Gareth Southgate for Belgium or Germany? And Man Utd produce the best pundits…

Ian Watson
England manager Gareth Southgate and Belgium boss Roberto Martinez.

There are few tears for Belgium or Germany in the Mailbox. Might either take Gareth Southgate? Also: one Liverpool fan accepts Man Utd produce the best pundits.
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Today, I feel Belgian
Finally we can be proud to be Belgian again.

First our foreign minister ostentatiously wore the One Love armband while engaging in heated conversation with Fifa’s head honcho. Then the national team sent an even stronger message by refusing to turn up to any of their matches and catching the first flight back home.

Today, I feel like a migrant worker.
Today, I feel gay.
Today, I feel like a Belgian. *raises fist*
Reinoud (currently exiled in Hungary)


…So Belgium are going home. No harm.
There will be better analysis of how Martinez wasted the potential of this group of footballers than I can articulate but at least now we’ll be spared any further viewing of a frustrating and frankly disastrous effort from the Belgians.
I also take an admittedly petty delight in the failure of their assistant manager.
He can hug Lukaku all he wants, it doesn’t offer any redemption.
Karmic justice applied to Belgium for employing Thierry Henry at a World Cup.
Eoin (2009, lest we forget) Ireland


Wrong target
When Lukaku punched the dugout it was the only time he managed to hit the target. Bada boom tish!
Rob, Dorset


Gareth’s next gig?
The theory that Southgate wouldn’t get a job at a top club is used as a stick to best him with but would Belgium or Germany hire him as a national coach?

Do they have enough right backs for him to accept?
Alex, South London


Shocking decision
That must be one of the worst decisions ever seen on TV.
Somebody needs to have a word with Graeme and tell him never to wear that jacket again!
Howard (FIFA make Boris look honest) Jones


…As if John Hartson’s continued defamatory implications that Spain might have in fact been throwing their game against Japan wasn’t bad enough, we then have to put up with the bizarre rantings of Graeme ‘Mr Brexit’ Souness. First, Souness struggled to understand the quite simple point that for a ball to be out of play the entirety of the ball needs to be out of play. Second, Souness asserted that the decision to allow the goal was also wrong as Germany is a ‘big’ football nation (which should clearly determine whether a ball is out of play in a match involving two other football nations). Third, the decision was also wrong as there would be 80 million Germans upset by the decision (the population of Japan is 125 million, but apparently no one should care if they would be upset if the goal had been disalllowed). His lack of intelligence was catching; Aluko was insistent that the goal should not have stood because it looked out from the view she had from the side of the pitch and even Neville started entering the same terroritory of a possible conspiracy theory, until realising that agreeing with Souness was taking him to a place that no other sane person wants to go.

Sheesh, I’ve not watched too much of the World Cup, but wild horses couldn’t get me watching another ITV match featuring this shower…
Dave, Brum


Clear and obvious doesn’t matter
“We moved enormously in recent years with technology, hundreds of cameras where you can’t miss anything but we’ve gone backwards in decisions. The official on the pitch disallowed that goal, someone in that VAR studio thought they should categorically overturn it.”

I’m struggling to understand the logic of Gary Neville as detailed in his quote from last night.

The ball remained in play and the referees decison to disallow the Japanese goal was an error. It may not have been clear and obvious but it was still the wrong decision. Being accurate matters. VAR officials were absolutely and fundamentally correct in overturning that call.

The usual bleating of “but it wasn’t clear and obvious” is inevitable but I would counter with Maradona in ‘86, Henry in 2009, both clear and obvious to everyone but the referee yet the goals still stood. Nobody can argue that VAR would have disallowed those goals for the betterment of the game.

So how can it claimed that allowing a perfectly legitimate goal to stand is a retrograde step? Quite simply, it can’t.

You can be sure Neville wouldn’t be so indignant if such a call ensured an accurate application of the rules to get England awarded a deserved goal.

VAR has ensured that the purely objective decisions like offside or a ball crossing a line in its entirety have been correct. If you don’t like that level of detail and objectivity, then maybe a more subjective pastime like ballroom dancing would be a better use of your time.
Eoin (I really need to get over that Henry handball) Ireland


Man Utd produce the best pundits
As an older Liverpool fan I felt a little bit weird thinking about penning this note, but the reality is that I just felt driven to do so.

Gary Neville is far and a way my favourite football pundit and has been for a fair while now – he speaks with honesty, integrity, directness and humour and I find him compelling (also helps I suppose that his views of the game are broadly in line with the way I see things, something borne out by his comments on Foden and TAA before the Wales game).

Then it dawned on me (… and a minor cold shiver descended down my spine) …. The majority of my favourite pundits appear to be ex Man U players and the ones that wind me up a little tend to have a Liverpool background.

Considering he once said in a post-match interview that he wanted to ‘pass the mantle-piece’ onto the next generation, Rio Ferdinand has turned out to be an excellent pundit, exuding broadly the same qualities as noted above for Gary (also helps when you have been a world class player). Just comes across as a really good bloke.

In the Keane versus Souness ongoing handbags it’s Roy that I prefer to Graeme’s sulky, sneering retorts.

I don’t mind Carragher at all but at times can be a little too sensationalist in tone for my liking (when debating with ‘my Gary’). Murphy is decent too.…but those BT ex-pool players just make me roll my eyes and don’t strike as the sort of people I’d like to have a few jars with in the pub.

So to all you Man U fans out there, I doff my cap to you – Ferguson clearly was able to capture and bring through some really good personalities.

Ryan Giggs being the outlier here … I’d rather be trapped in a jar of farts than listen to him drone on.

I don’t get the sense at the moment that I’ll be harbouring similar positive thoughts for the current crop of players, but Bruno Fernandes may surprise me and turn out to be someone who can offer meaningful insight on things other than how to fake contact with your face or be a sneery git (sorry Man U fans … you had to allow me one little dig !! .. the ying / yang of things !).

Absolute king of the microphone tools though is Andy Hinchliffe – if I hear him summarise another fleeting 20 yard flashing attempt with a ‘he has to score that’ I am going to put my heal through the screen. Other than the fact that people who have played the game a little listen to what you are saying and know you are spouting exaggerated dung, remember that a younger more impressionable generation may be listening and taking from it that they are a some kind of failure unless they bury close to 100% of those type of chances (conclusion = stop being a sensationalist tool….perhaps try softening it to ‘he’ll be disappointed that he didn’t get that on target’ … or the like … I doubt you’ll come out in a rash if you do …).

Sparky, LFC
P.S. Also want to give a massive thumbs up to an absolute English national treasure, Ian Wright … just love that man… and hasn’t Zabaleta been great as a WC pundit too … one of the best since Leonardo a number of years ago


Wales’ level
James, Kent says Wales are 19th in FIFA’s rankings so that makes them Southampton, not Macclesfield. With 209 countries in FIFA and Wales being 19th, the more accurate comparison would have Wales as 6th ranked Liverpool in the 69-team football league. That’s why they wear red James.



…Wales aren’t Macclesfield and they’re certainly not Southampton. They’re Swansea City.

A club that has spent most of it’s history in the lower divisions due to not having the talent to get higher in the leagues and a team that very rarely qualifies for tournaments. A team that had two periods of greatness, just like Wales. One extremely short-lived (1958 World Cup Quarter Finalists vs the John Toshack led 6th place finish in the First Division) and one that lasted longer (7 seasons in the Premier League and a Cup win vs qualifying for 3 out of 4 tournaments and a semi-final appearance).

Wales will likely now return to life outside the top level, just as Swansea have since relegation.
Neil, Swansea (obvs.)

Phil Foden Marcus Rashford Harry Kane for England

Bet on Henderson and Rashford
Nick P. Burnley FC: “I’m reminded of World Cup 2018 when my friend and I argued about the usefulness of Henderson who he said only passed backwards and sideways and offered nothing. We had a £10 bet because I knew Henderson was class and did a f**k of a lot more than that – and I won by a large margin. Now my friend can accept that Henderson is much better than he thought.”

Can you elaborate on this bet? Was it that he would play a certain number of forward passes? What was the large margin based on? If the bet was “is he good or not”, I don’t understand how you wound up with £10. Your friend simply conceded, yes he is good? Never heard of such a subjective bet before.

For what it’s worth I don’t think Rashford or Henderson are cut out for international football. (I appreciate they could do a job for their club sides once upon a time. Time never stops!)
Pete, Cape Cod USA


…Nick P, Burnley. I wrote pretty much the same email, but I think I forgot to send it (cheers ADHD). I thought he was utterly dreadful, bar 3 involvements (which all led to goals, does that make it a good performance?).



…Good email from Nick P about Marcus Rashford, elegantly phrased and raises things I agree with. The short answer is no I wasn’t impressed, as an England and United fan – and regular watcher – I can say it was just more of his normal schtick. Only this was an occasion he got lucky and it came off, at least in terms of the scoresheet.
Aside from his decent work rate (unfairly questioned recently, but nonetheless a bare minimum) what he offers is the ability to run very fast and smack the ball very hard. On the night this led to an excellent free kick but I’d love to see his stats as to how many of these he scores – I imagine reasonable but not brilliant. Apart from that he had three very good chances from open play, all of which he tried his best to miss – fortunately the reserve goalie made a howler to allow a goal that really should not have gone in.
And that’s what you get from Rashford, poor finishing. This is proved by a set of stats I do know – thanks to wikipedia. His goalscoring record is worse than one in three for both club and country. Although he often plays wide, he is an out an out attacker for teams that are better than the opposition in the vast majority of games. This isn’t great and reflective of his run fast smack it hard one dimension. It just looks good and is memorable when it does work.
In general play, again, I agree with Nick P – poor technique, touch and game intelligence (odd for someone who speaks well for a footballer) means he loses the ball often and adds very little. He’s not a creator (something England badly need), which brings you back to the fact that worse than one goal per three games is simply not good enough. Even if his stylings sometimes seem to work against the likes of Wales.
I’m not sure everyone realises this as for a variety of non-football reasons – some fair enough, some not – he’s a bit of a media (and certainly F365) darling. But in short Nick P you’re bang on.
Ronnie Buzzard, Manchester


European prominence
Not sure I’ve ever had a mail called pathetic before. Or been told I’m “everything wrong with the world today.” Hopefully I get a right of reply.

Weldoninhio says that “If teams from Africa or Asia or South America were better they’d qualify.” But how can they when places are so limited? What’s to say that these current ratios are perfect? Why is Africa 5? Why South America 4? (or 4.5). Are we really sure that the weakest European nation (Wales) is better than some of the South American teams that didn’t qualify? Are they better than Nigeria, Egypt or Algeria? I’m not so sure.

To be clear, I’m not advocating a World Cup where everyone plays, there’s no winner and we all get a participation medal. You still will effectively have a 32 team World Cup. It’s just that it will be a 32 team knockout. And before that, we will have a expanded group stage to allow more nations to qualify.

In this World Cup, Iran & USA have finished ahead of Wales. Tunisia and Australia ahead of Denmark, Japan ahead of Spain and Germany, Morocco ahead of Croatia and Belgium. I’m not really seeing the evidence that European nations are so worthy of over a third of places.

In fact, there’s no real argument for 32 teams if you’re interested in quality. Surely a 16 team World Cup would be even better? Just the big boys involved and never let any small nations take part. Why is that not preferable if quality is what you are after?

I don’t know where Weldoninhio is from, but I would bet that if it’s not England, it’s one of the major footballing countries. No idea or understanding of the joy that it could bring to millions of people, just to see their country take part. Why should so many countries on the continent of Africa be denied a place at the World Cup, because 5 as arbitrarily picked to be the number that get to qualify? I’m up for the expanded World Cup. More teams, more knockout games, more fun. Can’t wait.
Mike, LFC, London

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