12 June 2010 – Day 2

And so the 19th World Cup is well and truly underway. Group A completed their first round of matches and it was fitting that the hosts scored the first goal of the tournament with a stunning finish. It was a shame for South Africa that they conceded late on, with defending and marking that was more akin to that diplayed at  Sunday League level rather than at a World Cup tournament. With France drawing a blank against the 10 men of Uruguay, the Group will be interesting for the neutral as the final round of matches will be meaningful after the opening draws.

Even though yesterday was the start of the competition, for me it really starts today with England in action later. It’s like the opening day of the season, but with a greater intensity. Already I’m a mixture of emotions – anticipation, hope, expectation, excitement sit side by side with fear, dread and anxiety – all the usual suspects of any pre-match build-up. I just want the game to start now – bloody hell it’s still another 5 hours to kick-off!! I’ll not be able to settle and watch the other games today; instead I’ll be checking if I’ve got enough beers in, checking the team news on the net, texting mates to see how they feel and get their predictions – anything that will pass the time.

So my plea along with that of the nation is, “…Mr Capello, please, please, please no repeat of the 1950 World Cup England v USA result…”

C’mon England, C’mon England, C’mon England.

11 June 2010 – Day 1

It says a great deal about the influence of a World Cup that an otherwise sedate office where the vast majority of staff have no interest in football, has suddenly been transformed in the last two days. The wall-chart is up, a number of St George’s cross flags proudly hang from the celling and football related sweets, cakes and biscuits have sprung up next to the kettle. Dress-down Friday has seen people take on the football theme and not to be left out a lad from Scotland has brought in his Royal Standard of Scotland flag, which has given rise to some “friendly” banter. And last but not least once we come across the infamous Office Sweepstake Law which states that…..”anybody with an interest in football won’t draw a decent country…”. Why oh why did I not listen……………..anybody know the Serbian national anthem?

World Cup memories: Those were the days my friend…

So here we are again…….2010 and the World Cup in South Africa is now just a few days away. It marks another four years having elapsed since the last event, the passing of time and life continuing onwards – me another four years older.

This will be the 12th World Cup in my lifetime. I was born in a World Cup year, 1962, but by the time I emerged onto planet football in late August, the tournament in Chile had been long finished with England losing 3-1 in the Quarter Finals to the eventual winners Brazil.

Now wouldn’t it be fantastic if my first footballing memory was of England winning the trophy in 1966…..sadly I have no recollection at all. My dad assures me that I watched the Final; however there are no images that made an impression on that lad of nearly 4 years old.

So with my 8thbirthday approaching, at last some World Cup memories. The thing about what I can recall is not just about the football, but a sense of the period. That June I was down in Torquay on holiday and the family was there the week of the England v West Germany game. At the time I had no idea that England were the Holders, I just wanted to see us win. The weather then seemed to be as warm and sunny as the images from Mexico. “Back Home” (the England World Cup team song) seemed to be belting out from every holiday café and ice cream parlour in Torquay and England team pictures from the Daily Express (when it was a broadsheet) seemed to adorn every window you looked at. It brings a smile to my face to think of the innocence of it all, a somehow simpler time. The feeling of sun on the face that warm summer in 1970, the joy of a holiday, of families being together. And if I’m really honest the result didn’t matter. Sure I was disappointed, but it didn’t hurt like the “Hand of God” in 1986, the anguish of the Semi-Finals and penalties in 1990, Seaman flapping in 2002 and yet more penalty pain in 2006.

In 1970 I was still a child; life including football hadn’t imposed its burden and responsibilities that come with getting older. Sure I’d like to see us win the World Cup, but I’d love to feel the sun on my face again and enjoy the innocence of youth.