seriously it was broadcast live on ESPN)

The Chocolatiers progressed to this game by making some dark coated Brasilian nuts very sad as I mentioned was a possibility in the preview for that clash. They did so thanks to a very good first half performance which caught the samba masters cold.

While the first goal, being an own goal, has to be deemed lucky, the second Belgian goal combined everything you want to see on a football field, pace, power, vision and perfect execution. As the Belgian number nine, Lukaku, burst forward, he reminded me of a certain American football running back in full beast mode breaking into open field as he advanced with surprising speed for such a big man.

Obviously there were two big differences, firstly he had to run with the ball at his feet, which takes a high level of control, instead of carrying it and secondly to his advantage, he couldn't just be stopped any old how.(Although he was tripped as he passed but the ref played advantage)

Tank Warfare

The Stella drinkers must believe after their last two games against Japan and Brazil that they are unstoppable, but they have never been in this position before, it is uncharted waters for them and experience is definitely on the side of the garlic breathing ones.

Belgium have a Spanish manager and most interestingly a French hero as his assistant, he being Thiery Henry, a player of consummate skill and ability who scored lots of goals for France in his time including this one against Brazil in 2006.

Henry v Brazil

He also was not averse to the dark arts as Ireland will testify as you can see clearly in this clip.

Who says you can't use your hands?

The best part was the Gallic shrug of the shoulders after the referee refused to disallow the goal.  One would hope, these days, that VAR would catch such blatant cheating as performed by Henry. It is a shame because he was and still is greatly respected in the footballing world.

Les Bleus have reached this point surprisingly, without really being tested, given that the whole footballing world is going on and on about how difficult this half of the draw was compared to the half involving Croatia and EnGerLand.

That actually is a load of cobblers spun by the anti EnGerLand world press.  Let us see, who have the Froggies faced so far? In the groups, they stumbled past the mighty Aussies, beat a decent side to be fair, in the shape of the Incas and produced the only scoreless  bore draw in the whole tournament to date against a very limited vikings eleven.

They played the shambolic Argies, who they dismissed but still allowed to score three goals. They then easily overcame a Uruguay side missing our friend, the male model, Cavani which really meant that was not a fair fight. This game will be their first real test and for that reason alone I am looking forward to it.

There is no doubt that the star of the tournament so far has been the young Frog Kylian Mbappe who resembles more a gazelle than a snail. In his run against Argentina which eventually ended with him winning a penalty he was clocked at an amazing 37 kph, that being almost as quick as that French Exocet missile the Argies used to sink HMS Sheffield during the Falklands conflict.

Almost as fast as a cheetah

He also had one run against Uruguay where he outpaced the whole team, reached the byline to cross the ball, only to find that none of his team mates could keep up with him so the move came to nothing. The lumpy Belgium defense will struggle to keep up with him.

Two to watch

Fellaini  bit of a birds nest

Giroud,may need a hearing aid,

Both these teams are much better at attacking than defending and for that reason, I hope we will be in for a goal fest. To be honest I do not care who wins, the important game is on Wednesday.

I just want to watch a good game of football without any of the stress which will be evident for the Wednesday game, but as it is the role of a pundit to give a prediction I will go for the Frogs, I feel that the sprouts may have peaked to early in the victory over Brazil and that they may struggle to repeat that performance.

To be honest, I would like the beret wearing, onion garlanded ones in the final just to see them lose to whoever wins the game we shall preview tomorrow between Croatia and EnGerLand.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Eight green bottles (including EnGerLand) sitting on the wall, Quarter Final Special

By Saturday night, there will be four who have fallen accidentally or not. In no particular order, we will give a quick preview of the games due to take place on Friday and Saturday. Croatia v Russia is not a match up, I think it is safe to say, that anyone predicted would take place before the tournament started.

There is not much to add about this game, we detailed the Russian style of play when we reviewed their defeat of Spain (check it out) and Croatia have been a good outside pick from the beginning.

I will say that Croatia did not look particularly good against Denmark and they will need to improve if they are going to overcome the huge home crowd support and the obviously steroid driven Russians. The Croats definitely have the personnel to beat Russia and will not be cowered by them.

Until 1991, Croatia, of course was a part of Yugoslavia and for those of you old enough to remember, while they sat behind the iron curtain,Yugoslavia was very much an independent state, indeed a thorn in the side of Moscow, following their own policies.

The Croats would like nothing better than to stick one to the Russians, especially after the break up of Yugoslavia, the Russians were aligned with Serbia in the internecine conflict which took place in the Balkans during the 1990's.

Two players to watch and Croatia to win this one.

Akinfeev, may be kept busy

Perisic, leaves his allegiance in no doubt

France v Uruguay, which is the first game promises to be an intriguing clash. The Frogs, fresh from their demolition of the Argies and by the way you should not be fooled by the final score of four - three to the frogs, the gulf in class was much larger than the score suggested, will be up against more South American opposition but with one huge difference.

As we know from Goose Green and Port Stanley, the Argentinian defense had as many holes in it as a colander,  or probably one of Maradona's arms. Uruguay on the other hand have been as impenetrable as the wall of Game of Thrones fame. They have their own version of the night watch led by Lord Commander Godin, who we have mentioned previously, and who is ably supported by his steward Jose "snow" Gimenez. They are team mates at club level and compliment each other so well.

The escargot lovers have been far from snail like in some of  their play, ignoring as already mentioned that the Argies weren't very good, it can not be denied that some of the play was as bubbly as a bottle of the best Krug.

Finishes quicker than a bottle of Beaujolais

The night watch will look to deny space to the riders of the La Tour de France as they swarm forward, but the peloton will have to watch out they do not leave too few people behind otherwise our two old friends, Hannibal Suarez and the male model Cavani will make hay. A lot rests on whether the male model is fit to start after his two goal performance against Ronaldo and the Bell Ends including this one.

Served on a plate by a silent Lamb

The majority of pundits are picking France for this one, people who know far more than me, but I think Uruguay could sneak it (only if Cavani plays) as they are a very obdurate side.

While that game should be very good, the pick of the ties has to be the Brazil Nuts against the Brussels sprouts. For some people this would have been a good final match up.

Brazil have not really moved out of first gear and at some times have seemed to be stuck in neutral, but they have shown brief glimpses of what they are capable of. This game is their first real test against the top scoring side in the competition so far.

When the sprouts went two nil down to the sons of Nippon early on in the second half of their clash, the people of Belgium as so often with the the English, were thinking yet another "golden generation" who has failed to deliver. The way this side pulled off a famous victory albeit with some naive Japanese play must have instilled a sense of invincibility in the sprouts camp.

Speed Power Precision Heartbreak

They will need all that belief against the samba masters. Brazil have not conceded more than one goal in their last thirty matches and I would be very surprised if the sprouts were to win one to nothing.

One  of the biggest talking points of the tournament has been the behaviour of  the Brazilian star Neymar who has driven the world nuts with his antics writhing around in perceived agony from the slightest touch or sometimes without even being touched. It has generated endless memes, Gifs and jokes on social media and caused a serious level of discussion in the football world.

The sad thing for me, is that he is such a good player blessed with amazing ability and therefore it is very disappointing that he feels the need to behave so. There is no doubt that he is now treated by referees like the boy who cried wolf once too often which may end up costing him in the long term. Here is an example, there is contact in this case, but no pressure is applied and the theatrics are ridiculous.

Neymar in agony

Two to watch both from the defensive side of the game

Courtois will have a lot to do

Thiago Silva Imperious defender

Another very difficult one to call, will the Belgian chocolatiers be able to coat the Brazilian nuts in some bittersweet dark chocolate or will they melt and collapse into a sorry mess under the pressure? Sadly for them I think the latter will be the case. Brazil to move on.

So to the fourth game of the quartet featuring the root vegetables against the Rosbifs and if I was offered both of those on a plate I know what I would choose.

I wonder how many people have noticed that this game is being played on 7/7, a date etched into recent English consciousness.  What does that have to do with football ? well nothing is the answer, if England fail, then it will be another bad thing to add to bad things that have happened on that day and if they win....

My late mother used to cook a Swede in the chicken soup, she said it added flavour, we all thought it rather bland and just fit to be used as animal fodder. It is a boring vegetable not as versatile as say parsnips, which are delicious roasted. The Rostbifs will be looking to add a new item to the culinary world in roast Swedes.

It will not be an easy task. Ikea have got here rather under the radar, more like a well tuned Volvo than a piece of flat pack. To even get to Russia they have left by the wayside a slew of footballing powerhouses such as Holland, Italy and of course most recently Ze Shermans, even though they did lose to them. They will attempt to frustrate EnGerLand, bore them to death and hope for a chance goal as has been their way in the tournament as I mentioned in the preview for their last game.

EnGerLand of course are riding on a crest of a wave after what felt like a come from behind win against the cartel. Granted EnGerLand should have won the game in normal time, but after they were pegged back, most EnGerLand fans thought they would lose hence the joy, which of course will make the crash landing all the more painful if they fail to beat Sweden.

Two to watch

Berg Sweden's best hope of a goal

Sterling will he be worth his name

Rightly or wrongly, having won a penalty shoot out is a massive psychological boost for the sartorial EnGerLand guv, Mr Southgate to you, and they should use that as base to build on. As I have written previously, it is hard for us to dare hope that it is possible let only believe it, but the players can and must.

The last time EnGerLand made it to the semi finals was Italia 90, let us hope they can at least emulate that performance and this time go one better.

As you have followed and I hope enjoyed this blog, you may have noticed that we are nothing if not classy.  I leave you therefore with the BBC theme tune for Italia 90, still in my opinion one of the most inspired choices for a sports intro tune ever.

Nessun Dorma by Pavarotti

Whatever happens, we will dissect it on Sunday, so make sure to check back and also please forward to others to spread the word.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The Miracle of Moscow, reaction and analysis from EnGerLand's latest performance

I start these lines a mere thirty five minutes after EnGerLand managed to do what Steve McQueen could not in the film, The Great Escape, and get away with it. This means that we can delay the postmortem and enjoy for once an improbable England victory.

I along with some of my friends proceeded to do the Conga down the road and hope that we did not disturb the neighbours too much.

Let us remember this is only the last sixteen, I dread to think what will be if  EnGerLand carry on their inexorable march.

That was a blag if ever I saw one. I shall try to remain calm and not let myself get too carried away by the euphoria or slip too much into the vernacular that the non native English reader will not understand.

This roller coaster of a ride was like Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain rolled into one. Henderson was the British army on the beaches trudging back dejectedly all hope extinguished. The Colombian then smashed his shot against the bar, read Ze Shermans not pressing home their advantage and finishing it off there and then. Trippier symbolized by coolly converting his penalty, the little boats coming to rescue the stranded troops as  EnGerLand made it off the beaches to live to fight another day.

Jordan Pickford, the epitome of an Englishman abroad, pasty legs, red faced from two minutes exposure to the sun, added his name to those of the FEW, repelling the Colombian Luftwaffe, to set up Dier to vanquish the Colombians with a low one to the corner.

EnGerLand will be looking to evoke the Churchillian spirit as they move onto to face the root vegetables in the Quarter Finals this coming Saturday afternoon.

Waiting for Dier to take his penalty, the tension was unbearable.

When one thinks of Colombia, a few things come to mind and usually one of the first things is the drug trade. Being an EnGerLand fan would seem to alleviate the need for such artificial means of experiencing the highs and lows which comes from using those substances from Colombia.

As much as I have not wanted to, it is now unavoidable, so these words from the 1970 Thunderclap Newman hit sum up the mood in EnGerLand and wherever their fans gather.

Lock up the streets and houses
Because there's something in the air
We've got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here and you know it's right

To the neutral, if Colombia had not managed that equalizer in the 92nd minute, one could have looked at the game and said it was just as uneventful as the incredibly boring afternoon game between the watch makers and the root vegetables which ended in a dull one nil victory for the vegetables, made possible, as I had alluded to in the preview by a lucky deflected goal.

Colombia came looking for penalties, it was almost if they thought that is the best way to beat EnGerLand as the English record on such occasions was so bad, three failures out of three.

EnGerLand were not much better, they hardly created any chances of note and only went ahead after being awarded their third penalty of the tournament when the Colombian defender Sanchez who I referred to in the preview decided to cadge a piggy back ride on the back of Harry Kane without asking him.

The scenes which then ensued as the Colombian players surrounded the very poor American referee to protest his decision were disgraceful. He will probably need DEA protection as well for the near future.

Mr Sanchez has now given away two penalties and received a red and a yellow card in three games he has played. I would take out a life insurance policy if I was him.

EnGerLand then went inexplicably into their shells and invited the Colombians to play resulting in that injury time equalizer which sent English fans round the world into instant doom and gloom with the almost universal reaction of  here we go again,  EnGerLand just do not have the bottle to deal with pressure situations and then this happened

Cue delirium

which led to scenes like this around the world.

We need to enjoy it while we can as deep down most EnGerLand fans think it will end badly, but in the meantime and as much as I do not want to even contemplate it,, the feeling is It's coming home.

A couple of days off now until the quarter finals begin on Friday

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Squeaky Bum time for EnGerLand & Sayanora Japan & Mexico

Yesterday in the preview I slated the Japanese for poor behaviour in their game against Poland. Their performance in the defeat to Belgium has absolved them of any stain on their honour. That they fought to the last was no surprise and I suppose the way they went forward for a corner in the 94th minute in Kamikaze fashion should also have been expected.

They should have been playing it safe and getting to extra time, which would have been the prudent course but Banzai and all that.
A glorious death utterly beyond comprehension to the Western mind.

The Belgium Japan game was undoubtedly one of the most epic in world cup history, the first time in forty eight years that a side has come back, in a knock out game, when two goals down to win.

It was last done by the Ze Shermans, who else, in 1970 against EnGerLand, admittedly after someone and I am not implying it was Ze Shermans poisoned the English goalkeeper forcing a young Peter Bonetti to play in the game he will always be remembered for.

I really do not know why it took the sprouts so long to realize that they had a tremendous height advantage over the Nippy Nips, maybe their heads were in the clouds. Once they reverted to hoofing the ball into the box looking for tree trunk Fellaini, you knew it meant trouble for the rising sun.

In the early game, Brasil again did not do more than necessary to see off a gallant but in the end inadequate Mexican side. There was one thing that stood out however, that perhaps only France, Colombia and now Belgium have shown so far apart from Brasil and that is a sudden injection of pace into an attack which rips the defense to shreds.

Yesterday the second Brasilian goal had it, the third goal for Colombia against Poland. The new wonder kid on the block with a spring in his step worthy of a frog, Kylian Mbappe showed blistering pace to win a penalty against the Argies, and of course the winning goal from Belgium, penalty box to penalty box in less time than it takes to say Belgian waffles.

Defense splitting pass

Grease Lightning

What a quarter final we have in store between the two B's, it promises to be a classic.

If we compare that to the pace the Siesta loving Spanish played at, one can see why the four teams above are still involved and Spain have gone home, if of course they woke up in time for their flight which I very much doubt.

The early game today features IKEA against ROLEX, in the battle of the neutral nations. They are  similar sides in style, well organised, very defensive by nature, which probably means we are in for the most exciting game of the tournament to date, not.

When it comes to attacking play the advantage and it is a small one lies with the wrist band merchants as their imported Balkan talent is better than the Gravlax guzzlers especially since Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired.

They have both scored five goals, but the root vegetables have two penalties and an own goal among their five as they are a bit impotent in front of goal while the bankers have scored a couple of nice ones including this one by the Granit man.

Do not call him neutral

Two to watch

Xhaka & Shaqiri new dance craze ?

Granqvist, his wife is due to give birth today

The late game features an excellent Colombian side up against EnGerLand. It is not easy playing for Colombia, as players, they are under intense pressure and scrutiny from back home. We can not mention Colombia and a world cup in the same breath without remembering Andres Escobar the Colombian defender murdered after scoring an own goal in the 1994 world cup.

I can not imagine what Carlos Sanchez the current Colombian centre back was thinking as he gave away a penalty and received a red card in the defeat to Japan.  The Colombians are still sweating on the fitness of their best player James Rodriguez, they are a different side when he is not playing, expect him to start but he may struggle to last the full game.

Colombia last faced EnGerLand in the world cup in 1998 when they lost to two good goals from Darren "sick-note" Anderton and Becks.

They will settle for that

The EnGerLand juggernaut was brought to a shuddering halt against the Sprouts, but we probably should not read too much into that game as it was basically a reserve team outing.

All the big guns will be back and to quote Admiral Lord Nelson before the decisive battle of Trafalgar, "EnGerLand expects that every man will do his duty". The nation will be hoping that the Dickens reference to the quote will not be what is spoken about at the end of the evening, that being and I paraphrase it here, EnGerLand is a nation that will find itself continually disappointed.

Two to watch

Quintero will be vital if James can't play

The Provider

As I can't sit on the fence so as to avoid being called a coward, I say that Switzerland will face EnGerLand on Saturday afternoon in the last eight.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Brazil, Mexico Belgium and Japan and why Spain lost

I did mention yesterday that it would be very difficult for Spain against Russia, with the home crowd and that Spain had failed in a similar situation losing to the hosts South Korea on penalties in 2002.  I was wrong though, in that I thought Spain would prevail in the end,

Those of you who have read my missives over the years will know that I like history. People do not not pay enough attention to it which is a shame as you can learn from what has gone before even if it is not exactly the same circumstances.

Yesterday Spain showed they had not paid attention to European history of the past 200 years. Of course the playing field was different but the analogy holds.

1812 Napoleon and France, 1943 Germany and now 2018 Spain.

Russia defends deep, very deep, you start off with a quick victory giving one a false sense of security, in this case,  Spain's twelfth minute goal courtesy of a Russian defender, this is going to be easy you think, you then advance deeper and deeper into the endless Russian territory but without really having any tangible success,

A lot of space opens up behind your front lines which leaves you open to localized counter attacks by partisans which can be very very painful, exemplified by the ridiculous penalty Spain gave away and which was buried by the man I told you to watch out for in my preview, Mr Russian Bear.

As time goes on you may push even further forward until at some point your attacks become like a war of attrition as you batter yourselves against a Russian brick wall. You become disillusioned, tired and bereft of ideas, until you reach a point where the Russian hordes launch, on the ground of their choosing, their massive counter attack and sweep forward to steam roll the opposition into the ground as they begin a long ignominious retreat from the Rodina. Yesterday that was evidenced in the penalty shoot out.

Uncle Joe would have been delighted and his successor Putin although not present ( according to the jokes on twitter he was organizing the hostage taking of the Spanish players families.) will surely be getting ready a Dacha for each of the heroes of the Republic.

It was clear from the first minute that the Russkies were playing for penalties and the Spaniards had no idea what to do. It was an awful game to watch, I fell asleep and woke up in time for the penalties.

So Spain, join Argentina and Germany as former winners who have already gone home and Russia  move on to face Croatia who also only got through on Penalties. In the preview for that game I will explain how to beat the Russkies.

The first game today throws up an intriguing clash between Brazil and Mexico. The Mexicans have reached this stage for the sixth time in a row and have lost on all five previous occasions, so this stage is like the proverbial monkey on their back for them.

The Mexicans always tend to follow the same route, they win their opening game and then it is downhill from then on, this time they won their second game as well, but they looked poor in the three nothing defeat to IKEA.

Their opponents today are Brazil, another of the big teams who have not yet lived up to the hype surrounding them. Mexico need to avoid conceding an early goal, which may seem obvious, for two reasons. One they have a low breaking point mentally and two it will calm the Brazilians down and perhaps they will finally find their expansive game which will mean a long afternoon for Mexico but an enjoyable show for us.

Our two players to watch in this game

Coutinho Creative maestro

Vela, not just a baby face

Coutinho already has one great goal to his name in this tournament

top corner curler

The late game serves up the Brussels sprouts against the Ronin. I use the appellation Ronin rather than Samurai because Ronin were Samurai who had been disgraced and wandered the countryside basically as bandits.

We have to credit the Japanese that they have made it so far, but their behaviour in their last game against Poland was disgraceful and went in the face of any sporting ethic you could think of.  Very dishonorable behaviour which was most non Japanese

Basically they were losing one nothing to Poland with fifteen minutes to go and because In the parallel game Senegal were also losing to Colombia, Japan knew that if the scores remained the same , they would go through at the expense of Senegal because they had received one yellow card less than the Africans.

So what did the Japanese do, they just stopped playing, They kept hold of the ball in their own half passing the ball between themselves with no attempt to get into the opposition half.

The Poles, who were already out did not mind, they had nothing to play for either and, as they were winning, were happy to let Japan play like that as at least they would go home with one victory.

For that reason, I can not support the Japanese despite that from a tournament point of view it would be wonderful if they could pull off a massive shock and disturb the chocolate munchers.

The sprouts have not been tested so far and have looked good going forward against weak opposition and against EnGerLand both teams fielded B sides so it is difficult to really know how good they are. They are calling this side the Golden generation back home, but that is a hard title to live up to.
All in all despite the fact that the Ronin will fight to the last second and even probably after that, the sprouts should have too much power for them to cope with.

The players to watch in this game


Lukaku and Hazard too much power

Lukaku has four goals to his name and here is one of them

Lukaku shows his abilities

Brazil and Belgium to advance and set up another very interesting quaster final in the harder side of the draw.

Tomorrow of course, it is EnGerLand so make sure you check back for that one.