The Football Neutral World Cup: Uruguay vs England

Soccer - World Cup Italia 1990 - Semi Final - West Germany v England - Stadio Delle Alpi

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Pre Match:

Oh god, we’re on ITV.

The wife is home and watching this with me.  She’s both Welsh and utterly hates football, so expect some zingers from her corner.

There’s a stand behind the goal that looks really unsafe. Proper Maude Flander death territory.

It is a seriously jaunty anthem, the Uruguay one.

Whilst an England win would of course be the preferred option (see previous blogs for an explanation of who I support internationally and why I still like England), if they do lose and go out tonight it would mean that my gig in Coventry next Saturday night will go ahead.

Hands up if you’ve done this Simpsons joke today?

1: OH PLEASE SHUT UP ANDY TOWNSEND

2: Muslera in the Uruguay goal is properly wank. And whilst I am commenting on his football skills, the wife is referring to him as “a human refresher”.

3: Wife on Suarez: “he’s got teeth, hasn’t he?”

4: Suarez, as if hearing the abuse from my wife, tries to score from a corner like the cheeky little bitey racist that he is.

6: Wife just asked if the players can tell the difference between a whistle blown by the ref or one in the crowd.  I said that they can’t. She is now patenting a special whistle that has a frequency that only footballers can hear.  Of course, this could then be bought by the fans and we’re back to square one.  I don’t think she’s as emotionally invested in this game as me right now.

7: England free kick. Uruguay make a wall. Wife asks me if it’s called a “ball wall” because they have to stop the ball AND they guard their nether regions.  I reply in the negative.

9: MAN IN CHAINMAIL SPOTTED. Possible UKIP voter. They just look the sort, you now?

10: Rooney had a free kick and hit it within 20 yards of the goal. BIG IMPROVEMENT ON SATURDAY, WAYNE!

13: Debate about heading the ball led by the wife. Quote: “How can they head the ball when it’s coming out of the sky but roll around like little whiny girls when they get tackled?” Good point.

15: I miss England wearing navy shorts.

17: The Uruguay defender Pereira has a face that looks like it has been sucked into a hoover.

18: Rooney a lot better than the other night. Unfortunately Uruguay are also a lot better than the other night.

19: Still baffled at the unsegregated seating for the games.  Can anyone else imagine this happening a few years ago?  Tis madness.  Seems to be a tad more segregation for England games, although there are still are pockets of England fans sat with Uruguay lads and Brazil neutrals.  Very odd indeed.  Although if everyone is behaving, fair play. That said: It’s not fucking rugby, is it?

23: Feels like a nil nil right now.  I’m saying that so this ends up 4-3 and proves me wrong.

25: Wife just shouted “topknot wanker” at Martin Caceres.

28: Diego Godin may as well just have hit a lariat on Daniel Sturridge there.  Commentators saying he’s lucky to be on the pitch, but it wasn’t an elbow nor intentional.  The same guys were saying that Muller was scum for going down under a similar challenge the other night. DOUBLE STANDARDS, LADS!

31: England hit the bar – and they’re having a decent spell. Rooney SHOULD have scored if we’re being honest, but it was harder than it looked.  I’ll give him some credit.  ITV commentary team DESPERATE to have him score.

34: Still a lot of fight in England. They are not the most gifted side for sure, but it means a lot to the fans that they seem to be trying as hard as they can.  As a neutral, it means a lot to me knowing that both of their matches have already been more entertaining than the whole world cup.

39: GOAL – URUGUAY – LUIS SUAREZ: Had to be him, didn’t it? Headline writers demanded it.  Edinson Cavani – who had done NOTHING thus far – loops the ball in from the corner of the area and Phil Jagielka isn’t close enough to Suarez who heads home.  Glen Johnson should have been picking Cavani up really.  Sturridge heads straight up the other end with a chance, but now Uruguay are in charge.

41: Rooney takes a corner and it doesn’t beat the first man. So frustrating. Let Sterling or Baines or Gerrard take them for crying out loud.

43: What’s annoying is that this has been a BRILLIANT World Cup so far and a limited England have been doing OK in a tough group.  If England go out tonight, does that overshadow how excellent the tournament as a whole has been?  Not for me, but I suspect it will for a lot of people.

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Half Time:

Really not sure how England are losing.  Good header from Suarez and proof that a finisher of his calibre is hard to come by, but England have had enough of the play and decent enough chances to be winning, or at least level.

Fairly sure that Adrian Chiles breaks a journalism rule by referring to England as “us”. Especially as there are people watching in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland…

Andros Townsend seems a good lad. Surely his press pass says “A Townsend” on it? Just saying we could have him in the commentary box instead…

I’m eating a fruit pastille lolly. Annoying that lemon is the most prevalent flavour.

46: Wife Quote: “I’d be well good as a steward. I’d happily not watch the game”.

49: Suarez keeps trying to score from corners. Greedy bastard.

51: England not at it right now, still asleep. Cavani and Suarez scaring the shit out of Cahill and Jagielka.  Wife sums it up with “I know Uruguay are doing better because I keep seeing the little green man”.  That’s Joe Hart.  The Uruguay keeper is the little orange man, apparently.

53: There is the little orange man, Muslera.  Great save from Rooney, who is still searching for his first ever World Cup goal.  Great work from Leighton Baines down the left leading to the chance.

55: Multitasking whilst Muslera is down faking an injury.  Starting a campaign to get the awful new iPhone “Chicken Fat” advert banned from our TV. Why? The song is AWFUL and I hate Apple.  Part crusade for better ads, part personal vendetta against a massive company that I despise.

59: England pressing but just don’t have a load of ideas. And who do you throw on? There’s nobody better on the bench really, although I’d like to see Ross Barkley get a runout.

61: Pereira takes Sterling’s knee to the temple and is knocked out. Horrible moment as he’s splayed on the pitch in real trouble, but toe medics bring him around and he then throws a massive tantrum as the doctor tries to insist that he is substituted.  That’s some passion right there, good lad.

64: Barkley now on, yay! But for Sterling, boo.

67: England just don’t look like scoring. Suarez then hits a hit and hope at Joe Hart, known within World Cup circles as a “Ronaldinho against David Seaman”.

68: I’m sure the commentator just said the population of greater London was 3 and a half million.

70: Lallana on for Wellbeck, who has done nowt.

72: Wayne Rooney’s hair-hat is the reason that a balding man like me doesn’t bother with hair implants.

73: Sturridge does a little turn and rattles off a shot. Muslera holds it easily. Uruguay aren’t doing anything much, but England aren’t really pressing them at all.

75: GOAL – ENGLAND – WAYNE ROONEY: Wonderful work by Sturridge, even better work from Johnson and a tap in for Rooney. He finally scores at a World Cup and is delighted. Great seeing the England fans surge forward in their “end” – and it’s what England have deserved.

77: Sturridge close now.  England could actually win this, you know.

79: Atmosphere has been properly booted up a notch now, I tells thee.

80: Not so much in this house, mind. The wife has buggered off elsewhere.

83: It would really be excellent if England got another now. They have, on balance, been the better team and Uruguay sat back until Rooney’s goal.  They’re now charging forwards too and it’s like watching a game from the knockout stages.

84: GOAL – URUGUAY – LUIS SUAREZ: Steven Gerrard fluffs a header and merely directs it into the path of the sprinting Luis Suarez who puts the ball past Hart.  And that’ll probably be that for England.  Two decent chances for Uruguay, two goals.  Steven Gerrard manages to top his slip against Chelsea in the league with a pretty decent assist.

88: People on Twitter rightfully pointing out that Gerrard has been awful during both games.  They’re right. The system Liverpool play mean that he can play that “quarterback” role that people bang on about. He can’t for England.  Everyone else is putting in the effort, he’s just past it.  But he’ll “retire” from England duty before the next manager (because Hodgson will be sacked, unfortunately – it’s not his fault he doesn’t have the players to choose from) has time to not pick him, just to save his own face.

90: Five minutes of injury time. Suarez now off and crying on the bench. Mate, you’re winning! Wacky South Americans.

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Full Time:

England are probably out, barring Italy winning both of their remaining games and England somehow twatting Costa Rica out of sight.  They’re not good enough.  It’s not the fault of Roy Hodgson; he’s trying his best but there just aren’t the players available for him.  Gerrard is past it, Rooney (I know he scored, but still) isn’t as world class a player as the entire nation seemed convinced he is, at the back England are a bit static and slow and the rest of the team – small glimmers of hope for the next four years in Sterling and Barkley to one side – just aren’t very good.

Suarez, like him or not, is an amazing centre forward.  He gets two chances and he scores two goals.  He is the difference between Uruguay being an also-ran South American team and a pretty decent one.  They won’t get to the semi finals like last time around, but they remain a tidy side when he’s fit.

I don’t think that England fans are shocked by the result, because nobody would have seriously expected England to win the World Cup.  There needs to be a better focus on team spirit and work ethic going forwards.  The 1986 and 1990 World Cup sides were full of unfashionable players who grafted as part of a team.  The next England manager (because let’s be honest, Hodgson will be sacked shortly) needs to take more chances on unfashionable players from smaller teams; Lallana and Lambert from Southampton are a start, but there are more players hungry to pull that shirt on and push the “superstars” in the side harder for their place.

We await the Gerrard memes.

Man of the Match: Luis Suarez

Match Rating: 5/10

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