If England can't stand the heat...
- 25 Jun 06, 09:41 AM
EN ROUTE TO STUTTGART - England's traditional obsession with the weather has been derided here in Germany as we swelter in the heat.
The complaints about the temperatures and humidity after the opening game against Paraguay were treated with barely disguised contempt by outsiders, scornful of the fact England appeared shocked at it being a little sunny during high summer in Germany.
But take it from me, I stood pitchside at what would be virtually kick-off time in Stuttgart yesterday, and even a specimen so finely-honed to the peak of physical perfection such as myself found it difficult to take.
It is a sign of how finely-tuned professional sportsmen have become that they can push themselves through physical barriers for 90 minutes, and now possibly more as we enter the knockout stages.
Sven-Goran Eriksson told us how players undergo sweat tests, start taking the correct fluids on board two days before a game and will even suffer the torture of ice baths to fight off the effects of the stifling heat.
Are England too obsessed with the weather? I'd be interested to know what you think...
Eriksson's pre-match press conference was his now usual mix of knockabout light humour and iron-clad confidence that his England side have something up their sleeve they haven't produced so far.
He laughs (literally!) in the face of negativity and has sparked a mixture of admiration and bafflement with his optimistic outlook despite England's performances so far.
If England have got their best form hidden away and ready to roll out in their hour of need, let's just hope they're not saving it for a rainy day.
Eriksson has been linked with the Australia job that is due to be vacated by Guus Hiddink after the World Cup - and there was a press presence from our old sporting rivals at his briefing in Stuttgart yesterday.
Once they got it off their chest that they could not believe England did not lay everything on the table to land Hiddink rather than the safe-hands appointment of Steve McClaren, they threw another name in the frame as a possible contender for Australia.
They appeared to think Lyon's former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier was the top target, but feared he is too committed in France to make the switch Down Under.
So Sven could yet get as far away as possible if he fails to win the World Cup.
Now I'm going to tread very carefully here after being wrongly accused of mocking Italian fans for their celebrations in Baden-Baden after reaching the last 16 with victory against the Czech Republic.
As we returned to Baden-Baden from Stuttgart, our coach was held up by dozens of cars with German flags flying parading in laps around the town...hours after the win against Sweden.
There was even a traffic policeman guiding them on an unofficial route. Now that's German organisation for you.
Were they over-doing it as they prepare to face Argentina? I'm not saying a word.