Posts Tagged ‘England’

The last leg

Posted: June 16, 2012 by scottbalaam in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

The fun and games all started on the 8th June, since then there’s been a lot of football played, it hasn’t all been pretty … but it’s got us hooked.

And they’re off

It all started with co-hosts Poland taking on Greece, the Greeks look very poor in the first half and they found themselves 1-0 down after the highly rated Robert Lewandowski headed home. Like their economy, things went from bad to worse for them when Socratis Papastathopoulos was harshly sent-off in the 44th minute – It looked like there was only going to be one winner.

We don’t know what Fernando Santos said to his troops, but Greece came out a different team, they equalized through Dimitris Salpingidis after some poor goalkeeping from Wojciech Szczesny.

The substitute keeper was Przemyslaw Tyton, his first job was to face Giorgos Karagounis’ penalty – much to Szczesny’s relief he saw his replacement save the spot kick. The game finished 1-1, the Poles were relieved that they managed to get a point, but at the back of their minds, they must have known the game should’ve been killed off in the first half.

Later that evening Russia set the benchmark as they beat Czech Republic 4-1, the star man was Alan Dzagoev, he grabbed a brace and looked like a real star with an interesting future ahead of himself.

In the second set of games Russia faced Poland, Dzagoev got his third of the tournament before Lewandowski equalized in the second half.

Meanwhile Czech Republic came back from their opening nightmare to beat Greece 2-1, the Greeks even subbed their keeper in the first half after conceding two early goals.

Group of Death

In every competition there is always a ‘Group of Death’, and this time round it was no different – early favourites Germany were paired with ‘old friends’ Netherlands, Ronaldo’s Portugal and Denmark.

The big talking point was Denmark shocking the Dutch 1-0, despite the losing side dominated the game, but Michael Krohn-Delhi’s first half goal was enough. Whilst Robin van Persie is unstoppable in the EPL he has struggled to impress in the famous orange shirt.

As expected the Germans got off to a winning start as they beat Portugal 1-0 thanks to a Mario Gomez goal, once again Ronaldo failed to turn-up in a big match.
 
Gomez continued that form into the second game … His double in the first half against Netherlands left the Germans coasting, Robin van Persie pulled one back in the second-half, but in reality the Germans looked very comfortable. The result leaves the Dutch bottom of the group with no points and needing a miracle …

Portugal beat Denmark 3-2, they had thrown away a two goal lead, but Silvestre Varela managed to score a late winner, which left both clubs on three points.

Irish first to go

Irish fans had waited ten years to feature in a major Championship, and were optimistic they would progress, unfortunately that all changed after three minutes when they Mario Mandzukic’s header beat Shay Given. The boys in green got back into it through Sean St Ledger, but some more shocking defending in the second-half saw them lose 3-1.

The second game was even worse, they played holders Spain, who went 1-0 up after four minutes through Fernando Torres. The Irish rarely got the ball, and when they did they gave it straight back to the Spaniards. In the second-half David Silva made it 2-0, before Chelsea striker Torres got his second and the team’s third, before Cesc Fabregas scored after coming off the bench.

With no points after two games, Trap’s men were eliminated.

The rest of the group is very interesting, Croatia have impressed everyone and take on Spain in the last game with both sides on four points, whilst Italy have two and face the Irish – this group could well go down to goal difference.

Going to the wire

England are looking better than most expected, whilst they aren’t looking the best at the back, going forward was positive last time out. In the opener, Roy’s boys only managed one shot and luckily Joleon Lescott’s header from Stevie G’s cross went in!!! Samir Nasri managed to beat City teammate Hart from distance, some say the English keeper should’ve done better, but in reality it was a class effort.

The second game was a real roller coaster ride, England went 1-0 up through Andy Carroll – it was the Liverpool striker’s first goal for his country. Olof Mellberg scored twice in quick succession to give the Swedes a 2-1 lead, Theo Walcott was sent on in the 60th minute and four minutes later his shot from outside the area shocked Isaksson to equalize.

Then in the 78th minute Walcott broke down the right and pulled the ball across the goal, somehow Danny Welbeck managed to flick the ball past the Swedish keeper and give England a 3-2 lead – They managed to hold on to win, thus sending Ibrahimovic and his team home.

If England win or draw against Croatia then they will progress, Roy will be hoping Sweden get a result against France to avoid Spain in the next round.

Steady progress has accompanied Roy Hodgson’s England reign so far. The Three Lions aren’t tentative, but there is an efficiency and methodical approach to the former West Bromwich Albion manager’s side who have won two and drawn one since the FA appointed their new man.

It is a four year project, one which could last longer or shorter than the contract that was signed some 50 days ago. You never quite know with England; the manager must implement his own style because after all they know their time is limited somewhat because of expectations from fans and the media.

“30 years of hurt” is the line used in the famous Football’s Coming Home tune, but it has in fact been 46 years since England picked up their one and only major tournament trophy. This year’s attempt, the 2012 European Championships, has started as well as Hodgson could have hoped for.

No, England did not get off to a dream start and beat France in their opening group game in Donetsk, but they did come away with a point after a 1-1 draw and we certainly learned a lot about Hodgson’s philosophy. There were two solid banks of four as expected, but amongst them Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was selected on the left side of midfield – ahead of Stewart Downing – who was the easy choice as an experienced and solid winger.

Hodgson’s selection showed that he does care about the attacking side of football and isn’t solely interested in creating an England side that are hard to beat. Ashley Young provided support to 21-year-old striker Danny Welbeck, who only scored his first international goal nine days before the France game.

There is the anticipation of Wayne Rooney’s return, a player who will certainly give England more potency. Rooney is reportedly, and not surprisingly, chomping at the bit to return to action and has been as enthusiastic as ever in training.

We can be pleased with the back five of Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, John Terry, Joleon Lescott and Ashley Cole. Hart is a world class goalkeeper who is now being tainted in the same light as Manuel Neuer and Iker Casillas.

Lescott scored against France to further impress his solid partnership with Terry, who let’s not forget was playing on his unfamiliar right side. Johnson was positive, pushing forward whenever possible which magnifies the solid work that James Milner put in at right wing, carrying out Hodgson’s plea to retreat and halt the dangerous French attack.

Sweden are up next, with the England squad travelling to Kiev today before their encounter tomorrow evening in what is seen as a must win.

The Swedes lost their first match to Ukraine 2-1, a shock result which has led to plenty of disruption in the camp, particularly between Olof Mellberg and Zlatan Ibrahimovic who have had their differences for some time. With a split camp and a training method which includes kicking balls at two bare buttocks, the Sweden team have certainly approached this encounter in the opposite way to England.

The English have rested and recovered this week; welcoming their wives, girlfriends and other family members to soak up the atmosphere, obviously not mirroring the social gatherings the Polish and Russian people have been holding thus far.

This is in stark contrast to Fabio Capello’s camp during the World Cup two years ago where players were bored brainless because of the remoteness of the location. Players now seem more relaxed and more assured of their position in the team.

Hodgson is on the eve of his first match that truly matters. His first two were friendlies, giving him a chance to get to know his players and implement a system that works. His England team were underdogs going into the France game, and Les Bleus are now undefeated in 22 games.

Now comes the big test. After a positive start, three points are now necessary in order to put one hand on group qualification. England will not relish facing co-hosts Ukraine – their final group game -in Donetsk knowing a win is essential to reach the quarter-finals. It will be a fiery and intimidating atmosphere and England will want to feel as comfortable and assured as possible. To make sure of this, the Sweden game is paramount.

Will Hodgson set out to be attacking in order to beat the Swedes, or will he set up solid again and hope to grab a goal on the counter-attack? Come 7.45pm tonight, let’s hope Hodgson has released the big guns and an impressive victory should follow.

By Max Whittle

Twitter @max_whittle

 

A is for Arsenal

The Gooners will end their quest for the silverware. They want the Premier League or Champions League but Arsene Wenger will have to settle for the League Cup. His team face out of form Championship side Ipswich over two legs which should be easy enough, then a trip to Wembley to play either Birmingham or West Ham. As I said it’s not the trophy Wenger wants, but after over five years having won nothing it’s a start.

B is for Blackpool

It’s fair to say everyone has been surprised by the plucky Seasiders. They got off to a flying start and in the first half of the season have won seven out of 18 games. That included away wins against Liverpool, Newcastle and Stoke. They were everyone’s favourites to go down and whilst there are still a lot of points to play for I can see Ian Holloway keeping the Tangerines up.

C for Champions League

The second round’s big tie is Barcelona vs Arsenal. The Catalan side will rightfully be favourites, they’ll be disappointed at having been knocked out by Inter last season and will be looking to lift the trophy in May. Chelsea and Manchester United are nowhere near as strong as Pep Guardiola’s side and Inter are not the team they were under Jose Mourinho.

D is for Despair

It’s always sad to see your team lose but you have to feel for ex-European Champions Feyenoord who lost 10-0 to rivals PSV. There are bound to be many results that will make you ask why you bother with football but remember nothing will be as bad as that Dutch result.

E is for Edin Dzeko

The highly sought after Bosnian Striker currently plays for Wolfsburg but is thought to be in talks with Manchester City over a January move. He looks like he could score goals in any league, and Mancini is keen to take the goal scoring burden off Carlos Tevez.

F is for Fergie

The big question is how long can Sir Alex go on for? The Scottish tactician is 69 years old and doesn’t look like calling it a day yet, he’s keen to win more trophies. You get the impression he wants one more Champions league title to his name before he throws his hat in  …

G is for Glasgow

As always the SPL is a two horse race. Rangers have two games in hand which will give them an advantage but they will need to hold on to Kenny Miller. The top scorer has been linked with  a move south of the border. The blues are struggling financially and desperately need investment but the most recent takeover discussions have stalled. Celtic will be keen to win back the title, they have just brought in Freddie Ljungberg and the first Old Firm win of 2011 will please Neil Lennon. The Bhoys legend will be looking to strengthen the squad to give him the chance of lifting his first title as a manager.

H is for Hodgson

Poor old Roy – Having impressed at Fulham the ex-Inter boss jumped at the opportunity of taking on one more big job. After losing to Wolves he admitted he hadn’t had any support from Liverpool fans since joining the club and looks like his time at Anfield will be short lived. One positive is that he’s lasted longer than his predecessor Rafa did at Inter but unfortunately I can see the likeable Englishman being unemployed in the summer.

I is for Inter

They were Champions of Europe and Italy yet now they’re seventh in Serie A and have sacked Rafa AFTER just six months. The new man who has been handed the responsibility of changing their fortunes is Leonardo – The Brazilian World Cup winner is a Milan legend, he played for the Rosoneri then became a Director and was their Head Coach last season. It seems like a strange choice but it won’t be hard to do better than Rafa.

J is for Joe Cole

After a very poor start to his Liverpool career Joe Cole finally made an impact on New Years day when he came on as a substitute and scored the winner two minutes into injury time. Hopefully this will kick-start his season …

K is for Keane

There could be changes for the two Keanes – Robbie is highly likely to leave Spurs, initially on loan and then permanently. Even though Roy has led Ipswich to the League Cup semi-final his team are just three places above the relegation zone – the pressure is on the Manchester United legend who could find himself unemployed by May if the league doesn‘t improve.

L is for Lazio

The Roman side who last won their last Scudetto under Sven in 2000 find themselves second in Serie A and enjoying their best season for years. After almost going bankrupt and seeing their best players regularly leave they’re now building a good side with MusLera in goal, Hernanes and Mauri in midfield then Zarate and Floccari up front.

M is for Milan

After seeing their rivals win five titles on the bounce the Rosoneri are three points clear at the top and lead Inter by 13 points – COULD IT BE THEIR YEAR???

N is for Newcastle

What will happen next to the Tyne and Wear club – After a good start to the season the Magpies got rid of the very popular Chris Hughton and replaced him with Alan Pardew, a man whose been sacked by his last three clubs including League One side Southampton earlier this season.

O is for Optimistic

With everything to play for everyone is optimistic – Arsene Wenger thinks his side will win the title whilst Avram Grant is looking to avoid relegation. There are five clubs who believe they can win the league and there will be a lot of optimism is the air next weekend when every side in the third round of the cup will ha think they can get to Wembley for a big day out.

P is for Play-Offs

Last season Blackpool shocked everyone when they beat Cardiff at Wembley – Which shock side will get to the Play-Offs: will it be Millwall, Watford or maybe Doncaster ???

Q is for QPR

The London club look like they will be back in top flight football for the first time since 1996. They’re currently four points clear of second placed Swansea with a game in hand – It’s theirs to lose.

R is for Rivalries

There are always cracking London derbies – over the next five months Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham will be fighting for both the title and Champions League positions which will provide lost of feisty derbies. The title will end up in Manchester, there’s a real battle for top spot between the two sides. As it stands both teams are level on points, but United have two games in hand (one of which is against Chelsea) and despite having remained unbeaten Sir Alex’s side have not reached top form yet. City are expected to bid big during the transfer window, but it’s too soon for them to lift the top prize. Next season could well be their time ….

S is for shocks

The FA Cup 3rd round is next week – Let’s get ready for the shocks. Last year Leeds shocked Manchester United at Old Trafford, this time out they face another tricky away test against Arsenal. High flying QPR take on Premier strugglers Blackburn, one possible shock could be Crawley vs Derby. The league side have only won one in six and the Blue Square Premier leaders will want to pile more misery on the Championship side.

T is for Tottenham

They pipped Manchester City in May for the final Champions League spot and then shocked Inter by topping the group. They now have a tricky tie against Milan in the second round and are chasing another top four finish. Harry is doing a great job; Spurs are one to watch over the next few months and they might even sign David Beckham on loan.

U is for Underdog

The three teams that have come up from the Championship are always classed as Underdogs, but with the season halfway through none of the promoted sides are in the relegation zones – It would be great to see Blackpool, Newcastle and West Brom all stay up.

V is for Vale

Poor old Port Vale saw their manager Micky Adams leave for Sheffield United. The club ended 2010 in second but in their first game of the New Year without the Yorkshire man saw them get smashed 5-0 by Rotherham.

W is for Wembley

Okay the national stadium won’t hold a World Cup final but it will host the finals of the Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup and the play-offs.

X is for X-Ray

I looked for a range of word that started with an ‘X’, but Xavier Gravelaine and Abel Xavier were the only two I could find. Over the following months there are bound to be injuries and lots of use of x-rays, hopefully there won’t be an major injuries like the ones we saw to Aaron Ramsey and Eduardo over the last few years.

Y is for Youngsters

Following Watford beating Portsmouth, the Hornets got back into the play-off positions with the youngest squad in all four divisions.

Z is for Zinedine Zidane

The Algerian born French international helped Qatar win the bidding war for the 2022 World Cup – As the bid ambassador he collects a very lucrative salary.

Jay Bothroyd has been called into Fabio Capello’s squad to face France on Wednesday, the lively striker has scored 15 goals already this season which has helped to move Cardiff to top of the Championship.

The ex-Arsenal trainee could become only the second non-top flight player to put on an England shirt in 20 years, Watford’s Scott Loach has recently been named in the squad but hasn’t actully played. David Nugent was the only player to have put on the Three Lions shirt as a lower league player which was back in 2007 when he was at Preston.

Bothroyd, 28, has experienced top flight football in England with Arsenal and Coventry as well as having had a spell in Italy with Perugia. Having impressed over the last couple of years the Cardiff striker will be hoping to do enough to get a call up for the next set of Euro qualifiers.

Having been left out of the U21 squad Andy Carroll has been named in the squad to take on the French, whilst the Newcastle striker has had a lot of issues away fromt he game he’s really impressed on the field and deserves his call-up.The squad is a very youthful one which includes Manchester United’s centre back Chris Smalling and Sunderland’s Jordan Henderson.

One player who missed out was Kevin Davies, having come on against Montenegro and scoring twice in front of the England manager last weekend the Bolton striker can be forgiven for being upset at missing out.

The squad is:

Goalkeepers: Foster, Green, Hart

Defenders: A Cole, R Ferdinand, Gibbs, Jagielka, Lescott, Richards, Smalling, Terry.

Midfielders: Barry, Gerard, Henderson, A Johnson, Milner, Walcott, Wilshere, A Young

Strikers: Agbonlahor, Bothroyd, Carroll, Crouch

Being a Spurs fan is a strange gig, it’s having years of not quite
hitting the high notes, the best analogy would be Colin Farrell’s
character in the film ‘In Bruges’, when he describes purgatory “It’s
when you’re not awful, not really bad, but you’re not really good
either – a bit like Tottenham…’
So when last season we finally contrived to get a top 4 place and have
a chance at the Champions League, 20 minutes in to the first tie, 3
goals down in a Swiss plastic pitched hell the dream of being up with
the European big boys was quickly becoming a distant dream and be
under no illusions, Young Boys had enough chances to get more, such
were the conditions and Tottenham’s inability to adapt to them. The
get out of jail became possible due to Bassong’s header and a great
strike from Pavlychenko, a great defeat by Harry’s reckoning and
essentially all he needed was a 1 goal win at the lane and the Swiss
would be returned to a life fondue, toblerones and multi-functional
pocket knives.
The lane was a special to be on Wednesday, they made sure to give that
Champions League Anthem a few outings before kick off but the Young
Boys fans came in good number and they were loud and confident, as I
was on the corner of Park Lane, they marched past like a Roman Column,
a wave coming down the High Road. The spurs mentality struck before
the game, there was a real nervous tension, the feeling that a few
miles down the road a good number of Arsenal fans were rubbing their
hands at the prospect of Spurs dropping at the first hurdle.The rain
poured down relentlessly perhaps subduing some of the home fans and
making the pre-match atmosphere all the more oppressive.
I was in the South Stand, there was a lot of counter chanting which
mostly was just banter, some silly ignorant chants but this is a
football match and not a cultural exchange! But for the first time I
felt surrounded by some idiots, why do people pay nearly £50 to see
Spurs, then spend the whole game looking at the away fans? The game is
on the pitch for god’s sake, to my right I had the ‘father & son’
tourette family who spent a good portion of the game swearing at the
Swiss fans and in front of me 1 guy on his own who decided to schitzo
at the slightest opportunity at the ref or opposition his vocabulary
was largely limited to the ‘c’ word and head butting motions, it would
be ironic if he was an Anger Management specialist. It’s a shame
because the atmosphere, aside from the locale of my specific seat was
pretty electric after the first goal and I got a free flag.
The flag waving made quite an impression, I think there was some more
sober observers who claimed the scene was a bit of a Kitsch PR stunt,
but there is that honest ‘new boy’ in school feeling that something
tangible was on the horizon, this was like the day the FA Cup 3rd
round proper comes to a non-league side, brave little Tottenham on the
World have a chance to play the big boys form Barcelona, that bizarre
notion that your club is on the brink of something that could change
it’s history. As I stood in the South Stand, waving my little flag too
there was a sense of anxiety and excitement of what this game with an
£11million cheque at the end of it could lead to.
Peter Crouch is an odd character, a little bit naughty off the pitch
too, however maybe all those indiscretions with expensive ladies of
the night has forced him to focus on his game! The first goal could
not come soon enough, by the 6th minute Spurs were back in charge of
the tie, having the Bale supply line might just be the making of
Crouch, with a clever little decoy from Dawson too. Though even the
most cynical observer can’t deny that Crouch showed up and had the
right striking instincts, I loved the Evening Standard’s description
of Crouch as the ‘Arachnid King of The Seven Sisters Road’ as it does
take some getting used to watching Crouch, it’s like watching a daddy
long legs move but if he scores every time he can move any way he
wants!
Actually having Bale is the making of Tottenham, if we can maintain
his crossing accuracy, all of a sudden Peter Crouch could be a 20 goal
a season striker. We know that he and Defoe can work together, they
did at Portsmouth and both have potential to rack up the goals,
another Bale supply over Defoe’s shoulder lead to the second with a
blatant hand ball, I could see it the first time and the fact it
wasn’t replayed confirmed that the goal was not quite right in fact
Defoe’s reaction checking that he’d got away with it was telling
enough.
Crouch completed his hat trick with a Bale corner and a penalty that
came from Bale being tripped. What I’m saying is that it’s becoming
obvious that Gareth Bale is perhaps becoming the new Cliff Jones, or
the original Ryan Giggs to the less enlightened. This man is really
making Spurs go the extra mile, the thing that is gratifying is the
moment opposition teams start double marking him, Lennon will start
exposing the right wing and when fit Modric will start pulling the
strings in the centre, Spurs do have a wealth of options and some
considerable depth too. I’m going to take a deep, serious, believing
breath as I write this, 4th in the Premier League last season was no
fluke and there is strength and depth to this squad, the fact it can
now be put to the ultimate test is genuinely exciting.
There are new possibilities that could come our way, yesterday we were
drawn with the European Champions Inter, Werder Bremen and Twente, I
want to see Spurs in front 80,000 baying milanese showing them that
there is more to English football than Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester
United & Chelsea, in the honest hope we don’t go back to purgatory.
Super Stevie P

Day one in the Premiership household and newcomers Blackpool have shocked everyone … Blackpool thumped Lancashire rivals Wigan 4-0. Wigan are also highly tipped to go down but if Blackpool want to have any hope of staying up they need to continue to beat teams like Wigan. Marlon Harewood could turn out to be shrewd piece of business, Marlon will want to prove his Villa critics wrong by hitting the back of the net as many times as possible. He got off to a perfect start netting twice.

The only side to better Blackpool’s number of goals were Champions Chelsea who beat promoted West Brom 6-0, Didier Drogba once again proved his was the man as he scored a hat-trick. Florent Malouda bagged a brace and Frank Lampard scored the other. The England players who had looked so lethargic in South Africa all seemed much more comfortable wearing the blue of Chelsea rather than the white of England.

Everton continued to follow on from how they have started the last couple of seasons and lost, they were beaten 1-0 by Blackburn after a goalkeeping error by Howard. Villa put the managerial problems behind them as they beat West Ham 3-0 – James Milner netted in what is likely to be his last game for the club. Wolves got off to a good start by beating Stoke 2-1, not only did Stoke lose but had to see their record signing Kenwyne Jones hobble off.

Spurs and Manchester City drew 0-0 as did City’s ex manager’s Fulham who played Bolton.

Today Arsenal travel to Liverpool, both sides will be hoping to get off to a winning start – Traditionally, Liverpool vs Arsenal provides excellent attacking football and lots of goals ….

Tomorrow Manchester United will take on Newcastle, a tricky first game back in the top flight for the Geordies.

Be lucky … Keep smiling

Scottie B

So two days on and the Spain public are still celebrating, mind you had England won I would celebrate for the next month. On the whole I enjoyed the World Cup, it started slowly but after the first two group games the pace picked up and teams started to play as they wanted to rather than to close out their opponents and not lose.

What were the highlights …

The best team were Spain, some people were so impressed which is something I find hard to understand, they look to keep possession and pass the ball around as much as possible. Spain mix their play, generally they opt for short passes but when there is the option to play in long they will do … they remind me of an International Arsenal.

The most disappointing team had to be France, not just on the pitch but because of their internal bickering. England and Italy weren’t far behind, none of these nations got going and they all headed home with their tails between their legs.

Two players who impressed me most were Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan, Sneijder ran the Dutch team, I wasn’t surprised having watched him do the same all season with Inter. We all know Forlan has scored a lot of goals in Spain but I was very impressed with him, everything positive Uruguay did he was involved in – I would like to see him back in the Premier but I can’t see him leaving Spain.

Two excellent young players who impressed me were Golden Boot winner Muller and compatriot Mesut Ozil, they are both worth watching over the next couple of years to see how they develop.

There were some great goals; it all started with a cracker from Siphiwe Tshabalala in South Africa’s opener against Mexico. Brazil’s Maicon got his side off to a winning start with a sweet finish when he broke down the right and curled the ball with the outside of his boot past Myong-Guk Ri at his near post. My favourite goal has to be Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s long range shot in the semi-final against Uruguay – A rocket. My

favourite match came very late, it was a toss up between the Netherlands vs. Uruguay semi final and the Germany vs. Uruguay third place play-off … Both games were very entertaining but the best was Germany vs. Uruguay, a great game which kept me entertained.

There were some great celebrations, South Africa and Ghana celebrated like they’d won the World Cup every time they scored but the most heart felt celebration was the Iniesta’s winner in the final when he took off his shirt to display the message “Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros” (Dani Jarque always with us), this was in memory of the ex-Espanyol and Spanish U21 international who died last August of a heart attack aged just 26.

Now, it’s back to normal life – our national leagues will be starting soon, next week teams will find out who they’ll face in the Champions League 3rd round and the transfer deadline is only a month and a half away ….

Enjoy the friendlies, pick your fantasy teams and get ready for the roller coaster that football always is ….

Be lucky … Keep smiling

Scottie B

As an England fan I am still struggling coming to terms with Sunday’s defeat, whilst I wasn’t particularly optimistic going into the match I thought we would’ve fared better than we did. For some reason England never got started, they played without and passion or heart. There are now some big decisions to be made, the FA have to work out if they can afford to pay Fabio off – £12 million is a lot of money to get rid of, especially as they would need to recruit a replacement.

If the FA sacks Fabio who will replace him? Roy Hodgson is set to take the Liverpool job, Harry would probably jump at it but then the FA seem to have issues with him as they did with Terry Venables when his contract wasn’t renewed back in 96. They want someone who is squeaky clean; I am huge Graham Taylor fan like any Watford fan but he shouldn’t have replaced the late Sir Bobby Robson after 1990 – That should’ve been Brian Clough’s job.

Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy watching the rest … I have money on David Villa to finish top scorer and Argentina to win so it’s not hard to work out who I’ll be supporting. It would be nice to win some money, it will go towards the therapy needed after watching England – jokes aside there are going to be some great games ahead. Tonight I’d like to see Spain go through, with Villa scoring a couple and Ronaldo getting sent off!!! On Friday the Dutch will be looking to use their attacking prowess to get the better of Brazil’s defence. The following day is Germany vs Argentina , nobody has got close the Argies so far – whilst nobody can doubt their strike force Argentina’s defence has looked shaky, it will be interesting to see how they handle Germany’s forward line with the impressive Turkish born Ozil, Muller and the two Polish born strikers Klose and Podolski.

We are now half way through game 54 where Paraguay are drawing with Japan – There are still plenty of games to watch so be sure to enjoy.

I would say “Come on England” but as that’s no defunct “Come on Football”

Be lucky … keep smiling

So far so good … well for some!!!

We’re a week and a half into the World Cup, to say it started slowly would be an understatement. Sadly the first set of games didn’t provide any real fireworks as we had hoped for. The opening ceremony was entertaining unfortunately the football couldn’t match it. The so called ‘big’ nations have failed to shine except for Argentina and Germany, only for the latter to lose their second game to Serbia after smashing the Aussies 4-0.

Holland have looked solid as have Brazil whilst favourites Spain got off to a surprise start when they lost to Switzerland despite having over 60% of possession. Last night they got back to winning ways with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Honduras thanks to two goals from David Villa – He should have completed his hat-trick when Spain were awarded a spot kick only for Villa to side foot the ball wide of the post.

The English and Italians have had shockers, both nation’s media having a field day abusing their respective national bosses concerning selection and tactics. After two games both nations only have two points, anything less than a win in their final game is likely to see them head home. England face Slovenia whilst Italy are taking on Slovakia.

France have been the most disappointing nation, many will say they didn’t deserve to qualify after Henry’s infamous handball against the Irish and it’s karma. They have failed to perform in both games; they started off with a draw against Uruguay (The Uruguayans finished with 10 men) and then lost 2-0 to Mexico. During the Mexico game Anelka is believed to have had an argument with French boss Domenech which resulted in Chelsea’s striker being sent home. The following day the players refused to train … it will be interesting to see how they get on in their last game against South Africa, for any hope of qualifying they need to win.

The big tie this week is Brazil vs Portugal, having drawn 0-0 with Ivory Coast in their first game the Portuguese smashed North Korea 7-0 yesterday to have one foot in the next round. The winners of the game will end up group winners.

An interesting week of football ahead …

Be lucky … Keep smiling

With only 15 days to go until the tournament kicks off everyone is asking whose going to win? … Who will be top goal scorer? … With a World Cup there are no guarantees, some teams won’t perform whilst others will exceed expectations.

The hosts generally do better than expected, the obvious example is 2002 where co-hosts South Korea (with the assistance of the officials) go to the semi-finals, back in 1994 when USA were expected to go out in the group stages but they actually got to the knockout stages – Unfortunately I can’t see this year’s host South Africa getting out of their group with France, Mexico and Uruguay.

Looking at the groups whilst I feel South Africa will struggle but whilst we won’t see them winning their groups I can see Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Nigeria all getting through to the second round. Unfortunately they will come up against Brazil, Spain and France respectively. Whilst I think France may start slowly, this is going to be a positive tournament for them – I don’t think they will win it but I have a feeling they will get to the final.

I think England will lose to France in the quarter-finals and Holland will knock out Brazil – This could be the year to see Holland finally click. At the same stage Argentina will turn over Germany and Spain’s offence will beat Italy’s defence to seal a place in the semi-finals.

On the 6th July I believe we will see France knock out Holland in Cape Town and a day later in Durban Argentina will beat Spain in the game of the tournament. This will provide us an Argentina vs France final on the 11th July in Johannesburg with Argentina running out winners. There will be a lot of great players on show but I feel that David Villa will win the Golden Boot.