keresaspa: (Nina looking a tad pertubed)
Normally by now tournament fever would have me in a grip stronger than the thighs of Elizabeth Seitz but so far I've struggled to really immerse myself in Euro 2016. Perhaps it's the relative lack of excitement in many of the matches, a general ennui with the whole build-up, the nagging fears of the fascist nightmare that will be visited upon us when the turkeys of England vote for Christmas for all of us on the 23rd, the undeniable fact that a 24 team tournament is far too big and at least a third of the qualifiers just scream "making up the numbers", who knows? Still, Euro 2016 is here with its high-kicking and low-scoring on the pitch and its war by proxy being waged by boneheads off it.

Being a man who long since disavowed patriotism I have no particular team to root for and that hasn't helped. Before the whole thing started I declared, in a fit of contrariness so typical of me, for Iceland but my heart was never in it and, whilst it would be a delight to see the smallest country ruffle a few feathers, life will go on if they lose all three matches. I did derive a surprising amount of pleasure from Italy's victory over Belgium last night but I suspect it was an isolated incident rather than my rebirth as a great Italian.

As to what we've seen so far, little has really grabbed my interest. I even turned over halfway through the England-Russia match the other night and buggered off shopping rather than stick with the Republic of Ireland's dreary outing against Sweden. Still, I've never been an Ireland fan and the fact that they're now led by an axis of evil every bit as contemptible as Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane seals the deal. Meanwhile the occupied territory represented the real recrement of the tournament, serving up some of the dullest, stalest, olid Pulisball since that awful Romanian team that annoyed me so much that time. Boy was I glad to see them lose and I will be even more glad when they exit the tournament. And yet this happened. Well, it would have been rude to say "no".

I remain hopeful that the malaise will lift. Maybe my eye will be caught by some heavenly Hungarians, maybe the goals will flow as a rampant France put a dowdy Albania to the sword, maybe when the wheat is finally separated from the chaff in the second round things will hit top gear, maybe Michael Gove and Boris Johnson will spontaneously combust as Asmodeus rises from Gehenna to reclaim the debased souls long since promised to him. Either way - must do better, Euro 2016.
keresaspa: (Edwige Fenech)
Well, it turns out I'll be going to France in August after more of that unorthodox holiday money turned up. Should be a grin. Staying in Montmartre too, your one-stop shop for stairs and prostitutes. Nothing much to add except you know, yay and that.

Anyway enjoy this whilst I think of something more substantial to write about:

keresaspa: (Evil Timbo)
And thus ends another World Cup group stage for another four years. And it is no word of a lie to say that spills and thrills were provided throughout, with fun for the whole family (the WHOLE family, mind) freely and readily available.

In Group A Brazil spluttered along for much of the time, showing mere flashes of their much-promised brilliance. In Neymar they have the top scorer so far but the Croats proved stout opposition before being downed and Mexico were their match. Indeed the Mexicans might well have been worthy group winners had their lack of attacking vigour against a woeful Cameroon side not proved their undoing. Despite all that I still reckon it's Brazil's to lose.

I had half expected Spain to recover from their awful start in Group B but in the end, of course, they didn't and the illustrious era ended in ignominy and the gall of bitterness will run for some time there. The Dutch are bound to go far unfortunately and Chile will be no pushovers for Brazil. Australia were a gritty bunch of battlers but, Tim Cahill apart, were outmatched throughout. Still, they gave a decent account of themselves in two matches and can go home feeling smart enough.

Colombia owned Group C from start to finish and Japan weren't at the races in what proved a disastrous World Cup for the Asian contingent. The main battle was between the Greeks and the Ivorians for second place and I got right behind the African side in the deciding clash. As such they inevitably lost. A shame really but Yaya Toure had a poor tournament by his standards and Drogba, despite his might, just can't do it for a whole match any more. Greece are something of a grim watch at times but the never say die spirit runs through them like the word "Morecambe" throughout a piece of hard, sugar-filled confectionery sold on the Lancashire coast and they could yet pull off one or two more shocks before konx ompax.

The story of Group D was the brilliant performances by England, whose fans rightly cheered their gallant efforts in finishing bottom of the group. Imagine if Svennis or Capello had done that - they would've been hanged from the yardarm but Woy's status as bona fide English means he is forgiven. I suppose they didn't play that terribly but they just weren't at the races, a niddering lot afraid to go near the ball, and Hodgson's obsession with the future has worn a bit thin. Tomorrow never comes and if you ignore the present then what price the future? That and basing your hopes on Phil Jones and Chris Smalling is sure to end in tears, whilst the celebrated Adam Lallana, who single-handedly (with several others) brought Southampton to the giddy heights of upper mid-table, looked very ordinary during his appearances. Pretty much the standard of Graham Taylor's 1994 side really (who would also have qualified if the World Cup was 32 teams in those days) and to an outside observer the obsession with Steven Gerrard, who has accomplished pretty much nothing in his 114 appearances, is mystifying. At least his Italian equivalent, Andrea Pirlo, is a skilled god of football who won the World Cup, although he was marked out of this series and Balotelli was in "can't be arsed" mode so their elimination was inevitable. The less said about Suarez the better - he is a vile pig who doesn't belong in the game and should be facing a year's ban for his latest outrage. I wouldn't be surprised if Uruguay made the semi finals again to be honest, even without him as the Devil looks after his own. Oh and Costa Rica, good on them, well done, pat on the head, patronise etc.

France took Group E by storm, showing an attacking prowess that few felt them capable of showing. The odd defensive lapse and a weak squad may well catch up with them but it will be fun while it lasts nonetheless. Fair play to Switzerland too, who finally look like they can attack a bit too rather than their old trick of having ten in defence. About time M. Colin-Tampon did something half decent at the World Cup. Despite my earlier claims Ecuador weren't too bad in the end. There was a lack of skill but they played their socks off and were rather unfortunate to go out. Honduras had the odd moment here and there but were making up the numbers really.

You can't really fault Argentina in Group F. Bosnia had a right good go at them and Iran ran themselves ragged but in the end Messi finally started to show what he is capable of in a World Cup. Bully for him. Despite the presence of the odious Odemwingie I got behind Nigeria in this group and was glad to see them qualify. In Victor Enyeama they have a fine keeper who has enjoyed his second consecutive solid World Cup whilst Ahmed Musa is surely set for a glittering future after his harassment of Argentina.

Portugal's bundling out of Group G was hardly a shock given their opening drubbing by Germany and their failure to get the better of Germany Junior. Despite the blip against Ghana the Germans looked comfortable enough although their defence is decidedly un-Teutonic and will prevent them from going all the way. GerJu are lacking in any real skill but for commitment and gritty determination there are few who come close and if they grind their way into the quarter finals I won't be astounded. Seeing the poseur Portuguese go after the first round is always good but I was disappointed at how far Ghana had slid since four years ago and as usual Muntari had to make it all about him. Oh, and whatever became of Freddy Adu?

As we've established, Group H was the poorest crop of all. Belgium were effective and got the job done although the notion of them being outsiders for the title seems fanciful after they made fairly heavy weather of a very weak group. I found myself rooting for Algeria in this one on the strength of their crazy performance against South Korea, a team who haven't looked so poor since the early '90s. Next time the AFC try to agitate for extra places in the World Cup then they should be reminded of this World Cup. It's been abject for the continent from start to finish. But anyway, glad Algeria made it ahead of a shockingly dull Russia side.

Looking ahead to the second round I'll don my fatidical hat and predict wins for Brazil, Uruguay, France, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Argentina and USA. When I did this four years ago I got all eight correct so if you want to put your house on it do so. You might well lose the house, of course, but if you want to then go right ahead.
keresaspa: (Nina looking a tad pertubed)
And so it came to pass that the World Cup has reached that most auspicious of stages, where every team has been played and we can now gave a half-arsed opinion of all of them. So permit me to do just that:

Cut for you football-hating numpties out there )

Volte-face

Jun. 16th, 2014 01:25 am
keresaspa: (Cynthia of Witching Hour fame)
Well that was unexpected. My distaste at the waste of money in an impoverished country remains (not quite as bad as neo-liberals blowing billions on pointless crap like the Olympics or, worst of all, the Commonwealth bloody games, but I digress) but an absolutely blistering start has made this World Cup difficult not to like. There have been gripes obviously - Brazil being nursed to victory, a thumping win for my second least favourite team in the Netherlands, a lacklustre performance from Argentina, boring old Switzerland looking nailed on to advance, Adrian Chiles. But despite all that there has been more to enjoy, be it the triumph of France over brutal Stoke City clones Honduras, the delightful battle between the ever so orderly Japanese and the gung-ho crazy Ivory Coast during which the very existence of Didier Drogba seemed to both inspire his team and scare the hell out of the opposition despite his doing nothing of note and, of course, champions elect England getting slapped down by a spectacularly virile Italian side. Fun for the whole family with plenty of delights left in store. A really good World Cup is long overdue and if this one can continue in the vein in which it has started then it can finally be delivered.

My solidarity with the protesters remains as ever but my threatened lack of interest has evaporated as I'm now being carried along with the visual glamour on the pitch. Well what can I say, I face a season of gloom and misery under the single most underwhelming appointment in Albion history Alan Irvine, I have to take my fun where I can get it.
keresaspa: (Cartman)
I've been desperately trying to take some crumb of comfort from these election but I can't. Swept on by the biased "reporting" of the BBC and all the tabloids bar the Mirror, those hateful shits of the UK Independence Party have come top in the European elections and done fairly well in the council elections (although their head cheerleader Nick Robinson is talking shite by calling 163 councillors out of 2,101 an "earthquake"). If there's any justice they will follow the lead of the now virtually irrelevant (outside Pendle at least) BNP and become victims of their own success. After all the BNP's brief period of success in the early to mid 00s led to to them splitting into several little factions and saw their thuggish, frequently barely literate, councillors make total prats of themselves at every opportunity. Mind you, the BNP were fighting against a cordon sanitaire, something UKIP won't have to worry about given that they had the sense to get in some tokens in advance. I swear if I see Nigel Farage's hateful, smug, buck-toothed, squinty-eyed, batrachian face once more I'm a gonna kick this screen in! And an especial boo to all the Rangers-supporting knuckle draggers in Scotland and all the forelock tuggers in AndWales for following their English masters in electing that rabble too. Pish on the lot of you.

Elsewhere Little Miss Le Pen has come top in France to show that the British lurch to the extreme right is not unique. Given France's unusual history with right-wing extremists (along with Italy, it's the only Western European country where being a self-declared neo-fascist is no bar to a leading role in public life, as the likes of Alain de Benoist and Dominique Venner have demonstrated) and the mess both major parties have made of government it's no surprise but still a real shame. Meanwhile in Finland the rightist Finns Party have added an extra seat, the Poles have returned their usual quota of hardcore Catholic racists who claim the label "centre-right" with straight faces and even in Greece a left-wing victory has tempered by three seats for the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn. Stygian gloom the continent over.

Locally we are still waiting on the final results of an election held last Thursday but so far, as I predicted, Sinn Fein have topped the poll and Anderson is back in, with Diane Dodds likely to follow soon. Ho-hum. beyond that it's pick-a-dick between Jim Nicholson, Alex Attwood and Jim Allister for third place with Anna Lo not in the running and bloody UKIP even managing twenty odd thousand votes here. In the local elections the Sinn Fein vote pretty much held and, whilst the DUP shed support, it all seems to have gone to the Ulster Unionists (for reasons unknown) or rewarded the bigoted Strasserism of the Progressive Unionist Party or the reactionary High Toryism of the Traditional Unionist Voice. In among all that the dissident republican campaign got nowhere, with Eirigi, Republican Network for Unity and various independents getting almost nothing (OK, one exception but I'm not much of a 32 County Sovereignty Movement fan personally). Hell even bloody UKIP managed to get three seats here and the total mess that is NI21 took one. If I am to finally take that one crumb of comfort I spoke of earlier it will be from the good people of Black Mountain electing Gerry Carroll, a man I very vaguely know, to Belfast City Council instead of yet another faceless Sinn Fein nobody. On his own and stacked up against the cabal of the big five I can't see him being able to make any real impact on the new council when it finally splutters into life next year (that's right, the old council is continuing for another year in a colossal waste of money) but the fact that somebody, somewhere was prepared to vote against oppression and for the people is heartening anyway.

Now if you'll excuse me I think I'd like to find a pile of coats to hide under for a while.
keresaspa: (West Bromwich Albion)
Well, it has been nearly two months since it happened but finally the FA have got their arses in gear and punished Anelka for his hate-filled gesture and as a result of that ban West Bromwich Albion have finally come within the ballpark of doing something vaguely right by suspending him. For my money he should have been sacked the moment this whole grubby incident first took place but obviously its far too late for that now and the shadow of shame that this has cast over the club will loom for a long time to come.

Frankly where Albion are concerned this season has been one disaster after another. First of all Dan Ashworth left and, rather than looking for a suitable veteran replacement or scrapping the director of football model altogether, the increasingly despotic Jeremy Peace decided to promote Richard Garlick, whose sole qualification seemed to be that he was a yes-man. Some duff summer signings, not least the chunk of change wasted on Anelka's massive salary, led to a poor start and the sloppy sacking of Steve Clarke, a man treated very shoddily by the increasingly toxic Peace. In comes Keith Downing as caretaker manager, a job he held far too long despite some very poor results, and then the Anelka crap broke out. Instead of coming down on him like a tonne of bricks the board backed him and Downing started pontificating about how the quenelle was not an offensive gesture when all he had to do was state his ignorance as, after all, who would have questioned a middle-aged former footballer from Oldbury stating that he knew nothing about the politics of anti-Semitic gesturing in France? Meanwhile in the search for a new manager the Imperial Lord Peace puts off all half-decent candidates by insisting that they must retain the existing coaching staff regardless of their abilities. Or to put it another way, only more yes-men need apply. Frankly I would have been happier to see Downing bounced out on his Dingle arse after his poor showing, both on and off the pitch, as caretaker but according to Peace both he and (the otherwise blameless but still expendable) Dean Kiely were absolutely essential. As such Pepe Mel came into a situation where it was very clear that he was completely subordinate to Peace and Garlick, and where his supposed underlings had more security than him, so it's hardly surprising that his tenure has been so lacklustre. Of course, the job was coming with the status of stooge as part of the description so anybody really good was always going to turn it down.

Now we are in a situation where Anelka remains at the club despite have finally been punished for his anti-Semitic gesture, with his brief spell at the Hawthorns having seen threats to retire, injuries and a cloud over the good name of West Bromwich Albion that will be hard to shift. A farce from start to finish and, as much as I hate to say it, were Albion to be relegated this season I would struggle to care. I've supported Albion for nearly 30 years on and off but my political ideology comes before football and the club offering support to the purveyors of hatred is something I cannot reconcile with my principles. I remain for now an Albion supporter but the fall of the club this season almost seems like poetic justice and a suitable conclusion to the most ludicrous season in the club's history. Albion have had poor spells in the past - the limp surrenders under Gould, Megson and Mowbray spring to mind - but most clubs produce the odd crap team and, whilst they can be hugely frustrating and even embarrassing, they never leave you justifying your support for the club, a predicament in which this whole Anelka debacle has left me.

That Anelka has to go goes without saying but this season has made it increasingly clear that it is time for Jeremy Peace to follow him out the door. The man has become drunk on his own power and is increasingly running Albion as his personal plaything, acting like Roman Abramovich albeit without at least leaving his wallet permanently open in order to soften the blow like the Chelsea godfather. Albion are a strong enough club to recover from this (although a period of hand-wringing is essential as they have really damaged themselves here) but changes are desperately needed and they need to start at the boardroom. Blyth Spartans, I'm still hoping I won't be troubling you any time soon.
keresaspa: (Maurice Bishop)
Oh God Albion, no! Don't become just like Liverpool by defending a player for endorsing hatred. Nicolas Anelka claims he doesn't know what the fuss is about and then says it is a private gesture to his friend Dieudonné M'bala M'bala. That's the same Dieudonné M'bala M'bala whose close associates down the years have included leading Holocaust deniers such as Robert Faurisson, Serge Thion and the Neturei Karta, extreme rightists like Bruno Gollnisch, Thierry Meyssan and Alain Soral and who thinks the Holocaust is ripe for making comedy songs about. I consider myself to be a strong critic of Israel but being an opponent of Israel and Zionism is not a licence for anti-Semitism, a form as racism every bit as vile as any other, and it is certainly not a justification for denying or attempting to relativise the Holocaust. If Nicolas Anelka chooses to associate with hatemongers like Dieudonné M'bala M'bala then that's up to him but whilst he is representing West Bromwich Albion FC things like that must be kept away from the club. Sunderland rightly copped a lot of flak for their decision to employ a self-declared fascist and frankly if Albion continue to attempt to dismiss this then they deserve the same vilification for standing by a man bringing the stain of Holocaust denial to the club. I said from the word go that Anelka would be more trouble than he was worth but frankly even I wasn't expecting something as horrendous as this.

The club needs to step up now and condemn the gesture and deal with Anelka appropriately, preferably in a way that leads to him reviving his earlier threats of retirement. As it stands I'm ashamed to be an Albion supporter right now.
keresaspa: (Edwige Fenech)
How much of a homophobe must somebody be to blow their own brains out in the middle of a cathedral because France is about to legalise gay marriage? No tears from me for Dominique Venner, the fascist historian who did just that. A doyen of the neo-fascist Nouvelle Droite tendency of the French extreme right, Venner was a member of the Organisation de l'armée secrète that launched attacks during Algeria's struggle for independence before becoming a big wheel in GRECE, a think tank that sought to unite Europe as a racist superstate and still has a big influence on the self-declared "intellectual" extreme right to this day, not least the National Front in Britain during its weirdo 80s period under Nick Griffin and his pals. Subsequently dropping out of active politics to become a revisionist historian his recent bugbears seemed to be gays and Muslims and seemingly the rights about to be afforded to the former proved a little too much for him. Poor diddums. Inevitably the ever so moderate Madame Le Pen was the first to rush to his praise like the good, gentle, compassionate conservative that she claims to be these days. The apple hasn't fell far from the tree there.

But enough about those rotters for something much more newsworthy happened today.

He was a four time holder of the European Middleweight Championship, with one British title and two British Welterweight titles to his name. He was one of the few British wrestlers to find his way into the prestigious Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame despite not competing on the American circuit. His rivalry with Jackie Pallo kept the fans interested for years before eventually spilling over into real life as his old school sensibilities were offended by Pallo's kayfabe breaking autobiography. Even long after his retirement he was a regular at independent wrestling shows up and down Britain, his presence lending credibility to any card on which he appeared. Not to mention that he possessed the blackest hair known to man well into his 80s and steadfastly continued to appear in public in just his trunks even when his physique went west. Yes if anybody summed up all that was good about the grand old days of the British scene (and thus was the antithesis of Big Daddy) it was Mick McManus who died today at the age of 93. A true legend of wrestling. Let's all enjoy him wrestling a long-dead Jimmy Savile lookalike.

keresaspa: (Maurice Bishop)
I suppose it would be opportune to give my thoughts on Euro 2012, even though I'm not sure what precisely they are. As winners Spain were fitful and at times not as pleasing on the eye as they should have been but when it mattered they suddenly became rampant and as such you can't really begrudge them yet another triumph. I did eventually get into Italy but unfortunately the final proved a game too much for them as their semi-final demolition of a much fancied German side was very much their zenith, with the final an enormous drop off. A win would have been a fine sign-off for Andrea Pirlo (assuming he doesn't appear again in two years time in another of those veteran-heavy first round casualty Italy sides) but, whilst it wasn't to be, his performances will live long in the memory.

Overall it was an OK tournament, but not as good as it should have been. There was some excellent stuff on the pitch (alongside a lot of rubbish) but for whatever reason I didn't really get into like I should have. I got into Italy near the end but for the majority of the tournament I had no team, which didn't help, whilst the racism that kept rearing its head cast a long shadow over proceedings and the reactions of UEFA in general and Michel Platini in particular really didn't help either (racist chanting less of an offence than having Paddy Power on your knickers?!). There was a time I hoped Platini might be a new broom at UEFA who could finally challenge the dominance of the old boys at FIFA but he has proven a massive disappointment and his non-reaction to vile racist abuse means he is now tainted with the same stench as Sepp Blatter, Lennart Johansson and the rest of the old colonials that have always dominated football administration. Meanwhile looking at the performances of the likes of Poland and the Republic of Ireland it wasn't hard to get the impression that, like the last World Cup, the whole thing is a little too big for its own good. I dread to think what the 2016 version, which is to be expanded to 24 teams, will be like when real rubbish start to qualify, as who outside of Portugal will actually get any enjoyment out of watching the Portuguese trounce Finland 7-0?

As to the actual participants, for once the best two teams made the final. Germany looked an excellent attacking unit at times but, as they always do now, choked on the big stage. Amazing to think that a team once known for winning with dully efficient football is fast garnering a reputation for playing great football but blowing it, but that looks to be the pattern and as long as they continue with Joachim Löw it probably will be for some time. Portugal had their moments but Cristiano Ronaldo is no Diego Maradona and there was no way he could carry a whole team to victory like the Cosmic Kite did in '86. Other than that it just seemed to be bunch of let downs as, to varying degrees, England, France, Russia, Croatia and above all the Netherlands, let themselves down with ropey performances and shoddy play.

Other than that, it was just another tournament really, and as such was preferable to the black-outs of odd-numbered summers. Still never fear as, after all, Linfield play some Faeroese outfit tomorrow night and that promises to be a barn-burner. Close season, what close season?
keresaspa: (Arthur Atkinson)
Hard luck to England on their elimination but they deserved to go out after being completely dominated by an Italian team that would be bloody excellent if they had a decent forward (and I don't count Balotelli). A penalty shootout was bound to fail for them especially when Buffon is in nets. You can keep your Joe Harts and Manuel Neuers, for my tuppence worth the old boy is still the king of the keepers. Besides this is about the usual stage for England teams anyway so there's no need for any disappointment. Expectations were low and England exceeded them in the group stages which, inevitably, saw the press foam at the mouth and revert to "we can/will win this" type before the inevitable exit. No doubt the inquisition on whether things would have been better under 'Arry will now open but personally I don't think they would have. His side would have been much more attacking but on that basis France would have beaten them, they would have finished second in the group, went through to a quarter final with Spain, continued to play attacking against them and got hammered as the Spanish are clearly better so Woy or 'Arry the outcome is the same. I haven't got into hating this England side as much as usual, probably due to a combination of residual affection for Woy and a bit of a liking for Scott Parker (whose marriage of a sensible haircut, continual hard-running and a private life that, to the best of my awareness, doesn't make the tabloids marks him out as a throwback to a bygone age) and Theo Walcott (the lad's elan and joie de vivre on the pitch are admirable, even if his shots are sometimes wild), but I did enjoy the gloom descending on the smug quartet of stout Englishmen doing the punditry in the shape of Lineker, Dixon, Shearer and former Scotsman Hansen. Get a dictionary and look up impartiality, chaps (and whilst we're at it, look up traitor too Hansen).

Meanwhile England will qualify for the next World Cup with ease, the inevitable hysteria will break out again, the inevitable quarter final exit will follow and everybody will go away from it very cross. A cull of the self described golden generation might now be sensible although I reckon Stevie G, JT and the rest have a bit too much clout to be sent packing en masse so expect the same old same old to carry on for a while yet.

And I stand by my earlier statement - Italy will now go on to the final as they either go out in the first round or go all the way these days. Pirlo = god of football.
keresaspa: (Bungle)
Isobel Campbell, a lady so twee that she makes Acorn Green seem like Murder Casebook, once asked "is it wicked not to care?" and to an extent I've been reminded of her words these last few days. It's not so much that I don't care about Euro 2012 as I've missed very little of it (bar chunks of the England-France match as the biased ITV commentary got a bit too much to take after a while), but so far it hasn't really grabbed me. It doesn't help that I have warmed to none of the teams so far I suppose, but by now I would normally be in the grip of finals tournament fever regardless and I have yet to so much as run a mild temperature. Still we've seen all the teams now and, in theory at least, we should have an idea about who we can expect to do what. Let's look at the evidence.

GROUP A: It hardly requires a soothsayer to know that Russia will win that group handily. Their demolition of the Czech Republic and the festival of sloppiness served up by Poland and Greece and suggest that they will cruise through, quite possibly scoring into double figures as they go. As for the rest God only knows. It's hard to judge the Czechs fully as they were so badly outclassed and both Poland and Greece looked awful at times so any one of them could finish second. I have a slight hankering for Greece but whoever finishes second will definitely go no further as they're likely to face Germany in the second round.

GROUP B: I believe it has been established on here several times in the past that I have no love for the Dutch national team (despite my slight Dutch ancestry) and this tournament is no exception, so I enjoyed the Danes smash and grab win over them. To be honest this group contains four sides that I'm not fussed about so I have little interest in how it turns. Germany will probably win (even though they looked nothing like the team they were built up to be in their laboured win over the pampering prima donnas of Portugal) and given the fixtures I wouldn't be surprised to see Portugal going through. If only to wipe the smirk/sulk of Cristiano Ronaldo's face and to finally banish Mark van Bommel to east of Eden where he belongs I would rather see the Danes make it but I think they've already used up all their luck.

GROUP C: Forget Ireland, they're obviously out of it. That's what they get for being so bloody boring. Italy put on a good show against a pedestrian Spain whose decision to play no forwards was bizarre to say the least (when you have Messi you can get away with that, when you don't you can't). Still, Spain started the World Cup very slowly and they are bound to go through. Italy on the other hand I'm less sure about. I wouldn't be surprised to see them going out but equally I wouldn't be surprised to see them making the final. Anything else would surprise me though as it seems to be the Italian way now to either go out in the first round or go all the way. If Croatia's performance in their opening game is anything to go by they will give the Mediterranean duo a lot of headaches and could conceivably top the group but again it is hard to tell as Ireland were just woeful and the Croatians might crumble against proper teams.

GROUP D: Shrug. Seriously, no idea. Woy's England are an extremely defensive team with very few ideas going forward. As Greece proved eight years ago (seems like eight weeks, but never mind) such gruesome anti-football tactics could carry a team to victory but equally it looks the sort of team that could draw three times and go out in the first round. But let's be honest, this is England and a quarter final elimination is almost inevitable. France were clearly a better side but they are crying out for a penalty box goal poacher as they looked short on ideas when it came down to the bit. Ukraine seemed to get by on passion alone but who knows how far that could take them? I expect Sweden to go out but if they take a point or even two from England and France it won't be amazing, nor would it be that much of a shock for them to get a win. With four middling teams that do some things well but are clearly deficient in some areas this looks the most evenly matched group and nothing would surprise me about it.

So tomorrow it's back to Group A and I may have to force myself to pretend to care about Greece in order to finally get my interest in this event going properly. So come on the Galanolefki, by the dreadful sword you hold, tonight we dine in hell and all that. At least until I get bored of them and try to force an interest in Italy, France or Spain that is.

Dehors!

May. 6th, 2012 07:54 pm
keresaspa: (Piggy Banks)
When Combat 18 leader Charlie Sargent was sent down for murdering fellow Nazi Chris Castle The Sun, a newspaper that would never incite ethnic hatred with its occasional dalliances with extreme right rhetoric, rejoiced in the comeuppance of the vile bonehead with the headline "the end of the road for the five foot toad". Whilst he may be slightly more than five feet tall (just about anyway) there is nevertheless no doubt that he is a crapaud (with emphasis on the first syllable) so I'm glad to hear the end of the road has arrived for the shrivelled monkey skeleton that is Nicolas Sarkozy. What an odious little man he has been, strutting about with his colossal plastic wife, laying down the law and taking offence wherever he could. If anybody summed up small man syndrome it was M. de Nagy-Bocsa and whilst fellow dwarf Silvio Berlusconi was equally reprehensible he was at least, one would hope, aware of how ludicrous he appeared but carried on regardless. Sarkozy on the other hand seemed to take himself ridiculously seriously, seeking to portray himself as a grand statesman on the world stage, all the while appearing like Casey Kasem's uglier, drunker brother. If I never see him or that bloody Bruni woman and her botox-numbed face again it will be too soon.

I don't for a second imagine Francois Hollande will be anything special as President, given that supposedly left-wing candidates elected to the leadership of countries run on the liberal democratic model always end up being compromising sell-outs (with the notable exception of Salvador Allende). However he is not Sarkozy and as such he will make a bloody welcome change, bringing as he does an end to one of the most shameful episodes in the history of La République.
keresaspa: (Fidel Castro)
I'm not sure what is worse about today - finding out that yet again France has gone over to the far-right by tossing a shitload of votes at daddy's little girl (and I swear I will scream if I read one more ill-informed right-wing Anglophone tosser practically ejeculating over how great and totally non-racist she is) or finding yourself agreeing with the malevolent Nadine Dorries for the first and, hopefully, only time. God my head hurts.
keresaspa: (Türkan Şoray)
Just a word of congratulation to England on their success in winning Euro 2012. Well that seemed to be the consensus reached by Gary Lineker and England's Mark Lawrenson after the draw for the group stages. Unquestionably it is an easy draw, so much more so than that of 2010 when powerhouses like Algeria and Slovenia blocked the triumphant march of the Three Lions. Ukraine rely on Shevchenko and he didn't succeed at the boys in blue from the King's Road so they will be pushovers. As for Sweden, well no less an expert than Jeff Powell has already showing that they don't know nuffink about football and the brave boys in white will lick them quicker than you can say smorgasbord. As for the cheese-eating surrender monkeys, what have they over won except a World Cup and two European Championship? Clearly no match for the heroes of 66 and the Rous Cup. Once those three have been with the spirit of Nelson obviously England will then march on to glory as there are no other teams on the continent even close to their level.

Or not as the case may be. On a sensible level England got a half decent draw from which they will have a good chance of qualifying but it is (perhaps inevitably given the smaller size of the European Championships and their comparative lack of make-weight teams) a stronger looking group than the one they faced last year and made such hard work of qualifying from. Sweden are probably the least likely to make it but France will fancy their chances and Ukraine have home advantage so it is not a given. Unlike the Republic of Ireland whose fate is already sealed after the group they got. I'll eat my hat if they don't go out in the first round. Group B will obviously be the one to watch and I for one hope that Portugal are one of those to be eliminated as their current crop of preening prima donnas are impossible to like. Mind you the Netherlands team were absolutely hateful too with that scumbag van Bommel wreaking havoc so come on Denmark and Germany. Group D meanwhile looks weak as water and as such I will state here and now that I expect Russia to go very far indeed after easing through that bunch of jabronis, possibly even winning the whole thing. The final issue will be who to support and as yet I have no idea. Normally in these circumstances I declare for somebody in advance but there is no country that is catching my eye, in part because no real underdogs made it and in part because my usual European side of choice hasn't qualified (that being Turkey, of course). Happen I'll just stay neutral for once.

There aren't you glad I was able to duck under the gunfire of this latest DDoS attack in order to get this posted. Well I know how much you all love it when I talk about football.
keresaspa: (Bhishma (Mukesh Khanna))
The recent draw for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers in Europe threw up some interesting stuff, he said euphemistically. Interesting not least because once again it demonstrated what a farce the FIFA ranking system actually is. Normally I would raise an eyebrow at the notion that England are apparently the fourth best team in the continent but compared to some of the other placements that FIFA decreed that looks positively sensible. Norway last qualified for a finals tournament in 2000 yet somehow they are ranked amongst the best in Europe, along with other no-marks like Greece and Croatia. Montenegro have enjoyed a decent start to life as an independent football entity but so far they have accomplished precisely nowt and as such their position in the second tier looks dodgy to say the least, especially given that perennial qualifiers Switzerland are ranked with the third lot. A pity too for poor old Wales being dumped amongst the pocket handkerchief mob as they may be sinking into the mire under the hapless Gary Speed but they would still have the likes of Azerbaijan and Moldova any day of the week and really should have been in Pot 5.

Still the FIFA rankings being screwed up is about as much news as a politician being a liar so what of the groups themselves? Has there ever been a group weaker than Group A? As they stand at the minute none of this rabble should be at a World Cup. Still the boneheads that make up large sections of the support of both Croatia and Serbia should have two field days re-enacting the Yugoslavian civil war when these two meet. Did nobody think to fix the draw to avoid this sort of occurrence? B,C and D look straight forward with the top seeds winning easily and the second and third seeds the only ones really in contention for runners-up spots. Group E is another one packed with nobodies and for the previously aggrieved Swiss redemption of sorts can be had by the fact none of their opponents look much of a threat to their top spot. Mind you for the purists a pair of matches featuring Switzerland and Norway will be grim to say the least. Group F looks slightly more interesting as, although Portugal and Russia will most likely take the top two spots, either of them could win and they both have a history of making qualification as difficult as possible meaning I wouldn't be surprised if Israel took a shock second place. No chance for the Province as usual, unless they have 11 good players who have yet to make their debuts of course. Group G is another of those rubbish efforts packed with mediocre teams who all look like first round fodder and it will be a shame if we lose a grand old team like France just so as Greece can play out a couple of 0-0 draws before going home. England have effectively been given a walk-over in Group H and whoever is in charge then should find no problem winning the group. Unless, of course, they put some eejit like Ian Holloway in charge in which case who knows?! Finally Group I demonstrates what is wrong with the system as Spain and France should both be going to the World Cup finals. They still might of course but there is a good chance that only one of them will and that is firmly the fault of the morons at FIFA and their daft rankings.

All of this won't be starting for a year, of course, so it's far too early to make any firm predictions. But nonetheless FIFA are idiots and some of the just daft groups that they have produced prove it even further. Norway the best in Europe, my arse!
keresaspa: (Fran Drescher)

Justice. The defining theme of this World Cup final will always be just that to my eyes. The Dutch might bleat about an imagined foul in the build-up to Spain's winning goal but the horrendous treatment that they meted out in the first half should have seen De Jong and that bully van Bommel sent off so it is a case of sauce for the goose being sauce for the gander. Our own Howard Webb certainly has a case to answer over why he let such thuggish behaviour go unchecked but that is for another day. There was clearly only one team that actually cared about winning that game and that was Spain. The Dutch on the other hand were happy to ruin it as a spectacle despite boasting some real talent in attack and as such they deserved defeat. Over the course of the tournament (with the exception of their first match) the Spanish were the best team on show, taking on top class opposition and dominating them and for there to be any winner other than them in this match would have been a travesty. It was fitting too that Iniesta, a man who has been challenged only by Villa and Xavi for the title of Spain's best player, should strike the goal that delivered the title. I would have expected that Nelson Mandela would have done the honours in presenting the World Cup given that it was largely his doing that South Africa hosted the event but in the end it was down to Jacob Zuma and his shadow Sepp Blatter to do the honours. I happened to mention at the start of this tournament that I reckoned Mandela would die as soon it was over and I now wonder if he has and they have decided to cover it up. Tomorrow a bunch of disgusting human beings bedecked in orange will parade around triumphantly in celebration of a victory in which they played no part but tonight another group in orange won't be able to. All in all the tournament itself was far from a classic as there were a few too many dull games, a few too many no-hoper teams and a few too many top players just not trying but with a deserved win for a great team some redemption has been salvaged. Justice indeed.

But rather than leave it there and disappoint the millions of you for whom my inordinately in-depth coverage has been essential reading I will take this final opportunity to indulge myself by examining the performance of each team in turn. So strap yourself in because here we go:

Team by team )

So that's the end of that chapter. What the bloody hell will I talk about now?!
keresaspa: (Beatrice smoking)
Before I start on today's action there is one thing I need to get off my chest - this enmity between Ireland and France has to stop. Listening to Jim Beglin ripping into the French because of a single football match made the bile rise in me. There can be few countries in the world that Ireland owes more of a debt to than France be it for providing gainful employment to the Jacobite armies of Ireland when King Billy sought vengeance after the Williamite wars or being in through the inspiration they gave to Wolfe Tone in establishing independence as a real goal. Indeed I would argue that, were it not for the positive influence of France, there might not be an Ireland, or even a concept of Ireland, today so let's stop the hatred over a simple football match. Too much of it has been constructed by the English media and the sympathisers in the Irish press in a post-imperialist attempt at imposing English prejudices so let's turn away from it now and remember that the French have been Ireland's friends for longer than anybody. Apart from all that there is no evidence that Ireland would have won a penalty shootout (especially as the team was nearly all brought up the English way and so would never have practiced penalties) and do we seriously believe if it had been Robbie Keane or Kevin Doyle doing the handling that they would have come over all George Washington and admitted it? And pigs will fly.

Apologies for that little rant there; I shall now resume normal service (you'll be thrilled to hear). I found myself sympathising with Raymond Domenech when today's "festivities" began. I've always thought him a bit of a merde tête but he has been beaten from pillar to post in this tournament and has been badly let down by a number of his players. As usual trouble emanates from Nicolas Anelka, a man who has always been a wrong one ever since his days at Arsenal when he threw all manners of tantrums and made all manner of threats to get to Real Madrid. Tosser! Adrian Chiles' opening gambit was horrible to watch, filled with vile xenophobia against the French and I swear he was just a whisker away from calling them "frogs". This revolting human being, his unfunny attempts at comedy, his twisted ugly face and his revolting racist opinions have been an absolute blight on this World Cup and I call a pox on him. Not far behind him has been Jon Champion, who opened his commentary with a rant about how France have an inflated opinion of themselves. From an Englishman this was the biggest joke of all, given that he and his colleagues insist that they are favourites for every tournament going despite the fact that they have only won one of them (compared to France's three). The game itself proved to be an oddly sombre affair, despite the reasonable performance by South Africa, and had a whiff of the last rites about it given that neither team had much hope of qualification. Gourcuff's red card, which appeared to be for jumping whilst being in possession of a pair of arms, set alarms bells ringing as I started to fear the dreaded FIFA nurse the hosts trick, although the 2-0 half-time score was only to be expected. After all it was what the healer told Lebo would be the half-time score in compellingly awful Soccer City Live on Eurosport. By this point I had lost interest in what I was beginning to think was a bought game and so I switched over in time to see Uruguay score against Mexico and make me even more suspicious. In fairness however Uruguay are a better team than Mexico and the goal scored by France, which was a nice bit of play and the sort of thing they should have been doing since the start, restored a bit of credibility. Absolutely no offence to South Africa, who were a game bunch, but they were clearly the weakest team in this group and it would have been a farce to see them in the second round. Their point in the opening game was as much to do with Mexico's chronic inability to put the ball in the net as anything else whilst their win today clearly came about due to France falling apart. The game against Uruguay was the real Bafana Bafana who would not have qualified for these finals were they not host - an indisputable fact in this case. As for the other two Uruguay are a neat side with good strikers (particularly Forlan, who has been excellent) and a solid defence who should at least make the quarter finals whilst Mexico, who play pretty stuff but just can't finish, should be easy pickings for Argentina to say the least.

It was hard to pick an evening match as in theory both or neither could have turned out crucial. But in the end I plumped for Greece-Argentina, hopeful that Maradona's mob would turn on the style. That was, to quote a phrase doing the rounds, a big mistake. Greece, who needed the result lest we forget, reverted to how they were against South Korea and defended constantly whilst Argentina seemed a bit disinterested. It says it all that the first 45 minutes was all about watching the Cosmic Kite's reactions rather than what was happening on the pitch. Meanwhile the Nigerians and Koreans were trading goals but the slow-coach BBC was only telling us a good five minutes afterwards so as there was no chance to turn over and catch the replays. Sloppy, Auntie, very sloppy! I grimly persevered with part of the second half before finally deciding that nothing was going to happen and turning to the other match, by this time 2-1. I turned over just in time too as by the time I was five minutes in Yakubu had missed an absolute sitter, scored a penalty and thrown a tantrum upon being substituted. "Finally some action" I thought, but of course that was it and the whole thing went decidedly flat and before long word came through that I had missed yet another goal as Argentina finally took the lead. Fortunately the finish to the Argentina match, which I returned to, was pretty exciting and their second goal was a sight to behold with a sublime run by Messi and an emotional strike for Palermo. The Argentineans were worthy winners in the end and if they can keep playing to their strengths and covering their defensive frailties could go all the way. South Korea, on the other hand, shouldn't give Uruguay too many problems as they looked very average in their game against Argentina. As for the two eliminated I'm a little disappointed to see Nigeria leave although they were poor at times whilst I'm glad to see the back of boring old Greece. One other thing I will be glad to see the back off is these simultaneous matches. I appreciate the reason for them given the Austro-German carve up of 1982 but they give us all the unhappy prospect of match selection which for me invariably means a wrong choice. Still, only three more days and the real stuff starts.
keresaspa: (Terry-Thomas)
It was nice to see Santa Cruz returning to the Paraguay side for the game against Slovakia as he adds some real class to the attack. In the end he didn't score but the performance was still quality with two well taken goals scored by Vera and Riveros. This was my first viewing of the Slovaks and I have to say I can't imagine that I missed much in their game against New Zealand. Here they were a dirty team of gits, prone to errors in defence and lacking up-front, although even I have to admit that they did improve in the second half. No match for a talented Albirroja who now look a decent bet for a second round spot, quite possibly as group winners. Gerardo Martino has built a finely balanced side here and one which, given the plethora of attacking talent at his disposal, looks like it could live with the big boys in the latter stages of this World Cup. Rather than making up the numbers Paraguay actually look like a team who just might be able to do something in a tournament that doesn't look to have any truly great teams in it. Famous last words right there!

That possibility raised its head because of the shock result in the New Zealand-Italy game. To be fair to the Italians the goal that they conceded was offside and the New Zealanders were on the back foot for the vast majority of the game but this was still a spectacle to behold. The Kiwis were a plucky bunch and they have an Albion man in the squad so fair play to them on a grand result. As for the Italians they looked a team out of time, still trying to trade on four years ago with a bunch of players who, whilst great in their day, now look decidedly tired. It should be a case of back to the drawing board for Italy after this World Cup. Between this, the awful performances of England and the fact that it seems France are imploding there might be a few big European casualties in the first round. Well, with any luck there will be. The only possible downside could be if New Zealand suddenly are buoyed to unimaginable heights by this win and beat Paraguay in the last group game but let's not get into nightmare scenarios just yet.

After all that Brazil-Ivory Coast proved to be a Hell of a game, even if Brazil only looked like the mythical wonders from Hy Brasil that they are invariably painted as in fits and starts. In the early goings it was fair to say that the Ivory Coast were giving as good as they got, even if they looked a little short on quality following the daft decision to drop Natty Nutkins from last time. However once the Brazilians came into their own the match became a bit of a classic, with some fine goals scored by both teams and a palpable sense of injustice permeating throughout. Luis Fabiano's second goal was clearly a handball whilst the decision to send off Kaka for slightly tapping a guy in the chest was also a clanger by the official. At least the referee was equal opportunities rubbish, I suppose. Still, it all helped to make the game a better spectacle and in the end this was an enjoyable romp. This Brazil team have some good stuff in their armoury but they aren't as great as some have made out and Drogba's consolation was deserved as 3-0 would have flattered them. As for the Ivory Coast they are a game, if limited, bunch and I would be pleased to see them nicking second spot in this group as they look like a team with more to contribute than we have seen. I can't see it happening, but I would be pleased nonetheless.

Good stuff all round and, slight wobbles about New Zealand aside, I can now feel confident that Paraguay will get into the second round and might well be able to go further. Nice one.

Capital

Jun. 17th, 2010 10:34 pm
keresaspa: (Gorilla madness!)
That was a bit more like it by Argentina in their match with South Korea. The defence had its shaky moments but they were sold to us on the basis of their attack and it finally came good here. Tevez puts in so much work that it is a wonder he doesn't drop down dead after every game. One thing is for sure - if he was English we would never hear the end of him. Messi meanwhile had some really special touches and a particular run near half-time really deserved a goal. However I still reckon he needs to do a bit more before we can start talking about him as one of the all-time greats. As if those two weren't enough they also have a mighty finisher in Higuain whose second goal was a master class in the poacher's art (even though I missed it live due to leaving the room). His hat-trick was taken with aplomb and the third was a true work of art with the sort of passing that just oozes class. The South Koreans however did have their moments and, although their goal (also missed by me) probably wasn't deserved after a weak half, you suspect that if they had a good forward they would have a chance of going far. Argentina's defence might let them down in the latter stages but for now I am contented to enjoy this performance for what it was and breathe a sigh of relief that this World Cup has finally picked up.

Terrible news to start the next game - the BBC decided to inflict Colin Murray on us as host. Just what have we done to deserve this smug, mouthy, smirking, diminutive, self-serving, self-satisfied, little bastard? He has no personality, he demonstrates no particular knowledge of football and has a voice that could curdle milk so why under God do the BBC feel the need to force him on us? So far I have completely ignored the BBC's highlights show due to his presence but now they're putting the tossbag on during the day too. Between him and Chiles there seems to be a real determination to force annoying shits down our throats at this tournament. But enough about him, the hateful little turd. I had low expectations for this game but it actually proved to be a very entertaining romp. Things did not start great as Greece looked their usual dull selves but another great free kick saw Nigeria take a deserved lead and things were looking up, especially for Nigeria's crazy supporters who included a dancing man reading the Bible and a chap in what appeared to be a Smurf outfit. A shame Sani Kaita had to ruin it with a stupid red card but the sending-off and the appearance of Samaras did at least allow the Greeks to come out of their shells. For a team that is so defensively minded they are actually not particularly good at defending and yet they proved to be quite effective going forward. Their two goals were both lucky and I was gutted for Enyeama on the second one as, that mistake apart, he has been the find of the tournament so far but they had plenty of the play and will probably regret being so negative against South Korea. A full Nigeria team would certainly have done better, although Yakubu looks a bit past his sell-by date and I would certainly question the validity of his claim to being 27 years of age. Still, despite occasional lulls, this was a very enjoyable spectacle between two not very good teams who nevertheless at least had a go. Both could well be going home early but they made a positive contribution to proceedings here.

A shock of sorts followed in the next game. Not so much France losing as Mexico scoring. Having watched that France team against Uruguay I fully expected them to be equally bad in this game but I also felt that Mexico had no goals in them due to their shot-shy forwards. It was a decent enough performance by the Mexicans over all but the real story was how bad France were. Of course given that they were first round casualties in 2008 and they only qualified via the play-offs this time it is hardly that big a shock but, like all tournaments, the commentators and pundits seem to think that only the distant past rather than the recent past counts for anything. No less an authority than Danny Baker (a man who would immediately improve coverage by 1000% were he to be drafted in as a replacement for Colin Murray but who would never be considered as he is fat and bald) came on after the match and argued that the French would still qualify but on this one I feel he and I will have to agree to disagree as, not only will Mexico and Uruguay play out the draw they need, but this rotten team deserves to go home. Still, all things considered, this was the best day so far and long may it continue.

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