The supreme tournament of the greatest game in the world is upon us once again thank God; no need to watch that c**p like rugby, tennis and golf why don’t they have the W.C. every two years? Anyway the UK will be represented only by England so; what’s new I hear you ask; occasionally they are there unaccompanied and sometimes with others from the UK but they are in effect our only representatives who have ever had any prospect of winning it. The Irish over the past 10 – 15 years have left the rest of the UK apart from England way behind and they only have 3 million of a population and Uruguay actually won the thing and their population is 5 million like ours. It is a great source of torment to Scots. that a place that is so fanatical about the beautiful game is so inept when it comes to playing it at international level; that’s a cross we have to bear but; at least we can still watch and get pleasure from it.
Another mystery which endures is why America although they qualified this time has never embraced the game. It is the most popular game on the planet and it generates billions of pounds but it lags way behind other American sports particularly Baseball and American Grid Iron Football, I think this adds strength to the theory that Americans are Philistines at heart. My uncle who played professional football before emigrating to America told me that the Yanks as he called them would never take to football because 0-0 - 1-0 - 1-1 - 2-1 - 2-2 etc. is simply intolerable to them hence the attraction of baseball; grid iron and basketball where points goals and runs are happening every couple of seconds, their attention span is just too short. Every World Cup throws up heroes who prior to the tournament were relatively obscure and they are worth watching out for although this is more difficult nowadays because of up-to-the-minute technology and new communications methods; if a kid living in an obscure 3rd. world impoverished village shows promise at kicking a ball you can bet that he will be found by someone who will turn him into a money making star.
Watching England qualify despite not finding them totally convincing led me to believe that they would come close to winning it if they continued to progress. Alas I have been forced to change that analysis; their last game before leaving was a good example of why. Perhaps a strange thing to say as they beat Mexico 3-1 but the style of the victory was unimpressive and exposed serious flaws in what was as close as you might get to a “serious friendly” so close to the big kick off. England scored two goals with the kind of football which the rest of the world discarded long ago, well done to the 6ft, 5” tall Peter Crouch but that tactic will not sustain them through a full tournament. It is regarded today as the last throw of the dice as time is running out and the opposition penalty box comes under an ariel onslaught which often includes the losing team’s goalkeeper charging up the field carrying the kitchen sink. It simply won’t do but Cappelo will know that; watching the effortlessness with which Mexico made them chase around after them will have troubled him and the Mexican missed chances even more so, Mexico are not world beaters but if these two teams meet during the tournament the Mexicans will fancy it big time. I hope England can improve; they are going to have to. With Gerrard; Ferdinand and Rooney they will always be a threat but the pressure on them to repeat past glories will be intense and the bottom line is despite his talent and desire Rooney is no Bobby Charlron who almost won the World Cup for England single handed all those years ago.
So who will win? I am unusually tentative; the usual suspects Argentina who have the world’s best player in the diminutive genius Messi and Brazil will be fancying their chances as will Germany, Italy and Holland but; based on what I have seen over the past 2 or 3 years any country who can pick a team based on the combined talents of players from Barcelona and Real Madrid must be in with a big chance. Particularly the Barca delegation who quite simply moved the game to a new level and lit up the world with their irresistible flamboyance and zeal over the past 2/3 years. Will Argentina find a way to supply the incredible Messi who will have markers closer to him than his after shave? Will Brazil turn up or will it be Brazil from another planet? (Which means bets are off) Will Rooney storm the tournament in his own unique way? It should be dazzling and may the best team win; if that turns out to be England then so much the better and I will eat my hat.