World Cup/Wombles Friendly

With just Cesc Fàbregas and Robin van Persie left now in South Africa we shouldn’t be too badly affected at the start of the coming Premier League season. Both will remain at the tournament as if either the Netherlands and/or Spain lose they will take part in the bronze medal third place play-off the day before the final this coming weekend.
As Cesc hasn’t really played up to the quarter-final against Paraguay he shouldn’t be too cream-crackered, especially as he missed the last part of the season. More worrying has been the indifferent form of Robin van Persie. He’s a bit like Dennis Bergkamp in the sense that he seems to take a lot of games to really get up to form after injury. He was just running into the best streak of form of his Arsenal career when he got crocked playing for the Netherlands in Italy. We can but hope that the injury gremlins will take a season or two off eventually.
I’d still give both players (assuming they’re still with the club) a full four weeks off after the final on Sunday at Soccer City. It’s as much mental as physical rest that’s required after a big tournament I think. That would probably mean both of them missing the League opener at Anfield but I think that’s a price worth paying to have them not run out of gas later in the season.
Returning to the World Cup itself I was surprised at the level of outrage expressed about the Luis Suárez handball against Ghana. We’re very good at moral indignation in this country, not so good at remembering our own sins. How many remember that Jackie Charlton did exactly the same against Portugal in the 1966 World Cup semi-final at Wembley and wasn’t even sent off? Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
And let’s also not forget that the ball into the box came from a free-kick that never should have been awarded. I have absolutely no animus against Ghana at all. Yes, I was supporting Uruguay as it’s a country where I lived in the 1980s, where I have a lot of friends and for which I have a great affection. That doesn’t blind me to the quality of Ghana’s performance. They did well. I said before the tournament that they along with the Ivory Coast were the best of the Africans. The Ivory Coast let me down with their performance. Ghana did well.
I’m afraid though that Africa’s football development, speaking broadly, is still mired in corruption and incompetence. Such a tragedy for the people of that continent. They produce such high quantities of football talent. The neo-colonialist attitude of European clubs doesn’t help, cherry-picking African talent at increasingly young ages without regard for the football development of the nations they plunder. Africa must first get its own house in order however. Nor am I impressed by FIFA’s threats towards Nigeria (and France as it happens) about government interference. Read investigative journalist like Andrew Jennings and you will know that the “no political interference” rules are all too often employed by the FIFA establishment to squash genuine democracy and accountability. Maintaining FIFA’s favoured corrupt, kleptocratic client cronies in power is usually the priority in the FIFA bunker in Zurich.
I don’t think politics should have a role in sport as a rule but governments are entitled to ensure that proper transparency, accountability and internal governance and democracy are maintained. All too often FIFA sides with the corrupt autocrats.
On the field I’d love Uruguay to go through but I fear they have too many injuries and suspensions to cope tomorrow. I can see the Netherlands going to the first final since 1978. Germany versus Spain is very tight. I find it impossible to pick a winner in that game. If I had to I’d say Spain for their greater experience.
I was wrong about Spain before the tournament. I thought they’d struggle as they usually do no matter how many good players they have available. They haven’t hit their best form but are still in it. Nor did I see the Germans coming at all. I had Alan Hansen syndrome. You win nothing with kids. Their dismantling of Argentina proves that having a cheerleader on the touchline is all well and good but you need a real coach when the going gets tough.
Maradona is one of the four greatest attacking players I’ve seen along with Pelé, Johan Cruyff and George Best. All players for the ages. Great players often don’t make great managers however. Just look at Bobby Moore an all-time great defender in my book, right up there with the likes of Franz Beckenbaur, Giacinto Facchetti and Paulo Maldini. He never become even close to being a good manager.
I’d love Uruguay, who I tipped on this blog as my dark horse, to go all the way to Soccer City on Sunday. The whole country became completely unhinged with joy after their win against Ghana. I can’t imagine how demented the streets of cities, towns and villages throughout the country will become if they beat the Netherlands.
Finally, the AFC Wimbledon reserve friendly. This takes place at the Cherry Red Records Fans’ Stadium at Kingsmeadow on Saturday 7 August 2010 kick-off 3.00pm. Tickets are now on sale. They cost £10 for standing (£5 for over 60s, unemployed and full-time students) and £12 for seats (£6 for concessions). Ring 020 8247 9910 to book. All Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards accepted. I know all travelling Gooners will get a warm welcome from the Wombles. There are two large licensed bars so get there early and make a day of it.
Keep the faith!

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