Tuesday, May 30, 2006

World Cup Problem Page

Dear TSA,

I am in a bit of a state. You see for five years I was in a steady managerial job; life was predictable: qualifiers were easy, my team was settled, exits from major tournaments were limp but had convenient scapegoats. Oh there were high points - beating Germany and Argentina, those were good times, don't get me wrong.

But I was in a rut, I admit it.

First I decided I was going to leave my job. Then when my top striker, Wayne, got injured, I don't know what happened to me, I just flipped. It was like all the years of doing the safe thing caught up on me and I just couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't except that Wayne was injured - I was in denial, I guess, still am.

Then I went a picked a 16-year old who has never played at the top level for the World Cup. It was foolish, I know, I just got carried away; he was so young and carefree, so unlike the old me I had come to resent so much. And just yesterday I decided to play Jamie, my stalwart defensive back-up, in the holding midfielder role I had spent years convincing myself we didn't need.

What is wrong with me?

Sven, London

TSA writes: Sven, you're going through a classic fin de siecle scenario. It is the end of an era for you, and the resulting insecurity about the future, fears about fulfilment and the desire to ensure your legacy have sent you into a tailspin where you are questioning everything you have ever done. My advice is to relax and let the World Cup look after itself. It'll all fall into place and you'll go out in the semis on penalties. Wayne's injury and some refereeing controversy will ensure you are fondly remembered as the manager who had the World Cup snatched away from him.


Dear TSA,

I just can't stop eating. I've always loved my food, but managed to look after my body. But the World Cup is coming up and I'm out of shape.

I won the tournament single-handedly last time after a bad experience in the previous campaign in 1998, and since then I've just drifted a bit. I found myself eating to replace the loss of the excitement that I wasn't getting out of the game anymore. I always thought it would come back but in the morning when I wake up, instead of thinking about scoring the winner for Brazil in the final, I think about eggs and bacon, followed by pancakes and Nutella.

What can I do to stop eating so much?

Ronaldo, Madrid.

TSA writes: The thrill has gone, hasn't it? The traumatic experience in 1998 drove you on, and you achieved such a sense of catharsis and redemption in 2002 that you subconsciously felt there was nothing else to live for, and your eating is symptomatic of the pointlessness you feel. You NEED to snap out of it. Basically 2002 was a bad World Cup. Brazil were the best team, but they beat an average German side in the final, your supposed finest hour. This time Argentina, England, Italy, France and plenty others will be much tougher, so this is the tournament to really write yourself into Brazilian football history. Toss the doughnuts into the bin, get your Nikes on and just do it.


Dear TSA,

I am manager of France, but I feel like schoolteacher in charge of a bunch of unruly kids. I can't control them, there are factions fighting in the squad and I have a problem with my goalkeepers fighting,

What can I do?

Raymond, Paris

TSA writes: For a start, drop Barthez and put Coupet in. That bald eejit has been a liability for years now and only keeps his place because of some misplaced sense of connection with the great sides of 1998 and 2000. You need to make it clear to the old guard that you are in charge, but get the likes of Makalele, Vieira and Zidane onside. Bring in the nifty young fellas like Malouda to back up Zizou and Pat and stop going on about astrology.


Dear TSA,

Of all the times to be manager of Italy at a World Cup, I get to do it in the middle of the biggest scandal to ever hit Italian football. Worst thing is, I'm sort of involved, as my son has been implicated and I used to manage Juventus, the main culprits.

All of Italy is up in arms (a bit rich if you ask me, as everyone has known there was funny business going on in Italian football for years, and now they're pretending to be outraged), the players get asked about nothing else, and its just really difficult to focus on the tournament.

Help please!

Marcello, Turin.

TSA writes: Let me ease your worries Marcello. Once the tournament starts the match-fixing scandal will be put on hold, that much is for sure. And what you have here is every manager's dream: a siege mentality situation, all set up. Italian football is being shamed in front of the world, after a season when the country's club teams were humbled in Europe: but the players sense of injured pride will work for your benefit, bonding the squad and reinforcing camaraderie. And, just in the nick of time, it looks like Totti will be fit...


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