WHEN England crashed out of the 1974 World Cup in the qualifying tournament, considered a major shock at the time, Poland, their conquerors, were seen as also-rans, a relative minnow that had audaciously knocked-out the 1966 champions. Yet if the British media had been as informed as they thought they were, it would have realised that this game, which ended 1-1, was almost as significant … Continue reading Poland 1972-1974 – the World Cup’s lost champions
DESPITE recent political wranglings over Russia, the CEO of the 2018 World Cup, Alexey Sorokin, believes the competition changed the image of his country. Speaking at the World Football Summit in Madrid, Sorokin said the World Cup was an economic and social success. “Football has a unifying power,” he said. “And the World Cup is a great remedy for every football sickness.” He was, of course, … Continue reading Sorokin’s take on Russia 2018
A SHAMBOLIC presentation it may have been, but not even Moscow rain could dampen the feeling that the 2018 World Cup was a resounding success. It’s too early to assess the competition in terms of “best ever” claims, but after a series of very mediocre events and finals that failed to please – it is a struggle to name a decent final after 1986 – … Continue reading The Final: I’ll do my crying in the rain
AMID the theorising about what England’s 2018 World Cup campaign really meant, there were suggestions that ranged from a reaction to the current toxic political climate in the UK to a reborn national team that highlights the power of the Premier League. The fact is, if England had been in the other half of the draw, or Colombia hadn’t fluffed their lines, there would have … Continue reading Week Four: Into some form of perspective
AND then there were four. Two good teams, two sides that got a bit lucky, managed their tournament well and worked their way through. If it turns out to be Belgium v England, then the Premier League’s grandees will be making merry, for it will be two teams of Premier players fighting it out for the game’s greatest prize. There’s been a lot of nonsense … Continue reading Week Three: Going home, coming home
DOUBTLESS the euphoria that greeted England’s penalty triumph over a Latin side schooled in the dark arts will have raised expectations beyond the wildest dreams of Gareth Southgate and, indeed, the nation. When England embarked on this “journey” (everyone is on a journey these days), a place in the quarter-finals would have been seen as “job done” by a squad relatively inexperienced in “tournament management”, … Continue reading Fanfare for the common team
THE football world is reaching the end of a cycle, one that has been dominated by two individuals, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Both players, worshipped in their own countries and admired worldwide, went tumbling out of probably their last World Cup. This has saved us the tiresome narrative of Russia 2018 being the last-chance saloon for both players, who will now never add the … Continue reading Is World Cup success so important for critical acclaim?
THE collapse of communism and the plethora of velvet revolutions across Europe undoubtedly diluted the strength of the old Eastern Bloc and its acolytes. We feared the technique, strength and organisation of the state-run footballing machines, but once the Red Army retreated and the busts tumbled from their plinths, Warsaw Pact football was all but bankrupt. While genuine honours were largely elusive – the USSR … Continue reading Pact men – the USSR and its friends
FOR A while, we were led to believe this World Cup would be the one of shocks and surprises. We had Brazil spluttering to a draw, Argentina getting hammered and Germany beaten by Mexico. Messi would exit, leaving his last World Cup unfulfilled, Ronaldo would be crowned the greatest of all time and perhaps “little” Mexico would produce a fairy story. As for England, they … Continue reading Week Two – Written in the stars
WHEN Mexico beat Germany 1-0 in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup, it was greeted with mild hysteria, not just by the Mexican fans, but also by pundits and onlookers. As far as they were concerned, Mexico had pulled off a major shock, unseated the world champions and created a little piece of World Cup history. Any defeat suffered by Germany is a … Continue reading Mexico, the biggest minnow
IT HAS not been a totally disappointing World Cup, but it hasn’t quite ignited into the festival of football we are always promised and rarely get. The fancied teams have yet to find their form, although it is feasible they are merely pacing themselves after long domestic programmes. The surprise of the first week was surely Mexico’s win against reigning champions Germany, although it didn’t … Continue reading Week one – and where are all the flowers?
WHAT will we take from this year’s World Cup? Too often, the great FIFA bunfight fails to deliver something really lasting, certainly in more recent times. Arguably the most striking thing about 2014 was Brazil’s dramatic capitulation to Germany – that 7-1 defeat is still really hard to believe. In the long and distant past, World Cups were eagerly anticipated, but all too frequently, the … Continue reading Why we long for a decent World Cup
WHEN England crashed out of the 1974 World Cup in the qualifying tournament, considered a major shock at the time, Poland, their conquerors, were seen as also-rans, a relative minnow that had audaciously knocked-out the 1966 champions. Yet if the British media had been as informed as they thought they were, it would have realised that this game, which ended 1-1, was almost as significant … Continue reading Great Reputations: Poland 1972-1974 – the World Cup’s lost champions