Reflecting the times – World Cup posters

THE 2018 World Cup was notable for a number of reasons: the competition was of a high quality and therefore, enjoyable; there was harmony off the pitch; and Russia, with one eye on Soviet-style graphic design, produced an excellent poster representing the event. The image of Lev Yashin was modern, but also nostalgic – it could easily have been an album cover for Kraftwerk, a … Continue reading Reflecting the times – World Cup posters

All hyped up: Italia ‘90

WE ALL look to the influences of our childhood or formative years as being the “best of times”. The things that informed our thinking, philosophy, social position, relationships and work ethos act as benchmarks later in life. The exception is fashion, where we all cringe at what we used to wear, mainly because what was de rigeur for a teenager will never be acceptable for … Continue reading All hyped up: Italia ‘90

Ruud Geels – tradesman of the penalty area

HE MAY have been blonde and an Ajax player, but Ruud Geels is rarely mentioned in conversations when the great Dutch masters are discussed. Could it be that he was prematurely balding in a time when long, flowing hair was de rigeur, or the fact he was overshadowed by more celebrated players. Or perhaps it was because he never moved out of the Benelux region. More likely … Continue reading Ruud Geels – tradesman of the penalty area

Guest Slot: Why African football has flopped at the 2018 World Cup

IN 1977, Pelé predicted an African team would win the World Cup before the end of the 20th century. It was and remains a bold prediction: it wasn’t even until the following year that an African country, Tunisia, actually won a match at the tournament. Over the following decade, African football experienced a steady progression, culminating in Cameroon’s near-miss in 1990, when they came within … Continue reading Guest Slot: Why African football has flopped at the 2018 World Cup

Is World Cup success so important for critical acclaim?

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?

Democratic football party

WHEN Russia and Saudi Arabia kicked-off the World Cup, the game was not just between the two lowest ranked countries in FIFA’s rankings, it was also a meeting of the two nations with the worst rating for political freedom among the 32 participants. According to the Freedom House annual survey (Worldaudit.org), Russia and Saudi Arabia scored 7, representing the lowest level of freedom. The next … Continue reading Democratic football party

The last Magyars – Hungary’s 1960s revival

WHEN Hungary looked as though they were about to rule the football world, the country had a revolution and the team dubbed the best on the planet all but broke up. In September 1956, Hungary won 1-0 in Moscow in a friendly, an impressive result in front of 102,000 people against a Soviet Union team that included the great Lev Yashin. The Soviets were not … Continue reading The last Magyars – Hungary’s 1960s revival

FIFA Under-20 Final: Please, no talk of a new “golden generation”

ANY success at international level is welcome for English football, be it the seniors, the Lionesses or even schoolboy level. It’s no wonder the England under-20 team’s World Cup final (against Venezuela) in South Korea should be attracting a great deal of enthusiasm. But let’s not get carried away – talk of a new “golden generation” is premature and oolhardy. We never really had a … Continue reading FIFA Under-20 Final: Please, no talk of a new “golden generation”

Great Reputations: Austria’s Wunderteam – the godfathers of football’s soul

APART FROM  a spell in the late 1970s when Hans Krankl was one of Europe’s most prolific strikers, Austrian football has spent many years in the shadows, despite being joint hosts of Euro 2008. It was during the football-fest of 2008 that an interesting exhibition in Vienna paid tribute to the history of the Austrian game, and in particular, a time when its national team … Continue reading Great Reputations: Austria’s Wunderteam – the godfathers of football’s soul

Continuity is rare and seldom works for World Cup sides

WHEN GERMANY inevitably defend their World Cup title in 2018 in Russia, it is likely there will be half a dozen of their 2014 champion side kicking-off their campaign. Germany’s overall squad in Brazil was one of the youngest, an average of 26 and 114 days, so there’s still mileage in their legs. When they lined-up in Euro 2016, Germany still had eight of their … Continue reading Continuity is rare and seldom works for World Cup sides

48 crash…FIFA pursue more quantity over quality

FIFA’s LATEST attempt at making the World Cup so huge that qualifying competitions will soon be rendered unnecessary could be the death knell for the one-time blue riband sporting event. The World Cup is already a diminished product, thanks to the politics, the rise of the UEFA Champions League and the obese format of 32 countries. But now the plan is for a 48-team competition, 300% larger than the classic … Continue reading 48 crash…FIFA pursue more quantity over quality

How non-league welcomed the heroes of ‘66

BY the time you read this, England would have won the 1966 World Cup all over again and football fans will be convincing themselves that lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy is merely the start of a golden era of English superiority. Of course, we all know different. I remember, as a young lad, going to Wembley in 1968 and 1969 to see “Sir Alf Ramsey’s … Continue reading How non-league welcomed the heroes of ‘66