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Excerpts from the latest World Cup Podcast, with Adrian Clarke and Iain Spragg:
You can listen to this episode below: [audio:World_Cup_25062010.mp3] Download link (mp3, 17mb, 18 mins)
Adrian Clarke: I don’t think you were that convinced by England, though were you?
Iain Spragg: I’d like to distance myself from all the negative comments I made about England in last podcast but as I did say in our defense we did record it before the kick off. No, but I have to be honest I wasn’t masterly convinced but don’t really care now, we are through can’t wait for Sunday and all bets off in terms of knockout competition now.
A: Exactly. No doubt about it, England are in the toughest part of the draw. Bit of a disaster that Landon Donovan goal against Algeria but England’ve got to beat the big boys so let’s just start beating them now.
S: That’s 10 quid you owe me for wheeling that cliche already. If I hear anybody on the radio, on the TV, anybody near the squad say but you’ve got to beat the big boys…
A: I do think if we have any aspirations of winning this thing, if we play Ghana…
S: So you are gonna wheel out this cliche again….
A: No if played Ghana, if we played Uruguay we’d gotten to semi final potentially without having to play with what you’d call a proper team.
S: Your crystal ball is on fire today, you know that for certain?
A: But you know at least this way by the time we get to the final… and all we care about is getting to that final we’ll be so battle-hardened against the big boys it’s going to be a piece of cake.
S: Oh I love your optimism, it’s one of your greatest qualities. No, let’s face it we have a mouth watering game to play now, it’s fantastic, what we have all dreamed of in terms of let’s get out of the group, because we know memory tells us that once you get out of the group that is when it gets exciting. It would have been heart breaking just not to have this build up until Sunday. You want to talk about the game specifically or do you want to conjecture wildly about what would have happened? Shall we talk about what we know?
A: Exactly. What do you know about Germany? What do you think about Germany, do you think they are as good as England? Are they better then England?
S: Well I’m not going to answer that yet. I think we’ve seen with the Germans across the course of their three group games, the way they opened against Australia got everybody talking but then people were desperate for an exciting performance because cast your memory back all of 10 days, people were talking about this World Cup that it was no good, that it was a duff World Cup and that’s not true. So the euphoria created by that performance is being slightly distilled by two not so exciting performances obviously the loss to Serbia and so they are a decent side. They are not world beating so we have a chance.
A: Yeah but they are certainly better then any team England has played so far. There’ll be a different level they keep the ball well, they are very fluent but there is something about them, they have a match winner in form of Ozil if he’s fit we don’t know yet of course if he’ll make the starting XI, I think he will.
But what it is about me I don’t think there is too much to be scared off with this German line up. What I did see against the Serbs, against Ghana was some real fragility in the back. Particularly against Ghana. I mean Ghana they can’t score unless they get a penalty but they had the opportunities. You know they had 3 – 4. The Serbs, every time they came threw it into the box against Neuer, Mertesacker and Friedrich didn’t look that comfortable.
S: But say more personally not theow it into the box, I want to see if England can get some passing together, Friedrich, Mertesacker they are big units, they are not the most mobile, honestly I want to see Defoe dancing around, trying to get in from behind them. I think we might have a bit of joy because they are typical German center halves, aren’t they? Big boys, big strong boys, good in the air, very solid. Few mistakes, efficient even. But how good are they on deck against people, pacy forwards somebody like Defoe, hopefully Rooney… we’ll get onto Rooney in a minute. Yes that is where we might get some joy.
A: I think Philip Lahm has been unbelievable so far. He is a real inspiration.
S: Yes, great player.
A: Fantastic. So underrated, it’s unbelievable. And he’s got Germany out of jail not once but two or three times so far during this tournament. Can he do it again? I don’t know cause England we’ll create.
S: He’s got a bit of Gary Neville about him, doesn’t he? In his demeanour. Gary Neville obviously 5 years ago. Lest we forget Gary Neville was a very good international player. Anyway so yeah I don’t think their back four is suspect but I’d like to see their center halves given more of a run around and see what joy we get from that.
A: It’s midfield that concerns me Spraggy. And these guys Khedira, Schweinsteiger and Ozil. Khedira really impress me, lots of energy, youthful endeavour, gets up and down, Schweinsteiger takes on…
S: There is a question mark against Schweinsteiger, isn’t there?
A: Yeah, it’d be a big loss if he doesn’t play. And you got Ozil just in front. And I look at England and in contrast, I put their 3 against our 3 or 2 perhaps if it’s Lampard and Barry which probably will be case unless they go for this diamond…
S: I’d say this is the classic case… let’s say Schweinsteiger makes it, Ozil makes it in terms of their fitness doubts. I think Capello has got to look at that team and say Germans are ok in front, they are ok at the back but what makes Germans tick, where they are dangerous is in the middle of the path.
A: Well there actually I think they are better then England.
S: Capello has got to do something about that. I think if Brazil were playing Germany tomorrow you know Dunga would stick with a 2 holding midfielders in front of the back 4. Argentina would go that way against them and I would like to see us play that way against them.
A: I don’t see a tight 4. I don’t see a diamond perhaps maybe even a diamond, I just want to see Barry and Lampard not too adventurous especially early on, Milner and Gerrard are tucked in.
S: But we know from experience Lampard can’t help himself. He will try and do a sitting role but it won’t come naturally to him and I think Capello has got to do something. He’s either going to put a man on Ozil…
A: Who? There is no one, there is not one man marker in this England side. That’s the problem, he didn’t take one.
S: You know who would do a good job?
S: Milner would do a good job on Ozil.
A: I don’t think he would create England’s best chances.
S: I know there is certain madness to that suggestion and I take your point, put Barry in then, but you still need I think you still need more protection in the middle of the mid-field definitely.
A: Yes I couldn’t agree with you more. That’s where the Germans are strong. And for me Barry and Lampard have both been poor. They haven’t impressed. You know they did better against Slovenia of course they did but…
S: Lampard has been neither fish nor a fowl he hasn’t been a dynamic presence going forward and he is not a natural holding midfielder who puts his boot in, he’s just twixed in between at the moment. And I don’t know whether that’s his fault, Capello’s fault. I mean if you want to look optimistically you’d say there is a good performance in him. But we haven’t seen it yet. Same thing with Rooney. Shall we do Rooney?
A: Ok let’s discuss Rooney. I mean where do you stand on it? For me he just doesn’t look right.
S: No he looks completely shot to pieces. I don’t know whether it’s mentally, whether it’s physically but…
A: Sometimes the weight of responsibility and pressure can affect people in different ways. You know, the start of the tournament people were saying England players were heavy in the legs. I had that before a big game, you just feel tight, you feel lead footed.
S: Yes but it’s like somebody has injected him with lead overnight. I mean he is really, really slow. There is tiny bit more passion in his performance, in his general demeanour in the last game. But he was still the shadow of the player we hoped for.
A: Absolutely. And he is just trying too hard to score. I think one goal and it’ll be alright but physically it doesn’t look right to me, he really doesn’t. But I would stick with him and I would stick with Defoe since he did score.
S: (laughs) yeah how could you drop him? There is no way he’s going to drop Defoe. Of course he will play. The positives for England I think because Podolski likes to tuck in, I mean he is a wide player but he doesn’t always use the width of the pitch. So in terms of the width, I think we have more width then the Germans because they like to play through the middle which by definition means we may have some joy out wide. Hopefully Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson can get forward occupy Podolski, particularly Glen Johnson.
A: Yeah this is the issue for me I think England full backs will have a problem because they will find it hard to go forward and leave Podolski, leave Mueller…
S: But then the question is who is going to be the bravest of the teams? Do they push forward to take Mueller and Podolski out of the game by dragging them back?
A: But Cole can’t handle Lahm and Mueller combo, he’s going to need help from Stevie G. And Stevie G that means taking him out the middle.
S: But to be fair Gerrard did do a good job in terms… he was much more physical, he was much more proactive if you want. He actually got involved in the game last time out.
A: It’s a fascinating match, it really is. I think it’s a 50 – 50 call. Putting national bias aside I genuinely think toss of the coin on this one.
S: I think it’s a kind of game that suits England. I think it’s a kind of game England will enjoy.
A: What the British bulldog spirit?
S: Not even that, I think England don’t enjoy playing against smaller teams where the pressure’s on, I don’t think we are rank underdogs for this one but I think England will enjoy the sense of the occasion this will bring, the sense of freedom that they can play against the Germans and I don’t want to be overtly negative but if we are beat they will not get lynched when they get home.
And I think to a degree on the back of the result we got, I think that will liberate the players in their minds and hopefully we’ll get a performance. We said the last time around it’s not just about winning and getting results. If they come home, if they come on plane Sunday, Monday morning but we feel they put the performance in, it will be ok. We just want a performance.
A: Absolutely. Before we move on, there is one more team selection dilemma facing Capello – Matthew Upson. Does he start along John Terry or does Carragher came back in for you?
S: Oh I’d stick with Upson. I think Upson… I couldn’t understand the logic at all that he brought Carragher in when Ledley King was ruled out because Upson has played in lot of qualifiers, Carragher is clearly a spent force. His form for Liverpool was indifferent, you could argue that Upson was part of west side that nearly went down – true. But Upson is just as good in the air, just as solid. He is quicker.
S: Just a tad quicker. His distribution is better then Carragher’s so I couldn’t understand why he brought Carragher in, it just made no sense to me.
A: And of course Terry and Upson played together against Germany November 2008 in Berlin, beat the Germans 2:1, whose got the goals? Terry and Upson.
S: Fantastic omen (laughs)
A: Bodes well I tell thee.
S: But just one add on to that – there is a slight suspicion Ledley King might be fit.
A: Get him back for the Argies yeah. Let’s not risk it too soon.
S: One thing about the Germany game, I know it’s the… well FIFA have confirmed they have given the game to a Uruguayan referee, the name escapes me. Now again FIFA’s fantastic ability to ignore common sense at every opportunity. It’s got to be a European referee for that game to get the best out of the game. Because European referee will understand the footballing culture of both teams.
I’m not saying it’s going to be a kick fest, I’m not saying it’s going to be a nasty game but we want to a few tackles in that game, we want both teams to show a bit of pride, legitimate pride and it’s going to be a few tackles flying in. And I worry if Uruguayan referee is going to be a bit nancy pansy and getting the cards out after 5 minutes and we don’t want that. Should have appointed European referee.
A: Fair enough Spraggy. One other game before we wraps things up – Argentina – Mexico is obviously very important. England fans will be watching it closely. For me Mexico have to, have to man mark Messi. Looking at what the Greeks did, as soon as that man marker was relinquished of his duties Messi ran things. I think that’s the way forward. Is that how you see it?
S: I’m a big fan of man marking, which seems to be terribly out of fashion in the club game and international game. And I’ve never subscribed to these arguments, cause obviously the hyperbole about certain great players like unstoppable, unplayable and obviously Messi is a fantastic player but it’s not impossible to man mark him. You’ve got to have a great player to do it. But if that player is 90% successful in man marking and Messi makes a break and gets away even scores a goal but what would have happened if he didn’t man mark him?
A: Exactly I played with Martin Keown, guy we interviewed recently…
S: Yeah you had to mark Keown, he was dangerous.
A: He was best man marker in English football no question about it. He was the rash, we called him the rash you couldn’t shake him off. As a player, believe it or not I was man marked sometimes.
S: I do struggle to believe that.
A: I played behind the hole on occasion and it’s horrible. You just don’t like it, Messi didn’t like it one bit and I think that’s the way forward. It’s just a pity that if Argentina do go through England doesn’t really have a player suited for that role.
S: I do see your point. I semi half-heartedly said Milner obviously you could use Barry, Barry is quite suited for that role but then you take Barry out in front and you man mark…
A: Ledders, has to be, if he’s fit.
S: Yeah he would be great because he had some superb performances for England in front of the back 4 and he is built for a man marking job.
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