Defending with a Flat Pack Four?

As I commence this literary offering, it’s five hours until England play our european cousins Sweden in the FIFA World Cup quarter-finals. I say cousins, as many English people will have a percentage of Scandinavian heritage within their DNA. My brother’s is his blue eyes and once white hair; mine is a bizarre love of constructing flat pack furniture

This afternoon will witness an Anglo – Nordic gladiatorial fight to the death, or maybe penalty shoot-out. A robustly fought contest where, to the relief of the competitors (whatever their religious denomination) the only lions in the arena will be the trinity that adorn the England shirt motif.

Will we see the Swedes, who brought us retail giant Ikea, employ the tactic of playing with a flat pack four? Will Kane be able?  Is it feasible that Berg will ice England? Will Henderson’s big foot see off the Swedes? Will I be able to think of a half decent pun relating to players name?……. Tune in next week, well in 7-8 hours, to find out….. Don’t expend too much hope of the latter happening though!

When England last won the football World Cup in 1966, I was three year old, blue eyed boy, fair of hair, living a carefree existence in the north of our nation with my parents and one year old brother Ian.

I have absolutely no recollection of that day (July 30 1966) when England became world champions, at Wembley. My mum reckons, by great coincidence, she shovelled the last morsels of my tea into my mouth as Kenneth Wolstenholme uttered his legendary commentary line of “….. They think it’s all over. It is now!”. The icon words he used to paint the scene as England striker Geoff Hurst made the score 4-2 to the home side…… However, I suspect she made that up.

The first memories I have of the World Cup is the 1970 tournament in Mexico. The competition that saw the brilliant Brazilian side including Pele, Rivellino, Jairzinoh, Tostao, Gerson – Led by flamboyant captain Carlos Alberto, the tall lithe right back who fittingly scored the final goal of the whole tournament, which saw his side beat Italy 4-1 to lift the Jules Rimet trophy.

At the time I was a seven year old boy, still with blue eyes but marginally darker hair than when Bobby Moore lifted the same trophy four years earlier. More memorably, though, the monochrome pictures of games, sent live by satellite to the TV in casa Strachan, became the catalyst to our national game becoming my first love.

An amour that survived for decades, until recent years when the relationship turned fractious. In fact it’s now so bad I’d cut all ties, but after the hurt football’s brought me in the past decade I’m a very bitter man. Consequently, there’s no way it’s getting the house, half my pension and the CDs….… Although it can have the kids.

During the 1970 World Cup, my brother Ian, me and mates would try recreate the footballing carnival the yellow shirted South American’s bequeathed us and millions of others globally on grainy TV pictures. In particular, as is a young kids want, we attempting to replicate some of their goals, which we accompanied with a woeful attempt at David Coleman commentary.

It was summer, we were off school and we were witnessing the greatest free flowing team to possibly ever partake in the tournament. A time when our biggest problem was the temperamental horizontal hold of the black and white TV picture. This necessitated an occasional slap on the top of the box to mitigate against the viewing experience being spoilt by a scrolling picture.

flat pack four

In summer 1970, Edson Arantes Do Nascimento (Pele) and his cohorts introduced me to a sporting querida – A fiery, capricious mistress of whom I became obsessed.

After that tournament, in conjunction with the success at the time of my domestic club amours Leeds United, I’d been smitten with this simplistic round ball game. A sport that since that time has given me some of my life’s greatest euphoric episodes……. And misery.

I’ve not particularly held a flame for Brazilian football since, it’s only the 1970’s team managed by Mario Zagallo for which I have a great fondness. This borne from the gratitude owed to them for manifesting a deep affection toward the game of football. Feelings borne from making me realise how beautiful the game could be played.

I once heard a journalist describe the flamboyant Brazilian team of 1970 as so classy they even ‘missed in style’. Examples given were Pele’s audacious attempt to score past the Czechoslovakian keeper with a chip from his own half. Not to mention the same players impertinent dummy on the Uruguayan goalkeeper when easy options to score were available.

Both attempts missed their target, but the maverick way they played meant Brazil could have played without keeper Felix and still had the confidence to outscore the opposition.

Deeming the contemporary game as a den of iniquity, I have little fondness for football these days. It’s purely a personal opinion, but the greed, disloyalty, cheating and selfishness of some of today’s top players turns my stomach.

Since Pandora’s box was opened in the 1990’s, the games integrity is brought into question far too frequently for my liking. On the plus side, though, wall to wall coverage of football news/stats means I now know dates/times of Premiership players colonic flushes for the 2018-2019 season. I’m sure that’ll come in handy one day.

Despite my cynicism about the contemporary game, I’ll always carry the great memories fostered since Mario Zagallo’s team lit the blue touch paper in 1970. Additionally, my interest in football my have diminished these days, but before I close I’d like to say quite vociferously ……

“Come on England!”

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