International football

Ankara-based Anthony Lake believes that the recent history of Anglo-Turkish matches could lead to serious danger if fans travel to October's key qualifier

England over 100 Turkey 0 is an unsurprising arrest statistic, though it is one unlikely to be re­peated if England fans are permitted by the Football Association to travel to Istanbul for the return game in October. Sadly the score is likely to be more even, and someone, at least one and maybe more, could be killed.

Despite their recent victory over England, Australian football is still desperate for reform to enable a more competitive national side. Mike Ticher explains

You could perhaps forgive Remo Nogarotto for a bit of hyperbole in the excitement of Australia’s 3-1 win over England at Upton Park in February. “This is the first chapter in the renaissance of Australian soc­cer,” the chairman of the sport’s governing body enthused. “The team has come of age and so has the sport.”

Today, Chile; tomorrow, the world. Dave Hannigan reports on the roundabout route but boundless ambitions of the Palestinian Authority's national side

Counting down towards the start of the qualifying cam­paign for next year’s Asian Cup in China, Pal­estine are hopeful that an influx of some South American flair via the parentage rule will yield success on the field and positive publicity off it.

Should Northern Ireland once again pick some players from domestic football? Davy Millar thinks so and fondly remembers the few given a chance

Even while the domestic scene has struggled and the best school-age players have been hoovered up by English clubs, there is an underlying belief among North­ern Ireland supporters that things would be better if only there were a few Irish League names in the national squad. To the outsider, handing out international jerseys to players who have failed to attract the interest of even the lowliest Third Division club might seem a rash move but at least the local players can be gua­ranteed to bring a more robust attitude than is us­ual at this level. After all, none of us watching Spain string 87 passes together could help being thrilled by the idea of the move breaking down courtesy of an Irish League boot coming into contact with Gaizka Mendieta’s genitalia.

When Hungary visited in 1981, England hadn't got to the World Cup finals for 11 years. Cris Freddi went with his heart in his mouth, which improved his singing

Call this our culmination. England’s last qualifying match. We’d been to all the others at home and reck­oned we’d suffered enough. They hadn’t been convincing in any of the others, even the 4-0 opener against Norway. It took them most of the first half to score, the third goal was a penalty, and the fourth was three min­utes from time. I’d missed that one, Mar­iner’s only good goal for England, because I was swapping nips of rum with two Norwegian fans. There was also the most beautiful woman ever seen at Wem­bley, a classic white-haired ice goddess. Drifting involuntarily towards her in the coach park, I found myself shaking hands with her equally stunning boy­friend, straight out of the Thor comics. Oh well, who needs the perfect woman when you’ve got two World Cup points?

Scotland's efforts at the World Cup Finals have been frustrating, but their best team never made it that far. Cris Freddi looks back on their narrow exit in 1961

Czechoslovakia were probably annoyed to be in this play-off. After beating the Scots 4-0 at home in their World Cup qualifying group, they led 2-1 at Hampden before Denis Law scored twice, including the winner with only seven minutes left. That left the two teams level on points – the only other team in the group, Ire­land, lost every game. To make matters worse, Czechoslovakia’s captain and left-back Ladislav Novak picked up an injury that was still keeping him out.

Cris Freddi's regular series continues with a look back at a famous win over Spain in 1985 that had Welsh fans dreaming of the World Cup finals

You’d kill for a playmaker. Just one. In the last 30 years. But this is Wales, and they don’t make them here. Rugby, yes. Even now. A second division country but still producing the odd Arwel Thomas. But foot­ball? Forget it. No world-class creative midfielder since Ivor Allchurch, who peaked in the Fifties. And Scot­land and Northern Ireland think they’ve had prob­lems.

Mathias Kowoll examines Berti Vogts' managerial history and questions the wisdom of putting him in charge of the Scottish national team

“We’re going to take off his kilt,” Hesse’s reg­ional governor Roland Koch said on hearing that Berti Vogts’s Scotland would be in Ger­many’s Euro 2004 qualifying group. So while the Scottish FA picked “the terrier”, back in Germany a pop­ulist politician feels he can get a few cheap laughs from picturing the former national team coach mooning from the Hamp­den dug­out. Such a difference in opinion needs explaining.

October's friendly between France and Algeria ended up providing the opposite of the symbolism its organisers had hoped for, writes Alan Duncan

October 6 was supposed to herald a new era in the complex world of Franco-Algerian relations with the first ever football friendly between the two nations. Yet it may now be  better remembered as the day France was confronted with a deeper social unease that will not simply disappear with the blow of a whistle.

Harry Pearson casts an agnostic eye over some recent additions to the bulging pile of religious tracts on England's World Cup triumph and its aftermath

If the BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme had been a clairvoyant, he might have altered his most famous line to: “They think it’s all over... but it’s only just begun.” Because if a Hollywood movie were ever made about the 1966 World Cup final the tagline on the poster would surely read: “One team, one trophy, 100,000 books.” As a letter in last month’s WSC ob­served, the fur­ther away that Gilded Saturday Afternoon In Late July gets, the greater the significance it seems to assume. If the number of volumes devoted to 1966 in the past few years increases exponentially by the end of this century, our descendants may indeed begin talking of it as The Greatest Story Ever Told.