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“England have landed what can only be described as a dream draw. If you start worrying about facing the likes of USA, Algeria and Slovenia, then you really shouldnâ€™t be in the World Cup” – Alan Hansen
- Updated: December 5, 2009
Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “England are a team full of stars and egos. They cannot possibly spend a month-and-a-half together without friction.” – Zlatko Zahovic.
Runner-up: “This is a great draw for the USA, the best we could have hoped for. If we take care of England, we can easily finish top of the group. We can play off the fact that England always think they are better than they are.” – Alexi Lalas.
Today’s overview: Despite the knowledge that England’s historic pre-tournament overconfidence has often come to bite them in the backside time after time, the red-tops cannot help themselves but get all too excited for the Three Lions chances at South Africa after Fabio Capello’s men were drawn in what is generally considered one of the easier groups at the World Cup.
Leading the way is The Sun’s Nick Parker. “England looked dead certs last night to roar into the World Cup knockout stages after landing their easiest ever group. Their unfancied opponents helped to spell out England’s “EASY” task – Algeria, Slovenia and the Yanks.”
Learning nothing from history and happy to bypass the group stages as a full-gone conclusion is The Sun’s Steven Howard. “It’s not the group stage that should concern Fabio Capello. Instead, it’s what faces England in the next round… Should England, as expected, start with six points then the game against Slovenia will probably be no more than a dead rubber.” A similar situation appears in the Daily Mail where Ian Ladyman scribbles “England were handed theÂ best possible chance of progressing to the semi-finals of next summerâ€™s World Cup last night after enjoying the luck of the draw here. Selected among the top eight seeds, Fabio Capelloâ€™s side will face the USA, Algeria and Slovenia in Group C, presenting them with a relatively easy route to a possible last-four encounter against the mighty Brazil.”
In a line which may make Matt Lawton look like a dummy is just over six months time, the Daily Mail scribe prophetised “only in the semi-final will the place in the final which Capello craves come under serious threat, because Brazil will almost definitely be waiting for them. At least England should avoid Spain until the final, assuming both win their groups.”
Almost attacking Matt Lawton head-on, Oliver Kay chimes in with the observation “a semi-final against Brazil in Cape Town on July 6. How does that sound? Arrogant, for one thing, dangerous for another, but that will suddenly be the least that England expects… If there is one thing that England have struggled with in recent World Cups, it is the burden of expectation.”
Giving a fair more considered appraisal of England’s World Cup group is Martin Samuel. “Group C is basically weak and England have no right to be considered as candidates to be world champions if they cannot win it outright… Only the United States, pulled from a pot that contained the flotsam of Asia, Central America and Oceania, would have caused a momentary wince but, even then, not much.” Henry Winter jumps on the same bandwagon to observe “England enjoyed the biggest feeling of relief in these parts since Mafeking but a gentle-looking World Cup draw came with a warning. Group C stands for Caveat: Fabio Capelloâ€™s side must hit the ground running, vanquishing the United States and seizing control of their round-robin section. Failure to win Group C carries a heavy price.”
Kevin McCarra is also quick to caution England about over-confidence. “The sole terror in England’s World Cup draw lay in the shadow of complacency that fell over the outcome. A country who are merely ninth in the world rankings were suddenly being treated as second favourites to raise the trophy aloft next summer.”
Running his eye over all the groups, Alan Hansen also argues that England should have nothing to fear from their World Cup group. “England have landed what can only be described as a dream draw and Fabio Capello will be delighted with it. If you start worrying about facing the likes of USA, Algeria and Slovenia, then you really shouldnâ€™t be in the World Cup… If England win the group, as they should, the second round doesnâ€™t hold too many fears. Even if itâ€™s the Germans, Capelloâ€™s players wonâ€™t be scared of that… All Capello needs now is his team to perform.”
Unafraid to delve into specific reasons as to why England can be confident ahead of the World Cup, Jamie Redknapp makes some bold claims about the Three Lions squad. “There won’t be another player at the World Cup with the versatility of Rooney as a striker… Gerrard will score goals from midfield, as will Lampard, arriving late and coming from deep. The movement between Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard is crucial to England’s impact. Between them, they will look to score 10 goals in the tournament for England to advance deep into the World Cup.”
Like the owner of a cliche factory, former England boss Terry Venables spouts a list of obvious dos and donts for Fabio Capello about how the Italian should go about preparing for South Africa. “Preparation is the key to any tournament. As the old saying goes, if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail… He needs to do the impossible and plan for the unplanned, foresee the unforeseen and expect the unexpected… He must live and die by his own decisions, like he has done throughout qualification.”
It is left to James Lawton to ask the big question. “Can England win? It is not so easy to believe they will match the fluency or the power of Brazil or the rhythmic poise of European champions Spain, both of whom have suggested a division of class in recent friendly action. Yet Capello is a realist and if his team fails you have to believe that for once it will not be because of any lack of proper preparation, physically or psychologically.”
Who says the English don’t hold a grudge? Turning to the Group of Death, The Sun’s Geoff Sweet revels in the tough draw for the Portuguese as Cristiano Ronaldo is once again targetted for being a “winker.” “Ronaldo had the wink wiped off his face as Portugal were dumped in the Group of Death. Ronaldo, infamous for winking at the Portuguese bench following Wayne Rooney’s sending-off in the 2006 quarter-final clash, can look forward to an epic battle with Brazil star and Real Madrid team-mate Kaka.”
Staying with the toughest group of them all, Ian Chadbrand makes the bold suggestion that it could be the Samba Boys who fail to qualify. “On the World Cup 2010 menu in Group G is Cristiano Ronaldo versus Didier Drogba – going head to head or should that be dive for dive? – versus Kaka. We have Africaâ€™s finest, the Ivory Coast, versus Englandâ€™s nemesis, Portugal, versus the five-time champions, Brazil… And most tantalising of all? The prospect that, for once, the Brazilians, who have so often been blessed with kind group draws, face the unthinkable early exit if Dunga does not get this right.”
Nick Harris believes that the luckiest team after the World Cup draw is Les Bleus. “Italy and Spain have done well, as have England, but hard to look beyond France, given they were not top seeds. They have been paired with the weakest hosts for many a tournament, a Uruguayan side which managed to lose at home to a team coached by Diego Maradona, and Mexico, who are decent but not world-beaters.”
Looking at the broad World Cup picture, Guardian hack Richard Williams hits the nail on the head when commenting “Anyone attempting to predict the overall quality of a World Cup is on a fool’s mission,” yet refusing the heed his own advise the scribe goes on to fart “there are sound reasons for believing that the 2010 edition, the 19th in a series that began in 1930, holds out the promise of a summer of outstanding football, which would be particularly welcome after the intermittent exhilaration of the last two tournaments.”
Observing how the draw played out on TV, Matt Barlow puffed up the ego of David Beckham writing “Becks teased [Charlize] Theron with a single peck on the cheek and clearly left her wanting more.” Sam Wallace also commented on the logistics of Friday’s draw noting “veering dangerously off script, Fifa president Sepp Blatter embarrassed himself when he fixed the female South African presenter in his gaze and declared how easy it was to “fall in love” with her country when he looked at her. The Hollywood actress Charlize Theron, presented as the South Africa celebrity, albeit with a heavy American accent, struggled in her repartee with Fifa general secretary Jerome Valcke, whose attempts at flirtation involved bombarding her with World Cup statistics.”
Avid TV watcher Giles Smith also waded into the debate of “was this the best World Cup draw ceremony ever screened? Why not? It was certainly the longest. How long? Put it this way: in the time it took to sort those 32 teams into eight groups, you could have read every word of Beckhamâ€™s tattoos, twice.”
With his humour in toe, Jim White also commented on Friday’s show in South Africa. “The repeated insistence that South Africa was ready seemed entirely justified, as the opening entertainments drifted by without flaw, despite featuring a woman singer in a dress so voluminous it could have accommodated the entire BBC studio panel. Plus their sofa. Charlize Theron, South Africa’s favourite American accent, had been selected to preside over events. She did so in heels so vertiginous she had to stoop so low to kiss Beckham when he arrived on stage to assist her that his lapel microphone caught her calling him “sweetheart”. Beckham, incidentally, looked as though he had dashed there in a hurry, running out halfway through a hair cut. In front of them were more pots than could be found in a series of Gardener’s World, filled with exciting permutations.”
Turning to domestic matters, James Ducker details the fears over Manchester United’s financial situation. “The Glazer family, the owners of Manchester United, are struggling to refinance their enormous debts amid concerns about the impact they are having on the club. The Times understands that the Americans have been trying unsuccessfully to secure a refinancing package for part of the clubâ€™s Â£699 million debt for months, having failed in 2007 and last year, because of the bleak global economic climate.”
Just before we arrive at the transfers, its a case of boot-hanging time for one of the greats of English football as The Sun quote how “Paul Scholes is ready to leave Manchester United next summer.”
In contrast to Scholes, Tottenham are desperate to keep their legends around White Hart Lane as long as possible with Rob Beasley reporting how Spurs “have offered Ledley King a new two-year deal worth Â£70,000 a week – despite his chronic left knee. And centre-back King, 29, will be granted a lucrative testimonial in recognition of his 12 years at the club.”
Transfer guru Alan Nixon spouts “Manchester City are being given the green light to sign AC Milan star Rino Gattuso – after he snubbed a new contract.” That story though is doused in cold water in the Independent where we learn “Manchester City and Chelsea are not interested in signing Gennaro Gattuso, according to the Milan vice-president, Adriano Galliani.”
Over in the Star, Sami Mokbel trumpets “Manchester United and Arsenal have been given the green lightÂ to fight it out for Â£15m-rated Steven Defour. The Standard Liege midfielder has just returned to light training after breaking a foot. He is aiming at a comeback in February.”