...what happened to the fourth Champions League place the last time an English team won the thing. Plus, who would want to pay £60 to watch the current England team?
A Sunderland fan in the mailbox is surprised by Jack Colback's call up to the England squad. Plus, thoughts on Welbeck and Liverpool's Champions League draw...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is This Mail Just A Better...?
While having a cup of tea reading Stefan Daniels' letter about Thomas Muller being just a better James Milner, it got me thinking, is tea just a better water? In fact, are my new trainers just a better socks? Is my television just a better radio? Is True Detective just a better Heartbeat? Is being alive just a better being dead?
Nothing seems real anymore.
Fine cup of tea, though.
Kevin Walsh, Luimneach
Note To My Grandchildren
It was the World Cup that was played deep in the Amazon. It was the World Cup where the defending champions bowed out on the seventh day. It was the World Cup that averaged more than three goals per game. It was the World Cup of goal-line technology. It was the World Cup of the referee's line-spray. The World Cup of gravity-defying headers. It was the World Cup featuring a goalkeeper named Ocheo. It was the World Cup of Arturo Vidal, Neymar Jr and van Persie, of Arjen Robben, Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio. The World Cup of Tomas Muller, Mario Mandzukic and Karim Benzema. It was the World Cup of 2014.
Lee Moyo, Durban, South Africa
The Best Thing
I must say I agree with all the mailboxers saying we should put club loyalties aside and support England.
Having said that my favourite thing about this World Cup is that Diego Costa is a total dud.
Andrew, QPR, Twickenham
Tiki-Taka Died Before World Cup
The Spanish performances so far have brought one thing to mind, Tiki-Taka is dead. But more in the form of it's been been missing and legally pronounced dead as it hasn't been seen for a hell of a long time.
Whatever Spain have been trying to do the last two games certainly wasn't it and the deterioration of Xavi as a force has left both Spain and Barcelona unable to have an adequate metronome to play the game at the pace necessary for it to work. I for one am sad to see this and here's hoping Thiago gets back to fitness and assumes his mantle as Xavi's successor (certainly for Spain and hopefully Barca eventually).
Mick (I've referred to a player as a metronome so waiting to be branded a hispter) Dublin
...Is it just me or was last night not the death of Tiki-taka (ridiculous name btw)? Spain weren't playing tiki-taka as they could not even keep hold of the ball. Every time they started to attempt to pass one would go astray and Chile would break forward. I lost count of the number of times I saw Iniesta of all people losing the ball. This is just a result of the Spaniards not having Puyol and Casillas at top form to get them out of trouble defensively combined with Alonso and Iniesta having an awful couple of games. The Barcelona and Spain teams that dominated did so because they kept the ball no matter how much pressure was being put on them.
Just a pointer that three of the last four champions have gone out in the fist round in the proceeding tournament (France 2002, Italy 2010, Spain 2014), with the exception, Brazil 2006, exiting tamely enough in the quarter-finals.
It goes to show that winning can cover over the need for long-term succession planning, given that most winning teams will invariably be 'top of cycle' when they win a tournament, maybe more surgery is required even in times of success to avoid such a fate in future.
...France won the WC in 1998 and the Euros in 2000. They came into the 2002 WC as favourites with a very strong team. And the lost group games to Senegal and Denmark and drew 0-0 with Uruguay, and managed not to score a single goal. This was a team with Vieira, Djorkaeff, Makelele, Desailly, Zidane, Henri, Thuram, Lebouf and Petit amongst others. I believe afterwards that the team had spent too much time appearing in adverts and capitalizing on their fame, rather than training and they began to believe their own press that they could just show up and win the competition again. I was in France at the time and every ad on telly had the French team in it. Are we seeing the same thing with Spain in this world cup? Is winning the WC and the Euros a curse for any team in the next competition?
Something to mull over while we wait for Spain's next game.
Thank You Spain
You have been the best national team of my lifetime.
You have shown the world how to play attacking possession-based football, never settling for a scrappy 1-0, never playing for the draw or penalties.
You are the reason why all major national teams now play wonderful football, Italy no longer just defend, England do not play it long and you have ridden us of the stale 4-4-2 and forced everyone to play a version of the fluid 4-2-3-1.
You were always respectful, never arrogant and always played as a team without any star egotistical players.
You are the reason why this is the best most entertaining highest-scoring world cup.
You are the reason why winning Mourinho style is no longer acceptable.
But now your time is over so I say once again thank you.
Paul Kempt, London
A Long E-Mail On Australian Football
Over recent years it has been increasingly difficult to watch Australia play. After the high of 2006 (yes, making the round of 16 is a high for us) the past eight years have seen a steady decline in the standard of football our national team has played. Partly this was due to the fact that Guus Hiddink was no longer coaching our team. Partly it was due to the fading away of our own 'Golden Generation'. Admittedly this generation may be dubbed far less than golden by others' lofty standards. But for us, the 2006 team which included Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill, Brett Emerton, Marco Bresciano, Vince Grella, John Aloisi, Craig Moore and the evergreen Tim Cahill represented the height of football achievement.
Yes, these are names that may be considered second-tier for many nations, but for Australia they were footballers who competed every week at the highest level, be it in the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga or even for Celtic. They were a team we could be proud of. Who we knew could at least compete with the rest of the world. Who would do their job and do it well. Who qualified for our first WC finals in 32 years and who made our entire nation sit up and pay attention to a game that had previously only been played by "wogs and poofters". (Please note, I am aware of how offensive these terms are and I hope readers can see the point in using it here. Oft-repeated in Australia before 2006, and actually the title of a fascinating documentary about the history of the game in Australia, this was the mantra of those who played/supported the other 'football' codes in this country.)
Since 2006, however, our golden generation has aged, retired or, in the case of Guus Hiddink, left. And as a footballing nation we have slowly sunk into the realm of 'meh'. The Green and Gold Army still turned up to games, still yelled, chanted and got excited. Still celebrated when we qualified for South Africa, still travelled halfway around the world and still bled Green and Gold when we failed to make it out of the group. But the football wasn't nearly as exciting. The goal threat never quite there. The quality always slightly lacking. As a nation we knew we were a little bit past our best. And we didn't have the players coming through the ranks to change that.
Coming in to the tournament, many were predicting a bloodbath. The lowest-ranked team competing in Brazil. Only one player regularly playing in a 'top' league. Injuries to two of our brightest young stars. A playing group built on a combination of inexperience and ageing legs thrown into a qualifying group that included both finalists from the last World Cup and one hell of an exciting dark horse. Plus a new coach who was given a mission to focus on the upcoming Asian Cup and reinvent the squad.
And to an outsider, this World Cup would look like a reinforcement of that scenario. Beaten twice and now certain to go out in the group stages with a lower points total than either of the last two tournaments, even if we win our last game.
But for those of us who have watched the Socceroos stumble over the last eight years, these two games have been the epitome of glorious defeat. The new coach, Ange Postecoglou, has instilled in this side of relative unknowns a fearless sense of opportunity. Apart from Cahill, Bresciano and the rock-like Mile Jedinak, these are youngsters who have never been to a World Cup and who play in the 'lesser' leagues of Europe, Asia and Australia. And yet they pushed Chile until the 90th minute in their first game and almost caused the upset of the tournament when leading the Dutch 2-1 after an hour. Yes there were mistakes, naivety and at times a loss of focus that cost us dearly. However, these are now players who we can see as filling the shoes of our previous heroes. I may be getting ahead of myself here, we have lost twice after all, but it feels like this is once again a team who can compete on the world stage. Who we can once again dare to dream with.
After the England defeat to Italy, the English press and the fans combined to revel in the style of football played, not the result. I hope Australia will do the same. Personally I feel very proud of the performances. The team gave everything they had for 180 minutes and it wasn't enough, but for a few moments they made us believe it was possible. In four years' time there's every reason to believe these players will have matured into an effective, exciting and hopefully successful (by Australian standards) team.
Toitle, (Of course, they'll probably get spanked by Spain now) Australia
Defending Neville And Murphy
In the past couple of mailboxes, we have seen Phil Neville called 'one of the worst players to ever put on an England shirt' and Danny Murphy 'one of those nobheads who's done everything and been everywhere you have', in relation to their co-commentary. Leaving aside Neville Minor's dull voice, and how Murphy sounds a little bit like Big Ron, it shows that whatever happens, there is no pleasing some people.
If I can channel my inner John Nicholson, Neville's co-commentary was a bit like listening to prog rock - not everyone can get on with it, but the not liking the way it sounds doesn't detract from the ability of the player. Anyone who could get past the flatness of Neville's voice would have heard someone with some interesting points to make; those who couldn't probably stuck their fingers in their ears and said 'la la la' at the top of their voices, finding this a more comforting noise.
Similarly, Murphy is one of those players who had an accomplished club career without ever being considered one of the all-time greats. His medals and trophies don't measure up to the likes of Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, and his international career wasn't as vaunted as that of Alan Shearer, but that makes no odds. Of course he's going to sound like he's 'done everything...you have', when analysing players' actions and errors, because that's what pundits do. The fact that he can elaborate to the extent that people ask if he's 'being paid by the word' says more about him than the people who don't like him, especially compared to other, better-established and better-decorated experts who are either unwilling or unable to offer detailed and insightful analysis of players, teams and games.
Ed Quoth the Raven (fantasy World Cup team with players from one club? Jedinak. On his own), CPFC the Glaziers, Notts
And On Murphy...
In response to Jamie, Boro regarding Danny Murphy and those people who have always having done something better than you, I believe he is what is called an 'Elevenerife' ie. if you have been on holiday to Tenerife he's been to Elevenerife.
Good Commentary Ahoy
As everybody's been sticking the knife in over the last week, a word of praise for the commentary team on Holland vs Australia last night.
I didn't recognise the voices, so I'm assuming that the 5.00 pm kick-off is the work experience slot unless England are playing, but a refreshing lack of crassness from both Sam Matterface and Clarke Carlisle.
On Googling to look up who it was I can see that they haven't had a blameless, gaff-free media career, or for Carlisle, even a gaff-free week, and I do wonder if it's just the unfamiliarity with their commentary style meaning that I wasn't used to their hackneyed phrases, but overall unobtrusive and informative. Well done them.
For instance, they didn't dwell on the was it/wasn't it question for Australia's penalty (for the record, it never was): Sam asked Clarke for his opinion; Clarke gave his answer; they moved back to the game. Alan Green could learn a thing or two here.
I'm sure that fellow Mailboxers will let me know if they said something completely stupid when I was out of the room, but the only thing that really grated was Matterface continually referring to Australia as the Socceroos (I'm with Joe from last week, made worse by the fact that this nickname is rubbish in any language, is it a TV show for the under 5s?)
Bring In The Women
It has come up in conversation a few times watching football with my friends recently. It certainly seems to be a hot topic at F365. The standard of punditry is pretty variable, with a lot of downright awful. With a relatively small pool of ex-pros willing to speak in public, what can be done?
The solution that has occurred to some of my lot is this. I hear a lot of high-quality punditry when I watch the England women's football team; why not get one of these women on a plane to Brazil asap?
People can complain about the relative pace and power (and maybe goalkeeping) of the women's game but in terms of technique, tactics and professionalism, the standards are exceptionally high as one would expect from any international sport. In addition, these women play out their careers (again, at the highest level) without the possibility of earning over £1m a year from the ages of 18 to 35. This means that they must continue to focus on their education and alternative careers alongside their football and are subsequently more erudite than their male counterparts. They really know what they are talking about and express it clearly, insightfully and well.
I know F365 aren't the types to run a campaign, but you do work in media so see what you can do. The women's team are currently playing World Cup qualifiers of their own (worth watching on free-to-air TV, recommended), but I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to get someone like Sue Smith out to add to the pundit pool. Even if it is tokenism, it might lead to better coverage.
Pete (THFC and England), London
All Hail The Toebung
The toebang goal of toebang goals: Romario vs Sweden in the 1994 World Cup.
Hugo Pedersen, Norway
...Great to see toe-punt and toebang get a run out in the mailbox this morning. I was always more of a toeplonk man myself, with occasional toebong or the more old school toepoke.
Tim Crespin, LFC
...In response to Terry Hall's letter, and in anticipation of the slew of McTommy toe-punt nominations, David Narey's was NOT a toe-poke...
...so says Socrates. And you don't argue with Socrates.
...I can't be arsed to make an entire list...but if I did, surely Patrick Kluivert's Champions League '95 winning toepoke should be in it.
Stijn (we koalafied! 6/6 points) Amstserdam
...On the subject of toe-poked goals, one that always stands out for me was the Real Ronaldo's semi-final winner in 2002. Even in this 10-second clip, you can see how terrified defenders were of him, based on the array of skill in his locker. As with Oscar's, the keeper could have done better - but that is the beauty of the toe poke, no one expects it and keepers and defenders will always look sluggish.
And the crescent!
Z Stack, Ireland
...I am a father to a six-year-old boy and he's just dipping his toe into the world of football. I'm a fan of the beautiful game to the extent that it causes minor issues in my marriage, so I see my boy's sudden interest in football as a base for a future alliance against the wife.
Anyway, I have been training him the basics of movement around a pitch and with particular attention to how best to strike the ball. After an hour or so of shuttle runs - me retrieving the ball and replacing it on a spot - he realised the merit of using his instep and laces instead of his toe. The power and accuracy achieved with such a simple tweak was realised and his face told a great story.
So, I guess the reason for my mailbox entry is to tell Aranguiz, Oscar, et al to stop f*****g toe poking it!
Gavin (Teaching technique not tekkers) Hill, York
A Croatan (Ish) XI
My wife and I have had a rare old time during the Croatia games by coming up with silly Croatian-sounding names. I did an entire eleven.
Anyone else having fun with names?
GK: Knitpearl Dropastitch
LB: Iveheard Yourmumsabitch
CB: Benddown Andscratchanitch
CB: Outsideto Digaditch
RB: Earnmoney Becomerich
LM: Ifyoureshort Yourecalledatitch
CM: Dontlikeeurovision Itstookitsch
CM: Computerbug Itsjustaglitch
RM: Talktoomuch Youdirtysnitch
ST: Darkenedroom Cantfindtheswitch
ST: Timhoward Hasatwitch
Phil (Not happy with the Eurovision one, but was struggling to use 'kitsch' in a sentence) Duffy