Category Archives: Internationals

Draws for the World Cup

The World Cup is going to be held in Africa for the first time. Given that the successful team tends to be from the confederation that is hosting the tournament maybe this could be the time for an African team to come to the front and win the tournament.

The team with the best chance, on paper, has to be Ivory Coast. There is a good spine to the team and Didier Drogba has the ability to score a goal out of nothing. However, it is very questionable whether they will even go through to the knockout stages. They have been drawn in this years ‘Group of Death’ along with Brazil, Portugal and North Korea.

It was unfortunate really given that they were bound to come up against one of the seven seeded teams (they could not be drawn against South Africa as they are from the same confederation). The real kick in the teeth was drawing Portugal. Although not at there best in qualifying they are still a force to be reckoned with, particularly with Ronaldo showing the kind of form he is for Real Madrid.

All of the groups are forced into a holes; one confederation can’t play the other (unless its Europe), eight teams are seeded, an unseeded South American team can not play a qualified African team, an Asian team can not play a team from Central and North America. This puts all unseeded teams at a disadvantage as only a relative few get the ‘luck of the draw’. Luck has almost been minimised through careful planning.

In order to give good teams like the Ivory Coast a chance of succeeding the draw should be random, aside from the host nation being drawn in shot A1 so that they play the first game. I will conduct such a draw and report back on my Groups.

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World Cup draw

Behind the times I know but the computer has been playing sily buggers. This is the first opportunity to post after the draw; here’s what I think:

A lot has been written about the World Cup draw; England’s fantastic group and the group of death in particular. All of the seeded teams aside from Brazil have it relatively easy (France being seeded in the eyes of FIFA).

The real competition of the World Cup will come for the battle in Group D for second place. Assuming that Germany will play as well as they can then any one of Ghana, Australia and Serbia could come second. This will be a fantastically competitive group as each team plays with real grit and determination.

In addition, and for the benefit of England, second place in Group D will likely play England, winners of Group C. Hopefully they will be very tired after their exertions.

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Roy Carroll and why he is just as bad

Now that the furore surrounding Thierry Henry’s handball against Ireland has calmed down I thought that my thoughts could be finally be heard.

Firstly, I don’t blame Henry. Whether he meant it or not it doesn’t matter. The only moment when Henry would have had the clarity of thought to admit to what he had done, intentionally or not, was after Gallas had peeled off in celebration.

Can we blame Henry for not admitting it? No, of course not. If Ireland had gone on to win (they weren’t winning at the time) then Henry would be hated by his country and teammates alike. The French public forgave Zidane, they wouldn’t forgive Henry.

Henry can regret not speaking up at the time but he had approximately 5 seconds to make the decision. Furthermore, if he does own up it is not a guarantee that the correct decision would be made (see Robbie Fowler penalty versus Arsenal).

Thierry Henry has been called a cheater by a lot of people. I would extend this list to almost every footballer, professional or not. We have all gained a free kick or throw in which we know should have gone the other way. I would immediately throw Roy Carroll into this bracket (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/4130167.stm). Note the poll on the right of the screen.

Let’s categorise Slaven Bilic in that list (http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/internationals/croatian-rocker-who-wants-to-roll-over-rooney-419478.html)

It could go on.

For this whole shambles I blame FIFA and the referees. How the linesman missed the handball I’ll never know. They should be banned from going to the World Cup as punishment for a calamitous error.

FIFA should have long introduced video technology for the fourth official. The rule in using it should be as follows: “If the fourth official recognises an incident which is conclusive beyond all doubt which the referee and his team have not seen then it is his duty to inform them of the incident in question.”

This denies the fourth official the license to rule on penalty decisions, all of which have an element of doubt, off-sides, unless obviously wrong, or general fouls. However, the Henry incident, the Bilic incident, the Carroll incident, the Rivaldo incident and the Zidane incident would be irradiated without any controversy.

I do not subscribe to the view that it will delay the game due to the melee which always ensues after an ‘incident’; there will always be sufficient time for the odd replay. Also, the argument that the beauty of football is that the same game can be played anywhere and introducing video at the highest level would distort that does not sit well either. Cricket and Rugby have not been harmed by the introduction at the highest level only. Also, the games which have extensive enough video coverage tend to be the ones that matter the most, including play-off games for all leagues and any Cup final.

Now is the time to use the technology at our disposal to remove things which referees can’t see or fail to see.

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Argentina v Brazil – review

Not quite how I expected the game to pan out but the right result anyway (see earlier post).

Argentina will qualify for the World Cup as even if they finish fifth in their group the play-off is against Saudi-Arabia or Bahrain (I think). The fundamental problems are there for all to see:

  • The centre of the defensive is not organised. Think how many games Terry and Ferdinand played together compared to constantly changing Argentina two.
  • There is no width. Maradona played a 4-4-2 in the first half and the wide men rarely troubled Maicon or Santos. Playing a 4-4-2 against a 4-2-3-1 leaves no room for anyone to create in the middle of midfield.
  • Don’t use a 4-3-3 with Tevez, Auguro and Messi as the front three. There is no direct striker to poach; no Etoo, Drogba, Fabinano etc. Play Milito!

Brazil, however, looked comfortable without really impressing. I think their number 7 position (outside right of a front three) is proving problematic. Elano and Ramierez are not making it their own but I’m sure Dunga has enough options.

P.S. Odds on both Adriano and Ronaldo going to the World Cup? I’d take Ronaldo simply for his presence – best footballer ever.

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Striking whilst the iron is hot

Fabio Capello is lucky to have a few options when selecting those to play in the forward roles for England. The obvious starter is Wayne Rooney and is considering to be the obvious starter for very justifiable reasons.

 

However, who will play alongside him against Croatia and who will play alongside him in future matches. I think that against Croatia Mr. Capello will stay with the tried and trusted Emile Heskey. This is for the simple reason that victory will bring qualification for South Africa 2010 and qualification now will afford England twenty one months of preparation. This includes an away trip to the Ukraine who might have a play off place to play for. There can be no better test than playing a country in need of a win at their home stadium.

 

After Croatia, however, I would drop Heskey like a stone. His performances for England and Aston Villa have shown why he has only scored seven international goals in upwards of fifty performances. The argument of “he brings others into play” is nonsense because every international footballer should be able to recognise when it is right to play the ball, hold it up for others or go in alone.

 

I have been searching for a statistic to show how many games Aston Villa have won with Heskey starting and how many they’ve won without (since obviously he joined in January). Basic logic tells you that as Villa’s season tailed off horribly after January the statistic cannot reflect to well on Heskey.

 

England should have Carlton Cole and Jermaine Defoe groomed for the World Cup, barring any massive failure in form or fitness. Heskey should be considered a stop gap; thank him for his work but move him out to pasture.

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Argentina v Brazil – preview

Having watched a number of South American qualifying matches and Brazils recent Confederations Cup victory I am very excited about the a prospect of the forthcoming Argentina v Brazil match.

 

Argentina have moved the fixture away from their traditional ground in order to give their players the best chance, both physically (due to the altitude) and mentally (the pitch is much closer to the stands).

 

Whether it will work or not is debatable. I can not see Brazil losing this match, and therefore, Argentina will not win. A feature of Brazils recent play has been their ability to counter attack successfully. If Argentina are struggling for a win towards the end of the match then Brazil will steal a march on them.

 

The key battle will be between Javier Zanetti and the Brazilian left back. I say ‘the Brazilian left back’ because I am unsure who Dunga will select; Santos, Dani Alves, Maicon or A.N. Other. My money would be on Dani Alves for the reason that he plays against Messi everyday in training and has the pace required to get up and down the pitch.

 

If Zanetti, a man in the twilight of his career, is to support Messi and draw either Silva or Melo into support the left back, thereby creating space for Veron, he needs to be able to be able to race back and stop any developing attack. I can see Brazil having a lot of joy down Argentina’s right and, as such, Zanetti will be vitally important.

 

I don’t think he’s up to it and Brazil will either draw or, more likely, beat Argentina. We’ll see at 1:30am for what will be a cracking match.

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