Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If They Hadn't Invented the Game, They Would Kill It

Martin Amis is a thuggish racist. But this article, an analysis of the England-Portugal 2006 World Cup quarterfinal, did make me laugh:

"When Owen scored in the third minute, the euphoria was soon qualified by the following intuition: with time added on, England were now going to spend an entire football match in frazzled defence, dropping back ever deeper, the beleaguerment solidified by ever-more paranoid substitutions. As Rooney limped off, after 20-odd minutes, you felt you were complicit in an act of unilateral disarmament. But by now it was taking some doing not to notice a qualitative difference between the teams: the abysmal gulf in technique.


"The days when an England player's first touch could often be mistaken for an attempted clearance or a wild shot on goal — those days are over. The deficit is not in individual skill, it is in collective skill; it is in the apparently cultural indifference to possession. In 2004, football is no longer a dribbling game, still less a long-ball game (and how many balls did we float to our two haring midgets up front?); it is a possession game. The 'clearance', as practised by England, is simply an anachronism. When an international defender heads it away, he heads it to a teammate. When we 'clear' it, we just clear it, for two or three seconds.


"During the second half it was a full-time job not noticing what the chasing game does to a side's morale. Pass it to a teammate? We couldn't even throw it to a teammate. A Martian, looking on, would have wondered at the mysterious discrepancy: whenever the ball went into touch, it seemed that it could only be reintroduced to a player in a red shirt. Portugal's equaliser was both completely inevitable and richly deserved. And then the crouched supporter was left to believe that England, this booting, blocking, sliding, nutting, hacking behemoth, this hysterical combine-harvester, was about to transform itself into an instrument of attack." (Martin Amis, "We Have to Face It: English Football is just No Good," The Guardian (courtesy of Eamonn Fitzgerald).


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