From World Cup glory to tabloid story. Lothar Matthaus: The man who fell to earth.
Back in January 2015, Lothar Matthäus, hero of the Italia ’90 World Cup victory, was embroiled in a bout of verbal sparring with Arsenal striker and compatriot Lukas Podolski. Speaking on German television, Matthaus remarked that “Lukas has his qualities; now he must prove them by bringing them back to the pitch. In the past we heard how he tweets more than he plays. He needs to concentrate on football.” The comments came during speculation regarding a potential move for Podolski to Inter Milan. It was advice that Podolski did not take too kindly to however. Apparently not content to leave it there however, Matthäus also took a swing at his former club, saying, “Inter is no longer the team of the past. Italy lost charm. Too many scandals, little modern infrastructure. In the 90s Inter and AC Milan have written the history of football, had players like Gullit, Van Basten, Hansi Müller and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Today the top players play in Spain, Germany and England, not in Italy.” The Nerazzuri tifosi must have loved that one. ‘A fanabla, Lothar!’ Continue reading →
“I, Big Phil, will go down in history as the Brazil coach who lost to Honduras. It’s horrible.”
So said, Luiz Felipe Scolari, as he contemplated how a defeat, so unexpected, so demoralising, so contrary to the established order of things, would surely blight his career and reputation for evermore.
Pitted against the Hondurans in the quarter-final of the Copa America of 2001, Brazil would already have been planning their semi-final strategy ahead of the game. After all, Brazil were, in most people’s eyes, the stand-out squad at the tournament. In contrast, Honduras had only been invited to join the other teams in Colombia at the last minute – in fact the last seconds of the last minute – following Argentina’s late withdrawal. Consequently, they had precious little preparation time and their squad was shorn of a number of key players still engaged in domestic matters. Last minute guests to the party, they were under-prepared, under-manned and – as it turned out to Brazil’s cost – underestimated. Just how late the Hondurans’ invite to the party popped through their letterbox can be illustrated by a brief resume of the events prior to the tournament. Continue reading →
Down and out in Rio and Brasilia.
According to the FIFA blurb, Brazil has welcomed the World Cup with arms open as wide as those of Cristo Redentor sitting atop of Sugar Loaf, and that’s probably true to some extent. When this particular carnival has packed up its tent and moved on though, what will be left for the hosts of the party?
I really wanted to call this article ‘Let Them Eat Football’ but a quick zip around the internet shows that the idea has been done to death already – curses – so I opted for ‘Down and out in Rio and Brasilia.’ After the defeat to Germany, Brazil was certainly down and most assuredly out, but it’s the aftermath of the tournament, rather than that match that I’m talking about here. Continue reading →
Argentina’s Tevez conundrum and how Harry Haslam’s ex-player needs to get it right.
With Argentina now qualified for tomorrow’s World Cup final, manager Alejandro Sabella will leave the national team regardless of the result. This is a piece I penned before the tournament about Sabella, his history in English football, and the selection headache he had to get right.
Some readers may remember the name of Harry Haslam, but I’ll forgive you if not. Even in his day, he wasn’t that famous. Back in the late seventies though, Haslam was, what would probably be described now as, a ‘visionary’ manager. Argentina had just won the World Cup and as then manager of Sheffield United, Haslam was to pioneer the move to bring some of the South American country’s stars to play in English football.
United not were not a particularly wealthy club, so although he was thought to be instrumental in the move to take Ossie Ardilles and Ricardo Villa to Spurs, the Yorkshire club were shopping at a different level. Pursuing his aspiration, Haslam undertook a scouting trip to South America, and at one of the games he took in, a 17 year old mop-haired player took his eye. The player’s club was Argentinos Juniors and Haslam was so impressed, he immediately negotiated a deal to take the player back to Yorkshire with him. Unfortunately, the Blades couldn’t finance the transfer. The £200,000 required was, in those days, an awful lot of money for a club of United’s size. The deal fell through.
If Fabio Capello thought he had it tough in England…
Fabio Capello may have thought that he’d escaped the worst kind of vitriol and criticism when he resigned the England post and left the British press behind him. In the wake of Russia’s dismal performance in the World Cup however, where they failed to win a single match, reaction back in Moscow has been far more energetic than that which greeted the return of Roy Hodgson and his team.
Whilst in the dog days at the end of Capello’s time at the head of the Three Lions, there was a press consensus to tear into both the man and his methods, the Italian was pretty safe from government attacks. I’m not sure whether the issue was ever a hot topic at Prime Minister’s Questions, but I think not, and I’m on pretty safe ground declaring that Jeremy Paxman wouldn’t have given it too much air time on ‘Question Time.’ The Kremlin however, or certain members of it at least, take a slightly more ‘hands on’ approach. Continue reading →
The best team never to have won the World Cup.
After Holland’s defeat to Argentina last night, they again became the bridesmaids of World Cup competition and are still to win the biggest accolade of all. It seemed therefore appropriate to reprise an article that I’d produced before the World Cup kicked off, looking at one of the great Dutch sides of the past who, in my opinion were the best team never to have won the World Cup. Enjoy!
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Around about now, with the big tournament just around the corner, there’s always an opportunity for these sorts of articles. They say that nostalgia is a thing of the past, but I’m not so sure! We all love a bit of reminiscence and to talk about our favourite sides in world football. Yes, of course the winners, but also those that didn’t receive the ultimate accolade, those that came up short in World Cup tournaments. They’re the teams that promised so much but didn’t deliver the big trophy on the big stage. The history of football is full hard luck stories. What could have been. What should have been. What, simply put, never was. Continue reading →
The morning after: ‘Schadenfreude’ isn’t a word the Germans recognise.
Indulge me for a moment. Let me paint you a scenario. England actually got through the group stages and ploughed on through the competition looking increasingly impressive until they came up against the hosts, Brazil, in the semi-final of the World Cup. Sure, Brazil would be without the talismanic Neymar, plus the suspended skipper and defensive rock, Thiago Silva, but this is Brazil – in Brazil. Nevertheless, England turn in one of the most complete performances in world Cup history to trounce Brazil 7-1. Yes, I know it’s stretching the imagination a little – a lot, in fact – but bear with me a moment longer. Now, just for a few seconds, imagine how the team, the fans and especially the media would be reacting. OK, stop now. Get down from the ceiling. Pull those flags back in from the windows. Calm down, it’s not real.
What is real however, is that Germany completed that that very journey described above. They went into Brazil’s backyard; a place where the Selecao have not lost a competitive game since 1975, and delivered the comprehensive beating of a former champion in the history of the World Cup. ‘Brazil 1 Germany 7’ may well never be beaten as the most outrageous, but fully-deserved result in the World Cup – ever. They turned up at the Copacabana and kicked over Brazil’s castle built on sand.
So what was the reaction of the German team and media? Was it for outlandish celebration? Would they be glorying in the victory? Are they contacting their agents to demand more money for sponsorship deals? Not so much as you’d notice. Continue reading →
Neymar injury deflates Brazil
Although hardly an impolite nudge in the back, the contact didn’t seem all that serious when it happened. Yes, the player did seem to be in, but that’s hardly a novele feature in this tournament, with apparently stricken souls suddenly revitalised by the ministering hands of the physio. This time however it was serious. Continue reading →