martes, 15 de octubre de 2013

England v Poland – live! - The Guardian

The Brazilians have famously still got a cob on about Alcides Ghiggia, though they're not the only ones desperate to shoo away the ghosts of IV Campeonato Mundial De Futebol. England have issues with the 1950 World Cup too, and would rather like the chance next summer to add a redemptive footnote to the most humbling defeat in their history, the 1-0 loss to the USA in Belo Horizonte, and their subsequent failure to get through a group they were so sure of breezing that they didn't call up Stanley Matthews until it was far too late. The only good news that year for Walter Winterbottom's men? One of the tournament sponsors was the Bayer drug Cafiaspirina®, a joyous concoction of aspirin and caffeine, so at least they could stock up on cheap pills to numb the pain on the long, whacked-up journey back home.

Back to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup is the very thing to right a few wrongs, then. And it's a prize that's in England's grasp. All they need to do is beat Poland, a team they've played 18 times in the past, winning ten, drawing seven, and losing just the once. There's a ghost lurking here too, of course, in the shape of Jan Tomaszewski, star turn of the travelling circus troupe that pitched up at Wembley in 1973 and denied England a place at the 1974 finals, before going on to prove themselves one of the best teams on the planet. But if England are going to obsess about history - which in fairness they probably aren't - surely it's better to concentrate on the other times they've met Poland in World Cup competition. For the record is good: a 3-0 win that happened in Monterrey a long time ago; a spawny 0-0 draw at Stadion ?l?ski that sent England to the 1990 finals; a 3-0 win at Wembley in the doomed attempt to get to the 1994 event; home and away wins en route to the 1998 and 2006 finals; and a Joe Hart error in Warsaw that gave Poland a share of the spoils 12 months ago. I should have stopped while the going was good, now I come to think about it.

No matter; England should be going into this match on the front foot, crippling tension and 18,000-strong away support notwithstanding. Roy Hodgson has had his critics, but the man opted to seize the day last Friday against mediocre Montenegro, handing Andros Townsend his debut to devastating effect. More positivity should, if the form book's any guide, see his men through to Brazil. England are undefeated in Group H and good at this - their last defeat in a World Cup qualifier with the group still live came against Northern Ireland in 2005 - while Poland have been a shower, scoring only eight times in their campaign, if you factor out the ten goals scored San Marino, which we surely should. Still, England will be wary of the attacking threat posed by Borussia Dortmund duo Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszcykowski, and ... well, no other top-drawer acts, if we're being super-critical. Then again, the pressure's off Poland, who are out whatever happens tonight and will want to give their fans a little something back, as well as posting a marker for the Euro 2016 qualifiers. England have this on paper, but with the anxiety dial up to 11 and the Poles freewheeling, anything is possible. File down some nice smooth edges on your fingernails; you'll be less likely to bite them that way.

Kick off: 8pm in north-west London, 9pm in Poland.

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