Posts Tagged ‘FIFA’

Am awful month, Qatargate, a timely reminder.

January 30th, 2013 No comments

January 2013 was an horrendous month for Stoke City.  The FA Cup exit is disappointing but from the moment Manchester City were drawn we knew it was going to be a tall order to reach the 5th round.  Collecting only one league point is a real let down… especially after the exuberance of December.  The dismal 2-2 draw at home Wigan was a real low for our season.  Whilst respecting all sides in this league it’s fair to say that when you go 2-0 up, at home to a side in the bottom three, it’s reasonable to expect to win the game.  Not only were we pegged back to 2-2 we showed little desire to get back on top and win the game and seemed to settle for a draw.  Wigan were so much more comfortable on the ball and must be frustrated not to have finished the job and  actually pulled off an unlikely away win.  Our 0-0 draw at Tottenham on December 22nd was a masterclass in defensive play.  Every opponent’s run was covered and we defended collectively, cutting down angles and ensuring Spurs had nowhere to go.  Another understated admirable aspect was that when defending in our own penalty box we rarely went for the tackle, so not risking an opposition penalty.  That level of application focus and endeavour was Stoke City at their best.  Tony Pulis must be wondering what’s changed.  In his post match comments Pulis stated a need to get back to basics.  That is understandable but intending to play out 0-0 draws would be as unnecessary and inexcusable as ever.  The next home game is against Reading and nothing less than a win will do.

Confirmation finally arrived last week.  After months of speculation Michel Platini  announced 13 different cities would host the  2020 European Championship.  UEFA’s claim it will be a ‘Euro for Europe’ is an honorable attempt at altruism, but it does seem it’s a situation they would have preferred to avoid…. a claim graphically illustrated by the fact Platini insisted the competition would return to it’s traditional format in 2024!  The monumental error was to expand the competition to 24 teams.  As well as diluting the quality of football on offer it makes staging the tournament much more complicated and a lot more expensive.  The problems finding bidders to host for the 2020 competition suggested  UEFA’s number crunchers were oblivious to the current precarious state of the global economy.

Paris based magazine France Football is carrying a 16 page article titled “Qatargate”. As the title suggests, the article is focused on Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.   The decision to award hosting rights to Qatar is perhaps the most controversial moment in FIFA’s history.  It’s hard to find anybody who doesn’t feel the bid was riddled with corruption.  Anything that sheds light on these murky waters is to be welcomed.   If the allegations are proven to be factual the onus will be on FIFA to  take 2022 off Qatar and ensure those who abused their rights are removed from the game and prosecuted.

Eventually Lance Armstrong was outed.   Tenacious investigative journalism and the public’s clamour for truth and justice saw Armstrong exposed as the cheat he’s been.  It’d be easy to see the Armstrong case in isolation but the clamour for truth over football’s administrators is just as strong.  Resilient journalism and public pressure can yet shake the complaceny of those who hide away in Swiss ivory towers.  It may be a long drawn out struggle but the Lance Armstrong story proves it can be done.

The most infuriating aspect of Eden Hazard kicking out at the ballboy was that it detracted attention from Swansea’s brilliant achievement.  Deservedly beating Chelsea over two legs was a special moment.  Unfortunately, they didn’t get the credit they richly deserve because the media were fixated on one moment of stupidity.  Michael Laudrup has done a remarkable job so far at Swansea.  He’s managed to continue the club’s impressive progress while mainatining the philosophy of predecessor Brendan Rogers.    As for Rogers, Liverpool’s FA Cup defeat at Oldham confirms his first season managing Liverpool will prove to be trophyless.  His team is making progress and we are beginning to see the his vision reach fruition.  For all that there is an unavoidable irony when his previous club Swansea have reached a Wembley final and Liverpool, in time honoured tradition, are concentrating on the league!

Cape Verde is a great story to emerge from the African Nations Cup in South Africa.  Their dramatic 2-1 victory over Angola secured them second place in the group  and a place in the quarter finals.  With a population of just 500,000 this is a huge moment for  the West African nation.  The feat is all the more impressive on learning that Cape Verde doesn’t actually have any grass football pitches!  Their delight was understandable.  To demonstrate their elation the players stormed the post match press conference, watch and smile!

In the modern game we can be forgiven for feeling overawed by talk of agents, TV deals business and self interest.  Stories like Swansea Oldham and Cape Verde are a timely reminder  why we live this football life.



Halfway to the magical 40 and Machiavellian administrators

November 30th, 2010 No comments

It’s understandable that a manager wants to defend his team.  It’s easy to appreciate that a manager might want to publicly focus on the positive aspects that come from a game.  But even bearing those things in mind it’s hard to believe that Roberto Mancini seriously honestly believes that Man City deserved to beat us on Saturday.  If so you have to engage, as Tone did, that well worn mantra for all football supporters when a view on a game differs from their own… “What game was he watching?”   To engage yet another football cliche, it was clearly a game of two halves.  There was a story that on arrival on the pitch at the Brit to warm up Balotelli, to the amusement of the Stoke coaching staff, dashed down the tunnel clearly unsettled by the cold.  In the first half it seemed not so super Mario’s discomfort had become a virus which spread throughout the team.  For the first 45 minutes we played with impressive intelligence, one aspect of which was that we allowed them to have the ball where it couldn’t hurt us.  They could indeed play 10 passes in a row but if that’s done in areas which can’t hurt us, and angles are closed to limit their options, why waste energy frantically hassling and clattering?   We paid a  price for our inability to gain a lead from our first half dominance.  For much of the second half we had difficulty breaking forward, but for all Man City’s possession they didn’t create many clear cut chances.  There were several potshots but little seriously tested our defence.  It took a combination of skill and opportunism from Richards to out us behind.  Richards dummy and turn combined with Collins lack of concentration led to a shot on goal he buried in style.  Some might blame Begovic but it’s hard for any keeper to save a shot hit with such power and accuracy.  It looked as if that was that, especially as we seemed unable to rally to launch the usually obligatory  siege on their penalty area.   But in the end, and it really was the end, that marvellous bit of skill from Tuncay let to Ethers ruthless finish to gain us a well deserved point.  So precise was that little piece of Turkish delight (sorry) that Ethers didn’t even have to break stride to take his shot.  There was little time for anything else in the game so all that was left was for Mancini to attempt to rewrite history.  One point that has to be made about Man City is that they do have some great talent in their side, but are a long way from being substantial title challengers.  Stoke away is a serious test of character and how the challenge is dealt with demonstrates whether you have the resilience to stay competitive.  For all the millions spent they didn’t do nearly enough to win this game and in the first half didn’t want to be out in the cold.  Their collection of superstars need to be reminded that points win leagues. not hairstyles.    That puts us halfway to the magical 40 mark.  Lets hope we can maintain the desire of the last four games 40 won’t be too far away!  Well done Stoke, we have a team to be proud of long may it continue.

It’s commonplace for Barcelona to dismantle sides.   The striking difference  this time is that  it was done against a top team filled with stars and a tactical master at the helm.  Aside from the initial humiliation, Real Madrid don’t actually have that much to worry about.  There is still a long way to go and despite the obvious psychological advantage many twists and turns lie ahead.  Many bemoan the fact that the Premier League is unbalanced in terms of TV money distribution, yet in Spain each club negotiates their independent TV rights deal.  This means that Barcelona and Real Madrid can maintain their dominance almost totally unthreatened  by the minions.  There are murmurs that they are both seriously considering sharing some of  the money to assist their poorer brethren, it’s  hard to imagine the English mega giants choosing such altruism. 

It’s pleasing to see the British home office report stating that arrests at football are down 10%.  Apparently, in a World cup year,  there were no arrests for England fans abroad.  Is it the first time ever this has happened?

The announcement of World Cup hosts for 2018 and 2022 is imminent.  It’s actually more crucial for the national football health of Australia to host 2022 than it is for England to host 2018.  In England football exists continues to generate interest and income and remains prominent.   Here it’s different.  The energy and expense that goes into a bid like this is phenomenal and if the show arrives here in 2022 it looks like a shrewd investment.  If the party takes place elsewhere the resources used by the bid could appear to be seriously wasteful.  Bearing in mind the A-league has several clubs in financial disarray, it will be suggested that the money used to fund the bid could have been more wisely spent by helping to provide infrastructure for the game here.  The irony is that while moving to FIFA’s Asian section was an intelligent step to take, if Australia had stayed with Oceania they would be near certainties to host the tournament. 

It’s now highly unlikely the Joeinoz dream of successive tournaments in England and Australia will come to fruition.  Consecutive World Cups in predominantly white predominantly English speaking nations doesn’t sit well with FIFA liking to present themselves and as a globally inclusive entity which is trying to save the world from the tyranny of oppression.  Admittedly this image of universal harmony didn’t stretch as far as asking delegates to consider a nations  history of racist abuse  when voting, but why get off the train when the gravy is still simmering?   Combine this with the sickening way that English journalists  daring to expose corruption in the bidding process has damaged the English bid, it’s unlikely to court favour with those whose gravy train is in danger of being derailed.  The odious Jack Warner of CONCACAF has been wined and dined by David Cameron seeking forgiveness and votes.  It’s increasingly clear that hosting a tournament is little to do with suitability to do so, it’s all politically motivated.  The internal wrangling gives Machiavellian a complex for not living up to itself.

Three in a row and Wenger through the wringer

November 23rd, 2010 No comments

Three top flight wins in a row for the first time since 1984’s  Huddy inspired great escape.  The final game was by far the least enthralling installment of the trilogy, but who is really complaining about that?    After a first half when both sides were as poor as each other, few could have predicted what became an emphatic victory for us.  Not that we didn’t deserve the victory overall I hasten to add.  The plethora of bad refereeing decisions that have gone against us this season are embedded in our collective psyche, leaving a dark bitter stain.  The point has to be made however that we were the recipients of good fortune at The Hawthorns when Jonesy, shall we say, tumbled a bit too easily and Foy kindly gave us the penalty.   I think he dived but there is one glaring factor which has to be brought into the debate…. why did WBA keeper Frank Carson feel the need to dash from his goal?  Jonesy still had a lot to do.  But dash he did to lead us to Matty’s ruthlessly executed penalty to give us a lead we rarely looked likely to lose.   Our opponents looked demoralised and we continued to grind and graft and got a second, with a more valid penalty, which Jon Walters hammered home with much aplomb.  Right at the death Jonesy did some great jinky work on the left which put Walters in again.  The hapless Frank Carson saved the first effort with rare competence but the rebound deflected to Walters who ruthlessly swept the ball home for his second and our third.  Admittedly, the third gave the scoreline a flattering complexion, but that’s football it happens, it feels good to be on the right side of some (minor) injustice!  So our strangely, phenomenally, bizarrely, amazingly brilliant record against WBA continues.  On Saturday the Baggies heads went down from the moment we scored as if being behind to Stoke City was such a depressingly familiar feeling.  That’s hardly surprising.  It’s probably as depressing for them as it is awe inspiring for us!  So, three wins in a row and two clean sheets.  It’s fair to say things are looking up.   Life is good!   The elephants have made a sharp exit!!  Hopefully that’s the last we’ve seen of the unwelcome big grey floppy eared tusky sods!!!  They are beautiful animals but not what I want in the loungeroom on Saturday night whilst watching Stoke play!! 

After their hopeless display against Sunderland Chelsea were much improved against Birmingham.  Birmingham mustered one shot at goal while Chelsea had twenty five, yet, amusingly, Chelsea still lost!   It’d be fanciful to suggest the behind the scenes wrangling was responsible for their Saturday’s defeat but the aforemtioned  wrangling is clearly having a detrimental effect on the club as a whole.  The dismissal of Wilkins and the subsequent internal squabbling is as undignified as it is funny!  Abramavic bought Chelsea seven years ago and while the money has bought success the ongoing meddling from administrators at the club is obstructive to whoever the manager may be.  The Independent reported on Monday that Ancelotti might be on the verge of resignation because he doesn’t have the power his contemporaries have at their respective clubs.  It seems resignation rumours were somewhat melodratic, but it does demonstrate how difficult Chelsea can be to manage.  A bottomless pit of transfer funds doesn’t compensate for the impracticalities of big club decisions being made behind your back.  On buying the club in 2003 Abramovic’s mission statement was to win two European Cups (Champions league my arse!) in the first ten years.  That they are yet to win one proves that a winning culture to match the cream of world football can’t just be bought, it has to be built over a period of years… even with that bottomless pit.

Another London club that went through the wringer at the weekend are those lovable purists at The Emirates.  How did that happen?  Well, Arry played a blinder.   The astonishing second half comeback came with Defoe replacing Lennon and playing as a striker while Van De Vaart moved to the right.  This gave them options all over the attacking third and eventually they outnumbered poor old Arsenal into submission.  I’m sure all Stokies shed a tear for Arsene Wenger as he wandered the touchline in exasperated frustration.  It was a truly fantastic game and an example of all that is good about football.  However, one disappointing aspect is that Arsenal got three yellow cards.  The whole world was watching and their blunt violence again brings shame and disgust onto the reputation of English football.  When you reduce yourself to that kind of thuggery it ceases to be football.  

Hey get this for any oxymoron… FIFA Ethics committee!!   Honestly, it really exists.   Look at this if you don’t believe me.  They must have the easiest job in football!  Like driving the snow plough in Dubai. 

England were well beaten by France.  Technically and tactically outclassed. To slag off Capello for this performance and result is to miss some salient points.  The clamour was for different younger players to gain some international experience… which they did.  That we were comprehensively beaten just emphasises AGAIN that the technical ability of English players in inferior to that of many other countries.  France were one of few teams to have an even worse World Cup than England yet they already look to be rebuilding and preparing for the future.  If England host 2018 the role of the national football traning centre at Burton will get sharper focus as it will be a legitimate target to aim for.  By then we may have started to see the fruits of that labour (heaven knows we’ve waited long enough) and finally get English players who can trap a ball and pass it accurately and keep the ball and patiently unlock an opposing defence, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

Mixing matching and incompetent administrators

September 21st, 2010 No comments

So, the BIG question,  who should start up front with Jonesy?  And the key word is start. It is increasingly clear that the manager sees the substitute bench an important part of the overall game strategy.  You can’t have too many striking options.  It’s reminiscent of Italy in 2006 who, as opposed to the usual four,  took six strikers to Germany in their World Cup squad.  In the semi against Germany alone they used five of them….. excellent use of the squad.  Different attacking possibilities are an important luxury to enjoy.  As long as we aren’t three down and game over before we get the chance to mix and match!   Although against West Ham our biggest problem was defensive.  It was a dreadful free kick for Collins to give away  that led to their goal.  Like  against Villa, we fell behind and got overran for a while.  We equalised with a well worked goal and had the better of the second half but didn’t really do enough for us to be able to say we really deserved to win the game.  Four points from the two home games isn’t a bad return though.  Newcastle on Sunday and a long overdue clean sheet will be a fine starting point.   Reaching the next round of the League Cup would be most welcome too.   Come on stoke.

Despite playing the usual vacuous superficial lip service, FIFA have decided that the votes to decide  2018 World Cup hosts  must not be influenced in any way by the subject of racism.  So what is the point of that campaign they have been running?  During the recent Russia v Andorra match the black players were targeted throughout.  Wouldn’t the threat of being cast aside in the World Cup bid be a just action and a deterrent?   In 2006 Ukranian coach Oleg Blokhin made a grand statement that black players shouldn’t play in Ukranian football at all… yet there he was participating in that inane irrelevant ceremony before his teams quarter final against Italy. If the administrative bodies are serious about eliminating racism from the game they can do it by properly punishing those who display bigotry and making an example of them.    The last time England played in Spain the black players were abused throughout the game.  An appropriate punishment would have been to make them play their next competitive game behind closed doors.  This means everyone would suffer and the knuckle draggers would be forced to consider the consequences of their actions on their fellow supporters.  The players would have to play a competitive game in near silence and, most importantly for them, their FA would miss out on a load of money. 

Brisbane Roar have existed for five years and for five years they have screamed out for a ruthless finisher. Watching them stumble to a 1-1 draw home to Adelaide on Saturday night (before heading to the pub for our game against the Hammers) was five years in one game.  Encouraging play but some dopey defending allows Adelaide in to take the lead.  Then Brisbane equalise but despite being on top rarely look like snatching a winner.  Five years of nearly but not quite.  But most importantly we do have   football matches to attend and meet mates before and after etc…  the social aspect is crucial, and the bars around the stadium are great!!   If the game to survive here it has to be supported.  However frustrating it can be!!  

Amusingly, Mourinho has already started to fall out with his board at Real Madrid!   He wants to manage Portugal temporarily for their forthcoming Euro qualifiers against Denmark and Iceland.   Initially he was saying that he’d be alone in Madrid with nothing to do for a week (yeah right!) so what harm could it possibly do?  He’s taken a step back now but that little disagreement could be the germ that metamorphosizes into a large damaging virus that infects his reign at the Bernebau.  Valencia sit at the top in Spain and after watching them masterfully hold off the energetic Hercules they are deserved league leaders.  Barcelona will be relieved to have got their defeat at Hercules out of the system with the  win at Atletico Madrid. The only problem is that Messi’s injury has taken attention away from the wonderful goal he scored which in itself took attention away from Pedro’s brilliant diagonal pass to unlock the defence.   It was just  a pity about the horrible black goal nets….. they weren’t a worthy receptacle for a goal of such skill.    Messi’s injury means he’ll have to miss a few games including one against mighty Rubin Kazan in Europe….which takes me onto another subject……..

……The European Cup started last week.  OR to give it a more fitting name… The overblown overhyped carnival of too much pointlessness started last week.  That competition doesn’t get going until March, and often in March the drama and quality of the knockout football on show serves to demonstrate how futile and irrelevant too many of the matches in the early stages are.  There were a few suggestions of romance when Chelsea travelled to MSK Zillna but by the thirty minute mark romance had given way to grim predictable reality.  Arsenal were indeed brilliant against Braga but, with all respect, it was Braga.  Obviously they some good qualities to be in the competition at all but is that victory a genuine benchmark for anything?  Quite simply, that tournament needs a revamp to freshen it up.  At the moment it’s lots of clubs playing lots of games with little to spark the imagination.   Don’t start me on that Europa league.

Liverpool were well beaten by Man Yoo.  The 3-2 scoreline is deceptive.   The strange thing is however did Liverpool get back to 2-2?  It’s lame at this point to say Berbatov’s second was marvellous but of course it was.  To control the ball on the thigh and overhead kick takes rare agility.  It’s always aesthetically pleasing to see goals bounce in off the underside off the crossbar too.   Elsewhere, it was disgraceful to see Arsene Wenger violently attack the fourth official.  It isn’t football when you reduce yourself  to vicious intimidation like that.  That kind of bare thuggery has no place in the game.  He needs to wake up to himself.

The National Football Centre in Burton is delayed again.  This saga has dragged on for years now.  In 2001 the idea was announced and it was all conceived to follow the lead and success of the French centre at Clairefontaine.  Nine years and 25m quid later it is no nearer to completion.  This whole ongoing yarn symbolises the FA’s inability to make change.  Change that is required to help English players develop into the kind of players capable of sustaining a place amongst the world’s elite.  Instead of seeing the importance of such a project it has been allowed to fizzle out and the administrators have dithered and fussed around.  But who is seriously surprised by that?

The Netherlands vs Uruguay: MysticalDescent’s view

July 7th, 2010 No comments

UruguayUruguayan Flag

NetherlandsDutch Flag

1) Muslera

1) Stekelenberg
3) Godin

3) Heitinga

16) Pereira

5) van Bronckhorst

22) Caceres

12) Boulahrouz

5) Gargano

6) van Bommel

11) Pereira (Abreu, 78)

10) Sneijder

15) Perez

14) De Zeeuw (van der Vaart, 46)

17) Arevalo Rios

7) Kuyt

7) Cavani

9) van Persie

10) Forlan (Fernandez, 84)

11) Robben (Elia, 90)

So much for Dutch magic and total football. Not only was chance creation at a premium, but the Dutch players doled out cynical tackles at almost the same rate as they were throwing themselves at the floor. Admittedly the third goal was a beauty, but it took a speculative shot from long range and a goal that should have been flagged for offside to overcome a Uruguay side missing two critical players in Suarez and Lugano. To say that the Netherlands never really turned up does a disservice to a hard working Uruguay side with a very effective defensive gameplan. Regardless, whilst the game fairly entertaining, the Germans and Spanish were probably licking their lips at the prospect of playing either team.

The evening started with the unexpected bonus that Jim Beglin would not be taking up the role of co-commentator for the match. David Pleat asides, I’m struggling to think of a pundit who is as irritating and perpetually incorrect as Beglin. His idiocy is only exacerbated when there’s a ‘big’ team who he can pick out as his favourite and shamelessly cheerlead for, so thank goodness we were spared him making countless excuses for the Netherlands tonight. As for the game itself, the first half was mostly disappointing, with only three real highlights. Obviously, two of these were the goals, while the other was the incident on the edge of the Dutch box that saw Caceres catch de Zeeuw in the face with a boot. Other than that, there was very little to comment on. The linesman in the Dutch half was hopelessly incompetent (more on that later) and the Uruguayans did an effective job of keeping Robben out of the game, while struggling to link up their defence and attack. The idea seemed to be to play 4-5-1 when defending, before switching to a 4-3-3 system with two wingers when attacking. Unfortunately, this usually meant that Forlan was left isolated up front, although he wasn’t helped be the hapless number 11, Pereira, and an inability to pass the ball forwards accurately. Ultimately, there was no get out ball for Uruguay and hence no chance creation.

One thing that this World Cup has done is made a mockery of goalkeepers. Muslera had very little chance with the goal, as it dipped beautifully into the top corner of the goal, but he has looked incredibly shaky and has inspired little confidence in his defence. Stekelenberg is another goalkeeper who I don’t really rate and he made a real howler tonight with the goal. You can claim that the ball swerved an awful lot, but he got a solid hand to it and it was as though all the particles in the ball had suddenly decided to act as waves and pass straight through. It’s not just the lowly rated goalkeepers who are being humiliated though – respected, capable goalkeepers such as Julio Cesar and Thomas Sorensen have also made costly errors, though admittedly Sorensen’s big errors came from free-kicks, his most glaring weakness. Has there been a drop of standards since the days of Yashin, Banks or even Schmeichel? Is it bad luck, a coincidence, or could it really be down to the World Cup ball? If it’s the latter then it’s a shame, because the once noble profession of the goalkeeper seems to be being sacrificed by FIFA in the name of the spectacular on the world stage.

As for the incident on the edge of the Dutch box, Caceres may have caused some damage to de Zeeuw, but it was van Bommel who was lucky to escape the incident without seeing red. Thanks to FIFA’s TV operators deciding that it was only important enough for one replay having already missed it taking place due to showing a replay of something else, I’m not exactly certain what happened, but van Bommel appeared to either strike Caceres in the face with his hand, or headbutt him. The consensus seems to be that it was the former, in which case Van Bommel should have been shown a straight red. Just like Fabregas and Campbell for Arsenal, though, it seems that Van Bommel is magically immune from the wrath of referees. In all seriousness, Van Bommel got away with an awful lot of stuff on the night (perhaps he should consider moving to a cynical team like Arsenal), including him taking out a Uruguayan in the build up to one of the Dutch goals and a little kick out at a Uruguayan as the game appeared to be petering out.

The second half again saw Uruguay struggle to get the ball from back to front, leaving the Dutch to control possession but only create half-chances. The turning point was when Sneijder took a pot shot from the edge of the box that was going wide but got a couple of lucky deflections off Uruguay players, sending it into the bottom corner. The goalkeeper should have done better, but he reacted very late as the ball went straight past van Persie, the Muslera seemed to be expecting to control the ball. Van Persie was clearly standing in an offside position and the linesman should have flagged for offside, disallowing the goal. The decision was actually tighter than I’ve just suggested, but the linesman had spent most of the first half flagging Uruguayan players as offside when they were quite clearly nowhere near being in an offside position. I’m not sure where they got him from, but he was completely out of his depth and Uruguay will feel very aggrieved that he cost them numerous attacking opportunities in the first half and then allowed an illegal goal to stand.

The Dutch third goal was a visible hammer blow for Uruguay, with most of their players jogging around the pitch looking as though they wanted to end as soon as possible. To be fair to the Netherlands, it was a very well constructed goal, with a good passing move leading to a pinpoint cross headed in by Arjen Robben, of all people. After that, the Uruguayan players seemed to give up hope. It was only after Pereira (the good one, the useless left winger had been substituted by now) scored from the edge of the box at the end of the game that the Uruguayans pressed on and really tried to get the game back. It would have been a fantastic contest if they had equalised, as the Dutch had started to take off their best players so that they could rest them for the final. Despite a long throw bombardment and some frantic defending, the Uruguayans couldn’t find an equaliser and the Netherlands made it through to the final. Still, you can’t spend 15 minutes moping around and then complain about losing because you attacked for 2 minutes at the end.

In the other semi-final tonight, Germany takes on Spain. At the start of the tournament, I said that Uruguay would win the World Cup (ok, so I was a little wrong, but everyone was predicting that they would go out in the group stages and even with two of their best players missing it took a dodgy goal to beat them) and that you can never bet against the Germans, who will make the final. I’m going to stand by the latter part of my prediction and I expect Germany, the stand out team in the tournament so far, to beat Spain pretty comfortably. I just hope that the game isn’t ruined by the eagerness of players on both teams to throw themselves at the floor and pretend to be injured.

The 2010 World Cup’s impact on Team USA

July 6th, 2010 No comments

The 2010 World Cup is now in the books for the United States. What will the history books write about it? Disallowed goals? The England Equalizer? Winning the group? The performance of Landon Donovan on the world stage? I think the legacy of this World Cup will be the emergence of “soccer” as a major sport in the United States. That’s right I think the game has finally turned the corner and will move into the top three here in America. I could not believe the people that were interested here in the States during the World Cup. Old, young, middle aged people were tuning in like never before to take in the international spectacle that is the World Cup. Offices would change the channel from CNN to ESPN to take in the games. Here in the middle of the day US televisions were tuned in at the highest rate ever to the beautiful game, numbers never seen before.

What next now for the game here in the US? Well a push for the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 is the logical progression. World Cup 94 remains the best attended and run World Cup in history and the next one here in the US will be bigger and better. But will FIFA bite? Will the remorse of horrible referees disallowing legitimate goals help our chances? Of course not, but money talks for FIFA and if we can get them to make an objective decision based on revenue and profits than we should be leading the pack for hosting the biggest sporting event in the world.

Even more important than hosting the tournament in the future is the growth of the domestic league: Major League Soccer. With an ESPN contract and steady expansion into solid soccer markets it continues to grow responsibly. Reportedly attendance has been up over 15% since the World Cup. The standard of play is considered at the Coca Cola Championship level which I think is great, and should put it in the top 15 leagues in the world. With the Youth Soccer boom showing no signs of slowing down you can’t help but consider soccer to be on the verge of a boom here in the US. Long may it continue.

Another thing I would like to talk about is how much the national team has progressed. No one can say we had the most talented bunch at this World Cup but I will go out on a limb and say we were one of the 16 best teams at the tournament. If we could just finish we would probably still be playing. The amount of chances we wasted bordered on criminal and you had to feel for Landon Donovan seeing all of his great service being wasted. The main culprit was Jozy Altidore, but that being said I do not want to batter the lad too much. He did a lot of things well at the tournament, first and foremost relying on his strength and size to become a real handful for most defenders. Add his pace and we could see the development of a new type of target man in the game whou could revolutionize the 4-5-1. Crucial this young player makes the right move before next season and gets into an English team with a coach who can mentor and develop him. I vote for Tony Pulis’ Stoke City. A guy can only hope!

Paraguayan pride and pundits

July 1st, 2010 No comments

Typically, as soon as I mention the second round having a healthy goals per game ratio we get two games with one goal between them.   It’s pleasing that Paraguay got through, albeit by a penalty shootout.   When they played Slovakia the camera scanned on them singing their national anthem and at the end they all cheered and clapped and looked at each other smiling.  A brief miraculous moment, players actually ENJOYING participating in the World Cup.   Such a refreshing change from the usual surly scowling young men with the weight of the world on their shoulders talking of which… Christiano doesn’t help himself does he?  He hasn’t written much future either.  He’ll meet his friend Wayne and they can drink champagne and decide who to blame for their lack of influence.  Then can blame Nike for not paying them enough to do those adverts.  Wayne and Steve Gerrard has decided to pull out of an event in London to find the worlds most skillful footballer, and they have had to lose their payment of half a million quid.  Poor loves, lets have a whip round. 

The decision of the remarkably named Nigeria president Goodluck Jonathan to suspend their national team is as foolish as it is melodramatic. It seems the decision is more to punish their FA than the players. This is in the wake of their chaotic preparation which resulted in friendlies cancelled and even the plane to take them to South Africa unable to take off. However, FIFA take a dim view of political leaders meddling with football.   If the two year ban is upheld it could be that Blatter and his mates decide to bang an extra ban on top.  This will harm the players in several ways but most of all deprive the Nigerian people the chance to see their team in competitive action.  Hopefully Goodluck is using this as a chance for a spot of self promotion.  Otherwise we can only wish bad luck on Goodluck. 

Bastian Schweinsteiger’s digs at Argentina got a staggering response from Maradona, because there wasn’t one!  Where you might usually expect him to react by smashing a glass or baring his arse or something, he didn’t react.  This is the calm before the storm.  You can bet there will be a reaction if Germany knock them out.  There is still bad blood after their quarter final in 2006 and nothing stokes the fire like a sense of grievance.  If, as is extremely possible, Argentina meet Brazil in the final the terms  mind games and antagonistic will have to be re-defined!   And antagonism is rarely as antagonistic as it is when Brazil play Argentina.

Reading some articles it seems the punditry on UK TV is rather poor.  The most annoying aspect is that in the first few weeks when they said something about one of the more obscure sides players they got ridiculed for being a swot.  Before Slovenia v Algeria one of them sort of shrugged and admitted he knew nothing about either team.  How lazy can you be?  Have they never heard of this thing what was invented called the, er, internet like?   This  attitude does nobody any favours.  In fact they just present themselves as ignorant and insular.  It’s not much to ask to provide some background information, otherwise why are they there? 

Blatter has apologised for Lampard’s phantom goal, how very kind of him!!   Three cheers for good old Sepp.  What happens now?  This apology means nothing unless measures are taken to ensure mistakes like this aren’t repeated.  They are happy to accept technological developments when they develop the new ball the players can’t play with.  Or when they have those big videoscreens that carry sponsors advertising.  Maybe, just maybe, they can use technology to help the game and not just so they can vacuum up money.

World Cup shock…the refs are doing OK!!

June 18th, 2010 No comments

This World Cup has been underway for nearly a week and the most amazing shocking thing is the refereeing so far…’s actually been quite good!!    There have been a couple of goals that may have been given offside but overall it’s been competent which is pleasing.    This time FIFA seem to have gone easy on the new directives that are introduced on the eve of compettitions which serve only to confuse players and refs alike.  Which means Domenech can only blame balltitiude and vuvuzelas for France’s lame tepid clueless unimaginative trudges.  The big question is how he’s managed to cling onto his job.  He’s nearly gone and few French football fans will be sorry.  When Thierry handled them to the finals there were even some French fans who were disappointed because it meant another six months with him in  charge.   Although the point has to be made, their players don’t emerge from this with much credit either.  They never showed any desire  to go out and make the difference and win either game.  Suicidal against a technically proficient well disciplined side like Mexico.   But all isn’t lost.  France could yet go on to lift the trophy and, now I’ve praised the refs, Algeria will beat England  in controversial circuimstances. 

When South Korea pulled the goal back against Argentina it was refreshing that the South Americans continued to move forward.  Too many sides would have taken the cautious route and sat resolutely on what they had.   They got the reward too.  In the hullabaloo surrounding Messi it’s pleasing that Higuain got some acclaim.   It’s hard not to feel though that when they face higher class opposition the defence could be exposed and the lack of Cambiasso could yet prove costly to them.  Another entertaining aspect of Argentina’s games is Maradona patrolling the touchline with the air of an evil genius.  It seems a matter of time until he does something crazy.   When they face trouble you can imagine him dashing on the pitch and digging a hole or  doing an Ozzy Osbourne and biting a bat’s head off or something. 

England tomorrow morning!!  James is replacing Green in goal.  Why?  What has Green made a mistake or something?   Gareth Barry’s return is welcome but he’ll experience a strange kind of pressure.  Usually long awaited comebacks are for strikers.  There no pushovers at this level but Algeria is a game we can reasonably expect to win.    Lets blow the cobwebs away and get the job done.  COME ON ENGLAND!!  (although I’ll be pleased enough with a dirty crappy 1-0 with the goal a deflection off a passing dog!!)