International football

Following Wales' 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Holland, Cris Freddi looks back at the heaviest defeats suffered by the British and Irish in Europe

The Welsh might take a few crumbs from knowing a) they weren’t alone in conceding seven in a game against the Europeans, and b) the English were the first. After the historic 6-3 home defeat by Hungary in 1953, Billy Wright and boys must have travelled to Budapest in some trepidation, though you wouldn’t have known it from listening to Stanley Rous, who said simply “We will win”.

Premier League fixtures get unfixed. Football League matches get put off at short notice. Steve Parish wonders whether internationals are worth the chaos

Premier League clubs, with only 38 matches to play, get Saturdays off when there are international matches on, but down in the Nationwide First Division those weekends bring chaos.

Mark Perryman returned from Moldova wondering if he had been in the same country as the one described in reports of England's World Cup game

Foot-long Moldovan cockroaches ready to nibble your naughty bits was what we were promised, courtesy of the Sunday Mirror, Kalashnikov-toting bandits on every late night street corner, according to the People. Such nonsense wasn’t restricted to the tabloids either, the fearless Paul Wilson faxed this local delicacy back to the Observer: “Like some of the female citizens out looking for business on the streets at night, Moldova prefers to be seen in a dim light.”

Olympic football is becoming increasingly important. Matthew Brown reports

When the final score of the first women’s Olympic football final was flashed up on the stadium scoreboard in giant golden letters just minutes before Michael Johnson’s medal ceremony, the crowd roar almost rivalled the one which erupted when Johnson flashed through the 200 metres finish line earlier in the evening. The world’s most popular sport has had a strange, and sometimes strained, relationship with the world’s biggest sporting event, just as it has with the world’s most powerful nation. Until now. In Atlanta, Olympic football may, just possibly, have become an international competition significant enough to bridge the yawning gap between World Cup Finals.

Cris Freddi looks back at the highs and lows of the European Championship. Guess which category England appear most in

1960: USSR 2, Yugoslavia 1 aet (Paris)
The Soviets were a little lucky to reach the last four, the Fascist government having withdrawn Spain from the quarter-final, but once there they were generally in charge, conceding only one goal in the two matches while wearing down the Czechs (3-0) and the skilful Yugoslavs, their big centre-forward Viktor Pondelnik scoring the winner in extra time. Yugoslavia consoled themselves by winning the Olympic title later that year. To no-one’s surprise, then or now, none of the British countries entered.
Player of the tournament: Lev Yashin, prominent in match reports and beaten only once by a deflection from his captain Igor Netto.
Cock-up of the tournament: Anything by the French defence. Leading 4-2 with a quarter of an hour to go in the semi-final with Yugoslavia, they concede three in three minutes.

The FA took their time didn't they? And even then Howard WIlkinson and Frank Clark were on standby. What a caper

The next couple of months will be an interesting time for Glenn Hoddle and Terry Venables, as they edge towards a handover date.

Dave Hill, the author of England's Glory: 1966 And All That, addresses some of the misconceptions that have developed around England's finest hour

Anyone with a healthy suspicion of nostalgia and a wholesome dislike for chest-beating patriots can be forgiven for feeling cynical about England’s triumph in the 1966 World Cup. After all, if you delve beneath the standard memories of the final against West Germany, of Kenneth Wolstenholme saying what Kenneth Wolstenholme said as Geoff Hurst completed his hat-trick, of Bobby Moore wiping his hands on his shorts before shaking hands with a laughing Liz Windsor, and of Nobby Stiles’ woodentops war dance during the lap of honour, what are the unvarnished facts?

Should an award be created for the world's most badly-organised football tournament, 1996 Concacaf Gold Cup would be a front-runner, as Soccer America's Mike Woitalla reports

It’s immigrant-bashing season in the USA. 1994 saw the launch of ‘Operation Gatekeeper’ – a massive border patrol build-up designed to keep out those Mexicans we otherwise welcome to baby-sit our children, clean our houses, pick our fruit and go to our soccer games. 1996 is election year in the USA and the demagogues are raising the level of immigrant scape-goating to another level. The building of the ‘Tortilla Wall’ – a triple fence with razor-blade barbed wire – is part of political discourse.