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England's high hopes

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Simon Austin | 15:54 UK time, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Fabio Capello will be setting his sights high in more ways than one this summer.

With seven of South Africa's 10 World Cup stadiums - including the venue for the final, Soccer City in Johannesburg - at altitude, England's meticulous manager knows how important it will be for his players to be properly prepared.

So the Italian has already put them through their paces at the Altitude Centre in London, as well as taking advice from other teams that have recently toured South Africa, including England's cricketers and the British and Irish Lions.

Richard Pullan, who runs the Altitude Centre, one of the world leaders in its field, says it would be foolhardy to underestimate the effect that playing several thousand feet above sea level can have on an athlete.

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"Just talk to any sportsmen who have played on the high veldt," he told me, "and they will describe how the thin air gave them a dry throat, made them breath differently and speeded up their heart rate."

England's players have undergone individual tests at the centre to see how well they cope with the effects of altitude and it was not necessarily the fittest players who coped best.

"Very fit people tend to be those who can bring as much oxygen to their muscles as quickly as possible," Pullan said.

"Performing at altitude is about using oxygen efficiently though, which is a very different thing. That's what we help them to do.

"I would use the analogy of a Formula One car, which is very fast but uses huge amounts of fuel. We want them to be more like a Toyota Prius."

England's players will be able to prepare by training wearing special masks which put nitrogen into the air, reducing its oxygen content.

The Lions used these masks when they toured South Africa in the summer and I tested
one out at their team hotel in Cape Town

After 10 suffocating minutes on a rowing machine, I nearly keeled over.

Capello might also choose to get his players sleeping in special altitude tents, which is what the Australian team will be doing.

Altitude also makes England's choice of team base particularly important.

Earlier this week Capello checked on the progress being made building the Royal Bafokeng Sports Complex near Rustenburg which, as BBC Sport revealed in September, is where England are likely to stay for the tournament.

Former England defender Gary Mabbutt, who has been advising the World Cup organisers about their team bases, says: "Any team with ambitions of winning the World Cup needs to be based at altitude."

Rustenburg is 4,920 ft above sea level, which is higher than every host city apart from Johannesburg, at 5,750 ft. All eight groups will feature games played at both sea level and altitude, as will the knock-out games.

"Going from altitude to sea level is a benefit. Going the other way, the team would be absolutely shattered," added Mabbutt.

And the World Cup ambassador thinks Rustenburg, which is a two-hour drive north of Johannesburg, would be a good location in which to be based.

"This is a very quiet spot of the country with some beautiful scenery," he said. "It will also be one of the best climates. Johannesburg can get very cold in the mornings and nights, while Cape Town can be very wet in the winter. Rustenburg will be much warmer and drier."

The mining town of Rustenburg is a stark contrast to England's glamorous 2006 base, Baden Baden though.

There are no luxury shops or boutiques there and my BBC Sport colleague Gabby Logan, who will present a special Inside Sport programme on the World Cup on Monday, said: "I couldn't help noticing as we stopped off at the Shell garage on the way down to Rustenburg that it was probably the highlight of the area.

"Perhaps we'll get the players nipping out to the garage for a can of pop in the evenings."
Mabbutt thinks the lack of distractions in the area will appeal to Capello though.

"Teams will be looking to get their players focussed on the job at hand, which is to win the World Cup final," he said.

"This is a very quiet part of the country, with the main attraction about 30km away at Sun City, and that would appeal to any manager."

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  • 1. At 6:05pm on 03 Dec 2009, gazza11984 wrote:

    Surprising, I'm sick of hearing about England already. There is more than 1 team participating in the World Cup, the countless articles about Englands high hopes and great expectations are once more blown out of proportion. A country who has won nothing in over 40 cannot be considered a favourite for the trophy or a major force in football!!

    I hope everyone has their excuses ready for next summer when England fail once more!!

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  • 2. At 6:17pm on 03 Dec 2009, Robokopthe3rd wrote:

    I lived in Costa Rica for a year. Where I lived was 2000m (about 6000ft) above sea level. I played footy with some of the locals, and the 10 year old kids ran rings around me in the first 6 weeks, but once I adapted it was a different story. Whatever preparations England do beforehand will not fully enable them to perform 100% until after 6 weeks or so. So if they arrive at their base 2 weeks before the tournament begins, then by the final they will be up to speed. Of course all the teams will be in a similar situation, so England will not really be at a disadvantage. Would have been interesting if Costa Rica or Bolivia had qualified to see if they would have been at an advantage...saying that CR were not that great in Germany in 2006.

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  • 3. At 6:40pm on 03 Dec 2009, TheTomTyke wrote:

    I remember altitude being blamed when Lennox Lewis was defeated by Hasim Rahman. It'd be remiss of England not to prepare at altitude.

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  • 4. At 6:47pm on 03 Dec 2009, bill40 wrote:

    Why all the hype? We turn up get through the group stage and lose in the QF on penalties. Although I must admit in my wilder dreams we get to the SF... and lose on penalties.

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  • 5. At 6:52pm on 03 Dec 2009, Hargo A Go Go wrote:

    What a great comment to make on a British website Gazza, when England are the only British representatives at the finals. That was such a well thought out and objective thing to say.

    I think sports science is too advanced these days for any of the cup favourites to go into the tourny unprepared. It is the less fancied and poorer nations that will struggle so at the end of the day I do not think altitude with be that great of a deciding factor althoguh it will play its part.

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  • 6. At 7:07pm on 03 Dec 2009, Neko Bazu wrote:

    "Surprising, I'm sick of hearing about England already. There is more than 1 team participating in the World Cup, the countless articles about Englands high hopes and great expectations are once more blown out of proportion."

    Perhaps you hadn't noticed that these articles are on the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation's website, aimed largely at British users, and England are the only British side involved - is it so surprising that England would be focused on more than others?

    Evidently, you've also somehow missed the articles about New Zealand, Spain, African teams, Brazil, Argentina...

    As for the blog; interesting read - I was wondering how you'd train at altitude in London!

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  • 7. At 7:13pm on 03 Dec 2009, MUFCTrini wrote:

    1. At 6:05pm on 03 Dec 2009, gazza11984 wrote:
    It is a BBC website so I dont think they have much choice about who they should blog on

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  • 8. At 7:23pm on 03 Dec 2009, heedtheba wrote:

    An intelligent blog and far from an excuse it provides some useful background on issues of importance. Those players who can pick out the decisive long pass will be a bonus while the industrious will be left ineffective, until that is the squad acclimatizes to the surroundings. This is the classic Beckham v's Rooney argument and it will be interesting to see how the climate and altitude effects Capello’s final pick of these and other players.

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  • 9. At 8:18pm on 03 Dec 2009, BeyondThePale wrote:

    People like gazza11984 would twist on twenty-one.

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  • 10. At 8:27pm on 03 Dec 2009, backinwhite wrote:

    I see that was your first post, hopefully it will be your last.
    One wonders why someone would open a blog called "England's High Hopes" and then be angry that it was about England?
    Back to the Blog, how will altitude affect the other finalists? Do Brazil or Argentina play much at altitude? Their players nearly all play club football in Europe, so will this turn out to be the same for everyone anyway?

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  • 11. At 9:44pm on 03 Dec 2009, 1Wattie wrote:

    You nearly got it right Simon, the main problem for England next year will not be altitude it will be ATTITUDE. Specifically the attitude of the media who will undoubtedly have England as favourites to win the world cup. We`ll hear all about 1966 again and how the current crop of players have a great opportunity to emulate the greats of the past and make history all over again.
    I`m Scottish and genuinely think England have the class to go all the way but dread to think of the effect on the players that the hype will have.
    The main thing in Englands favour is that Fabio Capello is hewn out of the same stone that Sir Alf Ramsay was, totally focused and unshakable. Come next year that is what could make all the difference

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  • 12. At 10:26pm on 03 Dec 2009, Tom McCulloch wrote:

    Why are people surprised or annoyed about hype. Although I understand winning the world cup is a phenomenally dificult task, i want England to win more than anything...thus...excitement and hype.

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  • 13. At 10:35pm on 03 Dec 2009, Gareth wrote:

    I think another crucial part of the preparation will be getting the hell out of the country as early as possible. The hype is already starting to build, and the sooner Capello can get his team ensconsed in their remote facility, with a ban on red-top tabloids, the better for everyone.

    Interesting blog, though. Just this week a five-a-side teammate of mine got back from a few weeks at altitude, where he kept up with his normal jogging routine. First game back at 'normal' altitude, he ran everyone off the park - seeming to be massively fitter than ever before. As Mabbutt said, "Going from altitude to sea level is a benefit. Going the other way, the team would be absolutely shattered."

    England will need every benefit they can muster if they are to cross the thin line from 'good' to 'great'

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  • 14. At 00:29am on 04 Dec 2009, goldenbales wrote:

    I dont think artifical replication of altitude training is ever going to be quite like the real thing. In order to aclimatise to it you need to spend roughly ten days at height before you are used to it. If England play a match at lower altitude and theb 5 days have to play at higher altitude i'm not sure how they can prepare for it. People react to it differently some adapt better but we must remember it will be the same for all the other teams we will play. Tactics and mental preperation are far more important and I do like the sound of the England camp its essential they are focussed on football and not looking for opportunities to go out and get smashed

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  • 15. At 03:38am on 04 Dec 2009, tarquin wrote:


    silly troll, go read the recent blogs about African teams, New Zealand, or Spain then

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  • 16. At 05:45am on 04 Dec 2009, Darren Clark wrote:

    Simon I think it will be a good idea to completely disregard Gabby Logan's comments if she thinks the Shell garage is the highlight of Rustenburg. It is a beautiful area with a new modern shopping mall and a vibrant town centre as well as the beautiful new Royal Bafokeng stadium. I do not know what her motivation is for talking such absolute drivel, but I do know that she is not reporting what she sees. I would think the job of a reporter would be to set the scene, so that your readers can imagine the area in which the England Team will be training. She has not done this at all, she has given a description that can not be taken as a mistake, as it is completely false. She has not told the truth. This is not what I would expect from the BBC.

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  • 17. At 07:31am on 04 Dec 2009, 78sum wrote:

    16. At 05:45am on 04 Dec 2009, Darren Clark wrote:

    Gabby Logan also forgot to mention that about an hour or less drive away is Sun City. A big theme style hotel, casino and golf resort. A place old MJ (RIP) used to frequent.

    I'd be pretty sure that it is there that the players will hangout rather than a shell garage... Capello permitting of course.

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  • 18. At 07:39am on 04 Dec 2009, waldovski wrote:

    The BBC would have a lot more respect (and foreign readers) if it at least attempted to evaluate the chances of other top contenders objectively, even in the context of these teams being England's competitors (because obviously the whole world revolves around England).

    Heck it would get more respect even if it at least attempted to evaluate England's chances accurately.

    The truth of the matter is that the football has not really changed under Capello; only the results have - and those too against minnows.

    If you really want to be realistic about your evaluation then please do the following: Sit down with a piece of paper and list the top 5 players in the world at each position on the field. See how many English players you end up writing down.

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  • 19. At 07:44am on 04 Dec 2009, 78sum wrote:

    18. At 07:39am on 04 Dec 2009, waldovski wrote:

    you would have written down:
    A. Cole
    J. Terry
    S. Gerrard
    F. Lampard
    J. Cole
    W. Rooney

    Not bad for one team really.

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  • 20. At 07:47am on 04 Dec 2009, 78sum wrote:

    I forgot Beckham. He is arguably in the top 5. Just ask AC Milan.

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  • 21. At 09:01am on 04 Dec 2009, goldenbales wrote:


    How many english player have played in the hcampions league final over the past 5 years. In fact Id be even tempted to say that so far this centuary english players have been one of the top nationalities represented in the CL finals.

    Just a fluke???? No

    England have world clasee players, one in each position, bar goalkeeper. Their problem has and always will be the coehsion of the team.

    Please elaborate on your point about Capello. You have no substaintiated evidence to say Capello has done nothing since McLaren, how come results have changed so drastically?

    And as for BBC beinf biased, of course, the majority of the people that work here are english, the majority of the articles are aimed at the english audience, and whats more the englsih people pay for it through licence fee. But what you are forgetting is that the BBC website is probably the most diverse in the world, covers all sporting events (Jusr look at the African Cup of Nations) has regular blogs on south american football, done big articles on African teams in the world cup.

    If your going to attack a famous English institution at least come up with something that has some truth or plausability. But looking at your other post to blogs it seems that there is a rather large chip on your shoulder.

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  • 22. At 09:12am on 04 Dec 2009, Lofty wrote:

    When English players learn to put together three passes going forward, we might win the European Cup let alone the World Cup.

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  • 23. At 09:14am on 04 Dec 2009, waldovski wrote:

    "How many english player have played in the hcampions league final over the past 5 years. In fact Id be even tempted to say that so far this centuary english players have been one of the top nationalities represented in the CL finals."

    The better question to ask is what percentage of the players who played in the champions league final over the last 5 years were English.

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  • 24. At 09:21am on 04 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    two weeks of training and practice matches behind closed doors at altitude will do the trick in terms of adapting...I don't know what all the fuss is about. Yes it will play a fairly big part, but it is not a defining factor.

    If this were the case, then Costa Rica would just rock up, go through the motions and take home the trophy

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  • 25. At 09:28am on 04 Dec 2009, DonsDJ wrote:

    Interesting blog, something I hadn't really thought about before the world cup. Are there any other teams involved that play regularly at a high level? I know Bolivia and Costa Rica do, but neither are involved. It is an issue that has to be addressed though. I remember (and please correct me if I am wrong), but reading an article on here some time ago when Argentina went to play Bolivia in La Paz. Maradona did no preperation and went straight up to the mountains, and went on to lose 6-1.

    Ok, the height in South Africa isn't nearly on the same scale, but even then it will take some preperation to be ready. Obviously South Africa will have experience playing at the higher altitude, but are there any others?

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  • 26. At 09:42am on 04 Dec 2009, ginge wrote:

    The cynics which on the one hand i sometimes agree is that for some strange reason we have not won a competition since 1966. I say it is odd is because during the 70's and early 80's our clubs without foreign players ruled europe although a British team would have probably have been unbeatable. The game has changed and developed and all countries are able to compete. Lets not be foolish if you go into competition thinking you will lose you the likeliness s that you will more likely lose. I see it on the pitch at grass roots when my son plays. Of course skill pace and natural ability is important but confidence can completely change the result.
    If Brazil are not confident they wont win and they are expected to win everytime ,much more than England. They changed their philosophy ,they are less attractive to watch, they have less big names but make no mistake they are the team to beat. Their weakness is that they have difficulty beating lesser sides and they find it difficult to open up teams that just defend.
    Spain have more technically gifted players and are my favourites. They will believe they can win their first world cup.
    I have to be honest i think england will do well if they get to the semis. I think englands strength is that they can change a game against all opposition but are very poor in defense. We will have to rely on a daid james to get fit because the others are poor. Glen johnson is excellant going forward but can get caught out all the time defensively. Who is going to play with Terry , there are lots but a fully fit ferdinand is a must. Ashley cole is getting better. For some reason passing and keeping the ball is a problem. i hope powen hargreaves can get fit because i am not convinced that barry can improve. Gerrard and Rooney are out talisman like kaka and luis fabiano for brazil. anyway it will be interesting to see the draw

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  • 27. At 09:42am on 04 Dec 2009, Simon Austin wrote:

    Thanks for your comments everyone.

    #25 Chris... Good question. I know Mexico are used to playing at altitude... and SA as you say. Not sure about others though... maybe people can help out?

    #18 waldovski... the blog does relate to England, you're right. But the main focus is altitude and how to cope with it in SA, which applies to most of the other countries in the competition as equally as Capello's men.

    #16 & 17... I have taken a quote in isolation from Gabby there, which was perhaps a little unfair. If you're able to watch the video, Gabby and Gary Mabbutt talk at length about the Rustenburg area, and the thrust of what they say is very positive. Interesting what you have to say though. I was in SA for the Lions tour but didn't visit Rustenburg.

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  • 28. At 10:22am on 04 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    who cares what mabbutt has to say? certainly not me

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  • 29. At 10:24am on 04 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    and also, why ask a question that I have answered already!! Some parts of costa rica are at a higher altitude than quito, so hight that in parts, it is difficult to ignite a flame

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  • 30. At 10:31am on 04 Dec 2009, Simon Austin wrote:

    #28 t campbell... I think Mabbutt can give a lot of insight. He's advising the South African organisers on the team bases; he's been involved with their bid for the last 8 yrs; he has a fantastic knowledge of the country and of playing there; he is a top former pro who represented his country.

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  • 31. At 10:50am on 04 Dec 2009, nothingonthetv wrote:

    @23 "How many english player have played in the hcampions league final over the past 5 years. In fact Id be even tempted to say that so far this centuary english players have been one of the top nationalities represented in the CL finals."
    The better question to ask is what percentage of the players who played in the champions league final over the last 5 years were English.
    Of the 139 players who have taken part in the last 5 Champions League Finals, 22 of them are English, 19 Spanish, 14 Brazilian and 13 Italian.
    Percetage wise this works out as the following (smaller than 3% have not been included:
    England - 15.83%
    Spain - 13.67%
    Brazil - 10.07%
    Italy - 9.35%
    France - 7.91%
    Holland - 6.47%
    Portugal - 4.32%
    Argentina - 3.60%
    Ivory Coast - 3.60%
    England have had the highest percentage of players out of all countries represented during the last 5 Champions League Finals.

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  • 32. At 10:54am on 04 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    wow media support for a man with close Tottenham connections...what a shock.

    Yes I admire mabbutt for the fact he managed to play to the level he did whilst injecting insulin on a daily basis, and for continuing with all the ill effects of diabetes.

    But this man is not South African, he was not brought up in the country, and I doubt he resides in the poorer parts of South Africa that probably make up 95% of the residence over there.

    He can only provide a blinkered insight into his adopted country, and he is hardly going to be truthful in pointing out any potential negatives.

    I have also found Mabbutt to be quite an ignorant and self effacing human being, and I think he displays this with regularity in promoting the world cup in south africa. To my mind he did not feature in a major tournament for England, the country he used to represent, so how can he comment on what would be necessary for a training camp during a mjor tournament, if he has never featured in one himself

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  • 33. At 10:54am on 04 Dec 2009, GINOLLLLA wrote:

    What a silly comment... Mabbutt was a top pro and great bloke.
    Why would you not care what he has to say and as Simon quite rightly points out, he is advising the organisers... enough said.
    Quality player too!

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  • 34. At 10:58am on 04 Dec 2009, WildigBeest wrote:

    @ssssspurssssss........I thought the first comment was bad, until I read yours. English institution, and English licence payers? I pay my licence fee, and its an institution in my part of Scotland aswell mate.

    Back to the blog - I think England have every chance, and hope they go there and stroll to the title.

    To all those people complainig about hype, and the comparisons to 1966 - what do you expect? OF COURSE thats going to happen. What country doesnt have hype. And there are blogs on other countries winning - there was one right next to this blog about a first African team winning - so stop complaining and start reading. Its people like you guys who are complaining that make these blogs not to great to read and comment on.

    Simon - good blog mate.

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  • 35. At 11:06am on 04 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    31. At 10:50am on 04 Dec 2009, nothingonthetv wrote:

    A little biased don't you think considering there has been at least one english team in the last 5 finals, Liverpool, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man utd & Chelsea, Man utd??

    Back date it to 2000, without any research, I think it will probably be Brazil who are best represented. I'd even argue that england would be down to fourth or fifth in the list. i'll do some research and base it on players who were named in the squad for the final...

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  • 36. At 11:09am on 04 Dec 2009, fivegoldstars wrote:

    I must admit, I'm more of a 'club' than 'country' man - my query is whether this will have a significant impact when the players return for Premiership duty? Is there a period of re-adjustment?

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  • 37. At 11:10am on 04 Dec 2009, U11846789 wrote:

    Interesting blog.

    I'm sure altitude will have some effect but, normally, altitude is not usually a problem below 6,000 feet.

    (In SA it can be a problem for athletes below that height in the summer due to the combined effect of heat and altitude. But this tournament is in the winter).

    So, overall, I dont think it will have that much impact.

    Interesting topic tho'. Nice to read about other aspects of the tournament.

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  • 38. At 11:23am on 04 Dec 2009, woooooooooooooooooo wrote:


    The entirety of the UK pays for it; not just the English. How you fathom it as an “English Institution” is beyond me. I live in Scotland, pay my license fee and have as much input as you do in to it. A bit of “truth and plausibility” wouldn’t go amiss.

    Anyhow, I think coverage has been fair, as I have also read blogs about the African nations competing, New Zealand, Spain to name a few so I think to come on whining about all the amount of England-related articles is a little foolish. Especially because they are the only home nation competing, so it makes sense to put the majority of coverage on them.

    However, in terms of chances etc I still can never understand how England always get made one of the favourites. Don’t get me wrong, I think they have a fantastic squad albeit lacking a goalie, but they just don’t gel and never look like a fluid footballing unit together, and that includes under Capello’s management. Yes the results are there – bar against the ‘big teams (France, Brazil to name a couple – although friendlies), and they had a good qualifying record but their group wasn’t the toughest. Often they just don’t seem comfortable on the ball and keeping possession isn’t their best ability either.
    Even the English players are talked up so often by an almost rabid media – granted it’s not their fault - as if they are already world champions. Too often overrated by the media, overpriced by the market and overawed by the big occasions.
    If you also include past records etc you have to go back to Euro ’96 and Italia ’90 for their last serious chances to make a final, and that’s a long time ago in footballing terms for a team that are consistently talked up as being one of the world’s best. It may seems like I’m knocking England but I’m not, I just think there has to be some perspective put on it all (even if it is just my own).

    I hope to see England do well and they do have a good enough squad to win it, but I personally believe that yet again they will choke. The best thing going for them is the fact they have Capello.

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  • 39. At 11:28am on 04 Dec 2009, ESR wrote:

    Post 32, Why are you being so negative about everything, didn't your mum ever tell you - if you haven't got anything nice to say then don't say it at all.

    Whats wrong with Gary Mabbutt helping South Africa with their World Cup, hes a well respected former footballer whos been offered a good position, I'm sure if you were offered a good role then you'd take it up?

    Plus, have you seen the people who are helping Englands 2018 bid? Now they are some unbelievable choices!

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  • 40. At 11:31am on 04 Dec 2009, nothingonthetv wrote:

    @ 35 How is it biased?

    Someone asked the question with regards to the last five years and I provided the answer. It was claimed that the England team lacked world class players but this shows over the period that was asked more English players have played in the Champions League final than any other nation.

    Of course if you go back to 2000 England would probably fall down that list and I presume Spain would have the higher %, but that was not the question. The fact that over the most recent period more English teams got to the final of the CL than other nations in surely in support of the argument that England do have world class players and not against it.

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  • 41. At 11:33am on 04 Dec 2009, Simon Austin wrote:

    #32 tomefccam... I've got to pick you up on this comment.

    Mabbutt is definitely not ignorant about SA. He is married to a South African and spends a lot of his time there. And he doesn't have a blinkered view of the country. When he was a Spurs player, he spent the close seasons working in townships like the Cape Flats and Soweto. And he's still heavily involved with township projects now.

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  • 42. At 11:35am on 04 Dec 2009, Andrew wrote:

    Gary Mabbutt is a top bloke and very worthy ambassador for the English game.

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  • 43. At 12:03pm on 04 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    #42 he is not representing the english game...

    #40 I am not saying you are being biased, i'm saying the sample is biased, 10 years would represent a lot more fairly and as you say yes, spain come out on top, of the 360 players named in Champions League Final squads 2000-2009:

    18% were spanish
    11% were italian
    9.8% were brazilian
    9.1% were french
    7.2% were english
    6.1% portugese
    6.1% german
    4.7% argentinian
    3.6% dutch

    all other nations failed to make up more than 3% and are therefore not mentioned

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  • 44. At 12:40pm on 04 Dec 2009, Aston wall penalty wrote:

    Makes sense to compare last five years as most previous players have left the top level of the game

    England's record versus top sides is poor so any help from the conditions must be maximised otherwise the QF may be the best we can hope for. Hope springs eternal but lets just hope the normal media frenzy doesn't ensue - certain it will though

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  • 45. At 12:49pm on 04 Dec 2009, Lavaboy wrote:

    I'm an Irish man true-and-true and i am really looking forward to this world cup. I;m sure England will do well especially with the manager they have. I fancy england(if they cqn sort out defence and lampart gerard situation) verus spain final.

    Good luck England!!

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  • 46. At 12:59pm on 04 Dec 2009, Lavaboy wrote:

    Would loved to have seen Ireland v England, would not have been great football but would have been tense. On the ireland situation, we should have been 2 up in the game so our own fault nd Robbie handled the ball at leat 4 times in that game and if he had gottern away with them and scored a goal he/we would not have complained, cheating is cheating is cheating.

    Now i know how all of england must have felt with the maradonna hand ball, all be it in a much more important game, he should not have been on the oitch to score his second. England have been very unlucky in world cups so maybe there due some luck!

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  • 47. At 1:11pm on 04 Dec 2009, ndg1984 wrote:

    tomefccam - Is your pint glass always half empty??

    You have offered nothing of any significance to the blog apart from constant moaning and gripes.

    The hypocracy of calling Gary Mabbutt ignorant....... pot and kettle mate.....

    Anyway, as usual there will be the typical media frenzy as there always is with England. It will probably be twice as bad is SA as it will be 4 years since England have been in a major tournament after missing out on the Euro's. I do think we go in with a chance but i would have to compare the world cup teams with those in the Prem (this year) and their chances in a knock-out tournament;

    Brazil - Chelsea; If they play to the top of their ability then they probably wont be stopped.
    Spain - Man Utd; Now know what its like to win and if they keep the ball in the middle of the park with Iniesta, Xavi, Alonso and Silva then they are the next best chance after Brazil.
    Germany/Italy/England/Holland/Argentina - These are the world cups next best, not quite of the calibre and class of the Brazilians and the Spanish (a Liverpool & Arsenal if you like) They are all totally capable of winning the trophy but like in any tournament there will be a sprinkling of luck that is needed.

    Yes, altitude will play a factor, but it wont be of any effect to the above teams - The winner of the World Cup will be one of the above teams (altitude tent or no altitude tent!)

    PS; No, I dont think Portugal or France will be in with a chance.

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  • 48. At 1:15pm on 04 Dec 2009, Romebhoy wrote:

    To be fair, if we are looking at anything it should be starting 11s rather than squads for CL finals. If you look at the last 6 years (and when you look further you stop getting players who would have a chance playing in this years world cup) then you get:
    107 Players that started the 6 finals. This is as 24 players played in more than 1 final (Evra started 3 of the last 6). Of these
    14 (10.6%) English
    13 (9.8%) Spanish
    11 (8.3%) French
    11 (8.3%) Portuguese
    10 (7.6%) Brazilian
    8 (6.1%) Italian
    7 (5.3%) Dutch
    6 (4.5%) Argentinean
    4 (3.0%) Ivorian
    (The rest are below 3%)
    But if we're looking at this, then how about how many English players have played in the Copa Libertadores finals, or the AFC Champions League?

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  • 49. At 1:21pm on 04 Dec 2009, Worst_Firm_In_The_World wrote:

    A country who has won nothing in over 40 cannot be considered a favourite for the trophy or a major force in football!!


    Liverpool have tried to win the league twice as many times in the last couple of decades and despite repeated failures are still considered contenders at the start of each season.

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  • 50. At 1:29pm on 04 Dec 2009, Lavaboy wrote:

    Not sure why there is all this gripe about people thinking england are in with a shout, there are not many teams with a realistic chance of winning it so why shouldn't the english fancy themselves.

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  • 51. At 1:32pm on 04 Dec 2009, Lavaboy wrote:

    Can't imagine France or italy where fancied for the titles they won in the last decade or so.

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  • 52. At 1:41pm on 04 Dec 2009, Andrew wrote:

    #43........whatever, he's English, so hardly there representing Japan is he.

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  • 53. At 1:42pm on 04 Dec 2009, ndg1984 wrote:


    Agreed, England are in with a chance.

    France were always fancied in 98 due to it being on home turf with their best players since the post Platini era such as Desailly, Blanc, Dugarry, Deschamps, Zidane, Thuram and Lizarazu. They also had a few promising players by the name of Henry, Trezeguet and Pires!

    Italy probably werent realistically picked by many for 2006 but beware, if there is another corruption scandal over the next few months then Italy will probably win the world cup, just like they did in 1982 and 2006 after each of those scandals!

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  • 54. At 1:48pm on 04 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    Argentina sadly will win the 2010 world cup. They follow a pattern of teams who have faced adversity and come through to take a major footballing prize.

    Think Brazil in 2002...West Germany in 1974...Italy in 1982... even Denmark at Euro '92

    Remember the pool of talent they have available, Messi is probably one of the top 5 players in the world, and in Higuain they have finally clicked on that he can score the goals and provide the final product.

    and wouldn't it just be like Maradona to pull it off?

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  • 55. At 1:49pm on 04 Dec 2009, becken1998 wrote:

    England will not win the world cup and would be lucky to make the semis.....first off the style of football which makes the premier league exciting (end to end action) will make it difficult to cope at high altitude.

    Second and more importantly, the team is very overated. Beating Croatia, Andorra, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to qualify doesnt scare anyone.

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  • 56. At 1:54pm on 04 Dec 2009, Lavaboy wrote:

    Hi, ndg1984, yeah forgot about all those french players, still sick of all this england bashing for the sake of it, to a point any tournament has 6-8 teams that given the right cirumstances could win. When you look at the current english players, manager and world cup pedigree(lots of penalty shoot-out knocks-outs) and also the lack of any really good opposition except spain then why not. One caveat a shit goal keeper, maybe you could find a young goalie in the next year.

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  • 57. At 1:56pm on 04 Dec 2009, Lavaboy wrote:

    who has anybody else beaten. It was the qualifiers what do you expect.

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  • 58. At 2:11pm on 04 Dec 2009, Alistair wrote:

    Interesting to see how a team adapts to high altitude, but i can see this being Englands excuse for failure when in fact it affects every single team at the finals in the same way, if Bolivia or Ecuador were there then it might be different

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  • 59. At 2:24pm on 04 Dec 2009, Lavaboy wrote:


    If a group of NH rugby players can play south africa and compete at altitude then why not a group of english footballers against teams with the same problem, don't think this will be an excuse. Bigger excuse might be all the games they have to play in the 'best league in the world' a little tired of that one.

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  • 60. At 2:26pm on 04 Dec 2009, woooooooooooooooooo wrote:


    Why is it "England bashing for the sake of it"? Everyone has an opinion, so it should hardly be surprising that others' might not pander to your own.
    As others have stated, England get overhyped before every tournament by various pundits, newspapers, radio shows and television re-hashes of the glory day(s), and every single time none of it comes to fruition.
    How many times have we all read or heard about "this generation being the best" or "now is the time", and what happens? England meet half-decent or genuine contenders for whichever cup it is in the 2nd round or quarters, and they get beaten, be it in open play or penalties (which is hardly "pedigree" by the way).

    I've already said, even though i'm Irish living in Scotland, that i would rather see England (or an African team) win it, so i'm not knocking England, i'm supporting them but i don't see the problem with looking at their chances whilst NOT applying the same level of fervent and rabid gum-flapping that so many supporters and journalists feel the need to apply.

    England are still yet to gel as a team, with a set line up (they still havent settled on a decent foil for Rooney to play off of; goalies are pretty average; Ferdinand's injuries are a continuing concern; Johnson's lack of defensive ability (i would prefer Brown if Beckham wasn't on the wide right); which wingers to take who WILL perform (because NONE of them have 'pedigree' due to never having been to a tournament - bar Walcott and we all know what happened there).
    Not only that but they don't look confident when in possession and due to this often lose it easily.
    Also, whom have they beaten during Capello's reign who are genuine contenders to win the WC, or who could even be classed as one of the world's top teams? None come to mind, bar the trouncing of Croatia, and as far as i am aware they will not be in South Africa.

    You are correct in stating that there are always 6 - 8 teams capable of winning but this time i would say there are 10 - 12 teams with a good shout at winning, more than normal, plus the strength of the African teams shouldn't be ignored.

    It's going to be wide open in my opinion.

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  • 61. At 2:28pm on 04 Dec 2009, Lavaboy wrote:

    Ecuador, thats like saying nepal could do well in south africa, footballing basics will still win the day

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  • 62. At 2:39pm on 04 Dec 2009, Phil wrote:

    It really depends what you class as 'high' altitude. San Jose is located at 3770ft, a little over 1200m. Now im sorry, but thats not THAT high.

    In Ecuador, Quito is nearly 10000ft, or over 3000m

    La Paz in Bolivia is over 13000ft or over 4000m

    They are altitude destinations where playing is really tough.

    Acclimitising to anything under 2000m is not that hard. Ive trekked up 6000m before with a heavy back pack with less time to acclimitise than these guys will have. The teams will be fully acclimitised by the first game - 2 weeks will be ample. So altitude will play NO part in affecting the tournament.

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  • 63. At 2:40pm on 04 Dec 2009, tomefccam wrote:

    53. At 1:42pm on 04 Dec 2009, ndg1984 wrote:

    I would argue that immediately after the Platini era, they had just as good a pool of players, but were ruined by bad management.

    Ginola, Cantona, Ballon d'or winner Jean-Pierre Papin, Blanc, Angloma etc. What they needed was clear management...forget Houllier and Platini and to have the pressure of having to qualify for their 1st world cup since 1986 taken away from them, which happened.

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  • 64. At 2:56pm on 04 Dec 2009, Lavaboy wrote:

    Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo(a little bit of over compensation i think, must have an inie)

    Pundits over hype not the team, so it is hardly their fault, pundits opinions are hardly a reason to dismiss a team, of course they have weaknesses but so do all teams at the moment. And, yes they have not gelled YET, thats whats makes their chances better not worst. I agreee the choice of a partner or system to complement rooney needs to be sorted but it is not unrealistic to think that the manager will work it out if he gets them team together for a few weeks and a 3 group games.

    Good to see the Irish supporting their neighbours, yeah to us.

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  • 65. At 3:26pm on 04 Dec 2009, hackerjack wrote:

    Second and more importantly, the team is very overated. Beating Croatia, Andorra, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to qualify doesnt scare anyone.

    How many teams beat anyone better than Croatia to qualify then?

    Every team qualified from groups with only one or two potential qualifiers, thats how the system works (except in South America where you only have to finish 5th out of 9 to get still potentially get in.)

    England are one of 9 teams who would win it, they, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Netherlands are certainly all contenders as any opf that lot are capable of beating the others on a given day.

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  • 66. At 3:54pm on 04 Dec 2009, woooooooooooooooooo wrote:


    Not enough OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO if you ask me, but i wasn't allowed anymore...not sure what i am 'over-compensating' for with an internet moniker though, but behind every theory is clearly a well structured and thought out opi....

    I don't find fault with the England team due to their being over-hyped, I just find the hype being unfounded. There is a difference between being patriotic and supporting your team whether they win or lose, and being so blind as to overinflate their chances at every given opportunity whilst ignoring all the clear and relevent factors that would actually lead you to conclude that there is a bigger chance they WONT win.

    In regards to other teams having weakensses: Yes, but some don't have as many as England, and others have a lot more than England. Hence differences in betting odds, seedings, line ups, results etc.
    This also means people can rate - as we all are - who they think will finish where, and for me England will not do as well as everyone seems to think, although i hope they do.
    I don't mean to be pessimistic, i'm just applying my own thoughts on what varying factors that could greatly affect how they perform and where they finish.

    I would have thought not having a settled line-up and on numerous occasions NOT having gelled and looked like a cohesive unit, that this could actually be detrimental to their chances, as opposed to standing them in good stead.

    If anyone can do it, it is Capello, however friendly games between now and the WC beginning are few and far between.
    Capello has also been in charge for how long now? 1, almost 2 years, maybe more (i'm not certain), and it is clear from some results and performances that they are beginning to look good together, but it is also apprent from other games that certain players and certain selections and line-ups aren't good enough and as far as i can tell Capello has still not found a solution. There is a chance the time left will not be enough, but as you have said, their is still fortunately time to try and set this right, so let's hope he can.

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  • 67. At 4:18pm on 04 Dec 2009, bringmethehorizon wrote:


    Whoever said Costa Rica is at a high elevation obviously has never lived there or doesn't know. The elevation these is 1,161 m (3,809 ft) in most places and isn't an advantage. Mexico, well that's a different story

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  • 68. At 4:20pm on 04 Dec 2009, Alistair wrote:

    What I meant by excuse is quite often in the past has the conditions been blamed for under par performances when its the same for everyone. no excuses

    Like the heat, for some reason lots of people think Argentines are better adapted to play in the heat, I live in Argentina and they don't play in the summer here and the winter is pretty chilly. add to that that all the players play in europe.

    Altitude would only be an advantage disadvantage if the likes of Bolivia were playing....

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  • 69. At 4:55pm on 04 Dec 2009, Alzymer wrote:

    Rustenberg may be a sleepy backwater compared to other places like Johannesburg, but the infamous Sun City Casino Hotel Resort is just a hop and a skip away from there. I was a casino inspector at Sun City almost thirty years ago, and the nearest town approx 50 miles away, was Rustenberg. Lets hope that the gambling fraternity in the England squad keep their minds on the prize and not the gaming tables!

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  • 70. At 6:04pm on 04 Dec 2009, A wet windy night in Stoke wrote:

    England have a good crop of players who on thier day are capable of winning the World Cup, but they will need a slice of luck as many other teams that win it. I don not see a player of the quality or Ronaldo (Brazil), Romario, Zinane, Maradona etc in the England side, so it will have to be a proper team effort if England is to win this time around.

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  • 71. At 7:52pm on 04 Dec 2009, kreid4 wrote:

    Let make the most of it
    The team will need great support. That is our job.

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  • 72. At 07:24am on 05 Dec 2009, Phil wrote:

    Well England have BY FAR the easiest half of the draw. The other seeds are South Africa, Argentina (who are poor at the moment) and the Germans (who have a tough group). Whether you like it or not this IS the best chance England could have wished for, to at least reach the final. No team in our half looks a danger compared to the bottom half, where the quarter finals will likely be Italy vs Spain, and Holland vs Brazil. This will also tire these 4 teams out as these ties could easily be the final. The likely semi will be Spain vs Brazil! What a belter. The top half is so open its untrue and whilst i wasnt confident before the draw, im not more than content and looking forward to the kick off!

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  • 73. At 1:47pm on 07 Dec 2009, yellowgreenred wrote:

    18. At 07:39am on 04 Dec 2009, waldovski wrote:
    The BBC would have a lot more respect (and foreign readers) if it at least attempted to evaluate the chances of other top contenders objectively, even in the context of these teams being England's competitors (because obviously the whole world revolves around England).


    Go read something else then... British Broadcasting Corporation = opinion on British teams, if you dont like it do one...

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  • 74. At 2:12pm on 07 Dec 2009, Brandyrecovery wrote:

    England's chances are reasonable. Yes, the hype does go overboard (and annoys lots of people) but it is to be expected.

    To the guy who wrote the following as England's "world class" players:

    19. At 07:44am on 04 Dec 2009, the78sum wrote:

    you would have written down:
    A. Cole
    J. Terry
    S. Gerrard
    F. Lampard
    J. Cole
    W. Rooney

    Not bad for one team really.
    I'm sorry but only Gerrard, Rooney and Ashley Cole make that list. Maybe Rio Ferdinand though he's currently out of form and fitness.

    Perhaps you're a Chelsea supporter, perhaps you're just very optimistic. The fact is that England are not very good at the back and lack technical ability in midfield. We have potential match-winners in Rooney and Gerrard but that's nothing that Germany, Holland, Argentina, Portugal, Ivory Coast, etc. don't have.

    If (and nothing should be taken for granted) we get through the group then we will have a chance just like all of these other teams. I think it would be a good performance to get to the QF, fantastic if we reached the SF and out-of-this-world if we made the final!

    C'mon England!!!

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  • 75. At 2:41pm on 07 Dec 2009, Jenaguru wrote:

    Never mind the altitude-everyone will be playing at altitude.England has to learn to take penalties. With Lampard and Defoe missing crucial penalties for their teams last weekend, I could aready conjure up pictures of another last 16 or QF exit on penalties. A case of the same script but only a different cast.

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  • 76. At 7:24pm on 07 Dec 2009, Marathon wrote:

    Altitude is not the problem, attitude is; the attitude of the English media - once again. High expectations that are not justified, centered around playing down the chances of other teams that somehow are lesser. Altitude will not be an issue for the USA team when English frustration - fueled by excessive expectations - come to the surface. Expect surprises. When does one learn from history?

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  • 77. At 10:25pm on 07 Dec 2009, Gazman wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 78. At 11:39pm on 07 Dec 2009, joneser wrote:

    Blimey! I cant believe people are bashing the BBC (or Gary Mabbutt for trying to earn a living!). I really hope you blognuts are beyond reproach in your lives, I'm sure you have some stats that represent such.

    The altitude and weather will of course be a factor, but probably way less damaging to England than the searing heat of some finals.

    Argentina and Holland are my picks (is that possible for the final?) but would love to see England do well. The Dutch will certainly have a lot of local support if SA make an early exit.

    Let's face it though we have seven months to wait and there'll be a LOT of injuries to key players that will factor. If Messi or Van Persie (recovers and) get injured then I'll be U-turning quite sharply.

    People love to bang on about England's so called 'World Class Players' but form and fitness are crucial. If there was a World Cup tomorrow Lennon and Milner (who have more intertoto than champions league experience) would have the opposition absolutely bricking it.

    The goalkeeper slot is England's biggest problem. I say recall Blackburn's Paul Robinson - if instilled with confidence he's England's best.

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  • 79. At 01:14am on 08 Dec 2009, Wilso wrote:

    On the subject of penalties, it shows that England has got very close and although heartbreaking (unless you're Scotch, Welsh or Irish) it proves that we got close to the likes of Germany and Portugal. As for stars recently missing, no one can score every penalty. The success rate of our top penalty takers would be up there with the rest of the world. A lot of it is luck on the day. I hope that we beat the teams in normal time, very confident England will get to last 8. beyond that is the tricky bit, England is still not quite there but as an Englishman I'll be cheering (just as much as I was for the Scots in the 70's)

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  • 80. At 1:25pm on 08 Dec 2009, DJSentinel1 wrote:

    This blog goes to prove that there are a lot of bitter, anti-BBC/British folks out there. Personally, I don't understand why they read the BBC website. I live in North America, where the press is REALLY bad. I constantly come back here to read real journalism. Biased it might be, at times, towards British opinion, but certainly less than almost all the other press I've read in other countries, respectively.

    I find British people to be passionate about their country's chances, but realistic at the same time. And if a country can't be optimistic about how it fairs in a tournament then when can it? England have another great chance to win it next year if everyone is fit. I can't wait for the summer! Stay positive Brits.

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  • 81. At 3:06pm on 11 Dec 2009, Swamilicious wrote:

    Thanks DJSentinel (#80) for your perspective. I too am a bit confused why people have come to the BBC site expecting to read articles focusing on other countries. In fact, there are articles on other countries' / continents' chances, but some people will find anything to moan about.

    I notice the chap criticising Mabbutt's ability to comment on South Africa because he wasn't born there (ridiculous) soon shut up after Simon Austin put him in his place.

    You did suprise me by saying the US media was worse. I thought they backed their teams in a sincere way without the lynching that our teams get after an under performance- was I way off? I thought they had a better media culture of support which only helped their chances at olympics etc.

    Is all this negativity a British character fault?!

    I don't expect to win the World Cup, but any team will need luck to win it and as was said we all have our faults. Spain and Brazil have to be favourites, yet Spain recently lost to the USA in a final and Brazil only mustered a narrow victory over our B team. Greece showed in 2004 that anything can happen, so can't we all just be supportive and optimistic?

    If England were to win it, my view would be that it would be *despite* their nation of naysayers.

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  • 82. At 1:37pm on 02 Jan 2010, Simon wrote:

    Preparation is everything....

    I remember Clive Woodward once saying "World cups are won by inches and not by miles"... he and his charges did go onto win the world cup at rugby
    I also remember a certain England football manager saying his team did not practice taing penalties ... shortly afterwards they were dumped out of the closing stages of the football world cup .. on penalties

    Clive woodward was a master of the detail , the small print if yoy like, and did his utmost to give his team an edge in a competition where anyone of maybe 6 teams had a very real chance of winning in 2003.

    Fabio Capello looks to be cut from the same cloth as Clive woodward thankfully. This world cup will be the first played in Africa, and other than the odd pre-season friendly tour , most of the world's elite players will not have spent any time down here. There are a few unknowns and some obvious predictable factors like the altitude issue. mastering all of these may give England the few extra inches they need.

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  • 83. At 5:59pm on 10 Jan 2010, Thomas Williams wrote:

    To gazza11984.
    I think it is quite clear that you are not English, however this blog is on the BBC, and as (regretably) the only British team to make the World Cup finals, and as the largest and most populous nation in the United Kingdom, England has every right to take centre stage in the BBC's coverage of the World Cup. Your country weren't good enough, deal with it.

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  • 84. At 8:24pm on 03 Feb 2010, PastSportsman wrote:

    It is very important that England fully prepares for the effects of physical performance at high altitude and this could make all the difference between success & failure.
    As a previous sportsman with over 100 "caps" for England in another sport, the effects of performance at high altitude are well known & documented. As far as I understand, the optimum preparation involves low intensity training at high altitude, followed by resting/sleeping at low altitude thereafter in order to enable the body to fully recover from the effects of performance in a "low oxygen" environment; approximately 10 days should generate the desired effect - an increase in the red-blood cell count.
    Equally important is the preparation for physical performance in a hot climate; a feeling of fatigue is often experienced when performing at temperatures approaching 30 degrees.

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  • 85. At 09:18am on 16 Feb 2010, JEMFM wrote:

    It would be ridiculous to write England off this year. They have qalified with the most goals in Europe and second most points, they finally have a world class manager for the first time EVER, and it would seem that the teams which usually cause us trouble (Argentina, Portugal, Brazil, France), are at their weakest for some time.

    You also never know what sort of luck could come our way, for example an early giant killing in a group stage or 2nd round.
    Everyone always hypes up England because we invented football. But this is our best chance to win for a long time, so it's damn right that we should also focus on the details like altitude and location.

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  • 86. At 08:56am on 04 Mar 2010, Lofty wrote:

    When are the BBC going to listen to what the listeners want to hear.

    Chris Evans style of broadcasting is unacceptable for a early morning show. But a BBC spokesman stated that the BBC are quiet happy with Chris Evans. How patronising can the BBC get

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  • 87. At 09:22am on 13 Mar 2010, Zekarias Gebru wrote:

    I’ve started to be very much ashamed of some England’s fans these days. I believe England has one of the best squads in the world. When I read some of the comments written by some people, I was really disappointed. Even if I live very far from England, I’m very much fond of Manchester United and the English team. We Ethiopians here are very much fond of our long distance runners. We respect them in every ways.

    But you (some English people) are not that sort. I don’t understand the way some people abuse and mistreat professionals’ personal life. I’ve been really surprised by the comments you have given about your best players. I believe this squad is fantastic. You have one of the best coaches in the world who knows how to win trophies than any of you comment givers.

    One of the best ball player as a defender is in your team by the name Rio. Some one who can give his life for his team, John Terry. Two of the best midfielders Gerrard and Lampard, and one of the best left back, Cole. I say some of the other Midfielders and defenders are really excellent. Carrick, Barry, Johnson, Brown, Milliner and Ashley young can play for any team.

    Most of all, you have one of the most prolific, superb and outstanding player, Wayne Rooney. I believe considering his form, he is the best player in the world now. Not to forget that this team has one thing that they have than some other English teams lacks before, Experience. This team has real chance of winning the world cup but honestly I don’t want to see some of you celebrating the victory. Believe it or not they will win the trophy.

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