Britain’s embarrassing xenophobia on “cheaters” holding them back

Steven Gerrard doesn't dive, ever

Its something that every non-British English speaking soccer fan knows all too well: in the eyes of the British, only foreigners cheat. We all remember the uproar surrounding David N’Gog’s blatant dive against Birmingham a few weeks back. Compare that furor to the tidal wave of criticism total silence on Wayne Rooney’s plunge against Villa on Saturday. But it’s not just diving; the British seem to have a peculiar view of who can pressure referees and who can’t. This reflexive xenophobia is part of what is holding the English back in world soccer.

David N’Gog dove. It’s pretty simple. Lee Carsley stuck his leg in and N’Gog theatrically went over it without any contact. He won a penalty that rescued a 2-2 draw for the struggling Reds. All across Britain, N’Gog was castigated – “hung, drawn, and quartered” in the words of one journalist. It shouldn’t have been a penalty and it was a key moment in the game, but it is impossible to think that it would have produced the same reaction if an English player had been the culprit. Continue reading


World Cup 2010: How to beat England

Eight things Bob Bradley can do to outsmart this guy; Photo by Paul Blank

While there are no easy games in the World Cup, unquestionably the most difficult game for the US in Group C will be the opener against England. As I said yesterday, points earned in this game are mostly a bonus as the US has a quite manageable path to the second round even if it gets blown out by the English.

But that said, of all the top level teams, England is a pretty good match up for the United States; a lot of Americans are familiar with the English game because they play in the Premier League, the English are not the most technically gifted teams who would never let the US have a kick, and while they have a few quick players, they are lacking in overall team speed. Below, I break down four defensive, and four offensive tactical options the US team could deploy to beat England. Continue reading

English Press Fail

The English press are certainly not renowned for their accuracy – particularly when it comes to football. So this “exclusive” from the Mirror shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: USA set to steal England’s preferred World Cup training base due to Fabio Capello’s indecision. The BBC Gossip page picked it up as well. The Mirror goes on to say:

England boss Fabio Capello loved the facilities on a visit last week. But he was unhappy with the grass on the training pitches and wants another look in the New Year. His indecision means the FA has failed to complete the £1million deal for the 82-room complex from June 4 to July 12 next year. And now we are in danger of being gazumped by the Yanks, who are also said to be keen on the venue. Bafokeng spokesman Martin Bekker told the Mirror the base – which also offers valuable altitude training at 1,500m above sea level – was a “very attractive option” to other nations in England’s group, especially the USA, for whom money is no object.

Funny – I thought I had read this story on Soccernet last Summer, saying the US already had booked their facility. This would be a great story – if it were true, especially the part of the cash-strapped US soccer federation being money is no object.

The Americans grabbed the coveted training site the Italians are using at this tournament for next year’s World Cup. Southdowns College in Irene is on the outskirts of Pretoria, 30 miles from Johannesburg. The highly rated facility contains three full soccer fields, with six more planned. There is also a gym and pool. “U.S. Soccer followed all of the procedures for securing a base camp as required by FIFA, and based on the time of our request we have our first option and we have FIFA’s confirmation on this,” U.S. Soccer spokesman Michael Kammarman told The Associated Press on Sunday. “Of course, this is subject to qualifying for the World Cup.”

I guess those Brits have never heard of the google which can be used to find stuff located in a series of tubes.

Jason Davis at MatchFit makes the great point in comments that the US has also been talking about how close all the games are to their base camp.

World Cup 2010: Most important game for USA in Group C is Algeria v Slovenia

All attention on the redcoats but Algeria v Slovenia more meaningful for US qaulification; Photo by Axel

Every American soccer fan I have talked to in the last few days has nothing else on their minds other than the opening matchup in Group C against England. A great deal more than 3 points will be on the line when the English line up against the Yanks in Rustenberg on June 12th. But it’s actually another Group C match the following day between Algeria and Slovenia that will likely have more impact on the American’s qualification hopes.

Getting England in Group C is massively important for the growth of soccer in America. Most American soccer fans follow the Premier League and know a great deal about the England team. Fox Soccer Channel has built its entire network on showing English league games and the common language makes the English game even more accessible for US fans. Continue reading

How they view US – a scan of the UK papers

There is definitely some bulletin board material in the UK papers this morning but far far less than one would have expected just a few years ago. There is in general a mild respect for the US now in England and a recognition that we should be England’s toughest test in the group stage. In general, the British press’ instinctively dismissive view of US soccer has appeared to fade and we are now viewed more or less correctly, as a team on par with “Sweden” or an international version of “Fulham.” That’s about right and signals some significant advancement in improving America’s international reputation. One thing is clear the confederations cup was huge.

The Sun – “The Best England Group Since the Beatles” – eat that Oasis.

Terry Venables – former England manager: Similar to Sweden

“The US game will be tough because they’ll be very well organised and they’ll be fit. They won’t out-play us, but they could out-strength us, but they’ll be similar to the Sweden sides we’ve met at tournaments in the past: they’ll be solid. There won’t be too many players to out-skill us or shock us, but they’ll be strong. But we could still have hand-picked that group and been satisfied. Look at one or two of the other groups, Spain, Brazil … we’d have been saying ‘Oh dear’ if we’d got those groups.”

Martin Samuel – Daily Mail: We are Fulham.

The United States are the Fulham of international football, organised and awkward, but no more. If England cannot beat them in the opening group game on Saturday, June 12, another two years, not to mention the odd £10m, has been wasted.

Roy Hodgson – Fulham manager: “It’ll be like a Premier League game”

The US are well organised and well drilled, athletically very good and with players with a lot of experience playing in England or Germany, but that could be a like-versus-like contest… That could actually be quite good for England. It’ll be like a Premier League game, with two teams with a similar style. They’ll know how England play, but we won’t be surprised with what they’re going to come with. And I think that England have just got far too much quality for the US.”

Continue reading

This will be giving me nightmares until 6-12

Oh dear God…Aaron Lennon vs. Jonathan Bornstein…

This is not a fair match-up… Hopefully Edgar Castillo will emerge. Because Lennon will torch Bornstein all day.

Weekend Rewind

Some thoughts on this weekends action.

First, the Manchester derby lived up to the hype. There have been a lot of detailed explanations for the two extra minutes. Yes, Bellamy celebrated a goal just as the board went up and there was also a substitution. But there is a reason managers make substitutions at the very end of games – it is to waste time! It’s a common tactic that works and officials rarely take that time into account – if they did why would they care if players stall while going off the field and furthermore why would players stall! I am not saying that slack time keeping is a good thing, but match officials are almost never that eagle-eye about added time. Hence the suspicious letter of the law interpretation. The Guardian in a great piece of investigative sports journalism concludes – yes, Man U. do get more stoppage time.

Additionally, British commentators show at times a maddening level of pro-English bias. A common refrain now heard is that Carlos Tevez runs around like a “headless chicken.” Hmm… His work rate caused a Ben Foster mistake and a city goal. Could you just imagine the praise that would descend down if that were Wayne Rooney.

Second, Spurs lost to a better Chelsea side, but definitely didn’t get any breaks. Tottenham had a bright start but didn’t convert despite many chances. Continue reading