England take on Sweden in a double-header at the Copper Box Arena in London and the results prove it really is a game of two halves
There are way too many cliches in sports coverage, indeed it is fair to say you can talk about sport in cliches alone till the cows come home. Perhaps the worst offender being football the disease is now so rampant it is almost impossible to discuss it without descending to trite cliché. Some of them now so often used and so well known they have developed an almost traditional flavor as if the game wouldn’t be the same without someone making use of them.
The competition for the most ghastly amongst these probably to be had between the dismissively deceptive “on paper”, the ridiculous “this game needs a goal”, the dearly sad “for a big lad he’s good with his feet”, and the classic “at the end of the day”. Indeed at times it appears to be a matter of some competition between players, managers and commentators to see who can use these the most often, with commentators usually winning.
Of course when it comes to comments of a cliched nature there are a couple that stand out from the rest not as the most irritating or annoying, but as the most iconic or representative. The first was popularized by Jimmy Greaves whose line “it’s a funny old game” is now probably the excuse trotted out most frequently by those gambling news coverage the next day won’t be of their opinion on whatever transpired on the pitch just prior to their to-camera interview.
One of the reasons it is so popular is because a) it’s always true, b) it can be said in reaction to anything at all with a cheeky grin, and c) means absolutely nothing. These reasons apply equally well to the other major phrase of omni-usage; A game of two halves. The fact that soccer is by definition a game consisting of two 45 minute periods with a break in the middle, gives this one an edge of factual truth, rather than Greavsie’s that requires a judgment if not a sense of humor.
A Game Of Two Games
Sometimes, of course, it’s a game of two legs, which sounds just as ridiculous given the manner in which football is played, indeed those that bet on sports in Sweden are unlikely to place many wagers at Come On! Sportsbook that back a team without two legs per player, but is sometimes never the less true, as it was when the Swedes met the English in a double headed fixture of the fast-paced variety of soccer they call Futsal at the Copper Box Arena in London.
For those of you unfamiliar with Futsal it is a development of the somewhat maligned five-aside game that pits teams of just four players and a goalie against each other. The name derives from the Portuguese ‘Futebol de salao’ or “room football” reflecting it’s Uruguayan origins in the 1930s, it’s popularity in Brazil and the fact that it is most often played indoors. Perhaps most notable for it’s lack of a “play-off-the-walls” dynamic common to other micro-versions of football.
It’s popularity in Brazil is such that more people actually play it than football proper, however spectator numbers (and thus all the money that goes with it) is still relatively low, although it is seen as a route for some young players into the league football clubs with several futsal players making the move into a football career off the back of their small-pitch performances. Of course unlike five-aside Futsal is always played on a hard surface which makes the game fast, and emphasizes short passes and improvisation.
The England Sweden double-header in London was precisely what Futsal is all about with both teams coming into the games on good form. The England team under Peter Sturgess arrived on the tail of an unbeaten eight game streak, despite missing out on the Euro Qualifiers, which is a lament they could share with the Swedes who likewise didn’t get to go. The matches then were to be about trying to restore some pride and build on past performances.
Record Crowd Attendance
In the first game, attracting a “record” crowd of 878 (no, that’s not a misprint) England made all the right moves to begin with but then ran into Solberg, the Swedish goalie, who was to prove their undoing. Several opportunities in the first half were deftly halted by the big Swede, whilst at the other end the Swedish attack had no problem in opening the scoring and then adding another just before half time. The England team finally managed to get a goal in the second half, but that was only after the Swedes had got a third.
3 – 1 to the Swedes in the first game then, but of course this was a double-header making it truly a game of two….er…..games. Given their performance in the first game you knew England were going to come out fighting but the degree to which that would actually occur probably surprised the Swedes as much as it did the new record attendance of 1,430. It wasn’t so much a kick-off as an all out charge as the host side did all they could to make amends for their woeful performance not more than 24 hours earlier.
Three minutes in and Stuart Cook scored the first, then Ballinger grabbed two in rapid succession, with Gillermo Wallace making it 4 – 0 with just nine minutes on the clock. Ballinger was to score again to get a hat trick, and indeed become the first man in a three lions futsal jersey to score over 50 goals, whilst the poor Swedes were left to chase and ultimately fail to catch up. By the end of the game they’d score three times, but England had that beat.
If you’re Swedish gambling laws of mathematics are different in Futsal, I’m afraid I have to disappoint you and say that the Swedes lost the second of the two games 7 – 3. A rather disappointing end to a fixture that had begun so well. This English bounce back bodes well for the future, as do the attendance figures, although I don’t think the English Premier League has much to worry about just yet. Futsal has a long way to go before it’s featured on Match of the Day.