The song remains the same

Italy are struggling to get a win against Romania and David Pleat is waffling about what a good player Dan Petrescu was – I remember a different Dan Petrescu – and no one every says that the World Champions are not the team they were before the match fixing thing was exposed but should the Eastern Block side get a winner in the next 18 minutes then expect the words “The favourites are going home” to be heard more than once.

Italy are one of the favourites along with a group of teams that could be dubbed a set of usual suspects; Germany, Holland, Spain, France. All short odds and talked about in glowing terms. The entry of Portugal into that set of teams has more to do with their abilities from twelve yards against Sven’s England but as the fashionable Western Europeans of the moment they join the group with ease.

A Chester City website has started previewing next season’s League Two and they speak in glowing terms about Bradford City and William Hill have the Bantams as 9/1 favourites for the Championship but the last time I looked at the plaers currently at Valley Parade their were barely enough to make an eleven.

As with Italy, Germany et al though it is assumed that whomever the club can field will be better than the rest of the division. We are a big club at League Two level and we do have the resources to put out a better side than most.

The Romanians have just missed the chance to take the lead once more but Croatia did not when they bat Germany 2-1 in what was dubbed a suprise result. How it could be a surprise to anyone who saw Slaven Bilic’s team in qualifying keeping the ball and probing superbly as they bested England is amazing but their is a habit of ignoring England’s oppositions quality to focus on assassinations of the national side.

Nevertheless Croatia are not into the group of favourites and – as with The Czech Republic – are constantly picked out as suprise teams in the media at least and – one may think – by the German management.

Stuart McCall’s job at Bradford City next season includes making sure that this sort of surprise package never happens at Valley Parade. The bookies and the media may favour clubs like The Bantams before a ball is kicked but McCall will know – has been a part of – the kind of surprise package City were in 1999 and he will know the danger of under-estimating the unfashionable.

The fixtures for the year come out next week and City need to make sure that the quality of teams, not the history or weight of the names – is prepared for and that as favourites the players know that no game is won without the effort and application that the unfancied sides like the Croats put in.