Mails: First the worst, second the best for England…

Date published: Monday 18th June 2018 1:40

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Play for second
Back in the 1954 World Cup, Germany deliberately lost a group game to Hungary (by eight goals to three, eight three!) so that they could get an easier route to the final. It worked. I’ve always though that was a pretty smart move.

It’s time now for Gareth Southgate to think about whether we should try something similar. With Germany losing yesterday, there’s now a realistic chance that they’ll come second in their group and that Brazil will win theirs. That means they’ll come up against each other in the second round. If Belgium and England go through from Group G and beat the two Group H winners in the second round, then we end up with two quarter finals looking like

Brazil or Germany vs Group G winners


Switzerland (maybe Serbia) or Mexico vs Group G runners up

By the time we get to the Belgium match, we’ll be through to the second round and we’ll know whether Brazil will be playing Germany. And we’ll know what we need to do to not win the group.

Start thinking Gareth.


Never mind that the World Cup in Russia is absolutely sullied by money (it wouldn’t be being held there without a hefty amount of corruption), I’m just not buying John Nicholson’s argument that the World Cup is football in it’s purest or best form.

The group stages amount to little more than several weeks of the third round of the FA Cup: a succession of matches where less tactically competent, technically skilled and individually gifted teams park ten men behind the ball, and spend 90 minutes defending and hoping they might somehow score from a set piece or counter-attack.

Mexico and Peru were excellent (and actually played progressive football), but Iran, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iceland etc. are no more football’s zenith than the succession of non-league teams who try and kick their way through Premiership teams in the FA Cup.

There’s a reason why millions of people pay to watch the Champions League, and a few hundred watch lower league football.
Chris MUFC


Ronaldo hype
Just wanted to quickly reply to “C, Essex”. Some good points in your mail, but as gloriously fickle as football fandom can be (apparently DeGea isn’t all that after all), I don’t think this is a bandwagon situation. Ronaldo’s opening game has been the standout performance of the tournament so far, and judging by some of the results this weekend it may stay that way for a while. Plaudits from the media and general public are justified. Speaking personally I don’t feel I was re-imagining Ronaldo at all, merely allowing myself to assess his football without bias. This was a change of perspective over several years, not because he just scored his 51st (!!!) career hat trick in front of the whole world.

I don’t think anyone can use the Champions League as a stick to beat him with. He was the first of two players ever to score over 100 goals in that tournament with a single team. He’s just won it thrice on the bounce.

While we could point fingers at his seemingly abject finals performances, that’s often because he’s crowded out by defenders, leaving space for his teammates. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him put in anything less than a full shift, even if he hasn’t scored in every game (although his career goal stats would imply otherwise). Also worth noting he’s changed position to accommodate his advancing years and skill set.

Nani was brilliant in the Euros, and of course Portugal had other good players, but they were a flawed team who were against the odds the whole way. Ronaldo was their captain and driving force, as has been described by just about everyone in their dressing room, particularly rallying them back into action after he went off injured in the final. He also scored some vital goals. Indeed, he scored the same number of goals as Nani in the Euros and assisted a further three (including two of Nani’s).

He had a couple of less than stellar performances in these tournaments, but that’s again back to being held to a different standard than most.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve spent enough time praising a former United player who just beat Liverpool in the Champions League final. I’m going to go rinse my mouth out with Ribena.
ShaneO’ (LFC, Ireland)


Hoping for the best, fearing the worst
I find that I can never truly enjoy a major tournament which England qualify for. Not in that 100% relaxed, festival of football, forget all your worries forget all your fears and go Wes Brown Town, way you can when we’ve not qualified.

That’s because supporting England is awful. Not because the players are particularly bad, or good, or expectations are too high, or too low, or anything remotely logical. It’s that low level anxiety that starts a few days before the match, and slowly builds up until by kick off all you really want is for the game not to be a disaster. For no single player to make such a hideous mistake that the press go into feral attack dog mode, or your own fans start a GoFundMe to have him bought home.

I’m a nervous football watcher at the best of times. It can be the last day of a mid-table season against another mid-table nothing team, and I’ll still be tense every time the ball is anywhere near our box. If the World Cup is the pinnacle of football, then England at the World Cup is the pinnacle of my football related stress. I can honestly say, I’ve not enjoyed an England tournament match since Holland in 1996.

I keep saying that all I want from this tournament is an England side that does it’s best and is a little bit fun…but really all I want is to avoid abject humiliation of both team and individual player, and build from there. This is not a criticism of the team or the players, and I hope that we do brilliantly, and this is a likeable team with some real talent, but that’s too far for my psyche to stretch.

See you on the other side folks.

Jeremy Aves


Pundit problems
What is it with Phil Neville? He’s fine in the studio but when he puts on his co-commentator headphones he seems to forget how to speak. He does this weird whisper thing like he’s hidden beside a snake’s nest in a nature documentary. Put me on edge that whole match, calm down dude.

What is it with Gary Neville? Is he a happiness black hole? Has Wrighty been pissing on his chips? He’s making Henrick Larsson seem like the life and soul of the party, cheer up dude.
SC, Belfast


…God I wish Lawrenson would just **** off. Watching this World Cup with him chuntering through it is gonna be unbearable. Football has moved on since his day, and when you see the insight you get from Alex Scott, he is all the more an anachronism. Does he even enjoy football anymore? Other than that miserable git I’m loving this tournament. No 0-0s yet, shock results, great games, technology being implemented, Giant Killings, and it is still young!
John Matrix AFC


… Loving the WC, but yet again the English TV media have done their upmost to spoil their coverage with the inane ramblings of some dreadful pundits and co-commentators. I’m sure the readers can come up with more, but the main 3 offenders this weekend (in no particular order) …

Mark Lawrenson – I’m a glass-half-empty kind of guy myself, but good god Lawro is a miserable old bastard. Having had firsthand experience of Lawro I can confirm he reputation as “one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet” is true, so quite what happens when he gets in the co-commentary chair is a mystery. As Ed said in this morning mailbox he seem determined to hate everything and every minute of watching the sport he loves. (Don’t get me started on his ‘sense of humor’).
Glenn Hoddle – Shares 1 or 2 valuable nuggets of tactic information per game and that seems to keep him in a job. The rest of the time its absolute drivel. Total utter nonsense. He’s not been relevant for 25yrs, and I don’t care how long ago his comments were they were unacceptable, how he passes the BBCs fit and proper criteria is beyond me. Not relevant, not a nice person, not a good commentator, (and has a weird man crush on Adam Lallana) … just jog on Glenn.
Phil Neville – *takes a deep breath* (which ironically Neville sounds like he needs to do) … I get it, he’s relevant as England womans head coach, a former successful player, an articulate and (for a footballer) fairly intelligent person. However … WTF is going on with his voice in commentary, I can’t be the only person to notice his gasping semi-asthmatic tone? His desperation to make every pass, tackle, substitution sound like the most exciting thing to ever happen in football is excruciating. His desperation to sound like an intellectual is painful … someone tell him he’s already got the job and that he’s smarter than most other pundits on the panel … please stop being such a try-hard Phil, it’s embarrassing for everyone.
David Moore


Phil Jones rap
Sat on the bus this morning listening to my music on shuffle, a familiar song popped up. Memories came flooding back from a tournament 22 years ago and a revelation struck me. England only fully perform when we have a legitimately banging anthem for us to get behind. World in Motion and Three Lions soundtracked runs to the semi finals in 1990 and 1996. Whilst a series of underwhelming songs followed a series of underwhelming performances.

The fact I had to google the following list and don’t remember half of them pretty much sums up England’s performances at most of those tournaments.

2002 We’re on the ball- Ant and Dec
2006 World at your feet – Embrace
2010 Shout – Dizzee Rascal and James Cordon
2014 Greatest Day – Take That

So what’s my point. In my opinion England have criminally underprepared for this tournament by not having a great song for us to get behind, and therefore won’t progress past the quarters (at best).

But there’s still hope, get Arctic Monkeys on the phone/reform Oasis, tell them they’ve got four years to write an anthem to soundtrack our run to the 2022 World Cup final.

Or failing that re-release World in Motion with Phil Jones taking over duties on the John Barnes rap. And that’s how we’ll win the World Cup.
Big MUFC (Manchester)


Official approval
Is it me.. (as I havent seen ALL the games to be honest) or are the refs at this years world cup, Just really good..?

I have seen more people fall over and get waived play on than ever, the defenders ‘shielding’ the ball and then simply falling over, grabbing the ball and getting a free kick, seems to be handball against them everytime, I love it.

They seem to just be saying, ‘generally you lot cheat all the time, so I am giving nothing and mostly I will be right’

Just wonderful I truly hope this carries on past the opening games and into the Premier League next season..

Didnt see the France game with its was it wasnt it (my Dad says never a pen) hes 78.. and proper old school though so unless Nat Lofthouse (one for the kids) had actually kicked you in the goal while holding the ball – and even then sometimes it was still ok.. it wasnt a pen..

But on the whole I thought the referees have been superb

Feel free to correct me on all the games / decisions I have missed of course
Al – England – Had to order more car flags from Ebay as shops have massive apathy this year!


…So VAR so good.

Early doors yet and Argentina and Brazil will disagree but so far VAR has got most things right. it’s easy to focus on the decisions themselves (and we can all argue about those) but there is a wider picture here. We were all concerned that VAR would disrupt the flow of the game, it hasn’t. The marginal decisions haven’t gone for the big teams either, at least not yet. However what hasn’t been spoken about is the unseen effect of VAR. We’ve hardly seen any dives or shirt pulling. Skullduggery and general cheating are at a minimum. There haven’t been any really nasty tackles and so far not even a single red card. The players know they’re being watched and so far they’re on their best behaviour. The World cup is all the better for it. Early in the first half the score is VAR 1 Cynics 0.
As to the actual footy. It’s very early to jump to any real conclusions but of the big four only Spain have really impressed so far. They got Ronaldo’d of course but look the class of the field. Complacency is nothing new for Brazil … but Germany??? France played terribly and won … ominous. As for the rest, big props to Russia, Mexico and Iceland … now … Come on England!
Marcus (exiled in Wales)

…This has been the single most consistently well referee’d tournament that I have ever seen. Even down to the correct use of VAR.

The games have flowed, refs haven’t bought the diving and pretty much called everything correct, except for that one offside call in the Russia game (which would’ve been reviewed had they scored at that time)

Lets finally give credit where it is due, all hail the referees! (note no premiership referees)
Fat Man Scouse (noticing how many times players try a dribble, cock it up and then dive)


Spot on
‘m all for putting the boot into what the red tops pass off as content, but the F365 incredulity of touching a picture of Harry Kane’s boot should be aware this is an approach hardly without precedent.

Is the F365 office stuffed so full of youngsters that no one can remember famous spoon-bender and best-friend to Michael Jackson, Uri Geller went on GMTV and asked the nation to do the same to heal Beckham’s broken toe?

You could argue the Sun believes England is a nation of idiots, you could also argue, we always have been.

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