Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Martin Palermo has saved us and our chances of qualifying are intact. When the wind and rain and cold began and allowed Peru to draw level, we could not do anything, but the miracle of Palermo has given us a longer life. The goals I scored were normal, Palermo makes miracles.” – Diego Maradona.
Runner-up: “I’m happy to be playing for England and, obviously, not playing at club level is difficult… I will have to sit down and think about my next move. I don’t know whether I can get a World Cup place if I’m not playing for Villa. The manager [Capello] hasn’t really spoken to me about it. I just have to keep performing well in training and keep going. But you always wonder about those kind of things, whether it will affect my chances. I will just have to try to address it when the time is right. I’m never going to give up. It’s just another hurdle I have to get over. I just have to try and keep my spirits up at Villa. I must keep going, keep training hard and then just try to address it. We will see what happens. But you would have to ask the manager [O’Neill] why I’m not playing.” – Emile Heskey.
Today’s overview: Every paper carries news of Emile Heskey’s quit threat to Aston Villa, yet only a few dare to consider who’d actually stump up the cash for the non-goalscoring forward.
Matt Hughes assesses Heskey’s problems noting “Rafael BenÃtez considered bringing Heskey back to Liverpool last season, but with the Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City squads full of strikers there will be few other obvious takers in the top half of the Premier League.” John Cross though counters in the Mirror, trumpeting his unsubstantiated belief that “there would be no shortage of takers if Heskey were to become available – Fulham would be among the front-runners for his signature. But it would be a major blow for Villa if one of their big name signings wanted to quit.”
Losing 1-nil in the Ukraine was a good result for England. Or so Patrick Barclay believes. “[England showed] they can play 10 v 11 without losing too much rhythm or ambition. Coping with numerical imbalance has become a very important aspect of the game. England need few reminders of that, having survived the dismissals of David Beckham against Argentina in 1998 and Wayne Rooney against Portugal in 2006 only to be beaten on penalties â€” and having failed to capitalise on Brazilâ€™s loss of Ronaldinho in 2002. They will familiarise themselves with such lines before and during the tournament, but there is nothing like match practice.”
For a second day running, Henry Winter waxes lyrical over Wayne Rooney. “Where there is Rooney, there is hope. What a player he is. He has delivered before, given energetic master-classes against Turkey and Croatia but this was surely his most mature performance. Disciplined. Nerveless. Versatile. Full of running. He so nearly scored with a low shot that arrowed just wide.”
From the half full to the half empty though, as Alan Hansen fears the extent of Rio Ferdinand’s latest slump. “If Ferdinand continues to struggle, Capello faces a real problem because there is no-one there as a replacement… All of a sudden, he is having a blip and it is a major blip. There are too many mistakes and he needs to get back to playing the percentage game.” Keeping with Rio’s downturn, Sam Wallace mockingly lays out the wider fear for Ferdinand. “It takes more than a year, and eight games, to qualify for a World Cup finals, but it is possible to get yourself knocked out of the tournament in about the time it normally takes Rio to say, ‘You’ve been merked’… Ferdinand turns 31 next month and it would be such a waste if his form was to fall off a cliff like that of one of his England predecessors, Des Walker.”
Knee-jerking loudmouth Stan Collymore calls for Rio Ferdinand to be benched. “If there is any good to come out of Englandâ€™s defeat in the Ukraine it must be that Rio Ferdinand is no longer considered a shoe-in for the national side… And I now think maybe John Terry and Matthew Upson could be our starters in South Africa with Gary Cahill as back up if Ferdinand is still struggling.”
For all the criticisms levelled at Ferdinand, without doubt the dumbest opinion is served by Steven Howard who is found crying over Rio’s post-match behaviour. “When the final whistle sounded in Dnipropetrovsk, he put his head down and went straight into the tunnel and the safety and sanctuary of the dressing room. There was no recognition at all for the 3,000 England fans who had made their way there… Rio’s dash down the tunnel was a bit of an insult.”
As more data is gathered over the Ukraine-England internet experiment, Owen Gibson reveals the latest viewing figures. “The companies behind the screening of England’s World Cup qualifier in Ukraine as a pay-per-view online broadcast today hailed it as a success after almost half a million people tuned in, despite complaints about the picture quality… Kentaro refused to release a detailed breakdown, claiming the figures are commercially sensitive, so it is impossible to assess how many viewers arrived via newspaper websites and other media partners signed up to promote the match on a revenue-share basis.”
Showing how statistics can be spun to proves one’s agenda, the Mirror pick their language very differently when announcing “fewer than half a million people watched England’s first game to be broadcast exclusively live over the internet and no detailed viewing figures will be released, the firms behind the move said today.”
The Guardian’s Spanish supermo Sid Lowe swoops announces BArcelona’s latest targets in the transsfer market. “Barcelona’s sporting director, Txiki Beguiristain, has admitted that the European champions are interested in the Manchester City forward Robinho and would consider a move during the winter transfer window. He has also insisted that Cesc Fabregas will end up at the Camp Nou, amid rumours that the Arsenal midfielder will be used as a vote-winner in next summer’s presidential elections, having ‘suckled from the teat’ of Barcelona.”
After explaining how La Liga has an economic advantage of the Premier League, Oliver Kay widens the list of potential transfer targets for the Catalans. “Barcelona are also interested in Nemanja Vidic, the United defender, and Javier Mascherano, the Liverpool midfield player, both of whom would consider moving to Spain.”
Writing in his best poetic style, Gabriele Marcotti appears bewitched by the divine spell of Maradona after Argentina’s dramatic win over Peru. “Itâ€™s the unexplainable, the unfathomable, the unpredictable that seduces us into tuning in, time after time. And when the same man â€” Maradona â€” finds himself involved in such moments time and again, you canâ€™t help but wonder if there isnâ€™t something divine or, at least, supernatural enveloping him.”
Yet, for Robert Shaw, assessing Maradona’s achievements is much more of a numbers game. “Despite the win, a question mark remains about his suitability to pilot his country towards South Africa. While a Clarin poll showed 63.8 per cent believing that Argentina would now qualify, an equivalent figure had expressed misgivings in an OlÃ© survey about Maradonaâ€™s permanence.”
Finally in the transfers, Paul Jiggins reports that “Harry Redknapp expects to sign David James for Â£1million in January,” while The Sun detail how “Yossi Benayoun insists he is happy at Liverpool despite interest from Manchester City.”