Monday, 28 June 2010

2nd round so far

Round 2 has kicked off and now the World Cup really seems to be coming to life, as with most World Cups in recent history its started slowly but has improved the further in its progressed

Uruguay v South Korea

The Uruguayans have progressed nicely the further in this competition has progressed, this was certainly one of the best displays they've put in the tournament so far, and this was certainly a display that finally justified the hype around Luis Suarez with 2 well taken goals and the second one was a cracker, sidestepping a South Korea defender and curling a cracking shot off the far post. Both him and Forlan are proving to be a handful for every defence they've come up against and could well prove the undoing for the Ghanaian's in the next round. They also have one of the most underrated defenders in the tournament in Diego Lugano who has been excellent at the heart of the defence with both his tackling and reading of the game, as well as being a phenomenal leader on & off the pitch and full credit to manager Oscar Tabarez for helping take this team so far. South Korea's lack of cutting edge up front was exposed in this game, they did create a few chances but sadly they were unable to score the second they so badly needed at 1-1 to take the game away from the Uruguayans

USA v Ghana

The USA had confidence running high after topping their group however they were soon on the back foot with an excellent goal from Kevin Prince Boateng scoring a lovely goal after 5 Min's from the edge of the area and the Americans struggled until the break but at half time Bob Bradley bought on Feilhaber to offer more attacking options and straight away the Americans nearly hit back but for Kingson's excellent save. However the Americans continued to push and just after the hour mark Clint Dempsey won a penalty, beating Gyan on the edge of the area before Mensah clattered into him and a penalty was awarded, with Landon Donovan slotting home off the post. So the first game to enter extra time got underway and the excellent Andre Ayew (son of Ghanaian legend Abedi Pele) hitting a lovely pass to set up Gyan he Cooley beat 2 defenders and smashed the ball past Tim Howard and Ghana now face Uruguay in the 1/4 finals with the hopes of Africa behind them, this weight could crush them or it could inspire them to become the first African team to ever reach the semi finals of a World Cup

Argentina v Mexico

Cracking game, just a shame it was ruined by the technology debate and some clever person in the stadium deciding it would be a really clever idea to put a replay of a controversial goal on a big screen for the fans, players & officials to all see which of course led to pandemonium on the pitch with the Mexican players, quite rightly, furiously debating Tevez's first goal with the officials but, despite the fact everyone had seen just how offside he was they weren't allowed to change the decision. There was no debate about the second goal with Mexican defender Osorio playing a square pass that was far to short for Marquez to reach leaving Higuain to run through one on one, coolly dragging the ball round the grounded Perez and tapping home. The third goal from Tevez was an absolute belter, the ball fell lose to Tevez about 25 yards and he unleashed a ferocious 25 yard shot into the top corner all but settling the game. Mexico, who had a very good start to the game with Salcido rattling the cross bar after 8 Min's as well as Guardado drilled a shot inch's wide, weren't done though, with Man Utd bound striker Javier Hernandez producing a fantastic one touch turn on the edge of the box to beat Demichelis taking one touch into the box and drilling a left footed shot into the roof of the net.

Germany v England

Germany absolutely dismantled England, and although if finished 4-1 if the Germans had taken their chances it could have easily been more. Obviously the big talking point (for English fans anyway) is the goal that wasn't given despite the fact the ball bounced well over the line before bouncing back out. The truth though was England didn't deserve to win this game, they were completely outplayed and the Germans had a game plan and knew how to execute it. Joachim Low is a very good tactician and said he had 2 main plans, the first was to give England the ball as they waste it & the second was to target John Terry as a weak point and clearly both of these worked. The first goal was just a hilarity of disasters with a long goal kick bouncing and not 1 England player near it, John Terry was well out of position and when Klose turned around to chase the ball Matthew Upson was caught flat footed and was immediately on the back foot as Klose held him off well and slammed the ball past James. From that moment Germany took control and although England had more possession they didn't really create anything and during this time Germnay had another chance with Klose smashing the ball straight at David James but minutes later Muller floated a delightful ball to the other side of the box for Podolski and despite a very poor first touch, he was allowed enough time to recover and hit the ball through James legs.

England did score a goal 5 Min's later with a corner kick basically hitting Upson in the face and flying in during about 10 Min's of genuine England pressure and then the Lampard goal that wasn't given happened moments later. After half time England still had pressure but where limited to long range shots, Frank Lampard again hit the crossbar with a free kick from around 30 yards although this time it didn't go anywhere near the line. However on the 67th min the game was put to bed, a Lampard free kick hitting the German wall and deflecting away and as most of the England team where at the other end of the pitch the Germans countered with relative ease, Schweinsteiger playing a delightful ball to Muller who was in space and finished with ease. The 4th was simliar, England losing possession deep in the German half before Ozil beat Barry for pace and crossed to Muller to side foot home.

Holland v Slovakia

No real surprises here, the Dutch are looking solid as they always do, the return of Robben was a real boost though and it only took him 19 mins to pick up a ball on the right wing, cut inside and smashed the ball inside the near post on his left foot. Other than Vittek hitting a shot straight at Stekelenburg the Slovakians never really threatened before the second Dutch goal went in after Kuyt chased down a loose ball before crossing for Sneijder to coolly slot home. Vittek did end up scoring a consolation penalty after Stekelenburg bought him down, and was lucky not to receive a red card. The Dutch are looking pretty well organised but it'll be interesting to see how they cope playing a bigger team. For Slovakia the dream has ended but they should be proud of their achievements having beaten Italy and knocking them out as well playing some very nice football

Brazil v Chile

A brilliant game of attacking football, the first 10 mins Chile were all over Brazil and looked very good but slowly Brazil took control of the game and it wasn't long before the first goal game, a well hit corner from Maicon powerfully headed home by Juan - something that the ITV pundits called 'a typically English goal' well, if we're out the tournament might as well keep the spirit still in there? Muppets. Less that 5 mins later Brazil had a second with a brilliant counter attack, Robinho racing down the left wing and playing a lovely ball to Kaka on the edge of the area who guided the ball perfectly through to Fabiano who was on the penalty spot and as the Chilians appealed for offside (incorrectly) Fabiano rounded Bravo and tapped the ball home. The final pass to Fabiano was onside so it was an excellent call by the linesman and this warranted the commentators spent most of the rest of the game talking about how excellent the (oh surprise surprise English) officials had been. The 3rd goal was another lovely goal with Ramires picking up the ball just inside the Chile half and striding forward leaving players in his wake before playing in Robinho who curled a lovely shot in from just on the edge of the area.

That's my round up of the 2nd round games so far, obviously the big one today is Portugal v Spain but first the game between Japan & Paraguay which, despite not being to big names could be a very interesting game. I think Portugal will fall to Spain, mainly as Portugals tactic will probably be get the ball to Ronaldo and he will do the rest whilst Spain really seem to have found their stride recently, and they like playing attacking teams like Portugal. The Japan v Paraguay game will be close, both are hard working teams and very disciplined but I'm going to stick my neck out and say i think Japan will win it 1-0.

Friday, 25 June 2010

World Cup group stage review

So the groups have come to a close and what started off as a boring World Cup actually ended up with a few surprises and some very good closing match's

Group A

The biggest surprise wasn't the fact that France got knocked out in the group stage but the spectacular way in which they imploded, after a 0-0 draw against Uruguay they didn't look like a team likely to reach the final but they did seem to have something about them, especially keeper Hugo Lloris who is the only french player to leave this tournament with any creditability. Obviously what happened next has been very well documented and has seen French football descend into total and utter chaos with Anelka being sent home (just one of a long list of players he's fallen out with including Trezeguet, Pires, Giuly, Coupet) players striking then the French prime minister demanding answers. Patrice Evra refused to attend the press conference with Domenech after the final South Africa game saying he will hold a press conference at a later date to reveal all, and the public wait with baited breath. As if this wasn't enough Domenech the proceeded to cover himself in glory by having a stand up row with Carlos Parreira over a comment the South African coach made months ago.

South Africa actually put up a much better account of themselves than most predicted, actually finishing on the same number of points as 2nd place Mexico but going out on goal difference - their victory over France will be fondly remembered for years no matter how much disarray the French where in. Group A was exciting with only the opening days games a slight disappointment

Group B

Most people were waiting to see how Argentina performed and they didn't disappoint with attacking, flowing football that was both good on the eye and leaving them open defensively as proven by the howler they conceded against South Korea. One of the main talking points was how Maradona was going to get the best out of Messi and get him to repeat his performances with Argentina that he has done with Barcelona and it seems Maradona has solved it the simplest of ways - stick Messi in the hole behind the strikers and have all the play run through him. He has easily been one of the stand out players in the group stages and i fully expect him to keep performing as long as Argentina are left in the competition. Nigeria were absolutely awful and probably one of the worst teams that got to the World Cup and part of this will be blamed with the management change after the African Cup of Nations which left Lars Lagerbäck with very little time to develop the team and build his ideas into them, clearly his usually strict discipline didn't work with these guys following the red card against Greece. Greece themselves where nothing special although their proudest moment will be winning a game in a World Cup ever & their first win in a major tournament outside Euro 2004 beating the Nigerians 2-1. The other team in the group, South Korea, were exactly what we've come to expect from them, organised, disciplined & hard working fully deserving their place in the last 16

Group C

This group was interesting to say the least with most people expecting England to finish top and USA finish 2nd - but as with most things involving England it could never be that straight forward. After the opening games and that howler from Rob Green things looked pretty much as you'd expect with England & USA drawing but then came the 2nd round of games, with England turning in one of the worst performances seen under Capello, and probably their worst performance since losing to N.Ireland under Sven whilst in the other group game the USA had to come from 2-0 down at half time to draw 2-2 with Slovenia which left the group wide open and the usual last game pressure England so love to put themselves under. As per usual England just scrapped through thanks to some last ditch defending and the USA scored a last minute winner to go through on top of the group. Obviously its the getting through the group stage that matters but England's performance against Algeria was absolutely dire & the performance against Slovenia wasn't much better but now they can focus on the task ahead and worry about facing the Germans

Group D

This group provided surprises from the start with Germany's resounding thumping of Australia in the first game all the way through to Australia upsetting the odds and defeating Serbia in the last game. Ghana, who many people wrote off after Essien's injury sneaked through to the 2nd round and with a very tough defence, a hard working midfield & a very good attack they could really give the USA a run for their money in the 2nd round. I thought Serbia would get 2nd place and after beating Germany i honestly thought they had it but Australia had other ideas, themselves having on eye on 2nd place outplaying the Serbians in the final group game allowing Ghana to sneak through on goal difference - the same Australia team that looked so awful after the first game against Germany when they got hammered 4-0. Ultimately the 2 teams that deserved to go through managed to go through but it certainly was an unpredictable round of games

Group E

The Netherlands were always going to top this group, despite Robben's injury they still have a strong team over all and looked very efficient and technically sound with solid players all over the pitch. The real battle in this group would be for 2nd place, at the start i honestly thought all 3 teams left had a chance although after their poor showing in the warm ups i must admit i had written Japan off slightly but the display they turned in beating Cameroon 1-0 in the first game showed that whilst they don't have an outstanding attack what they do have, like most of the Asian teams, is an incredible team spirit and work ethic, personified by Keisuke Honda who has been outstanding for them at the heart of the midfield. Sadly for Cameroon the Eto'o v Milla fight proved to be a distraction as well as having the seemingly inept Paul Le Guen as manager. The final game between Japan & Denmark i thought would be a tight affair but Denmark failed to turn up and the Japanese made it through quite comfortably due to 2 good free-kicks combined with mistakes by Thomas Sorensen let the Japanese securing their passage through to the knockout stages, a special mention to Jon Dahl Tomasson who equalled the Danish goal scoring record in this game.

Group F

Another group that saw a traditional European super power struggle and ultimately crash out early on with Italy performing way below expectations - most people think that there squad was to old but considering England have the highest average age of any of the squads at the tournament this can't really be considered a reason for failure although Canovarro did show his age a couple of times being out paced and at fault for a few of the goals. Paraguay were the solid team in this group, not losing a game and playing some solid football. Slovakia did very well considering they are one of the smallest nations at the world cup, the highlight easily a 3-2 beating of Italy in the game that got them through the the 2nd round and knocked the Italians out - although Fabio Quagliarella scored an incredible goal which will more than likely be one of, if not the, best goals of the tournament (this was later matched by David Villa's first goal against Chile).

The highlight of this group though, and in my opinion the tournament so far, was New Zealand who no one gave a chance of getting a point let alone finishing 3rd in their group and remaining undefeated in all group games, and by all rights they should have beaten Italy had it not been for a very soft penalty decision against them. What really impressed me about New Zealand was the fact they didn't rise to Italy's gamesmanship when the Italians had to resort to diving and play acting when they were in danger of a humiliating defeat. New Zealand can leave the competition with their heads held high and an air of dignity on their performances, it will be interesting to see how they kick on from this performance and with Australia now in the Asia qualifying zone i expect to see them back at the next world cup

Group G

The so called 'group of death' failed to really live up to expectations, with Brazil comfortably qualifying top of the group and the game that everyone was expecting to be a thrilling encounter, Brazil v Portugal, being one of the biggest let downs so far. This can partly be blamed on a very fussy & card happy ref along with Brazil not having Kaka and choosing to rest their other main creative outlet in Robinho whilst Portugal's tactic of hoof it to Ronaldo and hope didn't really work out very well. Another team that failed to live up to expectations where Ivory Coast who suffered a draw in the opening game against Portugal which hindered them to start with, combined with Drogba clearly not being 100% they didn't live up to the bill of challenging Portugal or even being the best team from Africa and this was shown in the Brazil game where they had to resort to play acting, fouling and general poor behaviour in an attempt to get an advantage. By the time this worked and they got Kaka sent off with some of the most disgraceful play acting ever seen (at least Rivaldo had the ball hit at him in 2002 even if it wasn't in his face) it didn't really matter with Brazil already 2 goals up. North Korea gave a very good showing themselves in the first game against Brazil but in the 2nd half against Portugal they fell appart and where subject to a humiliating 7-0 loss. The game against Ivory Coast was pretty much pointless for both teams and although it was a more exciting game than the Brazil Portugal game it became a very pointless match. The group of death tag is one that is terribly overused now and i can't wait till people stop dubbing at least one group that way, its almost as over used as the expectation of Brazil playing 'samba football' as this is not the way Brazilian footballers are produced anymore and anyone expecting to see Brazilian teams play as they did through the 60's, 70's & 80's need to wake up and realise that the Brazilians don't play like this anymore.

Group H

The first round of group games produced one of the biggest shocks seen in one game so far this tournament with Switzerland beating Spain 1-0 and opening the group up to begin with, however by the end of the second games it looked very much like Spain & Chile would be going through it was just a question of who would be top and who would come 2nd and this would be decided in the final game which was an exciting game with David Villa scoring an absolutely cracking first goal from about 35 yards after the keeper came rushing out to clear a ball straight to Villa. Iniesta also scored a cracking goal and with these 2 players fully fit Spain, and Barcelona, look like a very formidable opponent for any team. Spain started slowly but i think the game against Switzerland provided them with the kick up the backside they needed to realise they can't just turn up and win the whole thing. Chile are certainly very exciting as they only seem to know how to attack and will keep playing like this as long as their left in the tournament. Honduras were probably one of the worst teams in the tournament (bar France for obvious reasons) not only did they not score a goal but they never really looked like scoring either.

That's my quick review of the group's and now they are out the way we're on the way to the all important knockout stages with some very interesting ties to come. Hopefully we will see less of the play acting, silly refereeing and over all pettiness that has been a really negative part of this World Cup but with teams like Portugal & Spain (more specifically Sergio Busquets) left i won't hold my breath

As usual feedback can be left below, via twitter (Buster_5265) hotmail ( or on the facebook group 'football fan'

Group G & Group H

So the last group games are played today, with Brazil through to the last 16 that leaves 1 spot in there group up for grabs and 2 spots still to go in Group H

Group G

Basically it would take a miracle for Ivory Coast to get through this group after Portugal's 7-0 stuffing of North Korea, the goal difference of 9 between the two teams almost impossible to over come. Brazil can win lose or draw today and still go through although i'm sure they'd rather finish 1st. Ronaldo still has a point to prove having been quiet so far this tournament but Lucio will relish the challenge of stopping him - that's if Dunga selects his first team which, bar Kaka for obvious reasons, he probably will. I Think Ivory Coast will struggle against North Korea who have a point to prove after the game against Portugal but i imagine the power of Drogba will be to much to handle and i can see them winning 2-1 whilst i expect Brazil Portugal to be a draw, maybe 1-1

Group H

All eyes will be on Spain in this one, will they be the next 'big' nation to follow France & Italy out in the group stage? this group gets a little complicated to follow so expect it to change a few times through the course of the match - i expect Spain & Switzerland to win both their games so the scores and goal difference could be vital here, at the moment Chile are +2, Spain +1 & the Swiss are at 0. I think Spain will win 2-1 & the Swiss to win 1-0 which means that the Spain would be clear on +2 goal difference and then the Swiss & Chilians would be tied on +1, if that was the case it would come to goals scored and Chile would go through having scored 1 more goal, the drawing of lots would be impossible to happen in this group because Chile beat Switzerland 1-0. Of course if Spain only win 1-0 and Switzerland win 2-0 then Spain would be out because the Swiss beat Spain....confusing isn't it?! Ultimatly Spain have to win by 1 more goal than Switzerland to be sure of going through and i think this is the most likely scenario because the Swiss don't have a great attacking threat where as Spain have Torres & Villa, 2 of the best strikers in the world right now

So thats it, by the final whistle tonight i'd expect Brazil, Portugal, Spain & Chile to go through but who knows, its been such a crazy world cup so far maybe, just maybe, the Swiss can sneak through at either Spain or Chile's expense

Thanks for reading, leave feedback the usual way and i will be back to preview the Uruguay v South Korea & USA v Ghana games either tonight or tomorrow morning

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Groups E & F

So we now know who's gone through from group A,B,C & D so now its time to look at groups E & F

Group E

With only 1 place up for grabs all eyes will be on the Denmark v Japan game tomorrow, both teams having lost to Holland but beaten the below par Cameroon. This game could be a very close contest, with Japan seemingly lacking in out and out goalscorers but with Denmark also relying on Nicklas Bendtner & Jon Dahl Tomasson i don't think goals will be flowing somehow. The Danish do have the up & coming Simon Kjaer at the heart of the defence but Brian Jensons poorly timed outburst could place some unwanted pressure on Thomas Sorensen although he is a very solid keeper. The Danish also have 2 very good wingers in Jesper Gronkjaer & Dennis Rommedahl, who both didn't have great spells in England but are very good players in the national team.

The main Japanese threat will come from Keisuke Honda who has scored their only goal so far although the striker Okazaki has a good international record scoring 1 every 2 games so he is due a goal soon. Like all the Asian teams they are very well organised and disciplined and will be hard to break down. If the game finishes as a draw Japan will go through on goal difference so i can't see them overly pushing for a goal but i really think Denmark will go for it and i can see them winning 1-0, joining Holland in the 2nd round

Group F

A nice and tight group here, Paraguay should beat New Zealand and go through on top but of course nothing is a given so far and New Zealand should be given great credit for their never say die attitude although i genuinely can't see Paraguay under estimating them and sneaking a goal or two on the way to victory.

The most interesting game will be Slovakia v Italy as Italy have been so very very poor so far. Reports state that Buffon is not expected to be fit which is a massive blow to them although Pirlo is expected to play some part which could be a massive boost. Italy always seem to struggle to score goals in these tournaments but i think with them needing only a draw to qualify (provided New Zealand don't cause an upset) i can see them doing it. Of course many things could change this group around but i think that wins for Paraguay & Italy will see them through and i don't doubt they will get the job done so i expect both these teams to get through

Thanks for reading, as usual leave feedback below, on twitter (Buster_5265), hotmail ( or on the facebook group 'football fan'

England's problems run deeper than a few bad games

In this rather long blog, i try and work out why can't England perform on a national level and what seems to hold the players back?

Obviously we are all aware of England's situation and just how poorly they've been playing, although they were criticised for the USA game i felt that until Rob Greens' howler they were playing about as well as most teams did in the first game but that mistake clearly knocked the stuffing out of them which they then took to the following game against Algeria which, in all honesty, they were awful in. The game against Slovenia was a marked improvement but if you strip away all the hype and the 'should have scored more' and the fact is England beat a team 17 places below them in the world rankings by 1 goal and could very easily have drawn had it not been for some last ditch defending. Yes the performance was better but its not hard to perform better than they did against Algeria because that was atrocious - the truth is England should be performing better than they did in any of the group games and need to step up against Germany otherwise it might be a sad night for England fans.

The problems with the England team run much much deeper than simply some players not turning up for the group games - the last time England made a real impact was Euro 1996 and obviously that was held in England so the home advantage we see in these tournaments can help count for that. Before then you have to go as far back as Italia 90 - that's 20 years ago which for a team & country like England just shouldn't be acceptable, here is that record

Italia '90 - Semis
Euro '92 - Group Stage
USA '94 - DNQ
Euro '96 - Semis
France '98 - 2nd round
Euro '00 - group stage
Japan & Korea '02 - Quarter Finals (beating Denmark in 2nd round)
Euro '04 - Quarter Finals
Germany '06 - Quarters (beating Equador in 2nd round)
Euro '08 - DNQ
South Africa '10 - ???

If you gave this record to a football fan without telling them the team and asking if they were a big team in international terms you would more than likely get a resounding no, and this is part of the problem - the pressure & expectations on the team are over whelming and the players know if they don't live up to the expectations set by the fans and the press they will get hammered, until the new season starts and all is forgotten until they pull on the England shirt again. Jamie Carragher wrote in his auto-biography that he didn't enjoy playing for England because playing for his club carried less pressure as an individual and at first i just dismissed this as a bitter player lashing out but the more i think about it the more it makes sense, if you need to look any further look at people like Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard - 2 players who we constantly see excel for their clubs but never hit the same heights for the national team. So why is pulling on the England shirt such a problem for the players? Is it the weight of expectation? Is it the different surroundings and different players? perhaps its the different management & style?

Of course a massive problem is the outrageous expectations placed on England by the media and fans, and this can be seen as a double headed monster. A lot of 'average' fans who drive around with flags on their cars and appear every major tournament are the ones that start going on about '66 and how its our time and we just have to turn up because we're England and we should easily make the semi finals and then with a bit of luck win the thing - these are the kind of fans that said we should beat the USA because 'what do they know about football?' without realising that the Americans are actually a pretty solid team! This problem is fuelled by the media who constantly run things like 'Maybe, just maybe' or 'This year could be the year' yes individual journalists say things like 'if we get to the semi finals it'll be a good tournament & great achievement' but they are one voice in a media scrum of unrealistic expectations. As if to prove my point the sun's 'chief sports writer' Steve Howard has written an article today titled 'Why we'll beat them' when in every other country we are perceived as under dogs against Germany because we've performed so badly! Another problem with the media is they will only attack certain players - why? Because journalists rely on certain players being friendly with them so they can get exclusives or get friendly with players and live on their coat tails which is wrong. Even after the Algeria game Heskey was attacked, Aaron Lennon was given a rough time but rather than go for the serial under performers like Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney or the media darling JT they then round on Capello?!

It's amazing how quickly we blame the manager, Sven was blamed saying he could only take the team so far, McClaren was chased out of England by fans & press alike only to go on and prove that clearly he has something about him, if being assistant to a treble winning team or taking Middlesbrough to the UEFA cup final wasn't enough in 2 seasons he broke the usual top lot in Holland and finished 2nd then 1st in the Eredivisie, and although its not a strong league everything is relative, its the equivalent to Aston Villa winning the league. Even now people are trying to blame Capello for things like not announcing the team enough in advance or not doing certain things, this is complete rubbish because Capello is one of the best managers in the business today and if he can't do it we should really start worrying about the future of the team. Of course Capello was almost declared a deity after England qualified with the media, fans and even players declaring what Capello had done was responsible for the excellent qualifying campaign but suddenly the things he was praised for doing became the problem after just 2 games into the tournament? Talk about knees jerking furiously because we played a game and a half of poor football! Capello's tactics & strategies have bought him league titles in Italy and Spain as well as a Champions League medal in one of the most surprising finals of all time (A 4-0 beating of favourites Barcelona in one of the biggest upsets seen in a CL final)

So if it's not the manager that's the problem is it the players? As we all know from when Sven started in 2002 till when he left, and even during McClaren's reign it was pretty much the same squad with the same starting group every game, which of course allowed the players to slip into a comfort zone and become complacent which culminated in the failure to qualify for Euro 2008. Obviously the players were under the spotlight but look at the team, even the squad, and its still very similar despite people praising Capello for making players not feel as secure & comfortable you look at the team sheet now and the team sheet 2 years ago, even 4 years ago and the spine of the team is still very much the same. Whilst Capello may have bought a new mentality to some players the usual players know they are assured of their place and i feel this was personified by John Terry's recent very public outburst against Capello and some of his tactics and substitutions.

In football there are certain unspoken rules you abide by and JT managed to break one of these prime rules which is not mentioning players names in press conferences relating to private discussions - whats said in the dressing room stays in the dressing room basically. If Capello came out saying what was said in his meeting with JT when he stripped him of the captaincy people would go crazy, so whys it not the same way around? Why is it when JT criticises the boss everyone describes it as 'brave' or 'passionate' or 'honorable'? John Terry is not a stupid person, despite his previous long list of misdemeanors, he knew what he was doing, he knew that right now was a perfect time to vent his simmering frustrations over losing the captains armband because right now England need JT more than JT needs England. However this isn't just about JT, its about the collection of ego's in the dressing room and here is another problem that has haunted the England team certainly in this generation. Wayne Rooney also displayed the attitude problems with his comments to the camera after the Alegeria game which was also unacceptable because these fans have spent thousands of pounds travelling to South Africa, some even quiting their jobs to watch them and when they play that badly the fans have a right to express their frustrations.

When you look at teams like Spain, Brazil and even Argentina they clearly don't have this problem, Dunga has picked most of his team based on how well they get on in a group and their loyalty to him because players like Elano or Michelle Bastos shouldn't be in the team over people like Ronaldinho or Marcello but he trusts them and knows they aren't disruptive. He tried to stand by Adriano but he became to much of a problem and was dropped from the squad, likewise Ronaldinho who many people felt both in and out of Brazil should have gone to the world cup didn't make the squad because Dunga was fed up of carrying him and his attitude around.

Maradona has done the same with Argentina with Gutierrez a prime example - he doesn't play in a top league and he's not exactly a world class player but the work rate he puts in and the attitude he brings can never be underestimated. People in Europe where surprised when Maradona didn't take Javier Zanetti or Esteban Cambiasso to the world cup but it's a well known that these 2 where considered 'disruptive' by Maradona a thought that was proven by Zanetti when as captain he told players to ignore Maradonas tactics and follow what he was saying - this lead to a 'heated' discussion between coach and captain and Zanetti was omitted from the squad. When you look at the problems this summer with the French team a lot of this can be put down to bad attitudes and ego problems which have dogged the French for a very long time, in 1998 though they had immense team spirit and this has been credited as one of the reasons they won the tournament because they put there bickering and infighting to one side for the good of the country and the team. Italy also have a lot of problems along these lines as well with certain players being unhappy with selection or tactics and they also crashed out early on.

Whilst I'm not saying every single England player has a massive ego or thinks they are the main man i think the main spine of the team is so confident and assured of their place that they feel they can say what they want and do what they want, again personified by John Terrys attitude and 'apology' which in my opinion wasn't really an apology it was more a 'this is what my mates have told me to do' type thing - reports say he still acts like the captain and many people have said both privately and publicly he still doesn't see what he did wrong over the whole Wayne Bridge affair (apparently he still hasn't apologised to Bridge). Someone like Steven Gerrard knows if he puts in a bad shift for England its OK because he can go back to his club where he is idolised and just forget about it, the same can be said of John Terry, Ashley Cole or even Wayne Rooney.

Spain are a perfect recent example of how a big name has to be cut for the sake of the team, Raul being dropped helped them break the shackles of being perennial under achievers. Prior to Spain's shock 3-2 defeat against Northern Ireland Raul had played 102 times for Spain and scored a record 44 goals but Luis Aragones decided that the whole Madrid/Barcelona split was the root of the problems within the camp, despite the fact Iker Casillas is a Madrid boy born and bred he would frequently mix with Barcelona stars such as Puyol, Xavi & Iniesta but Raul was seen as a disruptive influence and a divide in the camp. One of Aragones' most famous quotes was just before the Euro 2008 tournament when a journalist asked him if he would pick Raul, he simply turned around and said 'Do you know how many major tournaments Raul has played in? 3. Do you know how many he's won or even performed well in? None.' As if to prove the point Spain won Euro 2008 and the atmosphere in the camp is said to be the best its ever been at, and now no-one really mentions the Raul matter, even the notoriously pro Madrid Marca paper.

Sadly England's problem at the moment is if these players are dropped their is no one to step up and replace them, I'm not suggesting its as simple as dropping this generation of players but what i am saying in this case is that there is no one challenging them if they under perform and here lies another problem - the English infrastructure.

Trevor Brooking is frequently campaigning for better youth structure, investments in grass roots and a central football school for youngsters, his vision is to have a 'finishing school' like the french Clairefontaine which is widely acknowledged as one of the best football academy's in the world and is seen as one of the main reason's they won the world cup in 1998. In England youngsters get picked up from as young as 7 or 8 and are put through a teams youth ranks before either breaking into the team, rotting in the reserves or ending up at lower league clubs and never fulfilling there true potential. For the last 9 years whenever the question is raised with the F.A the immediately promise to pump more money in to grassroots and hide behind the National Football Centre in Burton (renamed St. George's Park) that has been in the works for years. This Centre desperately needs to be completed so that there can be a change in mentality as well as developing a better ability to keep the ball and work together as a unit because when these problems are usually identified to late in a players development and its much harder to break problems for these players at this point. When Fabio Capello first came to the F.A he was shocked to find out that no such centre was already in existence and that the plans were still on the drawing board after nearly 9 years of planning and talking, he has said since he joined that this must be a priority for the English game to develop. The major problem with this is that, if we take the French example, it will be about 8-10 years before we reap the benefits which leaves us with nearly a decade of wondering where the new generation will come from?

England did win the U-17 championships this summer (before the World Cup) but the main players in that team, Benik Afobe, Connor Coady, Josh McEachran, Andre Wisdom & Nathaniel Chalobah all play for Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal or Man Utd and i would be amazed if even 2 of them became first team regulars with in the next 4 years for these teams. People like Connor Wickham (Ipswich), Saido Berahino (WBA) & Bruno Pilatos (Middlesborough) all play for championship clubs where they could get a break (Wickham has already played nearly 30 games for Ipswich) but they have all been linked to top flight clubs recently and Wickham is expected to leave Ipswich this summer for Spurs, where he will have at least 4 strikers in front of him at the moment and thats before they buy players with CL experience. These players should be protected and nurtured properly with clubs they will be able to get first team football with and develop their talents, a team like Crewe are a perfect example, Dario Gradi says it is a great tragedy that so many of his youngsters get poached by big teams and never fulfil there full potential because rather than being coached on a specialist basis knowing they have talent they are put in a pool of about 20 players and just get swallowed up in the group.

I think that the problem with England lies much deeper than this generation of players just not performing, and i think that until we have a much larger talent pool, less pressure and, as painful as it is to admit, technically better players then things will improve but i think the biggest problem is the mentality & attitude of the players and all of these things will take many years to correct and its not just an overnight fix.

As always thank you for reading, if you agree or disagree please feel free to leave comments and thoughts either below, on twitter (buster_5265) via e-mail ( or on the facebook group 'football fan'

Change of plan.....

So as you've probably noticed writing a blog reviewing all 3 games on the day is something I'm struggling to keep up with, so what I'm going to do is review the groups as they stand now and start reviewing the games from round 2 onwards as its easier to type up one game instead of 3! Today i will start with a quick look at last nights endings to group A & B and previewing group's C & D last games

Group A

Not one to constantly go on about things I've got right in the past but i nailed both this group and group B, the only surprise for me being the fact that France picked up a point & a goal! I had Uruguay and Mexico to finish first and second with South Africa finishing above France, i personally had Mexico finishing clear of South Africa but they finished on level points and i think some credit should go to South Africa for not being steam rolled by Mexico - France deserve no credit at all and deserve to be sent home in disgrace, my favourite quote for the French team was 'their manager is an idiot & man for man they are an embarrassment to their country' i think that pretty much says it all and obviously Domenech covered himself in glory at the end by refusing to shake Parreiras hand and proceeded to have a go at him for something he said many months ago about the French cheating to qualify. 2 observations with this - 1. The French did cheat to qualify so i'm not sure why Doemenech felt the need to try and deny this 2. Is this a French thing given Wengers refusal to shake hands with some Premier League managers?!

I think Uruguay are a team worth watching having not conceded a goal so far and with Diego Forlan & Luis Suarez up front they will always have a goal in them, but i don't think Mexico have enough to get past Argentina (who i still think will win)

Group B

Again, i got the top 2 teams right on this one, although i didn't expect Greece to get 3 points but i thought Nigeria would perform much better than they actually did, seemingly being in winning positions to throw it away both against Greece & South Korea, in both games open goals being missed (special mention to Yakubu last night for a miss that rivals the best misses over see).

Argentina have looked good in their games although South Korea could have made their game 2-2 which might have changed the Argentinian mentality but it was not to be and the Argentinians romped to a 4-1 win. Nigeria's best game was probably against Argentina but they never really looked like threatening to much. The fact that Argentina have so many attacking options just seems to make me think that even if they are in a position where they are 1 or 2 goals down they can always score - even 36 year old Martin Palermo managed to get on the score sheet last night and with both Milito, Tevez & Agurro to score there's just goals bursting out of this team. South Korea provided no real surprises, being the usual disciplined & hard working team we've come to expect and whilst they might be slight underdogs against Uruguay they could prove tough opposition but i just can't see South Korea scoring against Uruguay.

Quick Previews for tonight's game now (i will cover England in more depth in a separate bog) and I'll start with

Group C

England have to win tonight, the only way they could get through if they draw is if its a 2-2 draw against Slovenia & USA draw 0-0 with Algeria, then it will come down to drawing names from a hat (if you believe FIFA). Anything other than this situation or an England win will see England eliminated. I can't see the USA doing anything other than beating Algeria, who are a pretty bad team, which means England have their destiny in their own hands and usually England tend to get the job done, i just wonder if the recent JT outburst might develop problems in the camp. Still i can see both games Ending 1-0 to USA & England respectively

Group D

Things are very interesting, clearly Serbia are expect to beat a very poor Australia team, although the Aussies will have their one hope, Tim Cahill, back from suspension i can't see them scoring or being able to cope with the physicality of a powerful Serbia team. This leaves the Germany v Ghana game to decide the other qualifier from this group. I had Germany and Serbia going through and i still think this will still be the case, despite the Germans being very 'un-German' so far this tournament playing very nice attacking football against Australia, then struggling against a physical team in Serbia which is an area they usually excel in and even going as far as missing a penalty (first one they've missed in a World Cup in 32 years!). The Ghanaians are also a very physical team, especially in midfield, but i think the Germans will have to much despite missing Klose as well as having Podolski seemingly returning to the awful form that has been seen at Koln this season i think they will struggle to deal with Ozil.

So tonight expect to see England, USA, Germany & Serbia leaving Serbia v USA and England facing Germany, and if England don't perform tonight the Germans could batter them in the 2nd round

Thanks for reading, i plan an doing at least one more blog looking at the England situation before the game starts later this afternoon, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

day 3 review....i'll catch up soon!

Algeria V Slovenia

Lets be honest if you were picking a match for most thrilling game of the World Cup this one wouldn't be it! The game didn't really spring to life in the first half, Belhadj looking dangerous down the left but that was pretty much it, with many misplaced passes and poor touches, unsurprisingly this lead to more conversations about the ball (which seems to become more and more of a topic at major tournaments). The first real chance came in the 44th min for Slovenia with Birsa curling a 25 yard shot that dipped nicely under the bar but ended up being a pretty standard save for the Algerian keeper Chaouchi. Sadly that was about the highlight of a pretty poor first half.

The first real action in the second half was Yebda taking a pot shot but being a pretty standard save, whilst on the hour mark Ghezzal got booked for shirt pulling, i timed him being on the pitch about 45 seconds - this wouldn't really be important but it was a very dull game and then in the 74 min Ghezzal decided to do something very foolish, trying for a diving header only to miss and try to control the ball with his hand which lead to his 2nd yellow card, a truly stupid sending off. Playing against then 10 men on the pitch the Slovenians were spurred on however the way the winning goal came about was horrific - the recently released Robert Koren let fly with a 20 yard shot that should have been a straight forward save but somehow the Algerian keeper Chaouchi decided to mimic Rob Green, putting his hands no where near the ball and somehow missing it completely watching it fly in to the goal! The match fizzled out into nothing but a foul fest after this, 2 yellow cards being shown in the space of 3 mins (including one for a lovely foul by Komac sending Belhadj flying theough the air).

Two interesting side notes for the game, first one being on the 68th min an Algerian fan tried escaping the boredom of the game by scaling a floodlight pylon only to be foiled by an army of security personnel. At some point in the game as well it kicked off in the press room with 2 Algerian journalists having a right barny with each other until the great Zinedine Zidane stepped in to calm things down (that's right, he's Algerian....) other than that a pretty boring game bar the red card and comical goal!

Star Man - um....really? Probably Robert Koren

Serbia V Ghana

This was a game i thought the attacking talents of Krasic, Jovanovic & Zigic would help Serbia to a win and confidently picked them to win 1-0. It was a much brighter start for this game than the previous one, Vidic's usual allergy to Fernando Torres kicking in with in 3 mins against Tagoe when the United center back scythed him down but nothing coming from the resulting free kick on the edge of the area. Serbia seemed to adopt an early plan of hitting it up to Zigic and then waiting for a flick or knock on to fall kindly to one of there attacking players. Ghana seemed to have more of the ball early on, carving what i thought would be a rock solid Serbian defence open with ease at some points, with Asamoah Gyan looking quite dangerous. The Serbian response was mainly from set pieces using the aerial threat of Zigic as a main focal point for attack but not really getting any where. As is the story with most of these games after a bright start things fizzled out and after about half an hour we saw the first appearance of the Mexican wave, a sure sign the game was getting slow. Not long after Serbia had there first shot on target coming from Inter Milan's Dejan Stankovic's simple shot squirming out of the Ghana keepers hands but he managed to recover and smother the ball. Random fact, Stankovic is the first player to represent 3 different countries at the World Cup, Yugoslavia, Serbia & Montenegro and finally just Serbia

The second half didn't start off a bit slower but 10 mins in Ayew should have scored with a free header from about 8 yards after some brilliant work by Tagoe on the right. A few mins later Zigic had a similar chance however somehow he failed to make any sort of contact, Birmingham fans won't be impressed with his performance. Gyan on the other hand, a player linked to Arsenal, Man Utd & A.C Milan in the past had a very impressive game and came with in inch's of scoring the opening goal just after the hour mark, beating the keeper with a nice header however it went just wide. Ghana seemed unable to break the deadlock and just as a 0-0 seemed on the cards another moment of madness (been a few so far) with Lukoivc being sent off for a 2nd yellow card after needlessly haling down Gyan just inside the Serbia half. Serbia bought on Subotic to replace Liverpool bound Jovanovic, who had a quiet game just like Krasic, and seemingly ready to sit back for a 0-0 draw which would have been likely had it not been for the incredible stupidity of Kuzmanovic who handled a cross in his own box under no pressure at all. Gyan stepped up and of course buried the penalty in the 84th min leaving Serbia stranded. They did try and create something in the last few mins but it was to no avail and lost 1-0, leaving Ghana in prime position to progress from the group

Star Man - By far Asamoah Gyan, looked lively and threatening, fully deserved his goal

Germany V Australia

To be honest i don't know what to say about this game, for those who don't know the Germans won 4-0 although that scoreline might have flattered them somewhat. The Germans did play some very nice football, with Philip Lahm standing out. The man replacing Michael Ballack as captain was involved in most of there attacking moves and was good defensively although that is the weaker part of his game (if there is one), but he was a constant threat from the right wing with his runs forward. The man that made everything tick though was Mesut Özil who was outstanding in the middle of the pitch, controlling everything with a deceptive ease given his young age - i read a report after he helped Germany beat England in the European U-21 championship finals last summer comparing him to a young Juan Roman Riqueleme and I'd have to agree, although Ozil is a much harder worked that Riqueleme. Early on in the game Australia had some great possession in the first 5 mins or so with a great chance for Cahill blocked on the line by Lahm, however after Podolski rifled in a cracking shot on the 8th min the game seemed to start slipping from Australia although they still looked lively in patch's especially Tim Cahill who was really hassling the Germans. After 24 mins there was an incredible miss from Klose who was 1 v 1 but managed to scoop high and wide, however 1 min later he managed to make amends, although it was largly thanks to Mark Schwarzer who came racing off his line to totally miss a Lahm cross with Klose nodding home.

As if that wasn't bad enough some terrible refereing but and to any chance of Australia getting back in the game with Cahill shown a straight red card for a tackle which was a yellow at best with the player that was fouled, Bastian Schweinsteiger, even saying it wasn't a red but the card happy Mexican ref had made up his mind. After this Germany totally dominated the game scoring 2 more goals and winning at a canter, i'm sure Australia didn't expect much from this game but with Cahill out for a possible 3 games this could be the end of there World Cup as its hard to see where the goals will come from now.

Star Man - coould be any one of Lahm, Podolski or maybe Klose but its got to go to Mesut Özil in my opinion, he was the heart beat of the team and for any team to stop Germany he has to be man marked closely

So thats it for another days round up, i will catch up to the games very soon and hopefully have a blog relevent to the days games by the end of the day soon!

thanks for reading, as usual feedback to twitter (Buster_5265), Hotmail ( or the facebook group 'football fan'

Monday, 14 June 2010

Day 2 (written slightly later....)

Day 2's round up of the games, and where better to start that with my tip for the World Cup.....

Argentina V Nigeria

An interesting game, although Maradona seems to have decided on his starting XI the tactical side of things still seems to be open, he was expected to play an attacking 3-4-3 the way the team lined up was slightly strange with Gutierrez starting out of position as a right back and Tevez more out on the right wing than was expected. They looked very rigid in this formation although Messi seemed to thrive in his role behind Higuain, picking up the ball in dangerous areas between the Nigerian defence and midfield and running with relish at the Nigerian defence and he was unlucky not to score having 6 goals on target and forcing 4 excellent saves from Vincent Enyeama. Clearly this is one game into the tournament but if his form carries on like this he will clearly pose a massive threat to anyone and Maradona's idea of running most of the attacks through him could be the best idea Diego has come up with.

The Nigerians managed to contain Argentina very well limiting them to one goal and creating a few chances themselves, although they didn't seem capable of putting the ball in the back of the net and as the game developed the feeling seemed to be when, not if, the Argentinians would score next - this didn't come of course (i tipped a 3-0 win) but i got the feeling that if they needed an extra goal they could have got it. The biggest problem for Maradona is what to do with Tevez, although his usual work rate was there he seemed to drift in from the right leaving Gutierrez with much more responsibility both going forward and covering back, it wouldn't surprise me to see Otamendi coming back and Tevez being dropped allowing Gutierrez to move into his more natural role as a right midfielder but no one can predict what Maradona will do (special thanks to 5 Live for the min by min update on what he was doing all game, clearly a key factor...)

Star Man - Lionel Messi (Argentina)

South Korea v Greece

Its not easy to forget either of these teams recent outstanding moment, with South Korea getting to the semi finals of World Cup 2002 & Greece winning 2004, unfortunately since then Greece have slipped backwards and despite the fact they finished top of there qualifying group they looked disorganised and didn't really pose a threat to the Koreans. South Korea looked there usual organised self's and worked very hard, most of there players covering a lot of the pitch whilst keeping a very disciplined shape and pressing the Greek players well. I must admit that i thought the organisation of the Greeks would be a key factor but they seemed out of shape and lost when compared to the South Koreans.

Both goals came 7 min into each half, the first scored by Lee Jung Soo in the 7th min of the first half and Park Ji-Sung in the 52 min pretty much killing the game off at that point, the Greeks didn't roll over but they just couldn't get back in to the game after that. South Korea could well pose a tough obstacle for Argentina and will be a good early test to see how Maradona responds to an organised disciplined side, i think he may well struggle to over come them

Star Man - Park Ji-Sung (South Korea)'s one game left from Saturday.....

USA v England

What an excellent start it was for England, a brilliant touch on by Heskey lead to a Steven Gerrard goal and every thing started looking good for the English - but you knew it was to good to be true. The starting XI concerned me, 4-4-2 with Gerrard & Lampard in the center that is proven not to work - Frank Lampard seemed to be a more withdrawn deeper player than we're used to seeing and had echos of the 2006 World Cup with his long hopeful shots and lack of attacking runs. I was also surprised to see James Milner starting on the left having missed training for 3 days but i can understand that his more work man like style was preferred over the attacking flair of Joe Cole, although i could understand this to begin with however once Milner was injured i was a little surprised to see SWP come on and Lennon switch to the left where he is much more subdued.

Around the half hour mark England would have been pleased with their performance, knocking the ball around well although not keeping possession as well as they might have liked but still created a few good chances until the dreaded moment came. Clint Dempsey 'unleashed' a tame 25 yards or so shot that just headed harmlessly towards Rob Green - until he somehow spilled it in to his own net. This clearly shell shocked the England players and for the last 5 mins of the half and at half time they needed something to help them out, but this didn't happen. The closest we saw to inspiration was the sight of Jamie Carragher replacing Ledley King (who is now set to miss the rest of the World Cup) and i for one felt my heart sink, him, Green & Terry was just a disaster waiting to happen. At this point what England needed, and it pains me to say this, was a Jose Mourinho type character in the dressing room, someone to make that clever tactical switch & to help fire the players up again and recover from such a clanger of a goal but this didn't happen. The best chance in the 2nd half fell to *cue loud groans* Emile Heskey who was 1 v 1 with Tim Howard and just hoofed it straight at the American keeper. They game basically died out after this, and although both sides had chances they seemed pretty happy with a draw - well, the USA did anyway judging by their reactions in the media, on the pitch and with the fans

Star Man - Tim Howard (USA)

Bad news for England is Ledley King has damaged an Abductor muscle and could be out for around 3 weeks. Many of the media have criticised Capello for taking him but i still think it was the right decision, this injury isn't related to his knees so it's not one Fabio could have foreseen - the worst news is that Jamie Carragher won't shut up about being given a chance. I for one don't think he should really be in the squad, he reminds me of Totti, happy to play in the major tournaments but won't put in the hard graft for the qualifiers, but when you look at the cover in defence it is very thin - Dawson has no experience and both Upson and Carragher don't look the role.
The other massive problem is, of course, in goal. I've said for months that Rob Green is not an international goalkeeper and this spill proved it, before the game he looked very nervous in the tunnel and after that spill you could see his confidence draining away by the minute, proved by his almost 2nd howler in the 65th min which he somehow diverted on to the bar and prompted ITV's 'experts' to declare it a great save - a few replays later showed it was a regulation save that he made a hash of. I think Joe Hart should be in goal for the next game, blooding him in for the bigger games but i think Capello will revert to the tried and tested David James, he is also error prone but won't be nervous and won't make howlers like that in this sort of tournament, well you'd hope anyway!!
This has to be the end for Rob Green, and yes England can't keep dropping keepers because of one clanger but Green has never been a top class keeper (that's why he's never played for a top team and they've never been near him). Joe Hart should have been given more experience earlier on so that we can have a young keeper picking up big game experience because when James retires & Green rides off into the sunset we're looking a bit thin in this area.....

That's it for today, tomorrow i will post round ups of day 3 & 4 and hopefully catch back up to were we are in the World Cup

As usual leave feedback either below, at twitter (Buster_5265), at hotmail ( or on my new facebook group 'football fan'
thanks for reading!!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Day One!

So, the World Cup is finally underway!! my plan to write up a review of all the groups fell slightly short, mainly due to time issues, so instead I'm going to do a review of all the games from day one until the end of the tournament as well as some quick predictions for the next set of games.

South Africa v Mexico

Not a bad game to open the tournament with, i personally predicted a 2-1 win to Mexico here and based on the first half performance i was quietly confident however 10 min in to the second half Siphiwe Tshabalala unleashed a thunderbolt of a shot leaving the Mexican keeper Oscar Perez stranded with nothing to do but pick the ball out of the net. This was a bit of a surprise as in the first half Mexico were pretty dominate, Giovani dos Santos looking especially lively with a few good runs and even having a scoring chance inside the first 2 min when South Africa's goalkeeper Khune flapped at a cross, pushing it in to path of Giovani who let rip with a terrific shot but was well blocked by Mokoena and again after 4 min Givani had another chance but chose to cross instead of shooting from an inviting angle. The first half then turned into a very back and forth affair, although Mexico enjoyed more of the possession South Africa were very good on the counter attack, Mexico had a goal disallowed after 36 min for a correct offside decision and after 40 min Franco showed why West Ham were right to release him with a terrible miss from 12 yards.

At half time the two teams seemed pretty even with South Africa looking dangerous on the counter although not able to get the ball to Mphela quickly enough and Mexico having a fair amount of possession but not able to capitalise. At half time Pareira took the left back Thwala off and bought on Masilela to try and tighten up the defence.

The 2nd half started off very much as the 1st half finished with Mexico playing a quick passing game and the South Africans chasing them until the 55 min and a stonking goal from Siphiwe Tshabalala which really bought the already rocking stadium to life (those bloody vuvuzelas are even more annoying than i'd read about) and for the next 15 min Mexico looked like they'd been knocked out of their rhythm but their was a feeling about the stadium that Mexico could still snatch an equilizer and they did this in the 78 min, a corner nicely whipped in by Guardado (who should have started in my opinion) leaving 1 South African defender against 3 Mexicans and Rafael Marquez slammed the ball home from 7 yards. On 90 min the South Africans hit the post with Mphela 1 on 1 and that was the end to a very exciting opening game, more exciting than i expected it to be - i still think Mexico will sneak through Group A with Uruguay on top and i think South Africa will finish 3rd and quite possibly sneak a 1-0 against France

Star Player - Siphiwe Tshabalala (South Africa) Giovani dos Santos (Mexico)

France v Uruguay

Sadly this game didn't have the excitement of the 1st game but did show a few interesting things, the first being that the pre-tournament predictions about France don't seem to be to wide of the mark, despite having a player of the quality of Franck Ribery seems to be lacking ideas in the final 3rd with the closest chance in the game falling to Sidney Govou who managed to miss from around 6 yards but that was about the only clear cut chance France had. Domenech has decided at the last minute to abandon the 4-2-3-1 formation he has used in pretty much every game for the last few years and go for a more traditional 4-3-3 however his team selection was a little odd, especially not picking Malouda & opting instead for Govou who seems to have his best years behind him. The game its self wasn't really filled with much action, both teams had a few chances, Diego Suarez should have scored from a Forlan free kick but missed the chance to flick the ball in with his head - Forlan was easily the Uruguayans best player making a nuisance of himself and holding the ball up very well however his final ball let him down on a couple of occasions.

The game its self wasn't overly exciting, there were a few chances to either side but nothing that would be defined as clear cut other than the Govou chance, the main talking point would be Evra lucky to stay on the pitch for a tackle that should have probably got him a second yellow card and Lodiero's appearance as a substitute that lasted all of 20 min, he picked up a 1st yellow moments after coming on for kicking the ball away (which i thought was harsh, he kicked the ball back to the general direction of the free kick) but his second yellow could easily have been a straight red for a horrible tackle on Backery Sagna, the tackle its self was late and quite dangerous. So for all the expectations i had of this very talented player he will now sit out the second round game against South Africa and should thank his lucky stars the ref didn't give him a straight red anyway which would have triggered a 3 match ban. A special mention should go to Henry who had the audacity to appeal for a penalty from a free kick in the last few mins, trying to claim hand ball (the cheek after the playoffs!!) from what was an excellent headed clearance.

Star Players - Diego Forlan (Uruguay) Hugo Lloris (France)

My predictions for today's game? South Korea should defeat Greece although it will be a close game as both teams are well organised but lack any out and out quality goal scorers i think South Korea could sneak this one 1-0.
Argentina should beat Nigeria although the Nigerians could provide a scare i think the overall attacking threat of Argentina will be too much and i predict a 3-1 win for Argentina.
The final game is the big one today, USA v England - a lot has been said about the team Capello could pick, if he goes 4-4-2 with Gerard and Lampard in the middle i think the US will fancy there chances to expose the lack of defensive qualities in the center but the defence should be able to hold out, i think the English should win 2-0

That's it folks, hope you've enjoyed this and as usual if you want to leave any feedback you can do it below if your part of google, or you can find me on twitter (Buster_5265) or at hotmail ( or on my new facebook group - Football fan!!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Is Rio's injury a blessing in disguise for England?

As everyone has by now heard, Rio Ferdinand is out of the England world cup squad after sustaining a knee injury in what Fabio Capello described as a 'normal tackle' from Emile Heskey (I'm sure the Heskey haters will be using this as further proof he shouldn't have gone but that's just stupid)

Of course its a tragedy that one of the lynch pins of the England defence will be missing but on reflection is it such a bad situation? At least now England have the chance to call up a replacement and there won't be any 'maybe he'll be fit' or 'maybe he's worth the risk' like Beckham in 2002 or Rooney in 2006. It's done and he's out and that is that, but maybe this isn't such a bad thing after all, Rio has only player 13 league games this season (21 in all comps) and in fairness to him hasn't looked the same player he was last year, it could be a bit premature to say that his best years are behind him but at 31 he's not going to get any quicker or develop a much greater understanding for the game and things haven't gone well for Rio since his back problems first started, even in the game with Japan he didn't look the player he once was and him and John Terry both looked a bit lost next to each other. Whilst in 2006 Rio was probably approaching the peak of his game, 2010 could have seen him beaten for pace by some of the faster opposition players that he would face, clearly this is something that has caught Sir Alex's attention at Man Utd, moving quickly to snap up Chris Smalling whilst Rio's injury problems were a major concern especially with something like a back injury that tends to never go away and always takes something away from a player be it outright speed or just basic mobility.

Whilst it is a tragedy losing such a key player as well as an inspirational captain, it might not be the end of the world. In Ledley King, who should be the natural replacement, England have a player that has the potential to be a top quality defender both in Europe and the EPL and could now have the chance to step up and prove this, and this will be something he can relish.

At Spurs this season he probably had his best campaign to date as well and put his body on the line playing key back to back games at a time people doubted his knees could stand it. King has as much pace as Rio, a great reading of the game as well as a great aerial presence and will see this as now another chance to prove people wrong and raise his game even further. Where this season Rio has stuttered and stumbled King has been impeccable, his worst game this season probably being the recent friendly against Mexico and every time a new obstacle is put in front of him he seems to rise to the challange and over come it. If Capello really meant the 'i'll pick players on form not reputation' now is the time to prove it and call King up as the first choice center back, if his knees are an issue he can always be rested in the final game against Slovenia which should be easy enough and then he should have enough of a break between the remaining games to recover. In Steven Gerrard there is also a captain ready to step up and take on the challenge, and whilst his club form has been below par i think he might enjoy the relief of captaining a team where he believes the players around him are as good as him and can all drag the team forward rather than him doing it on his own.

Whilst it is bad Rio will miss out i don't think its as bad as it could have been, but in Ledley King there is a ready made replacement ready to step up and hold the fort and i think he could do a better job than Rio probably could have done at the moment given his record this season.

I'm still working on the World Cup groups blog and will have a review of group A&B up by tomorrow evening and then a review of 2 groups every day after that

thanks for reading, feel free to share any thoughts through the usual means (twitter - Buster_5265 & Hotmail - or facebook)

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The ongoing Liverpool saga

I was going to start doing a review of the World Cup groups now all the final squads have been announced however the recent news coming out of Anfield was just to big to ignore

It is widely expected in the next 48 hours for the official announcement of Liverpool parting company with manager Rafa Benitez more than likely by 'mutual consent' marking the end of an era at Anfield. Rafa has clearly been a corner stone for Liverpool and even went as far as ousting Rick Parry and taking control of nearly all aspects of the club, except the one that matters - funds. It appears this split has come about because Rafa Benitez has told the Liverpool owners that he will need much more than the £15m they are offering him this summer to compete with Man City & Tottenham for 4th place, but due to the huge amount of debt on the club (reported to be around £350m) and the lack of champions league football they can't afford to give him any more, and here the problems lie.

Football fans seem to be divided in the Rafa discussion - including Liverpool fans. Think what you want about Rafa there is no denying that he is a clever guy and he knows that £15m won't cover the shortfall of players now let alone once the clubs above them have finished spending, with this sort of money there is a massive risk of the gap between Liverpool and teams above them opening to a much bigger cup and leaving Liverpool in huge difficulties - a lot of the money that has been borrowed is based on future earnings involving champions league games & prize money. If the papers are to be believed then Steven Gerrard has already decided enough is enough and he's getting ready to move to Real Madrid and whilst this will generate much needed funds, if it happens and I'm not as sure as the press it will, however one of Rafa's concerns will be he won't be able to use all of the funds as some will have to go to servicing the interest on the loans. Rafa knows that his reputation in Europe is still intact (2 CL finals including one win and another semi final over 5 years looks impressive)and could very well have decided he'd rather not risk his reputation on the sinking ship that appears to be Liverpool when he could leave now and pick his next job in a better situation - Inter Milan are looking for a new manager and he has been strongly linked to them now Capello is seemingly out the running.

The bigger problem now facing Liverpool and their fans is who will not only be prepared to take the job on but be able to move them forward on this budget? Roy Hodgson has been mentioned several times but i don't know if he'd want to take the job on, at Fulham he has overachieved massively against very basic and realistic targets were as at Liverpool he will certainly be faced with a much tougher chance and may not want to give up his 'comfort zone' for a club with huge debts and much harder targets. Of course Kenny Dalglish is already at the club working with the academy and could be considered an option, cheaper and in house, an Anfield icon both as player and manager so he would probably get more leeway from the fans but would he want to get back in to management? He said not so long ago that he doesn't really have an interest in returning to management but could he resit the call of a club so close to his heart? When sky sports news broke the story some Liverpool fans where mailing in saying it was a shame this didn't happen earlier so they could try and get Jose Mourinho - this would never happen, firstly because Mourinho had one eye on the Real job since last summer and secondly Mourinho wouldn't want to work under that kind of restrictive budget. Other than those 2 there isn't really a name that stands out, Guus Hiddink would be a good choice but he doesn't want to leave Turkey so soon after joining them and seems happier in international football. Maybe Jurgen Klinsmann could be a candidate but he might not be prepared to leave his base in California and his spell at Bayern Munich was nothing short of a disaster, Martin O'Neill seems to be an early favourite but i don't think he would want to leave a club where he has a good relationship with the owner who has funds to a club in serious financial difficulties and who's owners could change soon

Which leads to the main issue with Liverpool at the moment, Tom Hicks & George Gillette. They are basically the Laurel & Hardy of football owners, a laughing stock to everyone looking at them, it was only a few days ago Hicks claimed there would be 'significant funds' made available to Rafa - clearly this isn't the case or he needs a reality check because £15m isn't significant in the premiership for a team pushing for 4th. Every time these guys open their mouths it seems to make them more and more a laughing stock and its a real shame that a club with the history of Liverpool have been allowed to end up in this state, 2 owners wanting an unrealistic amount for the club and not even clearing the debts before selling - only a Liverpool fan with the deepest of pockets could afford to pay £800m for the club, £350m to clear the debts then make money available to spend with out at least having the income of champions league football to cover at least some of it. It's hard to see how this problem can be fixed in the short term, in the long term someone will step in but it will be a while before the Americans swallow their pride and lower the asking price.

Its certainly going to be an interesting few days around Anfield and I'm sure more stories will leak over the next few days revealing more about this split (when i started writing the blog it was just rumours now its confirmed, Rafa has gone for around £6m, much less than the £16m expected) and I'm sure its not just because of the bad season last season and I'm also sure Gerrard doesn't need this on his mind during the world cup and its another distraction in the Spain camp obviously affecting Torres along with the ongoing Cesc/Barca fiasco.

As usual i can be reached at, twitter as Buster_5265 or comments below, thanks for taking the time to read, over the next few days i plan on reviewing all the world cup teams & groups before the tournament starts in 9 days!!