Friday, 25 June 2010

England vs. Germany. The Fitness Factor.

I think there is one aspect of Sunday's game which will have a critical affect on the outcome. And its all about fitness. Here are the relevant facts:-
  1. The ground is at Bloemfontein. This is 4,600 ft above sea level;
  2. Bloemfontein average day-time temperature is 17degC; the forecast for Sunday is a sunny 21degC;
  3. the average age of Germany's national team is 25 years with 12 players under the age of 25; the average age of England's national team is 28 with 5 players in the squad under 25.
There are some key players in the England team whose fitness is a big question for Sunday. First, James Milner, whose cross provided England's second goal of the campaign on Wednesday afternoon, is still recovering from a virus and is unlikely to last more than 60 minutes. Gareth Barry, whose defensive midfield duties will also be important, is also trying to attain match fitness. I suggest we won't see very much of him in the attacking half of the pitch on Sunday. Then there's the biggest question mark yet - Wayne Rooney. He just hasn't looked right in the last 3 games. Whether this is an injury, a lack of confidence, a lack of a willingness to get stuck in (due to the perceived risk of being sent off) or just a lack of general fitness, I have no idea. Rooney's lack of form is the most disappointing aspect of England's performances to date in South Africa.

Hence, whatever happens in the rest of the game, I envisage that the last quarter will belong to Germany purely because they will have a massive fitness advantage over England.

Not wishing to sound all doom-and-gloom, I believe England can beat Germany and the good news is that Germany knows this. Here's my "dream" scenario:-
  1. England go all out for a first half lead; ideally 2-0;
  2. Rooney is allowed off his leash; even if he is red-carded hopefully it will be after a goal and I'd rather see a Rooney who tears Germany apart for 30 minutes compared with his previous performances;
  3. England under siege in the last quarter of the game; substitutes used MUST be able to either win and/or hold the ball in this last stage of the game
  4. Final score 2-1 or 1-0
You will notice that I haven't mentioned penalties. That was deliberate. The less these are talked about the better. I don't want to see penalties. I want to see England go for a win in 90 minutes, or as I have suggested, in the first 45 minutes when they will be most able to match the fitness levels of the German team.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Copenhagen Carlsberg Free Zones - Part II

BrewPub was actually the first pub we went to (Mikkeller was shut unfortunately). It's just off the start of the main shopping drag (Stroget) and, in my view, definately a better place to be (that's compared to shopping, not Mikkeller). It was very quiet (lunchtime Monday) but we sat in the courtyard so we could catch the sun's rays (when they decided to shine). Despite nobody being there the barperson was of the stroppy variety and when we scanned the drinks menu she decided to wander off.

We tried the William Wallace "Skotsk" and the Cole Porter. The 80/- ale was just ok; at 4.5% it was quite light bodied with a low carbination. Seemed a bit dull to me. Taste was sweet and sour malt with a bit of fruit and smoke.
The Cole Porter was much more to my liking. At 5.2% is was nice and black, thinnish with a tan head. Malted and smokey and with some liquorice - reminded me of cough mixture. Strange how some things you hated as a kid can be so warm and nice when you're older.

We visited Norrebro Bryghus on a rather wet and windy day after a couple of hours in the National Gallery of Denmark. Cunningly this was about 10mins (ok 15) from Norrebro but we approached it with fingers crossed (that is was open). Again, on entry the place was pretty dead. No brewing was taking place so straight to the beer menu. We sampled the following over a rather extended lunch (well, the weather was poor):-
  • Stuykman Wit. A 5.3% wheat beer. Usual refreshing fair - great after a museum slog;
  • Pacific Summer Ale. A 5.6% golden/blond. Again great refreshing peach and elderflower;
  • Catenillo (American) IPA (5.7%).
  • Mocha Porter (5.5%). I'm not a great fan of coffee flavoured beers but, as they say, you've gotta give them a go. Toffee, chocolate and coffee, finishing with a cold coffee. Not my cup of tea;
  • Imperial Porter (Cabernet barrel 9%). A nice rich porter with oaky wine overtones; a great end to a great lunch.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Copenhagen Carlsberg Free Zones - Part I

Let's get the money bit out of the way first. Copenhagen, like most of Scandinavia, is not a cheap place for us Brits. The average cost of a (small*) half pint is about £4. But we're not talking about your average Carlsberg swill here. Oh no, we're talking about the new wave of small craft brewers that have invaded Northern Europe in the last few years, and specifically in this blog, in Copenhagen.

We were travelling through Copenhagen and so hastily planned a visit to 3 establishments, Mikkeller Bar, BrewPub and Norrebro Bryghus

Right, on to the serious stuff. Mikkeller just happened to be a couple of minutes from our hotel (excellent planning Mike!) which itself is 5 minutes from the Central Station. It's in the red-light district which is supposed to be cleaning itself up. But it's still pretty grim. The strange thing to me is how ordinary people go about their normal lives with this around them. But safe enough provided you're not on your own. The bar itself can be easily missed as it's in a basement. But once inside you can relax. Nice and clean, if minimally decked out. This is a beer geek's paradise as was evidenced by the number of beards and laptops. There are 6 tables and seating around the bar and one wall. The only food on offer was, rather oddly, Tyrrell's crisps, but at £4 a packet I saved my money for the beer, of-course.Loads of beers on draft (how do they keep them?!*). Beer#1 was the Vesterbro Pilsner. Well you've got to start somewhere and rather than jump straight in at the heavy end I was in need of travelling refreshment and this hit the spot! Beer#2 My partner had the Vesterbro Wit (wheat beer) which, again, was extremely refreshing with a very (overwhelming?) lychee flavour. But she loved it.

Suitably refreshed, straight onto the big boys. Beer#3. Victoria. An 8.8% porter. Well, despite the pleasure of Beer#4, this was my favourite of the night. Not too sweet, coffee and chocolate and I also had fruit. Anne liked this (no coal-tar in this porter!) It's a shame she still prefers porters in Christmas puddings though!

Finally, Beer#4 - George. A 12.12% super-heavyweight imperial stout. I don't know if a dreamed this or not but the "George" is of the Foreman variety and 12.12% is equivalent to 12 stones and 12 pounds which was one of his starting fight weights. But I don't care and neither should you. Full-bodied, smooth and a cure for the common-cold (well, not quite, but it postponed mine for at least 24 hours). It had a very low carbination which I don't mind at all, velvet oil with a dark brown head. I struggled a bit with the taste (which is why I preferred Victoria) but the usual suspects applied, albeit with little fruitiness. Nectar.

So a great start, and I even managed to squeeze a second visit to Mikkeller the following day. A review of the other 2 "Carlsberg Free Zones" later...

Small. Half a pint is 28.4cl. A "half" in Europe is normally 25cl hence the "small" half. Note that some pubs chose to serve their beers in 20cl measures or "super-small" to you and me.

How do they keep them?! If any bright spark can summarise how these beers are different from cask-conditioned stuff I'd like to know. One obvious difference to me is that they are kept and served cooler than cask beer. Does that help keep them longer? Answers on a post card to...