It’s been an unpredictable World Cup. Italy and Holland never made it, the countries that dominated in recent years – Brazil, Germany and Spain – all eliminated, no African country in the quarters, no South American country left.
Pouring over the entrails I can foresee a France v England final.
I still don’t have faith in Roberto Martinez as a international manger. His game management was poor against Brazil. With his team exhausted and Brazil resurgent he made his substitutions too late. He did not even summon Moussa Dembele from the bench, a player every premier manager would prefer to Fellaini. You will tell me his Belgium won but there are always close margins, a penalty that might have been given. Various so-called pundits nominated Lukaku as man of the match but Belgium owed their victory to keeper Cortois. De Bruyne emerged as a more effective midfielder than Neymar. Having seen Eden Hazard destroy Brighton for Chelsea I realised he too is an exceptional talent.
Coach Deschamps’ contract is up at themed of the tourney and that never helps.
I am mystified that Giroud plays ahead of Ousmanne Dembele but otherwise thee is quality throughout the squad
England on any basis have had a successful campaign superbly managed by Gareth Southgate. Whilst he might not have convinced at Middlesbrough he has proved a German-style appointment progressing from the youth to the main team and understanding the requirements of international competition.
Yet the midfield is unbalanced as Dell Alle and Lingard do little in their one half but have only scored one goal in the opposition’s; only Harry Kane looks like scoring; Ashley Young does not convince at right back and for some reason takes the free kicks; Raheem Stirling has made little contribution.
The stars have been Kieran Trippier with his crossing, Harry Maguire and Harry Kane. Speaking to an England fan who was out there he told me the Russian support is incredible and might carry them through Croatia today.
You have to go back to 1990 to witness a national mood of English identity with the World Cup team. Algy invited me to the wine tasting and wine buffs could only speak of how they got through the penalty shoot out. There is a difference with 1990 in Italy. Then the press were slagging off Bobby Robson and the team but then realised they were out of kilter with the national mood so changed stance. Here this time the press support has been constant. In fact France with their critique of Deschamps remind me more of England in the 1990 tourney.