Opinion: the Italian Blob

by Gav Reilly

Returning from a professional sabbatical and into actual sunlight for the first time in what feels like several years, Gav Reilly thinks that Football might finally, in 2010, come home

First of all, apologies for my radio silence of late; I’ve been wrapped up in a windowless office of doom for the past couple of months working on my college newspaper and trust me when I say that I see so little sunlight these days that rickets is a genuine possibility. (OK, slight exaggeration, but you get the idea.)

Working in an enclosed environment with no TVs and countless computer monitors gives a football fan an odd experience. While I can’t remember the last time I watched a Super Sunday, I end up putting on a lot of fringe football matches on a spare computer monitor to help pass the time. Perhaps these circumstances are totally screwing with my head, but I have come to some rather startling conclusions during my relative alone time.

I think England are going to win the 2010 World Cup.

Let me explain, in a typically circuitous way. International football is a strange beast; it’s difficult to get into the habit of following an international team with any sense of religiousness when, aside from a month every two years (at best), the sides are fleeting compilations of form players, who put one or two matches together and then dissolve back into the club scene. Following an international team who enjoy a reasonable degree of success is a bit like being a diehard follower of the Harlem Globetrotters: you watch a match, expecting a win; you get it, and you leave chirped, but without proceedings having any major impact on your being.

Following England must, for the natives, have become quite similar in the past months. Since the appointment of Fabio Capello, while the side have never been breathlessly stunning, they have still managed to be potent up front with relative ease, stable at the back, and generally solid. They’re like Ireland on steroids: it’s a carbon copy of Giovanni Trapattoni’s uninspiring but effective side, but with some decent firepower (it helps when your best striker isn’t a heart-on-sleeve captain who can’t help but fall back to try and exert some influence, only to leave a Robbie Keane-shaped hole in attack as soon as the ball gets up there) and a sturdy, Top 4 defence.

England, for all their public’s bemoaning and the general tedium they inspire on the field, have been in quite phenomenal form in qualifying for 2010, winning 9 games of 10, scoring more goals than any other side in Europe (and possibly the world) along the way and only losing one game when qualification was long since secured.

There are no major flaws with the side; they’re defensively as resolute as they come, their midfielders are the best in the world, and up front they have plenty of choices, all of whom can put them away when needed – as evidenced in the qualifiers. Get a goalkeeper and they’re sorted: and give Paul Robinson enough chances and he’ll end up taking them with both hands. The English squad, bar the netminders, have all won the club game’s top prizes: it’s just now up to someone to knit them all together.

Oddly, it seems that England’s steadfast consistency in the qualifying games has done just that. Instead of the schizophrenic form that characterised the Englands of old – exactly the form that turned the media on them, when their poor form underlined their inadequacies that their successes proved could be circumvented – the modern, Capello-led England have, like Ireland, become a side that plays in the Italian way. Boring, but effective. Not phenomenal in front of goal, but they can get the goals they need, when they need to.

An efficient side, that might not be amazing, but can do what they need, when they need. Remind you of anyone?

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