By Dermot Clarke
I wasn’t looking forward to this summer, to tell you the truth. No Euro championships, no World Cup, not even an Olympic Games. The Women’s World Cup was doing little for me as far as whetting the appetite was concerned. I have to say, though, that ever since Mia Hamm fired home that first goal against Denmark, I’ve been bitten by the Mia bug. I’m a Hamm-ster. The U.S. play Germany on Thursday and I’ll be rooting for them all the way.
This U.S. team is not just about Mia Hamm, though. There’s Michelle Akers, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome but is a powerful figure when on song, as she was against the Nigerians on Thursday last. The girls ran riot after Nigeria had taken an early lead and Akers set the ball rolling when she touched home Hamm’s free kick to equalize. The goal was credited to Chiejene, as an own goal, but it was all Akers. Then Mia Hamm scored her 111th International goal. The U.S. steamrolled the poor Nigerians for the remainder of the half. Tiffany Milbrett made it 3-1. Then Kristine Lilly headed home another superb Hamm free kick. Akers showed her power in the air as she rose to head home a Julie Foudy cross to make it 5-1. Cindy Parlow made it 6-1 at the half and the U.S. took the foot off the pedal in the second half, adding just one from Milbrett on 83 minutes.
On Sunday, coach Tony de Cicco sent out the "B" team to put the Koreans out, 3-0, and so allow the Nigerians to join the U.S. in the final eight. The U.S. go in with a 100 percent record and a 13-1 goal difference, that early goal by Nigeria being the sole concession.
The Women’s World Cup will never have the same prestige attached to it as the male version. For goals and excitement, though, it’s right up there, probably better, in truth.
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In Mia Hamm the U.S. have a real salt-of-the-earth superstar. A nice woman with an abundance of skill, two good feet, speed and uncanny awareness. A female Pele. I’m looking forward to Thursday.
Man. Utd. options
Manchester United have been offered the chance to give the F.A. Cup a miss next season. This will allow them to contest the inaugural World team championship. The F.A. feel that a success for United in this competition would boost England’s hopes of hosting the 2006 World Cup. It will take a lot of the gloss from the romantic domestic competition. Little point in winning the Cup next year if "United aren’t in it."
Alex Ferguson said he thinks that United should be given a bye to the fourth round of the Cup, that’s his solution. I think that they should have the competition without United and when it comes down to the final two, call it the semifinal, the winners playing United in the final. This would ease the fixture congestion problem. I believe that every effort should be made to make it as easy as possible for Manchester United to win as many trophies as possible in any given season.
Speaking of United, it seems Roy Keane will escape prosecution over the assault claims against him. The recent bar incident, in which he allegedly kicked two women, is a no case as far as police are concerned. Keane is now attracting interest from Juventus as his contract agreement with United is as yet not finalized.
Chris Waddle, the former England star ,agrees that it’s time to stem the flow of foreigners into the English game. The Bosman ruling, which began the influx, has had an adverse effect as far as English players in the English game are concerned. It is estimated that more than 700 could lose their income this year. There are now 175 foreigners playing in the English league.
In a good old-fashioned Cockney for a Celt deal, it looks like Mark Viduka could be on his way to Upton Park as part of the deal that Kenny Dalglish hopes will bring Eyal Berkovic to Glasgow. West Ham look like losing Marc-Vivien Foe to Liverpool, where he could be joining his Cameroon mate Rigobert Song.
Nottingham Forest are the latest club Joe Kinnear has his name linked to. Kinnear had already expressed his desire for a job at "the highest level." The promise of a £750,000-per-year contract, plus a £10 million spending fund, might just persuade big Joe to take a job at a slightly lower level.
Campbell for Everton
Everton, it seems have got their man. They have reached agreement with Trabzonspor for the transfer of Kevin Campbell. Campbell’s goals, while he was on loan from the Turkish club, kept Everton in the top flight last season and now he’s theirs for keeps after a £3 million fee was agreed. A downpayment and installments over the next twelve months was the payment structure allowed the cash strapped Toffees.
Another Campbell in the news is Tottenham’s Sol Campbell. The shortage of decent center-backs in World football was never better underlined, Roma are prepared to pay Tottenham 13 million for the services of the England defender. Fabio Capello believes that there are few defenders available with his power, pace and intelligence. Power and pace maybe, but intelligence? Capello need only watch the tape of the recent England-Sweden tie at Wembley to see how intelligent Campbell is. He may be only 25, but you can do a lot better with our thirteen million than Sol Campbell, Fabio, believe me.
And, finally, Shelbourne went out of the Inter-Toto Cup after a 2-0 defeat by Neuchatel Xamax. Can this summer get any worse?