Tuesday, June 22, 2004
  Reverse jingoism (Blind Espana)
(btw, I'm completely unable to make comments on my computer at home though, mysteriously, I had absolutely no problem with doing it at work....)

Philip. Come now...

Hod-carriers? Who exactly?

Beckham? Scholes? Gerrard? Really?

If not them then who? Our full-backs look second only to Italy's from where I'm sitting. Campbell is one of the most assured central defenders in the world. Everyone recognizes that Owen is a world-class player, albeit one that - like the Portuguese trio you list - is performing below potential. (Actually, Owen is the closest to a hod-carrier in the team, if not in the squad - that accolade naturally uh falls to Heskey [but hang on, hodcarriers have to stay on their feet, don't they? Perhaps not then.] Owen's close control is simply awful; how many times does the ball just bounce off him?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not blindly chauvinistic. I remember when England did have hod-carriers (with Bryan Robson foremost among them) in the side: Paul Mariner, Steve Bull, Alvin Martin, Terry Fenwick , Steve Mcmahon, the list went on and drearily on. The first two world cups I remember, England didn't even qualify. Then I had to endure Hoddle being kept out of the side by Wilkins and fucking Robson. Christ, how much we've come on in the four years since the last European Championship. Dennis Wise! Dennis fucking Wise! David twatting Batty. Gareth Southgate in midfield.

Any objective spectator would have to say that, on their performances in the tournament so far, England have been at least the equal in every sense, including the technical, of the much-vaunted French. Yes, there have been passages of poor play. But England no longer lump the bull up senselessly to a target man. They pass. And for long patches of the match last night and in the match against France, they passed as well as any team in the tournament.

They didn't beat Switzerland and Croatia by harum-scarum Effort and Hard Work, but with patience, skill and incision. Credit it where it's due.

To say anything else is just reverse jingoism...

Spain certainly have no players I would choose over England's. There might be a Platonic Spain who play elegant and imperious samba football - but the actual Spain (with the embarrassing Raul bottom of the barrel) were not a patch on England in this tournament. It's not a tragedy that they're out. They simply didn't play well enough, nor did they look like they were capable of playing much better than they actually did.

Plus ca change...

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