Wednesday, May 30, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different

The Guardian's Sport Blog has an annotated list of England's Six Best Football Performances since they last hoisted the World Cup way back in 1966. In typical self-flegellating England fashion, one of the matches that makes the cut did not even end in an England victory. The comments prove as edifying, contentious, and entertaining as the list that inspired them.


Steve Dunkley said...

Well now, as someone who probably saw all of those games including edited highlights of the 1966 world cup final, I could not let this pass without comment. I was at school in England in 1966 and missed seeing the game live but did hear it on radio. As a football match, it was one of the duller games. As a culmination of the hard work and flair of Alf Ramsey and the squad of players it cannot be surpassed. If you can imagine winning the Super Bowl, Cotton bowl, Kentucky Derby, World Series and the Texas lottery over a long weekend, you might just begin to imagine the euphoria that swept England and the despair that enveloped Scotland. Such was the excitement, Englishmen were heard to say things like, "well done chaps" or even, "jolly good".

The games chosen by The Guardian were chosen for the quality and nature of the football played and possibly for the supreme delight of absolutely stuffing both Germany and Holland. Both these countries have insufferably good national sides and are very difficult to beat. Germany has always felt, with a modicum of justification, that they were unfairly beaten in 1966. Fortunately nobody but them cares!!

In respect of David Beckham’s sending off in St Etienne, he knew the rules and had seen other players red-carded for similar offences. I remember being very angry at him that day both for his impetuous reaction and earlier inattention that led to an Argentina goal. In fairness, Beckham learned a great deal from that game and became, in my opinion, one of the most inspirational and most talented England players and captains of all time, certainly the best since Bobby Moore. This game was eventually lost on penalties but was in terms of skill and excitement arguably one of the best games in the 1998 World Cup.

Being a former season ticket holder at Peterborough United, appreciation of the game for the game’s sake became a necessity. Being able to enjoy a game or sport without an almost maniacal chauvinism to one side or the other is not that difficult, but I do understand this is not a popular concept in the USA. I was present for the first game at the Enron Stadium (me, two Georges plus some other crooks and hoods) and remember being embarrassed by the stony silence that greeted a Philadelphia home run. This was okay because there were some others present that would be embarrassed later on!

Nevertheless, The Guardian’s article brought back some almost forgotten, but very happy memories. Good post!

dcat said...

Steve --
I think that for a game to enter the historical pantheon of greatness there also has to be meaning attached to it. It's tough to imagine an early season meeting between Wigan and Portsmouth, or the Cubs and Reds, say, ever becoming the sort of game that would make a list like this no matter how well played.
I have long thought that the backlash against Beckham in recent years has been unfair. he was the best in the world at what he did for a long time, and even if he is on the downside of his career, he still can play a role both at the professional level and for England.

Cheers --