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Editor's Note: Michael Davies is blogging the 2006 World Cup for Page 2. Each day throughout the monthlong tournament, he will file reports from Germany (and back home in New York). Check back for more updates.
The "working" press room, FIFA World Cup Stadium, Stuttgart, 7:35 p.m., June 25
England 1 -- Ecuador 0.
How to be absolute pants and win.
I think it would be a massive book. Perhaps an entire business.
Learn to grind out victory in life by being just like the England team -- working quite hard, not doing anything too well, getting a little lucky and doing just about enough to succeed. You don't have to change your habits, perform to your potential, come up with any great ideas or even execute anything well. You just have to show up, be a little bit hard, and stand the heat. Until it cools down.
The England team are all basically pants. But they've turned pantsness into an art. It sucks the opposition in, slows the momentum of the game to a crawl, makes the opposition play down to their level and makes them believe they must be winning even when they're not, which means they seem to try less hard.
But while they're still (barely) winning, let's rank them again in ascending order of pantsness.
Absolutely no pants
Sven-Goran Eriksson, the England coach, should really just walk into the press conference, raise his middle finger to the assembled English football press (who all wanted Beckham dropped) and over his glasses, in his Swedish accent, say "schwivel you idiotsh." Even without the goal, Beckham turned in a vintage performance: He was all over the park, gave his opponents no time on the ball and even puked (apparently, if you watch the replays, even the hurl had dip and curl). He was apparently completely dehydrated and feeling sick before the game. The goal defied the laws of aerodynamics. The Ecuadorean wall was only about 7 yards away, they jumped in the air, the ball went over them and dipped so abruptly it crossed the line, the goalie's fingers, the post and the ground at roughly the same time. Sublime is the word of the tournament and exactly what I screamed from Block 22b, Row 16, Seat 25.
I also deserve the finger for confiding to my friends the Battsek brothers at the Kaisergarten last night (one runs Miramax, the other produced "Once in a Lifetime," the remarkable story of the New York Cosmos, which opens in theaters on July 6 -- that was a shameless plug) that I thought it was time for Sven to think about dropping Ashley Cole. But the orange-booted Arsenal left back was supreme this evening. He tackled everyone who ventured down the Ecuadorean right side, he intercepted passes, he appeared out of nowhere to save the goal.
Short pants (lederhosen, perhaps)
I'm starting to enjoy how ticked off Rooney looks all the time. He should open a pub with Bruce Arena. He's starting to look close to full fitness, which should scare the opposition. With absolutely no support and virtually no service from either wing -- Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard -- he created plenty of opportunities for himself and for others. How can someone who looks so slow actually be so quick? He looks like he hates playing as a lone striker. When he walked off the field at full time, Eriksson offered his hand, Rooney shook it nonchalantly and instantaneously spat out an entire bottle of water, the backwash barely missing the Swede.
For a guy who rarely, if ever, plays fullback, Hargreaves played better in that position than either Gary Neville or Jamie Carragher has this tournament. Nothing flashy, just effective. I'm sure his workrate doesn't come across on television, but it's more impressive than anyone else on the team -- he gets forward and back, looks comfortable in possession and can run with the ball, which takes the pressure off Becks. Apart from one horrible miscued backheader (Terry) and one ridiculous high boot challenge (Terry) that gave the Ecuadoreans a free kick right outside the area, the two centerbacks shut Ecuadorean strikers Agustin Delgado and Carlos Tenorio almost out of the game. Robinson was solid in goal -- much more vocal and sharp on crosses and set pieces. Made one good save low to his right. Wasted time well -- but got booked.
Jeans, worn in the German jugend style, rolled up to somewhere between the knee and the ankle
After his superb performance against Sweden, there was an almost inevitable letdown for Joe Cole this evening. He was played really tight by the Ecuadoreans, who had obviously watched some tape. That left space for Gerrard and Lampard, who seemed to be able to create at will but rarely did. Gerrard made some horrible passes. Lampard failed to score again, quite spectacularly on one occasion after the move of the match by Rooney down the goal line, through the defenders' legs and served up on a paper doily for Lampard to blast it over the bar. He almost cried after that. There will be endless argument back in England about who's worse, Gerrard or Lampard. But can't we just agree that they're both really good players who wore rolled-up jeans for an early evening out in Stuttgart?
Pants ... billowy, stiff, scratchy, multi-pleated Dockers
This just didn't work at all. He looked uncomfortable on the ball, rarely moved forward, barely made a tackle all game and had absolutely no presence. Don't think we'll see him in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday -- I think we'll be going back to 4-4-2.
Throughout the game, the German fans booed the England players mercilessly, cheered every Ecuadorean attack (about three), and sang their own songs to taunt the England masses. They looked so unhappy after the England goal, and even more unhappy at the final whistle.
I hadn't realized how much they either hate England, or fear them as potential opponents in the final. And as fearing seems a long shot based on their performances versus Germany's performances, I think they must just hate us.
So it made me really happy to see them so unhappy. I think it's time for me to come home.
Michael Davies is a British-born television producer whose forthcoming projects for ESPN include the World Series of Darts and the documentary film "Once In A Lifetime" about the New York Cosmos, which will air on ESPN in October after being released theatrically by Miramax in July.