Footy in mouth
Scuppered by Wayne Rooney's post-injury fitness problems and dodgy management, England's World Cup prospects look dim.
Tony Cascarino, 27 Jun 2006
It’s World Cup time again, and the expectations in England are through the roof. Having seen Paraguay off, by the time you read this getting through the first round may be a foregone conclusion – but the team will need to be performing far better than in the opening match to get past the quarter-final stage.
Without sounding too downbeat, I just can’t see England winning the tournament. I don’t think Eriksson is the right man to manage them. He does have good players at his disposal – but, while he’ll certainly feature, Wayne Rooney’s not going to make the impact on his way back after injury that he might have at full match fitness. I don’t think Sven knows how to get the best out of Stevie Gerrard either. As I see it, you need to use him in a free-roaming role at the top of a diamond, like Liverpool do, and let him get on the end of balls from twenty or thirty yards out. That said, I’m glad to see Aaron Lennon being given a chance. His pace is incredible: he goes past full-backs more often in twenty minutes than David Beckham has in the last three years. But I'm not sure that he's as effective on the left as he would be on the other wing.
Traditionally, England go out on penalties, so they’ll need to practise them. When I was at the World Cup with Ireland, we certainly did. After training most days, we’d finish with a penalty shoot-out. You have to be prepared. Watford did it at the end of this season, and there’s no doubt it gives you an edge if you’ve been doing it every day and you’re confident and you know exactly what you’re planning to do, rather than making your mind up on the spot. I hit one against Romania in an extremely high-pressure situation, and I’d decided all along to hit it low and hard. It wasn’t the greatest kick, but it got there.
You have bust-ups at every World Cup, and I thought it was France’s turn now, with Gregory Coupet walking out and then changing his mind. Then Togo produced a real surprise with their coach quitting, over money issues.
In relation to the French, I know the media feel that the senior players have too big an influence on the squad; Giuly was left out of the side, Barthez has been chosen ahead of Coupet, and the suggestion is that Raymond Domenech is letting the older players run the show. He doesn’t convince me at all, and I thought the squad selection was extraordinary. There were three or four players left out for reasons I couldn’t understand. The French media are up in arms. And on top of all that, he’s now lost Cisse. Of course, the media got it wrong in ’98, but the team had home advantage then and I don’t think they’re anything like as strong now. We saw them in Ireland’s group and they didn’t impress me. Even without Cisse, they’ve got good options upfront, but overall they seem confused, and lacking in direction.
When it comes down to it, there are only three teams I could see winning the World Cup. Germany, who got off to a decent start beating Costa Rica 4-2, have the massive advantage of playing at home, they have Ballack, and they’ll be very well-prepared. They’re under-rated generally, but I think they’ll do well. Then there’s the South American giants, Brazil and Argentina. They both have exceptional talent and will take some stopping. As an attacking force, there’s no-one else who comes close, with Brazil shading it in that department. Historically, it’s said that the South American sides can’t win it in Europe, but I don’t think that really matters any more, since they all play their club football here. The idea that someone like Ronaldinho will be any less effective in Europe just doesn’t make sense, as we’ve seen all year.