BBC World Cup host Gary Lineker tells What’s on TV what to expect from South African 2010!
In England’s group stage, they’ll be playing USA, Algeria and Slovenia – should any of these teams be feared?
“I don’t think we have to fear any of those. England has as good a draw as they could have hoped for. They’ve still got to go out there and perform, but I can’t see them having too many problems. Certainly there’s no one to fear! We could meet Germany in the last 16, if one wins the group and the other doesn’t, but I don’t think Germany are the force they once were. We’d be favourites in that if all our players were fit and no suspensions.”
Is it difficult to keep your emotions in check when you’re watching England play in a World Cup?
“I don’t think people would really expect me not to. I’m rooting for England as much as anyone else. It’s fairly obvious that I’m excited when England play and do well and I can’t help looking disappointed when we don’t. I don’t think I should hide my feelings when England play. I’m the same as everyone else at home. I don’t think the BBC would expect us to be neutral. England games are huge, especially when you get to the knockout stage, because you know the bedlam going on at home! Even the occasional Scot like Alan Hansen gets excited.”
Will Fabio Capello being in charge make a difference?
“He’s as good a manager as you can ask for, and he’s done all that’s been asked of him so far. He’s brought in discipline and a bit of self-belief.”
Do you think Wayne Rooney’s discipline will be better in this World Cup?
“Almost definitely. He’s certainly matured into a better player and is getting better all the time. He’s had such an exceptional season and has had a great teacher in Alex Ferguson. He’s still got that aggressive side to him and it’s important that his competitiveness isn’t taken away. But I’d say he’s now learnt to control it better.”
Is there anything Capello can do, to give England a better chance in penalty shoot-outs?
“Yes, practise the damn things! I don’t understand the argument that some people come up with that you can’t recreate the occasion. Well of course it’s different, but I used to practise 30 to 50 penalties a day during World Cups. If all the players did that every day, yes if it comes to it, it’s high stakes stuff, but the more you’ve practised day-in day-out the more likely you are to stick it in the net! It really does help! And it’s common sense. It ain’t going to do any harm, and may do some good! If England are going to win the World Cup, in all likelihood they’re going to have to win a penalty shoot-out somewhere along the line…”
Which teams have a chance of winning this year?
“I fancy Spain. I picked them for the last European Championships in 2008 and got it right for the first time ever. Even if they’re without Fernando Torres, who might be injured, they’re the one team who can survive losing their star man, because they just bring on someone terrific in place – like that terrific young forward Pedro from Barcelona! Or Bojan! They have terrific cover in every position, even goalkeepers Iniesta. Oh I just remembered Xavi – they got players everywhere! But when it becomes a knockout competition, they could have an off day, like they did against the USA last year!
“No one can be sure – that’s the magic of the World Cup and why we love it all so much.”