It’s all about international football this week.
1. How poor did Argentina look on Sunday morning? In a massive home game against their arch rivals, they were horribly flat. You might just have to add Maradona to the list of great players who were poor managers. Not that it should be a surprise – he was just as shocking when he took over Boca Juniors and this was a desperate appointment that now looks to have backfired. Lose to Paraguay on Wednesday and Messi and co might have to contemplate spending their summer on a beach somewhere. The Argentine FA must wish they had appointed Marcelo Bielsa, who has worked wonders with Chile.
2. James McFadden scored a goal strongly reminiscient of Maradona, albeit against much weaker opponents, at Hampden Park on Saturday. It was one of those majestic individual goals that carried a nervy Scotland to a crucial win. And then he got booked to miss the big one against the Dutch in midweek. But goals like that make you wonder why George Burley – and probably Alex McLeish at Birmingham, too – doesn’t make the most of his mercurial talent. McFadden’s the best player Scotland have but all too often is watching games from the sidelines or wasted out wide.
3. I watched the repeat of Denmark-Portugal yesterday afternoon and had to wonder just why Portugal were so poor. Sure, they created a hatful of chances, but lacked the ruthlessness to stick them away. It can’t all be Carlos Queiroz’s fault, surely? Ronaldo cut a terribly frustrated figure as things didn’t run for him and, despite their late equaliser, the Portuguese still have work to do to get out of their qualifying group. Never has Portgual’s lack of a goalscorer – rather than one who creates – been more evident.
4. How have France not sacked Raymond Domenech yet? He presided over a laughably inept side at Euro 2008 and managed to keep his job despite a wretched start to this qualifying campaign. The French should still make it to South Africa, although they are making heavy weather of a pretty straightforward group, but they were terribly laboured against Romania at the weekend. Given the relative riches at their disposal, France should still be one of the leading nations in world football. Such supremacy looks a long way off.
5. Set next to all this, England’s problems look rather minor by comparison. Yet, Capello must still be concerned at the lack of international goalkeeper or a quality right back. Glen Johnson continues to look horribly out of his depth at the highest level and you would have been forgiven for thinking that Robert Green was actually David James given his crazed start at Wembley on Saturday. Against better opposition – and I must stress Slovenia looked a decent side – England would have been a couple of goals down before they started playing.
Any thoughts on the weekend’s international action? Is it game over for the once mighty Cameroon, who appeared marooned to the bottom of their qualifying group? We’ve spoken a lot about Northern Ireland this weekend. Can they grab a huge win on Wednesday? Have I missed the real story? Let us know.