Planet Football

 

Nice to see the French press reacting with calm to the team's first round exit: "The same arrogance which blinded us to the fact in 1998 that an unrivalled team was being put together this time blinded the players, their entourage, their apologists and almost of all of France behind them. They were all incapable of seeing that the story was coming to an end." (L'Equipe)

If ever you needed proof that football is indeed a global game, cast your eye over this report from the London Independent. "Dozens of Bangladeshi fans of Brazil and Argentina fought each other with stones and iron rods over the hoisting of flags in their village. The clash occurred after the rival factions tried to hoist the flags of Brazil and Argentina on the same coconut tree."

Despair...

"We did our best but God didn't want to give us any goals." - Saudi Arabia's goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Deayea.

"For the third goal, I blame the ball."

- Al-Deayea again, accounting for Damien Duff's goal.

"To be honest, I've got nothing to say, except that we have to face up to the fact our team played crap." - A Russian supporter, as quoted by Reuters after the defeat by Belgium.

Delight...

"We are going to sleep well tonight." - Rivaldo mourns Argentina's exit from the competition.

"It would have been good if it was our result against them that put them out. It would have been nice to walk off and see their faces ... if we see them on the way home on the coach we'll give them a wave." - Teddy Sheringham mourns Argentina's exit from the competition.

French reaction

"Twisted and blinded by success and money, the players and those around them neglected the most important thing: the football field." (Le Figaro)

"It's an incomprehensible fiasco. Too much glory, too much money, too many matches, too many front pages, too many contracts, too many groupies, too many adverts, too many sponsors, too many managers". (L'Humanite)

They think it's all over... GOLF'S Ernie Els was inconsolable after South Africa's World Cup exit, in no sense at all. "We will still qualify I think," he said after the 3-2 defeat by Spain. On being told that his country's World Cup was, in fact, over, he said: "Really? Oh well. That's tough."

Angry Saudi media

While the Saudi Press Agency contented itself with a rather, well, understated summary of its team's World Cup experience - "The national team has not developed to a level suitable to the fame of Saudi football" - others in the Saudi media have been less restrained. "The sports ministry has spent billions of riyals so the national team soils our reputation and makes us the laughing stock of the world," said one newspaper, while Al-Watan described the lads as "harmless lambs".

"The media has fabricated cardboard stars who play without a soul, do not honour the national flag and think only of money," suggested Abdul Aziz.

In fairness to him, though, coach Nasser al-Johar has been looking on the bright side. "You could say we are on a par with France having failed to score like them. But we also beat Senegal and Denmark before the finals, whereas they were beaten by them," he said.

Worth a punt

Hats off to the Swindon man who took bookies William Hill up on their 40 to 1 offer on France going out at the first round stage without scoring a goal. Unfortunately he only staked a pound on the bet, but at least he feels a touch better than the three William Hill punters who backed France to win the tournament, waging £9,000, £8,000 and £7,000 each.

World Cup Speak

"If I have the chance I will kill them." - Paraguay's Roque Santa Cruz ahead of today's game against Germany. He'll get a warm welcome, no doubt, when he returns for pre-season training with Bayern Munich.

"I was stunned by the way Cameroon played in the second half. It frightened me. I have never seen such a lazy group of players compete in a World Cup." - Franz Beckenbauer alleges that the Lions were more indolent than indomitable.

"Argentina and France have gone home but if they had stayed they could have ended up contesting the final, who knows?" - Spanish coach Jose Antonio Camacho suffers an attack of the ifs, buts and maybes.

Maradona 'to blame'

These days most Diego Maradona utterances are greeted with cries of 'what are you on?' His explanation for why Argentina's World Cup didn't quite go according to plan falls roughly into the same category. "I blame myself. Yes, I, too, am to blame for the failure," he said, insisting that the fact that he had watched the games from his new home in Cuba accounted for the team struggling to find their form. Right.