Saturday 24 March 2018

Numbers just not adding up for countries averse to scoring

Sean Diffley

The object of the exercise last week in Euro 2012 qualifying matches was to put the ball in the opponents' net. That was the instruction of the coaches, the vehement demand of the fans and the expectation of the poised pens of the statisticians.

And what happened? And have you counted?

No less than 17 countries plying their trade from the Steppes to the Atlantic failed to score. Those failures included Russia, whose squad contains men whose weekly wage is greater even than that of Pat Kenny.

And there was Kazakhstan who avoided the net against Austria. I'd never heard of them before but checked on the ever-reliable atlas and discovered that if they cannot play football very well, they are a vast country of 15 million people and used to be part of the Soviet Union and are now wallowing in oil from the Caspian Sea.

So, in the view of Bill Shankly, the Liverpool manager of many an old maxim: "if you find yourself in the penalty area and not quite sure what to do with the ball, just stick it in the net and we'll discuss all your options afterwards."

The Kazakhstan option, obviously, was to stick another oil rig in the ground and tell the Austrians who scored twice against them "we have lots of oil and you can stick your Strauss and 'The Blue Danube' up yer gansey".

In mystifying contrast, let's consider Liechtenstein and Andorra, tiny enclaves where, if you take a short walk, you need to take your passport in case you'd wander into a neighbouring state a few yards away.

Liechtenstein, with a population of 32,000, went ahead in Scotland and nearly managed a draw, the hosts snatching victory deep into injury time. But really what could you expect from the Scots, who cannot even spell whiskey correctly, saving space I suppose, with whisky?

And then there's Andorra, deep in the Pyrenees with a population of 66,000 -- about the same as Foxrock.

They scored a goal against Ireland which I'm certain Foxrock FC would never concede. By the way, they have a GDP of $4.2bn (Andorra, not Foxrock), whatever that means -- but it's certainly a much better situation than Anglo Irish.

Anyway, reverting to those 17 non-scoring countries on Tuesday, the total of the combined squads would be over 200 players and if you're good at multiplication, or even higher maths, do your own financial calculations.

I think I'll have an aspirin and lie down for a while and contemplate after a recovering snooze at the news that Manchester City are to pay goalkeeper Joe Hart -- preferred to Shay Given -- £90,000 a week.

Already two of their players are on £160,000 and £205,000 a week. I read recently that a noted scientist says there is no God, it all happened with a Big Bang.

And evidently, that began at Eastlands.

Irish Independent

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