Well I have a confession. Up until very recently I’ve never really enjoyed watching women’s football. It just lacks the intensity of the men’s game to my liking – be it the physicality, skill level, pace, passion etc. However I’ve been watching the current World Cup matches on tv and I’ve really, really enjoyed it. Particularly the England matches of course. Last night the Lionesses reached the semi-finals by beating a very good Norway side 3-0 and it was a super game to watch. Maybe I’m missing the men’s game a bit but there’s no denying it was for a a compelling match. In fact all the England matches have been and I’m clearly not alone in thinking that. The last two games have seen tv audiences of 6.1m for the win against Scotland and then 6.9m for the Cameroon match – both record numbers. I haven’t seen the figures for last night’s match yet but I’m sure they’ll have smashed those figures again.
I read an interesting article today in the i newspaper sports section. It posed the question, what have these names got in common…
Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Ruben Dias, Bruno Fernandes, Gelson Fernandes, Kalidou Kalibahy, Nicolas Pepe, Adrien Rabot, Saul Niguez, Christian Eriksen, Kieran Trippier, Jan Obiak, Matthijs de Ligt, Paulo Dybala, Daniel James, Idrissa Gueye, Philippe Coutinho, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Wilfried Zaha, Thomas Meunier, Mauro Icardi, Moussa Dembele, Ben Godfrey, Nikola Milenkovic, Harry Maguire, Aaron Was-Bissaka, Patrick van Aanholt, Jadon Sancho, Gareth Bale, Toby Alderweireld, Joao Felix, Declan Rice, David Neres Campos, Kostas Manolas, Hakim Ziyech, Joao Cancelo, Marcos Llorente, Toni Kroos, Raphael Varane, Youro Tielemans, Robert Lewandowski, James Rodriguez, Keylor Navas, Lika Jovic, Jordan Pickford, Juande Ramos, Jack Grealish, Giovani lo Celso, Gianluigi Donnarumma and no doubt several others?
Well these were some of the gloriously happy scenes that greeted England’s victory over Sweden on Saturday, repeated up and down the country. We watched the match at my brother’s place and what a super day. And it happened the day after my lovely sis H got married to J which was also a great day. So a fantastic few days eh, especially for us. But the great thing is the effect England’s progress is having generally. Everyone seems to be up for it and excited at the prospect of tonight semi-final against Croatia. Shop assistants, waiters, check out girls. Everyone wants to know where are you watching it. I guess it’s that history in the making thing. Well at least potentially because a loss tonight will be gutting. Well except for maybe a few people in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia etc etc.
Well yesterday was a great day really. I headed in to London to see my old friend J who runs a very funky graphics design agency. We had a great meeting on how I might be able to help build awareness for him and his creative work now that I’ve sharpened up his online presence. All very exciting. En route to meeting up with him near Waterloo, I drove in to north London and parked up my car very close to where we used to live on Muswell Hill Rd. It was lovely to walk through Highgate Woods again on the way to Highgate underground station. Now you may not know it but because of the hilly terrain, the station was built in a deep cutting excavated beneath Highgate Hill. During the war, the deep-level platforms at Highgate were used by many as a shelter from the bombing of London by the Luftwaffe, and, later, V-1 and V-2 missiles. The entrance is a long way down. You can in fact get an up escalator to the surface from the booking hall but there’s only one way down via a steepish path. I’m not sure these pictures do it justice….
Interesting news coming out from the Engand training camp today. England captain Harry Kane admitted that the team do not really miss any of the training routines organised by previous England manager, Sam Allardyce. ‘Let’s face it he was a bit of a dinosaur’ said Kane and ‘the heading practice in particular wasn’t much liked, especially by the squad’s shorter players….’
Just a short update on my last posting. I see that whilst the FiFA members (or at least the Eurpoean contingent) recently vetoed the idea to expand the 2022 World Cup tournament to 48 teams, it has already been agreed to an expansion to 48 teams for the 2026 event, to be hosted across 3 countries – the USA, Canada and Mexico. That will mean an extra week will be required to cater for the increase in the number of matches from 64 to 80. It will also mean huge amounts of travelling for fans and teams alike. And how can you compare playing matches in the heat and atmosphere of Mexico City with the more temperate conditions in Edmonton, Canada? It’s ridiculous. And speaking of things ridiculous, that nitwit Blatter has been given a platform to pontificate in Russia and this morning he’s being quoted as saying that England should be awarded the 2030 World Cup (or at least he thinks it should be spread over the 4 countries of the UK and Ireland, if not the whole of the Commonwealth). A few thoughts:
a) the last thing we need is this twat backing our cause
b) what is this fascination with spreading tournaments far and wide? We have plenty of great stadia within England to host the events and guesss what – they aren’t venues that would normally host baseball, American football or rugby games and would need no adaptation (I’m sure they’ll have sorted out the London Stadium by then!). Travel links are good (I’m sure they’ll have sorted out the rail timetable fiasco by then!), we are highly effective at policing and stewarding and there’s tons of hotel accommodation and places to eat, drink and visit. Jeez we hosted the Olympic Games in and around London and they were outstanding.
c) the 2026 hosting arrangements would mean that since England (generally acknowledged as the nation which set the rules of Association Football and its spiritual home) hosted the WC event in 1966, Mexico will have hosted it no less than 3 times and Amercia twice. Before we get the sniff of hosting it again. I don’t care what you say, both those countries have no greater right to host it than England.
d) I’d like to think that my grandson will be at his footballing peak at around 2030 and should we get awarded it, then I can visualise him receiving that World Cup trophy from King William as the winning captain, following in the footsteps of my hero Sir Bobby Moore. That would be a wonderful book-end to my life-long love affair with the game. If only I could be around to see it eh…
Well we’re well into the tournament now and it’s been curious hasn’t it? I mean for 35 minutes Engand almost looked like the best team there. Spain v Portugal was a cracker but cancelled each other out. But who else has impressed – Mexico? Certainly not Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina nor Uruguay. Russia have got off to a flyer which is good news for the tournament though I read that Putin has invited Madhatter Blatter to the tournament as his crooked fixer sorry special guest. Ah that should raise the tone.
I’m quite enjoying it though the application of VAR is still infuriatingly inconsistent (especially in Engand matches). Also I do not like the number of teams in the event. It makes for too many stodgy first round watches like the Champions League. I see they’ve recently rejected the idea of going for a 48 team tournament. Quite right too. I”m sure they’re lovely places but we dont really want to see fixtures like Vanuatu v Burkina Faso.
I still believe the 16 team staging of earlier World Cups and the European Nations Cup (or whatever they call it) was the ultimate format but of course both footballing authorities FIFA and EUFA couldn’t resist expanding it to attract more revenue into their bloated coffers and a few back pockets. Will they never learn to keep it simple?
Anyway I’ve got a funny feeling about England and I fancy Harry Kane to come home with the golden boot. If Iran can frustrate Spain why should we be fearful? There’s a gold star and 3 lions on that shirt for a reason.