Ireland was robbed. Pure and simple. My 8-year-old daughters watched the Henry hand ball with gaping eyes. One proffered: “Just like I do in basketball!” Her sister then deadpanned: “And there was an offside on the pass.” Children have an amazing way of stating the truth, don’t they?
In his Hall of Shame acceptance speech, Thierry Henry said: “I will be honest, it was a hand ball. But I’m not the ref,” Henry said. “I played it. The ref allowed it. That’s a question you should ask him.”
TEN POT OBSERVATIONS.
1. FIFA got the seedings right. Pot 1 seeds earned their ranking. France did not. France’s final appearance was four years ago.
2. Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay have come out of the pot alignment better than most. Each of the smaller South American nations will avoid the big five African qualifiers in the 1st Round.
3. Argentina and Brazil cannot avoid the African qualifiers from Pot 3. The seeds for two potential Groups of Death have now been sown. Has FIFA put Brazil at risk for an early bath?
4. The most frightening Group of Death would be: Brazil, Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire and Portugal.
5. The dark horse of Pot 2 is Honduras.
Klaus Fischer’s famous bicycle kick.
Papers, podcasts and blogs are full of the demise of Argentina. Maradona makes good press. His Anglo detractors remain bitter. The Argentine domestic game is bankrupt. Yet, despite the noise, Argentina remain poised to qualify. The competition in South America is that stale. A home win against lowly Peru in October should almost certainly seal their South Atlantic passage.
Argentina’s poor form has somehow detracted attention from the failings of some of Europe’s marquee performers.
Lithuania began well beating Romania 3-0 and Austria 2-0. The dream of qualification seemed possible until they were swept away by Serbia’s nouvelle vague. Three straight 1-0 defeats home and away to France and at home to Romania have probably ended Lithuania’s South African aspirations.
But as long as Raymond Domenech is the coach of France, Lithuania (like Austria and Romania) must continue to hope. If the stars are not aligned to Raymond’s liking and France fail to get points from their September fixtures against Romania and Serbia, Lithuania could find themselves will it all to play for in October. Serbia may provide an accommodating final fixture opponent.
Somehow or other France managed to lose their opening qualifier 3-1 in Vienna. (This to the very same Austria who then went to Lithuania and the Faroe Islands on tour with Megadeath. The Austrians came home with only one point, but they make great party and met lots of pretty blond girls.) France has since only dropped two points, the result of a hard fought draw in Romania. Some would say a point gained. A 2-1 home win over Serbia was followed by two dour 1-0 home and away wins against Lithuania. Last week, France won 1-0 in Tórshavn in a game that could have been mistaken for a new age spiritualist retreat. Readers may begin to see a pattern developing here. Extracting thirteen qualifiers from this UEFA lot is not pretty. Even the French have become ugly.
FIFA’s website tends to accentuate the positive with respect to the current French outfit, noting their “potential” while reminding readers that “France has always enjoyed a more cyclical relationship with success”. We too could wax lyrical on the great goalscoring record of Just Fontaine, the “magic diamond” of Tigana, Fernandez, Giresse and Platini, as well as the champion achievements of Blanc, Desailly, Deschamps, Djorkaeff, Thuram, Zidane and Co. Thankfully, there is a more compelling story than the failure of a flaky French coach to harness France’s nouvelle vague. It is the story of the players themselves.
[So to Group 7. Serbia seem sure to advance. France are well positioned also. The rest are reliant on France falling over themselves. The golden era of Faroe Islands football may have passed.]
It is often forgotten that Austria has some football pedigree. The inter-war years saw Central Europe develop a contrasting style of play to the hoof and charge of the British game. Austrians, Czechs, Hungarians and the other nationalities and ethnic groups who made those countries dynamic and interesting, had fused football into a game based on narrow exchanges, firm organization and superior technical ability. It was known as the Danubian School.
Italy was taking notes. Austrian coaches were demonstrating the finer details on chalkboards at clubs all over the country. The cappuccinos kept on coming. Train timetables were reorganized. And the best refs always arrived on time.
The Chelsea and France winger joined reggae singer Fantan Mojan on stage at a reggae festival in French Guyana in the Caribbean (Malouda’s birthplace). They also fooled around with a football.
[Via Dirty Tackle]