England’s 1-0 defeat by Brazil in Qatar, with such a rag tag and bobtail team, may almost accounted a triumph.
Not so for Brazil, who if anything confirmed their recent negative form having as we know lost in their final two World Cup qualifiers to Bolivia – no disgrace at that dizzy La Paz height – and drearily drawn 0-0 at home with little Venezuela.
Having begun that huge qualifying tournament very badly. Brazil, of course, gathered steam to win it with something to spare but just as their somewhat laborious victory in the South African Confederations Cup was not wholly convincing, so they now seem a long way from being dominant.
There has, of course, long been much contretemps about the leadership of Dunga and, building a team somewhat in his own dour image, it certainly won’t be quelled by recent results.
Yet generalisation about him and his supposedly functional tactics – how often have we heard that old refrain, not least under the aegis of the doomed Coutinho and Carlos Alberto Parreira? – can be facile.
It was, after all, only last season that Brazil came to The Emirates and outplayed Italy, who could never get to grips with the smooth, incisive combination of Elano and Robinho. Who, alas, could seldom if ever repeat it with Manchester City.
Could one answer be to keep Adriano who, after all those months of toil, trouble indiscipline and unfitness, has now been burning a blue steak with Rio’s Flamengo and played in La Paz.
As for England, so far under strength in Qatar, they still might, if Capello can face, let alone solve, some of his problems, go as far as the quarter final. In a country which now reports 50 murders a day, and one of whose senior government officials recently suggested that police should shoot to kill.
Meanwhile, Engand’s ill starred, ill led bid for the 2018 World Cup despite the recent deadwood clean out – Triesman however being still unimpressively there – hobbles from one disaster to another.
The most recent, in Qatar itself, being so cack handed, gratuitous and insensitive that you almost long to have the abrasive, intolerable late Tony Banks in charge as he so disastrously was when England were bidding for the 2006 World Cup.
It was reported that the FA demanded that when the England plane arrived in Qatar, it should land at Dohar airport in the privileged area reserved to the Interior Minister; else the game was off! The demand and threat were very properly rejected and the FA climbed down: but only after doing enormous damage to the 2018 bid, with such colonial behaviour.
Heads must surely roll, if they haven’t already. All the more harm was done since the President of the Qatar FA Mohammed Bin Hammam is a member of the FIFA committee due in December 2010 to decide where the next two World Cups will be played.
Geoff Thompson is another member: only very recently co-opted on to our bidding committee. Not wholly reassuring as his time in FA office was hardly notable for its dynamism. The quality shown by David Dein, whose presence would give that committee new drive.
In all the recent controversy over bad refereeing, how odd that the appalling blatant match saving dive by David Ngog for Liverpool against Birmingham, unperceived by referee Peter Walton, who gave a penalty, has gone wholly unpunished.
The consequence of FIFA’s tangled rules, whereby the case is closed and there is nothing to be done. Meanwhile, there are strange rumblings at St Andrews, now that Carson Yeung has taken over and is examining certain transfers: two involving the agent and former talented left winger, Barry Silkman.
FIFA themselves have decided to probe the transfer of Christian Benitez, a success at Anfield, from Santos Laguna of Mexico. And it’s known manager McLeish didn’t want to buy Espinoza from Ecuador.