Posts Tagged ‘worldcup’

New faces, patience, sell Suarez, Australia qualify, Brazilian fury

July 11th, 2013 No comments

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.


A draw, a thrashing, hosting woes, TCUP

October 18th, 2012 No comments

While the draw in Poland is far from  disastrous, England returned home with few positives. When we tried to build an attack the forwards were too static.  We struggled to keep the ball and the lack of movement led to priceless possession being given away cheaply. England need to learn to move properly and the players need to create options for each other.  In the attacking third the play was ad hoc and lacking shape.  Joe Hart’s flap led to the Polish equaliser but to blame the keeper alone is to willfully ignore a plethora of issues.  When Montenegro beat San Marino next month they will move to the top of the group.  In itself it’ll be no calamity for England but when competitive internationals resume in March there will be no more space to drop  points.  Hopefully in March Jack Wilshere will be able to unlock opposition defences.  When fully fit it’ll  certainly be time to start building the team around him.  He’s  showed that he can grow into the play makers role and develop into a top class international midfielder.  With such a dearth of English talent his skill mustn’t be wasted. For all that I still expect England to qualify for the 2014 World Cup but Spain and Brazil have nothing to fear from us.

Brisbane Roar thrashed Melbourne Victory 5-0 on Saturday.  Roar were stylish and won at a canter.  At the death Roar forward Besart Berisha hit the bar, a sixth goal would only have given the scoreline a more realistic complexion.  As impressive as Brisbane were it’s hard to reflect on the game without pointing out Victory’s hopelessness, and on Saturday Melbourne Victory were utterly, seriously, mind bogglingly hopeless.   At best they were indifferent, for large spells of the game they were truly dreadful.  Several years after his calamitous spell managing Stoke City, Chris Kamara stated that there were times after games when he’d look at his players in the dressing room knowing some of them simply hadn’t been trying.  Ange Postecoglou could be forgiven for feeling the same on Saturday.  For Ange’s own sake he must hope that was the problem, if that was an example of this team playing to full potential his task is insurmountable.

The issue of who is to host the 2020 European Championship remains a headache for UEFA.  Michel Platini’s suggestion that the tournament be played across the continent is far from final and could be refused when the member nations vote in January.  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 much more expensive.  The problems finding bidders to host for the 2020 competition suggests  UEFA’s number crunchers are oblivious to the current precarious state of the global economy.

Another kerfuffle regarding a major tournament is the ongoing discussion over which season of the year the 2022 World Cup will take place in.  The debate was offered this contribution last week… “I think sometimes a change is good — it would be great to have it in the winter. Everyone will be fit, physically fit, mentally fit and I don’t see a problem with it. For the fans I think it will be great”  A ringing endorsement of a winter World Cup.  Who came out with such a passionate justification for winter?  A manager?  A player?  Neither, it was ex Dutch international Ronald De Boer…. who, believe it or not,  now works for the Qatari FA!!   Do you think he might have an agenda by any chance?

Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri’s position looks increasingly precarious.  Having only won three games all season, defeat to Inter in last weeks’ derby is hardly inspiring confidence. Last week stories circulated stating that Milan had approached Pep Guardiola to take over from Allegri.  This media speculation helps nobody.  If Milan want to remove the manager they should sack him, pay off his contract, and move on from there.  Allowing the story to be dragged through the media is undignified and disrespectful to all involved.

In football possession is 9/10 of the law.  So watching games recently it’s flabbergasting to see teams give away priceless possession by conceding so many unnecessary free kicks.  Players in their own half, and going nowhere in particular, get carelessly shoved or ankles clipped.  It’s utterly baffling that professionals can make these senseless decisions with such monotonous regularity.  The principle is TCUP…. Thinking Correctly Under Pressure.  Some players need to learn how to make the right decisions during a game.

Reflecting on May 14th, sexual equality, not so wild about Harry.

July 10th, 2011 No comments

Whilst Watching Manchester City beat Spurs on the Tuesday night before the FA Cup Final I came to the grim realisation lifting the trophy would be too much for us.  That victory confirmed Man City’s qualification in next seasons Champions League, and the elation and relief were there for all to see.  They could head into the final having achieved their primary objective for the season.   The final provided them with the chance to finally get that wretched banner at Old Trafford taken down.  Combine their exuberance with our injury list, the cup was on it’s way to Manchester. We can take some pride in the fact that despite our injury depleted warriors facing billionaires, it took a late scrappy goal to beat us.  I was in the Quality Hotel at Wembley on the Friday night and participated in Radio Stoke’s eve of final special show.  Presenter John Acres asked for a prediction and I managed to give an answer without actually addressing the question so perhaps a career in politics awaits!  It would also have sounded too downcast to suggest that having travelled so far miles to attend a football match we’d emerge defeated.   I’d hoped with all my heart my miserable premonition would prove flawed but it wasn’t to be.

Of course the result wasn’t what we wanted, but May 14th 2011 will be remembered as a special day in our lives.   There were so many moments to cherish.  At midday I walked past Wembley Park Tube Station and glanced right up  Wembley Way to the stadium.  The sight of the  stadium draped in huge pictures of the old trophy combined with thousands of supporters heading towards the ground was amazing.  It’s a famous scene but this time it was us on one of the grandest stages in football.  I expected to cry during Abide With Me, instead tears arrived when the teams walked out onto that famous lush green turf!  Those moments alone were worth a 12,000 mile journey.  When I boarded that plane for the UK, it won’t wasn’t just to see a football match, nor was it self indulgent laddish wackiness. This was a piece of history we could be proud to be associated with…. a pilgrimage. We doffed our collective red and white caps to  shared heritage.  And now we all hope we don’t have to wait so long for another chance!

Barcelona’s dismantling of Man United and majestic stroll to the European Cup confirms their status as the finest club team of the modern era.  Some have suggested that Europe’s top club competition is now the game’s pinnacle.  Despite what some of UEFA’s sponsors and marketing executives would like us to believe, the World Cup remains the peak of world football.  The majority of supporters don’t follow Champions League teams.  If you support Southend or Ponferradina the Champions League is largely irrelevant. But those supporters do support their national team.  We don’t all fawn and feint over the worlds mega clubs.   The World Cup will always be more inclusive than any equivalent club competition.  Not good news for the corporate juggernaut that the Champions League has become but it’s good news for those of us who treasure the essence of football as an emotional entity.  Despite the circus that surrounds  big clubs it’s emotion that sustains it.

It was pleasing to see this article about the shamefully overlooked ex Liverpool manager Joe Fagan. If Fagan is ever remembered he’s often regarded as a stopgap between Paisley’s departure and the appointment of Dalglish which overlooks several aspects of Liverpool’s success.  Fagan won three trophies in his first season in charge, including the European Cup… won by beating Roma on their homeground.    His second and final season saw Liverpool struggling to handle the absence of Graeme Souness.  Despite this they reached the ill fated European Cup Final in Brussels.  Had the tragedy not occured would Liverpool have retained their title?  We’ll never know.  Returning to the UK Fagan was seen weeping as he left the plane.  That was his final act as Liverpool manager.  He deserved better than that.  Much better.

The Women’s World Cup is reaching it’s conclusion in Germany.  During the match between Equatorial Guinea and Australia the referee missed the most astonishingly blatant handball in the history of astonishingly blatant handballs.  This incident will surely go down as one of the most baffling moments in football. There are so many unanswered questions.  Why did she pick the ball up?  How did the ref not realise what had just happened?  Why wasn’t the penalty given?  Had Australia not gone on to win the game the fallout would be much louder and considerably more severe.  It seems female referees can be just as incompetent as male ones.  The similarities between the female England campaign was so similar to those of their male counterparts is eerie.  Get though the group stage without particularly playing well then make a quarter final exit on penalties. Claire Rafferty’s awful missed spot kick was truly painful to watch.  Poor officials, England making an exit on penalties.   Sexual equality is alive and well in  football it would seem.

The pre- season friendlies are getting underway.  As full scale training sessions they can be useful exercises.  To read too much into any results is foolish.  The only time a pre season friendly has any bearing on the proper stuff is if you suffer a particularly harrowing defeat a week before the start of the league campaign.  Other than that the only relevance they carry is when you support an underdog who has beaten a big club.  Therefore, Central Coast Mariners will still be celebrating their victory over Celtic!!

The media kerfuffle surrounding the possibility of Harry Kewell joining an A-League team rumbles on.  He seems to have been linked to every club in the past week.  His manager Bernie Mandic appears to be doing his negotiating through the media.  One suggestion is that Kewell should be paid a percentage of the increased gate receipts from away games.  If Kewell seriously wants to return to Australia he should return.  There can be little doubt his presence would be a huge boost the game needs.  But allowing his manager to dictate terms and haggle his dignity away does his reputation no favours.  Harry is widely believed to be the greatest Australian footballer ever.  If he’s returning he should join a club and have done with it, then the public can look forward to seeing him play football instead of reading about his agent exploiting his client.

Spain are better at football than everybody else

July 12th, 2010 No comments

The bridesmaids became brides.  The kittens became cats.  The ugly caterpillar metamorphosised into a majestic brightly coloured butterfly.  The rebirth of an entire football culture was completed this morning in Johannesburg, after years of trying, finally, Spain won the World Cup.  It’d be hard to claim they don’t deserve the honour of world champions.  A 100% record in qualifying and only conceded two goals in the tournament.  True, they started their World Cup Finals campaign with a disappointing defeat to Switzerland but they dusted themselves down and rectified things…. in exactly the same way that England didn’t!  They are now the only team ever to win the World cup having lost their opening match. 

Unlike many people I thought the final was a good game.  It was an intense war of attrition.  It was Johan Cruyff, the man who has significantly influenced both these nations football cultures, who once declared that football is a game you play with your brain.  His analaysis has rarely been more appropriate.  It could be argued that by sitting deep Holland had ruined the game as a spectacle BUT what are they supposed to do? Play open and let Spain walk all over them? Like when Stoke City play a big team, we aren’t there to entertain we are there to try and get something. And despite Spain’s dominance of possession Robben squandered the best chance of the match.  That wasted opportunity will haunt Robben and his nation like Rensenbrink hitting the post in the dying seconds in Buenos Aires in 1978 did.  It could be another thirty years until the Dutch get so close to the biggest prize of all.  But Casillas was there to make the save, proving that in a successful team every player does their bit.  And Casillas is a chronically underrated bit!!

Howard Webb got some criticism much of it unfair in my opinion.  Had he played by the strict letter of the law yellow and red cards would have been handed out willy nilly and he’d have received as much criticism for ruining the game. He had to make allowances for the various factors and overall did OK.  The real glaring error was failing to give Holland that corner.  Van Marwijk was fuirious about Webb after the match.  Well he would be wouldn’t he. 

After all the speculation regarding Nelson Mandela’s appearance it was great to see him attend.  The word was that he would be presenting the trophy.  It must have been a downer for Casillas who must have been expecting Nelson Mandela’s stature and greatness receive the trophy off Blatter!!   They must have wondered why they bothered!

So, thats the end of that then.  In the end Dunga’s pragamtic approach didn’t work for Brazil.  Domenech really is as rubbish as has been implied for several years.  Maradona really does have little tactical knowledge… but it took a while for confirmation of that!!   Lippi’s ageing squad couldn’t hack it, despite it only being seven games and amzingly, New Zealand were the only unbeaten side in the competition.   BUT England were definitely  absolutely rubbish.

Brazil 2014 next.  1235 days to go.  Anyone coming?