Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I think it would have been impossible to be better than this. We’ve played 10 games and after every game I’ve seen the players taking another step forward. This evening I saw us take another step forward because a lot of players played very, very well. Like a team. When I started my job, I had to recover the confidence. I think all the players in this team understand and have experienced this. You can see that the confidence is coming back, during training and during games. This is very important.” – Fabio Capello.
Runner-up: “[Theo Walccott’s injury] is particularly not welcome at the moment because it is at a period where you want your players to recover a little bit. And the week after is Champions League so it’s not well positioned. We have some players that will not even be back for [the match away to] Manchester City [on Saturday]. I don’t see what you gain from this friendly because there is no game. You can explain a friendly to prepare for an official match but after this there is no international game for four months.” – Arsene Wenger.
Today’s overview: After several days belittling England’s friendly with arch-rivals Germany, the morning after another victory in the Fatherland finds Fleet Street singing the Three Lions praises from the rafters.
Barney Ronay was quick to bask in the victory, claiming “here we had an England team shorn of its must-pick players and free instead to play specialists in every position.” Henry Winter jumped in right behind, adding “the result alone brimmed with significance, maintaining Englandâ€™s winning momentum, instilling further belief and reminding absent friends like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand that England possess the reserves to put pressure on the regulars.”
Also rejoicing was Harry Redknapp – “this was not a night for the stand-ins but more an occasion to stand up and be counted for England. And those on duty gave the best indication yet that there is something exciting in the wind.” But James Lawton offered a slightly more balanced conclusion, writing “Capello is building into his charges a depth of belief in their ability to reimpose themselves on a game. [But] of course let’s be clear, this was a wretched German performance.”
Gabriel Agbonlahor’s performance was celebrated by Richard Williams (“England now have another worthwhile strike forward lining up in the queue behind Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott and Emile Heskey”) with The Times’ Matt Hughes also signing for the same hymn sheet. Yet for Oliver Kay, “the biggest winner of all was Downing, who set up the goals and showed conviction throughout.” Sadly though not everyone came up smelling of roses, as Sam Wallace wrote “Scott Carson reminded everyone of why he was such a complete disaster that night when he played a central part in a monumental cock-up that contributed to Patrick Helmes’ equaliser for Germany.”
After Diego Maradona registered his first international win, Andy Hunter negatively observed “the performance of the Argentina defence here highlighted an obvious flaw and improvement will be required if Maradona’s men are to withstand more serious threats en route to South Africa.” Matt Dickinson illustrated the gulf in class, writing “Scotland threatened sporadically in the second half but, even without Lionel Messi, Juan Roman Riquelme and Sergio Aguero, Argentina had too much technical class.” On the Tartan Army, in an article discussing the merits of this international friendly week, Lawrence Donegan drops in the sly comment that Terry Butcher’s outburst against Diego showed “though a decent player in his day, is cut from the same managerial cloth as Mr Magoo and is about as deserving of a spot in any international dug-out.”
On Ireland’s defeat at the hands of Poland, Daniel McDonnell wrote “This was the worst defensive display since that infamous evening in Nicosia.” Fellow Irish Independent scribe David Kelly added “the absences of Andy Reid and Stephen Ireland rocked the Italianâ€™s seemingly infallible selection policy.”
On the subject of cheating sportsmen,show me a sportsman who claims never knowingly to have broken the rules and I will show you a man with a rapidly growing hooter.”
In other news, Brian Moore delivers some home truths regarding the Respect campaign noting “if managers refuse to be honest and, through their silence, encourage their players to con referees, they cannot complain if referees overcompensate, fearing criticism for being so conned,” while Marina Hyde pokes fun at Newcastle writing “like Christmas decorations in the high street the first ‘Shearer for Newcastle’ headlines seem to come earlier every year.”
The credit crunch has reached La Liga, with Astrid Andersson reporting that “at least six clubs, including second-tier sides Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo and Levante, are in administration and more may follow as the recession takes hold.” And the same thread is picked up by Iain Rogers writing, “dwindling revenue from advertising and sponsorship, declining stadium attendances and a slowdown in consumer spending are threatening to tip more clubs into administration as they struggle to meet soaring transfer fees and wage bills.”