New beginning?

Steve McClaren’s debut as England manager has been thrown into doubt, as proposed August opponents Greece, were suspended from world football by Fifa. The Euro 2004 winners have been accused of being subject to their own government’s interference, leaving the English FA desperately searching for new opponents.

Playing hardball

German police are searching for vicious pranksters, thought to be responsible for landing three fans in hospital with broken toes. Six footballs, filled with concrete, bearing signs in English, asking the unsuspecting passer-by to “kick me”, have been found chained to pavements in Berlin.  

Ruing the day

Wayne Rooney has received a two-match international ban from Fifa for his quarter-final red card against Portugal. The Manchester United striker will miss the first two fixtures of England’s Euro 2008 qualifying campaign in the autumn. The Argentineans, Leandro Cufre and Maxi Rodriguez, were also punished, with four and two match suspensions for their part in the post-Germany game punch-up.

Holy delay

Football-mad monks in Bangkok have been experiencing problems rising at their normal 5am waking time, due to the six-hour time difference. Complaints from worshippers have led to some holy men being banned from watching the World Cup.

Stop and go

While Sven-Göran Eriksson has gone, the futures of Italy’s Marcello Lippi, Germany’s Jürgen Klinsmann and Portugal’s Luiz Felipe Scolari, still hang very much in the balance. Unusually, all three countries concerned would like their coaches to continue. The Ivory Coast’s Henri Michel has left for Al Arabi in Qatar and Japan’s Zico has taken charge of Turkish club Fenerbahce, Mexico’s Ricardo La Volpe has joined Argentina’s José Pekerman in temporary exile, but failed Czech coach Karel Bruckner will stay on until the next European championships.

Young gun

Germany striker, Lukas Podolski, has been named the outstanding young player of the World Cup by Fifa’s technical studies group, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi. The future Bayern Munich star scored three goals during the tournament.