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Ukraine coach Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko said his players had been overawed by the Wembley atmosphere in their 2-1 World Cup defeat by England but their nerves must have been based on the twin-towered mystique of the old stadium rather than the soulless feeling of the new.
At a cost of 800 million pounds ($1.15 billion), the new Wembley undoubtedly looks impressive and there was no hint of the credit crunch as the wine flowed in the packed private dining suites before the game.
Out in the seats, however, any hope of building a rip-roaring atmosphere before the game continues to be undone by the FA’s obsession with deafening announcements.
In the 30 minutes before kick off on Wednesday fans were treated to a spoof comedy show involving the England players, a lengthy film pleading for respect for referees in amateur football — including the chance to receive the FA’s own guide to parental behaviour — and pleas for the fans to respect the national anthems.
Quite how far Michael Owen’s career has nosedived was underlined at the weekend when the Newcastle United striker was again overlooked for his country despite the lack of attacking options for coach Fabio Capello.
Capello watched three of his squad strikers hobble off at Wembley on Saturday during the 4-0 friendly victory over Slovakia with Emile Heskey and Carlton Cole both ruled out of Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.
Italy coach Marcello Lippi probably expected to be grilled for again overlooking Antonio Cassano, but England counterpart Fabio Capello may not have foreseen the furore surrounding him actually picking a player.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Ledley King has a chronic knee problem which prevents him training yet Capello still deemed the centre back good enough for an England squad recall for the friendly with Slovakia and World Cup qualifier with Ukraine.
There has not been one since 1960, the Scottish don’t want its return, neither do the Welsh, nor the Northern Irish and yet the prospect of a British soccer team at the 2012 London Olympics remains.
The English Football Association is refusing to relinquish an idea that nobody else seems to care about.
The Premier League table has made pretty interesting reading this season, what with Aston Villa and Chelsea threatening the end of the Big Four era and Tottenham stuck far too low down the standings for the comfort of their fans.
Sadly, the football itself is not providing the same level of drama.
A quick glance at the 2008/09 Player of the Year candidates shows the theme of this season rather nicely: defence.
David Beckham was roundly booed when he was booked for dissent in Seville on Wednesday but most of the local fans had their tongues firmly in their cheeks given there is a good deal of affection in Spain for the former Real Madrid midfielder.
His feat in equalling Bobby Moore’s England outfield appearance record of 108 is impressive to the Spanish, whose most-capped non-goalkeeper is Beckham’s former Real colleague Raul with 102, followed by Fernando Hierro on 89.
from Left field:
Sports Pictures Editor Greg Bos has chosen the first pic, a shot of David Beckham from Spanish photographer Marcelo del Pozo. Over to Greg...
A great many people, most of whom never saw Bobby Moore play, have decided that it is an insult to his memory that David Beckham will equal his outfield record of 108 England caps if he plays against Spain on Wednesday.
But if Moore , who died in 1993, had been around today you can be sure he would have been the first to sincerely congratulate a fellow gentleman of the game. The Golden-locked hero of 1966 would have recognised much of himself in Goldenballs.
Resistance to plans for a unified British soccer team for the 2012 London Olympics means the idea may well be a one-off, if it gets off the ground at all.
The four home nations are wary of setting precedents that could harm their independent status, despite their lack of success as separate entities.
David Beckham has surprised the many doubters among fans and pundits by scoring two goals in five starts for AC Milan and it looks increasingly likely he’ll be hanging around Serie A for a lot longer.
All in all, it’s turned into a very happy move for the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder