One tactical ploy which all these fancy continental teams do not seem to have used much is the good old British (and Irish) long throw so beloved of Stoke City. Is it something to do with the much-criticised Jabulani ball? Not according to Stoke City's Rory Delap, who said after testing it back home in Staffordshire: "I can throw this one just as far as the balls we use in the Premier League. It is a little bit slippier, but as long as I had my towels on hand to dry the ball I'd be fine with it." A shame, for many reasons, that his Ireland team were not at the tournament after they, er, handed a place to France.
Get with the programmes
Even with the 1966 World Cup final programme now selling for more than £100, South Africa does not seem to appreciate the potential for collectors of memorabilia. One of the army of volunteers being used here was this week seen dumping a trolley load of official programmes by a bin outside Fifa headquarters. One programme was issued for the start of the tournament and another one at the knockout stage, and the organisers are now promising a special issue for today's final. It would have been unusual of the marketing arm to miss a money-making trick.
League of their own
Last week's analysis of England's wretched performances prompted a lively response from readers of The Independent on Sunday. One correspondent, a doctor, attached two revealing statistics concerning the detrimental effect of the Premier League. Firstly, of the five teams out of 32 that did not include a Premier League player, two – Germany and Uruguay – reached the semi-final. Secondly, there were 108 Premier League players at the tournament, yet only nine of them who reached the quarter-finals (7.5 per cent) had played more than 20 League games in England last season. Our medic's conclusion is: "It is almost impossible to build a World Cup-winning team out of the Premier League. Perhaps it is too many games and tiredness, but more likely it is that these players value their clubs (who after all pay them their excessive wages, and therefore are responsible for their lifestyles) more than their countries." For this week's quiz question, how many of the nine can you name? Last week's question asked, to the nearest 5,000, how many people watched the one match played at London's White City in the 1966 event. The answer was 45,662 to see Uruguay beat France 2-1.
A fixture pile-up – already
Yet more fixture congestion and the new season has not even begun. At the back end of it will come the unlikely scenario of the FA Cup final being played on a regular Premier League Saturday, 14 May. The problem this time is caused by the Champions' League final being at Wembley on 28 May, which means that Uefa insist on the stadium not being used for 10 days beforehand; a sensible precaution given the recent pitch problems. So the teams involved (assuming they are from the top flight) will have to move their 14 May fixtures as soon as their identity is known, while most other scheduled games will be on the Sunday. There is a knock-on effect too for the Football League, with at least two of the three play-off finals having to be moved elsewhere, to the disappointment of lower-league clubs missing out on a trip to Wembley. The League are seeking hefty financial compensation.Reuse content