Sunday, July 02, 2006

Over and out

Is it too much to ask for just one of the two football teams I follow as a matter of necessity rather than choice to be successful once in my lifetime?

A quarter-final shoot-out defeat to Portugal featuring a red card? As predictable as they come - but no less painful for it, not least because I'd started to not just believe but actually think we could win it.

With our backs against the wall, some of the players were tremendous - the much-maligned Hargreaves in particular, who ended up putting in the forward legwork that Lampard and Gerrard should have been providing. But we never offered enough in attack and so didn't really deserve to get through.

All the more galling, then, that Big Phil Scolari, Portugal's alleged tactical genius, opted to try and find a way past our ten men by playing without a striker for over twenty minutes. They're not a particularly good side, and given the relative ease with which France knocked the Brazilians out, they'll not make it to the final.

Consolations? Very few. At least there was some guts and passion, and a few fine performances from fringe players like Hargreaves, Lennon and Crouch who may find themselves more central under (shudder) Steve Maclaren. And at least it wasn't our old boy Hugo Viana who did the damage - two shots after coming on as a sub were comfortably fielded by Robinson, and he was also obliging enough to strike his penalty off the outside of the post.

Thoughts now inevitably turn back to Newcastle, and the fact that our season kicks off six days after the World Cup final with an Intertoto tie, most probably against Lillestrom. An England World Cup win would have been some consolation for Michael Owen's long-term injury, but it wasn't to be. Rumours in today's papers have it that we might be after £9m in compensation by suing the FA. That would soften the blow of Owen's loss, but we wouldn't be able to count on having that money to find a replacement - and however much money we've got at our disposal, that replacement is unlikely to be Dirk Kuyt or Fernando Torres, given the relative stature of our rivals for their signatures.

One last thing: despite it seeming a good idea at the time, drowning your sorrows in spectacular fashion does not make things seem any better in the long run...


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