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FIFTH OFFICIAL

The last look at the weekend

March 30, 2009

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a five-star weekend.

GettyImagesThe Dutch are wary of Wayne Rooney.

Too hot to handle

After Wayne Rooney's temper became topic de rigueur this week the striker put in a nonchalant, corner-flag-punching-free display against a pretty underwhelming Slovakia side. True, this was a friendly, but that cuts little ice when it comes to the Roonatic's behaviour - he'll happily pull anyone's head off whether it's the World Cup final or a kickaround on the streets. As it was, the Slovakians proved rather subservient opponents and Rooney's alter ego stayed in the locker.

Fabio Capello is clearly getting to grips with the national pastime for parody after diffusing the potential problem of Rooney's indiscipline by gathering the squad round to hear him call Wayne a "crazy man". Everyone pointed at Wayne and laughed and he responded, not by slapping them all round the face before giving Capello a wedgey, but by affording himself a little giggle too.

Clearly he is indispensable to Capello's cause, a point underlined by the string of injuries sustained by his inferiors - Peter Crouch, Emile Heskey and Calton Cole - who all limped off within minutes of taking the field. But with the Roonatic in this mood, and his big mate Steven Gerrard in the form of his life operating as a second striker, the reassuring truth is that Darren Bent will almost certainly not see any action on Wednesday.

The Qurious case of Carlos

Carlos Queiroz's glittering spell in charge of Portugal continued at the weekend as his side missed an avalanche of chances on their way to a 0-0 draw with Scandinavian giants Sweden. Crikey, even star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic was missing. In this pathetic form Portugal would probably struggle to take a point off an Ikea Select XI.

After five games Portugal now lie third in their group on six points - four behind joint leaders, and European powerhouses, Hungary and Denmark. With players like Ronaldo, Deco, Carvalho, Simao and Bosingwa at his disposal there's no getting away from the fact that Queiroz is the Tony Adams of international management.

It couldn't happen to a nicer chap though as far as I'm concerned. After all, this was the man who was twice employed as Fergie's henchman at Manchester United (he left to coach Real Madrid but legged it back to Old Trafford with his tail between his legs after just ten months in charge) who often stood in front of the cameras belittling referees and patronising those teams he considered to be beneath his.

"Unfortunately football is not for those who deserve it but for those who win," Queiroz said after Portugal's draw, shortly before he sank to his knees, raised his fists to the sky and shouted: "Why me? WHY?!"

Messi masterclass mesmerizes Maradona

In stark contrast to the miserable time being endured by Queiroz and Portugal, Diego Maradona continued his impressive start to life with Argentina as his star-studded side pounded Venezuela 4-0 to go second in their World Cup qualifying group.

A quick glance at the score sheet demonstrates the firepower at Diego's disposal as Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Maxi Rodriguez and Sergio Aguero all netted. Unlike Queiroz though, Maradona has the magnetism to knit even the biggest bunch of Galacticos into a coherent unit. Thumping a relatively small country is far from a monumental achievement, but we've all got to start somewhere. I bet they'd have pummelled Sweden.

Only time will tell whether Maradona can cut it as an international manager but his outspoken nature certainly won't help. Before the game with Venezuela he repeated a previous attack on his old foe Pele, once again questioning the Brazilian's sexuality.

Mind you, with a player like Messi at your disposal you can get away with a loose gob. Before the game Maradona handed Barcelona's superstar the number ten shirt and simply said "It's yours," thus registering his contender for best two-word motivational speech in history.

Bellamy smells the end

One can always rely on pint-sized urchin Craig Belamy to offer a good soundbite or two, especially in the wake of a crippling defeat to feeble opponents; and, after Wales had crumbled against the mighty Finland, the Manchester City striker couldn't hide his rage.

"That was two poor sides trying to contest this game and neither of us have a glimmer of hope of qualifying," said the Wales captain. He may have a point seeing as Russia and Germany are already well placed but that's hardly the attitude to sport with five games still to go is it?

He wasn't finished there though: "Where we go from here, God knows. We've got a lot of games to play, but same old story, we're out of the group. They are not a good side."

In these days of media trained players trotting out the same vague, inoffensive lines week after week, perhaps its refreshing for Bellamy to emerge from the dressing room and tell it exactly how it is. Or maybe Wales' group of relatively young and untested players deserved a little better.

GettyImagesThe Swede will hope his Mexican sacking will not hinder his chances of getting a new job in the Premier League

Carry on Svennis

Hallelujah! The comedy gold that is 'Sven Goran Eriksson does Mexico' can continue for another few days at least after they beat Costa Rica 2-0 on Saturday. Putting their profoundly disappointing defeat to the United States behind them, Mexico finally engaged World Cup qualifying campaign lift off at the Azteca.

Of course, the win will be hastily forgotten if Svennis fails to pick up points in Honduras on Wednesday and when the two sides came face-to-face last time out Mexico lost 1-0. Add a demoralising defeat by Jamaica into the mix and it's no wonder Sven isn't universally adored by the footy-mad Mexican public. In fact the only people who seem to retain any sort of warmth towards the man are from Manchester City. Oh, and the whole of Sweden too.

In the midst of his Mexican meltdown, amorous suitors from Portsmouth arrived offering wads of cash in return for plucking Pompey from their Premier League peril. Why he chose to stay put is hardly a mystery. I mean, he's already got plenty of wedge so it came down to a straight choice of surroundings, and you don't get many sexy senoritas to the pound round Fratton Park these days do you?