Friday, 29 August 2014

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Muffed It

Better with pictures, but what the hey.  Football miskicks...

1) Thierry Henry 

You’re through on goal. You’ve been playing brilliantly, your hair’s looking unusually excellent and you haven’t embarrassed yourself for at least three days. This is it. This is life. Life is good. Against all expectations, everything is going to be OK. You’re going to score a goal.
Eye on the ball and utterly focused, you draw back your foot, ready to shoot, ready to make yourself a hero. Nothing else matters. Not now. You’re going to score a goal!
Then comes the doubt, as if your mind has decided this isn’t you, you’re not meant to look good, who do you think you are, it’s about time you did something ridiculous. Suddenly your self-sabotage gene – we all have one – whirrs into action and before you know what’s happened, you’re on your backside, confused, red-faced, embarrassed, annoyed, and both teams are laughing at you. See, as you went to kick the ball with your left foot, your over-eager right foot decided that it wanted to get involved too and before you could say “No! No! Down, boy! Remember what happened last time!” it was swinging through the air, tapping the ball away and causing you to lose your balance and fall over.
We’ve all been there, that horrible moment when, for no apparent reason, you kick the ball with your wrong foot, slice it out for a goal-kick and everyone laughs. It’s not like missing an open goal, scoring an own goal or miscontrolling a pass. Those are logical events but this is more visceral, more humiliating, enough to make you think there’s a higher power at play who’s out to get you. There’s no reason that your body should malfunction in that way and at that moment. It’s like dropping your lunch in the school canteen.
It does not happen to everyone, though. It does not happen to people as effortlessly cool as Thierry Henry. When he did it in a warm-up, he did it with style – he meant it – he did not fall over and it was brilliant. As the ball was rolled to him, he made to shoot with his right foot – and then, without looking, stuck his left foot in the way to divert it away. At first, it looked like Henry had made a mistake. But look at the reaction of Robert Pires, just jogging past him, fully aware that Henry was merely amusing himself. Ten seconds later, he did it again, this time with even more nonchalance. As pre-match shows go, it was not quite up there with Diego Maradona’s juggling act , but still. JS

2) Gus Caesar 

“What people still don’t realise,” said Gus Caesar in a rare interview, “is that I had lots of injuries and shouldn’t have played. I had a condition called Gilmore’s Groin. In those days nobody knew what it was but it was essentially a hernia that’s almost exclusive to footballers. It was tough, but you don’t say ‘no, I can’t play’ when there’s a Wembley final, do you?” The Wembley final in question was the 1988 League Cup final. The holders and favourites, Arsenal, were playing Luton Town. Caesar was filling in for David O’Leary and doing well enough but with eight minutes to go, he may have wished he had said no as his name was written into Arsenal history for all the wrong reasons. The Gunners were 2-1 up when a long ball was thumped up the pitch by Andy Dibble. It bounced once before Kenny Sansom nodded it back towards the goal. Caesar had time and space to deal with the threat but misjudged the next bounce and could only muster a mis-poked pass across the box. Kingsley Black caught Nigel Winterburn on his heels and pounced. Seconds later Luton were level thanks to Danny Wilson. Minutes later, Luton were leading. By the end of game, Luton had won their first ever major trophy. Caesar was the sacrificial lamb. He made just five more appearances for the north London club and left a few seasons years later with the sound of his own supporters’ jeers ringing in his ears. IMC

3) Peter Schmeichel 

Peter Schmeichel is one of the best goalkeepers of all time, but when he made a blunder, he really made a blunder. Indeed, although his final season at Manchester United is mainly remembered for him saving Dennis Bergkamp’s penalty in the last minute of their FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, there were times when he gave his defence the jitters, especially when he made howling errors in a defeat by Sheffield Wednesday and a draw with Bayern Munich before Christmas. Even after he had regained some of his mojo, he still had moments; after missing a cross in the second leg of United’s Champions League semi-final, he was saved by a goal-line clearance from Jaap Stam that denied Juve a third goal and kept United’s Treble hopes alive.
Of course, Schmeichel had enough credit in the bank to ensure that criticism of him did not go far. Plus it helped that when he was angry, he was scary enough that it was best not to cross him.
Perhaps it was because he was so good that the mistakes he did make are so memorable and none were better than the blooper against Barnsley in the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1998. It was a game United were expected to win. Barnsley were mired in a relegation battle and had been on the wrong end of a 7-0 thrashing in the league a few months earlier.
Yet United, weighed down by injuries, were beginning to show signs of the wear and tear that would open the door for Arsène Wenger’s resurgent, remorseless Arsenal in the league and they made hard work of it against Danny Wilson’s unfancied side. Then, after 39 minutes, Gary Pallister knocked a backpass to Schmeichel, who was in a comfortable position on the left of United’s area.
The ball bounced in front of him, not too awkwardly but enough that he should have been wary, but instead of taking a touch, the sight of Barnsley’s John Hendrie closing in persuaded Schmeichel to volley it away first-time. He took an ungainly hack at it, the ball was sent spinning off to the right and Hendrie gave chase, reached it first and tapped the ball into the empty net to give Barnsley the lead.
United fought back to force a replay at Oakwell but to no avail, as a brilliant performance from Barnsley earned them a 3-2 win, leaving the path open for Arsenal to claim the first Double of the Wenger era. JS

4)Robbie Keane 

You do not have to admit to it publicly but we all know you have watched What Women Want. You saw the trailer, you were intrigued by the concept, you sat down and pressed play. You did not tell your friends but it’s OK. We’ve all done it. You may then remember the scene when Nick Marshall – recently endowed with the power of hearing women’s thoughts – goes to his former marriage counsellor for help. Having explained and proved his predicament, said counsellor says: “You know, Freud died at age 83 still asking one question. ‘What do women want?’” Freud never knew, just like we may never know, whether or not Robbie Keane meant it.
Picture the scene. Landon Donovan has the ball at his feet, a fair distance from goal. The Vancouver Whitecaps’ defence has hit the snooze button, thus allowing Marcelo Sarvas to toddle inside the area unimpeded. Donovan’s pass finds the Brazilian’s run and his deft back-heel finds Keane, hovering around the penalty spot. The noise reaches fever pitch. The fans know what was about to happen. So too do the defenders. Three of them are drawn to Keane, like sailors to the sea. The striker shapes to shoot but instead of the ball finding the net, it bobbles off his feet, bamboozles the defenders and finds the foot of Sarvas, Unmarked and in plenty of space, he finishes from a tight angle. It was the perfect assist. Keane’s post-pass disgruntlement would suggest that he meant it as much as someone means to give themselves a paper cut. Or maybe that was all part of the act? Perhaps that frustrated look to the sky and his face assuming the pose of a parent pushed to the limit by their teenage son were a cunning addendum to the plan to take out the defenders and to set up Sarvas. Either way, it worked a treat and Keane was spot on when he described the assist as his “best ever”. IMC

5) Bryan Gunn 

April 1996. Global Hypercolour was out of fashion by now but spray-paint-effect, blue fading to white football shirts were very much in… if you lived in Ipswich, anyway. George Burley’s side had shrugged off their kit disaster, though, mounting a credible challenge for the play-offs – one that, with six games left, had teetered slightly with successive defeats to Reading and Grimsby. Norwich, relegated from the Premier League along with their East Anglian rivals in 1994/95, were playing out time under Gary Megson after a season that had seen Martin O’Neill depart just a few months in.
It was Ipswich who needed the win when the derby came around, and perhaps Megson was not a man to stand in their way. As a player, he had scored a thundering injury-time own goal to win this fixture for the Suffolk side two seasons previously. But after a green-haired Jamie Cureton had equalised Ian Marshall’s opener, respectability and a nicely irritating spanner in their rivals’ promotion works seemed a decent afternoon’s work for the travelling Canaries. It had not been a pretty game, even though Ipswich were the division’s most entertaining side and would go on to score 79 goals that season. That was largely down to the once-renowned Portman Road pitch, which had suffered a torrid Suffolk winter and, in desperate need of relaying, was peppered with divots that could not simply be attributed to derby wear and tear. It would require care to negotiate as it cut up further in the latter stages.
“I said ‘if you pass back, make sure it’s wide of the goals’,” Norwich goalkeeper Bryan Gunn remembered in an interview several years later. But as a frenetic, mud-spattered derby reaches its death throes, there is rarely the headspace for mantras to be remembered, and when the 86th minute drew in, things were getting a little panicky. Ipswich were pushing and Steve Sedgley forced Mike Milligan into a hurried prod towards his left-back, Robert Ullathorne. Under mild pressure from James Scowcroft, Ullathorne ushered the ball back towards Gunn at a pace perfectly conducive to the billiard-like surface that this was not. Gunn leaned back and readied himself to heave another one upfield, only for a super-sized bobble a yard in front of him to have ideas completely to the contrary. The keeper could only make contact with air, but that was not quite the end of it. The ball trotted gamely into the unguarded goal, Scowcroft unsure whether to try and make sure or not before wheeling away while Gunn, unbalanced by his lack of contact and even more so by its immediate implications, collapsed to the floor as if struck down. Two-one to Ipswich, a pitch invasion, and game effectively over. But the abiding image is that of Ullathorne, whose look is one of sheer, uncomprehending desolation. If he still could not remember those pre-match instructions, he would be reminded soon enough.
Ipswich were smiling, and the manner of the victory will never leave the fixture’s folklore. But the chickens hatched on that pock-marked playing surface would soon come home to roost. On the final day of the season, three weeks later, a win over Millwall would take them into the play-offs. With the score locked at 0-0 late on, Scowcroft’s goalbound header was diverted up and on to the post by a bobble  at the opposite end of the pitch to Gunn’s mishap. Cosmic ordering it most certainly was, although, for the entertainment it has provided them in the 18 years since, most Ipswich supporters would probably accept it. NA

6) Harry Kewell 

Australia were getting a little fed up. It was a tougher gig than it looked, Oceania – you might batter your Papua New Guineas, your American Samoas and your Solomon Islands in the World Cup qualifiers, but that would not prepare you for the subsequent upping of the ante. Since 1986, you had then been shunted into a play-off against the relative might of Uefa, Concacaf, Conmebol or AFC’s best loser and that would generally be that: Scotland, Argentina, Iran and Uruguay had all done for the Socceroos between then and 2002, and when the Uruguayans’ sluggish qualifying campaign for the 2006 tournament set up a rematch it was not immediately obvious that things would be much different.
It should be noted that Australia were demob happy by then. This was their last run as Oceania members: a move to the tougher but more obviously rewarding Asian federation had been signed and sealed for 1 January 2006. Their form in the group stage had not been that spectacular – a few more fights had been put up this time around and there was none of the F66 A0 in the goals column nonsense of their 2002 campaign – and perhaps that would work positively, although there was also the argument that Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka, now with Liverpool and Middlesbrough respectively, were without the joyful early-2000s vim of their Leeds days. There was one particularly handy piece of weaponry in their armoury now, though: Guus Hiddink, still basking in the afterglow of South Korea and 2002, had been drafted in four months before the play-off and looked an altogether more convincing bet for this kind of high-stakes poker than predecessor Frank Farina.
So Australia travelled to Montevideo on 12 November 2005, and Dario Rodriguez headed Uruguay into a not overly surprising lead . But it was not added to despite constant pressure, and Hiddink’s side could draw encouragement – they had, after all, won 1-0 in Melbourne in the play-off for 2002, only to lose 3-0 away. This time Sydney hosted the Australian leg, and a crowd of 82,698 was perhaps the most febrile the country’s football had seen. “It will be the biggest game of our lives,” war-cried Mark Schwarzer, then a sprightly 33-year-old club team-mate of Viduka, but it almost fell flat early on when Alvaro Recoba’s usually sweet left peg speared a clear chance for a decisive away goal wide.
What it all needed was something you could not legislate for, something that all the analysis and discussion and column inches would be irresponsible not to overlook, something that openly waggled its tongue out at the order of things – which was, of course, that Australia would fall short yet again.
It came just shy of 34 minutes in. Tim Cahill, then a wrigglier presence than the reinvented volley-smashing totem of 2014, span his marker and popped a pass into Viduka, who was backing into his defender as best he knew. The ball was laid sideways to Kewell, all left foot at the best of times, whose sight of goal was clearer than his bearings. With defenders converging and no danger of a crack with his right, he snatched at it with his favoured limb more in hectic, flailing hope than expectation. He miscued horribly; left to its own devices, the ball was heading a good 20 yards from goal but would probably not have made it to the byline. Mark Bresciano had deciphered this jumbled-up script, though (and if you watch it back slowly, the speed at which he reacts to and – seemingly – predicts Kewell’s error is quite something), emerging between two opponents and lashing high into net to turn Kewell’s fluster into the perfect assist.
That was how it stayed. Kewell later converted Australia’s first kick in the shootout, with the sides inseparable on aggregate, and John Aloisi converted the decisive kick . Australia would perform creditably in Germany, their first finals since 1974, and would not have to bother with this kind of farrago when among their Asian friends. They could count themselves fortunate, too, that Kewell had picked the right moment to create history with a misplaced bolt from the blue – rather than saving his biggest calamity until last . By rights, this should be the Joy of Seven: Harry Kewell Special. NA
TG

Room For Improvement

  1. Tick off how each European country you have visited.
    1. 1Albania
    2. 2Andorra
    3. 3Armenia
    4. 4Austria
    5. 5Azerbaijan
    6. 6Belarus
    7. 7Belgium
    8. 8Bosnia & Herzegovina
    9. 9Bulgaria
    10. 10Croatia
    11. 11Cyprus
    12. 12Czech Republic
    13. 13Denmark
    14. 14Estonia
    15. 15Finland
    16. 16France
    17. 17Georgia
    18. 18Germany
    19. 19Greece
    20. 20Hungary
    21. 21Iceland
    22. 22Ireland
    23. 23Italy
    24. 24Kosovo
    25. 25Latvia
    26. 26Liechtenstein
    27. 27Lithuania
    28. 28Luxembourg
    29. 29Macedonia
    30. 30Malta
    31. 31Moldova
    32. 32Monaco
    33. 33Montenegro
    34. 34The Netherlands
    35. 35Norway
    36. 36Poland
    37. 37Portugal
    38. 38Romania
    39. 39Russia
    40. 40San Marino
    41. 41Serbia
    42. 42Slovakia
    43. 43Slovenia
    44. 44Spain
    45. 45Sweden
    46. 46Switzerland
    47. 47Turkey
    48. 48Ukraine
    49. 49United Kingdom
    50. 50Vatican City

How Many European Countries Have You Visited?

You have visited 40 out of 50 European countries
  1. You’re basically an expert on all things European - so why are you doing this quiz when you could be booking your next trip out there?!

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