Saturday, 31 July 2010

New ‘home-grown’ rules – helping or hindering?

New ‘home-grown’ rules – helping or hindering?

In this blog I’m going to try and explain the new rules that are coming in this season and how they will affect the teams.

On the back of the attempt by UEFA to bring in a Europe wide rule on home grown players that failed (thanks’ to EU laws) the Premier League decided to bring in its own set of rules in to curb squad size’s & help produce youngsters. A team can now only have a squad of 25 registered players (over 21) and this squad must contain a minimum of 8 players that have been at an English or Welsh club for 3 years. If you don’t meet that squad allowance you have 2 choices, you can either register some of your under 21’s to make up the numbers, or face a penalty of have a smaller squad although you can still supplement this squad with unregistered U-21’s no matter how long they’ve played in the UK.

I’ve tried looking for the exact penalties if you can’t meet this rule but no one online seems to have a definitive answer, all I know is that right now Liverpool have 5 senior home grown players meaning they can only name a squad of 20 and then any U-21’s can play as well, this may well explain why Hodgson has shown an interest in players like Luke Young & Paul Konchesky recently to help supplement this number, the other team that could be forced to have a smaller squad is Chelsea who have 4 home grown players (unless they list Scott Sinclair to make it 5) meaning they will have to face reductions in squad size as well and the only surprising thing about this fact is they don’t really seem overly concerned with this having been linked most of the summer to players that don’t meet this criteria, meaning they will not be able to register the maximum 25 players.

Whilst Arsene Wenger has come out criticising the rule saying that it leaves players without clubs and that players will have to be sold at under their value to reduce squad numbers or go out on loan with the bigger team paying the wages for a player they can’t use or a smaller club over paying more than they can in wages, although considering the number of youngsters in the Arsenal squad I’m not sure why he’s unhappy with the rule.

I feel Wenger could be right to criticise the new rules however he is probably one of the prime examples of why the rule shouldn’t be bought in, when this rule was agreed what did we start seeing? Stories of European clubs suing English clubs for poaching youngsters started creeping out, first Chelsea with Kakuta, then Man Utd with Pogba, Liverpool with Max Clayton, Man City with Jeremy Helan & Everton with Luke Garbutt. Wenger himself is a prime example with the way he signed Fabregas, Merida and Vela and it’s not like Man Utd have ruffled feathers in this area either, the way they signed Pique, Macheda & Petrucci coming in to question as well.

The huge problem I think we will start to see as a result of the rule is clubs signing players much younger from abroad so they can qualify under the ‘home grown’ rule as nationality doesn’t matter. If this rule was bought in saying that they had to be English players it would clearly be beneficial to the English players, although youngsters would be poached from lower league clubs which would be a problem it would still mean the English players getting a chance and priority over non English players, but due to EU laws that’s considered too much of a restriction so nationality can’t be used in the rule.

Clubs will use this to persuade players to move to England younger, pointing out if you want to play in the Premiership then you have to start here younger so you can be part of the 25 squad instead of the 17 ‘non home grown players’ which you obviously have less chance of getting in to. So rather than seeing English youngsters being developed through we will just see more and more foreign players coming across in acrimonious deals, parents being bribed with pay offs and house’s and clubs falling out with their European colleagues.

Richard Scudamore basically admitted when the rule was announced in 2009 that this was designed to stop spend clubs spending huge amounts of money on players when they should be developing more youngsters, which is fine in principal but as we well know, there are more players that don’t live up to expectation than do, every club has had youngsters that they thought might be the next big thing but have ended up being average or slightly better and dropping down a league or moving away from England making the whole exercise pointless. Fran Merida at Arsenal is a prime example, Arsenal bought him up from Barcelona as a youngster at 17 with the player having to pay Barcelona 3.2m Euros for breaking a pre-contract agreement which doubtlessly Arsenal paid him in the form of a signing on fee or some sort of bonus, and then he spent the next 3 years at Arsenal before letting his contract run down and leaving this summer on a free to go back to Spain. Admittedly the payment was a one off but even taking that out, his wage was around £6k a week, so his wage for the 3 years he was there was just under £1m and that’s just his basic salary – wouldn’t that be much better spent on developing English talent? And how can teams lower down and outside the top 10 even compete? The big teams will start hording the younger players even more than they already do just in case they miss that special talent and don’t want to run the risk of having to pay millions to pick them up later on.

Also consider situations where a team like Liverpool, West Brom and Blackpool all go in for the same youngster, 9 times out of 10 the kid is going to want to join Liverpool because they are a bigger club, they have better facilities, great history and they will pay higher wages. This will leave these lower teams having to scrabble around trying to sign players that meet the criteria from lower down the league and in the long run that could well make the Premier League weaker and separate the top teams from the mid & lower table teams.

Right now it seems like the only teams that will be effected are the ones who have over inflated squads or are more interested in signing players than developing them however a lot of clubs outside the top teams will struggle, with Wolves, Fulham, Wigan, Bolton & Blackburn are all very close to being under the 8 player limit, and a lot of the players keeping them over those limits aren’t the kind of players they need to progress and develop.

It will be interesting to see if the new rules last and if they do have an impact on the game for the good, whilst I think in principle it’s a good idea whilst the rules state a player can be of any nationality I feel it’s just going to result in an influx of average young foreigners who end up qualifying as ‘home grown’ players and becoming over paid average players draining resources from clubs that could spend the money better elsewhere.

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Thanks for reading

Friday, 30 July 2010

Quick look at Premier League

A quick glance at the Premier League this season

So, less than 2 weeks till the start of the Premier League and I thought I’d take a quick look at what to expect this time around

Top end of the table

I think this will be business as usual and one of Man Utd or Chelsea winning the league this season and whilst I think Arsenal will be up with these 2 around Christmas & new year time I think they’ll perform their usual trick and drop points they should be getting like they do every season. I also think they will suffer at the hands of Man Utd & Chelsea just like last season and they will struggle to deal with their counter attacking football and the speed of their breaks.

I’m going to put my neck out and say I think United will come out with the title this season. Last season they probably would have had the title had they not ended up playing people like Fletcher & Carrick as centre backs due to the crippling injury crisis they suffered in defence last season. With the spine of Chelsea’s teaming getting a bit older plus missing Drogba & Cech for the start of the season they could have a bit of a struggle and I think with no younger players coming through they might find challenging on 4 fronts a bit tiring. They also have problems with Ashley Cole & Ricardo Carvalho both being linked away with the club and I think that whilst Cole might not leave Carvalho could and that would leave a big hole in their defence. Clearly Gael Kakuta will be a youngster that will be breaking through but that might be about the only new face we see, bar any last minute major signings, if Ramieres comes in it will be interesting to see how he settles with the usual problems of a Brazilian settling in England.

Meanwhile United’s new signing, Javier Hernandez, has looked very exciting and promising in his games for Mexico in the World Cup and his first game in a United shirt against MLS All-stars. He and the returning Federico Macheda could be a new injection that United need, especially given that last season they ended up relying so heavily on Rooney. Berbatov has also apparently had a pretty good pre-season but if he can carry this over to the league or is one to be answered because he has been a bit of a letdown since his move. It will also be interesting to see just how much Sir Alex relies on Ryan Giggs & Paul Scholes given that they are not getting any younger but still managed to keep themselves as vital cogs in the team last season and Scholes has already had one impressive pre-season game against Celtic. Nani is another one who needs to step it up this season, last season we saw flashes of his potential and he was rewarded with a new contract but now he needs to show he’s worth it.

Although I think the deciding factor could well be the run in at the end of the season, with United facing Arsenal, then hosting Chelsea, then away to Blackburn and finally at home to Blackpool, which looks easier on paper compared to Chelsea’s run in of facing Spurs at home, then United at Old Trafford, then hosting Newcastle but, the final day they face Everton away. I think if it comes down to the wire United could look at the last day and be confident they will get 3 points but Chelsea will find it much harder.

The battle for 4th

One of the most over used phrase’s for last season but again this season it will be an interesting tussle, although last season there was four teams that had a clear shot at 4th, Man City, Spurs, Aston Villa & Liverpool this season I think that only the first 2 teams will be pushing for 4th, I don’t think Aston Villa have invested enough on their squad from last year and the same could be said for Liverpool., there aren’t any players in either squad that really jump out and could provide the sort of spark they will need to overtake City or Spurs. Whilst Liverpool can point to Gerrard and Torres being fit as making a difference I don’t think Torres will stay injury free for the majority of the season and with the likes of N’Gog & Babel as backup they could struggle without him. Whilst I don’t feel these two teams will be able to compete with City & Spurs they will certainly expect to hold on to 5th & 6th places.

The battle between Spurs & City will be as intense as it was for the last few weeks of last season for pretty much the whole of this season, starting off with the 2 teams facing each other at White Hart Lane on the opening day of the season. I expect Spurs to win this, as whilst they are still essentially the same team as last season City will have at least 2 or 3 new signings in their starting team and will take time to gel. Obviously if City lose this game there will be the usual panic talk but I expect both teams to be close come the last few games and that could make the difference, Spurs have tricky ties away to Chelsea and then at home to Liverpool where as City have games against Everton and Bolton, however this is all after the second time the two teams meet in the league so it could be done and dusted by that point, I think the fact that Spurs haven’t changed their team to much will be to their advantage I think, although it will be interesting to see what effect the champions league will have on them if they make it to the group stages.


I think it’s a pretty fair bet that at least 20th place is already decided, Blackpool don’t have the squad to be able to compete at this level I don’t think, and whilst it would be nice to see them put up a Burnley style fight I think they will struggle from the off and if they don’t finish off worse than Derby’s record breaking low season then that should be considered an achievement. Although a constant source of entertainment I think Ian Holloway could prove to be a problem as well, his style of attacking 4-4-2 football might do the job in the championship but I think in the top division you need a bit more tactical nous about you and this could be a problem. Holloway said he got back in to football because he was tired of seeing boring teams and I don’t think he’ll go back on his word and play defensively even against Man Utd at Old Trafford or Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The other two spots will be battled out between the usual suspects; I think West Brom will struggle in the Premiership and may well find that a lack of a natural goal scorer or a natural ball winner might work against them, although it’ll be interesting to see how Scott Carson deals with being back in the lime light and probably being busier than he was last year. Still, I think the lack of goals could be a big issue and see West Brom finishing 19th. This leaves one more place up for grabs and I think the other promoted team, Newcastle, could face a struggle to stay up. The only thing different from this season and the season they went down is the lack of a top flight striker with Owen, Viduka & Martins all leaving and only Andy Carroll really developing although whether he has progressed in to the 20 goal a season striker they need is another matter. The recent loss of Steven Taylor for 3 months will also be a big problem, as was seen in 07/08 Coloccini doesn’t have the pace to keep up with the faster strikers in the Premier League and whilst Harper is a solid keeper he’s not one of the best and won’t help them win the extra 6-9 points that Shay Given used to earn them. Sol Campbell will obviously bring some much needed experience, but can he do it week in and week out still? Dan Gosling was another free signing to help add some strength to the team but he’s still relatively inexperienced, and he is very similar to what they have already in terms of style, they still lack a creative player that can help unlock defences with one pass.
The other teams that will more than likely be sucked in to a relegation battle will be teams like Wigan, who were close to trouble last season but were saved by the fact they had teams around them that weren’t as good, however with Victor Moses, Hugo Rodellaga, Mauro Boselli, James McArthur & James McCarthy they have good options going forward but there defence could be a big problem like last year, Gary Caldwell isn’t a Premiership player and it will be interesting to see who replaces Titus Bramble who isn’t the best defender but is still pretty solid. Chris Kirkland could also be another key player but with his injury record he will more than likely be in and out of the team instead of a regular fix, Maynor Figueroa is a good defender but that might not be enough to keep them up – I think their saving grace will be stealing sneaky wins by the odd goal.

West Ham could be another interesting one as well; their current owners seem more obsessed with talking about unrealistic targets (Van Niestelrooy, Beckham, and Neymar) or having a go at other teams for trying to buy their players (Spurs & Parker) when they’ve done exactly the same thing previously (Dorrens at West Brom). What they seem to have missed is the fact they need to invest in some sensible squad players to make sure they have enough cover in their team and although Hitzlsperger & Piquionne are good buys the main problem for West Ham last season, well it was pretty much all over, but their defence was shaky at best, Upson isn’t the rock he once was and Rob Green was responsible for more individual errors than any goal keeper last season so they need to improve their defence as people like Jonathan Spector isn’t a good enough defender and they are short of cover from there really. People like Benni McCarthy, Luis Boa Morte & Kieron Dyer are either not good enough or unfit and getting a squad to cover these players should be a must.

I Think Wolves and Bolton are the only other teams that could have problems, although Wolves signing Stephen Fletcher adds more fire power up front and takes some of the pressure off Kevin Doyle, they still need a creative option in midfield although McCarthy is confident the return to fitness of Knightly should provide them with much needed service. Bolton also need some more creative players although Owen Coyle seems keen on bringing back Jack Wilshere back on loan to the club which could help them, I personally think with Coyle in charge they will have a better start to this season and should avoid being sucked in to a relegation battle.

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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Early Preview of Premier League (Part 3)

Manchester United

Ongoing story - With Vidic committing his future to the club with a new 'long term deal' the main story is around the clubs finances or more importantly Fergie's sudden reluctance to splash the cash. David Gill has declared the money is there if he wants to spend but Fergie says the market isn't right, couple this with the recent revelations regarding season ticket sales & MUST's campaign things aren't looking as great as they once were for Untied off the pitch


Javier Hernandez (From Chivas Guadalajara, undisclosed but rumoured to be £7m up to £12m with add no’s)
When Man Utd announced his signing it caught a lot of people by surprise, he was a relative ‘unknown’ so a lot of research was done on you tube etc to find out more and realise that actually he looked pretty good. I watch some clips of him on a website and he’s clearly got something about him, a great first touch and excellent eye for goal and he showed this in the World Cup, scoring a couple of lovely goals against France & Argentina respectively and showing a glimpse of what could come next season

Chris Smalling (From Fulham, undisclosed rumoured around £7m)

The young English defender has had an incredible rise, coming from non league football with Maidstone United to Manchester United via Fulham. A couple of shaky games for Fulham after the deal was agreed and giving away a penalty against Celtic on his United debut but fans will remember the shaky starts Vidic & Evra had before becoming rocks for the team. A solid defender considered the long term partner for J.Evans once Vidic & Rio start getting on


Zoran Tosic (To CSKA Moscow, undisclosed but rumoured around £7m) Signed at the same as Adem Ljajic (who’s deal later collapsed) but never really hit the heights expected of him as he failed to develop physically as the club would have liked, should have more luck in Russia
Key Player – Wayne Rooney without a doubt, United will need him firing like last season if they’re to win the title, although an injury free defence would probably make a difference although that’s less likely to happen

My expectations – I think if Rooney stays fit and carries on improving United should win the league, they would have won it last year had it not been for the awful defensive injuries they had to deal with. With a mixture of youth & experience I can see United winning back the title so I’m going with 1st this season

Newcastle United

Ongoing story
– Mike Ashley is still owner of the club despite the best efforts of the Geordie faithful to try and oust him from the club, the hatred for him was slightly forgotten by a successful season last season however you can bet if money isn’t spent and the club struggle the fans will turn on him first chance they get. With very little to no funds coming from the chairman Chris Houghton is having to try and get loan deals or free transfers


Dan Gosling (From Everton for free) a brilliant buy for Newcastle, although after his behaviour with Everton over his contract they will have to keep an eye on him in that respect. A versatile player that can play as a central midfielder, right midfielder, right full back or centre back, he played mainly as a box to box midfielder and could prove a good addition to the squad.

Sol Campbell (Free from Arsenal) After much speculation the ex Tottenham & Arsenal centre back signed for Newcastle, whilst he is a very experienced centre back age isn’t on his side and whilst he did a job for Arsenal last season I’m not sure if he can do it week in week out against some of the top players he will have to face. Time will tell though and Sol does have a habit of proving doubters wrong.


Nicky Butt (Free transfer/retired) He was released at the end of his contract under the impression he was going to retire however has recently been offered by Preston, either way age wasn’t on his side and he probably couldn’t keep up with the pace of the Premiership.

Key player – Joey Barton is a player who has shown lots of potential but has never been able to adjust his attitude accordingly, this could be his last chance with a Premiership club but he needs to take his chance. Alan Smith is also an important player for the team, covering every blade of grass for the team in midfield but Steven Taylor will be the key at the heart of the defence, if the team are going to stay up he needs to be at his very best

My expectations – This is basically the same team that got relegated in 07/08 except the fact they’ve lost Viduka, Owen & Martins, when players like Andy Carroll or Shola Ameobi where called up on they fell pretty short of the mark, I know it’s been a full season since then however I feel that a squad that has a backbone of Harper, Coloccini, Smith, Gutierrez & Ameobi could be in for a real struggle this season and I think they might be the 3rd team to go down in 18th place

Stoke City

Ongoing story – Stoke continue to defy their critics and have almost established themselves as a mid table premiership team. A Solid fan base with a sensible owner and manager things are very solid, Stoke will try pushing for a higher league spot but will always look over their shoulders to make sure they aren’t getting dragged in to a relegation battle.


Florent Cuvelier – (From Portsmouth for free) The 17 year old Belgium midfielder was wanted by top clubs up and down the country before signing for Stoke, not ready for first team action yet he’s one for the future and should be able to develop well at Stoke

Carlo Nash
– (Free, unattached) Back up keeper who has had quite a few clubs, he’s brought in as cover for Sorensen & Begovic


Amdy Faye – (Free) released following injury problems, helped establish Stoke in the top flight but struggled last season with injuries

Andy Griffin – (Free to Reading) spent the second half of last season on loan with Reading after not playing for Stoke since his very public bust up with Ricardo Fuller, he settled in well at Reading and made the move permanent this summer

Key Player – Ryan Shawcross is the rock in the defence, a key player linked with top clubs but happy to stay at Stoke. His form was so good last season he was mentioned for an England place but the tackle on Aaron Ramsey seemingly put an end to that. Matthew Etherington is a key player going forward for the team, he’s one of their main attacking outlets and his trickery on the wings helps set up chances for the team

My Predictions
– Stoke should be in mid table again this season, I don’t think they’ll be dragged in to a relegation battle and a finish between 10th & 12th this season should be considered a good season


Ongoing story – Steve Bruce will be looking to improve on last season, after starting the season so well Sunderland hit problems after the beach ball incident against Liverpool and whilst finishing comfortably in mid table they would have been hoping for a higher finish and will be going for it this season


Cristian Riveros (from Cruz Azul for free) – A hard working midfielder who can play on the left or in his preferred position in the middle, spent most of the world cup playing in the middle for Paraguay showing great stamina as well as scoring 2 goals against Slovakia, Steve Bruce has a record of signing good players in this mould & from this area so lots expected

Marcos Angeleri (from Estudiantes for £1.5m) – An Argentine right back who has good pace, 3 caps for Argentina under Maradona he was voted in the top-ten in the 2008 edition of the south American footballer of the year award. Will add an attacking option down the right and with his pace is good at tracking back and not being caught out

Titus Bramble (from Wigan for £1m)
– enjoyed a revival under Bruce at Wigan before Bruce left, didn’t have a great season last season so will be hoping that re-joining his former boss will help him once again. On his day he’s good at reading the game and a solid tackler sadly his day doesn’t come as often as people thought it might when he was younger

Ahmed Al-Muhammadi (from ENPPI on loan) regarded as a future star for Egypt he’s come on loan the Sunderland for Bruce to take a closer look at him after already having him on trial, the deal has an option for a £2m purchase at the end. Originally a striker but now a tricky winger with a bit of pace about him as well the only questions seem to be over his temperament & end product.

Simon Mignolet (from Sint-Truidense, undisclosed but reports around £2m) Sunderland beat teams including PSV, Twente & Udinese to sign the young Belgian keeper. At only 21 he’d already made over 100 appearances for Sint-Truidense and 4 appearances for the national U-21 team as well before Sunderland came knocking, one for the future but big things expected from him back home


Darryl Murphy (to Celtic for undisclosed, rumoured around £1.5m), a striker who started well at Sunderland but was soon frozen out the squad before joining Ipswich on loan.

Myron Newsworthy (Sheffield United on loan) spent second half of last season on loan at Sheaf Utd and after being told he didn’t feature in Steve Bruce’s first team plans he’s returned on loan

Key Player – Craig Gordon was having a great season until he broke his arm against Spurs last year and he’s done the same in pre-season but if he can get back to full fitness he could be valuable, the same could be said of Lee Cattermole although he has to be careful with suspensions as well as injury but Darren Bent’s goals will be all important and Bruce will be praying he stays injury free.

My Prediction – Middle table is a must for Bruce to justify his spending, could see them finishing around 10th this season provided they don’t lose key players to injury

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Early Preview of Premier League (Part 2)


Ongoing Story - As League champions Chelsea don't have to many concerns, although their aging squad has caused them to look to invest it younger players, starting with Neymar. West Ham bid for the Santos youngster with rumours that Chelsea were behind the deal with some sort of arrangement however Chelsea now seem to be interested in buying him out right. Injuries also seem to be an ongoing story, with Cech & Drogba missing the first week or two of the season


Yossi Benayoun (From Liverpool £5.5m)
- A creative player to replace Joe Cole, will probably have most impact off the bench, offering an alternative to the usual style of midfielder that Chelsea have

Matej Delač (From Inter Zaprešić £2.7m)
A young Bosnian goalkeeper that Chelsea actually agreed a deal for after the England v Croatia game in September 2009, defiantly one for the future he Definitely will spend this season on loan at Inter Zaprešić to continue his development. One for the future at only 17 and big things are expected from this young keeper

Tomáš Kalas (From Sigma Olomouc for £5.2m) Another 17 year old, he's a very highly rated center back signed from Sigma Olomouc and then loaned straight back out to them. Got sent off in the U-17 final against Greece, another one for the future


Joe Cole (To Liverpool for free)
The summers big Bosman deal, once it became clear Cole & Chelsea couldn't agree a deal he was linked to a whole host of clubs, from Man Utd, Arsenal, A.C Milan to West Ham but eventually he joined Liverpool in what was basically a swap for Yossi Benayoun, both players being very similar

Michael Ballack (To Bayer Leverkusen for free) Another player who couldn't agree a contract, he reportedly wanted a 2 year deal but was only offered a 1 year deal and left the club to return to his former club on a free.

Juliano Belletti (To Fluminense for free) Another elder player who wasn't offered a new deal, never more than a fringe player at the club and at 34 with the club looking towards youth it wasn't really a surprise when the club announced they wouldn't be renewing his contract

Miroslav Stoch (To Fenerbache for £5m) A surprise leaver this summer, at 20 seemed to fit the new 'young' policy at Chelsea and after an excellent season on loan at FC Twente last season he seemed ready to step in, but clearly he wasn't in line for as much first team football as he wanted, an exciting attacking midfielder it wouldn't surprise me to see him back in a major European league soon

Key Player - After last season you can't look further than Drogba, if he can hit the same form as last season then he will terrorise defences up and down the country and through out Europe, although Cech's importance to the team can't be underestimated - their rough patch last season was whilst he was injured

My predictions - As usual Chelsea will be challenging on all fronts, although missing key players like Drogba & Cech at the start of the season could hamper them they will still be there or there abouts come the end of the season. I think the problem in their squad is the age, a lot of the key players aren't getting any younger i think they will finish 2nd this season


Ongoing Story - the search for new investment. Bill Kenwright has said for years that he can't take the club to the next level they need to go to and that someone with deeper pockets needs to come in. This means very few new signings and leads David Moyes to yet again be expected to work miracles. Another problem could be Mikel Arteta apparently wanting to leave for a bigger club


Jermaine Beckford (From Leeds, for free) Another Bosman signing that rolled on for a while, it was obvious in January that Beckford wanted to leave Leeds and when Newcastle came calling he had his bags packed but Newcastle refused to meet the valuation and Beckford was stuck, although he made in quite clear he wouldn't be signing a new deal Leeds took a gamble on his goals helping fire them back to the Championship and they did, and in return he got a move to a big premiership club, it'll be interesting to see how Moyes handles Beckford who allegedly has a bit of an ego on him

João Silva (undisclosed, reportedly around £1.2m from Aves)
Made his debut last season at 20 and went on to finish top scorer in the Portuguese 2nd division with 14 goals in 28 games, might take time to adapt to the premier league but is an explosive striker with an eye for goal

Magaye Gueye (undisclosed, reportedly £1m from Strasbourg) Another 20 year old striker who was born in France to Senegalese parents, a quick player who impressed in the ligue 1 before picking up a knee injury he's already made 2 appearances for Everton on their pre-season tour of Australia scoring his first goal in his 2nd appearance against Brisban Roar


Dan Gosling (To Newwcastle, free transfer) After only agreeing a contract verbally but not in writing Gosling decided to walk away from Goodison park and join Newcastle for more first team chances, a big loss to Everton as him and Rodwell were considered key future players. Everton will not be making the mistake of taking players at their word again

Key Player - Tim Cahill is the heartbeat to everything, capable of scoring goals with his head or either foot the Australia has an excellent work rate which has made him a fans favourite with the toffee's fans

My Prediction - after an awful start to the season last year Everton recovered to finish 8th and only 2 points behind Liverpool, if they can make a better start this year a EUROPA league spot isn't out of the question, i think they'll finish either 6th or 7th


Ongoing story
- after weeks of speculation Roy Hodgson left to join Liverpool leaving the managerial most vacent, the leading candidates right now appear to be Sven Goran Eriksson or Bob Bradley after Martin Jol decided to stay at Ajax, who ever takes on the job expectations will be high after Hodgson's last 2 season in charge.


Philippe Senderos (From Arsenal for Free) Signed on a Bosman after Arsenal didn't offer him a new contract, well known to English fans he's certainly not a top 4 defender but might be able to find some form and confidence at a club with less pressure

Jonathan Greening (From West Brom for Free) Another Bosman signing after spending last season on loan at Fulham and became an important part of the team making 23 league appearances, he can play anywhere across the midfield


Stefano Okaka & Nicky Shorey have both left after loan spells and the club chose not to sign them permanently.

Chris Smalling (To Man Utd undisclosed but reportedly around £7m) A young defender who is very highly rated, came through non league football at Maidstone Utd making 12 appearances before Fulham signed him, he then made 13 appearances over 2 years before joining Man Utd.

Erik Nevland (to Viking FK for free) returned to the club he's spent 3 seperate spells at already, made over 50 appearances for Fulham over an 18 month spell but mostly off the bench

Mark Schwarzer is also reportedly on his way to Arsenal but it all depends on the the new manager

Key Player - Brede Hangeland had an impressive debut season and followed that up with a solid second season to become an integral part of the back line, Danny Murphy is also important in the midfield pulling the strings of attack but the key player is Bobby Zamora, who's incredible form last season is well documented, would have made the England 30 man squad had it not been for injury both himself and the Fulham fans will hope he can keep his form going this season

My prediction - with a new manager due in i don't expect Fulham to have a repeat of the last 2 seasons with cup or league runs, however i don't expect them to get into relegation trouble. 12th place last season seems like a realistic expectation and i think anything 14th - 10th is a respectable season for the team.


Ongoing story - Stability finally seems to have been bought with the appointment of Roy Hodgson as well as captain Steven Gerrard committing his future to the club. Question marks still surround Fernando Torres & Javier Mascherano with the later expected to leave soon. Of course the main question mark is over the American owners and when they will leave having saddled the club with debt and overseeing one of the worst season's this decade, the fans will be glad to see the back of them


Joe Cole (From Chelsea for free) An excellent signing as he will bring a creative spark to the team that was so lacking it last season, also helping persuade Gerrard to stay on as this was the sort of signing he felt met his ambition, but after a stuttering last 2 years which saw him endure patchy form and suffer with injuries it will be interesting to see if he can last the whole season and provide the fans with the flair they so crave

Milan Jovanović (From Standard Liège for free)
a left winger signed for free after an impressive spell for Standard Liège with a conversion rate of nearly a goal every other game, turned down the chance to join Real Madrid last summer he decided his future lay elsewhere after he was isolated from his team mates last season following a row with the manager and team mates on the pitch, will be interesting to see how quickly he settles at the club - nicknamed the snake for his fast movement both on and off the ball

Jonjo Shelvey (From Charlton for £1.7m)
a youngster not expected to make an immediate impact, had an excellent 18 months at Charlton, establishing himself in the team at only 17 before Liverpool came calling, if he does feature this season it will be from the bench but an exciting 18 year old prospect for the future

Danny Wilson (From Rangers for £2m, £5m with add on's)
another 18 year old, voted Scottish FWA & PFA young player of the year last year he formed an excellent defensive partnership with veteran David Weir in his debut season, a quick & intelligent defender he's bought in to put pressure on Carragher & Agger this season and will probably be the long term replacement for Carragher once he retires


Emiliano Insúa (To Fiorentina £5m) although this deal isn't done yet they are just going through the formalities, with the deal expected to be done in the next few weeks. A good attacking fullback but was exposed for his defensive frailties a bit to often

Albert Riera (To Olympiacos £5m) After that rant at previous boss Rafa Benitez it was widely expected Riera would leave, after a flop spell at Man City he was given a second chance in the premier league and after a pretty solid debut season he became pretty average again, won't be missed to much

Fábio Aurélio (released) failed to agree a new deal with Liverpool and currently on a free, started off well after following Benitez from Valencia to Liverpool injuries soon became all to frequent, he was offered a pay as you play deal but rejected it saying he needed more stability in his career, wouldn't surprise me to see him pop up at Inter following Benitez once again

Yossi Benayoun - (To Chelsea for £5.5m) Had an excellent debut season with Liverpool after moving from West Ham however found himself well down the pecking order last season with Benitez seemingly ignoring him despite being the obvious answer to the lack of creativity in the team. He vented his frustrations at the end of the season and despite Benitez leaving had his heart set on a move to Stamford Bridge.

Key Player - if he can stay injury free then Torres will provide the goals Liverpool need, however he's already set to miss up to a month of the season with a groin injury he picked up in the World Cup final. Of course Steven Gerrard will be a key figure, expected to save Liverpool if and when they need it, he is the heartbeat of not only the midfield but the club

My prediction
- Liverpool are a tough one, i don't think Joe Cole will provide the difference they need to make up the gap from them to 4th from last season but having someone like Hodgson at the helm could make the difference as he isn't as stubborn as Rafa. However with out the investment they so desperately need to bridge the ever growing gap from them to Man City & Spurs i think the best they can hope for is a EUROPA league spot, i think they'll either finish 6th or 7th all depending on injuries

Man City

Ongoing story - the endless bags of money being thrown around by Sheik Monsour and the club seems to be a good place to start, or upsetting Aston Villa for the second season in a row this time by chasing James Milner, and they've already spent £100m this summer for the 2nd summer in a row.


Jérôme Boateng (From Hamburg, undisclosed rumoured to be £10m)
The second Boateng to land in this country following brother Kevin-Prince, another center back who can also play as left or right back. The interesting thing will be to see who he starts instead of, whilst he is effective as a back up full back against a top class team he struggles, so will he start over Lescott or Toure? After both had very average season's he'll be given a chance at one of their expense's.

Yaya Toure (From Barcelona, undisclosed rumoured to be £28m) a pricey deal for a player that didn't really play much last season but clubs are taking City for every penny they've got, a truly class addition to the squad although again at who's expense? City have a large number of holding midfielders (De Jong, Kompany, Barry, Viera) and a versatile player as well, can also play as a center back or slightly higher than defensive midfielder.

David Silva (From Valencia, undisclosed rumoured to be £24m) an interesting one, Silva said he wouldn't leave Valencia for another team unless they had champions league football then promptly turned up at Man City (sounds like Gareth Barry again...) a very small but creative player, can play on either wing or as an advanced midfielder, a good dribbler but not such a great crosser as seen in his World Cup, he started against Switzerland but was dropped for the rest of the tournament (except for a brief sub appearance against Germany) as he bore most of the criticism for not really providing much to the team. A good signing but he may take time to settle and adjust to the different style of football

Aleksandar Kolarov (From Lazio, undisclosed rumoured to be £16m) A left back capable of playing in left midfield, he is known for his runs down the left wing and his powerful shot, certainly coming in at Wayne Bridge's expense this is a player that has been linked to quite a few top clubs after being a standout player in a poor Lazio team. Again one they probably paid slightly over the odds for but like Yaya Toure he is a truly class addition to the squad and should settle in quickly as fast paced & physical football suits his style


Martin Petrov (To Bolton for free) not a huge surprise, although he quickly became a fan favourite falling out with the management with both Hughes & Mancini didn't help matters. Not considered a big enough name for the team since Mansour bought the club it was only a matter of time

Benjani (released) no club has come in for him yet but found himself far down the pecking order so no surprise really when City didn't offer him a new contract.

Sylvinho (released) again not a surprise as at 35 his best days are behind him, with the arrival of Kolarov he was no longer needed

Valeri Bojinov (To Parma, undisclosed rumoured to be £6m) Came to City with high hopes but a succession of injuries soon disrupted him, was on loan at Parma last season and helped them stay in Serie A so no surprise the Italians wanted to keep him

Key player - Emmanuel Adebayor will be expected to get the goals City need to challenge for the top 4 just as Shay Given will be expected to keep the goals out however i think the key man here will be Mancini and how he controls the ego's in that dressing room as well as keeping all the players happy, right now City have a massive squad and will need to trim some players or it could result in a bad dressing room atmosphere.

My Prediction
- If Mancini can keep things in check and everyone happy then they could well finish 4th, however i don't think this will happen. They are chopping and changing to many players and are choosing luxury players over work horses (i.e Silva over Bellamy) and i think they will finish 5th again this season, but have every chance of picking up a trophy like a domestic cup or even the EUROPA league

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Early Preview of Premier League (Part 1)


Ongoing story

After finishing 3rd last season the last thing Arsene Wenger would have wanted would be another media circus around his key player Cesc Fabregas but given his history and the never ending need for the media to have something to print the Barca/Cesc link has refused to go away with Fabregas even saying that he has his heart set on Barcelona, however Wenger has stayed firm and it seems Arsnenal's stance coupled with Barcelona's financial trouble seems to have staved off any potential sale this summer, however i fully expect Fabregas & Wenger to have come to an agreement like Ronaldo & Ferguson did with one more season then Cesc will go to Barca.


Marouane Chamakh (Free from Bordeaux) A powerful and quick striker, he's been coverted by a number of clubs for a over a year since he shot to prominence in 08/09 helping Bordeaux win the French league with 13 goals and end Lyon's 7 year winning streak however had his heart set on a move to Arsenal which he completed this summer on a Bosman. He is a highly though of talent and at 26 still has some good years ahead of him, however question marks will be raised over how quickly he can adapt and more importantly can he live up to the 20+ goals a season Arsenal need from a striker? his record of 56 league goals in 230 league appearances isn't overly impressive but with more creative players supporting him he might just be able to replace Adebayor's goals that Arsenal missed last season

Laurent Koscielny (undisclosed, reported to be between £8m-£10m from Lorient)
Another player with French roots (as well as being eligible for Poland thanks to his Polish roots) he is unproven at the top level but does have time on his side as he is only 24. He is a powerful defender who also possesses great anticipation and awareness of the situation around him and is given credit as one of the reasons the unfancied Lorient finished 7th in Ligue 1 last season. Expected to slot in next to Vermaelen next season at the heart of the Arsneal defence, like his centre back partner did at the start of last season he will have to settle in very quickly.


Fran Merida (Free to Atletico Madrid) After all the hype and court case's around him joining Arsneal (he had to pay Barca just under £3m after walking out on them) he's failed to live up to expectations and also cited home sickness in his decision to return back to Spain. Whilst his junior team mate Fabregas's career has flourished Merida's career has stalled slightly and at the age of 20 will be hoping he gets his break through next season

Phillipe Senderos (Free to Fulham)
Another player that's run down his contract after hitting a brick wall at Arsnenal. When he first joined the club big things were expected after starting off well however after a while of not progressing he fell out with Arsene Wenger and spent loan spells with A.C Milan & Everton before leaving in search of first team football

Eduardo (Undisclosed, reportedly £6m, to Shakhtar Donetsk) After scoring against England in 2006 Eduardo came to the attention of the Premiership and ended up signing for Arsenal in 2007 and settled in well, however a horrific injury picked up in February 2008 ruled him out for a year. The start of the following season he was marred in controversy when UEFA charged him with 'deliberately deceiving the referee' and banned which was later over turned on appeal, although many around the Arsenal camp feel he wasn't the same after his horror injury and this incident and a move was on the cards with the interest in Chamakh

Arsenal are also reportedly close to signing Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer as a player/coach for around £3m who is expected to be bought in to help bring on Wojciech Szczęsny as Wenger has reportedly lost faith with Almunia & Fabianski

Key Player
- Without a doubt Cesc Fabregas, heartbeat of the midfield and main creative player, although Robin Van Persie needs to stay injury free as without him Arsenal struggle for goals

Prediction - If, as i expect, Arsenal hold on to Cesc Fabregas then a top 4 finish is a certain, i expect them to be very similar to position to the last 2 years, challenging with Man Utd & Chelsea until February/March time then the lack of depth in there squad costs them. I expect them to finish 3rd again this season

Aston Villa

Ongoing story
- Martin O'Neill (and Villa fans) must be sick of Manchester City. Last summer it was Gareth Barry and this season it's James Milner, speculation (as usual fuelled by the media) has been running rampant that Milner wants to leave and during the World Cup he was very non-committal on his future however after England elimination he held a meeting with O'Neill & owner Randy Learner and expressed a desire to leave the club, however after last summer Villa are in no mood to be receptive either to Milner or City, standing fast on their valuation of £30m and reportedly rejecting two bids (for £20m & £23m) leaving Milner now stuck in limbo, he's stuck his neck out trying to get a move and if City look elsewhere he could be stuck at Villa for next season with some very angry Villa fans on his case.

Players In
- none so far, Villa have been linked to several players but nothing concreate has happened although i put this down more to Martin O'Neill's ability to keep bids out of the press as well as focusing his time on the Milner situation

Players Out - only one name of note, Wilfred Bouma who came over with a great reputation from PSV but, sadly, was a victim of another horror injury and after missing the last 2 season's Villa decided not to renew his contract

Key Player
- assuming Milner goes the form and fitness of Gabriel Agbonlahor & Ashley Young could be key, they didn't have great seasons last season and O'Neill will be looking for them to step up

My Prediction
- if the defence stays as solid and dependable as last season & Agbonlahor and Young hit form then a EUROPA league spot should be nailed on, however i think it would take Spurs & City to self destruct spectacularly for them to challenge for 4th this season. A repeat of 6th wouldn't be a tragedy and i expect them to finish their or their abouts.

Birmingham City

Ongoing Story
- Birmingham doesn't really have one this summer, the club has a lot of stability with Alex Mcleish as manager & Carson Yeung as owner, he came in saying that Birmingham had £40m to spend but that never really materialised and Birmingham were left competing at what realistically is considered their level, finishing well clear of the relegation zone in 9th but not troubling the teams above them for EUROPA league spaces.


Ben Foster (From Man Utd £6m) A good move for both the player and the club, after Joe Hart had such an excellent season on loan last year Man City were never going to let Birmingham keep him full time so Alex McCleish moved quickly to sign another young English keeper to fill the void. Foster has had a stop start career since moving to Man Utd and after a troubled start last season found himself relegated down the pecking order. Foster should be able to re-find his form and confidence behind a settled back four where expectations aren't to high

Nikola Zigic (From Valencia £6m) A towering striker at 6'7" he will bring a new aerial threat to the front line, although he struggled at Valencia he may well find Birmingham's style of football more to his liking, his ability to hold up the ball as well as winning headers higher up the pitch could help Birmingham improve, although i don't fancy him to score goals every week. After a poor World Cup he will have to overcome some sceptics early on

Enric Vallès (From NEC Breda for Free)
A youngster from the Barcelona youth academy he didn't quite make the grade and ended up joining NEC where he only made 5 appearances before McCleish moved on the advice or an agent who compared him to Albert Riera he signed a contract after a week long trial after being released from NEC. One for the future more than this season


Christian Benítez (returned after loan spell) Benitez was initially expected to sign for £6m before a medical revealed a knee problem, meaning Birmingham re-negotiated the deal, eventually taking the player on loan with an option to buy for £6m at the end of the season which the club decided not to take up so he's returned back to Santos Laguna

Gary McSheffrey (Free, Coventry City) returning to the club he started his career with it wasn't a surprise to see Birmingham not renewing his contract after 2 loan spells at Notts Forrest (2009) & Leeds Utd (2010).

My Prediction - Don't think they've quite got whats needed to finish higher than 9th this season again, expect them to be around mid table and another finish in 9th would be considered a good season

Blackburn Rovers

Ongoing Story - The long drawn out saga of being taken over by Indian tycoon Saurin Shah who has been in talks to take over the club from the 'Jack Walker Trustees' who have basically run out of cash to invest, using money from last season's 10th place to re-invest this summer. Shah has targeted the club given its large Asian population and has plans to link the club with the IPL which his uncle, Niranjan Shah, is the deputy chairman which he hopes will increase exposure of the club to an Asian fan base. Shah began the due diligence process after weeks of talks on the 12/7 and is expected to finalise a deal soon.


Only player bought this summer is little know Hugo Fernandez, a player coveted by top clubs in both Spain & England but decided on Rovers because of their professionalism - they sent Sam Allerdyce & Michael Salgardo to meet with the player and persuade him to come to England. He signs from Union Deportiva Cornella, a small club from Catalonia, and was so highly regarded that at one point Barcelona offered him a trial.


Steven Reid (Free to West Brom) A player who joined after a promising start to his career at Millwall however due to a number of injuries failed to live up to his potential, last season he spent on loan at West Brom so it was no surprise when he signed for them after Blackburn let him go for free

Yıldıray Baştürk (Free Transfer) Only made one appearance, failed to do what most older players do under Sam Allerdyce and turn back the clock.

Key Players

Paul Robinson has rediscovered some of the form that made him England No 1 although is helped by a settled solid defence in front of him, if David Dunn can keep fit he can be a key player but he spends more time in the treatment room than on the pitch. Morten Gamst Pederson can play a key role but Steven N'Zonzi, who had an excellent debut season for Rovers picking up the fans player of the year will be the key player for Rovers again

My Prediction - provided the key players stay injury free Blackburn should be safe from relegation, if a new owner is in place before the start of the season 'Big Sam' might be tempted to splash out and strengthen areas but i still see the team finishing mid table, somewhere between 10th & 12th.


Ongoing story - still celebrating an incredible promotion to the Premier League and working hard to make sure they have a stadium with four sides, the ongoing story is simply the fact that a team most people tipped for relegation from the Championship last season not only survived but got themselves promoted, surely not even Ian 'Ollie' Holloway can perform another miracle in keeping them up, can he?

PLAYERS IN - none to date, and this has to be a worry because the current squad won't be able to survive

PLAYERS OUT - no major players yet to leave

Key Player - Charlie Adam without a doubt, key to getting them promoted and scored very important goals

My prediction - if they don't break Derbys record for lowest ever points in a league season (11 07/08) that should be considered a success, although with Ollie in charge it certainly won't be a boring season, sadly though i predict them to finish 20th

Bolton Wanderers

Ongoing story - again a club that doesn't really have any on going stories except maybe their interest in tracking Jack Wilshire back on loan. Owen Coyle managed to guide the team to a solid 14th place although only finishing 9 points clear of the relegation zone will be a great concern to the club.


Robbie Blake (Free from Burnley) Owen Coyle didn't take long to go back and swoop for one of his favoured players, although at 34 he can't be expected to be a key player for the team and has probably been bought in thanks to his versatility and loyalty to Coyle

Martin Petrov (Free from Man City) Another 'elder' out of contract player that Coyle has bought in, although at 31 he will probably have more of an impact that Robbie Blake. An explosive player who can play either wings he started well in his City career before the Abu Dabi takeover saw him relegated to the bench and out of the squad after criticising then manager Mark Hughes, he could be an important addition to the squad


Ricardo Vaz Te (Free to Panionios) looked like a promising youngster when he first broke through with Bolton however failed to live up to expectations and was reduced to a bit part player from the bench

Key Players - Although constantly criticised by opposition fans Kevin Davies has established himself as an excellent holding striker and works hard for the full 90 mins of a game, his work rate earning him fans player of the year last season. Gary Cahill is an excellent center back who they sorely missed last year after a freak injury, he along with Jussi Jääskeläinen form the key part of the Bolton defence and to keep clear of the relegation zone they will need these players in key form.

My Prediction - Not to be sucked in to a relegation scrap would be considered a good season but i get the feeling they will be back amongst the bottom teams this season. However with Owen Coyle in charge they have a good chance of surviving and i would expect them to finish around 14th/15th this season

Friday, 16 July 2010

Review of the World Cup

So the World Cup is over, like a summer holiday it has come and gone to quickly and we are left with nothing but the memories - another French revolution, a failed English revolution, South Americans crumbling, Injuries and controversies left right and center. Here i plan to look at the good, the bad and the down right ugly


One of the main highlights, for me anyway, was seeing Spain finally confirming themselves as the best International team on the planet, becoming 3rd team in history to hold the Euro & World cup and the 2nd to do it this way round (Germany Euros '72 & World Cup '74) & France (World Cup '98 & Euros 2000). I read many articles and comments about how Spain were boring and how they weren't playing entertaining football, i thought the only problem with the Spain games where the fact that every team seemed to adopt the same approach which was sitting deep and trying to hit Spain on the counter, which clearly didn't work. Torres lacking fitness was a problem as they wanted to use him in tandem with Villa but Torres looked sluggish through out the tournament and clearly wasn't at his sharpest & fittest and broke down in the final to prove this, although an interesting little fact was the only time Villa didn't score was when Torres didn't start.

Another highlight for me was Uruguay, a team who i greatly admire for their history, surprising quite a few people and getting to the Semis and being part of a cracking game against Holland. I said they would be dark horses at the start of the tournament and really lived up to it, playing some very nice football and the attacking qualities of Forlan & Suarez were one of the joys of the tournament, Forlan rightfully picking up the Golden Ball for the best player and i think that's pretty justified. They also had some excellent fans, some quality players in Lugano, Godin, Fucile & Pereira and one of the best national anthems at the tournament.

Their was also quite a few cracking goals scored in the World Cup, and the tournament started off with a cracker, Siphiwe Tshabalala scoring a beautiful left footed thunderbolt from just inside the area, Oezil scored another long range shot in the Germany v Ghana game from just outside the edge of the area teeing himself up lovely with a little touch then powering the ball home. The last good goal from the group stage, that i can think of anyway, is the 2nd Italian goal against Slovakia by Fabio Quagliarella, the ball falls to him about 25 yards out and with the most sublime chip manages to dink it over the keeper and drag Italy back into the game. After the group stage we saw another cracking goal from Tevez against Mexico, he actually lost the ball trying to play a pass to Messi, the ball bounced off a defender and back to him and he hit a lovely shot combining power and accuracy to unleash a near 25 yard shot in to the keepers top left corner. In my opinion the only other 2 goals to be considered are the Van Bronkhorst strike against Uruguay, he was pretty much on the left wing about 35 yards out, took two touches to cut inside and let rip, the ball flying past everyone and crashing into the goal off the post and the other goal would be Forlans in the 3rd/4th place play off, a lovely cross came in and Forlan caught it on the volley on the edge of the area, thumping the ball into the ground and the bounce fooling German keeper Butt as the ball sailed past him into the goal. I personally think Van Bronkhorst's is the best goal at the World Cup closely followed by Tevez's against Mexico.

My final highlight was the lack of predictability at this years world cup, yes i know Spain won and they were one of the favourites but the fact is they are still the first European team to win outside of Europe which is a big achievement. Aside from that i look at the Semi finals and never saw any of the teams, bar maybe Spain, being there - i was expecting 1, maybe 2 South American teams but never expected the only one to be Uruguay, it was also nice to see Holland their and i never expected Germany to get that far. Even the Spanish had a surprising result losing to Switzerland in the first game although i think that provided them with the kick they needed to realise they couldn't just turn up and expect to win no problem. No one saw Algeria drawing with England, New Zealand being the only unbeaten team all tournament, Italy losing to Slovenia and finishing bottom of their group, the French blowing up so spectacularly, South Africa being 2 goals away from going through, Brazil struggling to beat North Korea or a German missing a penalty.

Yes it may not have started off at a blistering pace but come the semi finals i was really enjoying things and will genuinely hold fond memories of this world cup.

Special mentions - Robbie Earle & his participation in getting 30 scantily clad women in to a game, Paul the Octopus (but not the other animals that tried to steal his crown), John Terry eating humble pie & the giant dung beetle during the opening ceremony

Another highlight for me was the 'mute' button on my T.V remote which got a frequent work out thanks to a mixture of abysmal punditry teams & commentators or that horrible noise of Vuvuzelas. Just to make one thing clear, i have absolutely no problem with African culture or what they want to do at their football games but this notion of 'its part of their culture' is absolute crap. The Vuvuzala came to prominence in 2002 - yes, that's right 8 years ago, and was only really used at Church's before this so no its not part of the African 'football culture' that Sepp Blatter told us it was vital to, the reason he said this? What a shocker, the vuvuzelas all have FIFA logo's on them meaning FIFA get a percentage of the money made from these sails, his exact quote was "we should not try to Europeanise an African World Cup ... that is what African and South Africa football is all about — noise, excitement, dancing, shouting and enjoyment" correct me if I'm wrong but isn't that what football all around the world is about?! Somehow its managed for over 100 years with out them and I'm pretty sure football will carry on OK without them......

Moving on from annoying monotone sounds to....annoying monotone sounds this time provided by T.V coverage from the wonderful BBC & ITV pundits & commentators. Starting with the BBC which i thought was the lesser of 2 evils, Gary Lineker was nothing special but his usual steady self on air although he does need to stop acting like Alan Hansen & Alan Shearer are just his mates and we the viewer are eavesdropping on their conversation. Hansen was the same guy he's been for the last 15 years, offering good defensive insight into the game but not really offering anything we haven't heard before. Shearer is just boring and monotonous, the more i listen to him the less interested i get in what he has to say. Those where the main pundits, we also had to endure the ramblings of Emmanuel Adebayor who made sense about 1 in 10 words - the guy made no sense at all and the only thing that stands out about him was his phone going off whilst he was talking in the Japan v Cameroon game, he should never be allowed near a microphone again. Lee Dixon is another one who seems to just make up the numbers, offering nothing insightful or beneficial to the discussions and pretty much stating the obvious and just generally agreeing with anything people like Hansen & Shearer would say (especially in the final).

However the BBC had two ace's up their sleeves with Clarence Seedorf & Jurgen Klinsmann who genuinely offered insightful thoughts & observations which were very useful in both setting expectations and pointing out things to watch out for during the game but sadly these guys were rarely used, as Holland & Germany progressed these guys should have been used more often but instead Seedorf was used at half time & full time for quick comments and Klinsmann just seemed to vanish, probably back to the U.S. Roy Hodgson was another one that was very good although he returned to England after the group games and it was interesting to see a current manger offering insightful thoughts to the game although this shouldn't be taken as a given, Mick McCarthy showed that not all managers make good pundits/commentators as he was awful, in the Nigeria Argentina game he seemed to loose his rag on air at a T.V crew & in the Brazil Ivory coast game he said 'i wish someone would just elbow somebody' personifying just whats wrong with the English attitude towards football. It was a shame to see Motty used sparingly, i understand he's not doing live commentary anymore although if he's out their he should do it because he's sorely missed, but still if your dragging someone out the South Africa given them more than 5 mins at the end of the show. I would talk about commentators but as most of the games i had the T.V on mute i wouldn't be able to say much!! Actually thinking about it, that's a lie - i had the audio on for Argentina v Germany and it took Mark Lawrenson about 20 mins to spot the fact that the reason for Germany's first goal was because the Argentinians didn't have anyone on the front post, so I'm guessing i didn't miss much in the way of insightful observations. Colin Murray was also a good host of the highlights show, proving both interesting and witty yet serious when the situation called for it and was certainly a refreshing break from Lineker & Chiles and it is surly a matter of time before he starts getting bigger roles

The ITV team was easily the most annoying though, a mixture of inaudible English provided by Edgar Davids (so bad he was relegated to James Cordons rubbish show) or Marcel Desailly (although hats off to him, his reactions in the Ghana games was excellent)and rubbish pundits starting with Andy Townsends awful insight which provided the viewer with no extra information and Gareth Southgate who is so boring i don't know what he provides (except constant ribbing about penalty shoot outs). Kevin Keegan wasn't to bad but i only saw him for one match. Again their was one gem in the dirt, Lucas Radabe offered some useful insight into the African mentality and what the whole thing meant to not only South Africa but Africa as a continent, although the highlight must have been Robbie Earle, who's mysterious disappearance from TV screens was explained when the story broke about the Bavarian beer trying to ambush advertise with a number of scantily clad women - turned out they used Earle's complimentary tickets to get in to the ground, somehow Robbie Earle managed to get nearly 50 free tickets a game?! He was delt with swiftly to avoid any FIFA action against ITV, but this is still the highlight of ITV's trip out to South Africa for me. Adrian Chiles went to ITV because he wanted to become a main presenter and proved BBC's decision to let him go was right by being one of the most boring presenters ever, nothing seemed to raise him from his boring flat tone and its no surprise that the BBC coverage of the final was more watched, the numbers nearly being 3-1 in BBC's favour

Although ITV's commentary team did show something that could be taken forward, when before the Holland v Uruguay semi final Jim Beglin was taken ill with an ear infection leaving Clive Tyldesley to commentate on his own and i found it much more beneficial, mainly because i believe Beglin brings nothing to the input, but also because having one voice making statements and observations was better than the game of '1 better' or 'I'll have the last word' we frequently see between commentators. Although i didn't like ITV's idea of having one of Southgate or Townsend commentating as well as being pundits, either to one job or the other we don't need your idiotic thoughts in both formats. The highlight for ITV though was missing Gerrard's first goal against the USA game on there HD channel, the first of 3 high profile blunders (Earle/Ticket scandal & Tyldesley being left on his own). To conclude the nightmare that was ITV after every evening game you got to endure 30 mins of James Cordons 'ego trip' which was just a very boring, very flat program - the guy was sub Tim Lovejoy and that's something.

My one final moan is at the players themselves, FIFA had a big push on the 'fair play' and 'spirt of the game' but this was not evident through most of the tournament and a few teams stood out in this respect, pretty much all the major teams disgraced themselves with petulant behaviour both on and off the pitch, the two major examples of this being France & England. The way the French players behaved during the world cup was disgraceful, any dressing room disagreement between a manger and a player should stay in the dressing room, yes these things get leaked out but to show such petulant behaviour was both a disgrace to football and their country & it will be interesting to see how Laurent Blanc & the FFF react to this when the next squad naming comes around. Although the England players are perceived as a disgrace for their attitude on the pitch & their lack of work ethic you can't criticise them for simply not being good enough, its not their fault its the system they've come through & ultimately this should lay at the feet of the F.A and EPL. However their is one clown who should be singled out for his behaviour and that is John Terry, more specifically the moronic press conference he held where he tried to stage a coup although I'm not quite sure what of, if he really thinks Capello will ever consider him for being captain again then he really is an idiot and I'm not quite sure what else he expected with that press conference. Either way he completely undermined the team spirit, the current captain & vice captain and at the end of the day Capello delivered him a bitch slap that resulted in him having to publicly come out and back down and more than anything he seemingly made Capello stick to his guns more than ever. I said before the world cup that Terry was a liability and if reports are to be believed his attitude during and after this press conference just drove a bigger split in the camp and it wouldn't surprise me if Capello either left him out the next squad or called him up and then made him sit on the bench to prove a point.

It's not just these 2 examples though, the Ivory Coast against Brazil were an absolute disgrace and Kaka's red card was just a joke along with the behaviour of their players, if they weren't rolling around feigning injury they were injuring the other teams players. Mark Van Bommel was another one, clearly the pace of the top games was beyond him so his answer was to kick the other players and somehow got away without a booking until the semi finals when he got booked for time wasting! The final was an example with Spain, the only team that really tried to play football in every game they where in, against a Holland team who's solution to the problems with the ball was to not worry about the ball and just kick the opposition up and down the pitch, then have the cheek to complain about the ref afterwards - for what? not sending De Jong off for showing Xabi Alonso his latest kung fu moves? or because Robben was very lucky not to get a second yellow? either way it showed the petulant nature of the whole tournament because the moment the players failed on the pitch it was everyone else's fault - Brazil are another example, complaining about Melo's red card for a very clear stamp on Robben, then Melo complains saying it wasn't a red card?

Despite the fact i will come away with more positive memories about the tournament it is a shame that the behaviour of certain players, teams & managers have tarnished the memory of this World Cup, and i get the feeling these problems won't go away overnight!

Thanks for reading

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Final.....

Well the World Cup is done and dusted and Spain are the new champions after a brutal and physical final.

This had been hyped as what, on paper anyway, should have been a classic final - the team that created 'total football' and the team that have been heavily influenced by the Dutch going head to head to decide which is the best footballing nation never to have won the World Cup. Sadly the Dutch hadn't read the script and decided that the best way to approach this game would be to hoof the Spanish up and down the pitch, inside 5 mins 3 fouls had been given against the Dutch and the attitude for the next 120 mins was set. The first 15 mins were pretty univentful, Kuyt hit a 25 yard shot after intercepting a poor Alonso back pass but scuffed it, Villa vollyed into the side neting from a corner and then the first yellow card came out, for a high and late lunge by Van Persie on Capdevilla, ten moments later Puyol joined him in the book for a rash tackle on Arjen Robben then on 22 mins the thing that should have happened about 6 games ago happened, Van Bommel was actaully booked for one of his countless number of fouls and it was a nasty tackle, he was very late on Xavi leaving the Spanish player in a heap, and as the clock hit 25 mins in Ramos got booked for catching Kuyts foot late. Sadly this is the theme the game pretty much took for the whole first half, the Dutch kicking anyone Spanish that had the ball that wasn't a defender (and that was only cause Van Persie was already on a yellow) and the Spanish happy to pass the ball around in defence, knock it forward to Xavi or Alonso before they quickly played it back to the defence before a wild challange came in.

One of the highlights of the next 20 mins was De Jong's kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso, that has reportedly left Alonso with cracked ribs, and only getting a yellow card for something that should have probably been a red. The only genuine show of sportsmanship was when the ball was put out so Puyol could get treatment after Casillas clattered him, the ball was returned but nearly bounced over Casillas and in!! He managed to finger tip the ball wide and the Dutch, sportingly, gave the ball back to Casillas but that was that as far as sporting behaviour went. Nothing much happened before half time, and although the English analysts apparently spent a while slagging off the Dutch and their attitude at half time, Spanish T.V were apparently baying for referee Howard Webb's blood after not showing Red's to De Jong, Van Bommel, Sneijder or anyone in an orange shirt that touched a Spanish player. Whilst i can see why they felt De Jong should have been sent off i think that's all they can complain about because none of the other tackles should really have been a red card, although Van Bommel was on very thin ice after a couple of fouls after his yellow.

The 2nd half kicked off and not alot changed either and it took 10 mins the next yellow card to be shown, Van Bronkhorst cynically blocking Ramos as he tried a one two around him and moments later Heitinga was booked for bringing down Villa, although this was the first one that probably could be considered harsh. By this point of the game the highlight seemed to be guessing how many fouls, yellow cards & red cards would be shown before the end. On the hour mark Pedro was taken off to be replaced by Jesus Navas to give the Spanish more natural width and it looked like a good idea but 60 seconds later the Dutch had an amazing chance, Robben 1 v 1 with Casillas and should have finsihed but tried to place it round the keeper however Casillas' outstretched foot managed to divert the ball round the post. If you'd have expected anyone on the Holland team to score than goal it would be Robben and he knew he'd blown a huge chance as he dropped to his knees clutching his head in his hands. 10 mins later and its the Spanish turn to be holding their heads in their hands, with Villa missing an incredible chance, Navas' cross from the right was low and hard across the Dutch 6 yard box which was missed by Heitinga and Villa was lurking, only to see his shot somehow saved by Stekelenberg.

The introduction of a naturally quick wide player by the Spanish seemingly opening the game up a bit so the Dutch bought on their own speedy winger Eljero Elia replacing him although i thought this was a mistake because Kuyts energy and work rate were key to the Holland pressing game especailly with some players like De Jong & Van Bommel starting to tire. Sergio Ramos then missed a free header, alot like Puyols header against Germany, before Van Bommel again tried his luck by leaving his foot in late on Iniesta however no free kick was awarded so Iniesta decides to drop his shoulder in to Van Bommel who immediatly drops like he's been punched in the face by Mohammed Ali. Considering both players are on yellows and i've seen people booked for less i was expecting at least one player to get a booking but Webb just wags his finger and runs off. Moments later Iniesta has a split second glimps of goal but with the clock running down and extra time looming he fails to pull the trigger at the right time and is well tackled by Sneijder who, other than playing the ball to slip Robben through, had been annonymous to this point. Robben then has another 1 v 1 chance but takes to many touch's and Casillas smothers the ball at his feet. Robben isn't very happy about the fact that Puyol had an arm on him for a split second as he was pulling Puyol's shirt but, for once, stays on his feet - this proved to be costly and starts ranting and raving at Webb earning himself a booking, the 14th of the game.

Another key change was Cesc Fabregas coming on for Xabi Alonso, who is clearly still feeling the effects of De Jong's Kung Fu lesson earlier on. This in turn allowed Xavi to sit a little deeper in the midfield and see the whole of Spains attack and giving him slightly more time to pick out his pass and it brings more variety to Spain s midfield, Alonso, Iniesta & Xavi are all great passers but that wasn't working so having the more adventurous Fabregas combined with the direct running of Navas gave more options. Full time came with the score still at 0-0 and i would, in all honesty, say it was about as boring as the '94 final because Spain had turned up trying to play football as they usually do but it was stiffled by the Dutch tactics of just booting everyone that was in a Spain shirt and they where incredibly lucky to have 11 men left at full time. As extra time got under way Xavi tried to claim a penalty for kicking Heitinga's foot but nothing was given, moments later Fabregas was through on goal after a lovely pass by Iniesta but Stekelenberg manages to smother the ball before he can shoot, then within 60 seconds the Dutch win a corner and after Fabregas manages to block Casillas leaving Mathijsen a free header who managed to head the ball over. Another chance fell to Spain but Iniesta ran straight in to Van Bommel rather than freeing Jesus Navas however the Dutch defence were starting to look tired and ragged at the back.

Van Marwijk then threw on Rafael Van der Vaart for Nigel De Jong leaving just Van Bommel to protect the defence, the Spanish then bring on Torres for Villa at half time in extra time and the Spanish continued to retain possesion so to counter the threat of Navas and his pace Van Bronkhorst was taken off in his last game for Braafheid but the inevitable soon happened, no not a goal, but a sending off and the most surprising thing about it was the fact it wasn't Van Bommel but Heitinga who hauls down Xavi on the edge of the area after he played a little chip to Iniesta and left Webb with no choice but to send him off making him the 5th player to be sent off in a World Cup final. 5 mins later and Holland have the ball in the back of the net, however Robben was a mile offisde and punted the ball in about an hour after the whistle had gone and he clearly heard it as he pulled up in frustration before kicking the ball into the goal, that should have been another red card as it should have been Robbens second yellow but, inexplicably, Webb let him off much to the Spanish's displeasure. Moments later however he makes up for it by awarding the Spanish a goal kick instead of a clear cut Dutch corner after Robbens free kick takes a deflection and wouldn't you know it but Spain go up the other end and finally score with Iniesta finsihng a lovely move, he was free in the area as Heitinga wasn't on the pitch and after one touch that the ball sat up and he crashed it home for the winner. The Dutch immediatly spend the next few mins argueing furiously with the ref & his assistant but nothing changed here except Mathijsen getting booked for slamming the ball into the ground. I can understand the Dutch being upset about not getting the corner but they were also complaining that Elia should have had a free kick but i don't think it was. The only thing that happened in the next 2 mins was Torres chasing a through ball and pulling up after his hamstring went again, early reports out of the Spain camp that he may have a full on pull meaning he might not be back to full fitness until September.

It was not a good final and the blame for this lays squarly at the feet of the Dutch who, after doing so well to get this far, compeltly let themselves, their country & their footballing beliefs down with an awful display - yes its hard to play agianst Spain because they are so good at keeping the ball but their is no excuse for the way they behaved during and after the game, they have all come out moaing about Howard Webb but they do not have a leg to stand on, if anything they should be thanking him - if De Jong had been sent off in the first half, as he rightfully should have, i think it would have all been over in 90 min's, if anything Spain probably have more right to complain about him that the Dutch but as they won i doubt they will, Robben also escaping a 2nd yellow in extra time was another decision the Dutch should be thankful for. Fortunalty Van Marwijk at least had the good grace to say the better team had won, but this was after about half an hour of ranting against Webb. Spain are now the European & World champions, rightfully so in my opinion, and will have one eye on defending their European championships in 2012 once this party ends.

That is the end of South Africa 2010, i will review the whole tournamnet and have that up tomorrow afternoon hopefully, thank you for reading!!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Final is here!!!

So on Sunday 4 weeks of back to back football comes to a climax, with Spain and Holland contesting the 19th World Cup final with a guaranteed new name on the cup. I read a funny description of the game saying "If they (Holland) manage to win the world cup it will be like a lifetime achievement award or Martin Scorsese's Oscar for The Departed: it won't necessarily be a victory merited on their performances this year (though they've risen to the occasion when they've had to), but it will be just reward for how well they have frequently played over the last 40 years without just reward..." which is a pretty accurate description, this isn't one of the best Holland teams we've ever seen but to make it this far they've clearly done something right, although their only really tough game was against Brazil, and although beating Brazil is no mean feat it has to be remembered that part of this was down to the Brazilian's spectacularly imploding mentally, but history doesn't remember who beat who to get to the final, the fact is they are there and that is how it will be remembered. Spain are the 6th most successful team in the world cup and Holland are 8th (going on points for each game), the teams above and between them have won the tournament at least once, and by the end of Sunday another team will join the winners list.

Spain on the other hand will be remembered as a great team, already holding the European Championship and looking to add the World Cup to that trophy and hold the 2 major cup's that European teams can win and do it with a quality of player that most, if not all, teams envy. They also play some of the most disciplined and technically superior football that has been seen for years, it makes me laugh reading some articles and reactions slagging off the tiki taki football they play which shows the fundamental floor in the English mentality - they play such great football that they have already won 1 major title and could equal England's World Cup record - after the way England performed surly people must realise that we should be trying to play like Spain and develop footballers in the same way? The only reason they have struggled in some games this tournament is because the opposition play what i like to call 'The Mourinho tactic' which is basically sit deep and defend, possession doesn't matter, then catch the opposition on the break and nick a goal. When the Germans, and possibly the Portugese to a point, turned up and actually tried to play football this suited the Spanish style and led to them pretty much dismantling a German team that had scored 4 goals in 3 separate games and made England & Argentina look average. In this game Del Bosque proved what a shrewed tactician he was as well, although it wasn't a surprise to see Torres dropped it was a surprise for some people to see Pedro named over Fabregas but Del Bosque knew that with Cesc in the team they would have no width (when Torres was starting Villa was more on the left) and leave the middle of the pitch over crowded allowing Podolski & Lahm to exploit the flanks, so he put Pedro out there to keep Lahm pinned back and cut of Podolski's supply and it worked superbly, with Iniesta floating more into the middle it meant the Spanish out numbered the Germans but still kept their width. I fully expect Del Bosque to do the same this time, although it wouldn't surprise me to see him have Pedro on the right, his young fresh legs ready to run at Van Bronckhorst.

Tactically i expect Holland to setup the same as they have done every game this tournament, with a 4-2-3-1 style, with De Jong coming back from suspension to replace De Zeeuw who wasn't great against Uruguay. I'd expect Van Marwijk to tell Kuyt & Robben to stay up the pitch and put pressure on the Spanish fullbacks wherever possible especially Robben on Capdevilla, Kuyt will track back and cover Ramos' forward runs all day long, but Robben may not be as defensively minded which may suit Capdevilla. Pedro is the key here i feel, if he stays out on the right and effectively 'doubles up' with Ramos it could give Kuyt & Van Bronckhorst a bit of a problem. If Pedro plays it also means that Iniesta can float inside and effectively become part of a 4 man central midfield with Xavi, Busquets & Alonso which proved so effective against the Germans. This could again provide the Dutch with some serious problems, whilst Van Bommel & De Jong will be in the deeper defensive midfielder roles and Kuyt dropping back this still leaves a 4v3 situation, the obvious answer will be to pull Sneijder back to cover from deep and launch attacks from deeper than he is used to but i don't think this will be so effective and may leave the attack separated from the rest of the team. A recent article described Holland as 'a team in which six players defend, three attack and Dirk Kuyt runs about' and if this is how they play in the final then the Spanish will take advantage of this as they attack and defend as one unit (bar maybe Villa). Busquets will almost certainly be told to stick to Sneijder, especially when he drops deep and keeping him quiet, like Oezil in the semi's, and if he does this job effectively Robben & Van Persie could find themselves very isolated.

From a Dutch point of view the key for them will be getting Sneijder time on the ball and the key runs of Robben, i would expect him to be told to run at Capdevilla as much as he can as he is probably the main weak point in the Spanish defence and team. The only problem with this will be that either Puyol or Pique will come accross and help deal with Robben but this would also leave Van Persie in a 1 v 1 situation with the other center back, but if Sneijder is as effectivly marked out the game as Oezil was i can see Robben being as ineffective as Podolski was in the Spain v Germany game - although the difference is Robben only needs one chance to cut inside and cause mayhem.

Despite this I'm going for a Spain victory, 2-0, although i expect the Dutch to make them fight for it and work harder than they've worked all tournament

Semi Finals

So the Semi's have been and gone, with Spain beating Germany & Holland beating Uruguay, here i will take a quick look at both these games

Spain v Germany

After Germany's excellent run to the final, losing only once to Serbia, and Spain's very different run, struggling through alot of their games, this was expected to be a closely contested match but in reality it wasn't. The Spanish, as we are used to, controlled the ball with neat passing and excellent movement both on and off the ball and really seemed to him their form just when they needed to, and i have no doubt this was thanks to the Germans. The Spanish have struggled alot this World Cup because alot of teams have been happy to sit back and defend deep trying to hit Spain on the counter (Switzerland, Portugal & Paraguay) where as Germany didn't do this, they tried to come out and play the same style they played against England & Argentina and it just didn't work - Podolski said it best when he said 'The times we got the ball we were to tired to do anything with it' the main problem being that in the first half the Germans never really got an attacking opportunity except from set plays and the only reason they looked threatening their was because Iker Casillas decided it might be fair to given the Germans a chance by flapping at every ball that came near him.

The best chance fell to Spain inside the first 10 mins, Pedro rolling a clever ball inside the box for Villa, who beat a slow Neuer to the ball but toe poked it at his chest. Pedro coming in for Torres was a very good decision by Del Bosque as it gave the team more natural width and not just from the full backs, Pedro was excellent in his movement and supply to Villa. Another player that caught the eye was Sergio Busquets, who is not the most glamorous name in the Spanish midfield but he does his job excellently, breaking up attacking play and playing some lovely pass's as well. His position sense is also excellent, managing to position himself not only to break up play and stop the German attacking options (mainly Oezil) but also to be available for a first time pass to start an attack, this was shown by the fact in the first half he attempted 40 pass's and completed 39 pass's with the only one being cut out a long searching pass for Villa. A lot of people say that he only pass's to Iniesta & Xavi but thats what his job is, and he does it so well he even managed to limit his gamesmanship in this game as well with very little diving, play acting or imaginary card waiving which was good to see.

The second half was much the same, with the Spanish midfield stepping up their pressing of the Germans limiting their time on the ball with the key to this being Busquets man marking Oezil out the game so well, although this meant that Khedira might have been allowed more space but Xavi was covering him very well whenever he needed to get forward. Against England Germany had 3 central midfielders against Englands 2 and against Argentina they had the same but against Spain they frequently found themselves in a 3 v 4 situation whenever Iniesta drifted inside meaning people like Schweinsteiger & Oezil didn't have enough time on the ball to pick teams apart like they have been used to. This in turn left the attacking options very restricted with Klose & Podolski looking separated from the midfield and didn't even complete a pass to each other. Trochowski had an OK game but he certainly isn't as good as Muller who was a big miss in linking up play between the team.

As the game grew older in the second half it grew more open which suited Spain more, the Germans started trying to push higher up the pitch leaving themselves open to Spanish attacking and with the wingers having to drop in to even up the battle in center midfield it allowed Pedro, Ramos & Capdevilla more space to bomb down the wings which started to really stretch the German defence. Lahm was almost non - existent as an attacking threat which proved to weaken them Germans further going forward. The goal was from a pretty unexpected source, a corner with Carlos Puyol powering the ball home with a powering header - his run from deep was excellent and confused the Germans zonal marking system.

Germany’s midfield has been utterly superb throughout this tournament, but here they simply found themselves against players that were better both in and out of possession. Xavi was the star man – completing more passes than any other player, running a greater distance than any other player, dictating the game from the centre of midfield, and providing the assist for the goal

Holland v Uruguay

This was expected to be a tight game between two teams that are pretty defensive but have sparks in attack, obviously Uruguay would miss the attacking qualities of Luis Suarez but they were also missing Jorge Fucile at left back which could have been a problem had it not been for the fact that on the right wing the Dutch play Robben who as we all know likes to cut in on his left foot and try and have a shot - the Uruguayans had Martin Caceres at left back who is naturally a center back & right footed so was able to nullify Robbens threat relatively easily, although the same could not be said for Van Bronckhorst who scored an absolute screamer from 35 yards out in the 18 min and this probably is the first goal I've seen where the ball hasn't swerved or fooled the keeper/players from a long range shot, he just had total control over the ball and it went exactly where he wanted it to go. The main problem for Uruguay here was getting back in to the game, the Dutch weren't letting them settle and they seemed determined to go forward and try and get a 2nd goal, as well as a few flair ups between the players turning it into a feisty encounter. For the next 20 mins the game became back and forth, with the Dutch creating a few chances and the Uruguyans also having a few pot shots and some long throws. The equalizer came from almost nothing, with Forlan picking up the ball just over 30 yards out but they key, in my opinion, was Cavani's movement that just gave Forlan a second extra to decide what to do as well as giving him the space to power in a shot which did swerve and caught Stekelenburg out as the ball crashed through the middle of the goal.

At half time both coaches had a chance to change things around with Van Marwijk's decision proving decisive, he took off a defensive player in Danny de Zeeuw, probably deciding that with only Forlan & Cavani in the Dutch half really looking to attack they only need one defensive midfielder to protect the back four so this gave Rafael Van Der Vaart a rare chance to get on the pitch meaning they had more attacking options whilst the Uruguay manager, Oscar Tabarez, did not change anything. At first it made sense for Uruguay to stay as they where because VDV did play in a more advance role it meant Sneijder & Kuyt had to play a bit deeper which limited their threats and despite the fact that for the first 5 mins from half time Holland had all the possession until Boulahrouz played a tame back pass to Stekeleneberg who managed to prod the ball away before Forlan intercepted it but he only passed it to Cavani who tried a lob but it was cleared off the line by Van Bronckhorst. Just as the Uruguayans where starting to look threatening a controversial goal was scored that again bought up the controversial offside rule and how its inturpreted. Sneijder, who'd had a quiet game, took a pot shot from the outside of the box and it took a slight deflection off a defender and went through Van Persie's legs before flying in the net. In my opinion Van Persie was offside when the original shot came flying in and did obscure the keepers view but the referee allowed the goal to stand and i know a few people will be thinking that its justice for Suarez's goal line save but really, the letter of the law states that the goal shouldn't have been allowed.

The final nail in the coffin was just a well worked goal, with Kuyt well positioned on the left and cutting back onto his right foot to provide an inch perfect cross for Robben to head home via the inside of the post. The Uruguayans looked like they were drained after this goal and despite coming back with one in the last few minutes , a free kick nudged short by Gargano to Pereira who curled home a delicious shot but it was to little to late, although in the last few moments the ref blew for a free kick and the players & fans thought it was the final whistle so Van Bommel hoofed the ball away in celebration only to finally be booked as it wasn't full time!! Sadly it's about 20 fouls to late for Van Bommel who has been terrible this tournament, countless fouls, bad attitude to opposition & his imaginary card waiving at every chance has tarnished what has been a solid Holland team. In the build up to the first goal for example Van Bommel went in with his studs up in what was basically a two footed tackle on Gargano's shins but instead of rolling around like a 'diving South American' he stood straight back up and got on with it instead of say falling around like Robben has done alot this tournament

This was a game decided by very fine margins, and despite Holland winning the game following a half-time change in formation, it’s difficult to attribute too much of their success to tactics. Nevertheless, with this being a Holland side that have been criticized for a perceived lack of adventure and flair, we should credit van Marwijk for a bold attacking move. In the second half, Holland had five attacking players whilst Uruguay had only two, and the team who made more of an attempt to win the game prevailed which is what we like to see in football.