After Japan/Korea 2002, the big story seemed to be a changed of the guard. Clubs from Asia, CONCACAF, etc. going deeper into the tournament than ever before, while traditional superduper powers faltered (ie. France’s early exit), supposedly due to crazy time zone changes, fixture congestion, disappointment that Loudness hadn’t recorded an official World Cup song, etc.

Fast forward 4 years (or if you’re actually alive, just stay still) and we’ve got 4 traditional European superduper powers (France, Portugal, Germany, Italy) comprising the World Cup semi-finals. And at least three of those clubs have seen players beyond the twilight of their international careers (Zidane, Barthez, Figo, Totti) make major contributions.

(it would be easier to complain about Henry being unmarked in a crucial spot…were it not for the fact he does this almost every week)

My own jaundiced view is that if Brazil plays France another 5 times, Les Blues are 0-5 during that stretch. However, you’ve only got to win once, at least the last time I checked. Zidane, Henry, Trezeguet and Barthez have all but erased the disappointment of their 2002 flop, while Ronaldo can now reflect on his prolific World Cup scoring recording being bookended by two underwhelming performances against France.

8 years ago, the Mirror I think — responded to David Beckham’s sending off against Argentina (and England’s subsequent loss on penalties in that quarterfinal) with the headling “10 BRAVE LIONS AND ONE STUPID BOY.”

I’ve not had a look at many of the UK papers today, but in the wake of Wayne Rooney’s fateful cock-stomp on Ricardo Carvalho, I sincerely hope they came up with something appropriate.

Alexi Lalas denounced Rooney as “a thug…a bull in a china shop” yesterday afternoon. Sadly, there’s no You Tube footage available of Olbermann’s Belushi to Lalas’ Stephen Bishop, but I’m not above checking back every few days.

The Times’ Joe Lovejoy
writes that England’s loss to Portugal on penalties has at least “ended the embarrassment it has been to be an Englishman in Germany this past month.”

The uncouth behaviour of some of the camp followers has been a minor consideration. The real philistines have been on the pitch, although some dignity was salvaged in a battling display by England™s 10 men in Gelsenkirchen. The extent to which England have regressed since that 5-1 win in Munich at the start of Eriksson™s reign is a terrible indictment of players and management alike. The so-called golden generation came here with high hopes, yet leave as underachievers, beaten at the quarter-final stage for the third tournament in succession.

Worse, they leave never having done justice to their undoubted talent. Small wonder that Steve McClaren has been seeking to distance himself, through carefully selected third parties, from what has been going on. The new boss knows he stands condemned by association with the old.

Eriksson deserves to be pilloried for reversing the laws of arithmetic and somehow having England™s whole add up to less than the sum of its parts.

How could John Terry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who are outstanding week in, week out in the most competitive league in the world, look so ordinary against the also-rans of Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago and Ecuador? Why can™t Lampard and Gerrard function together? What is the point of Paul Robinson kicking the ball from one penalty area to the other with only a midget centre-forward to aim at? Answers on a postcard to Timid of Torsby, whose tactics and team selection were as flawed as at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004.