Friday, June 16, 2006

England v Trinidad & Tobago, ITV1

"It could be a romp, it could be a rout, it could be the greatest day in the short history of Caribbean football" is Steve's list of proposed outcomes for the match at hand, before cueing to a video featureon the saga of Wayne Rooney, intercut with a mass of voiceovers from around the world on Our Wayne's progress over the past 6 weeks. Gabriel Clarke brings us the teams, making a point of Rooney's presence on the bench but neglecting to mention that the entire squad will be there as well since you don't have to nominate specific substitutes any more, but never mind these details, eh?

Messrs Pearce, Allardyce and Venables are asked which out of Owen or Crouch will be most under threat from Rooney's imminent return, whilst in the background the German tannoy announcer sings along with Three Lions.

Back from the break, and a quick look at the footballers' wives: "England unchanged in the expensive seats - Posh, Sheryl and Colleen!" By way of contrast, we then cut to a rather portly Trinidadian lady - you see, the implication is that the Plucky Trinidadians are such minnows that they've probably all got fat girlfriends or something - leading neatly into a feature onto today's opponents. Yorke, Birchall and the increasingly frustrated Leo Beenhakker all feature, as expected. Steve asks how England can wipe the smile off of Dwight Yorke's face today. Then we're back to Rooney, and whether the Trinidadians will target the fragile ankle, given half a chance?

Outside to Jim Rosenthal and Gareth Southgate, who offers the insight that Sven is very quiet inside the dressing room prior to kick-off and that Rooney will probably appear at some point today, and little else of interest as the tannoy once again blares away in the background. Time to plug the competition for Sweden tickets again, followed by a clip of Sven and Leo sharing a joke out on the pitch.

Gareth Southgate now takes the time to go through the England starting line-up in more detail (revealing such fascinating exclusives as "John Terry is a threat at set pieces"), using the very latest in computer technology to show squad profiles on the pitch in a barely readable font. Following this is a quick interview with Sven and Frank Lampard, where they promise not to underestimate their opponents.

"No-one loves [entertainment] more than me," states Venables when asked if the performance is more important than the result today, to the shock of Palace and Middlesbrough fans. "I think the fact that Trinidad played so well in that first game was a wake up call for us before we needed a wake up call," suggests Stuart. Time for Steve's to build up the tension some more, "Well in World Cups down the years,

England have had bad days, they've had tense days, they've had frustrating days - well, if everything goes to plan it should be none of those in Nuremberg here tonight, let's hope it's the kind of performance that every England fan enjoys..."

A video compilation of all the usual suspects of England in World Cups past into the break, then the England players introduce themselves and their positions to camera on the other side. All are relatively straight faced and moody, but Beckham does a cheeky shake of his head in slow-motion before announcing himself as just "captain", without any mention of the fact he's a midfielder as well. Steve hands us over to Clive, who admits that he's "well aware that not *everybody* watching wants England to win," reassuring us that "that's OK!" Well, that's a relief for any Scottish, Welsh, or even Trinidadian viewers. "By 11 o'clock tonight, England could even be confirmed as group winners for the first time in a major tournament since a fella called Venables was in charge!"

Our first reference to 1966 is whilst the players are still in the tunnel waiting to come out. That the current class will become wealthy heroes if they emulate the feat is Clive's rather capitalist viewpoint, but there you go. Trinidad apparently had a more exotic qualifying route than England, "not that Belfast and Cardiff aren't exotic!"

God Save The Queen ends with a close-up of Paul Robinson's arm on Beckham's shoulder, which is peculiar considering the large Nike logo emblazoned on Robinson's glove. Good way to offend the official partners... We see the host broadcasters' team line-up caption for a brief moment before ITV switch to a wide camera in order to overlay their own graphics. Tyldesley points out the British base of most of the Trinidad squad, in particular the appropriately named substitute Jason Scotland. Today's referee enjoys cycling and reading, "hopefully not at the same time!" Ho ho.

And we're off: "It's lunchtime in Port-of-Spain, 5000 miles away, it's teatime in England, 500 miles away, it's match time in Nuremberg - take the rest of the day off!"

Clive soon observes that the pitch today isn't quite as dry as on Saturday. "They'd liked to have seen some water on the pitch...they'd liked to have seen some water full stop in that first game!"
"Big Dennis Lawrence of Wrexham, inch-for-inch a match for Peter Crouch!" notes Clive as Trinidad's defensive giant makes his first clearance. "It'd be interesting to see them back to back! Crouch might just have half an inch on him! Air traffic control have cancelled traffic over the stadium until those two have gone!"

"Dwight Yorke must have made more tackles [against Sweden] than he would in a year!" points out Southgate. Meanwhile, Otto Beenhakker has apparently enjoyed himself so far. "His press conference yesterday was a stand-up act! He says he wants Rooney to play. Yeah, yeah!" Sounds like Clive's unconvinced.

David Beckham stands over a free kick just outside the area. "For all the service that David Beckham has provided from free kicks in recent games, he hasn't scored from a free kick for England for over three years," Clive tells us. That record won't change at this stage, as his shot goes straight into the wall. Less than a minute later England win another free kick as Gerrard is brought down. Beckham tries to pass it quickly to Gerrard but the referee's not impressed. The retake is floated over to Peter Crouch, who's marked by Dennis Lawrence and Clive gets his wish for an impromptu height test. For the record, Lawrence jumped higher but fractionally too soon and Crouch still managed to head the ball wide.

Rio Ferdinand attempts a pass towards Joe Cole, who can barely jump high enough to reach it. "To feet, please - that's the message!" is Clive's optimistic lip read of Cole's response. Carragher then crosses to Crouch who is controversially flagged offside. Gareth's not impressed but Clive attempts to mediate: "If you have a part of your body with which you can play the ball beyond the last defender, you're offside - and I think his left shoulder probably was!" Oh, do be quiet.

Quarter of the way through the game, and England are lacking inspiration. Tyldesley has a cunning plan: "I think I might get the number nine just to go and warm up for a while. That might just raise the volume inside the stadium!" Gareth has an idea how things are going to pan out: "If it stays 0-0 after about an hour, you know what's going to happen Clive, don't you?" "Theo Walcott's going to come on and score!"

"There he is," points out Clive as we see our first shot of Rooney on the bench. "Our Freddie Flintoff, our Johnny Wilkinson, our game-breaker. There's a piece missing from the jigsaw, and it's ready to be put in whenever Sven Goran Eriksson decides!"

Gerrard blasts a shot which catches Dwight Yorke squarely in the testicles, causing much faux sympathy from the giggling schoolboys in the commentary box. "No prizes for guessing where he got hit with that shot!" smirks Gareth as the director uses a frankly unnecessary close-up of a grimacing Yorke with his hand down his shorts. "Well stopped Dwight!" compliments Clive as we see a full-speed replay. Tyldesley spots Yorke reaching down into his shorts for a second time and remembers that this perhaps isn't typical early evening viewing: "Everybody turn away just for a second, please. I'll tell you when you can look again!" "He's good mates with Brian Lara, isn't he?" asks Southgate, "...but Brian gets a box to wear - that's the advantage!" Yorke takes a few moments to recover, pouring copious amounts of water down his shorts as he's helped off the pitch. "Hey, careful Dwight," warns Clive. "There's a drought on, you know! Don't waste it!"

The referee takes an age to remember how to restart the game after Yorke's injury, at first offering a drop ball before remembering it should be Shaka Hislop's goal kick.

"He's a relieved man when the match time comes," suggests Tyldesley as we see Sven on the bench. "No more questions about Rooney...except maybe from Rooney himself: 'Can I come on, boss?' He said he'd sleep on it, not that this is sending me to sleep, I have to say - I can't wait to see him!"

"Hot day for chain mail!" observes Clive as we see England fans in armour.

"Crouch has to go back now and mark Lawrence!" delights Clive as Trinidad win a free kick, followed by a corner. On both occasions Crouch completely fails to jump with his man, but fortunately Lawrence doesn't get close either.

Gareth tries offer some crumbs of comfort as the half progresses. "These are difficult games, I can't emphasise enough - I've been to places like Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, teams that historically we used to beat by sevens and eights, not easy games to play." "Easier than Brazil and Argentina, and that's what England face if they want to win this competition. Got to play better than this!" Sounds like Clive's not having it.

England have a series of chances late in the half, with Lampard and Crouch in particular guilty of shooting wide when they really should have at least forced a save. Clive's quite forgiving though, even as the England fans chant Rooney's name. Meanwhile, Beckham is forced to concede a corner, which is initially cleared but crossed back in only for Robinson to attempt a punch. Unfortunately he's up against the giant Lawrence (once again ineffectually marked by Crouch) who beats him and heads it to Stern John who would have scored if not for a goal-line clearance from John Terry. "England a whisker away from conceding on the stroke of half-time and but for the courage of that man they would have done!" "What a clearance that is, by the way!" applauds Southgate. "Stern John of Coventry City - so nearly rewriting the entire script for the game!"

Clive's not impressed as the half ends: "Goalless at half time, how many of you had that score down? And goalless only in the end because John Terry was able to deny Stern John his place in tomorrow morning's headlines. England are still chugging slowly through the gears at this World Cup finals and are not playing well enough...yet!"

"Well, Sweden suffered and now it's England's turn," says Steve before turning to Venables to assess the damage so far. Stuart suggests England are being too intricate and should take fewer touches. Sam thinks we've got to be careful conceding free kicks and throws in the final third because of Trinidad's physical presence. Venables offers tactical analysis with his hands, if only ITV had some kind of virtual studio to turn his hand gestures into a 3D masterpiece.

Gabriel has spoken to Leo Beenhakker at half-time, who thinks England are "predictable" and "all I expected". Gabriel tells us Leo hasn't quite got the cigar out, but suggests that "England are going to have to come up with something that's going to crack Beenhakker's code!" Shameless tie-in, there. Sam wants to see Beckham stick rigidly to the right wing, whilst Stuart would rather see Aaron Lennon introduced ahead of Rooney to offer a genuine wing option. You sometimes get the impression that the pundits don't like England games, as it's the one time during the tournament they have to talk for the entirety of half-time without a link to the England camp in order for them to have a breather.

"Only one commonwealth nation has ever beaten England at football - yes, Australia." Are the home nations not part of the Commonwealth, then? Clive goes on to claim that Australia defeat was "Sven's debut", even though it was two years into his reign.

Sven is shown with hands clasped, causing Clive to wonder "is that thought, or is that prayer?" Gareth suggests bringing on Michael Carrick to sure up the midfield, before spotting that "Ray Clemence is walking around with a piece of paper in his hand, which usually means there's going to be a substitution." Clive is unsure who is coming on and decides to practice his Vicky Pollard impression: "He's waving in the direction of Rooney and Lennon...and it's Rooney! Nope! Yep! It's Rooney!" A minute later and the cameraman finally proves it. "Here comes the cavalry..."

Realising his time is almost up, England's other injury-hit striker almost converts a Beckham free-kick. "It's Owen! It should have been!" Meanwhile, Our Wayne is adjusting his boots, causing Clive to start quoting Blake: "And did those feet..."

"Guess what, off the leash at last. It's been a very strained leash..." We see the wives. "Mrs R to be. He started to kick his own team mates in training, they couldn't keep the lid on the box any longer. It may be a slight exaggeration, but the next 35 minutes could make or break England's ultimate ambitions." Clive pauses for a moment. "I wouldn't want to be sitting next to Sir Alex Ferguson on the sofa back at home for this next 35 minutes!" "No pressure eh?" is Gareth's best offer.

Clive tells us that Birchall and family are big Liverpool fans. Gareth points out that things are "instantly much better", a mere 11 minutes after the substitutions and associated tactical changes.

Clive is surprised by the attacking changes made by both sides as Trinidad bring on a striker to replace a midfielder. "Both coaches have gone bold!" he quips. "Beenhakker did this with 10 men, so by his standards he should be throwing another up surely?" asks Southgate.

The tactical changes have immediate effect, with both sides having chances to score within moments of each other. The most interesting comes after Lennon breaks down the right wing and whips in a cross that hits Dwight Yorke's hand. No penalty, but it causes Southgate to suggest that "Lennon's got Gray on toast at the full-back position."

"It's a helter skelter game now!" suggests Clive moments later as Cornell Glen goes past Ashley Cole in yet another quick counter-attack. All of a sudden, Gareth is worried by Plucky Little Trinidad, suggesting that whilst a draw would be disappointing, defeat would be catastrophic, so maybe three at the back isn't defensive enough. "Absolutely!" Clive agrees.

Lampard has a couple more decent chances, so Gareth changes his view yet again, this time to something that doesn't quite make sense: "The goal's coming, it's just a case of if we run out of time..."

Minutes later and Mystic Southgate is proven right. "Here's Beckham. One great cross from the England skipper. One big leap from PETER CROUCH! Get ready to dance - Peter Crouch has scored again! Nine games for England, six goals for England! And Peter Crouch scoring with robotic regularity!"

Rooney attempts a volley but ends in an airshot. "Save them up son" is Gareth's fatherly advice.
Gareth tries to excuse the 1-0 scoreline by pointing out a higher margin of victory would have papered over the cracks in England's starting line-up.

Speaking of higher margins of victory, Steven Gerrard decides to score a late goal past the same keeper for the second consecutive month. "It's Steven Gerrard, oh - fantastic! That's more like it! Poor Shaka Hislop, Gerrard did it to him in Cardiff in the last minute! It was a lovely free hit - there's been almost a straitjacket around the England midfield player in this tournament so far. That's the Gerrard that wears the Liver bird every week!" Gareth changes his tune once more: "People will say it flatters us, but in actual fact the last half-an-hour we've been much the better side."

Stern John flicks the ball into the net, but it's offside. Gareth has to remind himself to patronise the Plucky Soca Warriors a little: "Just for a minute I started to feel a bit sorry for them, and I had to slap myself on the face Clive, pull myself together."

Post-match, and we see reactions to Crouch's goal from around the country, and also in the studio - Pearce and Venables are largely impassive, whilst Allardyce punches the air and is heard to say "Yes, go on

Crouchy, get in there son! Ey, you big long..."

"Y'knows" in David Beckham's post-match interview: 14

"There will be some lurid headlines written about this England performance tomorrow, but for years to come I hope they'll be writing calypsos about Trinidad and Tobago's amazing World Cup." Thanks for that, Steve. Our closing montage is set to Here Comes The Sun, and we're back to a Plucky Little Trinidad theme to finish, despite them running England close for 75 minutes.

What we've learned: Well, Our Wayne recovers quicker than Our Michael, Our Stevie can score a belter when the mood takes him, Our John can have a great defensive performance without a holding midfielder to protect him, and Our Crouchie has got a 2 in 3 goals ratio for England. Tyldesley still grates though.


Blogger Del said...

The positives are that we've taken 6 points from games that we've played badly in. I always say that the key to success in any tournament is to win when you're playing badly.

We're also looking quite lucky, and we're not traditionally a lucky side (penalty shoot outs, last minute goals disallowed, Gazza missing by millimetres). These things all help.

1:20 am, June 17, 2006


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