France 98: When Michael Owen was Pele, and Zidane had hair – FourFourTwo’s Inside Track – FourFourTwo

Everything included, probably the best tournament I’ve seen.

France 98: When Michael Owen was Pele, and Zidane had hair – FourFourTwo’s Inside Track – FourFourTwo.

I was very young in 1986, and the entire tournament has a magical feeling to it. I had just started playing football, and just started liking the game. And let me be honest, my memory of the ’86 world cup is almost entirely clouded by that magical Diego goal, and the best world-cup football final I have yet seen.

1998 was different. This was a really great tournament. Everything about it was almost perfect. And this also saw the almost inevitable clash of the two greatest footballers of that generation, Ronaldo and Zidane. Ronaldo was incredible right through the tournament, and just fizzled in the finals. His redemption wold come in Japan and Korea, four years later. And while we see this as Zidane’s tournament, he was injured for a great part of the tournament, only being influential in the latter part of the tournament.

France had an incredible defence-line. Blanc and Desailly as the half-backs, Lizarazu and Thuram as full backs; Deschamps as the defensive midfielder and Petit as the ball-winner. That’s what won them match after match.

Brazil? They had Ronaldo. That was really enough. And Rivaldo. And Bebeto, now a shadow of the player four years ago.  And I sincerely believe that if Ronaldo were to be fit for the finals, they would have won. Nothing could stop Ronaldo in his pomp; not even the greatest defence ever assembled.

Other memories of the tournament:  THAT goal by Bergkamp! And while Ronaldo vs Zidane is what people remember this world cup by, Bergkamp vs Batistuta was equally captivating in my opinion. England? Owen, OWEN, OWEEEEEEEENNNNN! And of course Beckham’s red card. Nigeria — oh what a team they had! Jay Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George, Taribo West et al! Remember Salas and Zamorano? Croatia’s (or Davor Suker’s) demolition of Germany? Christian Vieri and his goalscoring? Brazil’s almost unbelievable loss to Norway (did they throw the match? — poor, poor Morocco)? Chilavert? The Blanco hop? USA vs Iran? Mehdi Mahdvikia?

Oh what great memories! Great, great tournament.


Messi / Ronaldo : fears

Here’s a prayer.

God, God, please ensure Messi stays intact. Please ensure there is no major injury to him.

The reason we want to compare Messi to di Stefano, to Pele and to Diego, is because this happened.

Ronaldo is still an all-time great. The highest goalscorer in the world cups. Sensational, and one of the two greatest talents in the post-Diego world (Messi being the other… not Zidane, while Zidane is a higher achiever than Ronaldo, and will rate higher than Ronaldo in the overall scales).

However, there could have been no comparison, the guy was so good. He could have been better than Pele and Maradona. But for that injury.

May Messi have a relatively injury-free playing life. Please? He is a gift to the football-loving public, a rare, precious thing.

Jaxx view 1 – Owen


…This is the second time I am writing something similar, so sorry there. But this is for Dave (no I have nothing better to do…)

Many ManUnited fans (and others too) tend to mention that they would like Owen in the World Cup because they will ‘back him to score against Brazil in the last minute’ (and not, say, Defoe). That reminds me that an injury-ravaged, slowed down old goal-poacher (indeed, arguably the best goal-poacher the world seen in the last 10-20 years, possibly ever) is banging them in for fun at Corinthians in Brazil (something Owen isn’t doing, incidentally; not yet at least)…And he does not have a whiff of a chance for a place in the World Cup for Brazil.

Lesson – Form and fitness over luck. So many makeshifts fitted into the team, just to ensure the last-minute thing against Brazil? Think of it, you have Argentina in the second round, and Messi is running at Barry/ Lescott…You can lose it all there. And carrying Owen to the finals for that last-minute miracle might come up three rounds short.

Jaxx [{()}] B

Fat Ronaldo to Citeh?

Will Man City have one of the best wing combinations in the league this year in Petrov and SWP?
One of the best, yes.
And waste it by signing a slow and past-it Ronaldo?
Oft – injured, yes. Slow? Past it? Neither’s true. The guy has been (at par with Zidane) the best footballer in the post-Maradona era. And can still score goals for fun. If Citeh manages to get 20 matches out of him in the league, they will get 15 goals, if not more. Whenever he had played for Milan in the last two years (which is not much) he has put them in the back of the net often. And this is in Serie A, a more defensive league. 
Citeh fans should be jubilant if Fat Ronaldo comes in.

Andriy Shevchenko leaves for Milan

A chapter ends in the English premiership. A chapter that promised to be great, promised to be memorable,  but a chapter that ended up depressingly short, so much so that tunnel-visioned English and Asian fans of the Premiership (and nothing else) will end up remembering this particular episode with sarcastic humor.

And that is unfortunate. Andriy Shevchnko came into Chelsea as the best striker in the world, just returning from scoring the winning goal in a Champion’s league final. He was an expensive purchase, he was a personal friend of Roman Abramovich. He would be playing for Chelsea, the club with all the money in the world, the club on its way up, and the club with the inimitable Jose Mourinho. Andriy Shevchenko was almost destined to be a success.

And really, he should have been. He had it all, and in his peak, he could really be compared with the best of the best out-and-out strikers of this generation, Marco Van Basten and Gabriel Batistuta. Even Thierry Henry. Probably only Ronaldo (the gap-toothed original) could be considered better than him… Shevchenko was brilliant all the way. He was spectacular in his days of youth, forming a super partnership with Serhiy Rebrov at Dynamo Kyiv…. and he was absolutely unstoppable at times with Milan.

But then, somehow, he failed to kick on in Chelsea. The mistrust that Mourinho had for him, allied with Mourinho’s deteriorating relationship with Abramovich put Shevchenko at a state of unease. Also, Didier Drogba having the season of his life did not help much either.

Mourinho’s penchant for playing only one man up front, apparently, should have suited Shevchenko, for Milan used to play a similar game. But the difference was that with Chelsea under Mourinho, Drogba was expected to hold the long ball up front for the midfielders (Lampard, Joe Cole et al.) to have a crack at; while in Milan, the deep-lying creative genius of Andrea Pirlo linked to the further-up-the-pitch creativity of Kaka and Clarence Seedorf to create chances for Sheva. Both tactics work, it was just that Drogba was better than Sheva at Mourinho’s style of play.

Shevchenko really had everything. Pace, strength, headers, skill, control, temperament, poaching ability… even a mean free-kick. He had everything that would have suited him to every league in the world, and he would have suited excellently to the Chelsea of Ranieri or even Scolari. It’s just that in Mourinho’s Chelsea, Drogba, with his superhuman strength and ability to hold the ball off three defenders, was a better fit.

Adn yet, Premiership-watchers will remember Sheva as little more than a failure. And he deserves better. He is a winner. And who knows, he might do well again at Milan. Here’s praying for that.