Mark Hughes has hit the ground running in his new job. The purchases of Erik Pieters and Marc Muniesa indicates a fresh transfer policy at Stoke City. As he becomes acquainted with his squad Hughes will see what he needs and it’s reasonable to assume we’ll acquire more new faces before the season opener at Anfield…. but we’ll have to be patient. Patience is in short supply at times. With the ongoing flurry of media speculation supporters can feel left behind when signings don’t arrive as quickly as we’d sometimes like. This is a new phenomenon. There was a time when, unlike the present day, the months of June and July’s newspapers contained very little, if any, football news. International tournaments were covered purely for the football unlike now when the attention on managers and scouts at major football events can give an air of football transfer speed dating! Stoke City do need more new faces but if they don’t arrive immediately we shouldn’t panic…. whatever the media speculate on!!
We already know that Luis Suarez won’t face Stoke in the first game. His suspension for biting Ivanovic still has six games to run. Since the end of last season Suarez has made clear his wish to leave Liverpool. Rumours abound suggesting Real Madrid want his services and Arsenal have had a 30m bid turned down. If he is to leave it’s highly unlikely they would sell to another Premier League club. As yet Liverpool have stated their desire to retain the services of Suarez but they should think again. Nobody can deny his range of talents, similarly few would deny he is a disciplinary liability. Since joining Liverpool he has been suspended for 18 matches. At Ajax he was also suspended for seven games for biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal. Remember too, at the end of the 2012/13 season Liverpool were forced to play four games without Suarez and came through unbeaten, which suggests they aren’t absolutely reliant on him. In fact if money raised from a sale was re-invested it could prove to be a huge step forward in Rogers team building exercise. Luis Suarez is a hugely gifted player blessed with rare skill and an often overlooked work ethic…. but everyone involved would benefit from his sale.
Australia’s World Cup qualifying campaign proved successful following the 1-0 victory at home to Iraq. Throughout the campaign, head coach Holger Osieck received plenty of criticism for his methods, particularly the refusal to ease younger players into the starting eleven. Blooding youngsters isn’t easy at international level as the demands can differ hugely from those of the club game. Overall though, while the campaign wasn’t as comprehensive as the 2010 qualifiers were, the most important aspect is Australia actually qualified with something to spare. Since being appointed in 2010 Osieck has led Australia to the final of the Asian Cup and now reached Brazil, which is a decent record. 2014 will be Australia’s third consecutive World Cup and after drawing Brazil and Germany in 2006 and 2010 respectively, Aussies can be forgiven if they hope for a kinder draw in December.
Harry Kewell will return to the A-League for the 2013-14 season with Melbourne Heart. One of Kewell’s main objectives is to return to form to increase chances of a place at the World Cup. Some may scoff at this but in an era when the games is saturated with people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, it’s refreshing to see a player commiting himself to earn the opportunity to perform on the biggest stage of all.
South Africa’s qualifying campaign was faltering until they received an outrageous stroke of good fortune. Bafana Bafana trailed group leaders Ethiopia by five points. However, FIFA found Ethiopia guilty of fielding an illegible player in their match against Botswana and were penalised by having three points taken away. Ethiopia are still expected to progress but South Africa will be grateful for the lifeline. One has to wonder of FIFA’s penalty would be so decisive had one of football’s global powerhouses committed a similar offence.
In Brazil, The Confederations Cup was a fantastic tournament. In the build up much media attention was placed on Neymar. Having secured a move to Barcelona shortly before the competition many questioned his ability to secure his place amongst the worlds elite. Any fears will have been largely dispelled as he impressed throughout. The only question marks over him are 1 his tendency to drift out of matches and 2 the diving and playacting he habitually carries out. For a player of his immense talent to disrespect his fellow professionals and discredit football is disappointing. Hopefully next year we’ll see more brilliance than bluffing.
As good as the football was, the tournament won’t be remembered for the quality of football. As we know, the Confederations Cup is effectively a dress rehearsal for the World Cup and the Brazilian people used the world stage to protest against ongoing social deprivation, the scale of which can be seen in sharper focus when considering the billions of dollars thrown at the World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics. Perhaps FIFA and the Brazilian government, knowing the Brazilian people love football, felt the people would simply accept the expenditure. If that is the case it was a huge mistake by Blatter, current President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from whom she inherited the responsibility to host these two huge sporting festivals. If the 2014 World Cup is to run smoothly quick decisive action is required. If FIFA were to hand over some of the vast profit they expect to make, to provide infrastructure for the people of Brazil it’d be a starting point.