The rise of the Cod Army

There is a new name on the League Two fixture list this season. Not too many in the division will know much about newcomers Fleetwood Town, but they better start learning pretty swiftly. The Cod Army, as they are commonly known, have enjoyed a meteoric rise through non-league football and the journey looks unlikely to end yet.

It’s fair to say 2011/12 could not have gone any better for the Lancashire-based outfit. They enjoyed an FA Cup run into the third round for the first time in their history, seeing off the likes of Mansfield, Wycombe and Yeovil before drawing local rivals Blackpool. Unfortunately, they buckled under the pressure of playing the biggest game in their history, losing 5-1 to Ian Holloway’s boys. This wasn’t to deter them from the rest of the season; Fleetwood enjoyed a 29 game unbeaten run before sealing the title with two games remaining. Chairman Andy Pilley told the BBC that promotion to the Football League was the ‘culmination of many years’ hard work’ and that their success would also represent a huge economic boost for the town.

The Cod Army’s rise to the Football League has been swift. Last season was their fifth promotion in eight years. They almost reached the elite 92 in 2011, but were denied in the Conference playoffs by a rampaging AFC Wimbledon side, with whom they will renew rivalries with next season. Much credit has to be directed towards the Chairman. Andy Pilley has ensured his side have received much financial backing, not to mention the development of Highbury Stadium to host a side fit for League football.

The mastermind behind the rise of Fleetwood is former Blackpool midfield Mickey Mellon. The fact he originally juggled the job part-time between managing Fleetwood and Burnley’s u15’s and 16’s is testament to how far the club have come. Despite being a former Tangerine, the Fleetwood faithful have forgiven him for this minor indiscretion. The Cod Army were bottom of the Conference North when he took over in 2008, but he led them to a creditable eight place finish that year before sealing promotion to the Conference the following year, after beating Alfreton Town in the playoff final. The boss is lucky to have a strong squad at his disposal and he has already made a number of eye-catching signings. Former Northern Ireland international Damien Johnson will provide steel and experience to the midfield having enjoyed a career in the Premier League with Blackburn and Birmingham, while Mellon has also snapped up Jon ‘the beast’ Parkin following his release from Cardiff City. This piece of business is certainly a coup for the Cod Army, Parkin is still capable of making an impact at a higher level and has troubled defenders throughout his career with his unassuming style of play.

However, the side have also lost of couple of players that inspired them to promotion. Striker Magno Vieira scored 31 goals in 64 games for the club, but he has decided to join the developing project at Forest Green Rovers instead of trying his hand in League Two. More disappointing is the departure of free-scoring forward Jamie Vardy. He caught the eye last season, bagging 34 goals in all competitions, a record that ensured many bigger clubs had identified him as a possible target back in January. Vardy’s exit was inevitable and he has joined Leicester City in a deal potentially worth £1.7 million to the club, a huge amount of money for a side competing at this level. Vardy will leave the club with the best wishes of everyone involved with Fleetwood, but the team most certainly could have done with a player of his calibre in the starting XI come August.

The excitement levels are starting to rise around Fleetwood as the new season creeps ever closer. The release of the fixture list will see Mellon’s men take on Torquay first at Highbury, a tough ask considering their opponents reached the playoffs last time around. The draw for the League Cup has also thrown up another eye-catching tie, this time against four-time winners Nottingham Forest. This may seem a tall order for Fleetwood at the moment, but given their level of progression over the last couple of years, who can rule out the possibility of that being a permanent league fixture in the future?

Euro 2012: Heroes and Zeros – Semi Finals

So Euro 2012 is almost done and dusted with Spain and Italy set to contest the final in Kiev on Sunday. It took a penalty shootout to separate Vicente Del Bosque’s men from their Portuguese neighbours, while Cesare Prandelli’s side stunned the Germans with a brilliant display. Here’s who caught the eye in this round:


HEROES

Mario Balotelli – How can you describe the man? Super Mario lit up the semi final with two stunning finishes, showing just why if he puts his mind to it, he can truly be one of the best players in the world. Balotelli even worked hard for his side, tracking back and chasing the ball, something that will have shocked everyone at Manchester City. His header was well taken, but his second was simply sensational, firing past Manuel Neuer in the German goal before ripping off his shirt ensuring that if he fails in football, there’s always a gig out there for him as a stripper. Balotelli said before the game he never celebrates his goals, but this was a display of raw emotion from a young man who’s never out of the headlines. Perhaps this could be the moment for Mario to grow up and fulfil his obvious potential. Or maybe he’ll get sent off on Sunday. You just never know.

Cesc Fabregas – Nerves of steel that boy. He might not be completely sane talking to the ball on his run up, but it sure worked for him. Spain seem to finally have put their penalty hoodoo behind them, winning the last two in a row. If only they could teach England how to do it. Or just give us their players.

Andrea Pirlo – Another masterclass from the maestro. The Germans picked Toni Kroos to try and mark him out of the game, but Pirlo still dominated the midfield, outplaying the Germans’ Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil and starting the move that led to Balotelli’s opening goal. He even showed his defensive qualities, clearing one off the line from Mats Hummels. Calls for the Ballon d’Or may be premature, indeed the footballing world seems to simultaneously fall into orgasm every time Pirlo even breathes at the moment, but he’d certainly be a worthy winner of player of the tournament. Majestic.

Cesare Prandelli – Credit has to go to the coach for Italy’s performances this tournament. They were written off before it had even begun, losing 3-0 to Russia in a warm-up and struggling with the accusations of match fixing. No one expected them to really get this far and Prandelli’s tactics have to be praised. He set out to beat the Germans in Warsaw rather than just contain them like other Italian sides might have done previously and got his just reward. England should perhaps take note.

Gianluca Vialli – Slotted onto the BBC sofas effortlessly, adding a touch of class to proceedings whilst providing us viewers with some insightful analysis,. And therefore we didn’t have to listen to Alan Hansen. Joy of joys!

ZEROS

Germany – Arrogance is never a nice personality trait. And the Germans displayed it in abundance on Thursday. If resting their key players for the Greek game wasn’t enough, Joachim Loew’s side seemed to have simply decided they were going to beat Italy by default. They paid for it as well, Italy stunned them as the Germans started unusually sluggishly and therefore it’s once again only the semi finals for this talented young side. Hopefully they’ll have learnt their lesson.

Portugal’s penalty order – Don’t leave your best penalty taker till last. Ever. Ronaldo should have stepped up earlier to give Portugal the advantage. Instead, Paulo Bento’s order meant their talisman and dead ball specialist didn’t even get the chance to take one and could only watch on in horror as Bruno Alves thumped his effort against the bar.

Mark Lawrenson – Listening to his ‘punditry’ is almost as painful as hearing someone drag their nails down a blackboard. I lost count of the number of times he said ‘surely not’ in a sarcastic voice, while he’s doing a good job of defining the phrase ‘stating the obvious.’ If ITV signed him up to do a show with Adrian Chiles, I’d wager it would be even less popular than watching Blackburn at Ewood Park.

Mats Hummels – Back down to earth with a bump for the German centre back, who’s stock has significantly risen this tournament. However, the Borussia Dortmund man had a bit of a shocker in Warsaw, defending poorly, while also missing his side’s best chance. He’ll be deeply regretting his performance now, while the pundits can put away their constant admirations towards him for now.

Spain and Portugal – For such an eagerly anticipated game, this was a massive disappointment. I don’t buy into the new ‘Spain are boring’ concept that is now doing the rounds, but they certainly haven’t dazzled this tournament. Portugal were never going to play all out attack given their inferiority to their rivals, but this game was so poor, I’m surprised the BBC managed to put together a highlights package for the end of game montage.

46 Years of Hurt

Twelveyardaphobia. Definition? A disease suffered by those with an inability to score from the penalty spot in a shootout. Applies mainly to the English. Sunday night was the perfect example of what has become an obsession in our country; we simply cannot win a penalty shootout. There are various theories as to why this may be, ranging from psychological problems to the players simply not being good enough and the defeat to the Italians means England’s record in major tournaments on penalties now stands at six defeats out of seven attempts. Here’s the definitive overview to England’s shootout woe:


World Cup 1990

Opponents: West Germany
Full time score: 1-1
Penalty score: 3-4
Analysis: Gary Lineker’s late leveller meant England faced extra time for the third game in a row, having already seen off Belgium and Cameroon in the extra half hour. This time the game went all the way to penalties after Gazza’s famous tears and despite Lineker, Peter Beardsley and David Platt all finding the target with the first three, so did the Germans. Stuart Pearce then missed the fourth, heaping the pressure on Chris Waddle, who had to score to keep England in the competition. Unfortunately, his effort ended up in Row Z and England’s dreams of reaching their second World Cup final were over.

Euro 1996

Opponents: Spain
Full time score: 0-0
Penalty score: 4-2
Analysis: Terry Venables’s men were fairly disappointing in their quarter final at Wembley and the Spanish might have felt aggrieved at facing a shootout. Fernando Hierro struck the bar with his first effort while Alan Shearer and Platt both scored for England. Nobody could watch as the villain of the piece in 1990, Stuart Pearce, stepped up third looking to rectify his mistake six years before. His face after scoring became an iconic image of English football and David Seaman completed England’s only victory in a shootout to date, saving off Nadal to send the whole country crazy.

Opponents: Germany
Full time score: 1-1
Penalty score: 5-6
Analysis: Buoyed from their quarter final victory over Spain on penalties, England went into the semi full of confidence. They should have won the game in normal time having taken the lead so early through Alan Shearer. Darren Anderton hit the post and Paul Gascoigne came agonisingly close to putting England into the final, but the game ended a draw. The first five were all successful for both sides with Shearer, Platt, Pearce, Gascoigne and Teddy Sheringham converting their efforts to send it to sudden death. Up stepped Gareth Southgate and the rest, as they say, is history. Moller scored for the Germans to put them in the final and Southgate was left to rue his mother’s words afterwards, who offered the useful advice of ‘Why didn’t you just belt it?’

World Cup 1998

Opponents: Argentina
Full time score: 2-2
Penalty score: 3-4
Analysis: The game is remembered as a classic, firstly for Michael Owen’s wonder goal and then David Beckham’s sending off for his petulant flick out at Diego Simeone. Shearer thumped home England’s opener in the shootout as he did in normal time before Paul Ince and Hernan Crespo exchanged misses. Paul Merson and Owen held their nerves, before Kevin Keegan famously tipped David Batty to convert his effort when he stepped up. He didn’t, Carlos Roa saved and Glen Hoddle’s men were out of France 1998.

Euro 2004

Opponents: Portugal
Full time score: 2-2
Penalty score: 5-6
Analysis: A cracking game ended 2-2, though not without controversy after Sol Campbell had a goal ruled out. Despite David Beckham’s space-finding spot kick that still hasn’t landed, England actually held their own initially after Rui Costa missed for Portugal. Owen, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Owen Hargreaves and Ashley Cole all found the net for Sven’s men, but David James couldn’t quite keep out any Portuguese efforts, including Helder Postiga’s chip that kept his side in the shootout. Ricardo then saved from Darius Vassell, before dusting himself off to score the winner and rub salt in England’s wounds.

World Cup 2006

Opponents: Portugal
Full time score: 0-0
Penalty score: 1-3
Analysis: England did well to hang onto a 0-0 draw after Wayne Rooney was sent off on the hour mark for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho. Once again, Ricardo was England’s nemesis, saving from Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher (who had to retake after scoring initially). Despite Hugo Viana and Armando Petit missing for Portugal, only Owen Hargreaves could find the target with England’s second spot kick and inevitably, it was Cristiano Ronaldo who ended our World Cup dreams again.

Euro 2012

Opponents: Italy
Full time score: 0-0
Penalty score: 2-4
Analysis: After a poor performance, for the first time in history, the England fans were praying for the game to go to penalties. Roy Hodgson’s men duly obliged and duly failed. Despite leading 2-1 after Gerrard and Rooney converted their efforts and Italy’s Riccardo Montolivo shot wide, England still gave away their winning position. Andrea Pirlo chipped his straight down the middle in a manner befitting his performance before Ashley Young rattled the crossbar and Buffon saved from Ashley Cole. Former West Ham reject Alessandro Diamanti then slotted home the decisive kick, sending the Azzurri through to the semis.

Euro 2012: Heroes and Zeros – Week 4

So the quarter finals are done and dusted with Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy taking their places in the final four. No major shocks were on display, only the inevitability that England’s run was ended once again by the dreaded penalty shootout. The Coin Toss runs the rule over who’s impressed and who hasn’t this week:

HEROES

Andrea Pirlo – Twitter went into overdrive on Sunday night when talking about the 33-year-old’s performance against England. In fact, the dictionary almost ran out of superlatives. Not only did he dominate the game, providing the thrust of the Italian attack with his superb array of passes, but he also set them on their way to shootout glory with a delightful chip that had everybody purring. No one can quite understand why AC Milan let him go last year, but he’s proved them wrong, that’s for sure.

Joachim Loew – Some branded him arrogant and reckless for resting his first choice frontline of Gomez, Podolski and Muller, but I just call him a genius. Greece rarely threatened the Germans despite equalising just after half-time and now the rested forwards are hungry to regain their places in the starting XI. It’s not as if their replacements did badly either, both Klose and Reus bagged goals and Andre Schurrle was fairly impressive as well. That’s a choice of six players up top that any other international manager would die for.

Xabi Alonso – Believe it or not, defensive midfielder Xabi Alonso is Spain’s third top goal scorer during Vicente Del Bosque’s reign. He showed why against the French as well, coming up with a fine planted header and a coolly taken penalty to ease the Spanish through to the semi finals. On the night of his 100th cap, Spain’s shots on target all came from their midfield maestro who is quickly reminding everyone why he is an important cog in their setup. Liverpool fans must weep at the mere sight of him.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Sorry, but once again the man has to be included. Simply magnificent again, he is proving everyone wrong who’ve previously said Ronaldo doesn’t do the business at international level. The Czechs set up with ten men behind the ball and proved difficult to break down, but with Ronaldo in your team, there’s always a good chance against sides like that. He will relish the opportunity to take on the Spanish and who could bet against him firing his Portugal side all the way? He’s that good.

The England fans – In a tournament containing their major rivals where fears of racism and hooliganism were rife, the behaviour of the England fans has been almost exemplary. Not a single England fan has been arrested during the tournament, in stark contrast to their counterparts from Russia or Poland. Even outnumbered in Kiev by Ukrainians or Italians, they made an absolute racket and almost cheered the boys through to the semi finals. Those who travelled can be proud.

ZEROS

Laurent Blanc – Did the French ever believe they could beat the Spanish? Not from Blanc’s tactics. Picking Mathieu Debuchy and Anthony Reveillere down the right hand side was an immediate indication that France were setting up for a defensive display. They barely threatened all night and if we’re being honest, the Spanish were there for the taking. The post-match antics with Samir Nasri were ugly and you have to wonder whether France have moved on at all from the 2010 World Cup. Mind you, Blanc could be at White Hart Lane pretty soon, though on the basis of this tournament I’d look elsewhere if I were Daniel Levy.

The Penalty Shootout – What is it? Seriously, why do we have such an inability to win a game when comes down to twelve yards. The Spanish are poor, the Dutch are pretty hopeless and the Italians are improving, but we simply fail time and time again at spot kicks. The day Sepp Blatter decides the shootout is no longer a fair way to settle a game will be one of the greatest in English football. But then again, if England are losing on penalties, Blatter is unlikely to change it.

The British Media – England are out of a major tournament, let’s pull out the scapegoats and get criticising. Hearing Alan Green have a go on Radio 5Live about Roy Hodgson’s tactics and England’s performance was disappointing to say the least. Yes, England were poor and yes, England played very defensive football. But what other options did Hodgson have given the short amount of time available to him to organise an average outfit into a side capable of causing damage? Quarter finals can be seen as a good achievement and you’d expect England to improve once Hodgson settles into the job. The media’s constant undermining of the national teams are part of the reason for our constant failure and perhaps a bit of support now and then wouldn’t hurt.

Vicente Del Bosque – STRIKER. PICK A BLOODY STRIKER! Why does Del Bosque not seem to understand that Spain would be such a more rounded team if they played a man up top. The shots on target against French all came from defensive midfielder Xabi Alonso and Spain seem content just to play keep ball all game. We know you have the finest array of midfield talent in the world, but there’s no need to put it all on the pitch at once! Fernando Torres scored twice against the Irish, yet still looks short on form, but why on earth hasn’t Fernando Llorente been given a chance, especially considering his fine form in La Liga for Bilbao. You have to hope these tactics don’t cost the Spanish, indeed Portugal will present a challenge that France were completely incapable of.

Petr Cech – After Chelsea’s Champions League victory, the Czech goalkeeper showed he was back to his world class best producing a number of sensational stops in their run to victory, never mind his heroics in the shootout. However, it’s back down to earth with a bump for Petr. His horrendous blunder against the Greeks put his team under vast amounts of pressure and you can’t help but wonder whether he should have done more with Ronaldo’s header. Disappointing tournament.

10 things we learnt from England vs. Italy

1. There are two things that are certain in life. One is that you will die. The other is that England will lose on penalties.

2. Let’s face it, England deserved to go home. The Italians completely outclassed them and had three times as many chances. How they didn’t seal it before the final whistle is beyond belief.

3. England’s defenders can be proud of themselves. Terry and Lescott stood firm and blocked anything that came towards them. And Glen Johnson has dispelled all myths that he is allergic to defending.

4. Closing down. Two words I’m fairly sure weren’t mentioned in the England team talk before or during the game. If they were, the players failed to understand them. Letting Andrea Pirlo play in his smoking jacket was possibly the worst tactical move ever.

5. Speaking of Pirlo, it’s interesting to note that England have exactly the same sort of player sat at home who dominates games and sprays passes across the pitch left, right and centre. He may be a couple of years older than Pirlo but who’s to say he couldn’t have produced the same effect. Yep, I’m sure Paul Scholes would have suited England’s plans perfectly this tournament.

6. Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young were both woefully off colour. Never seen the pair of them give the ball away so much in my life. When two thirds of your attacking thrust performs like that, what chance do you have?

7. Andy Carroll gets an admiring nod in his direction. Won his headers and looked a genuine threat when he came on. Hopefully for him, this will kick start his Liverpool career as well.

8. Credit must go to Steven Gerrard. He may have spent most of the game chasing Italian shadows in midfield, but he’s answered those critics that say he doesn’t perform at major tournaments.

9. England are genuinely a quarter final team. They are not in the same calibre internationally as the likes of the Italians, the Germans or the Spanish. It’s sad to admit, but obvious to see.

10. All in all, the tournament can be regarded as a success. England were given little hope coming into Euro 2012 and Hodgson has fostered a good team spirit that can only improve. The likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere will soon be established in England’s midfield so the future is also bright. It’s hard to feel disheartened unlike previous years. Bring on Brazil.

Wimbledon 2012: 10 to Watch

It’s that time of the year when Wimbledon opens its gates to the masses and everyone gets excited when a Brit manages to win a single point. The strawberries and cream are consumed in their thousands and the champagne flows freely. Everyone loves the grass court season and the inevitable rain delays have been neutralised somewhat by the roof on Centre Court! So apart from the obvious, here are the ones to keep an eye on at Wimbledon 2012:

Five to keep an eye on

Marin Cilic – The Queens Club winner (albeit by default) should stand a decent chance of reaching the latter rounds at SW19 this year. He only stands at 18 in the world, but his game is well suited to grass and he’s reached the fourth round before. The Croat offers a danger to anyone who meets him and his draw first up has been quite kind.

Grigor Dimitrov – He may be unseeded and faces a tough opening match with big serving Kevin Anderson, but the 21-year-old is a former Wimbledon Junior Champion and is rising through the world rankings fairly rapidly, indeed he stands at 65 currently. He only reached the second round here last year, but he could potentially cause a first round upset which would put him on collision course with Andy Murray.

Bernard Tomic – The 19-year-old Australian sensation caused a stir at Wimbledon when he reached the quarter finals last time around before he lost to Novak Djokovic. His energy on court is similar to that of another Aussie favourite at Wimbledon, Lleyton Hewitt and with the attributes Tomic possesses, he can expect to go far in the game. Seeded 20 for this tournament, the draw has also been kind first up, so watch out for him to make another decent run this year.

Tomas Berdych – The sixth seed has been impressive in recent years, really pushing the established top four hard. He reached the 2010 final at the All-England club as well, so he has the necessary experience to handle the big match pressure. Ernests Gulbis isn’t an easy first round opponent, but Berdych should overcome that challenge and go onto tougher assignments later on in the competition.

Tommy Haas – If you want a real wildcard, Haas is probably your best bet. The German may be 34 now, but he still has all the tricks in the book and is a dangerous person to play on grass. A semi finalist at Wimbledon in 2009, Haas shocked Roger Federer at the Gerry Weber Open this month to win the title. Nadal awaits in his half of the draw, but Haas will be looking to finish his career with a bang.

And five potential flops

Juan Martin Del Potro – The Argentinean has been something of a disappointment when playing at Wimbledon before. He’s only reached the fourth round once and that was last year. For some reason, he seems to really struggle on grass and hasn’t quite adapted his game to win on this surface. Robin Haase is first up for him, but players further down the line will identify Del Potro as a potential upset.

Andy Murray – Controversial yes, but Murray has not exactly enjoyed the perfect build up to Wimbledon this year. Losing at the first round of Queens was a shock and injuries still continue to niggle him. The draw has complied his misery, in fact it’s the stuff of nightmares. Davydenko will be difficult enough first up, but lying in wait are the big serving Ivo Karlovic, Kevin Anderson with David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal further down the line. Murray has been consistent in the Slams in recent years, but this time, the banana skins are plentiful if he wants to end the British hoodoo at SW19.

David Ferrer – The Spaniard showed his quality at the French Open in May, but that was on his favoured surface of clay, not grass. Unlike his compatriot Nadal, Ferrer seems to have that age-old Spanish problem of an inability to play on grass. He’s only ever reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, by far his worst performance at the Slams and Andy Roddick is a potential third round opponent.

Lleyton Hewitt – Poor old Lleyton. The popular Aussie is a former winner here and would surely have fancied one final hurrah at this year’s Championships. He’s the sort of player the crowd love to watch as well, but the draw has been cruel, throwing him up against fellow diving enthusiast Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. With the way Tsonga plays on grass, you can’t see anything else but a first round defeat for Hewitt.

Philipp Kohlschreiber – The German seems to be one of those players who is seeded at every single competition, yet fails to make any headway or impression. His best Wimbledon finish is the third round and he meets fellow countryman Tommy Haas in the opening game, a clash that could prove tricky to overcome.

Top 10 Chipped Penalties

Andrea Pirlo’s performance in midfield was simply sensational against England, spraying his passes all over the pitch, while his chipped penalty was coolness personified. In celebration of his dinked effort that handed Italy the initiative in the shootout, here are the Top 10 Penalty Chips of all time:

1. Antonín Panenka – Czechoslovakia faced the Germans in the 1976 European Championship final and after extra time, the game finished 2-2. In the days before the Germans established their unflappable reputation from the penalty spot, the Czechs managed to hold their own at 3-3. Uli Hoeneß then blazed his effort over the bar, leaving Panenka the opportunity to win the game. Ice cool, he chipped his effort straight down the middle, winning the tournament in the process and handing the Germans their only shootout defeat to date.

2. Helder Postiga – The Portuguese faced England in the quarter finals of Euro 2004 on home soil and after an entertaining 2-2 draw, the game headed to the dreaded shootout. Despite David Beckham blazing the first one over the crossbar, England actually held their own for once, leaving former Tottenham reject Helder Postiga needing to score to keep his side in the competition. He didn’t just score, but more humiliate England, dispatching his effort down the middle before Darius Vassell later missed to send England home.

3. Sebastian Abreu – Whether or not the Uruguayans deserved to reach a penalty shootout is another question after Luis Suarez’s act of blatant cheating, but they sure enough deserved their victory. The pick of the bunch was veteran striker Abreu’s nerveless winner that he slotted past Richard Kingson to send the South Americans into the semi final.

4. Zinedine Zidane – What better time than show off your arrogance from the spot than a World Cup final. Well, we’d expect nothing less from Zizou, the magician himself. Gigi Buffon was on the receiving end of a chipped penalty that night as Zidane gave his side the lead via the underside of the bar. Unfortunately his moronic headbutt on Marco Materazzi meant he wasn’t able to repeat the heroics as Italy won the competition on penalties.

5. Francesco Totti – Another Italian shootout, another wonderfully casual penalty. Whilst it was surprising to see Pirlo pull off the trick, no-one raised an eyebrow when the ultimate maverick Francesco Totti tried it. Italy and the Netherlands drew 0-0 in the semi finals of Euro 2000 after the Dutch missed two penalties in normal time and Totti rubbed salt into the wounds, showing them how to take one properly.


6. Dwight Yorke – The smiling assassin earned himself a move to Manchester United on the back of his performances for Aston Villa, but Sir Alex Ferguson must have been impressed with his coolness under pressure. Yorke was a regular chipper from six yards, although his most memorable was an audacious effort that beat David Seaman and gave his side a 1-0 win over Arsenal. Fitting for a cheeky chappy like Yorke.

7. Thierry Henry – The Frenchman was pretty much the master at everything, so it’s no surprise that he attempted one or two chips in his time. Famous for one against Newcastle in 2003/04 when the scores were locked at 2-2, he also bagged one against Leeds when he destroyed the Whites’ defence all night. Just don’t mention the one he planned with Robert Pires…

And three that went badly wrong

8. Gary Lineker – 1992 and England faced Brazil in a pre-Euro 1992 friendly to warm up for the competition. Lineker was one behind Bobby Charlton in the England all-time goal scoring list on 48 and obviously fancied his chances of levelling in style after England won a penalty. Or maybe not. Lineker never scored for England again either.

9. Yann Kermorgant – The playoff final is apparently worth £90 million to the winner so understandably tensions were running high in the semi final shootout between Leicester and Cardiff. Perhaps it wasn’t the best time for French forward Yann Kermorgant to try his party trick then as he completely fluffed his lines, losing Leicester the game. He was quickly shipped out of the club after that effort.

10. Neymar – Boy wonder he may be, but even the best get it wrong sometimes. The fame and adulation has probably gone to Neymar’s head, but he’d do well not to try and repeat this anytime soon. Just take it conventionally son.