Posts Tagged ‘World Cup’

Stoichkov Inspires Bulgaria in World Cup Shock Result from 1994



Hristo Stoichkov scores a great freekick as Bulgaria shock Germany in the World Cup of 1994 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

Everything was going according to plan for the Germans, leading through a Lothar  Matthäus penalty early in the second half of this World Cup quarter final.

But with just 15 minutes left Stoichkov stepped up and curled home this tremendous freekick to level the game. Three minutes later Bodo Illgner was picking the ball out of the net again after being beaten by the bald head of Yordan Letchkov and his now famous diving header.

It finished 2-1 and against the odds it was Bulgaria and not the World Champion Germans who were in the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Stoichkov scored again in the semi-final, but by that stage Roberto Baggio had already put the Italians two-up with a brace midway through the first half and they held on to make the final, while the Bulgarians would go on to lose the third place match to Sweden.

Stoichkov was one of the stars of that World Cup, a brooding, moody figure whose talent led to a move to Barcelona.


Rob’s World Cup Wire
Lamps to call it a day, Gunfight for Suarez, Wright’s Bulldog Spirit

by Rob Shepherd.

Frank to Bow Out

Frank Lampard captained England against Costa Rica and will now quit international football despite Roy Hodgson suggesting he still has an international future.

Frank Lampard

Frank paid tribute to the England fans after the game

Lampard thinks it is the appropriate time to bow out and will do so having won 106 caps. He has a deal lined up to play in the MSL with New York City but could appear in the PL next season on loan to one of several clubs who would love to have him.

His international appearance number will thus be just two fewer than his father Frank senior’s West Ham pal, former England captain Bobby Moore who won 108.

Lampard’s record of 29 England goals is impressive although Charlton hit 49 and remains England top all time scorer – but Wayne Rooney on 40 is closing.

If Lampard had netted against Costa Rica he would’ve become the second oldest player to score a goal at a World Cup finals for England having turned 36 four days ago.

The oldest was Sir Tom Finney who scored a late penalty in the 2-2 draw against the Soviet Union in 1958 at the age of 36 and 64 days.

Although Steven Gerrard has asked for some time to consider his international future it is unlikely Roy Hodgson will persuade him to change his mind on calling it a day with England.

As it stands Gerrard has 114 caps, just behind the most capped outfield player David Beckham, while goalkeeper Peter Shilton remains the most capped on 125.


Gunfight for Jaws

The Luis Suarez ‘camp’ are now dropping heavy hints that when the World Cup is over he will quit Liverpool with Barcelona and Real Madrid then set to battle it out for his services.

A “shoot out” between the two La Liga against would be appropriate. To his Uruguayan team mates Suarez is known as El Pistolere – The Gunfighter.

But to the rest of us he’s known as ‘Jaws’…

Messi on the Right Path

Diego Maradona has agreed Lionel Messi is now his heir.

The former Tottenham legend and Argentine World Cup winner Ossie Ardiels already believes Messi is now better than Maradona – and even Pele.

“For some time I have thought that Diego could never be surpassed, and nor could Pele, but no longer. I would now say that Lionel Messi will go down in history as the No. 1 player of all time, the best that there ever was” said Ardiles.

“Yes, I would now say that Lionel is the very best, but of course you would wonder just how much better Maradona or Pele would have been if they had the advantage of such advancements in the game.”

But for many it will need Messi to lead Argentina to victory at a World Cup before he can be regarded in such esteem as Maradona.

After flopping at the last World Cup Messi is on the right path having scored two superb individual goals to seal 1-0 victories and could well further stamp his personality on this tournament against Nigeria.

In that respect Messi has started better in terms of goals at least than Maradona did in 1986, as Diego only scored one goal at the group stage in a draw against Italy.

He then struck his two ‘beast and beauty‘ goals against England in the quarter finals, then two more in the 2-0 semi-final win over Belgium, although he didn’t scored in the 3-2 final win over West Germany.


Did You Know…

In the last four World Cup finals Germany’s Miroslav Klose has scored 15 goals compared to a total of 17 by the entire England team over the same period.


Draw! What is it Good For…?!?

England’s failure to win a game at this World Cup is not without precedent; England also failed to win a game at the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden.

But a squad which had lost the services of several Manchester United stars – such as Duncan Edwards – after the Munich tragedy didn’t lose a match either.

A team that still boasted legends such as Billy Wright, Tom Finney and Johnny Haynes though were eliminated though in third place of their group with three points following a 2-2 draw with Soviet Union, a goalless draw with Brazil (who went on to win for the first time) and a 2-2 draw with Austria.

At the 1982 finals England played five matches and didn’t lose one – but were still eliminated.

In the first group stage they beat France, Czechoslovakia and Kuwait. At that tournament the second phase was also an ill-conceived group phase leading to the semi finals.

England played out a goalless draw with West Germany, who then beat Spain 2-1. So England had to beat Spain to progress. The injured Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan came off the bench and produced a late rally but Keegan missed two great chances and England were out.


Drogba Tupac it in!

It's Snoop Drog!

It’s Snoop Drog!

Last minute heartache for the Ivory Coast means the 36 year-old Didier Drogba will quit international football now their tournament has ended.

Perhaps one of the reasons for his longevity is that The Drog didn’t start a professional career until he was 21 with lowly club Le Mans.

There is a growing feeling that too many young English strikers get burned-out because they play far too much at a younger age. Take the case of Michael Owen for example.

And there is an argument – endorsed by Paul Scholes – that at 28 Wayne Rooney has already peaked, an age when Drogba moved into his pomp at Chelsea.

And even a bit of a racy lifestyle didn’t seem to harm Drogba. In his early days his team mates called him ‘Tupac’ after the American rap star because of his penchant for a wild nightlife!



Ahead of a World Cup qualifier against Poland Ian Wright once explained in a mix of Churchillian rhetoric and ‘Sarf London Caribbean slang’ that England would win because of “The bulldog spirit, man”.

They did the next night at Wembley when a combination of panache and passion saw England blow Poland apart 3-0.

Such virtues seem very much out of fashion now, laughed off as ‘old school’ while the appliance of more and more sports science is seen as the way forward.

But a bloated back room staff of medics, spin and head doctors has hardly succeeded. If anything it’s given the players more excuses and made them more mentally fragile.

Indeed when you listen to what makes other countries tick many cite national pride and desire – the very qualities that are laughed off by football ‘hipsters’ in this country.

Indeed when explaining Spain’s demise Xavi Alonso spoke of a lack of ‘hunger’.

When Harry Redknapp suggested that some Spurs players made excuses NOT to join up with England it does question the motivation of many when it comes to playing for England.

On that front perhaps the FA should find some sort of role for Ian Wright in the camp.

On the notion that there are players who duck out of playing for England Wright has had this to say: “ The next young player who says he does not want to play for England should be ordered to ring the parents of a soldier who has died in Afghanistan, and tell him his reasons…”

Well said Wrighty, that’s the bulldog spirit, man!


Beat the Bookie

Kairm Benzama and Lionel Messi are both 5/1 to score first tonight.

Nigeria, Argentina, Ecuador and France all to score is 12/1.

A draw between Bosnia and Iran is 23/10.

Wayne Rooney is 1/5 to be next England captain… but Joe Hart is tempting at 9/2.

World Cup Moment

Belo Horizonte, where England faced Costa Rica, is of course the venue of England’s most infamous defeat when they were beaten 1-0 by the USA.

At the time England were regarded as the best team in the world with players like Sir Tom Finney and Stan Mortenson – although Stanley Matthews was dropped for the match.

England also lost to Spain 1-0 and were eliminated although they did beat Chile 2-1.

The chastened experience suffered is said to have inspired England’s right back at that World Cup to one day make amends and lift the trophy.

His name? Alfred Ramsey.

Here is a lovely piece with some footage of the game complete with the thoughts of two of the heroes from the US team that day, right back Harry Keough and the goalkeeper Frank Borghi.


Rob’s World Cup Wire
Neymar’s Dirty Old Man, Bruce a Bonus & Mexico Skipper record

by Rob Shepherd.


Neymar with his (dirty) old man.

Neymar might not be better than Pele but in many ways he is already bigger. In the modern world of sport marketing 22 year old Neymar’s image is omnipresent in Brazil.

Neymarketing sees the player endorse a wide range of products from soft drinks to mobile phones and he has even appeared on the front cover of Time magazine.

Today he aims to endear a besotted Brazil even more by leading them to victory against Cameroon.

All this from a player who four years ago could have moved to, er,West Ham.

In 2010 agent Barry Silkman alerted the club about a new Brazilian wonder player at Santos – the club where Pele played.

The Hammers swiftly made a £12 million bid for a player then “unknown” in Europe. But Santos, and one suspects the Neymar family, turned the offer down. An approach from Chelsea soon after was rejected too.

Neymar moved on to Barcelona last summer.


It has been claimed that part of the complex deal that took Neymar to Barcelona was payments to prostitutes so that his father could enjoy an orgy.

Officially Barca paid Santos a fee in the region of £44 million. But a further sum of round £30 million went in “compensation” to a company owned by Neymar’s father.

The “deal” which has been the subject of a tax invasion angered Santos.

The Santos president at the time, Luis Álvaro da Oliveira Ribeiro, recently claimed in an interview: “The €90 million included coffees for Neymar’s father, as well as an orgy in a hotel in Piccadilly, London, because Neymar’s father was looking to claim everything. He never once paid for a coffee. I paid for the 200 coffees he had with me. That included prostitutes and a plane to take him to Florianápolis to see the national team.”


Four Time Skipper

Mexico skipper Rafael Marquez, who leads his country out against Croatia tonight, has set a new record this summer.

He is the first player in World Cup history to have worn the captain’s armband at FOUR consecutive finals.


One to Watch:

Chile’s Alexis Sanchez is often left in the shadows at Barcelona – not least because of Lionel Messi – even though he was the club’s top scorer behind the Argentine.

But he showed his talent in Chile’s wins over Australia and Spain and will pose a big threat to Holland.

Liverpool fans will be particularly interest as Sanchez could be offered by Barca in part exchange for Luis Suarez.


Total Samba Final…?

Holland only need to avoid defeat against Chile to finish top of the their group and stay on course for what could be a classic Total Football v Samba Soccer final.

If the Dutch do top their group they would avoid Brazil in the first knockout stage, most likely facing Mexico and creating a path for a p0ssible Holland v Brazil final.

If Brazil, who kick off their final group game later much to the chagrin of Dutch boss Louis Van Gaal, top their group like Holland then they would face Chile – who have the capability of bursting the balloons of both countries.


It’s not often I agree with what Sven Goran Eriksson has to say.

After all here is a manager after a brief period of bringing some stability to the England set up eventually wasted a “golden generation” who should have much closer to winning the World Cup or European Championships when he was in charge. He was allowed to stay in the job far too long.

But he is spot on to say the FA are wrong to back Roy Hodgson who ahead of tomorrow’s game against Costa Rica says he won’t quit.

Steve Bruce

Would Bruce be a bonus for England…?

Fact is Hodgson has been in charge of two tournaments and England have under-performed badly.

The whole set up needs a fresh approach. Problem is many contenders don’t really want the job.

It is interesting to see that sources close to Hull boss Steve Bruce have indicated he would be willing to take on the challenge – or poisoned chalice depending on your view.

I say he would be a good choice not least because Bruce would not only be an ideal figure to nurture the young players emerging and be tactically more flexible but he would also help former Manchester United team mate Gary Neville mature into the role down the line.


Beat the Bookie:

Arjen Robben and Neymar are in contention for the Golden Boot so 6-1 for them both to score today seems decent.

And given the amount of goals that have been scored a punt on four or more goals at 12-1 is worth a tickle.

Brazil to beat Cameroon 4-0 is just 7-1


World Cup Moment

Cameroon, who play Brazil tonight, burst on to the scene at Italia ’90 and were on their way to knocking England out at the quarter finals stage. In fact they were only 8 minutes away from making the semi-final.

England were trailing 2-1 with time running out but then Gary Lineker won and converted two penalties.


Rob’s World Cup Wire
Louis by Numbers, Gerrard Can’t Play Quarterback & No Long-Shot Goals?!?

by Rob Shepherd.

England Have Record in Sight…

England are left clinging to the hope that Italy will beat Costa Rica tonight and then overcome Uruguay.

That way England could hatch a Great Escape with a 2-0 win over Costa Rica.

Stranger things have happened. But of course should they lose to Costa Rica then this would rank as England’s worst ever World Cup finals.

England have never lost all three group games at World Cup since first entering in 1950, although England did lose their three group games at the 1988 European Championships.


Gary To Get The Call..?

Roy Hodgson has already batted-off the “Will you resign?” questions with a ‘No’.

Publicly the FA stand firm behind the manager, not least as chairman Greg Dyke suggested when he took over that a bloody nose was expected in Brazil but with a long term aim of a young side developing at Euro 2016 – and Hodgson is seen as the right man not least because there are no obvious or wiling replacements.

But there are some around the FA who are not convinced and there is a growing feeling that despite no experience at club level Gary Neville could fit the bill.


Louis knows how to number his squad

Louis knows how to number a squad

Louis the Calculated

While Roy Hodgson tinkered with his system if not the personnel, Louis van Gaal is revealing to Manchester United fans one of his great strengths as a coach. He has a well thought-out plan and team in his mind and sticks to it: Holland had the same starting 11 for their first two wins and the starting eleven were numbered 1-11 – the only nation to have done so at this World Cup.

Talk about having a plan. It also suggests Van Gaal won’t succumb to Wayne Rooney deciding where he wants to play at Old Trafford.



Fat Stats

It’s interesting to note that while Raheem Sterling was the stand out player against Italy and covered 6.52 miles, two England players covered more distance; Wayne Rooney (6.97) and Steven Gerrard (6.58).

Which just goes to show why that kind of stat is often meaningless…


Keeping It Up Close

The have been some truly stunning goals at the his World Cup but precious few long range scorchers.

Holland’s late winner struck by Memphis Depay – whose name sounds like a Blues singer by the way – was a rarity. Thus far only 13 per cent of goals have been stuck from more than 20 yards.



Most of the debate leading up to England’s showdown with Uruguay revolved around Wayne Rooney and where he should play or if he should play at all.

That big debate has disguised the fact that  against Italy England skipper Steven Gerrard was far from a commanding figure and certainly didn’t pull any strings in his new ‘quarterback’ role as Andrea Pirlo did for Italy.

But in Gerrard’s defence he did hold his position and thus helped England keep their shape for most of the game.

Against Uruguay though Gerrard failed to take control again.

Roy Hodgson seemed afraid to sub his skipper and put on Frank Lampard who had the experience and nous to help turn things England’s way in midfield. It begs the question; what was the point in picking Lampard in the first place..?


Out First Ball

Spain are the fifth World Cup holders to have been deposed at the first hurdle on their defence.

The previous four were Italy in 1950 (they had won in 1938 then the WWII intervened, Brazil in 1966, France in 2002 and Italy in 2010.

Four years in football is a very long time to fade.


Costa Blue

Now that Spain are out Chelsea should at last complete the £32 million capture of striker Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid next week.

Blues fans will be hoping he doesn’t go a bit “Torres” on them and become known as Diego Costa-lot.

After all in 126 minutes of football in Brazil Costa has failed to register a single shot on target yet…


Look Out For:

Costa Rica’s Arsenal “owned” striker Joel Campbell caught the eye in their opening win over Uruguay. He could well be the player to probe the Italian defence this evening but the player who might undermine the Italians and stick a knife into England is their right back Cristian Gamboa who is currently with Norwegian club Rosenborg but will no doubt be attracting the attention of a number of La Liga and PL clubs.



Beat the Bookie

The bookies make Karim Benzema the favourite to draw first blood in France – Switzerland showdown at 9/2 to score the opening goal while his English-based comrades Loic Remy and Olivier Giroud are both priced at 11/2.

It should be a tight and cagey affair, so a HT/FT bet on Draw/France at 4/1 is tempting.

Brazil remain 7-2 favourites to win the tournament but  Holland have been cut but  to 11-1. Could this at long last be an Orange summer?


World Cup Moment 

It became on of the most tragic episodes in football history.

Much fancied Columbia  flopped at the 1994 World Cup finals not lest because of the influence drug cartels and betting syndicates around the squad.

They were knocked out when defender Andreas Escobar scored an own goal in defeat to the USA. A few days later, having returned home to Medellin, Escobar was shot dead outside a bar after a row with some gangsters.

The game is remembered for Escobar’s OG, but USA’s Earnie Stewart rounded off a fine move with a neat finish to put the American’s 2-0 up. Goals are below (complete with hilarious US commentary!).


Rob’s World Cup Wire
incl: The Belgian Blueprint, No Free-Kick Goals & Transvestite Frolics!

by Rob Shepherd.

Frees Please!

Neymar will be looking to prove he is up there with all the great Brazil number 10’s down the years – even Pele – by inspiring a win over dangerous Mexico tonight.

How better than with a special “Brazilian” free-kick strike to weave his name into pantheon of greats..?

Many of the most enduring memories of World Cups have been stunning goals from free-kicks, not least by Brazilians.

But so far there hasn’t been one from 20 direct strikes. Last season in the Premier League one in 12 direct free-kick strikes hit the back of the net.


Did You Know…

Former England boss Fabio Capello leads Russia into their campaign against South Korea tonight as the only nation at the finals who don’t have any players playing outside their country.


Brilliant Belgian Blueprint

Belgium kick of their campaign against Algeria as many peoples dark horse contenders.

So many of their team are familiar faces to an English audience with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard the jewel in the the crown.  But how has this happened..?

After crashing out of the 1998 finals at the group stages the Belgium federation came up with a blueprint for the future written by coach Michel Sablon. Those at the FA who strive to improve the standard of English football ought to read it.

A significant section is focused on how to nurture young players: Keys stage 1 is for 5-7 year olds making football fun, learning steps then encouraging dribbling and passing through progressive small sided games – 2v2 5v5 8v8 up to 11v11 – when at around age 11 the players learn to play in a 4-3-3 system.


Sam’s Islam..?

Algeria striker Islam Slimani could well test the credentials of Belgium.

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce will be watching with interest. Having been rejected again by Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku in an attempt to take him on loan from Chelsea, the Hammers could make another attempt to lure Slimani from Sporting Lisbon.



Fontaine holds the record with 13 goals

The Golden boot at the last two World Cups has been won with five goals.

But with Thomas Muller – who claimed the prize in 2010 – upping the ante to two goal Neymar, Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben with his opening game hat-trick it looks like the eight Brazil’s Ronaldo hit at the 2002 finals could be challenged.

And with such a good start the 10 hit by Gerd Muller in 1970 is not impossible. But the record 13 which France’s Just Fontaine struck in 1958 still looks safe.

It’s always hard to measure the star quality of a tournament, but there is a strong case this has been the best start to a World Cup ever.

Certainly this on a different planet to the drab opening of South Africa 2010 where after 12 games there had been just 20 goals. So far there have been 41 from 12 games – a ratio of 3.4 per game – the highest since 1958.


Carlos Used To Throw The Best Parties…

Mexico’s Carlos Salcido once partied with a transsexual hooker.

Salcido celebrated Mexico’s victory over Colombia four years ago canoodling with a transsexual prostitute in a Monterrey hotel room. Salcido, then at Fulham, was fined £30,000 by the Mexican FA.

Transvestite Yamille said Salcido invited him to a party in the players’ hotel during an interview with a national magazine and described a sexual encounter the two had in the bathroom.

The two met via Facebook in April earlier this year, according to Yamille, but it wasn’t until after the game against Colombia in Monterrey that the two actually met.

Yamille described the “moral hangover” she felt after the incident as Salcido had no idea that he was a man. The transvestite, who appeared on a high-class prostitutes website, also apologized to Salcido’s wife.

Salcido was fined 50,000 pesos along with ten other players for his role in what the Mexican Soccer Federation described as a “party.” Two players, Efrain Juarez and Carlos Vela, were banned from the national team for six months.

Safe to say that if Mexico cause an upset and defeat hosts Brazil later you can expect some calmer celebrations from the team…


Who Gave Us A Wave..?

So far the games have been so absorbing and entertaining  (even the first goal less draw between Nigeria and Iran) that there have been few sightings of the Mexican Wave – always a sure sign when fans have started to get bored with events on the pitch.

The ripple effect ovations are credited to have started at the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico. But apparently it was present at American football games for a few years before that.

It first appeared at a University of Washington Homecoming Game in 1981, led by UW Husky “Yell Leader” Rob Weller and UW Marching Band director Bill Bissell.


Beat the Bookie:

Neymar to score a hat trick is 12/1

And you can get Brazil, Belgium and Russia to win at 10/1.

(Odds courtesy of William Hill)

World Cup Memory

Just as it seemed Belgium would take England to penalties at the 1990 World Cup, Paul Gascoigne sent over a cross which David Platt converted with a stunning volley on the turn. In many ways it is the goal that changed the face of English football…


If You Know Your History!
Past Encounters: England v Italy

England’s last meeting with Italy ended in dire disappointment at Euro 2012.

Roy Hodgson’s side were outplayed for much of the game but managed to hang on to have a chance of stealing victory in a penalty shoot-out – but yet again failed when it came to spot kicks.

Here are nine other significant encounters down the years;

1934 – England 3-2 Italy, Highbury

Italy turned up in London fresh from their World Cup triumph on home soil earlier that year. England had refused to participate in that tournament but retained a fierce reputation so the match was billed as a clash to decide who was the best team in the world. The contest that was dubbed the Battle of Highbury proved anything but decisive. A famously violent affair, England – with seven Arsenal players in their line-up – did defeat the Italians. But with no substitutions permitted, Italy were forced to play much of the game with 10 men after Luis Monti was injured early on as a result of a crunching clash with England goalscorer Ted Drake.

1961 – Italy 2-3 England, Rome

This remains England’s most recent victory over the Azzurri on Italian soil. The Three Lions boasted the likes of Bobby Robson and Bobby Charlton in the ranks but were 2-1 down to an Italy side that included Giovanni Trapattoni. A second goal from Gerry Hitchens and a late winner from Jimmy Greaves turned the game around for the visitors, with both players completing moves to Serie A that summer. Highlights are below;

1973 – England 0-1 Italy, Wembley

Back in the 1970s a victory over England at Wembley could put Italy in an exclusive club. Outside of the British Isles, only four countries had beaten the English in front of their own supporters. Italy’s victory at the home of football saw them become the fifth. With just five minutes remaining, Giorgio Chinaglia beat Bobby Moore and crossed for the future England manager Fabio Capello to fire the ball past Peter Shilton.

1977 – England 2-0 Italy, Wembley

England and Italy were paired together in qualification for the 1978 World Cup. It was a tough draw given that only one side could qualify. The other two nations in a four-team group – Finland and Luxembourg – were both pummelled leaving England vulnerable following a 2-0 defeat to Italy earlier in the group. They had to beat Italy convincingly at Wembley and hope goal difference would go in their favour. Goals from Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking secured the points but it wasn’t enough for Ron Greenwood’s side and a 3-0 win for the Italians against Luxembourg the following month saw England miss out.

1980 – Italy 1-0 England, Turin


Captains Keegan and Zoff shake hands

England went to Euro ’80 with a squad full of winners. Thanks to the success of Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on the continent, the players possessed an astonishing 19 European Cup winners’ medals between them. But an opening draw against Belgium put Greenwood’s men under pressure to beat Italy on their own turf. With Trevor Francis unavailable through injury and Keegan flagging after a long season, England’s hopes were dashed by a late Marco Tardelli goal.

1990 – Italy 2-1 England, Bari

Both teams had suffered penalty shootout heartbreak in the semi-finals but it was Italy who claimed third place. A shocking error from Peter Shilton, in his final appearance for England, allowed Roberto Baggio to open the scoring in the second-half. Tony Dorigo crossed for David Platt to head home his third goal of the tournament but, after Paul Parker hauled down Salvatore Schillachi just before the end, the Italy striker made no mistake from the spot.

1997 – England 0-1 Italy, Wembley

Glenn Hoddle’s gamble of selecting Matt Le Tissier was leaked to the media ahead of the game and the spotlight was firmly on the mercurial Southampton forward in the build-up to this World Cup qualifier. Instead it was the diminutive Chelsea man Gianfranco Zola who took centre-stage for the visitors, beating David Seaman’s deputy Ian Walker at his near post early on. The Italians held on to put themselves in pole position to qualify for the following year’s World Cup.

1997 – Italy 0-2 England, Nantes

Le Tournoi in France was the preparatory tournament for the 1998 World Cup – in many ways a forerunner to the Confederations Cup. Hosts France invited England and the two finalists from the previous World Cup, Brazil and Italy, to play in a round-robin contest. The tournament is remembered chiefly for an outrageous free-kick by Roberto Carlos but it was England who won the competition – thanks in part to goals from Ian Wright and Paul Scholes in an impressive victory over the Italians.

1997 – Italy 0-0 England, Rome

England had surrendered the advantage in Group 2 of World Cup qualifying after the aforementioned Wembley defeat to Italy. But goalless draws for the Italians in Poland and Georgia had handed the initiative back to Hoddle’s team. As a result, a draw would be sufficient in Rome for England to guarantee their place at France ’98 and consign Italy to a play-off place. The Three Lions produced one of their more composed displays to fend off the Italians with Paul Ince taking the plaudits after playing on with a visible head injury.


Beckham, Ince and Gazza celebrate qualification for France ’98

Rob’s World Cup Wire
News, Tips & Titbits from Brazil 2014

by Rob Shepherd.

England 2022..?!?

So the World Cup has kicked off.


Is Blatter eyeing up a new job..?

It is to be hoped that despite the revelations of FIFA corruption and worries about security, safety and anti-state angst in Brazil it all goes swimmingly as in Jogo Bonito (beautiful game).

But it can be revealed that even though FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been endorsed by his cronies to stay on as president for another term, UEFA boss Michel Platini WILL run against him in the autumn.

Part of the ticket will be to strip Qatar of the 2022 finals and cleanse FIFA of brown paper envelope ethos.

The FA (England) want to take over those finals. And despite denials have a strong chance not least because of cost. FA chairman Greg Dyke now sees that as his rasion d’ etre.

But it understood that Australia would be the politically pragmatic choice.

I understand China and India will also make new bids, if – and it will happen – there is a new vote for the 2022 finals.


Silly to Ignore Chile

Group B kicks of tonight ad the perceived wisdom is that Spain and Holland will prevail.

But Chile are potential dark horses. Not just for the group but to make it to the latter stages even the semi finals.

Their Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli promotes a high tempo, pressing, passing game that sees his team evolve from 3-3-1-3 to 4-3-3 at the flicker of an eye.

Chile, who should give Australia a bloody nose tonight, are a team to watch if they don’t suffer stage fright like Columbia in 1994.

They can certainly shake up this group, and in Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez they have a top class player.

New Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal could well face humiliation if he doesn’t take the Dutch to the knockout phase.


Uphill for Cahill..?

Looking forward to seeing Tim Cahill (remember him..?) in action for the SoccerRoos tonight.

I reckon the ex-Millwall and Everton star, now with New York Red Bulls, could make an impact even if the Aussies eventually are overcome by chirpy Chilies.

These are Tim’s Twitter thoughts (if that is not an oxymoron)



Couple of Comebacks

Carlos Vela has not made Mexico’s World Cup squad. Which is probably just as well for Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

Wenger insists he doesn’t like buying players on the evidence of international tournaments, even at a World Cup.

So it would seem reports that Vela could return to the Gunners for £3.5 million from Real Sociedad are on the money…

Reports that Roger Milla, now perhaps aged 65 and a half, at least, will make a comeback this summer after his exploits at Italia ’90 have been grossly exaggerated.

However don’t dismiss the notion that the spring chicken that is Samuel Eto’o of the Chelsea parish might still make an impact this summer for the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.

And if Eto’o does notch even once – maybe against Mexico tonight – then he must, please, pay homage to the Ledge that is Roger Milla and dance by the corner flag. Play it again Sam;


Beat the Bookie:

Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku is 33-1 to be the World Cup’s top goal scorer



Spain kick off their World Cup defence tonight against Holland, the country they defeated in 2012 final, with the second most valuable squad in terms of player values.

According to Lloyds of London the Roja stars, with £50 million Fernando Torres back at the sharp end, are worth £590.1 million.

England’s insurance value of their squad is the third highest at £550m while Group D rivals Costa Rica have the lowest value at £18.3 million.

The total value of all 32 team is a staggering £6.2 billion

Here is a list of the team values: Germany £641.2m, Spain £590.1m, England 550.1m, Brazil £448.3m, France £394.8m, Belgium £360.4m, Argentina £355.3m, Netherlands £279.4m, Portugal £279.3m, Italy £196.8m, Cameroon £195.8m, Croatia £185.6m, Russia £165.8m, Ghana £158.5m, Uruguay £144.1m, Nigeria £143.1m, Switzerland £138.5m, Ivory Coast £132m, USA £110.7m, Japan £92.8m, Bosnia-Herzegovina £84.3m, Mexico £72.5m, Chile £72m, Australia £66.6m, South Korea £65.2m, Colombia £59.5m, Greece £53.2m, Algeria £49.4m, Ecuador £48.9m, Honduras £34.2m, Iran £24.4m, Costa Rica £18.3m.


World Cup Moment

Let’s not forget in the Seventies the English used to support Scotland at the World Cup finals.

Well some of us anyway…

And was there ever a finer moment than Archie Gemmill scoring THAT goal against Holland which was since immortalised in the iconic movie Trainspotting.

Here’s Gemmill talking us through the goal, with additional input from Pat Nevin and, er, a dancer. Lets see if we can pull the correct video from the vaults…



Sterling Red a Bonus!
PLUS Italy Game Set for Draw & Long Way Yet for Ladies

by Rob Shepherd.

Red is Good!


Sterling can’t believe it

Most seemed to think Raheem Sterling was hard done by with the red card he suffered in England’s 2-2 draw against Ecuador. But much ridiculed American referee Jair Marrufo could well have done England a favour…

The incident when Sterling brought down Antonio Valencia highlighted the restraints players will be under at the World Cup. They simply cannot afford to go diving in with the flying feet.

Even if Sterling did get a bit of his foot on the ball his follow-through did catch Valencia. Yes, Valencia’s reaction seemed to make the situation worse.

But ref Marrufo will have viewed that Sterling’s challenge endangered the opponent, regardless of whether he got some of the ball or not.

Make no mistake refs, certainly in the early stages, will be under pressure from FIFA guidelines to show red for such tackles.

Over the years England players have fallen foul of strict guidelines over certain incidents that are regarded as “soft” in this country.

Take Ray Wilkins in 1986 then David Beckham in 1988. And of course Wayne Rooney saw red in 2006.

So Roy Hodgson should use the Sterling incident as a foot-on-the-ball warning to his team – not least because players don’t need to be making such lunging tackles by the touchline in the first place.

And whiles he’s at it remind Jack Wilshere if he gets seen by an official losing his rage like that he’ll be shown red too!


Anyone For A Nil-Nil…?

A bloody Ince organises England

A bloody Ince organises England

England’s last two meaningful matches versus Italy have ended in goal less draws.

Two years the 0-0 was regarded as a dire display as Italy won the penalty shoot out 4-2 to knock England out of the European Championships.

Agreed, Italy were the superior side but in the end the margins came down to the cruel cut of pens.

In October 1997 England played a 0-0 draw with Italy in Rome to clinch a place at the 1998 World Cup finals and force Italy to get their the hard way via a play-off.

The 0-0 draw was deemed a triumph. True, England inspired by the head-bandaged Paul Ince and disciplined Paul Gascoigne produced one of a tactically stoic display under Glenn Hoddle, but it could easily have ended in tears.

In the final minute after Ian Wright had hit a post Italy should have snatched a last gasp winner but Chrstian Vieiri headed a fraction wide.

Again the slimmest of margins.

One suspects it will be very tight and tense once again in next Saturday’s opening game.

But if England needed any added inspiration they could do no worse than watch a re-run of that game in the Rome nearly 17 years ago.


Lady Maybe..?

It was great to be a guest of FootballFanCast and Strongbow last Wednesday who hosted a TV link of the England – Ecuador match and the results of their RioChallenge competition at Riley’s sports bar in Pimlico.

In a nutshell the winners of a Strongbow male five aside competition went over to Rio in Brazil to take on a ladies team.

Former footballer now Sky pundit Chris Kamara was a speaking guest and he suggested that in the near future a woman would be in the squad of a Premier League team.

I disagreed with “Kammy” who coached the chaps in Brazil. That caused some waves with the PC crowd.

But despite their skills I can’t ever see women competing with men physically at the top level. That’s not sexist.

Besides, why undermine the growing sport of Ladies football..? Woman’s tennis, golf, cricket, hockey, athletics etc all get on in their own right .

Indeed after a good start the skillful Vasco Ladies eventually lost 7-1 to a team from the Royal Navy (footage below).


World Cup? Time for a scandal…remember the Bobby Moore case

by Steve Curry (From February 2010)

The stag night maxim ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’ has long been the sacrosanct dictum of the football dressing room.

But it has become increasingly difficult to impose in the self-destruct climate of the national game.

Just as a cuckoo’s call heralds the onset of spring, so a soccer scandal has become the precursor to a big football tournament. And they come no bigger than a World Cup.


Captain in the dock: Bobby Moore (second left) is met by Colombian policemen as he leaves a Bogota jewellery shop in 1970

Fabio Capello’s insistence on high levels of self-discipline are commendable but, if he puts aside his books on fine art and reads the history of England football teams, he’ll see that control on the pitch is no guarantee of compliance off it.

John Terry is far from the first captain of his country to be embroiled in controversy, and the furore is not restricted to notches on bed posts.

The late Bobby Moore, whose Wembley statue stands as a testimony to a great captain, always remembered the date and time when England’s 1970 World Cup bid was almost sabotaged.

It was 6.25pm on Monday, May 18, 1970, when he and Bobby Charlton strolled into a jewellery store in the foyer of their Bogota hotel to look for a present for Charlton’s wife, Norma.

Without asking to see anything, they left the shop and sat down in armchairs close by, only to be summoned back and accused of theft, the start of a 10-day ordeal that rocked the world game.

It was, of course, Colombian deception aimed at upsetting the World Cup holders but once again the question was asked: why England?
If Moore was the innocent party in the Bogota incident, there have been numerous since that have owed more to testosterone than treachery.

Though Terry’s misdemeanours have happened close to home, it has been abroad that most breaches have come to light.

Until the Eighties, footballers on tour were accompanied by sports journalists whose remit was to report matches not post-match parties. It has been the cult of celebrity that has caused footballers problems.

Their profile and exposure appear to have risen in proportion to their salaries so that they are followed more closely by showbiz and investigative writers than sports reporters.


Teddy Sherringham lets his hair down at Paul Gascoigne’s 29th birthday celebrations in Hong Kong in 1996

It seems the further they fly, the more they become immune to acceptable standards of behaviour.

In Malaysia I watched a Chelsea England youth international — a former friend of Terry — drop his team-mate’s expensive camera in a pint of beer, then urinate in the lift as he left a top-floor nightclub.

At the 1990 World Cup in Italy, there were allegations that three England players had been involved in a bedroom romp with a girl called Isabella. Just what Bobby Robson needed.

Nor was Terry Venables happy that his players took advantage of a night off in Hong Kong prior to the 1996 European Championship finals to celebrate Paul Gascoigne’s 29th birthday by visiting a club with the infamous ‘dentist’s chair’.

Pictures of Teddy Sheringham having neat tequila poured down his throat appeared across the following day’s newspapers. The FA also paid compensation to the airline Cathay Pacific for video screens damaged by drunk players on the flight home.

Glenn Hoddle had to deal with players going public on their need for psychiatric help. Paul Merson and Tony Adams had drug and alcohol addictions, while Gascoigne saw two counsellors after beating up his wife and admitting bouts of rage.

Hoddle met editors and sports editors to try to stem personal stories being leaked, an irony since he kept the best one — Gazza’s wild, drunken behaviour when told he was not in his final squad — for his own book.

There are hotels across the world where men on tour have indulged in rowdiness and promiscuity on the basis that away from home a different set of rules apply. It is also true that English footballers increasingly divorce their professionalism on the pitch from that off it.

If Capello is to lift the World Cup this summer, he has to change not his tactics but his players’ mentality.

This article first appeared in The Mail, February 2010.


England Victorious!?! Even Though the Azzurri Denied them Third Place – England meet Italy at the World Cup

Trevor Steven moves away from Italy's Carlo Ancelotti with the ball

Trevor Steven moves away from Italy’s Carlo Ancelotti with the ball

by Richard Bowdery.

It was 24 years ago that England last played Italy during the World Cup Finals.

Prior to that game in the 1990 tournament, England faced an auld enemy – no, not Scotland, West Germany – in the semi-final: a match which introduced the footballing world to the Tears of Gazza.

You may recall he was booked during the game which meant he could not play in the Final (against Argentina, the conquerors of Italy in the other semi), should England overcome their Teutonic neighbour from across the Channel.

He needn’t have worried. A penalty shoot-out put paid to any hopes the nation had of reaching the pinnacle of world football – a position they had not reached since the heroics of ’66.

The third place play-off, on 7 July against Italy, was no more than the warm up act for the main event the following day which was won by West Germany 1-0. It was the last time the victors took to the field with West as an appendage to their name, following the collapse of Communism a year earlier.

But against the Azzurri England failed to deliver, going down by the odd goal in three.

Baggio opened the scoring on 71 minutes following an error by Shilton playing his 125th and last international. Platt netted an equalizer 10 minutes later with a bullet of a header, only for Schillaci to win it for the Italians with a penalty 4 minutes from time.


The players from both sides enjoy a Mexican wave after the match

The teams that day were:


Peter Shilton (c)
Gary Stevens
Des Walker
Gary Steven
Paul Parker
Mark Wright (73 Chris Waddle)
Steve McMahon (73 Neil Webb)
David Platt
Tony Dorigo
Gary Lineker
Peter Beardsley


Bergomi (c)
de Agostini (68 Berti)
Giannini (90 Ferri)

You may have noticed one Carlo Ancelotti in the Italian line up – the former Chelsea manager and three times winner of the European Cup, equaling Bob Paisley’s record.

But if England didn’t win the tournament or get third place, what did they win?

What seems ingrained in the British psyche, sometimes to our detriment, is fair play. And that is what England won in 1990: the Fair Play award, for having received no reds and the fewest number of yellow cards across the Finals.

This year the nation hopes England go all the way. And let someone else win the Fair Play award.

But first there is a little matter of settling a 24 year old score on 14 June. Come on England!