Wednesday, 23 June 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010: England in-fighting leaves campaign in tatters

As Rose highlights in the hit American sitcom Two and a Half Men, “schadenfreude” refers to feeling pleasure at the misfortune of others, which is exactly how I felt when I got wind of John Terry’s latest solecism. There is no denying the murmurings that have emerged from all quarters of the England camp regarding Fabio Capello’s unyieldingly strict regime, which has ostensibly eroded team morale. Sundays’s press conference began with Terry defending his manager in an archetypically loyal fashion, which is something of a regularity for him at Stamford Bridge. By the time the conference concluded, Terry had painstakingly dismantled the armoury of Capello’s authority and personally promised to challenge the rules put down by his manager. The fact that the players and staff were allowed to drink beer following the draw with Algeria suggests Terry may have dealt Capello a formidable blow. However, it is notable that the other squad members were unhappy with their ex-captain’s decision to elect himself as their spokesman, and revealing intricate private details about the team. Yesterday, Capello retorted that the centre-half had made a “big mistake”, forcing Terry to lumber out in front of the press with his tail between his legs and issue a somewhat futile public apology. Clearly, the relationship between Capello and the Chelsea stalwart has soured since Terry was humiliatingly stripped of his captaincy four months ago. As a result, the plight felt in the England camp is now only a wayward Jabulani away from descending into the infantile anarchy that engulfed France’s impalpable stay in South Africa.
As of 5pm this evening, I expect to be feeling more “schadenfreude” as Mr Capello finds his reputation thoroughly extirpated at the hands of Slovenia.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010: "If Carlsberg did team selections..."

As John Barnes vexingly preaches: “You got to hold and give but do it at the right time. You can be slow or fast but you must get to the line”.
It seems Signore Capello has been fortunate enough to avoid Mars pretentious marketing campaign (for the duration of the World Cup all Scots will disassociate themselves from Carlsberg, Mars, and their partners in crime, Kasabian). England fans forever regard their national team as the perennial, gritty Underdog at every major tournament, which is fair enough. But the persistent attribution of Wayne Rooney’s scatter-gun aggression and John Terry’s reckless tackles to the fatuous “island race” label would cause Winston Churchill to sorely regret making that famous speech. The Scots, Irish and Welsh constitute the same “island race” and they didn’t even make the final tournament. Although Fabio Capello is unquestionably the ideal tactician to guide England to success in South Africa, his personnel choices for the final 23-man squad are somewhat perplexing. No one can refute that the squad selection process presented anything other than a conundrum for the Italian, one that will likely prompt journalist to switch their current optimistic tone to one of sanctimony after England bow out before the semis.
The principal concern for England supporters, at least momentarily, is of course the omission of Theo Walcott. I didn’t heed Gordon Strachan’s plight at the last World Cup so now I have a yoghurt in the fridge that needs eaten (it is an apricot Petit Filous so you can understand my distress). Capello has opted for Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips in the position that many felt Walcott and his supersonic pace fitted like a glove. Following his hat trick against Croatia, an element of complacency has shrouded Walcott’s season. Combine this with his injury problems, and it becomes apparent why Capello opted to leave him behind. His positional adversaries Lennon and Wright-Phillips may not get to the by-line quite so sharply, but both have seen more first team football this season than you can shake a vuvuzela at. An added impetus in choosing Wright-Phillips comes in the shape of the diminutive winger’s stepfather, the grinning ignoramus that is Ian Wright. While “Live from Studio Five” may portray Wrighty to possess the same level of intellect as Dappy from N-Dubz, he carries enough weight in the British media for Capello to appreciate that leaving Wright-Phillips at home would constitute a PR suicide.
As for the other casualties, Darren Bent and Michael Dawson should rightly feel disappointed at missing the cut. Bent’s seat on the plane is occupied by the maladroit behemoth that is Emile Heskey, who is under no delusions that his sole purpose will be to feed on scraps in order to supply saviour Rooney. Although Heskey may well be more effective as a second striker, Bent has scored 25 goals this season while Heskey hasn’t hit the net since February. If selection should be dependent on fitness then Capello could just as easily have omitted Ledley King instead of Dawson but picked the former on the basis that he is the more gifted player. Stephen Warnock has played only 90 minutes for England since 2005 but regained the position following Leighton Baines’ desperate performance at left-back against Japan on Sunday. Capello is a man too astute and experienced in world football to make rash decisions or perilous gambles regarding his playing personnel. However, it remains to be seen if his choice to hold back Walcott and Bent bears fruit, and if the decision to give Wright-Phillips and Heskey a place on the plane backfires, like I hope Carlsberg’s ostentatious advertising does