Bulgaria v England is not normally a game that would raise the temperature, but with England suddenly having a fine selection of technically adroit young footballers to choose from, it has taken on a whole new meaning...
Chris Smalling having 'the weight of the world on his shoulders' -
Smalling's call up to Capello's squad indicates two things, one being that the Italian is ready to fulfill his promise of introducing young players to his team, and secondly that hundreds of tabloid hacks will be sharpening their knives ready to plunge them into Smalling's back if he so much as gives away a throw in. If the 21 year old starts, which is looking likely, I'd give it until the national anthems before a commentator or pundit has labelled the fixture as 'the biggest moment of his life' or thrown out some spiel about 'nerve jangling' and 'hairs on the back of his neck.' The truth is that it is a huge moment for Smalling, and it's his opportunity to break into an ageing and weary-looking England defence, but for once can we not put someone on a pedestal? Can we simply agree to the fact that Chris Smalling has what it takes to play for England, and if he shanks a clearance into his own net, or scythes a Bulgarian down in the penalty area, that he will come good. No weight of the world on his shoulders, no teary eyed reverence for 'God Save The Queen', just a player who has what it takes to play for his national side.
John Terry clumsily throwing a limb at the ball... 'heroically' -
The England captain has this week claimed that he is 'looking over his shoulder' at some of the young prospects coming through the ranks in the national side, and has admitted that he will have to fight for his place in the coming months and years. If he takes this attitude into the Bulgaria match, we all know what we can expect, as a John Terry who is willing to fight for his team is a John Terry who will stop the ball getting past him with any available part of his body. To the delight of commentators and fans of the 'good ol' Ingurlish centre half' everywhere, we will see Terry blocking barrages of Bulgarian attack with his face, a**e and the back of his head. Dewy-eyed pundits will replay the action in slow motion, proclaiming 'JT's Lion-Heart attitude' is why he's England captain, and Phil Jones will watch on from the dugout wondering why he bothered learning to kick a ball in the first place. John 'The Lion Heart' Terry will simply shrug off these plaudits and get on with his game, a steely determination and stiff upper lip leading the line...Just don't ask him to take a penalty, he gets a bit weepy.
To the delight of commentators and fans of the 'good ol' Ingurlish centre half' everywhere, we will see Terry blocking barrages of Bulgarian attack with his face, a**e and the back of his head
Lothar Matthäus out-suaveing Capello -
A grin spread across the lips of Bulgaria's head coach earlier this week, as he told the assembled press how his side 'play like Germany'. Not only did this give England a decent excuse for losing, but it also provided us with a glimpse of charisma and humour from a former German international, who is far more appealing that most. Whilst Capello provides a sartorial elegance to the England manager's role which we have not seen since Sir Bobby's impeccable, if a little sweaty, grey suits, Matthäus brings an excitement and joie de vivre to his management which the grimacing, sulky Italian seems uninterested in. Regardless of the result we are sure to see some signature Capello gestures, the exasperated hand flap, the bottom lip bite and if things seriously go awry we might even see the uncomfortable glasses fiddle. Matthäus will remain as calm as when he stepped up to take that penalty in 1990, tight-lipped with the hint of a smile and a glimmer in his eye, the only difference this time will be that he might have a scarf on, and won't need to give Chris Waddle a hug at full time.
Wayne Rooney having a tantrum, scoring a goal and then having another tantrum -
Wayne Rooney will score a goal against Bulgaria, he's in electric form recently and the aesthetic revamp of his hairline during the summer seems to have had some sort of reverse-Samson effect on him. However, the fact remains that Wayne Rooney can score a hat-trick and still get drawn into a slanging match about the colour of the sky. I'm not a betting man, but can see his first outburst coming on about 7 minutes in, when the referee gives a throw in to Bulgaria. He'll go on to score two in the second half and then get sent off for persistent arguments with the referee about the same throw in. Despite JT and the gang's best efforts, Rooney will remain livid all the way down the tunnel, kicking water bottles and refusing to accept Capello's acknowledgment. This may, if we're lucky, allow us to see our second exasperated hand flap of the match from the gaffer. Would you have Wazza any other way?
A grown man in face paint-
Bulgaria's a long way to go to watch your team, so before you set off you better make sure you've got your essentials: St. Georges flag emblazoned with the crest of your favourite lower league side? Check. Trumpet and massive drum? Check. Slightly offensive Crusades inspired fancy dress? Check... and of course your face paint? Check.
England's repertoire of monotonous and monotone anthems would not carry the same emotional weight were they not being sung by burly men from places like Tamworth clad in face paint. Sure, you're getting into the spirit of things and you've had 17 lagers on the flight over, but for once just leave the face paint at home? It's time to think about the image we're portraying to the world, every time a particularly pervy cameraman cut to a bikini-clad, South American woman at the last World Cup it was genuinely hard to believe that the best we have to offer was Big Baz from Aldershot, with his misspelled tattoos and a crudely painted lion on his forehead.
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