No chance

by Chris Bertram on May 8, 2006

The Irish and Welsh contingents here at CT must be well pleased … and no doubt they’ll be dancing in the streets of Auchtermuchtie tonight too (not to mention Malmo, Asunción, Port-of-Spain, and points in-between). Departing England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has picked a World Cup squad with only two fit recognized strikers: a 17-year-old who has never played a competitive game in the top division, and Peter Crouch.

Georgina Turner at “the Guardian’s Newsblog”: :

bq. “Maybe it’s not logical,” the Swede laughed at the press conference, with the same half-laugh of a soon-to-be ex-employee explaining how exactly the entire client database had been wiped. “But sometimes things work out very well even though they’re not logical. Of course it’s a gamble, but it’s a nice one.”



highbury 05.08.06 at 11:45 am

It’s also worth quoting Georgina Turner’s last sentence:

“Of course, if Walcott jinks his way to glory in the final in Germany, he [Eriksson] was a genius all along.”

Arsene Wenger paid a lot of money for a then 16-year old. And Wenger knows.

No disagreement about Peter Crouch, though.


Sam 05.08.06 at 11:53 am

I’ve got to admit the lineup doesn’t look to be one set take over the footballing world. To be fair, the absence of Rooney is, of course, a devastating blow. Still, it’s quite an indictment of your national program to have to invest so much importance in a single player. Still, anything can happen, and wouldn’t it be cool to see Theo Walcott or that sadly maligned giant Crouch come through?


P O'Neill 05.08.06 at 12:06 pm

In marginally related news, why in God’s name were Spurs staying at a hotel before a match in, like, London?


Sam 05.08.06 at 12:16 pm

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Perhaps they merely had dinner at said Hotel. It hasn’t been made clear exactly how this transpired. Nonetheless, a victory over West Ham may have proven as difficult a task at full-strength; impossible to say. All the same, Champions League football in the Emirates Stadium will be a grand thing.


Ginger Yellow 05.08.06 at 12:20 pm

Apparently the odds on Crouch being top scorer in the competition are 41 to 1. Now I’m not a bookmaker, but it seems pretty clear to me that the odds are a lot worse than that. In fact, they’re roughly equivalent to the odds of every other striker in the tournament being struck down with bird flu.


otto 05.08.06 at 12:29 pm

In the final selection, Sven will drop one or both of the injured strikers.


Cheryl Morgan 05.08.06 at 12:31 pm

The Welsh contingent asks what all this has got to do with rugby.


Kieran Healy 05.08.06 at 12:38 pm

Looks like Sven is from the “it’s a one in a million chance, but it might just work” school of statistics.


Adam Roberts 05.08.06 at 1:31 pm

Me, I’m a Southampton FC fan. Accordingly I believe that there is a hidden magic key to England success hidden in the proper arrangement of former Saints players, like Crouch, and particularly like Walcott, who was trained up by our academy. Roll on Deutschland.


Randy Paul 05.08.06 at 2:48 pm

I have never understood why people are so enamored of Sven. In the quarterfinals against Brazil he took out Michael Owen for Darius Vassell with a man advantage?!?

I think that the question about Darren Bent is a good one. It appears that the US may have better striker options than England.

Sam is right about investing so much in one player. If Ronaldo went down Brazil could replace him easily.


Dan K 05.08.06 at 3:03 pm

We danced here in Malmo when we got England – no need to do it again. England hasn’t beaten us since 1968 and are unlikely to do it this year. That game is possibly the most certain draw during the WC. Walcott is an interesting choice, though. Wenger knows talent. Lennon might be an inspired pick, as well.


Ray 05.08.06 at 3:32 pm

Yeah, Wenger knows a lot about buying expensive English strikers. Almost as much as he knows about opticians…


otto 05.08.06 at 3:47 pm

If Ronaldo went down Brazil could replace him easily.

That natural experiment has in fact been run, and it turns out that they couldn’t replace him.


Randy Paul 05.08.06 at 4:07 pm

That was 1998. They could have replaced him, but chose not to. They could do so now easily with any number of attackers. Personally, I like Adriano as the lead striker with Ronaldinho feeding him the ball and slightly withdrawn.

When Pelé went down injured in 1962, Garrincha picked up the slack. No reason to believe it wouldn’t happen in 2006. I’m sure that Sven would love to have brazil’s attacking depth.


Randy Paul 05.08.06 at 4:12 pm

To put it simply, Sven would love to have the likes of Robinho on the bench.


Simstim 05.08.06 at 6:06 pm

I don’t know why you’re fussing over Rooney’s injury, there’s always Owen… oh.


kb 05.08.06 at 6:15 pm

“they’ll be dancing in the streets of Auchtermuchtie ”

Please, it’s Auchtermuchty.

And they don’t dance ……


nick s 05.08.06 at 8:08 pm

Glad to see Stuey-Downing-on-the-wing picked for the squad, although I dunno whether he’ll make it into the team. A natural left-footer with a sweet crossing ability playing left wing? That would be illogical.

To be fair, the absence of Rooney is, of course, a devastating blow.

That tabloid headline about Rooney’s uncle standing to win £250k on a bet made when he was 10 years old was the jinx of him.


Palo 05.08.06 at 8:31 pm

Adriano is playing awful, and brazllians in general are overconfident. That is a good sign. Everytime they think they will run away with the cup (I’m thinking 1982, 1986) they lose. Please, please, please, let it be the case. I’m hoping Tevez and Messi will take the cup to dance tango in the streets of Buenos Aires…


stostosto 05.09.06 at 1:40 am

Everytime they think they will run away with the cup (I’m thinking 1982, 1986) they lose.

Except for the times when they win (I’m thinking 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002).


dale 05.09.06 at 4:31 am

they’re both placeholders, while he waits on fate and medical science. he has weeks to finalise it.

the real shame, again, and always, is the failure to pick jamie carragher ahead of the vastly over-rated sol campbell, to partner john terry. and i say that as a manutd supporter and ex-shareholder (through shareholders utd).

what does carragher have to do?


dale 05.09.06 at 4:44 am

and yes, I’m aware carragher’s picked in the squad. i just assume he won’t see game time. sol campbell (who apparently has pictures of sven and a donkey) was also picked and jamie (who is an exemplary human being, as well as player) will therefore be watching sol playing in reality-2 (where sol lives), from a seat in reality-1 (where we all live).


Rob 05.09.06 at 5:32 am

I’m not so sure it’s such a terrible idea: I think he might play Crouch up front by himself, with two from the three of Lampard, Cole and Gerrard coming on to it from deep. Since that’s the best position of the three of them, it would be the best use of them, rather than playing 4-4-2 as he’s always previously done.


reuben 05.09.06 at 6:25 am

I agree with Rob. Sans our only two decent strikers, Sven is free to think in terms of maximising the team’s capacity where it is most open to maximisation: the midfield. Playing a different formation (eg a 4-4-1-1 with Owen fit and Gerrard in the hole, or a 4-5-1 without Owen fit) gives the midfield talent a chance to really come into its own.

I don’t think that Defoe, Bent et al yet have the capacity to really shine. (Eg, Hansen did a lovely analysis on Saturday of Defoe standing still in the 6-yard box rather than getting into the space that was available to him.) Better a mediocre (goal-wise) strike force and a vibrant, attacking, goal-hungry midfield than a slightly less mediocre (goal-wise) strike force and the midfield stifled, both by their overlapping/non-complementary talents and by Defoe, Bent, et al’s inability to get into space as well as you need to at the very highest level.

Nothing against either striker, mind you. I’m a Charlton supporter, but just don’t think Bent’s quite there yet. Walcott may turn out to be a flop, but there’s the chance that he could add something new and necessary. I don’t think that chance is there with Bent et al yet.


Tom Scudder 05.09.06 at 6:28 am

At least in 2002, Brazil was in no way picked to run away with the cup – they’d had a terrible qualifying season. I don’t think anyone was really favored that year.


Tim Worstall 05.09.06 at 8:10 am

#8….which according to Pterry means it will happen.


Palo 05.09.06 at 9:40 am

In WC94 Brazil had the most horrible team ever, very defensive … but won. That was the team that had Dunga, a one-leg killer in midfield, and Leonardo, the guy who broke a US player (Tab Ramos?) jaw with an elbow.


Randy Paul 05.09.06 at 10:10 am


While Argentina has a great attack, their defense is very weak.

It wasn’t Tab Ramos’ jaw, it was his skull.

My favorite response to critics of Brazil came from Mario Zagallo.. Some Argentine fans were heckling him at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 1998, when he turned around and pointed to the four stars on his shirt and held up four fingers to the Argentines.

Adriano, by the way, led the Confederations Cup in scoring last year. I’m sure he’ll step up his game for the WC.


Another Damned Medievalist 05.09.06 at 9:48 pm

So can anyone explain to me why David James is on the England squad??? And also, she asked, have we not now seen that the Bosman rule is just a long-term plot to kill English football?? Because, after all, how many Premiership teams actually play any significant number of English players on a given day? The only players that get seen are the so-called superstars, and there aren’t enough of those to go ’round — not to mention that none of them play together, so they rarely manage to play well as a team in internationals, or so it seems to me. Plus, just in case you missed it, Wayne Rooney is a prat, and if they play him, I reckon his temper will end up getting him injured or banned from some important match where all the other forwards are injured …

Sorry … am I ranting?

And I say this as a Gunner. I would love Wenger more if he actually had some English-types on the team. And I do love Sol, but he’s not been the same since he was out for so long. I could support a Carragher-Terry partnership, except that Carragher really can fill in in different positions, and may well have to.


Sam 05.09.06 at 10:18 pm

I’m with ADM. I would love to see more English players on the Arsenal squad, but I’ll take whatever Wenger gives me because he’s so frickin’ brilliant. After all, he’s got some sort of magic hat, so I hear. I’m a big Sol Campbell fan, too, and I agree he’s not been the same this season, especially since West Ham. Still, he’s SOL CAMPBELL and I’m counting on him to salve his self-esteem with a brilliant performance in June, at least I hope so. It’s a terrible shame to see such a giant of the game laid so low by self-doubt.


reuben 05.10.06 at 3:14 am

Sorry ADM, I don’t want to bust on you or anything, but have you been paying any real attention to English football for the last six months or so? Any regular observer will tell you that since soon after the N Ireland debacle, Wayne Rooney has been hugely in control of himself. He’s not perfect, but his deportment has been radically better – and I say this as an ABU (anybody but united). As an experiment, I would suggest that you do a news search for articles about Wayne Rooney losing his temper on the pitch, and tell me how many you come up with from 2006.


Randy Paul 05.10.06 at 8:20 pm


A week after the Northern Ireland incident he was booked for a foul against Villarreal and got himself sent off for clapping his hands in the ref’s face.

Man U got eliminated at the Group Stage.


reuben 05.11.06 at 3:11 am

Ok Randy, I wasn’t specific enough. I meant “from that time period when he seemed to be self-destructing”, both for England and his club side. Since then, anyone who’s been watching football week in week out has to acknoweldge that Rooney comports himself far better than he used to. Surely you have noticed this, haven’t you? He still gives too much lip to ref every now and then, like most players from the largest sides, but he no longer looks like a man who’s going to explode in anger. Perhaps he’ll lose all self-control the second he’s on foreign soil again, but any assertion that Rooney can’t handle his emotions on the pitch has to take into account the last six months, and what appears to have been a crisis-inspired maturation process. That’s particularly the case when you’re talking about someone for whom six months is a signficant percentage of his professional career. Ask yourself honestly: is he the same hotheaded mental basketcast that he appeared to be last autumn? Or does he appear to have matured?

United haven’t realistically had a lot to play for in 2006, so it’s fair to argue that he hasn’t had a massive amount of pressure on him: but ADM’s assertion was simplistic. (But then of course you could argue that if you can’t be simplistic when talking about football on a blog, what are football and blogs for?)


Randy Paul 05.11.06 at 11:09 am


I think that your point about the pressure being off him is well taken and may explain his improved behavior. In fairness, he was better even when United closed the gap a little against Chelsea.

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