Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sie können die Deutschen nicht durchstreichen

Apologies for the lack of updates around here recently. It seems the Promroiship took quite a lot out of me, and combined with Euro 2008 and Twenty20 zonal games which have been taking up a lot of my time, blogging has been on a bit of a back-burner lately.

It was a great weekend of sport last week with Amir Khan fighting in Brum for the first time as a result of pressure from his fans. The fight was one of the most exciting I have ever seen, almost straight out of a Rocky movie, and I felt Khan displayed flashes of brilliance although it was evident that he still has a lot of work to do on his defence. The day before saw Warwickshire beat Worcestershire for the first time in the six years of the Twenty20 competition. The Bears were unbeaten until this Friday, when they lost to a half-decent Northamptonshire team. With the Twenty20 Champions League around the corner, I am just wondering whether the Bears are taking the competition seriously now. They have to be a decent bet to win it outright, but I have said that before.

The jammy Germans. As the BBC commentary-by-cliche team would say, you can never rule them out. Well you can, and I did; and now they are in the final. To be fair I suspected they might make an appearance on June 29th due to the fact they were in the easy half of the draw. Far from being a decent team that has undereachieved since winning Euro 1996 (as the Beeb would have it, although they soon changed their story after their defeat by Croatia), Germany have actually been a very weak team for the last 12 years, going out in the first round of the last two European Championships and going out in the quarter-finals of 1998 to an even better Croatian team than currently plies its trade. They were very lucky to get to the final in 2002, qualifying from a group including Ireland, Cameroon and Saudi Arabia (who they beat 8-0), and beating the might of Paraguay, USA and South Korea before losing 2-0 in the final to the only decent team they played - Brazil (to think we started in the Group of Death with Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria and met Brazil in the quarter final...grrr!). Two years ago, after some very low expectations from the home fans, they made the semi-final before crashing 2-0 to the Italians in extra-time; but competitions on home soil are the exception to the rule (which is the reason we have a World Cup to our name). This year, apart form a great performance against the Portuguese, they have again been pretty average. Despite all the pre-tournament hype, this is the same team that took over from the likes of Moller, Haessler, Sammer, Effenberg, Bierhoff, Kilinsmann and Voller, but had very little chance of emulating their success, except now they are a lot older and I see very little coming through to replace them. However, that is no excuse for them to be underdogs tonight, given that the Spanish have also had a relatively easy route to the draw, with the Russians in their two games not coming close to the performance of the tournament against the Dutch in the quarter-finals, and a win on penalties against an Italian team who are still recovering from their World Cup win two years ago. It would be great to see the Spanish win Euro 2008 (although it would hammer home just how poor England's record is amongst the big European nations, with only one major final in our history), but they have yet to display they have the mentality to do it. Something the Germans do not have a problem with.

One of those quirks of fate that satisfies me for reasons I simply cannot fathom; on the day the Germans played Poland in a competition held in Switzerland and Austria, Robert Kubica, a Pole, won the Canadian Grand Prix in a German car (BMW) which used to be Swiss-owned (Sauber). Apart from the fact that Austria and Canada spoil the symmetry of this, I am sure there is some hidden meaning in this. Or maybe a United double, a Blues relegation and a potential German victory in Euro 2008 after England failed to qualify have finally taken a mental toll.

Worst season ever.

(Headline courtesy of Babelfish)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Gem of a Free Attraction

Apparently, the Museum of the Jewellery quarter in Birmingham has been ranked third in a list of the best free attractions in Europe. In an interesting article on the city recently by Iain Dale(in that it gave an outsiders view of Birmingham), one of the commenters noted that he tried to persuade his friend to buy and engagement ring from the area rather than Hatton Garden but she just would not listen.

Having lived in Birmingham all my life, I have known of the Jewellery quarter and its place in the history of the city, but have never really thought of it as one of our premier attractions. Perhaps we should pay more attention to this little gem of a local attraction.