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Digital Subscriptions >  Blog > The Defenders by Pat Collins

The Defenders by Pat Collins
Charles Buchan's Football Monthly

The Defenders by Pat Collins

Posted 05 June 2015   |   5680 views   |   Sport   |   Comments (0) No hedging now! I've looked hard at everything in the field and my money is down. It's "same again" for me with the forecast that on Sunday, June 21, you will be dancing round your TV sets, proclaiming the successful completion of their mission in Mexico by England, the defenders.

Had the 1970 World Cup final rounds been due for decision anywhere in Europe I have not a doubt that the holders would have been very warm favourites to retain the trophy ...and properly so. They would be hard to match in 'home' conditions.  

Instead it is Brazil, who will naturally feel very much at home in the Mexican atmosphere, who are most favoured, as in 1966, to make the golden Jules Rimer statuette their own with a third success.

But I doubt if Pele and Co. will stay the playing distance. England, sturdy England, can do it again . . . can produce the men and the methods for the moment.

I don't exactly go along with the reactions of such as Sir Alf Ramsey, captain Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton to the strong opposition they face in Group 3. "Let's have the tough teams first, we've got to meet them sometime," they chorused.

But it isn't necessarily the best way of having to go about holding their title. A boxing champion doesn't thrive on punishing bouts just before defending his crown.

However, it does show the mood and the confidence of the England camp.

From the cheap jibes and envious sneers from some, about having the '66 Wembley success carved up for us, we start our defence in Guadalajara with the understandable impression that somebody, somewhere had decided that the scoffers would not be able to raise a whisper this time in the event of an English repeat. And bending over back-wards to do so!
Four years ago I laced confidence in England's impending World Cup triumph with a lot of hope. We had taken a long time to settle into a team with a chance, but the signs had begun to appear.

The last stringent preparations, with players brought together for longer than ever before, provided the essential bond, poise and purpose.

Now I have more confidence than hope, much more. Despite the altitude; despite the heat, the so different surroundings; despite the long, wearing waiting for real action. All these, I feel, are the biggest barriers to a successful English defence of her crown—not the football ability of their rivals, be they Brazil, Italy, Russia or any other.

This is unquestionably the strongest group of players that England has ever boasted. The best prepared, mentally and physically, the greatest all-round bunch of performers.

Strong to the point of making it the case that who he leaves out rather than who to put in is Sir AIf's chief problem. With striking the best blend his No.1 priority.

I WOULD like to feel that we were stronger in our finishing powers—but which team wouldn't?

I WOULD be even more confident if we could hit on the mind-reading under-standing at full-back of the George Cohen-Ray Wilson partnership. But circumstances have forced many changes on the Way to the pairings at Sir Alf's disposal.

And here again, we are looking back to the finest full-back combination England has ever been able to field.

Those slight reservations do not alter my feelings a bit. That we have the best-ever available ... the others have got to be good to stay with us.

More than ever before, with the permutations which the use of two substitutes at any time from five names given to each referee before a match will allow, could results hang on the puppet-like manipulations of coaches and team-managers.

It makes for touch-line duels almost as important, and interesting, as those out on the pitch.

If the Brazilians have the conditions to suit them and the backing to spur them on, it is the Italians who are reckoned tp be the most exciting prospects.

The names roll readily off the tongue... Riva, Rivera, De Sisti. Mazzola, Anastasi, Facchetti, Domenghini.

It is a daunting parade of power for any rival but the wonder is whether it will all amount to yet another of the disappointing Italian efforts we have witnessed after they have looked so much like live contenders.
They have, for all their promise, never eventually looked like repeating the feats of the great Vittorio Pozzo's Cup-winning sides of 1934 and 1938.

Their last attempt in England, when, again, a strong case was being made out for their chances and when some of those mentioned here were concerned, turned instead into their biggest flop.

They slunk out of their North-east headquarters having failed to qualify for the quarter-finals, on the losing end of the tournament's biggest upset—their defeat by the lithe little men of North Korea.

But this time, I feel, we have much more to fear from Facchetti's men. There is plenty of talent in the Italian side „ if they can be kept at their job.
As the greatest danger to a successful English defence of the World Cup I incline more to Italy than Brazil who will be hoping for the best from Pele, a clean bill of health for Tostao and a reawaken-ing of the early promise of Edu.

Here is the way 1 see the progression to the Final on June 21...

Group 1 - 1 Russia 2 Mexico 3 Belgium 4 El Salvador
Group 2 - 1 Italy 2 Uruguay 3 Sweden 4 Israel
Group 3 - 1 England 2 Brazil 3 Czechoslovakia 4 Rumania
Group 4 - 1 West Germany 2 Bulgaria 3 Peru 4 Morocco

This would mean the following quarter-final line-up...
Russia v. Uruguay
Mexico v. Italy
England v. Bulgaria
Brazil v. West Germany

From those meetings I would expect Russia to carry a mite too much strength for Uruguay... Italy to overcome the frenzied home support for the Mexicans... England to find a couple of goals too many for a dour Bulgarian side and a Brazilian victory' over a West Germany a few cuts below the standard of the 1966 losing finalists.

Which would mean the following semi-finals...
Russia v. England
Italy v. Brazil

And if I am right in thinking that the Italians will do much better this time, then this would be their chance for a place in the Final... which I think they could take.

England beat Russia with a deal of ease when the countries last met in the European Nations Cup in Rome. I doubt that the Soviets have picked up sufficiently to catch us. We would carry enough know-how to move on to the Final and a meeting with Italy.

Any final from the more powerful countries should be a taut, tense struggle. If my pairings work out one could hardly expect a greater battle than England v. Italy. For the record, their last meeting was in Rome in 1961. The Italians have failed to come out on top in the eight meetings between the two countries.

Sir Alf Ramsey would be in no mind to have that changed if all my calculations prove to be correct. I think we would blunt their Latin skills, carry too much punch for too long for their defence. IT'S ENGLAND FOR ME... AGAIN!

For more great articles like this get the No. 226: Jun 1970 issue of Charles Buchan's Football Monthly below or subscribe and save.

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