The Football Neutral World Cup: England vs Italy

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Pre Match:

ANGLO ITALIAN CUP TIME!

To explain: I am still technically neutral for this. For whilst I want England to win, my Dad is Welsh, I live in Wales and am married to a Welsh.  So my international team since being a kid is Wales.  But I like England and obviously want them to win the world cup until Wales somehow qualify for one.

On the other hand, I’m not working in a comedy club tonight because the World Cup is going to ruin all gigs as long as England are in the tournament.  So paying my debts off will be easier if England are out.  WHAT WILL HAPPEN?  I haven’t got a clue.

Of course, this is going to be a nil nil draw after that brilliant game earlier.  And Costa Rica will somehow be top.  Isn’t football brilliantly mental?

The BBC seem to insist on making awful, quasi-arty intro videos for every game.  These are not needed.  We’re football fans.  We get why we’re watching this.  You don’t need to convince people who don’t like the game.  They’re watching QI on Dave right now (I suspect).

Pre match interview with Roy Hodgson makes me like him all the more.  He’s doing the best he can with what he’s got, and isn’t there in his job just because he’s a gobshite.  He’s dull as fuck and I like it.

I’ve heard that Rio Ferdinand is a really clever man and erudite businessman.  So why does he sound like the thickest man in the world?

Rooney is playing in the hole, apparently. Might put a bet on him getting sent off after him seeing Van Persie and fuming at that high five with Van Gaal last night.

Sirigu in goal for Italy instead of Buffon.  His name when shouted sounds like part of Eddie Murphy’s James Brown impression.  I’ll leave that here.

It’s at 1.20.

The BBC just blotted their copybook by playing the worst trail I have ever seen, featuring Mary Berry doing backflips. ARGH.

Me and my Dad both agree that Gianluca Vialli is a bloody good lad.  Great memories of us going to Chelsea the day he was sacked and seeing Leicester somehow win down there.  That was a nervous walk back to the tube.

During the warmup, Mario Balotelli appears to be wearing Pat Butcher’s earrings.

Steven Gerrard is not the man you want to give a rousing, inspiring interview, is he?

1: England fans are much more likely to take flags with them than anybody else, aren’t they?

3: My Twitter feed is already full of grown men talking about how dreamy Andrea Pirlo is.

4: I just celebrated a Raheem Sterling goal.  Even the BBC thought it was in.  Great strike from a properly exciting player.  Took me a good few seconds to realise he wasn’t celebrating.  If it had been Balotelli going so close we wouldn’t have known until the replay.

5: Now Henderson has a smash. Fuck me, this is already more exciting that I expected.

8: This is already better than expected.  I mean, both teams seem to be actually attacking and everything.

11: I’m a fan of this new England approach – picking players who seem to want to run at their opponents rather than pass the ball sideways before lumping it up towards the forward.  Also, it looks like it’s Veratti that England need to fear, not Pirlo.

15: Still a lot of empty seats.  Looks like there are more England fans there, but sounds like more Italy fans.

18: Some prick has started a Mexican wave. Nobody is 4-0 up, lads.

19: Shot from Candreva from a way out, ball bounces off the chest of Joe Hart as headline writers sharpen their pencils to destroy him.  Fuck me, I wouldn’t want to be a goalkeeper.

20: Talk of swapping Rooney and Wellbeck around as the former isn’t in the game.  Why should they?  The latter is and is doing ok.  Rooney is having a sulk.

22: Great first touch on the left wing from Raheem Sterling who drives a cross in front of goal.  Sturridge stretches and can’t get it.  Sterling looking quality at the moment.

23: Balotelli has a shot from 30 yards.  I wonder who he shares a room with?  I bet he’s a nightmare, hiding fireworks in the bathroom.

24: Wellbeck with a great cross, blocked away by the Italian defence.  Corner follows, Sirigu looks suspect.  England are really having a go and it’s pretty bloody fun to watch at the moment.

27: Me and Dad just noticed the BBC stats graphic reads “shots” and “shots on goal”. It’s the same thing. You mean shots on TARGET, lads.

30: Twitter is literally full of abuse for the commentary of Phil Neville right now.  How is he so much worse than his brother?

32: Wayne Rooney’s hair is like a car crash.  Horrible and yet you can’t take your eyes off it.

33: Dalmian finding some decent room down the right hand side from full back, at present the only repeated threat from Italy because Rooney can’t do a marking job and help out Leighton Baines.

34: GOAL – ITALY – CLAUDIO MARCHISIO: Described as “a simple goal” on commentary, a corner from Italy is dummied by Pirlo on the outside of the box before Marchisio fires it in low from outside the box.  Great strike and was starting to look on the cards in the last couple of minutes.

37: GOAL – ENGLAND – DANIEL STURRIDGE: Rooney not being able to defend led to the corner that Italy scored from; now he takes a pass from Sterling and hits a great cross into the path of Sturridge who sweeps home.  Parity restored.  Weirdly, physio Gary Lewin seems to have got injured during the celebrations.

40: Waiting to hear on the injury to Gary Lewin, but we need to hear from the England Physio for that… oh.

41: As a Leicester fan, I remember hearing Steve Walsh on commentary when we beat Crystal Palace in the playoff final, going INSANE.  That’s commentary. Come on Phil Neville, you PLAYED for England.  Cheer up a bit.

45: Balotelli tries a cheeky lob to beat Hart who is outside his goal, but Cahill clears.  From the corner Candreva hits the post.  Halftime whistle as Sterling keeps niggling away at Veratti.

Half Time:

Is a decent match so far, with honours about even.  England are doing well, but Phil Neville is being so negative that you’d think that they were 4-0 down.  Here’s a picture of Phil on the day his lottery numbers came up and he became a Father.

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My Dad is napping through the interval because Phil’s voice has properly ruined him.

Sterling looks brilliant for England, but Wellbeck is also putting in a shift.  Going forwards England look very good indeed, but at the back they’re not as hot.  Rooney isn’t the complete player his salary would suggest because he just cannot defend.  Alan Shearer pointed out that England struggle to defend set pieces; the Italy goal would suggest that although it apparently went through “two or three players legs” according to Phil Neville (it went through one).

At this point England shouldn’t take a point.  May as well press on.  Italy are not great by any stretch.

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45: Tons of empty seats right after half time.  JUST LIKE WEMBLEY!

48: You know when someone makes a proper landscape around their train set out of papier mache and coloured sand?  That’s how they made Rooney’s hair.

50: GOAL – ITALY – MARIO BALOTELLI: Right hand side problems for England again. Deep cross from Candreva, Balotelli with an excellent hanging header.  He even celebrates, which is odd to see.

54: Rooney now on the right hand side (it’s for the best), he powers forwards and shoots from a mile out.  Close but not quite good enough.  Still goals in this though, I reckon.

56: Steven Gerrard could have had a penalty, but is too sporting to appeal.  Apparently.

57: Veratti off, Thiago Motta on for Italy. Presumably to stop Raheem Sterling being a crazy little dribble wizard.

58: I think I’m not speaking out of turn when I say that Georgio Chiellini is not exactly a looker.

60: Wellbeck off, Ross Barkley on. NOW DO GOOD PAUL GASCOIGNE LIKE THINGS! As in scoring goals, skill, trickery. Not crying and snapping your leg fouling Des Walker.

62: Terrible miss by Wayne Rooney as he’s slipped through by Baines. His anger level rises to “orange”.

64: Sterling sportingly helped out with cramp by two Italian players – as of course, the England physio is injured.

68: Has to be said that the Italy kit really is a smashing blouse.

71: Ciro Immobile about to come on for Italy. Hey! That striker is a bit IMMOBILE! GET IT? EH? I’m so tired.

72: Immobile on for Balotelli; Jordan Henderson replaced by Jack Wilshire.  The Italian assistant manager is wearing a pair of Dame Edna’s glasses.

75: Phil Neville just used the phrase “thigh burners”. Anybody else would have made me laugh. He then said Chiellini “likes to feel men against him”.  Nothing.

76: Nice free kick from Baines. You know he was listening to Ocean Colour Scene before the game.

77: The worst corner I have ever seen from Wayne Rooney.  Jesus.  He makes Diego Forlan look like Steve Guppy from the corner flag (shut up, he was ace).

79: Sturridge limps off, Adam Lallana on. So Rooney up top, you’d imagine.  Where he can do the least harm.

82: If it’s one thing Italy know how to do, it’s defend a one goal lead.  They are the BEST at it.  Even better than 1990s Arsenal.

86: Barkley scampers through the defence, Rooney takes the ball off of him and has a shot. Barkley looks perplexed.  Rooney not helping himself at the moment, would he still be on the pitch if Sturridge hadn’t have picked up a knock?

88: Sterling’s turn to meander through the defence.  He looks really good based on tonight, at least he’s having a go.

90: FIVE MINUTES of added time. But England need some serious inspiration.

90+3: Italy free kick about 35 yards from goal.  Pirlo smashes it against the bar with Hart nowhere near it. Didn’t half bend, mind.

Full Time:

General consensus seems to be that England were not too bad at all, and I’d agree.  They were a damn sight more exciting to watch than they’ve been in a long, long time.  Italy are a VERY good side and will win the group, no doubt about that.  Can’t see Uruguay beating Italy and England, so maybe it’s Costa Rica that England need to be most prepared for.

Raheem Sterling was excellent throughout, Ross Barkley looked good when he came on and Sturridge and Wellbeck worked well.  What is worrying is the form of Wayne Rooney; asides from his excellent cross for the England goal he looked poor.  Terrible set pieces, always trying for too complicated a pass and missing a complete sitter.  He seems to be in the team more on reputation than merit, and that’s a shame.  If Hodgson has the balls to drop him then maybe he would be fired up enough to work harder when he got back into the team.

All the talk on Italy was about Pirlo and Balotelli, but for me Veratti and Candreva were both excellent.  They’re not at their absolute best (Sirigu is suspect for sure) but they could do well.

Man of the Match: Antonio Candreva

Match Rating: 6/10

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