Overly long writings about West Ham United FC. This is the kind of thing you might like, if you like this kind of thing.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

England = Aston Villa (And Other World Cup Ramblings)

1. "England Is Mine - She Owes Me A Living"

Watching England always puts me in mind of The Smiths. Read into that what you will.

So England beat the European Champions 4-0. Ho hum. I wouldn't categorise myself as overwhelmed, or underwhelmed, just paint me plain old whelmed. Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to have seen England play like that in the summer but the point remains that none of the teams we came up against in Germany would have ever allowed us to play in that way.

The fact that Greece are European Champions remains one of the most mind boggling feats in footballing history, and proof if it were needed that there is such a thing as karma. What happened that balmy (barmy?) night in Portugal shows beyond all doubt that for every human being there will come a moment when the stars and planets juxtapose themselves in such a fashion that the fates will conspire to allow an event which absolutely defies all logic and reason. For one such event to happen to an entire country at once is a little unusual but c'est la vie. This phenomena also explains why Scarlett Johanssen is going out with Josh Hartnett if you're interested. Indeed some cruel folk might suggest that the Greek back 4 appear to be to man marking what young Josh is to method acting. But not me.

Anyway - don't mention the war, onwards and upwards, didn't JT look inspirational, great finish by Lampard etc...

2. England = Aston Villa

Now in my last column I did level a fairly serious accusation at my own country by labelling them as the Aston Villa of the international scene. Lest I end up in the Tower, I think I should try and back that claim up.

I propose to test this theory by using a fairly straightforward ranking method for all World Cups dating back to, in this example, 1994.

By attributing a score to each country based upon where they have exited the competition it is possible to roughly get a picture of how each country has performed. To that end I have awarded 2 points for a Group Stage (GS) exit, 4 for 2nd Round (R2), 6 for Quarter Finals (QF), 8 for Semi Finals (SF), 10 for losing finalists (F) and 12 for Winners (W).

Using that system produces some interesting results. Try matching up the following countries with the scores below, as determined using the rather excellent http://www.planetworldcup.com/ - England, Mexico, USA, Germany & Brazil:

Country A - 40
Country B - 30
Country C - 16
Country D - 16
Country E - 14

It probably doesn't take the brains of Paul Danan to work out that countries A & B are Brazil and Germany respectively. Countries C &D are Mexico and England and the USA are country E. (Yes, that's the USA hanging grimly to our coat tails there).

Interestingly England's performance puts them on par with not only Mexico but Sweden and every English pundits "under achieving" whipping boys, Spain. Averaging these 4 World Cup performances out gives England an average of 4 points, putting us a 2nd round team and no more.

Now, I KNOW what you're going to say. England's perfomance is heavily impeded by the fact that we did not qualify for USA 1994. Leaving aside the fact that non-qualification for a World Cup should probably tell you all you need to know about the international pecking order, this is a valid point.

If you therefore only take England's average for tournaments in which we've qualified that number rises to a slightly less Mexican 5.33, but still firmly in that bracket between R2 and QF losers.

Truth be told the point I'm eventually arriving at is that England performed exactly as history suggested we would in Germany. Ergo, my young padawans, why all the weeping and gnashing of teeth? Next time you feel the urge to stick £50 on an over hyped, consistently mediocre, sleeping "giant" of the game may I suggest that in doing so you are effectively backing Aston Villa to win the Premiership. Which is idiotic. And something you don't want to do.

3. The Link Between Lampard and Paltrow

Ever seen the film "Sliding Doors"? Nope, me either, But as I understand it the basic premise of the film is that there are alternate realities in which certain events haven't happened and thus the course of history is altered in those timelines. At some point these realities meet and the confluence of events reveals the truth, and Rebus gets together with Gwyneth Paltrow. Naturally.

Does this mean therefore, that there was a parallel universe where Francis Lampard would shoot and NOT have the ball deflect into the net? As I work it out (in my head) young Francis scores roughly 63% of his goals in our dimension, via a deflection. Interesting to note then that during the World Cup the canny opposition coaches noticed this and instructed their men to go nowhere near Francis and let him keep shooting. And boy, didn't that pay off. I can only assume, therefore, that Germany marked the moment when Francis's two alternate realities converged. Shame.

4. The Curious Incident of the Fox in the Box

(With apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Has anybody seen Jermain Iscariot? The last time we saw him he was leaving the Boleyn Ground with a healthy 0.31 Goals Per Game ratio and portable transfer request hanging out of his back pocket.

At tottenham this ratio has increased slightly to 0.32 which is amazing considering the usual decimation of young talent over there (Jermain, meet Andy, Wayne, Calum, Sergiy) but Iscariot has still continued to fail dismally at international level.

His current record for England is a paltry 1 goal in 17 caps. Admittedly this includes a large number of substitute appearances, but games against Northern Ireland and Wales are still goalscoring manna, Shirley.

In fact his England career to this point very closely resembles those of Teddy Sheringham (2 in his first 17) and Ian Wright (1 in his first 15). Sheringham recovered quite well to end up with a respectable record but Wright never really coped with international football. All in all I've decided I don't really care what happens to Iscariot but while he's taking space up there it would be nice if he, you know, nicked one off Crouchy's toe every now and again. It's either that or Vassell, so all things considered.....Go Judas!

5. What Jamaica That?

In the last two England friendlies Peter Crouch has scored 5 goals. The only logical conclusion to be drawn from this is that we are not playing strong enough opposition.

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