World Cup: le club de la dernière chance


Impossible to believe that the country which gave the world such an attractive, skillful and competitive team in 1998 and 2000 has now produced a bunch of sulking, brattish prima donnas. France could yet grab salvation from the jaws of humiliation. But results today have to go especially well for them, plenty of goals against South Africa and the hope that no Jimmy Hill figure is in charge of the PA system to ensure Mexico and Uruguay play out a draw. The headline is the closest I can get to translating last chance saloon …

The piece I had in today’s edition of The National (Abu Dhabi) was written more in sadness than with any kind of frogbashing relish.

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England and France: two lost causes?


Maybe the best expression of the entente cordiale is England and France agreeing to do as badly as each other out in South Africa. Jeremy Robson tries to make some sense of the goings-on in the camps of two national teams seemingly going nowhere, except home …

Within the next few days, both the English and French national sides both face expulsion rather earlier than expected from the 2010 World Cup.

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England, Algeria and a city en fête

Clip: Matt2586

There was another night when England had an important match, and I found myself enjoying a non-football night out in France instead.

It was only a week or two before September 11. England away to Germany in a World Cup qualifier. I was tucking into a great meal in the pretty Normandy town of Honfleur, not far from the distinctly unpretty city of Le Havre. Such was the depth, then, of my eternal club-before-country feeling that I’d briefly forgotten about the game in Munich.

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World Cup Soapbox: off we go and viva Paraguay


For Pete Sixsmith, the first big one comes tonight with our boys – Paraguay (our boys, for latecomers, because they have Paula da Silva, Cristian Riveros AND red & white stripes) – expecting a comfy stroll against Italy. But the first weekend of the World Cup gave Pete plenty to enjoy, admire and deplore …

So, after a couple of weeks of looking back at previous World Cups, the 2010 tournament is up and running. First impressions are quite positive and I particularly enjoyed the sight of the huge dung beetle wandering across the stadium in Friday’s opening ceremony.

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Priceless World Cup memories (2)


The competition has begun, with a late Mexico equaliser spoiling a dream start for South Africa, and France failing to overcome Uruguay. I think I predicted two draws on the opening day, elsewhere if not here, so was not surprised. And both were, as Bill Taylor has pointed out here, quite entertaining games. England play tonight and, of course, Salut! Sunderland wants even a Bent-free Capello side to win (though we’re also the highly unofficial site for the Paraguay squad – thanks for the flag, Pete!).

Steve Bruce has said the heart wants England, the head says Argentina; Lorik Cana favours Brazil. But in quiet periods between games, you can browse the outstanding pieces in which the same Pete who procured my Paraguay flag – Pete Sixsmith – reflects with startling recall of detail on all World Cups between 1966 and 2006. Here is a second instalment of the highlights (one of them from an intruder), each article reached by clicking the location or year …

See the first round-up of extracts by clicking here, or scroll down each individual tournament, clickable from the sidebar column to your left

1994, USA

Football and the USA is like Cheryl Cole and Rugby League, Nick Clegg and sticking to your principles and Mike Ashley and sensible managerial appointments – they just do not go together. They like games that they can be World Champions at because nobody else plays them. I like Baseball, but calling the play off the World Series… do me a favour.

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Can the World Cup help Kick Out Racism?


Thanks to people of the calibre of Niall Quinn and Darren Bent, and many more than we could hope to mention, Sunderland AFC have played a commendable role, through such campaigns as Show Racism the Red Card, in combating racial prejudice and discrimination in football. The opening of the World Cup in South Africa – sadly, after all, in Nelson Mandela’s absence following the death of his 13-year-old great granddaughter in an accident after last night’s concert – sends out a powerful message of its own today. But with thanks to Jeremy Robson, whose exchanges with me here a week ago inspired these thoughts in today’s edition of The National, Abu Dhabi, only so much progress has been made …

Image: from Frerieke‘s Flickr pages. The posting is repeated at my main Salut! site

After the French football team defeated the much-fancied Brazilians in the 1998 World Cup final, two snappy phrases became part of the legacy of a swashbuckling victory: un-deux-trois-zéro to describe the impressive scoreline and blanc-black-beur acclaiming the multiracial composition of the team.

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2006: Zidane a right nutter. World Cup Memories (12)


That’s it, the end of a series Salut! Sunderland has been proud to present, Pete Sixsmith‘s magnificent memories of 11 World Cups. With more warning that Pete had such a great idea up his sleeve, it would been worth turning into a slim volume. He began with the 1966 tournament in which (West) Germany were beaten by England, and ends in (reunited) Germany where the final will forever be remembered for the final gesture of Zinedine Zidane’s career* (captured rather neatly in Mads Boedker’s photo). …

And so we reach the last of our reviews of past World Cups What I Can Remember, with a look at Germany four years ago. Another European tournament, another terrific set of stadiums and another one that pulled a nation together for four weeks through the magic of football.

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1998: France’s un-deux-trois-zéro. World Cup memories (9)


It is hard to believe the players who stumbled to a dismal 1-0 defeat against China a few days ago represented the same country that swept to such an exhilarating World Cup victory in 1998. Pete Sixsmith remembers when France were the cultured giants of European football

Back to Europe for this one and to France, the homeland of Jules Rimet, Napoleon Bonaparte and Jacques Tati – and a country with proper football stadiums and a populace who knew something about the game.

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