International football

Cris Freddi recalls a narrow escape against Austria in 1932, when the 'man of paper' exposed the shakiness of England's supposed dominance over the Continental teams

The last time England had played a foreign country, almost exactly a year earlier, they’d thrashed Spain 7-1. Now the selectors decided it was no more Mr Nice Guy. Putting it another way, they were bricking it. With just cause, too. While Spain were a perfectly res­pectable side (the great Ricardo Zamora simply had a shocker in goal), Austria were something else. In a run of 13 unbeaten games, they’d hammered Scotland 5-0, Ger­many 6-0 and 5-0, Switzerland 8-1 and Hungary 8-2. 

Life has been tough for the independent countries that grew out of the olf Soviet Union. Kevin O'Flynn  tracks the progress of the smaller republics in the latest qualifiers

In 1988, the soviet union’s football team was more or less at its peak, reaching the final of the European Championships. Unfortunately for them, it was more or less the only part of the country that still functioned as well. When the Union broke up ten years ago no one realised how badly afffected the new republics would be. The lack of decent competition – think what would happen if the Premiership were split into 15 regional leagues – was bad enough, but the economic collapse of most of the republics meant that most decent foot­ballers could not earn a proper wage.

Ireland may not be Britain, but the downfall of of Jack Charlton's team against Holland in his last match in charge spoke volumes for the limitations of a certain British style, says Cris Freddi

Both sides had known for some time that the play-off was their only real chance of reaching the finals of Euro 96, but recent results left them with very different expectations. While Holland were winning their last three qualifiers without conceding a goal, the Republic had won only one of their last five, drawing in Liechtenstein and losing 3-1 home and away to Austria and 3-0 to group winners Portugal. Austria’s 5-3 defeat in Belfast gave them the play-off chance, but Big Jack’s reign seemed to be coming to an untidy end.

The furore over Kevin Keegan's resignation masked deeper failures in the English game, says Stephen Wagg

Kevin Keegan’s resignation as England coach after the defeat by Germany on October 7 has to be seen as some kind of some kind of consummation. The on­going melodrama that has been the England football team and its various administrations since the late 1960s had finally embraced the theatre of the absurd.

Like England, Holland have a tradition of using club managers to run the national team. Unlike England, it doesn't change the way the play, says Simon Kuper

Holland have a dastardly way of choosing a man­ager. It works like this: a few old men at the Dutch FA settle upon some appropriate chap, usually a good club coach, always overlooking the best candidate (Johan Cruyff) on the grounds that he is difficult.

Spain's managerial strategy is non-existent, but the public hardly cares, says Phil Ball

The Spanish national team is called La Selección, as if it magically picked itself. Maybe the name has arisen from some sort of collective wish-fulfilment, for de­s­pite the surface appearance of relative stability (only two managers in the past 19 years) the story of their footballing representatives is certainly no happier than the present English one.

When England meet Germany at Wembley, the managers will have more in common than the greying remnants of a perm, says Matt Nation

Anyone who has played in a support band or given a speech as best man at a wedding will know what it’s like to perform for an increasingly disgruntled aud­ience. Expectation is great, pressure is enormous and, with the exception of the odd beer bottle winging through the air, rewards are few. In an attempt to make it all seem a little more attractive, such unfortunates are described in German, rather winsomely, as Pausenclowns.

The annual Inner City World Cup for foreign communities living in London was held earlier this month. Filippo Ricci went along to see if England could make home advantage count

England has just staged a World Cup, though needless to say the hosts didn’t get past the group stage. The competition in question is the Inner City World Cup, a tournament open to London’s foreign communities and held annually since 1994. African teams have dom­inated, Ghana winning two tournaments and Sierra Leone five, including the most recent edition, played on August 12 and 13 in Raynes Park, when Pakistan lost 2-1 in the final.

While seen as a grudge match in England, Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger reports on the Germans' relaxed attitude towards their supposed rivals

As usual, the best lines all came from the Eng­lish. After the draw put England in the same group as Germany for the second time in five days (first the World Cup qualifiers, then the Euro 2000 finals), Kevin Keegan approached the German manager Erich Ribbeck and quip­ped: “Looks like we’ll be growing old to­gether.” And the Sun came up with: “If we get the Ger­mans a third time, can we keep them?” (Con­sidering their track record, I’m not quite sure how they meant this, but it sounds good.)

Having been once billed as the 'Dream Team', Davy Millar explains how Lawrie McMenemy and his backroom team's reign with Northern Ireland turned into a nightmare

And so another one bites the dust. Lawrie McMenemy is no longer the boss of Northern Ireland and his back-up team have gone with him. Joe Jordan, Pat Jennings and Under-21 manager Chris Nicholl are all looking for new jobs.