Jim White

  • 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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  • At least it’s not Sven in charge

    Sven-Goran Eriksson is here in South Africa, providing further evidence that incompetence is no bar to career progress.

    With a CV decorated by expensively acquired mediocrity, he has somehow parlayed himself back into the World Cup, this time in charge of the Ivory Coast.

    As always hiding his shallows under a veneer of enigma, Sven continues to float about the place, his modus operandi no different five years on from when Paul Hayward of the Guardian brilliantly compared him to Chauncey Gardner, the Peter Sellers character in the movie Being There - a man who rises to the very top of the

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  • England hope can only lead to hurt

    If not with
    polish then at least with professionalism, England advance in the World Cup,
    thus confounding those of us who saw in their wretched, spineless, spirit-free
    performance against Algeria nothing but the prospect of a French-style early
    retreat from the competition.

    Unlike in
    their previous foray, against Slovenia they played as if they had actually met
    each other before the game. According to Fabio Capello, the introductions were
    made at the bar of the team hotel the day before, over a round of drinks. We
    can now add this to the FA coaching manual: if you want to progress in a World

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  • Set your alarm for March

    You have to wonder if the British teams in the Champions League did that old trick with the heated balls.

    Talk about an easy ride. While Barcelona play Inter and Real Madrid face Milan, Arsenal have got AZ Alkmaar. We know that the group stages of the competition are little more than a holding operation before the real thing begins in the spring, but even so, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea might as well have been handed a bye.

    Not, of course, that they did not find cause for complaint. Sir Alex was worried about travel fatigue for his United players. The thought of being

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  • Sorry Theo, you had it coming

    Poor Theo Walcott. The nicest guy left in
    English football now Gianfranco Zola is spending more time with his lawyers
    finds himself making far less of a stir in being left out of an England squad
    than he did when he was picked.

    Back in 2006, the then 17 year old's
    inclusion by Sven Goran Eriksson sent eyebrows scurrying skyward. No more so
    than in the squad itself, where his selection ahead of Jermaine Defoe came as
    final proof to several senior players that they were in the hands of a manager
    who had lost the plot.

    Four years on, and Walcott's dropping is
    not being greeted with the same

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  • Cult of Jose reaches its peak

    It has been billed by one newspaper in Barcelona as "God versus the Son of God". Louis van Gaal against Jose Mourinho, the master against the pupil who now bestrides the game.

    It is, the paper reckoned, the most intriguing possible tactical confrontation, the match-up of the decade, all eyes will be on the touchline duel. And there you were thinking the Champions League final was about the players.

    Tomorrow in the Santiago Bernabeu, when Van Gaal's Bayern confront Mourinho's Inter, we will reach the very apex of the cult of the manager. This is a football match defined almost entirely by the

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  • Fabregas move a no-brainer

    The question facing Cesc Fabregas is very similar to the one with which Mrs Merton once confronted Debbie McGhee: "So Cesc, what first attracted you to the idea of playing alongside Messi, Xavi and Iniesta?"

    The Arsenal captain is off to Barcelona. And frankly, who can blame him? A man who enjoys playing good football playing every week alongside the best footballers in the world: it isn't even close to being an argument that he might resist the lure. Everything about the deal makes inevitable good sense. Barca need a long-term creative replacement for the ageing Xavi and the increasingly

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  • So what next?

    Now it is over, now the trophy is safely ensconced in Madrid, now that newspaper columnists are telling us that victory at the European Championships will lead to a new, united Spain (you can be sure the Basques are dancing in the streets at that idea) what can we learn from the three week fiesta in the Alps? Which players have left a mark permanently in our collective consciousness? Who will be soon forgotten? And which teams showed everyone else the way to do it?

    1. The league whose reputation was least advanced was, without question, hugely self-important Premier League. Only Michael

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