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  • England 2 Croatia 3

    So I suppose I was wrong. Despite the encouragement of an unlikely Israeli victory on Saturday, the England side, depleted by injuries to key players but still crammed with Premiership superstars, conceded 2 excruciatingly embarrassing goals within a few minutes of the kick-off (Scott Carson no doubt wishes that the first ten minutes of this match had never happened), then (probably shell-shocked) they spent the entire first half failing to make any impact on a Croatia side that, contrary to England's pre-match hopes, had clearly come to Wembley to prove to the world that Croatia were world-beaters and England, as became perfectly obvious, were nothing of the kind. The introduction of Beckham and Defoe at last introduced a sense of threat to an England attack in which Peter Crouch had made sterling efforts to gain possession but had almost no support. The first England goal was nonetheless due to a complete fluke of a penalty. Surely, after all these quirks of fortune, England stood a chance? England fans' prayers seemed to be answered when on 65 minutes Crouch superbly converted a pin-point cross from Beckham. England were going to scrape through by the narrowest of margins! It was not to be. Croatia's winner came from a combination of lax England defending, possibly poor positioning from Scott Carson (that may be a bit harsh) and excellent finishing from Croatian substitute Petric.

    Croatia played very well. England performed far too poorly, and their second-half rally proved too little too late. The damage had in any case already been done in Russia, against Croatia at Wembley, in Tel Aviv and (most damningly) in the home draw against Macedonia. Steve McClaren had to go, not because he lost this game, but because his England side had dropped points far more cheaply against much weaker opponents. England had failed to display both the ability to beat strong opponents and either the know-how or the desire to see off weak ones. A change of manager is only a start.

  • Estonia 0, England 3

    Well done, England!

    Joe Cole scored an outstanding goal, assisted by a header from Peter Crouch (who has a good game in general, although he picked up a stupid booking in the dying seconds which rules him out of the Israel game in September). David Beckham picked up a knock early on and had a very subdued first half, then came back for the second half (with, unbeknown to the watching England fans, his leg wrapped up in cotton wool or whatever it was) and provided superb deliveries to set up goals for Crouch and Michael Owen (who otherwise gave a fair performance, but seemed to be lacking match fitness). England's defence had a number of wobbly moments (although John Terry was on hand to preserve England's clean sheet when the need arose), and Estonia saw rather more of the ball in dangerous areas than England fans would have ideally liked.

    To be fair to Estonia, they defended stoutly and took advantage of England's open gameplay to keep alive Estonian hopes of at least a consolation goal.

    You may not have enjoyed their tactics, but Estonia at least did themselves some credit tonight. Still, we beat them. And next we will beat Israel, and after that we will beat Russia. After that, Estonia can try their luck against us again in October (and we will beat them). We aspire (albeit a little optimistically) to be invincible.

  • Russian nuclear posturing.

    President Vladimir Putin, as quoted by the International Herald Tribune (04/07/2007):

    "If part of the strategic nuclear potential of the United States finds itself in Europe and, according to our military experts, threatens us, then we will have to take corresponding retaliatory steps. What are these steps? Of course, we will have to have new targets in Europe."

    Oh dear. On behalf of the populations of Europe, can I just say: we love you too, Mr Putin. Could you please not point those missiles at us? Pretty please with sugar on top, as the English saying goes?

    So, admittedly, President Putin's remark is a response to the NATO plans for an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and to a proposed relocation of US forces in Europe to Bulgaria and Romania, and actually has very little to do with Putin having any intention of starting World War III. And I have to admit that the prospect of a new arms race in Europe prompted by America (prompted, to be fair, by the Axis of Evil, although I'm still not quite clear how the highly theoretical capability of North Korean missiles to hit Western Alaska on a good day constitutes a clear and present danger to the NATO alliance) is not exactly welcome. Of course, the United States' proposed new military deployments are intended as a deterrent to Iran, rather than as a provocation to Russia. Iran of course does not have missiles that can hit European targets, and would not particularly benefit from firing missiles at European targets anyway, but of course it does have any number of actual weapons and proposed weapons and entire military strategies aimed at Israel. Once again, it looks like the war game scenarios for World War III are being designed around the ruins of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which I'm sure is something that the put-upon citizens of Tel Aviv and Haifa and Gaza will be really thankful for. In the meantime, while the world waits with eager anticipation for this Battle of Armageddon in Palestine, all sorts of weaponry lies around in Europe, to be waved furiously every time Russia and America are having one of their friendly tiffs.

    Well, at least England's football team can have its revenge on you, Mr Putin. Come September 12th, your country is going to get one heck of a beating (I am right about that, aren't I Mr McLaren?).

    PS Could I just mention in passing that I was extremely alarmed to hear about the incidents at the recent Gay Pride March in Moscow, and while the Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov is entitled to his personal views on homosexuality, however prejudiced they are, it was a dereliction of his civic responsibilities to have allowed this violence to occur in his city.

    Президент Владимир Путин, как указано Международная Трибуна Геральда (04/07/2007) :
    "Если часть стратегического ядерного потенциала Соединенных Штатов оказывается в Европе и, согласно нашим военным экспертам, угрожает нам, то мы должны будем принять соответствующие карательные меры. Что является этими шагами? Конечно, мы должны будем иметь новые цели в Европе."

    О дорогой. От имени поселений Европы, может я только сказать: мы любим Вас также, г. Путина. Вы могли понравиться не, указывают те ракеты на нас? Довольно пожалуйста с сахаром на вершине, поскольку английское высказывание идет?

    Так, по общему признанию, замечание Президента Путина - ответ на планы НАТО относительно противоракетного щита в Польше и Чешской республике и к предложенному переселению американских сил в Европе к Болгарии и Румынии, и фактически очень немного имеет отношение к Путину, имеющему любое намерение начать Мировую войну III. И я должен признать, что перспектива новой гонки вооружений в Европе, вызванной Америкой (вызванный, чтобы быть справедливым, Осью Зла, хотя я все еще не весьма ясен, как очень теоретическая способность Северокорейских ракет, чтобы поразить Западную Аляску в хороший день составляет ясную и существующую опасность для НАТО) не точно долгожданна. Конечно, предложенное новое военное развертывание Объединенных государств предназначено как средство устрашения к Ирану, а не как провокация к России. Иран конечно не имеет ракет, которые могут поразить европейские цели, и особенно не извлекли бы выгоду из нацеливания ракет в европейских целях так или иначе, но конечно это действительно имеет любое число фактического оружия и предложенного оружия и всех военных стратегий нацеленным на Израиль. Еще раз, это похожо, что военные сценарии игры для Мировой войны III разрабатываются вокруг руин арабско-израильского конфликта, который я уверен - кое-что, что помещенный - на граждан Тель-Авива и Хайфы и Сектора Газа будет действительно благодарен за. Тем временем, в то время как мир ждет с нетерпеливым ожиданием этого Сражения Армагеддона в Палестине, все виды лжи вооружения вокруг в Европе, развеваться неистово каждый раз, Россия и Америка имеют одну из их дружественных размолвок.

    Хорошо, по крайней мере футбольная команда Англии может иметь ее месть на Вас, г. Путине. Приедьте 12-ого сентября, ваша страна собирается получать один хек избиения (я прав об этом, разве я не г. Маклейрн?).

    ПОСТСКРИПТУМ Мог я только упомянуть мимоходом, что я был чрезвычайно встревожен, чтобы услышать об инцидентах в последний Веселый март Гордости в Москве, и в то время как Московский мэр Юрий Лужков имеет право на его личные представления относительно гомосексуализма, однако нанес ущерб, они, это было нарушение его гражданских обязанностей позволить этому насилию происходить в его городе.

  • The PM is - well, obviously not dead as such, but at least put out of harm's way. Long live the PM.

    So Tony Blair is finally letting go of the reins of power.

    Many congratulations to the new, ahem, caretaker Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Not that I've actually voted for him, since, of course, nobody has actually voted for him specifically. Apparently, there's a noticeboard somewhere in Westminster where you could suggest him for the job, in preference to someone you haven't even heard of before, or, presumably, your own suggested nomination of someone like Mr Blobby. The other guy trying for the leadership, a certain John McDonnell, whom hardly anybody had heard of, said that his own failure to gain enough support to force a contest was "a blow for democracy". Of course, it was nothing of the kind, unless he meant "democracy" in the narrow sense of parliamentary representative government. Had he persuaded a few more MPs to support his candidature, Mr McDonnell would have ensured that the new PM would be "elected" solely by the Labour Party members, thus disenfranchising every Conservative, Lib Dem, SNP, Plaid Cymru, DUP, Ulster Unionist, Sinn Fein, Green, Save Our Local Hospital and Monster Raving Loony supporter in the country. That would have been very democratic.

    Please don't misunderstand me. I'm sure that Gordon Brown will prove to be an extremely capable Prime Minister, just as he's proven himself a very effective Chancellor. And I dare say John McDonnell is a very intelligent and well-intentioned MP. But I can't help feeling that the ability of a single political clique or even one political party to impose its own candidate as leader of the nation undermines democratic principles. Of course, in theory British elections install a party in power rather than an individual; but very often it is the specific individual at the head of the party who has won it its mandate for power. Blair's power base at the polls did not consist solely (or perhaps even mainly) of Labour stalwarts with union memberships or party cards.

    I hope the caretaker Prime Minister will bear this in mind when he embarks on new reforms of the British constitution. May I suggest that ideally he should call a proper election (i.e. one with David Cameron's colleagues included on the list of candidates) as soon as is reasonable, to acknowledge the right of the British voters to have a PM they actually elected?

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