World Cup Final

In the various World Cups since 1966 (excluding 1982, owing to its funny 2d-round group format, which messes things up), England has failed to win the World Cup in only three different ways. EITHER by not qualifying at all for the Finals (1974, 1978, 1994). OR by going out to the eventual winners in the knock-out stages (1986: Argentina [QF], 1990: Germany [SF], 2002: Brazil [QF]). OR, more interestingly, by going out in the knock-out stages to a team that goes out in the next round, usw. (So, in 1970: England lost to West Germany [QF], who lost to Italy [SF], who lost to Brazil [F]; in 1998: England lost to Argentina [2R] who lost to Holland [QF], who lost to Brazil [SF], who lost to France [F].)

Of these three patterns, only the third is still in play. On the basis that this kind of inexorable historical logic is, well, inexorable, I therefore predict an Italian victory tonight.

Totti!

I think I’m one of the few blog-writers to have easy access to a copy of Tutte le Barzellette su Totti (with a preface by the great man himself), so here’s a sample:

Totti cerca di finire un puzzle. ci mette quasi quattro mesi. Poi gira la scatola e legge: “Dai due ai tre anni”. Commenta: “Ahò, ma allora so’un genio!!!”.

Totti jokes are quite similar to David Beckham jokes, but in Italian and with bits of Roman slang (which I don’t usually understand) thrown in. I don’t know whether Beckham or Totti jokes came first, or whether, as with the differential calculus or neo-classical economics, it is basically a case of simultaneous discovery.I thought it was a penalty, anyway. Lucas Neill sort of lay down in front of Fabio Grosso and invited him to trip over him, which isn’t terribly sporting.

UPDATE [27.06.2006]: The resident Italian police-bear is quite pleased, too:

Dual-Use Stadia

The BBC TMS commentators are chatting away about how the Oval was once kitted out as a prisoner-of-war camp (though never actually used as one). The New Orleans Superdome and the Houston Astrodome have recently been used for disaster-relief. General Pinochet found alternative uses for the Santiago national stadium, the Taliban used to hold public executions at the Kabul football stadium, and the French police used the V�lodrome d’Hiver for the mass round-up of Jews for deportation in July 1942.

Please post other examples of historically interesting, important or disturbing uses of sports facilities in the comments.

Lazio Merda

I don’t really follow any football teams. I almost decided to become a mild Newcastle United partisan a couple of years back, but the day after I made that half-hearted resolution Bobby Robson decided to sign Lee Bowyer, and that rather killed that courtship stone dead. But I do have a very soft spot for AS Roma, and was sorry to hear that they lost to Lazio 3:1 at the weekend.

And there’s also this (also here, and discussion here).

The Second, Third and Fourth Times as Farce

England go out to the first decent side they meet in the knock-out stages, in a quarter final to a team managed by Scolari, etc. But at least there’s a new name — David Beckham’s, no less — to inscribe in fiery letters in the annals of embarrassing penalty misses alongside Stuart Pearce, Gareth Southgate, David Batty…

The list goes on, doesn’t it?

Things of un-Beauty

I watched England v Croatia earlier this evening, the first match of the European Championships that I’ve followed on the TV rather than on the radio, and what really struck me was just how physically repulsive a big chunk of the England team is.

David Beckham was once reasonably good looking, but is now clearly trying to look nasty with his general lack of hair and tattoos and facial expressions; Wayne Rooney is a talented striker, but very ugly indeed; David James has cultivated some exceptionally unpleasant facial hair; and Paul Scholes looks like, well, Paul Scholes (fine header, though, at the end of the first half). The rest of the team isn’t so bad. But those four are quite hideous. Perhaps they can play the quarter-final against Portugal with bags over their heads to spare the viewing public.

(The Croatians were a far better looking team, even if their football was less accomplished. And it goes without saying that the Croatian fans were kinder on the eye than their English counterparts.)

UPDATE [22/6/04]: Will has posted some general theoretical rubbish on the subject. And [an UPDATE to the UPDATE, also 22/6/04], Jamie’s just pointed out in the comments that he was onto this important subject last week here and here, and has a sort-of evolutionary biological explanation for it all, which, if true, is terrifying in its implications.

MORE UPDATES [also 22/6/04]: Backword Dave weighs in, although he dissents from the damning judgment on David James, above. And Gwydion the Magician agrees, but observes that “the point Chris misses is that the players are quite representative of the nation as a whole”, and that “[h]aving spent time recently in five countries, I think it would be hard to deny that British men and women are on average the ugliest people in the advanced industrial world.”

Which side are you on, boys?

England’s, or, um, England’s? Take the Supporter or Deporter? quiz, and see if you can visually differentiate between patriotic supporters of our national football team and, er, a bunch of racist thugs.

I scored seven, with a fine streak coming to an end after bollocksing up the last two; Uninformed Jason managed all ten; and Sarah, from whom I’ve pinched the link, got six. More scores, please.