“IF you’ve got Algeria or Slovenia in your World Cup sweepstake, this is your chance to check them out,” said the BBC1 continuity announcer, scraping that barrel. If you did get Algeria or Slovenia in your sweepstake, by the way, count yourself lucky. I got the Republic of Ireland.
World Cup office sweepstakes, for me, don’t have the extended thrill of the Grand National sweepstake where, even if you get some three-legged wheezing clodhopper who has been dragged to Aintree straight from Blackpool beach, there’s still a chance that it might be the only horse left standing at the end of the race.
With the World Cup, at least two thirds of the 32 teams present, you can confidently predict, have no chance whatsoever of winning the tournament. To prove the point: since England won it in 1966, only six teams have reached the World Cup final – Brazil, Italy, (West) Germany, Holland, Argentina and France.
On recent evidence, you can probably scrub France from the list of potential winners this time, while it would be a good idea to add Spain to it. If you’re a particularly patriotic Englishman, maybe you can add Fabio Capello’s side to the list too.
(And if you’re former Nigeria assistant manager Daniel Amokachi, asked to predict the winners for the BBC Sport website, you can be extremely patriotic and plump for Nigeria.)
As I’ve already stated on this blog, I can’t see England getting beyond the quarter-finals, although I would be delighted to be proved wrong. I can, however, see them getting through the group stage on the evidence of the abysmal game served up by Group C rivals Algeria and Slovenia in Polokwane this afternoon.
“I should not be subjected to this kind of pain on my birthday,” said an extremely peeved Alan Hansen during the BBC’s analysis of an almost incident-free first half. (Consider it payback for all of those Morrison’s adverts, Alan.)
So poor were the opening 45 minutes, that the BBC were entirely justified in spending much of half-time assessing the mood in the England camp, even though most of the England camp had buggered off to Sun City to meet up with their families, leaving poor old Gabby Logan to fill the time with reports of who she’d seen in the gym this morning. (A few England players, she told us.)
On the subject of which, let’s check the mood in the England camp following last night’s 1-1 draw with the USA.
There were two incidents of note in the second half. Algeria sub Abelkaer Ghezzal picked up a daft second booking for a handball and was sent off. Then keeper Faouzi Chaouchi showed let former West Brom midfielder Robert Koren’s long-range speculator slip through his hands. It might have made Robert Green feel a bit better.
“If goalkeeping is an art, then Chaouchi dropped a Jackson Pollock,” Danny Baker will say on a World Cup Own Goals and Gaffes DVD about five years from now. “I wouldn’t pick him for a Scouts XI,” fumed Alan Green on Five Live about an hour ago. Well, no, because he’s too old. But point taken.
No points for Algeria, but the game was poor enough for them to get one on the World Cup Gubbometer. I am sure that will be of great consolation to them.
World Cup Gubbometer
1=. Algeria: 1
1=. France: 1
1=. Slovakia: 1
1=. Uruguay: 1
5=. Everybody else: 0
(NB. Teams are awarded one point every time they take part in a game so mind-numbingly tedious that it would almost certainly have been last on Match of the Day had it been a Premier League fixture. There are no other rules.)