I'm sure he's far too nice to laugh out loud - and he knows the players personally, so schadenfreude is out of the question. But behind that hand there must be just the slightest inner smile playing across Sven Goran Eriksson's soul this morning. England's retreat from Moscow means that they are relying on Israel to trip up Guus Hiddink's men now, and this is most unlikely. The beastly English media trashed the Swede for getting England into a succession of world quarter-finals. Now, under his successor (nowhere up to scratch, and treated with even greater vileness), the '66 hangovers will probably miss out on a major tournament for the first time since 1994.
The whole situation is laden with irony. First off, the current (but not for much longer?) England coach has dropped 10 points in Group E. Eriksson qualified for three tournaments while letting 11 points slip over 24 games in all, as Kevin McCarra pointed out in the Guardian this morning. On top of that poor Steve McLaren has been tactically outwitted by his possible successor, Hiddink, who commented last night: "You could see in the first half that we had two strikers and they were playing with [newbie] Joleon Lescott rather inside as a central defender with Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell. So in the first half we had a lot of space on the right side and so we could penetrate there; although our attacking was not fine-tuned we still had that threat. That was why I changed it at half-time; they were vulnerable that side. And I like making [the left winger] Joe Cole a left full-back: you get rid of one of their attackers. That is why we could damage them."
Then I have commented before how unjust and dumbass the anti-Sven, anti-'foreigner', Inger-landisms were. And the man himself has certainly done a good piece of advocacy for his talents at Manchester City. Well, now the England chickens have truly come home to roost by dropping the egg, committing unnecessary fouls (fowls, ouch!) and missing the bar. Bars are used to keep the hapless creatures penned up, right? Anyway, pathetic puns aside, it is more than possible that Britain will have no representatives at the European Championships - though my money is still on Scotland pulling off a shock against the Azzuri. I know, it makes no sense at all. And that's why it might just happen. Oh well, England may yet win a world cup again... but in rugby, which is a rubbish game and really doesn't count. (Sorry.) 'Mon Mandela!
Since I care much more, I shall withhold an analysis of Scotland's failings last night. Except to say that they were five or six players down, too cautiously framed, weighed down by expectations and up against a sprightly Georgia side with nothing to lose and a reputation to develop. As we like to say when we have nothing further useful to contribute: "that's football". Now back to the studio.