August 11th, 2010

England v Hungary 2010 (friendly)


In 1953, the Hungarians, led by a tubby little Brylcreem-lacquered fellow, whose name reminded of some hideous foreign brand of cat food, came to Wembley Stadium full of airs and presumptions. England, led by the redoubtable and eligible Billy Wright scoffed at them. What followed, however, was no laughing matter, as delusions of both imperial and footballing superiority were scotched upon the field of play that evening. For, as the records show, England put three goals past the miserable foe, and in so doing demonstrated that in all respects the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were over and that Hungary would have to take its place among Europe’s reduced ranks.

And so it has remained to this day. Here is a nation so moribund it looks at its shoes and wonders whether to wear them or to make a soup out of them. Here is a nation whose very name ignominiously bespeaks a shortage of vital resources (there is a reason Great Britain is called Great Britain and not “Thirsty”). Here is a nation whose team were kitted out in whatever material was to hand – one suspects that shirts and shorts-shaped gaps currently appear in the large national flags currently fluttering above the premises of the Ministry Of Beetroot Drainage in central Budapest.

Hungary versus Well Fed With Bully Beef, Thank You – that was what was at stake tonight in a fixture so important it merited the delay, or even the cancellation of the Premier League season. (What does it matter who wins that League, so long as the team are English? I suggest it is awarded on the basis of alphabetical order). The National Anthems told the story. Ours was as salutary as ever – it was doubtless to this noble verse, and for its duration, that the entire process of conceiving the Princes Charles, Andrew, Edward and the charming Princess Anne was carried out – there is no nonsense about Prince Phillip. As for the Hungarian anthem, it summoned a despondent weatherfront of reminders. Like scarved women emerging slowly from their bunkers to find their hovels reduced by an Act of God to charcoal. Like the 12th century slowly giving way to the even more miserable 13th. Like an old man foraging for dead field mice in a barn. Like a last grain of hope crushed by a trundling, rusty Soviet tank. Like a boatman stretching his leathery scrotum to breaking point in a gesture of utter futility.

The stadium was not full – this is unsurprising. Following what all parties bar Sepp Blatter and his corrupt African cronies acknowledge was England’s World Cup triumph, only a select, hand-picked band of England supporters can be considered worthy of supporting the team in person. Many tried, few passed the test for admittance.

The game itself began at a brisk pace, the Hungarians caught short of initiative as is their defeated, historical wont. England, as ever, did not dispatch the ball to one another along the ground, at the lowly level of some snivelling under-gardener but hoisted it aristocratically aloft. If God had meant us to play football along the ground, he would not have created the air. The Hungarians – Juhasz, Szelesi, Vadocz,? Dzsudzsak, not so much names as unsuccessfully suppressed sneezes – looked on flummoxed. Theo Walcott showed once again that he is on course to establish a successful first touch around the time earthlings establish first contact with aliens, which should be imminent, doubtless. Wayne Rooney showed that his simmering temperament is far from the sort of fellow to whom Paul Gascoigne will be attempting to deliver fishing rods and chicken any time soon. The expedient of playing two Johnsons was expedient – England were anything but a teamful of Johnsons in the World Cup – they are best referred to as Johnson (W) and Johnson (N). Frank Lampard’s display was once again a study in effortlessness, the new formation allowing him copious amounts of space to not run into. It speaks volumes for the man that despite being substituted at half time, he made no less of a contribution in the second 45 minutes than in the first.

The young players showed well, every man Jack and Friday of them. John Terry, meanwhile,  did more than just lumber up at set-pieces in the Hungarian penalty box in the hope of the ball bouncing off his head for some sort of heroic fucking “Captain’s” goal.

Come the second half and in an astonishing stroke of impertinence, the Hungarians took advantage of the unamusing misfortune of England defender Les Dawson to bustle the ball into the net. This outrage once again raised the issue of goalline technology. From now on, an electric forcefield must be placed along the England goal-line preventing it from being breached by swarthy upstarts ever again.

England soon hit back, however, with a superlative brace of goals by captain Steven Gerrard. In the dugout sat mascot Capello, the babbling Italian half-wit, whose latest bungle was to venture the opinion that David Beckham is no longer 21. It seems, for his sins, he has been replaced with a wooden, Pinnochio-type wooden doll, for he sat impassive to the celebrations going on around him as Gerrard scored. Clearly, he did not have the sentience to understand what was going on. It cannot have been that he was thinking to himself, “YEAH, YOU DO IT NOW, YOU TWAT! AGAINST THE FUCKING HUNGARIANS, THE FUCKING PERENNIAL BRENTFORDS OF FUCKING EUROPE! WHERE THE FUCK WERE YOU AGAINST ALGERIA? BROWNING YOUR FUCKING SHORTS AND PASSING AROUND THE BALL LIKE THE FUCKING BASTARD SON OF DOUGLAS BADER AND STEVIE FUCKING WONDER! YOU’RE LIKE THE FUCKING HARD ON YOU GET ON THE TOP DECK OF THE FUCKING BUS, WHY CAN’T YOU GET IT UP WHEN IT ACTUALLY FUCKING MATTERS?”

Naturally, I refuse to entertain the notion of England being beset by “fear” in major international tournaments. However, if there were even a grain of truth in the accusation, may I suggest that the England players, cut off from the world as they sensibly are, be informed that major games are, in fact, friendlies such as tonight’s? That way there would be not even the faintest chance of their playing in any inhibited way, and thereby win even more World Cups and European Championships. There is, of course, the off-chance that one of the players might twig – this, however, I doubt, as thankfully, one of the greatest qualities of the England team is that they are unburdened by the continental vice of intelligence.

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