Tag Archives | football

Why You Shouldn’t be Surprised When England Lose

2016 06 27 england iceland euro

In about five hours England play Iceland in a Euro 2016 final 16 game. England may not lose this match, but they will almost certainly not win the tournament.

Here’s why you shouldn’t be surprised that the England national team aren’t more successful than they are.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

They’re actually not a global footballing power.

Now, this may come as a surprise, given that the guy who coached the soccer team at your high school had an English accent, as do many of the pundits who commentate on football games on TV. And yes, England is home to world’s most popular league.

2016 06 27 england crest

In addition, as British people may remind you, England invented the game and in 1966 won the World Cup — though it was at home in England and the team benefited from a dubious refereeing decision.

In the half century since then, however, they have won…not a single title.

The closest they came was making it to the World Cup semi-final in 1990 — a benchmark even the U.S. nearly achieved in 2002, when Gregg Berhalter* would have scored had it not been for a Torsten Frings handball that went unpunished.

But I digress.

Among the factors I have heard people give for England’s failure to win tournaments:

  • The Premier League is too fast-paced and physically demanding
  • There’s no winter break, so players can’t recuperate properly
  • There are too many foreigners playing in the Premier League, so English players don’t get a chance to develop
  • Highly paid players are more devoted to their clubs than to England
  • The youth team coaching isn’t good enough, so players don’t reach their full potential
  • Previous coaches, like Fabio Capello, were too strict or didn’t understand English culture or communicate with their players
  • English players typically play their best in cold weather; they can’t win in the heat.
  • They’re just so unlucky, with inevitable pre-tournament injuries
  • Penalties! They’re a crapshoot!
  • The English media are too hard on players, who then crack under the pressure of carrying a nation’s weight on their shoulders
  • Wives and girlfriends coming along to tournaments distract the players

And I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if another reason is added to the list after this tournament: Brexit somehow distracted the players, or sapped the fans of their enthusiasm.

But, as some have pointed out, England only under-achieve if you think they should do better.

I don’t. They do about as well as you could expect.

When you think England, don’t think Brazil, Germany, or Italy.

Think Portugal.

In other words: pretty good, but not absolutely top-tier.

Let’s look at their Fifa world rankings since 1993:

2016 06 27 england fifa ranking

So, they’re now ranked 11th in the world, and their average ranking since 1993 is ten. That’s pretty good! But it doesn’t make them elite.

Other sides that have won the World Cup once, like England, include France, which won in 1998 and have an average ranking of nine, and Spain, which won in 2010 and has an average ranking of five. Both are better than England.

What about the big boys?

Brazil have won five World Cups. This is what their ranking — which averages out to three over the years — looks like:

2016 06 27 brazil fifa ranking

Germany (average ranking: five) and Italy (average ranking: seven) have won four times each. This is what their rankings look like:

2016 06 27 germany fifa ranking

2016 06 27 italy fifa ranking

Portugal, which have an average ranking of 11, are much more like England:

2016 06 27 portugal fifa rankings

So, again: England don’t underperform. They perform as they always have.

They’re basically Portugal, except they won the World Cup fifty years ago. And they don’t have a Cristiano Ronaldo.

*My own personal footballing claim to fame: In a college game against the University of North Carolina, Gregg Berhalter scored a penalty on me. I dove the right way, guessing the left footer would blast it to my left, and came absolutely nowhere near it.

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Arsenal Players + Durian = Funny

English Premier League sides Arsenal, Everton and Stoke are coming here to Singapore in July for some pre-season exhibition matches.

Ahead of the trip, Arsenal players were asked to try the notoriously stinky durian fruit, native to Southeast Asia. Love their reactions.

The video is embedded above and on YouTube here.

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Must-Follow World Cup Pundits: Men in Blazers

If you’re not following them already — and if, as I’m assuming, you love everything about the World Cup and the U.S. team — be sure to follow Roger Bennett and Michael Davies, a.k.a. Men in Blazers.

The two pundits, Brits who are long-time U.S. residents, combine in depth knowledge of the sport with an immigrant’s love for U.S. soccer.

They are especially well informed about the transformation in style and attitude that U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has brought to the American side. (For more on that topic, see this WSJ interactive from earlier this month.)

Also, they are delightfully silly.

While I also follow The Guardian‘s World Cup Football Daily podcast and occasionally BBC 5 Live’s World Cup Daily, Rog and Davo, as they’re known, are so enjoyable because they’re lighthearted: They frequently weave in cultural references and inside jokes, and do not at all take themselves seriously.

Here are some of their recent podcasts.

You can also find their ongoing videos and other contributions on ESPN FC here.

They’re on Twitter at: @meninblazers.

Sample Tweet:

Embedded above and online here: their recent take on the U.S.-Germany game, and an audio podcast after the U.S.-Portugal match.

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On England and the World Cup

Snips from “A Soccer Empire, Deeply Confused,” David Winner‘s contribution to the New York Times‘s feature on the World Cup and national playing styles:

Soccer has long been a bastion of a peculiarly 19th-century conception of Englishness the nation seems reluctant to relinquish. The game was born during the era of empire when the country’s elite public schools adapted earlier forms of violent folk football for the purpose of education.

Typical rustic folk games involved hundreds of drunken men from rival villages rampaging through streets and fields, trying to drive, say, a casket of beer (the proto-ball) into the crypt of a church (the proto-goal). The schools distilled such testosterone-fuelled rituals into new formats involving smaller teams, sober boys and sodden leather balls. Codified by the Football Association and later disseminated to the world, this style of soccer was never the so-called beautiful game; the original purpose of educators was to instill manly and martial virtues into future imperial soldiers and administrators.

And:

Just as adapting to their diminished, post-imperial status in international affairs has been a struggle, so the English are taking a long time to abandon the fantasy that, having invented the game, they should still expect to win the World Cup.

The truth — as everyone elsewhere noticed long ago — is that the nation has only once gone further than the quarterfinals of a major tournament played abroad (it reached the semifinals in Italy in 1990).

English soccer confusion, delusion and cloying nostalgia have become tedious. The time for the national team to adopt a bit of modesty and modernity — and to move to embrace change — is long overdue.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Amy Lawrence.)

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Euro 2012: English Commentary on GMM Grammy

For the record:

I wrote, in a earlier post, that the GMM Grammy Euro 2012 broadcast doesn’t offer English-language commentary.

But it does.

Simply click the button labeled “audio,” near the bottom of the remote*, two or three times to alternate between Thai and English.

Thanks to @tonygjordan for the tip.

(*The remote and AV cables are tucked under a flap in the GMM Grammy satellite box. I missed seeing these items at first.)

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TrueVisions Subscribers and Euro 2012 Games

The Bangkok Post reports today:

Cable television operator TrueVisions has failed to resolve its dispute with Euro 2012 Football Championship broadcast rights holder GMM Grammy.

About 2 million True subscribers saw Euro 2012 broadcasts from Channel 3, Channel 5 and Modernine TV cancelled last night during the tournament’s opening match between Poland and Greece at 11pm, and again for Russia versus the Czech Republic at 1:45am this morning.

The matches could be seen on terrestrial television but True blocked those stations’ broadcasts through its cable and satellite platforms. True showed alternative programmes instead.

We’re TrueVisions subscribers but got the GMM Grammy satellite box up and running prior to kickoff, thankfully. As I Tweeted on Thurs.:

Richard Barrow also has a tutorial, if you’d like to implement a similar setup.

Indeed, it turns out there’s no English language commentary or HD service. But the picture is decent, for standard definition.

More soon on this topic.

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Off Topic: My Soccer Team Won Our League!

2012 03 21 team celebrations

Allow me to quickly boast about share the news that my soccer team here in Bangkok, BFC D’Pelican, beat a good Royal Bangkok Sports Club team 1-0 last night.

The victory took us into first place on goal difference on the last day of the season, and we were crowned the 2012 Chang International Football League champions.

It was a hard-fought game, but we got the clean sheet — always important to a goalkeeper like a me — and the win.

The achievement was all the more sweet for me given the great group of guys on the team and the fact that this was my first trophy-winning season in more than five years (!) of playing amateur soccer here in Bangkok.

The picture above shows us after the game.

Here I am with the trophy:

2012 03 21 np cup

And embedded below is a 12-second video of our post-match celebrations (also available on YouTube).

(Thanks to A for the pics, video, and ongoing support.)

Normal programming will resume shortly.

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World Cup qualifier: Thailand 3, Oman 0

2011 09 07 thailand oman

The Bangkok Post reports on Thailand’s surprise win over Oman last night in a World Cup 2014 qualifier here in Bangkok:

Thailand beat Oman 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier last night in their finest moments in football in recent memory.

Two first-half goals from strike duo Sompong Soleb (35) and Teerasil Dangda (41) and an own goal by Rashid Al Farsi in injury time gave Thailand their best win for years.

The victory at Rajamangala National Stadium keeps alive Thailand’s dreams of securing their first-ever World Cup berth.

Thailand have one win and one defeat in Group D after their 2-1 loss at Australia in Brisbane last week.

Oman have only one point after a scoreless home draw with Saudi Arabia in their opener. Saudi Arabia were at home to Australia later last night.

The top two teams from each of the five groups advance to Asia’s final qualifying stages (last 10 teams) for the 2014 World Cup.

Next up: Saudi Arabia, coached by one Frank Rijkaard, visit Bangkok on Oct 11.

(Image: Bangkok Post.)

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Could ASEAN bid for the World Cup? (cross posted to Siam Voices)

Note: This post originally appeared on Siam Voices, a collaborative Thailand blog at Asian Correspondent. I have added an update.

2011-01-18_asean-2030.jpg

Yesterday’s Bangkok Post:

Asean kicks around plan to host World Cup

Asean foreign ministers have agreed to propose to the grouping’s leadership that the region host the World Cup in 2030 as a group, diplomatic sources say.

The foreign ministers, who are meeting in Lombok, Indonesia, would submit a formal and detailed plan for approval by the Asean leaders when they meet in Jakarta on May 7 and 8.

The idea of the region jointly hosting the World Cup in 2030 was first proposed by Malaysia at the annual foreign ministers’ meeting in Hanoi in July last year.

Yesterdays’s Jakarta Post:

2030 World Cup in ASEAN? Why not?

In an attempt to boost integration among its people, ASEAN will propose to FIFA that the 10 member countries jointly host the 2030 soccer World Cup.

Foreign ministers of the ASEAN countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar — gathered here Sunday for a retreat meeting agreed to table their candidacy this year to jointly host the world’s biggest sporting event.

As we know, the 2014 World Cup will be in Brazil. Then it’s Russia for 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

A few thoughts:

1. Southeast Asia is geographically large, and — as touched upon in the Jakarta Post item — travel between countries as far-flung as Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines presents logistical challenges.

2. If a bid were to materialize, would the FIFA Executive Committee be put off by political instability here in Thailand — a country at the heart of the region, and perhaps ASEAN’s biggest tourist draw? Or perhaps tensions will have eased by then? What about Myanmar, as a member of ASEAN? Would Myanmar host matches?

3. Infrastructure in Southeast Asia is lacking. The Bangkok Post story says: “By the time the international football association, Fifa, decides on the 2030 World Cup host, all Asean capitals are expected to have built international standard sports and football stadiums, said one of the sources.”

I would be interested to hear more about these plans.

4. Speaking of FIFA’s executive committee, what about the fuss over Thailand’s Worawi Makudi and England’s failed World Cup bid? Would England support an ASEAN bid, given Thailand’s failure to deliver for the Three Lions?

5. This is not the first time the idea has been floated, as the Bangkok Post piece notes. The Post ran this shot Oct., 2009 item: “Asean eyeing to host World Cup.”

6. Interestingly, there is already an ASEAN 2030 Facebook group that has been “liked” by 478 people. It contains this interesting passage, which seems to encapsulate the “why not?” spirit that would presumably need to be part of any potential bid:

The astounding decision last week by FIFA, the world’s football federation, to award Russia and Qatar to host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 respectively gives hope that ASEAN should seriously aspire, as a Community, to host this quadrennial sporting event, with the largest worldwide audience, in 2030.

Image: ASEAN 2030 Facebook page.

UPDATE: January 18 — The Bangkok Post has a new story today: “Worawi: Joint Asean World Cup unlikely.” There’s also this piece, “A kicking idea: using sport to forge an Asean identity.”

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England-Thailand friendly officially cancelled

2010-12-08_becks_england.jpg

The backstory is here. From today’s Bangkok Post:

The England football team has confirmed the cancellation of its friendly match against Thailand in Bangkok in June.

It was to have been the first time the England national side had played in Thailand.

The English Football Association cited scheduling concerns for the withdrawal, but the British press has speculated it is retribution for Thailand’s football boss breaking a “promise” to back England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

The Thailand-England fixture would likely have proved a highly lucrative event and was supposedly agreed in return for the support of Worawi Makudi, president of the Football Association of Thailand (FAT).

But Mr Worawi, also a Fifa executive member, chose another candidate at a Fifa committee members vote on Dec 2.

FAT secretary-general Ong-arj Kosinkha confirmed yesterday the English FA had informed Mr Worawi of the cancellation in a letter dated Dec 22.

In the letter, English FA general-secretary Alex Horne said: “I have been informed by [English FA chairman] Sir David Richards that the England national team is not ready to come to Thailand according to the programme that was set earlier.”

(Emphasis mine.)

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