Dateline 21 July 2018
2018 World Cup Final – Britain Expects
As FIFA’s 80, 000 guests prepare for the trip to the MacDonald’s Wembley MegaDome for the most anticipated match in British football since 1966, it pays to look back 12 years or so to see how Team Britain have progressed to this World Cup Final showdown against hot favourites China.
With England’s shock elimination from the 2008 Greater EU Championships after the 0-4 home defeat by Estonia, current Hartlepools manager Steve McClaren resigned his post and David Dein (yes, that same David Dein who’s been in the papers so much recently) re-structured the British game in anticipation of the 2012 Olympics (subsequently cancelled due to its carbon emissions impact).
Out went England, Scotland and Wales and in came Team Britain under Director of Football Arsene Wenger and Coach Sir Alex Ferguson. Domestic football is still feeling the ramifications of that development, as Martin O’Neill’s Celtic continue their dominance of the Sky Sports British Premiership with the Liverpool Lions their only real challengers under the leadership of player-manager Wayne Rooney.
Team Britain qualified so smoothly for the 2010 World Cup under the Wenger – Ferguson dream team, but, as everyone knows, it was all to go horribly wrong in the semi-final, with penalties once more the Achilles heel. How ironic it was to see David Beckham convert the winning score in the shoot-out for Team USA – some still claim that moment to be the launch pad of his successful run for President Schwarzenegger’s old job as Governor of California.
After the touchline fisticuffs between Wenger and Ferguson that horrible night in Mandelaville, it was clear that a new start was needed. Just when it seemed the British FA had lured Phil Scolari at last, the deal was called off over image rights, and England appointed Manchester United manager Sam Allardyce to the post. Failing to gain British citizenship for Ivan Campo from Prime Minister David Cameron, he resigned leaving the BFA in turmoil.
But it was then that the saviours of British football rode into town. Dave “Harry” Bassett wasn’t a popular choice as Director of Football, nor did his Coach, Vinnie Jones, inspire much confidence, but their up-and-at them style, with technical area shouter Phil Thompson employed solely to bellow “Get stuck in to these bast****” every 30 seconds, has carried all before it and shown just what can be achieved with patriotism, old-fashioned common sense and a liberal interpretation of the new drug laws. Purists still quibble over their insistence on playing 5-5-0 and waiting for a set play to commit anyone forward; others dislike their requirement to be over 6ft 3in to be considered for the team, but few argue with their results.
Tomorrow destiny awaits – will skipper, veteran centre-half Peter Crouch, winning his 250th cap, lift the Roman Abramovich Trophy following in the footsteps of Bobby Moore and the 2014 winning skipper, Emmanuel Eboue? If you can’t afford the £100 fee for Sky’s exclusive World Cup Final package, log on to guardianunlimited.co.uk/sport for Rob Smyth’s Minute-by-Minute report.