The dread moment arrived at 1900 hours yesterday evening: after all the hype, all the waiting, and most importantly all the apprehension, England’s World Cup campaign got under way with a game against Tunisia in Volgograd. Well, it wouldn’t be the Germans playing in what was once Stalingrad, would it? Not much fun there.
A penalty giveaway and dogged Tunisian defence made for frustrating watching, but thanks to captain Harry Kane, England prevailed, which is, whisper it quietly, more than they did in their opener in 1966. But someone was not happy at the performance, and not only that, he knew better than everyone else. Step forward career armchair expert and whinger supreme Piers Morgan, taking a break from griping about Arsenal.
Sir was on the whine from the word go: “Jeez, get a grip England - this finishing is crap … This is dire … Lingard must be approaching some kind of all-time record for missed chances in a World Cup game”. Perhaps the whine was accompanying the carp.
This excess of armchair lack of expertise may have been what caused Gary Lineker, who has actual experience of playing for England in the World Cup, to muse “Never ceases to amaze me how easy some folk think World Cup football is. Have you watched all the so called big teams? It ain’t that easy, especially against tough defensive opposition. I suppose those that are so critical haven’t been there, though. Night all”.
No-one was mentioned by name, but Morgan suddenly had a Derek Jameson moment. Did he mean him? He surely did! “Do you feel the same way about people who’ve never been a politician constantly spouting off about politics & telling politicians how inept they are” he snarked at Lineker, thus leaving a gaping open goal.
And Lineker was, as was his custom during his playing career, goalhanging in case such an opportunity came along. “Many people who have never played have a good understanding of the game and that football at this level is bloody hard. Therefore do feel free to carry on spouting off about politics and telling politicians how inept they are, Tubs”.
Ouch! At this point, the sensible thing would have been to leave the field of play before it got worse. Not Morgan. “I don’t think you need to have played the game at a high level to know last night’s performance was less than ‘exceptional’”. Armchair expertise is OK if Piers says so! Lineker wasn’t having that. “Given the lack of experience, I’d say the first 30 minutes were terrific as was their attitude, but you carry on knocking them”.
At this point, Morgan made the fatal error of suggesting his was bigger than Lineker’s. “I prefer a more honest critique: good first half, poor second half, lucky win. And may I remind you that we’ve both won the same number of international football tournaments”.
So another open goal got the full treatment. “I prefer a more accurate critique. Excellent first half. Difficult second due to Tunisia, realising they were being overrun & changing to a much more defensive approach. Awful use of VAR, so unlucky not to win by more. And may I remind you that I have 1 more Golden Boot than you”.
Piers Morgan is still trying to win this one in the retelling. But, once again, as Winshton said of Austen Chamberlain, “he always played the game, and he always lost it”.