Wayne Rooney, Al Pacino and the World Cup

Leave a comment

It’s not often that you hear English soccer coaches advising their players to draw their inspiration from American film stars. But Roy Hodgson knows he needs to get through to Wayne Rooney in any way possible. Since bursting on to the scene in Euro 2004, at just 18, Rooney has struggled to make much of an impression in international tournaments.

So, too, have England. They made it to the quarter-finals of both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup, but then failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and had a disappointing campaign in South Africa in 2010, when they went out in the first knockout round. And England being England, they were knocked out of Euro 2012 in the quarter-finals in the most English of ways, losing to Italy on penalties.

But Rooney was suspended for the start of that last major tournament. On his return, he scored the only goal, giving his team the 1-0 win over Ukraine. He was also one of only two English players to score their penalties against Gigi Buffon.

Yet at times Rooney has shown himself a tad undisciplined. He got himself suspended for the first two Euro group stage matches after he kicked out at Miodrag Džudović in England’s draw with Montenegro. He was sent off for a stomp on Ricardo Carvalho in 2006, with England going on to lose to Portugal on penalties. So is giving him advice connecting him to Michael Corleone of the Godfather movies really the best idea?

Hodgson went for it, anyway. Talking about Rooney’s need to rise to the occasion in Brazil, the England coach said:

I’m sure it must be the same for Hollywood film stars,” he added. “I’m sure you make your first film and nobody knows much about you and you get some good reviews. But one day you’re going to be Al Pacino, you’re going to be Jack Nicholson. And, suddenly, you’ve got to make a f—— good film.

Not sure if Pacino is quite the right analogy, however. It only took Al a couple of years after making his first film for Francis Ford Coppala to take notice and cast him in The Godfather. He then collected Oscar nominations, along with stellar reviews. Whereas Rooney’s been subject to much criticism after his initial foray onto the world stage, when he scored four goals at Euro 2004.

But Pacino did hit a bit of a rough patch in the early 1980s, taking on some controversial roles. Then came Scarface, just over ten years after The Godfather. The movie was huge at the box office, met with critical acclaim and even earned Pacino a Golden Globe.

So perhaps what Hodgson is saying to Rooney is: it’s time to make your Scarface, son.

Although, one presumes, without the mountain of cocaine and the assault rifle.

UEFA: Wales in trouble; Spain dominates; Buffon hits 1000

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images
1 Comment

Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear at the top midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.

Dele Alli to miss next three European matches, UCL or UEL

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tottenham Hotspur is primed to qualify for a second-straight UEFA Champions League campaign this year, and will have to start that sophomore run without Dele Alli.

The 20-year-old playmaker has banned for his next three matches. If Spurs finish fourth, that would mean both qualifying matches and an additional match.

[ MORE: Five questions for USMNT ]

If they finish higher, Dele will miss the first three group stage matches.

Dele was shown red for a tackle on Brecht Dejaegere in Spurs’ 2-2 draw with Gent in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32, as Tottenham left the tournament.

Men in Blazers podcast: Man City-Liverpool review, USMNT preview

@MenInBlazers
Leave a comment

Rog and Davo recap the Top Four battle between Manchester City and Liverpool, ask (again) whether it’s time for Arsene to go, and break down two of the most important USMNT games in modern history.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

Subscribe to the podcast OR to update your iTunes subscriptions ]

Click here for the RSS feed ]