Brian Viner: Complacency sets in early as Motson revels in high drama

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The Independent Football

John Motson seemed to be tempting fate when he mentioned before last night's match that Lisbon was the venue for England's first post-war international, which they won 10-0 following Tommy Lawton's opening goal after just 17 seconds.

Knowing dear old Motty's propensity for matching the then and the now, I was surprised that he didn't make the link between Lawton and Wayne Rooney, another idol of Goodison Park - although after making England's first goal and scoring the second and third, for how much longer? Yet another Evertonian who wore No 9 for England, last night's co-commentator Joe Royle, seemed to think that the writing is on the wall for Rooney and Everton, and in luminous paint too.

Still, Roman Abramovich's presence in the crowd notwithstanding, Everton may yet tie Rooney to a longer deal. Nothing is as it seems. Take Otto Baric's hair, which indeed you probably could, before handing it back to him the following day. The Croatia manager and David Mellor-lookalike is supposed to be 71, yet his hair seems to have aged better than the rest of him. Is it a toupé, or reliant on the regular application of Grecian 2000? And should not the makers of Grecian 2000 consider renaming their product Grecian 2004, following the improbable progress of Greece into the quarter-finals at the expense of Spain? Greece, of course, will now be playing France on Friday, while England play the one team who can guarantee a bigger contingent of fans: the hosts, Portugal.

As the match wore on, and it became increasingly likely that England were about to make it out of the group stages of a European Championship for the first time on foreign soil, complacency began to set in. Not on the pitch but in the commentary box. "It would take a massive turnaround for things to go wrong now for England," said Motty, with England only 2-1 up. Nobody tempts fate quite like Motty. He even found time to namecheck small towns in Buckinghamshire. "Gerrard's cross," he cried, excitedly. It was a vintage night for Motty. Barely 20 minutes after he had talked about that unlikely "massive turnaround" he was pointing out, with the calm wisdom of a veteran football-watcher, that "you can take nothing for granted". And seconds later: "It's safe to say that this really will clinch England's place in the quarter-finals." Fabulous stuff. We also got some classic "bons Mots", none better than "Cole was the only player England left back... [pause] well, he is left-back." Priceless.

Motson is something of a lucky charm for England, having commentated on some memorable victories. But not as much of a lucky charm as last night's impeccable referee Pierluigi Collina, who also took charge of the famous 5-1 victory in the World Cup qualifier in Munich, and the 1-0 defeat of Argentina in the last World Cup. I was surprised that no credit was given to Collina in the panel's post-match discussion, although these days it is taken for granted, as Motty would say, that the Italian will play a blinder.

The selection of that panel was a surprise, Peter Reid replacing Peter Schmeichel, whose place had seemed secure. Maybe the feeling was that such an important England game needed a bit more pro-England passion, although Ian Wright has more than enough passion to go round. Reid - while it pains me to say it of one of football's good guys - is not a born pundit, finding it hard to stray far away from the bleeding obvious. I'd like to see Schmeichel back in the chair on Thursday. Although the place I'd really like to see him is between England's goalposts. David James, as the great Dane would surely have pointed out even in the throes of victory, remains a liability.

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