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England vs Germany – 4th December 1935

England vs Germany – 4th December 1935

Pictures from England vs Germany from the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 13th December 1935. Game took place at White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur on 4th December 1935.

Images via British Newspaper Archive.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2018 in History

 

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Margaret Thatcher and the curse of the Norwegian commentator


Only 32 short years after this was recorded, everyone mentioned in this famous commentary has now passed away.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/PqZTP8-8wIs

“We are the best in the world! We are the best in the world! We have beaten England 2-1 in football!! It is completely unbelievable! We have beaten England! England, birthplace of giants. Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana–we have beaten them all. We have beaten them all.

“Maggie Thatcher can you hear me? Maggie Thatcher, your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating! Maggie Thatcher, I have a message for you in the middle of the election campaign. I have a message for you: We have knocked England out of the football World Cup. Maggie Thatcher, as they say in your language in the boxing bars around Madison Square Garden in New York: Your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating!”

Any excuse to post that short video…

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in International

 

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Integrating penalty shoot-outs into a nation’s psychology

Integrating penalty shoot-outs into a nation’s psychology

In 1252 King Henry III enacted the Assize of Arms. This act decreed that all Englishmen between the ages of 15 and 60 must, by law, equip themselves with a bow and arrow. This ensured that Englishmen would be familiar with the weapon, and when war inevitably arrived (inevitably against the French) the populace would be ready to fight back. Incredible victories such as Agincourt in 1415 (the 13th century’s Denmark 92 moment) were possible due to the expertise of the Henry V’s well practised archers.

Similarly to Henry III, Roy Hodgson has called for the introduction of penalty shoot-outs should one of his side’s friendly games end in a draw. It’s a perfectly sensible suggestion. After all, penalty shoot-outs have been an integral part of professional football for decades and there’s no reason why a friendly international shouldn’t be used to practice them. There are likely to be opponents to this move who will assert that you can’t mimic a penalty shoot-out at a World Cup finals in a friendly international. But you can’t mimic a World Cup finals football match in a friendly international either, yet we still play them.

Despite being in agreement with Hodgson regarding the addition of penalty shoot-outs after friendly internationals I feel this idea could be taken a lot further. The penalty shoot-out is now ubiquitous in cup competitions across every nation’s cup competitions as well in continental and international play. Any football nation that wants to edge ahead of the rest should attempt to become the gold standard of penalty shoot-out takers. I believe there are a couple of ways that a nation such as England could seek to do this.

Firstly, the head of the nation’s FA should dictate that after every academy or youth team match that the team’s should take part in a penalty shoot-out (regardless of the result). This would give young players regular exposure to penalty kicks. And if the old adage “Practice makes perfect” has any basis in truth, then it should mean that young players who take part in these competitions would improve.

Secondly (and probably more controversially) it should also be dictated that penalty shoot-outs should be played at every Premier League and Football League match at the conclusion of proceedings, whether the game ended drawn or not. The shoot-outs would have no bearing on the final league tables, but the results would be recorded and a parallel “Penalty Shoot-out League” would be run alongside the regular Football League to give fans an update as to how their team was getting on. I believe this would have a few benefits:

  • It would give players much required extra exposure to penalty shoot-outs.
  • If the shoot-outs were scheduled after the conclusion of the match it would enable players to take the penalties in a fatigued state (a similar state they would take them in a major international tournament).
  • It would give teams with nothing to play for something to focus on should they be out of contention in the proper league. (In addition I’d also like to see the winners of all four divisions penalty shoot-out competition take part in a finals tournament at Wembley, similar to the Watney Cup).
  • Any “handbags” at the final whistle could be sorted out over a series of penalty kicks rather than in the tunnel. Or it would at least delay them.
  • It would give Sky and football bloggers another set of meaningless statistics to trawl over.

Whilst a few of my suggestions above are facetious, I think if any nation wants to take penalty shoot-outs seriously then they do need to start thinking about integrating penalty shoot-outs into their competitions or at the very least their training. More than anything I think that adopting some of the approaches above would give a nation a slight psychological edge over other nations because their opponents will know that they are facing a country that had assimilated penalty shoot-outs into the very fabric of its footballing mentality. That’s got to be worth something?

 

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2012 in Featured, International

 

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Who will win Euro 2012?


The European Championships are now only a few days away, so we at Spirit of Mirko have decided to predict the entire tournament. Rather than predicting the results by analysing each individual side, their players, formations, recent form, we have decided to use hard, cold facts. So, for this set of predictions we have used the previous meeting for each side to predict which side will win.

Group A

Greece 0 – 0 Poland (29/3/2011)

Russia 3 – 3 Czech Republic (19/6/1996)

Greece 1 -0 Czech Republic (1/7/2004)

Poland 2 – 2 Russia (22/8/2007)

Greece 1 – 1 Russia (11/11/2011)

Poland 0 – 2 Czech Republic (10/10/2009)

Group A is won by Euro 2004 winners Greece on a fittingly meagre 5 points, in second place it’s Czech Republic on 4 points. Russia finish 3rd with 3 points and exit the competition after not losing a game, whilst hosts Poland bow out at the group stage on 2 points.

Group B

Netherlands 2 – 0 Denmark (14/6/2010)

Germany 3 – 2 Portugal (19/6/2008)

Denmark 2 – 1 Portugal (11/10/2011)

Netherlands 0 – 3 Germany (15/11/2011)

Denmark 2 – 2 Germany (11/8/2010)

Portugal 1 – 0 Netherlands (25/6/2006)

Unsurprisingly Germany top Group B after picking up seven points from their three games. In second place it’s Denmark with four points. Netherlands and Portugal are out before the knock out stages have even begun after finishing with three points apiece.

Group C

Spain 1 – 2 Italy (10/8/2011)

Ireland 0 – 0 Croatia (10/8/2011)

Italy 0 – 2 Croatia (16/8/2006)

Spain 1 – 1 Ireland (15/6/2002)

Croatia 1 – 2 Spain (7/6/2006)

Italy 0 – 2 Ireland (7/6/2011)

A shock in Group C as two draws and a win against Italy is enough to see Ireland finish as group winners. Second spot in the group goes to Spain on four points who sneak through by virtue of their head to head with Croatia. Italy finish rock bottom on three points.

Group D

France 2 – 1 England (17/11/2010)

Ukraine 1 – 1 Sweden (9/2/2011)

Ukraine 1 – 4 France (6/6/2011)

Sweden 0 – 1 England (15/11/2011)

England 0 – 1 Ukraine (10/10/2009)

Sweden 2 – 3 France (20/8/2008)

France win their group with a storming nice points from a possible nine. Local interest in the tournament is maintained as hosts Ukraine sneak through in second place on four points. England finish third with three points and the Swedes last with a solitary point.

Quarter Finals

Greece 1 – 2 Denmark (AET) (11/2/2009) & (8/10/2005)

Germany 0 – 3 Czech Republic (17/10/2007)

Ireland W/O Ukraine

France 0 – 2 Spain (3/3/2010)

In February 2009 Greece and Denmark fought out a 1-1 friendly draw, so you have to go further back in time to 2005 to find an occasion where a positive result was gained. Denmark defeated Greece in a World Cup qualifier – enough to get them through to the semi-finals of Euro 2012. In qualifying for Euro 2008 Czech Republic achieved an impressive 3-0 victory over Germany. That’s enough to see them through to the final four.

Interestingly Ukraine and Ireland have never met in a senior international. Therefore we have to fall back on the trusty FIFA world rankings that predict the 18th-placed Irish would see off the 50th placed Ukraine. Ireland through to the semi-finals. Spain‘s 2-0 win over France in a friendly in March 2010 is enough for them to make up the last spot in the semi-finals.

Semi Finals

Denmark 0 – 4 Ireland (22/8/2007)

Czech Republic 1 – 2 Spain (25/3/2011)

Ireland make it to the final of a major tournament for the first time by virtue of their 4-0 friendly victory in August 2007 (bear with me..). Ireland will face Spain who saw off the Czech Republic 2-1 (qualifier for Euro 2012).

Final

Ireland 1 – 1 – Spain [Spain win on penalties] – (15/6/2002)

Heart-break for Ireland as Spain win a third consecutive major honour. Spain’s penalty shoot-out win from the 2002 World Cup is enough to hand them the European Championships. Well done Spain.

 

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in International

 

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Euro 2012 squad analysis: Part Two


Rather than bombard you all with information I thought I’d split the Euro 2012 squad analysis into two parts. I’ll try and concentrate more on the players than the squads in this section.

Top goalscorers per nation

  • Croatia – Eduardo (22)
  • Czech Republic – Milan Baros (40)
  • Denmark – Dennis Rommedahl (21)
  • England – Wayne Rooney (28)
  • Spain – Fernando Torres (27)
  • France – Karim Benzema (13)
  • Germany – Miroslav Klose (63)
  • Greece – Thofanis Gekas (21)
  • Holland – Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (31)
  • Italy – Daniele De Rossi & Antonio Di Natale (10)
  • Ireland – Robbie Keane (54)
  • Poland – Robert Lewandowski (13)
  • Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo (32)
  • Russia – Roman Pavlyuchenko (20)
  • Sweden – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (29)
  • Ukraine – Andriy Schevchenko (46)

Most capped players per nation

  • Croatia – Josip Šimunić (93)
  • Czech Republic – Petr Cech (89)
  • Denmark – Dennis Rommedahl (113)
  • England – Ashley Cole (93)
  • Spain – Iker Casillas (129)
  • France – Florent Malouda (74)
  • Germany – Miroslav Klose (114)
  • Greece – Giorgos Karagounis (115)
  • Holland – Rafael van der Vaart (94)
  • Italy – Gianluigi Buffon (113)
  • Ireland – Shay Given (121)
  • Poland – Dariusz Dudka (61)
  • Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo (88)
  • Russia – Sergei Ignashevich (73)
  • Sweden – Anders Svensson (126)
  • Ukraine – Antoliy Tymoshchuk (114)

England’s Ashley Cole with 93 caps is the most capped player at Euro 2012 who is yet to score a goal for his country. The other outfield players that have over 40 caps who have yet to score for their country include Yuri Zhirkov (Russia), Aleksei Berezutski (Russia), Danijel Pranjic (Croatia) and Tomáš Hübschman (Czech Republic). Other notable players who have yet to break their international duck include Patrice Evra (39 caps, France), Sergio Bisquets (38 caps, Spain), Stewart Downing (33 caps, England), James Milner (24 caps, England), Simon Kjaer (22 caps, Denmark).

Despite being only 27, Lukas Podolski has amassed 95 international caps for Germany, yet Custódio of Portugal is 29 years old, yet is still to make his international début. Similarly Ukraine substitute keeper Oleksandr Horyainov is 36 years old, yet has only played one full international match.

There are seven players who are younger than 20 years old in the tournament. 19 year olds Jores Okore (defender, Denmark), Rafal Wolski (midfielder, Poland), Kostas Fortounis (midfielder, Greece), Marksym Koval (goalkeeper, Ukraine), Jack Butland (goalkeeper, England) and 18 year olds Jetro Willems (defender, Holland) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (midfielder, England). If Jetro Willems scores during the tournament he will be the youngest ever player to score in the European Championship finals, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the second youngest player at Euro 2012, is too old to take the record. The current holder of that record Johan Vonlanthen retired last week at the tender age of 26.

 

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in International, Statistics

 

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Euro 2012: Squad analysis


The sixteen nations have now named their twenty-three man squads for Euro 2012. Three hundred and sixty-eight players will travel to the tournament in Poland & Ukraine, some experienced, some young, some with over hundred caps, some with none or very few.

The following table shows a list of Euro 2012 countries, the total number of caps in their squad, the average caps per player, the number of international goals scored by the squad, the average number of goals scored per player and finally the average goals per cap scored.

Euro 2012 nations, caps and goals

Euro 2012 nations, caps and goals

The most experienced squad in the tournament are the current holders Spain with 984 caps (it’s likely that figure will reach 1000 after all pre-tournament friendlies have been played). This figure was reached despite losing the vastly experienced David Villa before the tournament even began.

France’s recent travails are reflected in Laurent Blanc’s squad. Despite having a large range of undoubtedly talented players they are inexperienced at international level. Only Poland have fewer caps on average than the French (20.174 per player for Poland in comparison to 20.261 for France).

The goalscoring statistics are interesting in that the squads of Italy, France and Poland have all scored less than 50 international goals. To put that into some context, Robbie Keane has scored 54. Unsurprisingly the prolific Klose and Podolski have helped Germany to first place in the international goals (184).

There are twelve players with over 100 caps, goalkeepers Iker Casillas, Gianluifi Buffon and Shay Given, defender Olof Mellberg, midfielders Girogos Karagounis, Xavi, Antoliy Tymoschchuk and forwards Robbie Keane, Miroslav Klose, Dennis Rommedahl and Andriy Schevchenko.

There are ten uncapped players who have been named in squads this summer. Russian defenders Vladimir Granat and Kirill Nababkin from Dynamo Moscow and CSKA Moscow respectively are included in Russia’s final 23. Portugal include two uncapped players both from Braga, Custódio and Miguel Lopes. Custódio is the oldest uncapped player involved in Euro 2012, he turned 29 last week. Holland include uncapped forward Luciano Narsingh in their squad whilst Italy have called up midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini. A few countries have unsurprisingly taken along an uncapped third keeper, England take Jack Butland, Ukraine have Maksym Koval, Croatia have Ivan Kelava and Denmark called up Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel after their number one choice Thomas Sorenson was injured in training.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in European, International

 

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Wales vs Montenegro & England


During the final days of Mark Hughes reign at the helm of the Wales national team when the marvellous win in Helsinki and a fully deserved victory over Italy were a fading memory, Welsh fans would often travel to games more in hope than expectation.  Then John Toshack came and  killed the hope. An inevitable slide down the world rankings ensued with defeats home and away to Russia, Germany and Finland. Gary Speed left his Sheffield United managerial post to take over another sinking ship, the Welsh national side, but he seemingly couldn’t halt the slide as Wales slumped to 117th in the world and faced the ignominy of being seeded last in World Cup qualification for Brazil 2014. Wales faced humiliation after being leapfrogged by the Faroe Islands after some smart work by a software developer from Bucharest.

Whilst Gary Speed’s start as Wales boss had been less than inspiring he had made some positive changes to the Welsh setup. Roy Evans departed as assistant boss and was replaced by Dutch twitter enigma and physio extrodanaire Raymond Verheijen. The focus of international matches appeared to be on keeping the players fit and happy rather than upsetting and alienating them. And the fruits of this labour were seen on Friday night as Wales fielded what was probably their full strength XI (minus the suspended James Collins and injured Sam Ricketts). The last time Wales fielded a line-up with so few withdrawals was probably the memorable win over Italy at the Millennium Stadium, the Montenegro game ended the same way, a satisfying 2-1 home victory.

The win against Montenegro hasn’t given Welsh football a boost it desperately needed and will see the team climb into the top 100 of the World Rankings. Whilst not quite dining at “football’s top table” Wales will perhaps be eating at a Pizza Express rather than a Pizza Hut in weeks to come. Indeed it was Darcy Blake, a man who had difficulties with his fast-food lifestyle (too many burgers and too much time at the bar) only a season or two ago who was given the unenviable task of shackling Wayne Rooney on Tuesday night – a job he excelled at. Ultimately despite a solid performance in which Wales held possession of the ball for long periods and were never really put under a sustained spell of pressure, they lost the game by a solitary goal to nil.

Much of the press focus with regards to Wales’ game with England  focussed on Gareth Bale. Whilst Bale is a remarkably important part of the Wales team and a very talented player he’s a peripheral figure on a football pitch, hanging out wide waiting for supply. It’s Aaron Ramsey in central midfield who will almost certainly be the figurehead for this new Welsh side. The problem with a player like Bale is that he cannot dictate play from out wide and he’s certainly not talented enough to run a game from the centre in the same way that Ramsey can. It should be remembered that Wales already have a lot of experience with a player like Bale in the form of Ryan Giggs, who despite his inability to play in friendlies still notched over 60 caps for Wales. He was undoubtedly a world-class (whatever that means) player but often found it difficult to truly influence games whatever position the manager at the time selected him in. Aaron Ramsey has the ability to be what Hagi was for Romania, a player who can pull the strings in midfield and lead his often less illustrious team-mates to qualification. That’s not to say there aren’t other talented players there, Bale could quite easily be labelled Wales’ Dumitrescu. Though admittedly this analogy does start to fall apart when Ashley Williams becomes Wales’ Popescu and Steve Morison Wakes’ Răducioiu.

Friday and Tuesday were the first time that the graduates of Wales wonderful U21 side of a season or so ago have played with the same verve, intensity and ability that they showed for Brian Flynn. Alongside these great young players you have the fact that the whole back four that played against Montenegro and England had at one point played for Welsh clubs. Perhaps now is the time that the Wales international team begins to truly benefit from Swansea City and Cardiff City’s unfamiliarly lofty position in the league pyramid. The pieces do seem to be finally falling into place.

However, now is no the time for Gary Speed and his staff to get too cocky, the Welsh national side has had more false dawns than a Celebrity Lookalike agency who specialise in characters from the Office.  Speed and Verheijen look as if they’ve got the right ingredients of a side that can be competitive internationally. The 2014 World Cup may be too early for this group of players as Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, Scotland and Macedonia are tough opponents but Speed has to be confident that this set of players can have a real go at qualifying for Euro 2016 in France where the tournament is to be extended to 24 sides.

 

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2011 in International

 

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