World Cup News

By Keller, Hans | New Statesman (1996), June 12, 2006 | Go to article overview

World Cup News


Keller, Hans, New Statesman (1996)


The New Statesman

8 July 1966

Let me bring you up to date before we or Uruguay kick off in 84 hours' time. First, at the opening ceremony watched by billions, the Queen will give a prize to any foreign visitor who has discovered what our World Cup stamps mean. The 4d one is particularly intriguing--two left-footers in individual combat, one of them kicking the air with gusto. The red-blue player must be Chilean, while the all-blue one is a country-less ghost: maybe that's why he's allowed to dangle his foot under the Chilean's nose (breach of Law 12, clause 1). The 6d and 1s/3d stamps are goalmouth scrambles of the type that brings soccer into disrepute. On the one, another ghost is charging the goalkeeper in the air, while on the other, what must be an Argentinian (blue and white stripes) climbs on an opponent's shoulder in order to head--a straightforward foul (Law 12, clause g).

How easy it would have been to reproduce photographs of some of the world's greatest players in characteristic action. Nobody would have objected to singling out Pele or Eusebio, and only Ramsey would have objected to including Greaves. Would have, but no longer. For this is my second piece of stop-press news: Ramsey and his journalistic support have discovered that England's leading scorer--43 goals in 51 internationals--might score goals. With this discovery our World Cup chances increase.

There were two other things to be discovered by Greaves in the game against Finland--his improved heading and his improved right foot. He used to joke about his heading and say that he tended to hit the goalkeeper's chin instead of the ball. In his recent book, Soccer Techniques and Tactics, he writes at the beginning of his chapter on heading: "If you have ever seen me play you may well feel that this chapter carries less authority than some of the others, for there is no doubt that when it comes to heading I am quite a good kicker of the ball."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

We can no longer regard his headed goals as so many flukes: there is a new, palpable zest for heading, and there must have been some deliberate application behind it. His first two international goals after recovery from hepatitis were headers--in the first halves of the matches against Yugoslavia and Norway--and in the second half against Yugoslavia, there was another stunning header that just went over the bar. As for his right foot, I cannot remember a match in which he scored two goals with it, as he did against Norway.

Asked about that performance in Oslo, Ramsey is reputed to have said something about the achievement of "11 men", counteracting any overestimation of Greaves's contribution. Well, I'm all for 11 men, but Ramsey has been playing about with 22. To make a squad match-fit is one thing; never to let a first side settle down--worse, not even to admit its existence--is another. …

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