Monday, May 29, 2006

We're on our way/We are Sven's twenty-three

It is fashionable on the Gloucester rugby messageboards to waft disrespect towards the round ball, association code of football but I quite enjoy watching soccer and especially the World Cup which remains the greatest sporting event on the planet. I love it deeply. Like a lot of folk, I am able to chart my life through the four-yearly tournament from the six-month old bairn perched in a high chair while Hurst netted his hat trick to a 36 year old father of three ejaculating a tremulous, ‘Gooooallllll!’ as Beckham’s penalty sinks Argentinian hearts in ’02. I recall little about my 1982 Mathematics ‘O’ Level examination except a school friend telling me straight afterwards that England were one-up against France and that Brian Robson had put the whites in the lead after a few seconds. By the time I had walked down Church Road and through the front door, France had equalised. I remember being in a tent at 1990’s Glastonbury with G and J listening to the England-Egypt commentary and cheers going up when Mark Wright headed the winner. And in 1994 I watched the final with the firstborn Cole lying on my stomach, a fortnight old and not really able to discuss Italy’s offside trap in any real depth. He still isn’t, a dozen years on.

This year, Argentina shall win the thing and I feel quite adamant about this. England will make the last eight and will depart sulkily, blaming the hoo-hah surrounding the blessed Rooney’s toe that will have distracted the talented squad from the more important matter of vanquishing in association football matches. My outside bets for last-four and possible final berths (and therefore worth an each-way punt) are Croatia (unbeaten in qualification and with a ruthless will to win) and Ivory Coast (will need to beat either Argentina or The Netherlands to qualify for the knock-out stage but I think there's a chance of that – and then watch them go) . At the time of writing you can get 100 to 1 for Ivory Coast, 80 to 1 for Croatia while Argentina are 9 to 1. I might make a wager this week.

I’d love England to do it. My heart sinks when I consider that the barely adequate Steve McClaren will be in charge of the team’s fortunes soon so I reckon this will be our last chance for glory for a while. The dreary ex-Middlesbrough gaffer will win us nothing.

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