The Football Ramble
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The latest things going on in football tagged with `England`

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We stumbled over this delightful FATV video of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jordan Henderson while we should have been doing more productive things.

Having watched it closely, we think it might hold the answers to England’s inexplicable ineptitude in major tournaments, rendering Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski’s excellent tome, ‘Why England Lose’, utterly redundant.

    Observation ‘A’

    Despite being a great player and an astonishingly determined young man, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
    carries the specifically English ‘Midas –In-Reverse’ gene that afflicts all promising players.

    0:11 “This is what being a footballer is about, you’ve got to perform under pressure. “.
    0:14 Collapses under pressure.

    This video was made in 2012. It’ll be rampant now.

    Observation ‘B’

    Part of the reason why England aren’t very good in international tournaments is that they stay up late
    videoing themselves. We’ll concede that keepy-ups are marginally better than other nocturnal activities
    they keep getting busted for, but they’re still quite tiring and take longer to complete.

    Observation ‘C’

    They’re using a tennis ball. Elite players use oranges.

And that, kids, is why Simon Kuper & Stefan Szymanski are highly respected authors and Kelly works from the Biffa bin parked outside Ramble HQ.

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By Kelly Welles

England

england

It’s that time again. The one when a bunch of English geezers stand in front of pictures of lions trying to look as moody and menacing as a man can in shorts and knee socks, while the rest of us ponder exactly how this is supposed to help our football team succeed.

Then get ridiculously excited anyway.

rooney

Yup, Nike have released imagery of England’s home and away kits for Brazil 2014, the big news being they’ve kept it simple. The home kit consists of ice white shirt (sans collar, presumably to prevent players from expending valuable energy deciding whether to pop it), white shorts, ice white socks with ‘Sport Royal’ blue detailing. Alternate shorts are also Sport Royal, with Chevron action flash*. L’homme du sport, if you will.

red

The away strip is traditional red shirt, white shorts with red detailing and red socks, while Joe Hart will be cool as a cucumber in goal because he’ll be dressed like one. An alternative yellow strip is also available, should he be feeling fruity.

vest

Up close, the home shirt has a subtle feel of junior school vest about it, but to look positively on the whole shebang, perhaps Nike are trying to channel the energy and enthusiasm found on an English playground, rather than the bewildered floundering that usually afflicts our players when they hit a tournament pitch.

You know what, we’ll put it out there. If Roy Hodgson shows up in Manaus with a pink sweater chucked over his shoulder and a pair of string backed driving gloves on, you can safely assume that England have arrived and Roy is in control of his team. Or he’s been kidnapped and replaced with Vincent Tan.

Either way, IT’S COMING HOME, IT’S COMING HOME… IT’S COMING!!!

*Alright. There’s no action flash. But you probably knew that.

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By Kelly Welles

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Images via footyheadlines, nike.

England, Brazil 2014

england

What’s going to be the key to a successful World Cup campaign in Brazil, people? Robust, energetic players marauding up the flanks? Possession based football? A tactical, flexible approach? Good ventilation?

Like all hopeful England fans, we would give virtually anything to see our team rampage through Group D using the former method, then look on in awe as Hodgson pragmatically rearranges the style of play to negotiate a path through the knock-out stages and into the final.

We are also realists, and therefore delighted to see that the shirt rumoured to be covering the players’ backs this June not only offers a smart, uncluttered look, but lots of lovely vents down the sides to keep them as cool as it’s possible to be when your opening match is in a city described by Lonely Planet as “an incongruous pocket of urbanity in the middle of the jungle”.

Consider that box firmly ticked.

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By Kelly Welles

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Image via sickchirpse.com.

England

Thomas Edison once claimed that genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.

While it’s been several years since England’s football has flirted with that descriptor, Italy have a number of players to whom the term is applied as liberally as Cristiano Ronaldo’s tanning oil. If Edison was right (and he almost certainly was, what with being a genius himself an’ all) could we learn anything from our insouciant cousins that might make us more thrilling, exciting or even vaguely entertaining on occasion?

Here’s a quick guide to how Italy’s players prepare for big games so you can decide for yourself.

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Andrea Pirlo
pirlo

Dashingly.

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Mario Balotelli
balotelli

Nonchalantly.

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Dani Osvaldo
osvaldo

Geekily.

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Cesare Prandelli
prandelli

Snugly.

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Alessio Cerci
cerci

Warily.

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Leonardo Bonnuci
bonnuci

Uncharacteristically.

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Alessandro Diamanti
diamanti

Insanely.

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In case you haven’t worked it out, the answer is quite clearly ‘no’.

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By Kelly Welles

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Images: Claudio Villa/Getty Images Europe.

England, Italy, World Cup 2014

theo

Football is permanent. It really is.

As football fans, we make a lifelong commitment to support the team that family or fate saw fit to inflict upon us. It doesn’t matter how poorly they play the game, how appalling the toilet facilities/seating arrangements/halftime snacks/statues are at our local ground or how close jaw-dropping financial mismanagement has pushed our club towards relegation, insolvency and in some cases, extinction, we’re still sitting there, a cup of hot Bovril clenched in our frostbitten hands, shouting expletives at men we don’t know.

If it was compulsory, there’d be a European directive banning it. But it isn’t. We do it because we love it.

stevie

As this international break draws to a close, having drifted by us once again on the stream of bile and invective that flows freely from the major orifices of the media, it might be worth taking a moment to remember that. You love football. Say it to yourself.

“I love football.”

It’s hard to remember that sometimes, with terms like “lacking creativity”, “toothless”, “leaden-footed” and “tedious” competing for space in every post-match word count and writers and broadcasters elbowing each other in the face get to the most scathing critique first and score the most page views for their trouble.

It’s so easy to be critical. And let’s be honest, England players make it even easier. They are overpaid, they do have a habit of looking like the shirt is an unwanted accessory to an otherwise decent outfit and their excuses for poor performances can be so embarrassing, it’s hard to believe they’re serious.

But could you do your job to the best of your abilities with thousands of people waiting with bated breath for you to cock it up, their antipathy tweaked and honed by professionals well versed in the dark arts of distraction? Would you even want to? Or would the criticism and unrealistic expectations eventually wear you down, to the point where you just want to keep your head down until the day you can leave it all behind?

For too long now, a hostile strand of the English media have been allowed to dictate how we perceive our national game, which would be fine if their relentless negativity didn’t have an impact on the team’s output. In years gone by, listening to experts was the way to learn, but things are different now and experience in the game is so sullied by agenda, pomposity and/or ignorance that the opinions of many highly paid journalists, talking heads and ex-pros are effectively redundant.

terry

The beauty of football is that it’s egalitarian. We all have an opinion, but the joy comes from sharing those opinions, listening to other’s views and then dismantling their argument in a hail of finger pointing and beer. England might not be great, but they’re ours. If it wasn’t for the weight of expectation (and the anachronistic insistence that we should be competing at the highest level all of the time) the fact that we generally qualify for major tournaments, are top of our World Cup group with two games to play and just held Ukraine to a 0-0 draw away despite our strike force consisting of a man who still has marks on his bum from the Stockport County bench, might feel pretty good. 

Unless you can be arsed to trace your family tree back to the Cretaceous period, where that Spanish, Brazilian or German lineage lurks, just waiting to be exploited for your own nefarious ends, you don’t have much choice, anyway. You’re stuck with England, just like you’re stuck with your club.

You might as well make the best of it.

Images: Clive Rose/Getty Images Europe, Mark Thompson/Getty Images Europe.

England, Roy Hodgson, Frank Lampard, Theo Walcott, Steven Gerrard

England 3-2 Scotland
rickie

Yes, it seems we peaked too early when we crowned Rickie Lambert King of the World just for being called up to the squad. No, we had nowhere to go when he scored with his first touch on his England debut. But we had fun doing the photoshopping and you lot barely noticed our oversight, you were so busy clogging the Twitter feed with shouts of RICKIE LAMBERT CELEBRATE. No harm done, unless you’re counting Joe Hart’s pride, and to be fair, that was in tatters anyway after the Head & Shoulders advert debacle.

Let’s just concentrate on the fact that despite Steven Gerrard’s unnervingly deep positioning in the first half (an open invitation for Scotland to swarm, which they snatched at enthusiastically) it was a relatively solid, entertaining performance from England; youngsters like Cleverley, Zaha, Welbeck and Wilshere offering a glimpse of an exciting future.

The timing is perfect. We can use this to hone our optimism to a deliciously sharp point, just in time for it to turn on us and stab us in the guts in Brazil next year. Assuming England qualify, of course.

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Sweden 4-2 Norway

The imperious Zlatan Zeppelin hovered over the Friends Arena once again last night, it’s passenger deigning to disembark, score a hat-trick, collect the congratulations of his team-mates and then boarding and setting a course for Paris.

It must be brilliant being Zlatan.

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Italy 1-2 Argentina
banega
Banega. Perilously close to getting his ankle caught in Lorenzo Insigne’s spinning wheels.

Speaking of difficult journeys, a big Ramble congrats to Argentina’s Ever Banega for turning up to the stadium unencumbered by alcohol or stationary vehicle related injuries and scoring a goal. Napoli new boy Gonzalo Higuain also scored, while Italy’s consolation came via a lovely strike from his new team-mate Lorenzo Insigne.

Rafa Benitez must be wetting himself with excitement.

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Portugal 1-1 Netherlands
crissy

It’s pretty certain that the history books will reflect Lionel’s Messi’s ability to outscore, outshine and outclass Cristiano Ronaldo, but credit where it’s due. Even the diminutive Argentine would struggle to haul his team to a 1-1 draw while offering a veneer of respectability to one of the most upsetting hair trends of the last twenty-five years.

Kevin Strootman was only three months old when Vanilla Ice was terrorising the charts with his bastardisation of one of the finest basslines in musical history and it’s unlikely he’d have ever imagined his good work in the first half of this fixture would be undone by a strike from a man with tribute tramlines scored into his head, but hey.

Lionel will be laughing on the other side of his face if FIFA introduce sartorial daring into the Ballon D’Or criteria. Or perhaps not.

Images via Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Europe, lostiempos.com, Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images Europe.

England, Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Argentina, Scotland

Euro 2013 Women: England 2-3 Spain
doh!
Doh! Image: Christof Koepsel/Getty Images Europe.

Given England’s recent history in football tournaments, our prediction that Friday’s game between England & Spain might be the only opportunity to see representatives from these fair shores beat Spanish opposition in the next twenty-five years seems a little rash now.

In our defence, there was evidence that England’s women might be operating in a different sphere of footballing consciousness to the men. They were beaten finalists in Euro 2009, eleven games unbeaten going into the tournament and none of the defenders had a pending court case.

But despite a last gasp equaliser, England’s tournament hoodoo still found time to strike, in this case in the guise of ‘keeper Karen Bardsley’s face. Adriana’s cross hit the hapless shot stopper in the mush and rebounded into the back of the net, taking the score to 3-2 and England to third in the table with tough group games vs. France and Russia to come.

dm
Still, like the guys, they can at least rely on the Daily Mail comment section’s backing.

U20 World Cup: France 0-0 Uruguay (France win 4-1 on penalties.)
pogba
Wait, what’s it called again, Paul? Image: AP Photo/Gero Breloer.

No such boobs (wait for it) from France’s Alphonse Areola (BOOM!) who made some cracking saves during normal time and the first two pelanties in the shoot out to propel his side to the trophy.

Manchester United Hall of Famer Paul Pogba captained the side to glory, and in his first interview after the game confirmed the importance of the win by gabbling “Incredible, this is the World Cup, the World Cup, the World Cup! It is something extraordinary,” until presumably someone slapped him vigorously about the Mohawk.

Pre-Season Friendlies

Marseille 0-3 Porto
bartoli

Wimbledon winner Marion Bartoli snatched the award for “Most Impractical Footwear Ever Seen On a Football Pitch” from Sergio Aguero. Image via theslice.com.

Bournemouth 0-2 West Ham
big sam
While the mystery of what happened to Pete Donaldson’s TV glasses has finally been solved. He flogged them to Big Sam after convincing him they were impervious to gravy. The scamp! Image: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe.

England, France, West Ham, Uruguay

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