A new Korea in a new town (or Klose but no cigar)
By Colin McCabe and Eddie Gough
From Issue 57, Summer 2002
So, another World Cup passes and we await the next one. Both major terrestrial channels fought over the spoils and made an excellent job of it. Almost half as good as Sky Sports would have done. So there’s an improvement then.
I was one of the sceptics who thought the idea of an Asian World Cup (using co-hosts for the first time) would be a farce. I thought it was a disgrace that we had two Asian countries qualifying as hosts at the expense of the Europeans again. I was pissed off that there were FIVE African nations and FOUR Asian nations and no place for stalwarts such as Holland, Scotland, Czech Republic (a stalwart in their former life at least), Norway and Rumania. And then I thought, well, maybe not Scotland then as I don’t really care that they never qualified. And Norway have bored the shit out of us for the last few tournaments. And I think they still play Ronny Johnsen and Henning Berg at the back as well. I’ve never really cared for Rumania – Gheorgi Hagi, Ceaucescu, Dan Pet-Rescue and Vlad the Impaler, and all that lot. The Dutch squad is full of arrogant, pompous twats who need a good kick up the arse. The cycle of the Czech team who excelled in Euro 96 has come to its end. It’s time to rebuild. Apparently Paddy has retired from international football. That must have come as a great shock to the Czech nation as they can hardly have seen him over the last two years. Or us, for that matter.
I also doubted the wisdom of those responsible who decided to hold the spectacle at the start of the rainy season. I returned from holiday in Thailand just as Senegal were beating France and I saw at first hand the frenzy of excitement that holding Asia’s first World Cup generated there (I also saw that Liverpool car stickers in Bangkok and Chiang Mai outnumbered Manc Shite 13-6 and shirts outnumbered the Spawn of Satan by 11-8). Television magnified and multiplied this in their coverage in Japan and Korea.
I can see the point of the purists when they speculate that this World Cup didn’t throw up the great stars, terrific free-kicks and brilliant skills that we’ve seen in previous tournaments. But what this tournament did show was that the gap is closing rapidly, even an average Brazilian team can win the tournament, complacency regularly aided favourites towards the exits, loads of surprises, loads of romance (never seen before in such numbers in a World Cup) and Ron Atkinson is a twat.
We had the usual silly name competition. Leading contenders were Joseph Yobo of Nigeria – a career at Leeds United beckons; Justice Christopher; Bart Whore of Belgium; Bruce Arena the USA coach; Agoose an extremely poor American defender who scored a cracking oggie; Cheeky Arce of Paraguay; Rusty the Turkish ’keeper; I‘ll Pay of Villa and Turkey. The winner was Costa Rica who heralded some very English sounding names from the heart of Hispanic Central America – players called Winston, Eric, Ronald and Harold and also Parks, Bryce, Wallace and Wright (or Wrigth, as the dyslexic shirt printer put it).
Due to the amount of coverage that was given to the whole proceedings they were practically dragging people off the street to go to Asia and televise reports. That would be the only reason why some of the panellists, pundits, co-commentators got plum media jobs, a plane ticket and a licence to bore. There was a glut of the bastards who appeared from nowhere and said nothing of interest – Jamie Redknapp, Trevor Steven, Gary Neville (I never thought I’d regret him breaking a bone in his foot), Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Peter Schmeichel, Paul Elliott, Efan Ekoku, Ian Fucking Wright, a very pissed and incoherent Paul Gascoigne and Juliet Ferrington. It was interesting to relate that Gascoigne’s reaction to being suspended from a possible World Cup final in Italia 90 resulted in tears from the big jessie, and Bollock’s response was to score the goal that made sure his country got there.
Schmeichel was obviously dragged into the studio for a ritual humiliation when Denmark got pounded. But why ask Hasselbaink? His national team-mates were sunning themselves on a Florida beach. His struggle with the English language reminded me of – well, Paul Gascoigne. Elliott was fresh from his monthly Italian outings on C4. During the 3 or 4 years the programme dominated early Sunday afternoon, nearly every carthorse who had ever ‘played’ in Italy was hustled into a London studio and made to sit through yet another Italian bore-a-thon. When the barrel was scraped and the dulcet tones of Luther Blissett and Elliott were to be heard I was so embarrassed. I was so embarrassed because Rushie couldn’t even climb the queue over those two tossers. With his lovely speaking voice, too.
Talking of tossers: Des introduced us to those responsible for the howling at the front of the show. The Opera Babes. What we got were two middle class floozies who were up their own arse. Beating selective parts of their rabid landed gentry relatives by a matter of milliseconds, I shouldn’t wonder.
The advert breaks were a big thing on ITV. And some of them were hilarious. Jamie Redknapp getting alerted at dawn that the football was about to start and getting injured TWICE. There was one with a bloke with his three mates on the coach watching footie ordering Pizza Doritos on his mobile – to his wife in the kitchen. Another good one had Brazilian skills aplenty until the ball was given to woollyback comedian, Peter Kay, whose warm up consisted of hoofing the ball out the field into someone’s back garden with the immortal words “Have it!!!”. With the legend “No Nonsense” on the screen he pushes the half-time oranges away to pick up a can of John Smiths. I’d rather have the oranges – all in all, a more pleasant way of getting the shits. Kay was wearing a blue shirt as well I think. An annoying one with a good ending was the one with Alan Hansen as a butler cleaning boots. In fact, Hansen made more appearances than his last year at Anfield. He was joined on the adverts by Ashley Cole, Campbell, James, Beckham, Owen, Heskey (in name at least), Sheringham, Ferdinand, Totti and Henry.
At the end of the Biggest Show on Earth a few retirements beckon – Hakan Suker (who had the energy level of Iain Dowie after a night on the ale), Ian Wright from any football panel again, Big Fat Ron from Old Swan from opening his mouth again, Barry Davies, Gabriel Batistuta, Paolo Maldini, Cobi Jones, the French defence and Croatia. Cobi Jones played the dying ten minutes against the Mexicans – almost literally. He got fucking battered by Mexico. Remember the Alamo! Hardened Police Officers have seen mugging victims that got off lighter than him. I’m sure Coventry fans would have appreciated him getting snotted, though.
France appeared bereft of ideas throughout their sojourn. Short as it was. They were already on their way out when Zidane limped into the fray. He was still more mobile than the geriatric defence. The combination of Leboeuf, Petit and Barthez made a total arse of themselves in their assistance with the comical Senegalese goal. Dugarry and Djorkaeff never could hit a bull’s arse with a spade anyway, and nothing appears to have changed.
I find it amazing that an ageing Croatian outfit couldn’t find room for Igor Biscan. Or maybe I don’t. Davor Suker was a lazy bastard in his prime. At the veteran stage he looks positively arthritic.
Major disappointments from KoreaJapan were obviously England, France, Spain and the underdogs consistently upsetting the apple cart. Argentina were a big surprise as well. I was so surprised I pissed myself laughing when they were lobbed out at the group stages. Juan Season Veron took his club form to Asia and was dragged off against England – marked out of the game by Nicky Butt. Oh dear.
The hairstyles and headgear were as bizarre as usual. Abel Xavier was up there with the best of them. For the ten minutes he actually played, anyway. Christian Ziege has displayed some weird and wonderful hairstyles (well, just weird then) during his sojourn in England. His current bouffant is something that purports to be Germany’s colours but ends up looking uncannily similar to a badger’s arse. Sensibly, it was shaved for the latter parts of the festival. The latter parts when he was stapled to the bench. His haircuts probably takes the focus off his complexion, because he looks like he strikes matches on his face. The German side seemed to feature quite a few bald heads – I haven’t seen so many shaved twats since ‘Showgirls’.
Even worse were Umit Davala of Turkey and Clint Mathis of the States who duplicated the rodent rectum look. As Ronaldo took the plaudits for “Best player of the Tournament” from the media (but not from me), it is fitting that I should award him “Best haircut of the Tournament” as his head looked like a baboon’s arse. If I was an opposing coach I would suggest that the best way to defend against him was to stick a disco strobe light in his hotel room.
Niyamoto wore a face mask Zorro would have been proud of. If his performances hadn’t made him stand out in the Japanese defence his mask certainly would. It gave him an aura of authority and invincibility. That didn’t work for Gascoigne a decade ago. He looked more like The Phantom of the Kebab Shop than The Lone Ranger. A week later Kim Tae Yung of South Korea was wearing one. I hope this isn’t the start of a new trend and it becomes a fashion accessory like Robbie’s nose plaster. Indeed both of those masks looked like dog muzzles. It would have been more appropriate had Todo (the other git with the red stripe through his hair) donned one.
Sod-ya was denied wearing his usual hankie on his head. Apparently the referee decided he looked like a middle-aged pigeon fancier from Bolton on Blackpool beach. In defiance he sported what appeared to be a silver bogey on his chin.
The Turkish ‘keeper, Rustu, wore black mascara under his eyes (as opposed to Gascoigne who spent World Cup month with bags under his eyes). Presumably he went through that particular transvestite thing to keep the sun out of his eyes like Quarter-Backs do. That doesn’t explain why he daubed it on like an Air Hostess. When it pissed it down during the Japan tie and ended up looking like Alice Cooper, though. My winner from those assorted cross-dressers / bad dressers / window dressers has to be the Italian, Cocao who borrowed Ena Sharples’ hairnet during the Korean debacle.
Emile Heskey was up against a harder opponent in the English media than anything he faced on a World Cup field. Who exactly did they want to replace him with? A 36 year old Teddy Sheringham, whose mobility was redolent of a three seater couch on a shagpile carpet – with a dead elephant on it? They certainly couldn’t recommend Fowler as they’d only successfully concluded a three year campaign last winter that he and Owen couldn’t play together. Even Stevie Wonder wouldn’t suggest Vassall and Owen together in the same line-up. That didn’t stop it happening, though. And of course, Andy Cole retired from the international scene just after Sven Goran Eriksson announced the squad. And not fifteen months earlier, as some unkind souls suggested.
Anybody who thinks this England team will do better in Germany ’06 had better think again. Gary Neville (who nobody missed even after Mills’ blunder against the Swedes), Butt, Scholes, Beckham, Campbell and Sinclair will all be in their 30s. Sheringham and Seaman will be in their 40s! Do you really think that Ashley Cole and Mills are going to last at international level with their defensive abilities and positional sense?
Michael Owen was anonymous in most of the England games. But so too was his service. His tally of two goals, a struck goalpost and a penalty award was adequate. You did expect more, though. But England didn’t have many good performances against Sweden or Brazil.
Hamann had the consistent and unfussy tournament you would expect. Even the suspension he sustained was expected. In the Korean semi he thought he was playing for Liverpool in a European away leg, he was that good – except he wasn’t subbed. Dudek, on the other hand, played behind a defence like a sieve. Although he wasn’t directly to blame for any of the goals he conceded, he hardly covered himself in glory. Peter Schmeichel begged to differ. The protractor and compass came out to prove that Jerzy had got his angles all wrong. I noticed that the protractor and compass were unavailable when Rudolf gifted goals to Jari Litmanen, Malcolm Christie and Andy Cole last season.
Xavier missed most of the tournament through injury but did make a brief appearance. Some of our ex-players didn’t fare much better – McAteer played against Cameroon when he wasn’t fully fit and he was dragged off. He had a whinge in the papers, apologised and ran around like a headless chicken against the Saudis for five minutes. Staunton was solid, got his 100th cap and bowed out from international football after the Spanish exit.
Rigobert Song was shaky against the Irish, unimpressive against Saudi and was pulled all over the place for the German goals. After Cameroon’s exit he signed for Patrice Bergues at Lens for £1m. So, we don’t get the extra few quid off the Cockney Bastards AGAIN, which would have been awarded for the “Games Played” bonus. But the good news is that the shifty spivs lost £1.5 m on the deal.
Friedel had an impressive month for the USA (saving two penalties en route) despite allowing Michael Bollock’s header go straight through him. Sourness says that he wouldn’t swap him for anyone else. Yes, Graeme. Friedel is 31 and has only just displaced Kasey Kasem as the US number one.
Fowler strolled around for a half in the Danish warm-down. James’ last appearance for England was in the Cameroon warm-up. They scored from a free-kick when he hid behind the wall. If he’d been standing where he should have then the ball would’ve hit him in the face. Oh, that’d be why then.
Everton had a minimal impact on the World Cup. Carsley had five minutes for the Irish. Joe Max Moore didn’t even have that. Linderoth played in all of the 4 Swedish games but barely got a mention. Alexandersson scored from Danny Mills’ great pass, but did little else. Gravesen looked mean and moody. Along with his sidekick, Tofting, he looked like a bouncer outside The Wonder Bar. They were both conspicuous by their absence in the English rout.
Materazzi turned out in the Croatian game and was fuckin’ awful. Apparently American Brian McBride had a trial for David Moyes at Preston, but they couldn’t afford the fee so he returned to the States. His constant dismay at the Nationwide club being permanently poverty stricken will be good experience for the little shitehawk
Other Premiership “stars” were on display. Diago Forlan managed something he hadn’t quite achieved in five months at Old Trafford. He scored. Quinton Fortune of Manchester United (as he is now known by commentators) scored a penalty for a tedious South African outfit.
When a “head to head” came up between the terrestrial channels, it was no contest. As soon as I heard the dulcet tones of Tyldsley and Atkinson that was it. The hunt for the remote control was on. It’s difficult watching football with an annoying cunt spouting shite all over the place. And that’s what Atkinson is.
The best goal celebrations belonged to the Africans. Aghawaha (?), the Nigerian who somersaults more than Nadia Comaneci on coke (that was just a rumour) and the Senegalese dancing around Papa Betty Boop’s shirt after the France goal were excellent. The South Korean attempt at ice skating was childish, amateurish and shite.
The last time I saw Jose Camacho was when he dropped a shot on the top of Ray Clemence’s net in Paris 81. He then spent the rest of the game kicking lumps out of Graeme Souness. I feel he needs to be introduced to the new fangled 20th century concept of deodorant. Either that or wear a darker shirt.
Two scary lookalikes in the month were Luis Scolari, the Brazilian coach, who looked uncannily like Gene Hackman in The French Connection. The other was the Turkish goalie, Rustu, who was the spitting image of Ardeth Bey, the Medjai in “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns”. His kicking was pretty similar as well.
Most of the tournament was spent eulogising over an average Brazilian team. Particularly the “Three Arse“. The eventual winners were probably the worst Brazilian team I’ve seen since Germany 74 when Pele thought they were so bad he opted to stay at home.
Roberto Carlos competed with Japan’s Hidekuti Nakata for the most over-rated player of the month. Carlos’ defensive deficiencies were exposed time and time again. It’s been said many times that John Barnes lived on his Maracana goal for the rest of his career. Carefully ignoring three sensational seasons for us (and some decent ones too). They also tried to say that Michael Owen was living off his Argentina 98 goal. What has never been said is that this bastard has lived off one free-kick that he’s never even come close to emulating. Does that make it a fluke? It does until he repeats it. “The boys that play football to the samba beat” – cue Santana to be played every single time the Brazilians were on TV. Some sad bastard negotiated “Abraxas” and “Moonflower” into my car as well. Denilson is the greediest Brazilian I have ever seen. And he’s got a lot of competition. Especially when Bluenoses thought Red Faced Muller was coming to Goodison.
Last word about a strange, but always compelling festival goes to that master of the bleedin’ obvious – John Motson. The final finished with 93 mins 20 secs on the clock. At precisely 92 mins 21 secs, Motty rashly predicted “They’re not going to beat Markos tonight, I feel”. There’s nothing like sticking your arse out of the window and going out on a limb, is there?
I’m writing this just after the latest English foray to a major tournament has ground to a halt, defeat clutched from the hands of victory again. For the last couple of weeks I’ve put the cynicism in me to bed and genuinely tried to support England and get behind the team – and whilst it lasted I thoroughly enjoyed it. Funny thing is though, the Brazil defeat, whilst disappointing, barely scrapes the surface of the depression felt after, say, the Leverkusen Euro exit or the defeat at Spurs which ended the Championship hopes. And for that I am ever thankful.
The thing is, I think I have now had it confirmed precisely why my mindset (and that of a great deal of other ‘club’ fans) is this way. I first started going off England when a minority of the Wembley crowd decided to boo and heckle John Barnes during a WC qualifier in the early 90’s. I felt genuinely embarrassed to be English that night; I detest the vast majority (who am I kidding – ALL!) of Man U’s England contingent but never would I stoop to booing one of my own ‘supposed’ team – singling out one player in that manner and making him the scapegoat is shameful and it changed my outlook completely; definitely not The Liverpool Way (unless your name is Danny, it seems). I’ve never been to an England game and doubt very much that I ever will. That said, I was very much looking forward to the recent encounter with Denmark because on the morning of the match I was at (the decent) Old Trafford watching England beat Sri Lanka in the 3rd test and an enormous TV screen had been erected especially for the ‘other’ England occasion. At about 12.15 the cricket crowd did a remarkably good impression of Goodison Park at 4.40 every other Saturday – it vanished. A few minutes later several thousand of us had congregated in the car-park. For the first time probably since I was at school, I was genuinely caught up in the optimistic air and national mutuality of an England game. 5 pints before lunch on a hot day certainly played it’s part but – I have to say – for the few moments that it lasted, it really did feel rather bloody good.
Normal service was soon be resumed however: every single time poor old Emile got anywhere near the ball, he was roundly booed by, I would guess, around 1/3 of the gathered masses. It didn’t matter if his involvement was peripheral – a quick lay-off back into midfield – or more fully-fledged – a run or shot at goal – he was not going to be forgiven for the heinous crime of ‘being picked’ by the national coach. Flashback to Digger in ’93 – despite the decidedly major impact of the aforementioned booze, I could still remember vividly why reaching anything even approaching the Anfield-like heights of anticipation and excitement with the national side was still all but impossible.
It (the reaction to Emile that is) all changed of course the second he slammed one under the body of Sorensen to make the game safe; I hate to think what might’ve happened had that one not gone in. I have to admit really fearing for Emile prior to the trip to Japan. He’d had a fairly poor season for us, certainly when compared to 2000/1 and I just got a feeling that if it did all go horribly wrong for England during the summer, it would inevitably be Emile who carried the can for it. The goal against Denmark followed by him probably being England’s best player in the Brazil game – not to mention the blooper from Seaman – seemed to get him off the hook. And thank God for our sake it did. The press doesn’t normally need an invitation to persecute LFC players (that said, in almost every single player-by-player review, I don’t think he ever got above 6 out of 10).
There was a palpable feeling of shared despair almost everywhere you went after the Brazil defeat. It had all gone horribly wrong, albeit as expected, just when it seemed the country might in fact be on the verge of something special. The reaction of those few football-morons at Old Trafford just a few days earlier however definitely made the defeat and subsequent exit that much easier to swallow. I suppose there’s a very fair chance that the perpetrators were from the ‘other’ Old Trafford across the road – funny though; you’d have thought that they’d all be more than used to winning f@~k-all this year, wouldn’t you?
There are other reasons, of course, why dedication to the national cause as a Liverpool fan is frequently called into question. One of the main factors is undoubtedly ‘the nation’s treasure’, our very own Saint Michael of Owen. Do you not just get the feeling that the rest of the country is waiting for him to fail? I was watching one of the evening World Cup highlights’ program’s fairly early on in the competition, I think it was between the Sweden and Argentina fixtures – and the ‘experts’ in the panel were casting their thoughts over England’s chances. No joke, the presenter – a youngish looking bloke called Matt Smith I think – said something along the lines of “…and with Michael Owen overdue a good game, England might just be able to capitalise…”
Overdue a good game is he?! What does the poor sod have to do to be appreciated in this country? He’s just 22 and – with the exception of ONE free-kick by Captain-Beefhead (in a game in which Michael was not even involved) – has carried this country’s national hopes for over 4 years. That’s included (I think) being the top-scorer at each of the last 3 major tournaments including scoring one of THE greatest goals of all-time. He continues to pierce the world’s most prestigious defences and, as far as I can remember, has never let the national team down (neither has he domestically either but that point has been laboured in depth elsewhere). It really does beggar belief. I knew the 5-1 would soon be forgotten because it was a Liverpool inspired achievement, but it didn’t even last a year.
Anyway, in summary: England are coming home, not football. Michael looks like he may be injured again, Emile is still disliked by the vast majority, Stevie G and Danny barely got past customs before more injury-jinx, Jamie C and Nicky Barmby didn’t even get that far, Beckham did next to nothing during the whole competition except shit out of tackles but will probably get knighted (nice hair though), England’s best player is (naturally) now heading to Old Trafford, the media’s xenophobic build up to and reaction following the defeat of Argentina spoke volumes of their ‘profession’ and morals, and Rivaldo, well, what a tosser he turned out to be – but such small moanings aside, this World Cup really has been a wonderful ride from start to finish. Truth of the matter is though – and I have no idea if I’m alone here – but the whole World Cup seemed a much less pressured affair for me than any game involving LFC ever could be. I was excited at the prospect of England playing but I was never once nervous or edgy. Surely that’s irrational isn’t it?! I got more upset losing to Grimsby in last season’s Worthington Cup than I did when the nation missed out by a whisker on its chance to be the best in the World. Crazy? No. Roll on 18th August.