A victory made only in England
13:58 GMT, 23 June 2012
There is a scene during Monty Python's Life Of Brian where the bungling People's Front of Judea gathers to plot the overthrow of the occupying Roman army.
JOHN CLEESE'S CHARACTER REG, CRIES: 'They have bled us white – and what have the Romans ever given to us in return'
ACTIVIST I: The aqueduct.
REG: Oh yeah, they gave us that. Yeah. That's true.
ACTIVIST II: And sanitation!
MATTHIAS: And the roads.
REG: Well, yes, obviously the roads. The roads go without saying. But apart from the aqueduct, the sanitation and the roads…
OTHER VOICES: Irrigation. Medicine. Education. Health. And the wine.
FRANCIS: That's something we'd really miss if the Romans left, Reg.
REG: All right. All right. But apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order, what have the Romans done for us'
Full Monty: Hodgson's England is fashioned by his rules – not those of his predecessor Capello
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It's a marvellous joke, because it is essentially true. But football isn't on the achievement list. The Italians can't claim that one. They might have had a say in the design of our stadiums, but not the game itself.
Prior to England's quarter-final showdown with Italy on Sunday, however, a hasty revision of history is under way. The Italians are laying claim to a little piece of England. The Azzurri camp have declared that England are only performing on the international stage at Euro 2012 because they are pretending to be Italian.
What's more, the true architect of the revival is not English yeoman Roy Hodgson, despite the available evidence. It's actually thanks to ex-boss Fabio Capello, along with fellow imports Roberto Mancini, Roberto Di Matteo and every other Italian boss waving his arms about on our touchlines.
Defender Leonardo Bonucci said: 'England have become more like the Italians thanks to Capello and all the Italian managers in the Premier League.'
And Manchester City boss Mancini joined the bout of Italian self-congratulation: 'Hodgson followed the work of Capello – at the end of the day, he is an English-Italian coach'.
Attributing England's current tournament feelgood factor to Capello is a bit of a stretch. England admittedly breezed through the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign under the Italian grouch, but his 2010 South Africa campaign was mostly an embarrassment.
Capello's tenure in charge at the World Cup finals is now held up as an example of how not to do it. This did not prevent another report claiming Capello was actively helping his friend, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, by providing the inside track on the England squad before the match.
Head-to-head: Prandelli and Hodgson face each other on Sunday ngiht
But what secrets could Capello betray That the players didn't understand him That many actively disliked his methods and haughty approach That they didn't want to play for him It's ridiculous to believe that he has a great deal to offer England's rivals beyond stating the bleedin' obvious.
Regardless of the Italian preening, Hodgson has succeeded to date because he has brushed away many of the Italian's peculiarities.
Hodgson's not exactly an 'English- Italian' coach either, as Mancini claims. Yes, he did spend time in charge of Inter Milan. But he was appointed to the San Siro job because his Switzerland outfit defeated and drew with the Azzurri in two World Cup qualifiers. His methods were already in place.
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Under him, England are now playing a recognisably similar, organised, defensive system. Hodgson is not copying Capello or offering up some dish of Italian Lite, it has always been his preferred approach.
What's more, England are playing with confidence because they are recognisably English. There is a collective will and determination on view that is the epitome of the so-called 'Bulldog spirit'. The players are united in purpose. They work for each other. They make up for any deficiencies with bloody-minded determination.
Thankfully, those strengths have countered an alarming inability to retain the ball that has tested that resolve to near breaking point. Against Sweden and Ukraine, it was just enough.
England could concede 58 per cent of the possession against Ukraine and escape the consequences. Maybe they will be lucky and do it again against Italy. But to follow that with results against Germany and Spain Nobody is that fortunate.
Swiss role: Hodgson left the national role to take over at Inter Milan
For years, England have looked at other nations and tried to magpie the shiniest aspects of their play, ignoring the fact that those national sides have grown up together reading the same coaching manual.
This England are still years away from that cohesive tactical approach, although the FA's national coaching centre at Burton will help. It is why England usually fall at this point. Hard work is not enough.
Put aside the World Cup win in 1966 and the march to the semi-finals at Euro 96 and the uncomfortable truth is no England team have ever beaten one of football's leading international powers at the knockout stage of a major competition when deprived of home advantage.
Maybe it can change on Sunday. Maybe one more serving of the full English will be enough.
Sepp Blather (cont)
Sepp Blatter is not one of the great thinkers of the game. The FIFA president spends so much time chasing popularity he rarely stops to consider the implications of his babbling.
No sooner had the final whistle blown after England's Euro 2012 victory over Ukraine, helped in part by the fact that officials missed Marko Devic's shot crossing the line, than Blatter was starting up the bandwagon.
He declared goal-line technology had to be introduced as 'a necessity'. Pandering to the nearest available audience, Blatter said what the co-hosts were demanding to hear. But he failed to address the fact that the goal was created from an offside position.
So his goal-line technology would correct one injustice but ignore another.
Unless TV reviews on appeal are allowed for all decisions, goal-line technology just moves the argument elsewhere.
Better late than never: Blatter's finally come round to idea of goal-line technology
Drogba goes missing in China
Didier Drogba has joined the Chinese Super League, but there is very little 'super' about it aside from the ridiculous salary he will collect.
The former Chelsea striker spurned an opportunity to move to Real Madrid and instead joined former team-mate Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua on a 220,000-a-week deal. It will earn him close to 30million over the course of his two-and-a-half-year contract.
For that, Drogba will find himself lost in a league that serves up dismal football amid a shocking culture of corruption. Two former heads of the Chinese Football Association were sent to prison earlier this month for accepting bribes along with an array of leading players.
Flash in the pan Reality of football in China will shock Drogba
Drogba's new club are also mired in an unhappy 12th place out of 16. And, as is customary, Anelka is sulking again, after being appointed player-manager only to be quickly replaced by Argentine coach Sergio Batista.
The trouble was, nobody bothered to inform Anelka, prompting him to threaten to quit. Once the novelty of his celebrity appearance fades, Drogba will encounter poor attendances usually numbering a few thousand and a level of widespread disinterest in the domestic game.
It is not played in schools and remains a minority sport. The game in China will grow in time, but not at the pace to warrant 30m deals for any player.
Not when there are only 80 football pitches in the whole of Beijing, a city of 20 million people.
Don't be fooled by old Bernie
The story screamed: 'Revealed, F1's Olympic Stadium Bid', and claimed Bernie Ecclestone was 'interested' in holding a London Grand Prix in and around the new arena after the 2012 Games.
It's an ambitious idea that caught the imagination. I'm sure the timing had nothing to do with Ecclestone also being 'interested' in ensuring events at a German court case were edged to the margins of the page.
This other tale related to allegations that the promoter bribed a banker with 28million following the sale of F1 to the company where Ecclestone is now chief executive.
Ecclestone admits he paid the banker and was 'stupid', but says the money was for something else. The case continues. Meanwhile, look! There might be a race at the Olympic Stadium!
Wembley way: Ecclestone's making plenty of headlines
This time last year I was in Tanzania almost 20,000 feet up on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. It took me five days to reach the summit.
I only mention this because Spencer West, a 31-year-old from Toronto, also scaled the highest peak in Africa this week. He did it in seven days.
That slightly slower progress is explained by the fact that Spencer had to drag himself across the scree and volcanic rock using only his hands, because his legs have been amputated below the pelvis. It is an extraordinary achievement from an extraordinarily determined man.
Why sprint to print
Physicists have demonstrated that the fastest animal on the planet is a pig dropped out of an aeroplane.
Unfortunately, this is not yet an Olympic sport, so we have to make do with the 100 metres race. And in the global sprint stakes, Britain is nowhere.
The top 20 sprinters in the world in 2012 hail mostly from Jamaica, the United States and Trinidad and Tobago.
The UK ambles in at the back somewhere wearing carpet slippers and coughing like an asthmatic. Dwain Chambers didn't even make the top five British runners before last night's race. So why so much coverage
Oh yes, it's because he's a former drug cheat.
Coming up short: Chambers isn't even Britain's best sprinter
The official line…
The most pointless things in the world: leaf blowers, the Braille keys on the drive-in cash machine I once used in Florida, men's nipples, Nick Clegg and, of course, those ridiculous extra officials that stand behind the goal-line at football matches.