Like most obsessive fans of club football, and certainly like most Arsenal fans, I approach the interruption of the football calendar for international fixtures as little more than an annoyance. From watching the latest bunch of over-rated Englishmen flounder against mediocre opposition (or receive a football education from the likes of Spain), to waiting on the latest reports of pointless friendlies from far-flung corners of the globe in the fear of more serious injuries (usually Van Persie!), it is a time of little comfort. In addition to this and the enforced absence from the drug of the weekend’s games, it is invariably a time when supposedly respectable types indulge in behaviour somewhere between jingo-ism and racism, not least in our biggest selling newspapers. There’s nothing quite like the discovery that someone you know is either utterly ignorant or a marginal bigot through football, which should be one of the greatest unifying forces in the world, given its global reach and the modern proliferation of overseas footballers in every major european league.
Having briefly followed the Spain game on ITV4 (tres random), it became clear very quickly that there was only going to be one winner, as the Czech Republic are not the dangerous team they were, and Spain could keep the ball at will. With this in mind I decided to torture me and my father by putting on the England game, which was the usual mix of promise and frustration. It all looked very simple against poor opposition, with Walcott putting a peach of a cross onto Ashley Young’s head in can’t miss territory, before Young did the same for Darren Bent’s feet after good work from Rooney. Sadly, in a manner that will be familiar to all Arsenal fans, the team thought the game was won, and the foot came off the pedal, and Montenegro pulled one back on the stroke of half-time when ‘Captain Fantastic (TM)’ John Terry decided not to bother marking the only person who could receive the ball. After that England were on the whole, one dimensional and dull, in a way not even Arsenal’s recent form could mirror. Rooney got bored and frustrated and the sea of mediocrity he was drowning in, so kicked someone and departed early, before the home team’s pressure was rewarded with simple goal at the last. As is invariably the case with England (and as it certainly was with the rugby this morning), I wished I hadn’t bothered. At least in the current flounderings of my club side, there is the excitement of seeing the next potential wonderkid, or trying to guess how the new multinational backline will communicate with each other. Meh.
Rather than end this with a rant about England, I’m going to focus on the positives. The young Ox boy continues to gain the plaudits, with all three goals for England U21s vs Iceland. Thats now two goals in two starts for Arsenal and three goals and five assists in two and a half games for England Under 21’s so far this season. Needless to say in the absence of other good news, the media are already hailing him as the messiah. Yawn. Anyway, hopefully it will continue to give him the confidence to maintain his natural game and develop without fear. Also another nice game for a second Arsenal new boy, with South Korea captain Park Chu-Young getting two against Poland, making it six goals in three games since he found his way to the Arsenal bench. Videos of these and a couple of other highlights from the excellently named Gingers for Limpar blog.