Ghana’s economic Maguire
When politicians name-check sports stars in parliament, it tends to be either a self-serving congratulatory gesture or a display of uneasy fawning. Often, it is both. So when Harry Maguire discovered he was mentioned in the Ghanaian parliament, he must have wondered if there were perhaps some Manchester United fans in the chamber. If only.
Instead, during a debate on the country’s 2023 budget, the United and England defender was used as the punchline of a denunciation in the Ghanaian parliament. Politician Isaac Adongo compared the country’s vice-president, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, to Maguire – saying they both were inclined to score own goals!
“There’s a player in the United Kingdom in England called Maguire that is playing for Manchester United. Harry Maguire, he is a defender,” stated Adongo.
“He was tackling everybody and throwing his body everywhere like he was the best defender in the world.
“Manchester United went and bought him. He became the biggest threat at the centre of Manchester United’s defence, tackling Manchester players and giving assists to opponents.”
“Mr speaker, when even the opponents failed to score Maguire would score for them. You remember in this country we also have an economic Maguire. The same economic Maguire was giving lectures at university on how to restore the value of the city.
“Mr speaker, when we gave this Maguire the opportunity to be at the centre of our defence, he became the risk of our own goal. Dr Bawumia, our economic Maguire.”
It is hardly the kind of comparison Maguire will be thankful for as he prepares for the knockout stages of the World Cup. Still, Maguire remains a trusted member of Gareth Southgate’s team as they advanced to the last 16. England will face Senegal on Sunday as the competition reaches the business end.
Paying the penalty
Ah, the beautiful agony that is a penalty shoot-out is upon us. We will forever have Italia 90 and Romania and Packie Bonner and David O’Leary, and George Hamilton telling us the nation was holding its breath, before that glorious moment; “Yes, we’re there.”
There have been 30 penalty shoot-outs in World Cup history, with Opta Analyst crunching the numbers to tell us Argentina have participated in the most shoot-outs, five, of which they won four. But Germany (West Germany) are the most clinical from the spot of any country, coming out on top in all four of their previous penalty shoot-outs.
At the other end of the scale, England have lost three of their four World Cup penalty shoot-outs – losing to West Germany in 1990, Argentina in 1998 and Portugal in 2006. They finally chalked up a shoot-out win at the 2018 World Cup, beating Colombia.
The last time there were no penalty shoot-outs at a World Cup was in 1978.
Australia to bank on it
Anthony Albanese, the Australian prime minister, said it was too late to call a public holiday for the country’s World Cup knockout game against Argentina, which will take place at 6am Sunday Sydney time. Huge fan events are being organised for major cities across the country with the Opera House in Sydney to be illuminated green and gold.
“I do note the calls are out across Australia for a public holiday to be declared, I’m afraid it was a bit late at 4am to call a public holiday,” said Albanese.
“But I reckon if we win the World Cup well that may be a different story, so we will wait and see how that goes. I think that would be very hard to resist.”
Atlas Lions roaring for further success
Walid Regragui, the Morocco manager, has led his team to the knockout stages of a World Cup for the first time since 1986 – and he has now indicated the Atlas Lions are not about to hide their claws anytime soon. This could yet prove to be the World Cup where an African team makes a final for the first time ever, and following Morocco’s win over Canada, Regragui wasn’t about to hide away from history.
“We set ourselves an objective, we wanted to give everything to get out of the group stage,” he said. “We’re aiming for the sky, we’re not going to stop here, but we’re going to be a difficult team to beat, so why not dream about winning the trophy? We need African teams to set this objective. We’re taking it one game at a time, we’re not getting carried away, but if we’re fighting fit, we stand a great chance of progressing.”
0 – The number of shots Poland had on target during their 2-0 defeat to Argentina. Despite such bluntness up front, the Poles still advanced to the knockout stages.
“I don’t know why you insist that I resign. I have a contract that is based on objectives. The objective was not fulfilled but we still have some time before making a final decision. It’s up to the Tunisian (soccer) federation to decide what happens now.”— In the wake of his side’s famous win over France, Tunisia manager Jalel Kadri kicks to touch on his future, despite saying beforehand he would quit if they failed to make the knockout stages.