Pierre Boisrond

Pierre Boisrond has followed soccer and the World Cup closely for many years and also writes for other websites. We at PWC are proud to have him as a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of the World Cup.

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Thirty-six years in waiting for a long overdue World Cup title

    The charisma of David Beckham, the determination of Michael Owen, and the innocence of Stephen Gerrard may not be sufficient for England to bring the trophy back to the majestic land. The British internationals need to be mentally ready in order to surpass giants like Argentina, France, and Brazil. It is not a question of trying to avenge the loss against Argentina in 1986 and 1998; what should be mattered to the British internationals is to bring home the prestigious World Cup trophy, the ultimate grand prize.

    If the men of Eriksson are thinking about avenging some World Cup losses, then it will be all over for them. It is time now for England to rise to the occasion; it is time to bring back the glory days of 1966 to the land that has given us so many great memories in the Cathedral of Football, the so-missed Wembley Stadium.

    We may not see the Wembley memories in Korea-Japan, but the memories of 1966 should be anchored in the British Internationals’ state of mind. For England to be among the elite, they need to forget about the "Hand of God" scenario and the Simeone-Beckham issue. These sorts of situations should be last in the British agenda. This national team must be focused at the highest level if they want to bring the trophy back home. They must keep their composure on the soccer pitch, and must play with discipline.

    We saw what happened in 1998 against the Argentines. We saw what happened to Argentina against Holland in 1998. It’s all about composure, if not then, it might be a quick trip back home. The players must build a sense of character among themselves. There must be a leader to direct the team, and it is time for Beckham to play that role with authority. We know that Roy Keane plays that role for Manchester United; unfortunately for England, Keane will be conducting the Irish Orchestra. Perhaps, Beckham needs to ask Keane to give him a piece of his inspiration while carrying the England Superstar status.

    Superstars do rise to the occasion when their teams need them the most. Players like Maradona did it against Germany in 1986 when he sent that long ball over the West German defense to Jorge Burruchaga who crucified Harald Schumacher, the mean-spirited German goalkeeper. Dennis Bergkamp did it in 1998 to send Argentina packing for Buenos Aires. We recall that the great Karl Heinz Rummenigge did it in 1982 in the memorable semi-final game against France conducted by the brillant and classic Michel Platini. Again in 1982, we saw the dedication of Paolo Rossi who destroyed the Brazilians of Zico, sent Poland of Boniek packing to Warsaw, and scored the opening goal for Italy against West Germany to bring the World Cup back to the "Azzurri Tifosi", and to the Eternal City. We also remember in 1990 when Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama rose his game to another level to lead Colombia to the second round in such a classic game against Germany. After being down 0-1, Valderrama knew that he had to take leadership to drive the "Cafetero" in the second round. Finally after some memorable moves, he was able to furnish Freddy Rincon a magnificent pass and Freddy, calmly, slotted the ball in the net guarded by Bodo Illgner, the German goalie. These are some of the memories that Eriksson's men need to anchor in their minds if they really want to win the prestigious trophy.

    The World Cup is not going to be easy for any country to grab. Contenders or not, national teams need to find players who can inspire their squad. In the case of England, who will inspire them? Will Beckham be capable to drive England out of the land of the rising sun with the trophy?. Will he be focused on the Ultimate prize rather being worried about to lay flat the Argentine ghost? Eriksson must find a way to toughen up the mental fitness of the British squad. Without that mental toughness, The partners of Beckham can forget about lifting that trophy on June 30th. For England to be a contender, other players need to step up their game to the ultimate level. England goalies must be ready to defend their goals with authority and find ways to intimidate the world class strikers. In 1982, we witnessed how Dino Zoff defended his goal against the talented Brazilian strikers. We have seen The dramatic save made by Zoff when he stopped the header of the magical Dr.Socrates on the goal line and waited for the referee to come over to judge that the ball did not pass the goal line; needless to say Zoff played a key role in the Azzurri’s campaign to the World Cup Trophy.

    This is the kind of goalie that England must have. In 1990, Despite having Diego Maradona, it took the substitute goalie, Sergio Goycoechea to keep Argentina in the title hunt against a talented Yugoslavian side conducted by Robert Prosinecki and Dejan Savicevic. We all talked about Diego driving a mediocre Argentina to the 1990 finals against Germany of Lothar Matthäus, but we clearly forgot that Diego and Pedro Troglio did miss their penalty kicks against Yugoslavia. Not only that, Goycoechea continued to raise his game to some unimaginable level to defend Argentina’s cage against the Italians in the San Paolo Stadium where Maradona has been canonized. After stopping the penalties of "El Kaiser" Franco Baresi and Aldo Serena, we saw the pain and agony of defeat in Salvatore "Toto" Schillaci’s face. Toto should have taken a penalty kick. Why he did not? Stupid decision by the Italian coach, Azeglio Vicini, and thus might have cost Italy a World Cup final.

    Although Goycoechea did not stop the penalty kick by Andreas Brehme in the 1990 final between Argentina and Germany, he came very close to stopping it; but Brehme, a specialist, did not hesitate to put it low in the far right corner. Brehme had one goal in mind, and that was to put the ball out of reach of Goycoechea’s fantastic hands and the best place he could have located the ball was in the lower far right corner. If Brehme had put it in the top corners, we knew what could have happened based on the past. In 1986, Platini and Dr.Socrates missed, and we all knew why? They were trying to place the ball in the upper right corner. Again in 1998, Roberto Baggio missed his penalty kick against Brazil for the same reason. Perhaps, my colleague, Ruud Doevendans, might disagree with me on a technicality; I would prefer penalty kicks to be low in the far-right or far-left corners.

    Thus, the goalies for England must be ready for the occasion. It does not matter if the goalie is a substitute or not. What matters is that at the moment of truth, the goalies must be ready. Goycoechea was a substitute for Nery Pumpido who broke his leg during the World Cup. There are many other goalies who deserve to be mentioned, but I do think that Zoff and Goycoechea did rise their game at a level that any player or fan could not even imagine. This is the sort of energy, charisma, and determination that will separate the title contenders from the good national teams. Somehow, Eriksson must find a way to put England among the contenders. Beckham showed that he could bring his game to another level, he had demonstrated it against Greece. But this time, he must bring his best out against the title contenders. If the god of statistics smile with our predictions, we can easily say that Beckham will have to bring his best against the Argentina of Juan Sebastian Veron and the France of Zinedine Zidane. But Again, England can do it if they are mentally fit.

    We all know that France and Argentina will be mentally ready. What about the boys of Eriksson? Will they be ready? Will Gerrard’s innocence capture the world’s attention? What about Michael Owen? Will the 1998 World Cup baptized Michael Owen prove his critics wrong that he really deserved the Golden Ball as opposed to the talented Raul of Spain? Will the England goalies rise to the occasion and forget about the Hand of God’s goal that prompted Peter Shilton not to invite Maradona to participate in his testimonial game? Hopefully, Shilton did appreciate the second goal.

    Will Eriksson have the courage to compete against his homeland, Sweden as opposed to Carlos Bianchi who have refused to accept the coaching job against Paraguay for the uneasiness of competing against his homeland, Argentina? Will the England defence resist the deadly Argentina attack under the directions of Bati-Crespo? Will the England defence step up against a lethal French attack conducted by Trezeguez-Henry. Will England shut down the Super Eagles orchestrated by Jay-Jay Okocha? Will England be mentally ready to join the world’s best. Will the Gods of Football guide England to the Ultimate prize as they did for Racing Club of Argentina that have just won the title in the Argentine league after thirty-five years?

    Certainly, that won’t be the wish of Marcelo Bielsa’s squad. We will have to wait for this summer to find the true responses for these questions as the whole world will be watching the biggest tournament ever, the FIFA World Cup, a tournament with no hypocrisy, no hatred, no racism; a tournament of hope, love, humility and most of all a tournament where countries can put their differences behind them to bring joy to their people. Hence this is the World Cup that the world contenders are fighting for.

    It’s long overdue for England, and it is time for Eriksson's men to rise up, to dream, to fight, and to make their dream a reality by bringing back the World Cup Trophy out of Japan, the land of the rising sun, to the Majestic Land of Queen Elizabeth, whom, I think, will be grateful to enjoy another grandiose celebration with the British fans like the one occurred in Wembley after England had demoralized West Germany in the 1966 final game. May the hooligans behave in Korea-Japan as England prepare to take on this difficult mission against the world’s best and may God prevent all players against any sort of injuries prior and during this summer's amazing World Cup fiesta.



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