Jim White

  • Only one winner

    How things have changed. Spain, once
    regarded as the serial chokers of world football, a side so averse to the big
    time they made the Leeds team of the 1970s look like the most resolute
    finishers in history, are closing in on the prize with all the lynx-eyed
    resolve of real champions.

    They may have started the competition with
    a defeat, but if they wind it up with a win they will demonstrate the
    fundamental truth of tournament football: it is those who improve who prosper.

    Even as they were losing to Switzerland in
    that first game, however, there was manifold evidence that this was a team

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  • Madrid provide the fireworks yet again

    In Germany,
    they reckon that little gives a man as much pleasure as watching his best friend
    fall off a roof. In Catalonia the sense of humour is slightly different: there,
    the belief is that nothing is as entertaining as observing your worst enemy
    suffer crippling calamity.

    Wednesday night, the fireworks were lighting up the Barcelona sky from the
    moment Miralem Pjanic equalised for Lyon in the 75th minute of the Champions
    League tie against Real Madrid. And once it became clear that Real were out,
    beaten in the last sixteen round for the fifth year in succession, this time by
    a side

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  • It’s Ronaldo United must keep

    On Sunday night, Carlos Tevez preferred to stay at home to comfort his young daughter who had a temperature rather than attend Manchester United's player of the year celebrations (a prize won by Nemanja Vidic).

    Coupled with his body language as he left the pitch during United's final home game of the season against Arsenal, the Argentine's absence has led many to assume that he is heading for pastures new. After two years at Old Trafford he will be taking his entourage of advisers, interpreters and owners elsewhere, thus ending one of the most convoluted and contorted episodes of player

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  • The light dims on Keano

    Following Saturday's 4-1 home defeat by Bolton, Roy Keane said this in the post-match press conference: "I ask myself every single day if I am the right man for Sunderland. I asked myself this morning and I said that I was. Tomorrow morning if the answer's no we will have to look at it. I have to be honest in my assessment. It's not about what's best for Roy Keane. It's Sunderland Football Club. I might wake up on Monday morning and think I'm the right man. On Tuesday it might be different."

    Clearly by Thursday it was very different. After, presumably, assessing his suitability in the mirror

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  • Chelsea’s African problem

    Last night Didier Drogba showed what an asset he is to Chelsea. Currently the second best centre-forward in the world after Fernando Torres, he was magnificent away at Atletico Madrid, personally securing Chelsea's qualification to the knock-out stage of the Champions League with two typically robust, muscular goals.

    It was apt pay-back for the suspension he earned himself with his comedy performance after last season's semi-final. And it was a reminder to every Chelsea supporter - not to mention their manager Carlo Ancelotti - of what they will miss come the middle of January.

    The final

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  • Barcelona remain the team to beat

    The intrigues, the twists, the plotlines are seemingly endless. The draw for the last 16 of this year's Champions League has thrown up all sorts of narratives.

    There's Jose Mourinho renewing his rivalry with the man he is favourite one day to replace, Sir Alex Ferguson.

    As the two most decorated clubs left in the competition - Real Madrid and Liverpool - meet, Rafa Benitez will go back to the club where he was nurtured as both a player and more to the point a coach.

    Claudio Ranieri returns to Chelsea with Juventus, a place where his last serious act as manager was guiding the club to the

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  • The mother of dilemmas: who to support now

    There are some cracking matches coming up this weekend. Now England have gone, the World Cup appears to have upped a gear.

    Brazil against Holland, Argentina against Germany: either clash would have made a worthy final. And Spain, creeping up on the rails, not yet quite convincing but looking more ominous with every round.

    It leaves the watching England fan with a dilemma, however. Much as we can approach the games with a purist's vision, enjoying the ability of players to do what England's couldn't do and actually pass to someone wearing the same colour shirt, it adds to the sum of things if

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  • Time to praise non-famous men

    There was always a fair chance that the
    World Cup semi-final would be graced by two magnificent, stirring whacks of
    long-range goals. That is what World Cup semi-finals are for: to showcase the
    best talent in world football playing at its most persuasive.

    Yet, before the competition started, you
    could have got odds as long as Peter Crouch on the identity of those scoring
    said goals. Not even Paul the Mystic Octopus could have predicted it would have
    been Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Diego Forlan scoring the goals. To be honest,
    Paul the Mystic Octopus probably hadn't even heard of them before

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  • Tame Spain in real trouble

    Suddenly my investment in this World Cup looks decidedly dodgy. A whole
    portfolio of growth opportunities (as my bookmaker likes to term a wild punt)
    based around Spain is in jeopardy. Frankly, the football team's chances of
    progress look about as solid as its economy.

    There is a reason why a Spain v Germany final was a 25-1 bet. And it
    wasn't because Germany are unlikely to get there. Spain are wobbling. Few -
    except the canny blokes at the bookmakers - saw that coming.

    As the competition has progressed, so has England's draw with the USA lessened
    in its catastrophic capacity.

    Spain losing

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