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Saturday, July 1, 2006
Updated: July 5, 3:03 PM ET
Time to root for France

By Michael Davies
Special to Page 2

Editor's Note: Michael Davies is blogging the 2006 World Cup for Page 2. Each day throughout the monthlong tournament, he will file reports from Germany (and back home in New York). Check back for more updates.

Bridgehampton, New York, July 1, 6:25 p.m.
Yep. It sucks. In what has essentially become Euro 2006, I am convinced that England could have won this World Cup. And now I don't see anything that can stop the Germans. Don't play any music, and fly the graphic slowly like someone died … here's what I'm for and against today.

FOR: Owen Hargreaves, Andy Murray, Sven -- not blaming the ref, the fact that I can still honestly say that I love football

AGAINST: All nine of the following:

1. England was the better team and lost. One word, Hargreaves.

2. If Rooney was sent off for stamping on Carvalho's nuts, he really should have stamped harder.

3. The wink Christiano Ronaldo gave to Phil Scolari after getting Rooney sent off. He's a horrible excuse for a professional footballer. Too flashy, a complete drama queen, and a cheat. Send him to Spain, Sir Alex. He will not be welcome back at Manchester United or anywhere else in the Premier League.

4. So-called football players who go down holding their faces when they're hit in the shoulder, neck or not at all. The Portuguese seem to be the worst offenders at this. But if an English player did it, an American did it, or anyone else, I think it's disgusting. There should be video review of games at this level. And players who do this, like Figo against Holland and Maniche today, should be suspended. They are trying to draw an intentional red card. It is arguably worse than trying to draw a penalty.

5. Frank Lampard had such a bad tournament. And he is such a great player. My bold prediction is that he will leave England to play in Spain before Euro 2006.

6. All this media obsession with formations. It's kind of rubbish, there's little difference between 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 and 4-4-3. In open play it basically comes down to the players you have on the field and huge amounts of luck.

7. Penalty shootouts. Regular readers know my view. I didn't watch them today. I don't believe they're legitimate, and even if England had won I would have had mixed feelings. Of the three quarterfinals that were contested between elite teams, one goal was scored by six teams in more than 5½ hours of football. I would not be surprised if we end up with a final contested by two teams who won on penalties, won on penalties. They may as well play the end game from my new GSN show, Chain Reaction.

Davies
All wiped out after England's disappointing loss.
8. Marcelo and Dave continuously missed the biggest stories of the game. Yes, Marcelo, you may have been right that Rooney's sending off was justified. But again, you failed to recognize the considerable likelihood that Rooney was sent off not for the stamp but for pushing his teammate at Manchester United, Christiano Ronaldo. If you were obsessed with the stamping, you might have pointed out that it was the manhood of Ricardo Carvalho of Manchester United's huge rivals Chelsea that was being crushed -- that Rooney probably can't stand this guy, who is best friends with Ferreira, who broke his foot back in April.

Shockingly, you also made no reference to the mirror-like contrast of this game versus the 2002 quarterfinal, where Scolari's 10-man Brazil held off Sven's 11-man England with a heroic second-half performance. Today, Sven's 10 men held off Scolari's 11 for 60 minutes. Might have been worth a mention. And I could go on. Tiago and Terry were former teammates -- after they clashed heads in the first half, no mention of that. In fact, you made little of the Manchester United/Chelsea subplots all over the pitch. You offered the fans a chance to vote for man of the match. Hargreaves, who was clearly playing better than anyone, was not an option, no mention. Players were applauded for selling fouls -- there is no justification for that. You continued to state that Beckham had walked off an injury and Lennon wasn't going to come in even as the cameras were cutting to the Tottenham player receiving final instructions. You suggested Ashley Cole as a possible free kick taker when I am pretty sure that he has never taken an England free kick on goal for his club or country in his life. You guys have all the potential, and all the research at your disposal, to be the best commentary team ever on American television. I generally think you do a great job. Today you didn't.

9. England might have been better, but with really only one exception, the players did not perform to their full potential. Don't blame the coach, fault the players. They will take the responsibility for this and they are right to do so.

Here are the Davies' World Cup Diary England Player ratings (and final tournament grade). In ascending order of pantsness:

No pants whatsoever
Hargreaves (A-)
The British media and fans owe him a massive apology. He was sensational at this tournament and only Sven believed in him after his selection was greeted with outright derision. Today he ran his shorts, jock, boots and socks off. An almost completely naked performance. He is now, officially, my favorite Canadian ever.

Short pants
Lennon (B+)
Crouch (B)
Terry (B+)
Ferdinand (B+)
Neville (B)
A. Cole (B-)
Robinson (B)

Lennon looked dangerous every time he touched the ball. Who knows what he could have done if he'd been playing in a 10-man outfield instead of nine. Peter Crouch worked admirably as a lone striker in 4-4-1 and held the ball up extremely effectively. John Terry and Ferdinand were giant at the back if they could only offer more going forward. Neville and Ashley Cole had unspectacular but solid games. Robinson was a safe pair of hands, but plays the ball a little too slowly for my liking.

Capri Pants
Beckham (B-)
Joe Cole (B+)

Beckham marked the end of his World Cup career (and perhaps, his England career at a major tournament) with a fairly anonymous performance. Can't remember a single cross. Can remember a poor free kick. Joe Cole performed so well against Sweden that he was marked out of the game by Ecuador and now Portugal. Lampard and Gerrard should have benefited with more space, but they didn't.

Billowy, puffy, MC Hammer Pants
Gerrard (B-)
Lampard (C)
Rooney (B-)

Who's better? Gerrard or Lampard? I could give a crap. They both play way better for their clubs. I find it unlikely they will share the same midfield again. Rooney's red card was unforgivable. He stamped on Carvalho's nuts, perhaps not hard enough, and perhaps that wasn't why he was sent off, but that, in combination with the stupid push on Ronaldo, went a very long way to losing England the game. Idiot.

Previous Entries
Day 20: True British Patriotism
Day 19: Minor nations
Day 18: England's media
Day 17: Bless you, Becks
Day 16: GER 2, SWE U-11, Girls 0
Day 15: Picking the final 16
Day 14: Down goes the U.S.
Day 13: A long walk spoiled
Day 12: Another pants problem
Day 11: Rank and file
Day 10: Sea of yellow
Day 9: America, the beautiful
Day 8: Cheer up, America
Day 7: Pants ... again!
Day 6: Sweat and sausage
Day 5: Back in the U.S.A.
Day 4: Welcome, America
Day 3: Clarity at 190 kph
Day 2: England are pants
Day 1: I kiss football
Complete World Cup coverage

But now I have a beer in my hand. I'm sitting in my English garden in Bridgehampton, rabbits are hopping all around and the cardinals are singing in the bushes next to the cornfield. It still feels like England out here despite that pesky revolution. Murray beat Roddick, the British Open golf is just around the corner and my almost 2-year-old daughter has been practicing her football skills on the lawn, showing remarkable ability with both feet. She's even learned how to yell "goal." True, she shouts it while watching tennis as well, but I like her enthusiasm.

Life goes on. Without England or the U.S. in the semifinals, I won't be going back to Germany. I'll still be following the tournament. I'll still be watching it on ESPN and ABC. I'll still be writing about it here. I just can't believe these semifinal matchups.

Argentina out. Brazil out. England out. I can't support Germany. Not sure I can root for Italy except against Germany. Portugal sort of disgusts me. Unbelievably, I'm for France. The country of my father's mother's ancestors.

The country that won you (America) your independence.

Tribeca, New York, July 1, 1:55 p.m.
Additional Editor's Note: Page 2 World Cup special correspondent Michael Davies is a bit devastated right now with the elimination of England from the semifinals. After a few spirits, we're sure that he'll be posting some thoughts about the game later in the day.

Lost for words, I have just three haikus in me.

Rooney sent off and
England can't hit penalties
Bad weekend for wife

Hargreaves pantsless can
not win crooked game alone
Toddler sleeps through it

Life goes on for Brits
For meanwhile at Wimbledon
Murray beats Roddick

Michael Davies is a British-born television producer whose forthcoming projects for ESPN include the World Series of Darts and the documentary film "Once In A Lifetime" about the New York Cosmos, which will air on ESPN in October after being released theatrically by Miramax in July.