There are some stories in sport that seem to be a given. One of them is that English football teams cannot handle the pressure of a penalty shoot out. The men normally lose against Germany as in 1990 and 1996 and Portugal in 2004 and 2006 while the women fared no better and crashed out against France on Saturday in Germany at the World Cup. This somehow suggests that English football has a profound problem when it comes to penalties.
Archive for the ‘World Cup’ Category
…and we’re in charge’, is how Sepp Blatter reacted to allegations of corruption and the demand for a delay of the presidential election at FIFA this Wednesday. This quote puts in a nutshell what many are considering is wrong with the world governing body of football. Normally it would be the fans who are in charge of football as they pay the gate figures or subscription fees and buy the latest merchandize. And yet the controversy surrounding the FIFA election was a big thing in England and Germany but the English FA are being made the laughing-stock of world football simply because they dared to stand up and speak out against what they considered unfair, while the German FA kowtowed to Blatter and his gang once more. The idea of fair play is kept in high regard in English football although money seemed to have killed off the idea. This however, is not the central point but rather the reactions from England should be of interest here. Once more the English media come across as aloof when it comes to FIFA. It is an inherent thinking that England somehow should rule football, like FIFA does now as the modern game of football has been invented in England. It must have been painful to see the 2018 World Cup go to Qatar albeit England certainly has the better infrastructure when it comes to football. Notwithstanding, the reaction was that of wounded pride and a retreat to the island, which is historically the normal English reaction after painful experiences against continental or oversea opposition, followed. As noble and correct the English advance was, so wrong it was in its set up. The same must be said about the German FA’s creepy role with regards to the blazer brigade in Zürich, which even appalled many German journalists. FIFA must change otherwise the game will no longer belong to everyone.
Jonathan Wilson: Inverting the Pyramid. The History of football tactics. London, 2009: Orion. 384p.
If anybody of my valued readers is interested in the history of football tactics, look no further, this is the book that explains it all. Superbly written, Wilson describes the development of football tactics from the W-M system and its success to more sophisticated approaches and formations such as the popular 4-2-3-1. Without a doubt football tactics developed in England and the author duly states so. But it were British coaches like Jimmy Hogan who traveled to the continent and played and coached teams there and thus started what was to dominate central European football from the 30s to the 50s: the Danubian school of football of Hungary and Austria.
Sport is war minus the shooting. That was the essence of an article George Orwell wrote in 1945 about a tour of the Dynamo Moscow football team in Britain. Certainly he wasn’t a friend of football preferring the Olympic Games and their supposed peacefulness and which brings nations together peacefully rather than stirring up hate and jealousy. Written just after the end of the Second World War, Orwell clearly had in his view that sport could become a means in the fight for the superiority of the systems, i.e. East vs. West. He was spot on in his observation and as the development of the Olympic Games has shown during the era of the Cold War.
It is almost 60 years ago that this fixture stirred the imagination of football writers in England. Unbeaten at home England would host the best team of the continent and Olympic champions, Hungary. A win was expected by the media hacks and nothing less than a convincing victory and a spectacle was what people were looking forward to. The press was unanimous that the home record of England would resist the challenge of the Magyars with their charismatic leader Ferenc Puskas.
The last twenty years saw a dramatic increase in literature focussing on football and everything surrounding the game; so much so that one might come to think there have alreadey been enough books published on the matter. Almost, if not every, aspect of the game has been highlighted to a different extent that it is fait to speak the market has reached a point of saturation. At some point most of these works will mention the importance of sport and football in particular for English identity and self regard and somewhere there will be a chapter on the fiercest rivals. This is where Germany comes into the frame. Honigstein’s account however looks at the English game form an outsider, that is, a German perspective, which makes it an interesting read as the comparisons go much further than the usual rivalries on the pitch.
The myth is dead. That was the title of one newspaper article from Germany the morning after the England match at the World Cup claiming that the myth of Wembley has finally been buried. Other papers wrote similar headlines. That implies that there has been a myth about the so-called “Wembley Tor” or the third goal as the English would put it in the first place. It is doubtful that there has been such a myth. According to my dictionary a myth is a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon and typically involving supernatural beings or events. As this would elevate all players from England participating in the final of 1966 to the status to that of half gods, this concept needs further explanation. Certainly Moore, Hurst, Charlton, Banks and co are not considered to be gods or half gods. Also the time is not too distant and many people in the British Isles still can remember what they did and where they were on that day. Rather to declare it a myth is more a way to deal with the fact that England actually won anything and nothing ever since. It is a way to deal with reality, an Ersatzreligion. A second explanation is that of false belief or idea. Now that is a little bit closer to the truth, the false belief being that England post 1966 believe(d?) that they are the best in the world.
I think the writer was right, the myth is dead.
Football and Africa
With the last of the group games played, it is safe to say that this World Cup will not be Africa’s World Cup as was said by many commentators beforehand, including a certain Sepp Blatter. His organisation is said to make around €3.3bn from this World Cup. None of the money will stay in Africa.
All but one African team are going home after the group stages. Like 2006 Ghana are keeping the flag of the African nations flying. While last time they came up against Brazil and were soundly beaten, this time it will be the US Boys and chances are looking good that they will progress to the quarters, which would be some progress. Unfortunately this can’t be said for the other African teams that competed in the tournament. It appears that most teams indeed did take a step back instead of forward. There will be questions and the answers appear rather simple.
Well, well England vs Germany. The continent’s oldest and fiercest rivalry once more. This time as early as the second round. Already the war of the words has begun. With Der Kaiser delivering what was thought to be a broadside at the English could backfire against Löw’s team as England will be even more motivated. Stupidly enough some England players immediately took offence and responded, ignoring that the Kaiser is not so much a loved figure in Germany as he might think he is.
Like Kaiser Wilhelm II in the early twentieth century, Franz Beckenbauer is never shy of speaking his mind. One clearly does not need to be a historian of modern Germany to figure out the role of the Kaiser Wilhelm II and his verbal and political blunders in the build-up to WWI. Not that he carries the guilt all alone but he certainly played his role. A certain naïvety and undoubtedly huge portions egocentrism kickstarted all sorts of trouble in 1914.
The Germans liked their Kaiser in the early twentieth century and the English tend to think we still do in the twenty-first. That certainly is not the case. Beckenbauer is far from influential as he thinks he is. His column about football in BILD Zeitung often enough speaks the minds of the common people but is not considered to be of any value for the state of German football.
Labelling the efforts of the English finishing second in their group as stupid, Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer kickstarted the war of the words. Stupidly enough, they responded with a translation error, which made it look as though Beckenbauer has said just that. In response The Sun claimed Defoe demanded to bring on the Germans.