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Sports

5 shots from World Cup day 5: Southgate’s England plan is in motion

media England's Harry Kane celebrates after scoring the winner against Tunisia. Reuters/Sergio Perez

Shin digs in

Racist acid rained forth in the prelude to the Sweden v South Korea match in Nizhny Novgorod on day five. The Swedes were apparently trying to get the gen on the South Koreans by using all kind of long range lenses. South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong played down the incident though.

In any case, he added, just in case there was an eye in the sky, he had mixed up shirt numbers. “We switched them around because we didn't want to show our opponents everything and to try and confuse them,” he said. And then the bias gushed out: “They might know a few of our players but it is very difficult for westerners to distinguish between Asians and that’s why we did that.” We, at the review, blench. We assume Shin’s touchline talk to the subs was: “Damn, I can’t see the big blonde bloke I want you to follow.”

The organisers are having a laugh in Volgograd

Volgograd goes along 90 kilometres or so of the river Volga. One street carries on for 50 kilometres. So the locals clearly know about how to stretch things out. But surely playing the song “Football’s coming home” is a bit off. Why? Firstly, it was a song for the European championships in 1996 and secondly the review feels that New Order’s World in Motion was far better because it was for the 1990 World Cup and contained a peerless rap from John Barnes.

Besides in the 1996 tournament, Gareth Southgate missed a penalty in the shootout in the semi-final against Germany. Whatever happened to Southgate? Whatever happened to Germany?

It’s difficult trying to change ideas

England manager Gareth Southgate said in the prelude to his team’s clash against Tunisia that he felt it was time to change the poor perception of England players. He wanted the new breed to keep the ball and play brave, attacking football. It was true that during the 2-1 win over Tunisia there was an element of measure about England’s play.

But will the fans like the new era?  Yes they will if there are lots more victories. And even if there aren’t, at least Southgate’s idea is comprehensible. “We recovered from a harsh decision and kept our composure which pleased me,” said Southgate. “In the second half we kept our patience and looked for good opportunities rather than throwing the ball into the box and hoping. We kept wave after wave of attack and I think we got just reward. I was really pleased with what we did.” All Southgate needs now is five players who can score in penalty shoot-outs.

If you play for a draw you lose

We thought Nabil Maâloul, the Tunisia coach, was pretty cool. After his side’s 2-1 defeat to England he was asked about the wonders of Harry Kane. He deadpanned: “Harry Kane is wonderful, you don’t need me to tell you that.” But perhaps his players will learn not to be dirty with Harry. They clambered all over him for every single corner and free kick right up until he got a yard of space and nodded in the winner. Sloppy lads. To revamp a line from Akira Kurosawa’s film Throne of Blood: "If you tread the path of dirtiness, tread it in the most cruel manner possible". From about 75 minutes onwards, Tunisia seemed happy with the 1-1 while England gave the appearance of searching for the extra goal. They got it.

The generation game's afoot

We have no qualms about mingling high and low culture. Avid readers of the daily review might well wonder when the high will make sustained appearances. In response to that, let’s just say: Germany’s Mesut Ozil. One day, world football will catch up with him. But back to planet earth. Long ago in Britain there was a Saturday evening show called The Generation Game. It was hosted by a man called Bruce Forsyth and at the end he would wheel out his catchphrase: “Didn’t he/she/they do well?” And the audience would whoop and cheer.  And on day five in Kaliningrad, the England supporters were hailing England’s own Harry Hotspur.

The Tottenham striker’s winner in second half stoppage time was a dream World Cup debut. It also vindicated Gareth Southgate’s decision to bring on the pace and movement of substitutes Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 19 and 22 respectively. England are unlikely to win the World Cup in 2018 and they’re not offering a revolutionary brand of football. The coach is simply bringing them up to date. Anyone who has followed The Three Lions will salute the new order. England’s world is in motion.

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