Archive for the Football Category

R.I.P. Gordon Banks (1937-2019)

Posted in Football with tags , , , , on February 13, 2019 by telescoper

It’s been a hectic couple of days during which I somehow missed the very sad news of the passing of legendary goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who died yesterday (12th February 2019) at the age of 81.

Gordon Banks made 628 appearances during a 15-year career in the Football League, and won 73 caps for England, highlighted by starting every game of the 1966 World Cup campaign. He will however be best remembered for one amazing save in the 1970 World Cup, so by way of a short tribute here is a rehash of a post I wrote some years ago about that.

–0–

I’ve posted a few times about science and sport, but this bit of action seems to defy the laws of physics. I remember watching this match, a group game at Guadalajara (Mexico) between England and Brazil from the 1970 World Cup, live on TV when I was seven years old. The Brazil team of 1970 was arguably the finest collection of players ever to grace a football field and the names of Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto, Rivelino and, of course, Pelé, were famous even in our school playground. The England team of 1970 was also very good, but they were made to look very ordinary that day – with one notable exception.

The only thing I remember well about the game itself  was this save – the best of many excellent stops – by the great goalkeeper Gordon Banks. I’ve seen it hundreds of times since, and still can’t understand how he managed to block this header from Pelé. You can tell from Bobby Moore’s reaction (No. 6, on the line) that he also thought Brazil had scored…

Here’s the description of this action from wikipedia:

Playing at pace, Brazil were putting England under enormous pressure and an attack was begun by captain Carlos Alberto who sent a fizzing low ball down the right flank for the speedy Jairzinho to latch on to. The Brazilian winger sped past left back Terry Cooper and reached the byline. Stretching slightly, he managed to get his toes underneath the fast ball and deliver a high but dipping cross towards the far post. Banks, like all goalkeepers reliant on positional sensibility, had been at the near post and suddenly had to turn on his heels and follow the ball to its back post destination.

Waiting for the ball was Pelé, who had arrived at speed and with perfect timing. He leapt hard at the ball above England right back Tommy Wright and thundered a harsh, pacy downward header towards Banks’ near post corner. The striker shouted “Goal!” as he connected with the ball. Banks was still making his way across the line from Jairzinho’s cross and in the split-second of assessment the incident allowed, it seemed impossible for him to get to the ball. He also had to dive slightly backwards and down at the same time which is almost physically impossible. Yet he hurled himself downwards and backwards and got the base of his thumb to the ball, with the momentum sending him cascading to the ground. It was only when he heard the applause and praise of captain Bobby Moore and then looked up and saw the ball trundling towards the advertising hoardings at the far corner, that he realised he’d managed to divert the ball over the bar – he’d known he got a touch but still assumed the ball had gone in. England were not being well received by the locals after cutting comments made about Mexico prior to the tournament by Ramsey, but spontaneous applause rang around the Guadalajara, Jalisco stadium as Banks got back into position to defend the resulting corner. Pelé, who’d begun to celebrate a goal when he headed the ball, would later describe the save as the greatest he’d ever seen.

Here is Gordon Banks describing it in his own words.

Brazil deservedly went on to win the game, but only by a single goal. Without Gordon Banks, England would have been well and truly hammered.

Rest in peace, Gordon Banks (1937-2019).

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World Cup Félicitations!

Posted in Football on July 15, 2018 by telescoper

French President Emmanuel Macron seemed rather excited at the end of this afternoon’s World Cup Final, and why not? France are worthy winners of what has been a fascinating competition after a very exciting final, which I watched in a pub in Maynooth. Most of the crowd there were rooting for underdogs Croatia, actually.

Incidentally, before the match, the bookies were offering odds of 4-1 against Croatia, which I reckoned was quite generous. Although I thought France would win, I didn’t think there was all much between the two sides. I didn’t place a bet though…

As it turned out I thought Croatia were a bit unlucky, actually, and for long periods they looked the better organised and more composed team; they were certainly better at keeping the ball in midfield: overall Croatia had 66% possession, which is an amazing statistic for a team that lost 4-2!

France’s prodigiously talented forward Kylian Mbappé was particularly wasteful, giving the ball away frequently in the first half. It was only when Croatia fell 3-1 behind and had to throw men forward that Mbappe started to find space and from then on he was a constant threat.

Much of the reaction to the result focussed on the penalty for handball, which didn’t look intentional to me. That may have been vital but I think Croatia’s goalkeeper should have done better with the two second-half goals that really killed off the game.

Anyway all credit to Croatia for playing their part in an exciting final, and for keeping going right to the end. They definitely had chances to get back into the game, but it just wasn’t to be.

Croatia were a little unlucky this afternoon, but over the whole competition I think France were the most consistently impressive team and deserved to win the World Cup.

Le football rentre à la maison!

P.S.

P. P. S. We had a bit of rain today, which was nice!

After Extra Time

Posted in Biographical, Football with tags , , , , , , on July 12, 2018 by telescoper

My blogging activities have been a little thin over the last few days as I’ve been in a race against time to submit a grant application. The deadline for that was 4pm today. I was advised to submit it `in good time’, however, and managed to do that. The electronic submission receipt is time-stamped 3:59:47. I guess that’s what they call `Just-in-time Delivery’!

It’s my first attempt at a grant application in the Irish system and I had very little notice of the funding call. It took me quite a while to figure out how to construct a budget using rules that are different from the UK, and that left me relatively little time to write the science case. I cobbled something together but don’t expect it is coherent enough to get funded. On the other hand, I might get some useful feedback on what to do better next time. This approach doesn’t work in the UK system, because for many schemes there you can only apply once every three years.

Anyway, to get a break from grant-writing yesterday evening, I strolled around my local in Maynooth for a pint and to watch a bit of the World Cup Semi-Final between England and Croatia. I got there just in time to see Croatia’s equalizer, which drew huge cheers from the (predominantly Irish) crowd, and decided to stay until the end. Croatia’s second goal got an even bigger cheer, though it wasn’t exactly a surprise even if it did take them until extra time to score it. From what I saw, Croatia thoroughly deserved to win. Congratulations to them.

(In case you’re wondering, yes I did bet on Croatia to go through. But only €50, at 5/2….)

It has been a strange World Cup for England. With Germany, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and Brazil (and Italy not even qualifying) it seemed that the fates had paved a relatively easy route to the final. I do think, however, that people overestimated the quality of the England team: they lost to Belgium’s B-team in their last group game and only just scraped past Colombia in the following round. It’s true that they beat Sweden comfortably in the Quarter Final, but I thought that was more because Sweden were poor than because England were good.

In the end I think Croatia won because England displayed a longstanding weakness of English teams – an inability to maintain possession of the ball in midfield.  Against teams with good attacking players you just can’t afford to keep giving the ball away!  They also seemed to get very rattled when Croatia equalized. On the other hand, this is a very young England side which promises much in the future.  There’s plenty of time before the next World Cup for them to grow proper beards, for example. And one person who definitely deserves praise is manager Gareth Southgate, who has not only shown that he’s a pretty good tactician but also that he’s a very nice bloke, with a fine sense of sportsmanship.

So football’s not coming home after all. But where will it go? I do fancy France to win it, but I hope it’s a good final. I have a feeling that the 3rd/4th playoff between England and Belgium might be a good game too!

 

 

Three Lions

Posted in Football, History with tags , , , , , , on July 11, 2018 by telescoper

I’ve been struggling and failing to put together lots of bits for a grant application today; the deadline is tomorrow at 4pm so it looks like I’ll be working late tonight (either side of the England-Croatia World Cup semi-final). Anyway, having a short break for a cup of tea I decided to put up a short post about the `Three Lions’ symbol used by the England football team and its supporters.

You can study the evolution of this symbol in detail here is based on a design originally brought to England by Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou (in France), grant patriarch of the Angevin dynasty and father of Henry Plantagenet (who became Henry II of England). Geoffrey of Anjou’s emblem had six lions rather than three, and his son used designs with either one or two, but King Richard I and King John occasionally used versions with three lions and by the time of Henry III (who lived from 1216 to 1272) the Three Lions appeared on the Royal Coat of Arms pretty much as they are now:

En passant, in heraldic jargon this coat of arms is described Gules, three lions passant guardant Or. The objects shown in the centre of a coat of arms (i.e. the lions in this case) are called `charges’. `Gules’ is basically `red’ and `Or’ is yellow; `passant’ means `moving towards the viewer’s left’ and `guardant’ means `looking at the viewer’ – a lion passant would have its head facing the direction of motion.

Anyway, my point is that this symbol which is now taken to represent England was actually of Angevin origin and is really a French emblem. I don’t know for sure but I don’t think any of the Angevin or Plantagenet Kings mentioned above could even speak English…

Synesis, Metonymy and the World Cup

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , , on June 27, 2018 by telescoper

The shock defeat of Germany by South Korea this afternoon means that the world champions fail to progress from the group stage and are eliminated from the competition. In other words, Germany are out. Or should that be Germany is out?

Strictly speaking, the singular form is correct (as was Nelson with his “England expects..” message at Trafalgar) but that doesn’t mean that the English plural is necessarily wrong. This is an example of a figure of speech called a metonymic shift, whereby a thing or concept is referred to not by its own name but by the name of something associated with it. An example is found in the phrase “to boil a kettle”: obviously it is not the kettle that gets boiled, but the water within it, but this isn’t an error as such, merely a grammatical device. Metonymic shifts also take place when we refer to the Government as “Westminster” or the film-making industry as “Hollywood”.

When we come to the “Germany is ” versus “Germany are” debate, the noun “Germany” can be taken to mean “The German team” (singular) but in British English the metonymic shift takes this to mean a collection of individual players (plural), i.e. the meaning is transferred from the “German team” to the “German players”. The use of a verb indicating a singular subject constitutes “formal agreement” with “team” whereas the plural form would be “notional agreement”.

I know that this usage is regarded as incorrect by American colleagues I have discussed it with, to the extent that it actually grates on them a bit. But I think “the team are fighting amongst themselves” is a better construction than any I can think of that includes formal rather than notional agreement. Moreover this kind of construction is correct in languages with more precise grammatical rules than English.

The Greek term synesis refers to a grammatical alteration in which a word takes the gender or number not of the word with which it should regularly agree, but of some other word implied by that word, a device much used in both Greek and Roman poetry and also in rhetoric. The distinction between “the Government is united” and “the Government are divided” offers a particularly interesting example.

Related to this difference is the fact that American sports teams tend to have names that are themselves plural, e.g. the Cubs, the Dolphins, the Jets, the Broncos etc, whereas in Britain they are more often singular (though with exceptions, such as Wolverhampton Wanderers).

Anyway, here’s a quick poll to see what you think:

UPDATE: Just to prove, as if it were needed, that I don’t have a life, I had a look at the English Football League teams for the 2018/9 season, with the the following results as to how many names are plural:

Premiership: 1/20 (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Championship: 3/24 (Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Queens Park Rangers)

League One: 3/24 (Bristol Rovers, Wycombe Wanderers, Doncaster Rovers)

League Two: 3/24 (MK Dons, Forest Green Rovers, Tranmere Rovers)

In Scotland there are:

Premiership 1/12 (Rangers)

In the lower divisions there are a further four: out of thirty teams: Aidrieonians, Raith Rovers,Albion Rovers, Berwick Rangers.

A Day of Sports in Cardiff

Posted in Cardiff, Cricket, Football with tags , , on May 6, 2018 by telescoper

Today I saw my first day of County Cricket this season at Sophia Gardens. It was actually the 3rd day of Glamorgan against Kent, which also turned out to be the last, as Kent won by six wickets.

Defeat for Glamorgan looked pretty inevitable after a horrendous first innings batting collapse from 57-0 to 94 all out. Although they dismissed Kent for 174 and scored 274 in their second innings, the lead of 194 never looked like being enough. On the other hand Yorkshire won their latest match against Essex despite being all out for 50 in their first innings!

As it turned out, in the warm sunshine and good batting conditions, Glamorgan’s bowlers tried hard but didn’t have much luck and never really looked like precipitating the sort of collapse that they needed to win the game.

Today’s play began with a farcical delay caused by a leak in the underground drainage system beneath the square which caused a wet patch. Play was delayed until 12.40 and the players had an early lunch while the sun did its work drying out the square. I’m not sure how this happened but it didn’t affect the game, which was always going to finish today given that there was no chance of the weather intervening. .

A very disappointing result for Glamorgan, but hopefully they can rebound in their next game.

Anyway, just before 2.30pm those of us inside Sophia Gardens (only abiut 250) could hear the sound of fireworks from the Cardiff City Stadium (which is about 20 minutes walk away). Despite only drawing today’s match against Reading, Cardiff City are promoted to the Premiership for next season in second place. They have Birmingham City to thank for that, who beat Fulham 3-1 to secure their Championship survival and prevent Fulham from finishing ahead of Cardiff. Miss Lemon will be pleased.

At the other end of the table, Barnsley, Burton Albion join already relegated Sunderland in League One. The three relegated clubs, once again, are all from the Midlands. It’s strange how often that happens..

Sports Round-up

Posted in Cricket, Football with tags , , , , on April 15, 2018 by telescoper

Feeling a bit under the weather – and mindful that I have to get the early flight back to Cardiff tomorrow morning – I’ve been taking it easy today. I did, however, venture forth to the local pub in Maynooth (which is approximately fifty yards from my flat) after lunch to have a pint and watch the second half of Newcastle Utd against Arsenal in the Premiership League. I’m glad I did, as Newcastle won 2-1, which cheered me up considerably.

After four consecutive wins Newcastle have now got 41 points from 33 games and are in tenth place. Though relegation is still mathematically possible, that would require a very improbable sequence of results.

Even the bottom club, West Bromwich Albion, still have a chance of avoiding relegation. They even managed to beat Manchester Utd today, but it still looks most probable that they, Stoke City and Southampton will be in the Championship next year.

Manchester United’s defeat later this afternoon hands the Premiership title to their Midlands rivals Manchester City. Congratulations to City. They’ve clearly been the best team all season, a little end-of-term wobble notwithstanding.

Wolverhampton Wanderers gained promotion yesterday, but the second automatic spot is yet to be decided. Cardiff City looked to have blown it in recent matches, but had a good win yesterday against Midlands side Norwich City while a last-gasp goal from Brentford meant Fulham only drew. With a game in hand, the Bluebirds are in a strong position but you never know.

At the other end of the Championship lies Sunderland, but even they have a (remote) chance of avoiding relegation.

Anyway, as always, the last handful of matches of the football season coincides with the start of the cricket season. The County Championship started on Friday but many games were badly affected by the weather. Where play was possible, conditions favoured bowling rather than batting: Kent, for example, were bowled out for 64 in their first innings against Gloucestershire..

Glamorgan have been playing a three-day match against a Cardiff MCCU team. The students had Glamorgan in trouble at 28-3 chasing their first innings 249 but the professionals recovered to reach 217-5 at yesterday’s close. No play was possible today because of rain so the match ended in a draw.

Hopefully, when teaching and exam marking are finished in both Maynooth and Cardiff, I’ll be able to make use of my season ticket for some of Glamorgan’s matches at the SSE SWALEC Stadium in Sophia Gardens. The Welsh weather may, of course, have something to say about that!