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Honda scores for Japan.   We should Accord him some praise for the goal.   Maybe give him a Civic reception when he gets home.   He seems to be in his Element at the world cup.   Obviously wea

I wrote this just now:   The Metatarsal Scare   The beginning of an England World Cup campaign is traditionally heralded by a metatarsal scare. For Brazil 2014, Roy Hodgson found himself sweating

Japan look like they have an easy group. Not that anyone here will admit it.


England's run of easy groups has ended and they could really struggle. They've got some good attacking players but the defence looks pretty dodgy, with you know who as the probably undroppable DM. Some massive build him up, knock him down also seems likely for Rooney, even though he'll have better players than Crouch or Downing alongside him this time and shouldn't have to try as hard as he may have done in the past.


The broadcast times look a nightmare, but I'm going to watch what I can.

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I wrote this just now:


The Metatarsal Scare


The beginning of an England World Cup campaign is traditionally heralded by a metatarsal scare. For Brazil 2014, Roy Hodgson found himself sweating over the fitness of Jack Wilshere, a player who seems to be forever picking himself up gingerly after a strong challenge. Wilshere's hopes hang in the balance thanks to a fractured navicular (technically a tarsal bone, if we're being precise), but this uniquely English tradition remains more or less intact.


On The Plane


The months leading up to the tournament are the time for England hopefuls to stake their claims, with a sliding scale of air-travel metaphors – "on the plane", "in the departure lounge", "struggling to close that clear plastic bag for their liquids", etc. – which are deployed to assess their progress.


World Cup squad call-ups and rejections are a messy affair to deal with before getting down to the real business of tournament preparation. From Paul Gascoigne's hotel-room meltdown in 1998 to Theo Walcott hearing his 2010 fate while playing a round of golf, the shattering of World Cup dreams are part and parcel of the story. Surprise call-ups, meanwhile, are traditionally suspicious of good news, lest they be "wind-ups" from their mates (which sounds like overly cruel behaviour, however hypothetical it may be).



The Selection Headaches


In 2014, Roy Hodgson's squad remained difficult to predict with any certainty. Old-fashioned centre-forward Andy Carroll, apart from being the footballing version of a replica vintage kit-car that your grandad once built, represented a uniquely British squad-selection obsession – the something different. This is a rather cryptic way of suggesting that Carroll (like Peter Crouch before him) could be thrown on in the last twenty minutes of England's must-win final group game, because whichever bunch of wimpy foreigners we're up against won't be able to handle the aerial bombardment. In the end, though, the mandatory Big Man role went to the most famous former beetroot factory worker in football history, Rickie Lambert, whose heartwarming rise to football’s top table is the antithesis of footballing egotism - and, crucially, he can take a mean penalty.


Even old England squad dilemmas continue to cause Hodgson the odd sleepless night. There are cave paintings from the Late Pleistocene age that depict the catastrophe that unfolds when Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard fail to agree on "who goes and who stays". Meanwhile, the only things in football that are perennial are "underachievers" and "England's left-sided problem" and those are often not mutually exclusive. Many of Hodgson's predecessors have tried to remedy this lopsidedness with willing-but-limited right wingers (Trevor Sinclair), willing-but-out-of-position strikers (Darius Vassell, Emile Heskey), and willing-but-inadequate left wingers (Steve Froggatt, Steve Guppy). Latterly, Adam Johnson briefly emerged as the T-1000 sent back in time to solve the perennial left-sided problem that Stewart Downing's T-800 couldn't.


Unfortunately for him, football tactics became self-aware and the obsession with inverted wingers solved the problem overnight.


In these otherwise drought-stricken times for the English talent pool, and despite injuries to Theo Walcott and Andros Townsend, one area in which Roy Hodgson is arguably spoilt for choice is the Jet-Heeled Wide Man department. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling are likely to be in Brazil to offer electricity of pace and brightness of thought. Much like Lambert may be called upon to strike gravity-defying fear into the hearts of England's opponents, tiring legs will be the cue for an injection of pace from these ultra-direct wildcards.


Elsewhere, Hodgson's cupboard is a little more bare. Goalkeepers, centre-halves, right-backs, strikers – you name them – England aren't producing them in the same numbers any more. James Milner, the ultimate shift-worker, is ready to clock in whenever called upon but is destined to end his World Cup watching England lose on penalties in the quarter-finals, standing in an orange bib, arm-in-arm with the third-choice goalkeeper.


Speaking of whom, being a back-up keeper is an existential dilemma in itself, but travelling to a major tournament as England's spare, spare custodian magnifies this plight even further. Barring a couple of unfortunate injuries or suspensions, Fraser Forster’s most significant contribution may end up be offering a bit of goalkeeping solidarity to Joe Hart before a penalty shootout and stumping pub quiz machine users years later.


The WAGS Are Coming (Or Not)


England World Cup preparations are more sober affairs these days. Drinking scandals like the pre-Euro '96 dentist's chair are a thing of the past and today's pale equivalent would be a brief Twitter storm. England's hotel choices are notoriously perilous, though. They're either too remote and unstimulating (Rustenburg, 2010) or too exposed and distracting (Rio, 2014). The low-rent soap opera of the WAGs (who announced themselves as a World Cup cliché in Baden Baden in 2006) has perhaps already reached its peak this time around – their cordial invitation to join the squad throughout the tournament has since been withdrawn by the FA, who continue to make Frank Spencer look like the personification of decisiveness.


The Clamouring


One below-par group-stage England performance is the trigger for armchair managers to begin "clamouring" for the inclusion of a player in the starting lineup. France '98 saw some nationwide clamouring for the raw talent of Michael Owen to be unleashed. Glenn Hoddle duly obliged and, against Argentina in the 2nd round, the rest was jet-heeled history. The tireless running and two-footed endeavour of Ross Barkley is likely to tick this box in 2014.


The pinnacle of any English group-stage mini drama is the quasi-heroic third game in which England scrape through to the knockouts. Football is undoubtedly a results business, but nowhere else in the sport does expectation detach itself further from the actual performances on the pitch than with the England team at a major tournament.



The Wilting


Another curiously English phenomenon involves eleven burnt-out Premier League stars "wilting" in the 35-degree heat of whichever nation happens to be hosting the World Cup that summer.


Footballers never drink anything during games to remedy this, by the way – they "take on fluids".


Also taking on fluids are the punters in the rammed-to-the-rafters pubs back home, some of whom may be lucky enough to have the news cameras turn up and film their ecstasy/despair.


Meanwhile, the prime minister will begin to feign his mandatory interest around about the start of the knockout rounds.


The Root-and-Branch Review


Post-tournament soul-searching is traditionally formalised in the root-and-branch review conducted by an FA that simply cannot fathom why England aren't the greatest football team in the world. The yo-yo effect of these brainstorms will continue to swing between honest Englishmen and sophisticated foreign coaches, until all that remain are Alan Curbishley and Dr Jozef Venglos.


England’s expectations are altogether more humble in 2014, but there are some World Cup habits that just simply can’t be kicked. It’ll be a rollercoaster again, no doubt, but one you suddenly realise you’ve been on half-a-dozen times before.

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At the least the Socceroos humiliation will be over with quickly.


Or wait a minute, :confused: we are only drawn with the world cup titleholder, the world cup runners up and #2 in South America.

What could go wrong?

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Japan are about to kick-off against Costa Rica.


For those of you who don't know, Costa Rica are one of the (if not 'The') top teams in the world, complete with large tall gaijin aplenty!


It would be a fine achievement to beat such a team!

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Costa Rica are in the same group for the World Cup as England.....if Japan can win 3 - 1 then there is NO excuse for England not to beat them too!!

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