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The Fifth Official: He's Fab again

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a five-star weekend.

He's Fab again

Poor old Fabio just can't seem to get the balance right can he? Normal service was resumed at Wembley as England crushed lesser opposition in qualification and the boss rolled in the superlatives and claimed his 4-0 thumping was an "okay" win. Yet when England were habitually pathetic in South Africa - not to mention ritually humiliated by the Germans - Capello stood in front of us and claimed we'd played "well" clearly resisting the urge to wear a permed wig and a bright red plastic nose as he punctuated each excusatory sentence with the parp of a joke shop horn in his pocket.

Prior to the World Cup, such was England's imperious form and Capello's intolerance of ill-discipline or any form of media smirking, even yours truly thought twice about pointing any barbs of my unique brand of light-hearted banter in the Italian's direction lest myself and Mrs TFO awake one morning to find a freshly severed horse's head squeezed into our less-than-roomy three-quarter bed.

The rout of Bulgaria told us nothing we didn't already know; in small doses, England's spirit and togetherness is tight, but shove them together for more than a few weeks and it's leakier than Wigan's goal difference at the DW Stadium. I mean, can you imagine spending a month holed up with John Terry? The only person willing to do that is probably his mother.

Groin, groin, gone

What in the name of medical science is going on with Jermain Defoe's groin? I ask because I'm presuming, like me, most people have thought about little else all week. One minute the pint-sized poacher needs an operation, the next minute's he's on top form and off the waiting list. Let's just be thankful he doesn't need a triple heart bypass.

If this is Defoe with a tight groin then let's insist he remain with a twitch in his nether regions I say. In the right mood and with the right service the boy is lethal, except when he receives word that I've drafted him into my fantasy league team, at which point he adopts the appearance of a League Two striker with a heavy cold. His left footed treble was clinical and he was so excited that he spoke even quicker than usual in the post-match interview.

If Defoe's groin prospects are looking up then his club manager's good mood will have evaporated once he saw Michael Dawson's knee do its best slinky impression. As he sank to the Wembley turf 'Arry will have been thinking of a six-to-nine month stretch, but thankfully the medics reckon two should do it. Still, at least Jonathan Woodgate will get a buddy for a little while.

France: It's still funny

A new coach, a clutch of new players but the same old hilarious result; the French team truly is the gift that keeps on giving. They may have been well beaten by a limited Mexico side and an average host nation at the World Cup but losing to Belarus in front of 80,000 stuffy Parisians was an insult of epic proportions.

So insistent were the authorities that someone must pay after the debacle in South Africa that their best players are now banned, while their new gaffer took the reins from the hapless Raymond Domenech on the back of an astonishing losing streak with Bordeaux that made Howard Wilkinson's time at Sunderland look just about passable.

Laurent Blanc insisted his new team sing the national anthem loud and proud but if he was hoping it would foster a new cloak of unity among his beleaguered charges he was sorely mistaken. Far be it from me to tell the French how to suck onions but surely they should have just punished those responsible for the fiasco in South Africa with a stern clip round the ear from a stale baguette, and not cut their nose off to spite their increasingly crimson, clown-like faces?

Where's Carlos?

Despite their charlatan of a coach's best efforts to convince us otherwise, Portugal's summer was equally poor, but like their French counterparts, things have only gone from bad to worse. Carlos 'it was a feast of football wasn't it? What do you mean, no?' Quieroz is now staring at a six month ban for allegedly disrupting a drug test prior to the World Cup.

I don't know the ins and outs of the case but it seems vaguely plausible that a doping offence took place given that Portugal played most of their campaign like they were heavily sedated. Shorn of their leader and his nullifying tactics they then treated us to an eight-goal thriller. The only problem was that Cyprus got four of them.

If Carlos managed to wax lyrical about a dull 0-0 draw at the World Cup with Brazil, he may well have exploded if he'd been been allowed to crank his post-match hyperbole into overdrive after a glut of goals in Guimaraes. At this rate, Carlos may well be back just in time to rubber stamp Portugal's elimination.

Robinho's rant

It's always someone else's fault in the mind of Robinho isn't it? According to the pampered nomad, he's a "special footballer" around which a team should be built. Funny that, because he appeared to me like an immature strop merchant who'd go AWOL the second his team stepped out of Manchester.

Among his many astonishing claims in an interview that amounts to a blatant attempt to shield himself from any blame whatsoever, is that he only signed for Manchester City because then manager Mark Hughes "insisted". If that is all it took then perhaps Sparky should have insisted his expensive flop contribute more than a unique ability to shy away from tackles in games away from home. And despite crying his eyes out until he got a move away from Real Madrid, Robinho now reckons he should have stayed put. There's no pleasing some girls.

He saves the worst insult until last though, one that ensures he will never be allowed to slip back into the city of Manchester without a few bottles flying at his head, by calling it "an awful place to live". Apparently, he didn't know a place in the north west of the country, that swallows all the rain and wind it can offered up by the Atlantic, would get cold and miserable in the winter. He even complains about the "dark nights". Do they not get those in Brazil too?

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