It’s at 10 seconds. Watch it.
Watch it again.
Watch it again.
Pranay Sanklecha wrote a piece called Berbarotica for Surreal Football. Read the whole thing, because it’s excellent, but the important paragraph is:
Well, there are other gods. One of them is beauty. There is such a thing and Berbatov on a football field is a wonderful example of it. He needs no other justification. It doesn’t matter how many goals he scores, or when he scores them, or what his Prozone stats are. Does he move you? Does something in your soul sing when you watch him? That’s enough. God, that’s much more than enough.
Now, watch it again, and this time listen to that faint, aureate, glorious music that is drifting just on the edge of your hearing. That is the sound of your soul singing.
[hat-tip to @iamtimjoyce, which I forgot earlier, because I am a muppet.]
A third-fourth playoff is one of the few games where a moral victory isn’t quite the bitter potatoes with bitter gravy that it might otherwise be, in a game that, y’know, matters.
Think about it. You’ve missed out on the chance to have a proper tilt at the whole point of the summer, you’ve been whomped by a very good Brazil team, you don’t even have the consolation of knowing that history will declare that same Brazil team the Greatest Ever Of All Time and so absolve you of any real responsibility, and you’ve got to go and play the Germans. Winning would be nice, of course, but losing? Meh. Does anyone know the Spanish for “que sera sera”?.
(This is a roundabout way of saying that going by the highlights above, Uruguay probably should have won the thing about 8-3, but hopefully weren’t that downhearted at losing 0-1.)
1. This goal proves that Thierry Henry was a big-game bottler.
2. This goal proves that the lack of long balls from the centre-halves is the reason Arsenal are TOTALLY IN CRISIS WENGER OUT WENGER OUT WENGER OUT.
3. This goal … blimey.
That the scorer of this goal did not go on to win the game is proof that the universe is a dark and malicious place, that justice is a fiction maintained to keep you quiet, that your parents never loved you, and that the cake is a lie.
Touches taken by an AC Milan player in the Liverpool half: 1.
Third-fourth playoffs are the definitive forgotten games.
In 1982, France were beaten in the semi-final by Germany, in a game notorious for Toni Schumacher’s assault on Patrick Battiston. The poor Frenchman, who’d only been on the pitch 10 minutes, left on a stretcher with two exciting new gaps in his teeth, while Schumacher stayed on the pitch. France, despite having one of the more sensuous midfields in footballing history, lost on penalties.
Poland, meanwhile, lacking the services of Zbigniew Boniek, lost 2-0 to Italy. But Boniek returned for the bronze-medal game and Poland took advantage of one of the all-time great World Cup goalkeeping nightmares, as Jean Castaneda — making his only World Cup appearance — waved limply at the first, hurtled manically past the second, and left a gap the size of Lower Normandy by his near post for the third.
Clearly, losing out on Moustache of the Game to Andrzej Szarmach had knocked his confidence.
So, I was at the Blues v Newcastle game, October 2004. My season ticket seat then was in the Kop, right by the half way line and eight rows from the front. I was in the kind of position that when it went quiet, you could hear what the players said on the pitch if they were loud about it.
Anyway, there was a break in play for injury, and the players not involved were standing around, as you do. I’ve never liked Alan Shearer particularly; I always thought he was a bit of a cheat with his elbows and a bit of a prat in general. So I yelled at him “oi, Mary Poppins. Put your fucking elbows away”. Shearer looks at me, right in the eye. Emboldened by this and a couple of pints of beer swishing around my system, I continued with “you fucking heard me, you cheating prick” or similar. I also made the standard “elbows” gesture - ie stood up, and nudging my elbow away from my body.
Shearer laughs, points at me, makes the gesture for spectacles (finger and thumb around his eyes), and then using his hands makes a gesture to imply I might be describable as rotund.
Cue laughter around me.
I of course had to respond with the elbows gesture, and calling him Mary Poppins, as he continued to make the fat jokes.
Play restarted, and it was all forgotten.
This game is most famous, of course, as the assist to a scandal.
The Algerian mini-collapse - 3-0 up at half-time, 3-2 at full time - set the scene for a shameless act of naked match-fixing, the notorious "El Anschluss" (also known, less provocatively, as “The Shame of Gijón”). West Germany and Austria, knowing that certain results would see them both progress from Group 2, settled on a mutually convenient German win and shadow-boxed their way through the game. As Lothar Matthäus said:
We have gone through. That’s all that counts.
FIFA, bravely, responded by changing the rules for the next tournament to ensure that the final group games would be played simultaneously. It would of course be grossly unfair to suggest that had Chile and Algeria conspired to see West Germany eliminated, the response might have been a little more forthright.
Anyway, to return to the point, not only is this game an overshadowed cracker, but the quality of two of the first and last goals - a sweeping team move finished off by Salah Assad, and a fine individual effort from Juan Carlos Letelier - is such that they deserve to be remembered free from the grubbiness they unwittingly enabled.
In an alternate universe of which we know nothing, this song, the official song of Euro ‘96, became a terrace anthem. Despite the song itself being execrable, England took the message to heart - “We’re In This Together” - and came together in a new and wonderful unity, as a country and a football team at ease with its own identity and able to once again stand in the great communion of nations as a leader, an example, and an equal.
Southgate didn’t miss. Sheringham scored twice in the final. Mick Hucknall ascended to a quasi-messianic status that almost, but not quite, matched his own sense of self-importance. Everybody stopped mocking gingers.
Some things to look out for in the video …
- 0.40 - Two replica shirts, one reading “Wittgenstein”, the other “Baudrillard”
- 0.50 - The words “Jamie Redknapp” scrawled a couple of feet above the words “Washed Up”
- 2.20 - Two very young Nevilles being out-acted by a wooden bench
- 3.10 - A woman doing something obscene with a mustard squirter
- 3.22 and again a bit later - Ian Holloway?
Back in the real world, England didn’t win, football didn’t come home, the mindless abuse of ginger people persists, and everybody knows Mick Hucknall is an arse of the first water. We would suggest that even for an England fan, that’s a score-draw.
Nominated by @TomGoulding, who says:
This goal, in the opening stages of the Champions League Semi-Final second leg between Chelsea and FC Barcelona in 2009, opened the scoring at the Iniesta End of Stamford Bridge in a game overshadowed by the performance of referee Tom Henning Øvrebø and Andres Iniesta’s injury time away goal which sent Barca into the Champions League final.
Look at the goal. Do you know what to do when the ball comes towards you, swerving in the air, onto your left hand side, with opposition closing in from all angles? Perhaps try to put your left foot over the ball to kill the spin, shield the ball from your opponent and pass it back to maintain possession.
Or do that.
To which we can only add, we miss when Michael Essien used to be good.