Early Doors

A Walc in the park

Early Doors

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And so, seven years after that 5-1 win in Munich, the English sequence of wild optimism followed by underachievement followed by deep depression followed by renewed hope has come full circle.

In a city where winning was considered an impossibility, a performance of skill, passion and intelligence saw Croatia ripped apart.

If any of the England team had ever heard of Early Doors, the 4-1 win would have been their way of telling it to shove its worldly cynicism somewhere unpleasant.

Luckily for curmudgeons everywhere, Setanta's refusal to sell a highlights package means nobody will ever see the game again.

This may actually be good news for Theo Walcoott whose goals, rather than being replayed and analysed to death, will retain a mythical status.

Like a folk tale passed down through the ages, they will increase in majesty with each re-telling of the story.

In five years time they will be popularly remembered as:

1- A 35-yard screamer that hit the stanchion with such force it ripped the Croatian goal clean out of the ground.

2- The greatest team goal ever scored. A 57-pass move involving all 11 players, four of the subs and the kit man.

3- A stunning solo effort scored by a man wearing only one boot. Walcott rounded Stipe Pletikosa three times before slotting coolly home.

Nobody will remember, or care, that Walcott was offside for the first goal - or at least he certainly was to an old-fashioned type like ED, straying beyond the last man when Wayne Rooney played the ball through.

It may well be possible that, under new rules, Danijel Pranjic's hapless clearance into Robert Kovac represented a new 'phase' of play.

FIFA are certainly doing their best to eliminate offside - ED predicts by the end of the decade strikers will have to gouge the goalkeeper's eyes out with a fork before the linesman raises his flag.

And instead of viewing Walcott's refusal to change a knackered boot (his right one was missing a stud) as massively unprofessional, it will take on a Roy-of-the-Rovers quality.

The young kid from the backstreets, who can't even afford proper footwear, dances through the Croatian defence and scores with the only foot that has any hi-tech polymer left on it.

In Theo's own words: "I actually played with one less stud in my right boot in the second half as it basically fell to pieces and I didn't want to change.

"That's why I finished the third goal with my left!"

It was so easy for England that, when Robert Kovac was sent off for elbowing Joe Cole in the head, Capello immediately brought on Jermaine Jenas to even things up at 10-a-side.

And England could even afford to have a pearler from Frank Lampard disallowed for no reason without anyone minding too much.

Even the Croatian goal should not have stood, what with Darijo Srna's high foot on Mr England.

Still, ED was glad Lubos Michel allowed play to continue as it highlighted John Terry's massive dive.

After Srna poked the ball past him, the England skipper clutched his face, went down and stayed down, rolling around like a big Mediterranean sap.

The thing is, when he got up to coat the referee in spittle and swear words after the goal went, he was completely uninjured.

Had it not been for those Arabsat Man City, JT could swap playacting notes on the Chelsea training pitch with Robinho, who got Bolivia's Ignacio Garcia sent off for a 'studs-up' challenge despite his assailant making contact with nothing but turf.

The best English result since 2001 was achieved despite - or perhaps because of - a profoundly rubbish performance from Emile Heskey.

The Wigan man's touch was awful, he was frequently beaten in the air and he seemed just plain scared of the ball at times.

But there's no doubting that, in the DVD of England's Greatest Victories, big Emile is horning his way into a lot of goal celebrations.

Does he give his team-mates confidence because they can't possibly be as bad as him, or lull the opposition into a false sense of security?

Does his presence up front enable people to cut Rooney some slack every time he drifts wide or deep, as every good second striker should?

Or is he just the biggest, clunkiest good luck charm in the world, a 15-stone rabbit's foot?

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "We'll celebrate on the plane with a bit of PSP and then get home." - Theo Walcott on his post-match festivities. He's either talking about computer games or it's a 'yoof' abbreviation for 'phat sick playaz'.

CHANT OF THE DAY: "Bolivia! Bolivia! Bolivia!"

Brazil fans start cheering for the opposition during last night's goalless draw at home to Bolivia. It is good to know that, even when England are doing well, there is a set of arrogant, complacent, self-righteous supporters turning against their own team.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Shame on you!" A 2-1 defeat at home to Luxembourg is enough to stir Swiss newspaper Blick into moral outrage. New coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is just lucky not to see a picture of his face popping out of a cuckoo clock.

TALKING POINT: Yesterday, ED asked you to predict tomorrow's Sun headline today. Today, ED is looking at today's Sun headline yesterday. Clear?

samuelbanks and jonathan_david_wells both correctly guessed The Sun's 'Trio Walcott' headline, so hats off to the pair of you.

Although, if we're splitting hairs, young Theo's exploits make both front and back covers of the Currant Bun, with the back proclaiming: "Stone the Cro's... we're on the way to the WALD CUP!" Although nobody would expect you to predict that.

Of the pre-match guesses, only two predicted a positive result for England, and here they are:

sikka316 had a nice headline ready had England snuck a jammy 1-0 win: "Smash and Zagreb"

And kevin1985kane made reference to both the big bang thing and Fat Frank's weight with his effort: "Lampard plugs Black Hole - Apocalypse No"

Finally, james_ssmith offered this insight into life in the Ecclestone household after a certain F1 supremo was pictured in the crowd with his peeved Croatian wife, Slavica: "Bernie will be sleeping on the sofa tonight." Although a standard armchair would probably be large enough.

Today - Fabio Capello: football genius or just a very lucky man? And will King Theo become the next Pele or be crushed under the sheer weight of hype?

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