Sunday, 11 June 2006

Hong Kong's English Football Complex - My World Cup 2006 Journal (Part 2)

After finishing my Korean class at 9:30 pm tonight, I went to a pub nearby to watch the second half of the football match between England and Paraguay. Thank God that no one was smoking, and I had the rare opportunity of enjoying a beer and the match in a public catering establishment without any choking or irritating smell.

Unlike many other fellow Hong Kongers, I have never been a fan of the English team per se. My experience just tells me that they are often an overrated team. Even their World Cup championship in 1966 - yes, that was precisely four decades ago, mate - was a controversial one. I can understand why Hong Kong people love the English team so much though, because for generations, we have been exposed to the excitement of football thanks to the eye-openers first brought by the English. The English premier league was the first series of world-class football matches that Hong Kong people watched a few decades ago. Hong Kong citizens have always been grateful to this enlightenment with English characteristics, and their support of England in the World Cup is anything but an expression of heartfelt gratitude.

It may be unfair for me to comment on the performance of both England and Paraguay as I have only watched the second half of the game, but I must say that I was somewhat disappointed. While I have taken the liberty of not to believe in the flattery of David Beckham and other members of the English team, I was surprised to see that my brother’s comments didn’t speak for themselves either. My brother is not only a veteran fan of football but was a player himself when he was a student. He knows much more about football than I do. His insightful comments about football players and team strategies always make sense to me.

In any case, England won the game against Paraguay not because of its remarkable strength but an irreversible mistake of Paraguay. As seen in the second half, the English players were so dull that they did not show any meaningful attacks or organisational threats on the Paraguayans. On the contrary, Paraguay did have a few impressive raids within the penalty area of England. However, the Paraguayans were unable to seize any of these opportunities, obviously prohibited by their overall level of skill and experience in such an important tournament. What impressed me though was the strong defence of England, which seemed even better than the Germans in the opening match.

While the commentators said that England’s performance was somewhat adversely affected by the absence of Wayne Rooney, I am still a bit sceptical about how much he could have achieved at the frontline. The traditional English strategy of long haul transmissions, engineered by captain Beckham in most cases, did not seem to work out properly. If nothing is done to sharpen the edges on the frontline, the English may be doomed for devastation when they meet the Swedes 10 days from now.

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