Category Archives: Correspondent Corner

Transfer Focus: Who’s hot and who’s not? – Part 1


A big welcome to Football for the Day’s latest literary addition to the blog. Bringing a focus on fantasy football, this Newcastle enthusiast lists Xisco, Albert Luque and Boumsong as personal deities. And who are we to judge…

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Who’s hot?

Adam Johnson on Tyneside

Adam Johnson on Wearside

Adam Johnson: The English winger’s time at the Etihad can be described as tumultuous to say the least. Mancini’s inability to accommodate him into an appropriate formation meant that the winger spent much of last season watching from the stands. Johnson’s move to Sunderland will allow him to play a key role in a team that’s on the up. With the astute Martin O’Neill building a promising squad, Johnsons marauding runs down the flank will be seen more frequently this season. At only £7m, we see Johnson as great value for money and provides an exposure to the Mackem’s offensive line. With only 2.5% of players including Johnson in their team, we see him as a solid differential buy whose popularity is bound to increase.

Moussa Dembele: A prominent figure amongst the ever growing Belgian contingent in the Premier League, the creative midfielder makes for a good bit of business by Levy & Co. With a burgeoning reputation that has seen him evolve from just another Eredevisie import into a top class Premier League player, he is undoubtedly someone all fantasy managers will be casting their eye over. Our only hesitation with Dembele, is the uncertainty as to just where he will fit in to AVB’s agenda at the Lane. Moussa’s sublime finish on the weekend went a long way to dampening fears that his historically poor scoring record would transfer with him to North London. At £6mil we see Moussa as a good low cost option, but we would recommend holding off a purchase until gameweek 6, at which stage a more thorough investment appraisal can be formed.

Dimitar Berbatov: Dimitar Berbatov’s transfer to Fulham signals the end of his playing hiatus and his return to the world of fantasy football. With his return to the scene, we would like to remind you just how prolific he has been since arriving in England from Germany. In the 6 years that Berbatov has played in the Premier League (including last season where he made only 12 appearances) he has averaged just shy of 140 points. Costing £6.9mil Berbatov represents good value for managers looking for a traditionally reliable source of points. Berbatov’s adventures at Craven Cottage are more than likely to be a little less fruitful than previous clubs, but his importance to the Cottagers cant’t be overlooked, with significant game time being all but guaranteed. For us, it’s more a matter of when the Berbatov bandwagon will gather pace, more than if. With glimpses of brilliance in his cameo last week, we have faith that this will come sooner rather than later. That’s why we’re saying pick him up now while the differential is still there.

Eden Hazard: Another member of the Belgian entourage plying their trade in the Premier League, Hazard represents what could well be the most exciting signing of the season. In the 3 games that we have seen Eden play, his tally of 6 assists and 1 goal has meant that he has been an instant success for those that took the gamble on the £9mil man. His tendency to provide the decisive pass as well as his silky footwork has provided more than a headache for Premier League defenders. With this taste of things to come, we see his continued evolution as pivotal to the fortunes of Robbie di Matteo’s men – making him our number 1 Chelsea buy. With a hefty following already, signing Eden would hardly separate you from the rest. In spite of this we find him an irresistible purchase and place him very high up our midfielder priority list.

Who’s not

Gylfi Sigurdssonn

The Sig

Gylfi Sigurdsson: The Sig was one of last season’s biggest revelations. After making and maintaining a more than impressive start to his fantasy career, his move to Tottenham has cast serious doubt on whether he will be able to replicate his point scoring form this season. While being the lynch pin for Swansea served him well, will the presence of bigger and better names at his new club have a damaging affect on his fantasy exploits? We believe that this, along with competition from fellow new boys, Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele, will all but ensure that Sigurdsson won’t provide the same return that he did last year. At the lofty price of £9mil, despite finishing last season valued at £5.6mil, we see little logic in opting for The Sig, especially when someone like Bale is available for £9.4mil. Steer clear.

Scott Sinclair: Sinclair’s first full season in the Premier League caught the eye of all fantasy managers. His speed and flair not only made him enjoyable to watch, but also a highly acquired fantasy pick. With his move to the Etihad this Summer, we see his outlook as significantly dimmer. With Mancini beginning to employ a 3-4-3 formation, we can’t see Sinclair playing much more than a peripheral role in Citeh’s bid for back to back titles. Mancini’s likening of him to Adam Johnson does not present favourably in our eyes ,as it intimates he’ll be contributing in a similar way. At £6.7mil he remains reasonably priced, but his lack of assured playing time makes him a no-go from us. With a high uptake of 7.2%, we anticipate a spike in the number of transfers out this gameweek as well as a significant dip in his total score this year.

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South Africa 2010 round up so far and what’s still to come..


With just the final round of group games remaining there are only 90 minutes of World Cup 2010 left for half the teams. Lets take a look forward to the remaining games and reflect back on what’s happened thus far.

Anelka & Domenech -the men at the center of the French controversy

In Group A it would appear that both Uruguay and Mexico have all but secured their spot in the final 16  and a draw between the two of them tonight would see them both go through. However a draw for Mexico would see them finish 2nd in the group meaning a show down against Argentina in the next round – obviously not ideal, so it makes for an interesting final game and gives a glimmer of hope to both the rainbow nation and a largely underwhelming French side. For South Africa, it appears they will be the first host nation to fail to emerge from the group stages and for the French it would be a travesty if they actually scrape through. They have been beyond disappointing thus far and clearly their much publicised internal problems are effecting the performances on the pitch – there must be plenty of Irish fans around the world who cant help but smile – fair play I say!

The Webmaster suggests Mexico will have the goods tonight in a narrow win which will see them top group. Hopefully the narrow defeat will still leave Uruguay in 2nd spot leaving them the unfortunate task of facing Argentina. South Africa and France to draw sending the French team to their holiday destinations, where they clearly want to be, and leaving the South Africans to join the rest of the country in the stands; blasting on Vuvuzelas.

Maradona's faith pays off - Higauin hits a hat-trick against South Korea

Moving on to Group B Argentina are sitting pretty at the top of the group and as long as they avoid defeat tomorrow they will go through in first place. Two pretty solid performances so far see them on 6 points and gives them an opportunity to give some of the remainder of the squad a run out tonight. The Greeks face the tough task of needing at least a point from the game against Maradona’s men to stay alive. When you combine their inability to score with the class of the Argentinian outfit their chances look slim. It is also likely that South Korea will handle any fight from Nigeria and go on to win their final game.

The webmaster predicts Argentina will make light work of the Greek side, recording another win and topping the group on 9 pts leaving them to meet Uruguay in the next round. Whilst Korea’s victory will see them finish in second place and through to the final 16 to face off against Mexico.

Capello brings squad together - time to perform!

Group C appeared to be the easiest group of the lot and the fact the likes of England and the USA have struggled highlights the disappointing nature of the tournament so far. Admittedly USA were robbed of a victory against Slovenia, with an outrageous ruling out of a late winner – the ref had almost blown the whistle before the free-kick was taken. Unfortunately unlike the webmasters’ predictions, England have reinforced their status of chokers with two disappointing performances against USA and Algeria. Despite the poor performance so far, a victory against Slovenia will see them sneak through, so all hope is not lost. There also appears to be a rift in the English camp, a claim that the players have denied, but there is no doubt the pressure has mounted on Capello and his men and they certainly need to turn it around against Slovenia.

The webmaster suggests that both England and USA will pull of a victory in their final game leaving USA in 1st place ahead of England on goal difference – meaning England will face the tough task of Germany in the next round.

Have we seen Harry for the last time?

Mathematically anyone in Group D can still make it through, making for a very interesting last round in the group. Germany started off so well with a convincing victory over Australia but were then shocked in the second game by a determined Serbian side who managed to pull off a very unlikely victory, especially after a poor performance against Ghana. Australia have been on the receiving end of two arguably harsh red cards that has put a massive dent in their world cup campaign. After a disappointing effort in the first game they came out against Ghana with a bang. Everything started so positively and grabbing an early goal put us right back in the mix, but Kewell’s red card and the resulting penalty really put us under the pump. In all fairness Australia still deserved to win the game and really did a fantastic job with only 10 men for such a long period – if only Wilkshire actually tried to score instead of passing to the keeper, things could have been very different. Personally the webmaster felt Ghana were very disappointing – surely they had to try and go for the win against a 10 man Aussie team especially knowing a win would have secured their spot. They now face the task of coming up against Germany in the last game.

Based on the performance against Australia, the webmaster sees Germany recapturing the form they showed in the first game and brushing aside Ghana with ease. This will leave qualification open for Australia to pip both Ghana and Serbia at the line. The webmaster cannot decide between a draw or Australian win, but either way it will then come down to goal difference for the team in 2nd and 3rd.

Sneijder Celebrates after scoring against Japan

Moving on to Group E: we see the Netherlands who are one of only two teams that have already booked their spot in the  final 16 – along with Brazil. The dutch have had two solid performances but have definitely not hit full tilt just yet and will be banking on the return of Arjen Robben to spark some more life into the side come the knock-out stages, if not against Cameroon. Japan and Denmark face off in their last group game which could prove to be an exciting one with the winner going through. A draw would send Japan through most likely in second spot as long as Holland can secure at least a point against a Cameroon side that hasn’t really turned up.  Cameroon are already knocked out of the tournament after two lacklustre performances against Denmark and Japan and are just playing for pride against the Netherlands in the last game.

In the view of the webmaster Netherlands will progress in first place after another victory over Samuel Eto’s Cameroon, setting up a likely round of 16 battle with defending world champions Italy. Japan should be able to at least draw their game against Denmark which will see them against Paraguay in the next round.

Something tells me we wont see this again - thank god!

In Group F we have seen Paraguay almost sew up their spot in the final 16 with impressive performances against Italy and Slovakia. In their final game they are coming up against a resilient New Zealand  team who are determined not to lose, however as long as they avoid defeat they will go through in first place. Captain Ryan Nelsen has proved a colossal force at the back for the All Whites making them very tough to break down. Incredibly, if New Zealand could pull off another draw as well as Italy drawing with Slovakia with the exact same result the decision of who goes through will come down to a drawing of lots!!! This is because New Zealand and Italy will be tied on points, goal difference, goals for, goals against and the result between them was a draw – ridiculous but here’s hoping!  Alternatively if New Zealand win they will go through anyway. The current world champions, Italy, have been a massive let down so far in a world cup which has highlighted below par performances from some big teams. They have been highly unconvincing but will still get through with a victory over Slovakia in their final game. For Slovakia their is a glimmer of hope, should they beat Italy they will progress alongside Paraguay.

Whilst the webmaster would love to see 0-0 draws in both games so we can draw lots to see which of New Zeland and Italy will go through (you know you want to see that!), it appears unlikely and if it happens both games would be rather boring. Rather the webmaster suggests Paraguay will beat New Zealand and Italy will beat Slovakia sending Paraguay to meet Japan in the next round and Italy to face off against Holland.

Portugal celebrate one of their seven goals

Moving on to Group G, where we have Brazil who have already qualified for the round of 16 but could lose out on first place if they lose to Portugal in the final game. Brazil overcame a very determined North Korean outfit in their first game before a more convincing display against Ivory Coast in the second game. They will however be without Kaka in the game against Portugal after a sending off on the back of a ludicrous second yellow late in the game against Ivory Coast. Whilst Kaka has been largely disappointing thus far, his presence will still be missed. Portugal on the other hand started quite poorly against Ivory Coast, where they barely posed an attacking threat, but lifted to another level last night as they humbled North Korea in an embarrassing 7-0 victory. They were simply electric once they got going last night in a performance that has seen them almost guarantee a spot in the next round. Even if they lose to Brazil in the final round it would take a huge win for Ivory Coast over North Korea to swing the goal difference back in their favour. Ivory Coast had started so well against Portugal and in the view of the webmaster were unlucky to not come away with 3 pts from the game. A disappointing result against Brazil coupled with Portugal’s massive win last night has virtually put an end to The Elephants’ campaign. North Korea are already knocked out of the world cup  and will be determined to show their worth against Ivory Coast in their final game.

The webmaster feels the Portugal/Brazil game could be too close to call and could possibly end in a draw which would suit Portugal as I’m not convinced either will want to win, with the reward for coming first, a showdown with pre-trounament favourites, Spain, in the next round. Ivory Coast should have the goods and defeat North Korea but will still bow out due to goal difference.

Gelson Fernandes celebrates a shock winner against Spain

Finally, Group H is left in quite an interesting position. Chile currently sit top of the group with 6 pts, but are still a chance to miss out on the knockouts. They come up against Spain in the final game where a single point would confirm top spot for the Chileans. For Spain it is virtually a must win game as if they fail to win and Switzerland can secure victory over Honduras, the pre-tournament favourites will be on their way home. In what has been the upset of the tournament, Spain managed to lose their first game against Switzerland. They dominated possession but just could not manage to put the ball in the net. A comfortable 2-0 victory last night over Honduras has put them back on track, but Chile pose much more of a threat and Spain will need to step it up quite significantly to secure 3 pts. For Switzerland last nights result was a disappointing one however a victory over Honduras by 2 goals or more should send them through irrespective of the result in the other game. Mathematically Honduras could still go through in 2nd spot should Chile beat Spain and Honduras pull off a big victory over Switzerland, although it appears unlikely.

The webmaster suggests that Spain will overcome Chile in the final game and that Switzerland should also beat Honduras in their final game which will leave Spain, Chile and Switzerland all tied on 6 pts. This will then come down to goal difference to work out who finishes 1st and 2nd. If both Switzerland and Spain win by 1 goal that would see Spain top the group on a better goal difference with Chile and Switzerland tied on goal difference, goals for and goals against and Chile would go through due to their result between each other (1-0 to Chile last night). Leaving Spain to face Portugal and Chile to face Brazil in the next round – PS I might have got this wrong.. feel free to let me know if I have!

So despite some uninspiring games so far we are getting towards the business end of the competition and hopefully that will bring about a more attacking brand of the beautiful game, more like what we got to see last night from Portugal. The webmaster just has three requests for the remainder of the world cup:

  1. the ref’s stop being so trigger happy or rather whistle happy – we have seen far too many yellow cards, some resulting in red cards for really poor decisions
  2. no more diving – I’m so sick of seeing these prima donna’s diving around for absolute rubbish, its plain embarrassing and brings a lack of class to the game we love so much – the webmaster would love to see a straight red card be given for diving, if we impose that for a few matches diving will never be seen again!
  3. no more complaining about the damn ball – it’s a ball, it’s round –> KICK IT! preferably into the goals..  if you’re a keeper –> CATCH IT OR STOP IT! quite simple.

Laughable..

Webmaster over and out.

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Group Matches (P)review (Cont.)


Following on from yesterdays round up of the first four groups, here is groups E-H.

Group E

The Dutch are known to be chokers on the biggest level, but in this correspondent’s opinion, they have the strength in depth this time round to challenge favourites Brazil and Spain for the little gold statue. With key players like Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder coming off the back of excellent seasons for their clubs and teammates like Robin van Persie, Nigel de Jong and Dirk Kuyt in support, they are yours truly’s tip to make the semis. That said, their first showing against a resilient Denmark side was uninteresting and overhyped, and we were not treated to the fireworks a team of this calibre can produce. Robben did not play due to injury, but is supposedly going to be fit for their next encounter against Japan. The team certainly warranted the victory, and they were rarely troubled by the Danes. Nigel de Jong was his solid industrious self as always in the centre of the park, and young Hamburg winger Eljero Elia produced a fantastic 25 minute cameo, which will go a long way to raising his profile in world football. Unfortunately for big clubs looking for a new winger, he’s only one year into his 5-year contract and will cost a small fortune to lure away. Denmark looked weak in attack with Nicklas Bendtner in particular wasteful in front of goal. They will need to really step up against Cameroon if they are to progress out of the group, and with Japan already on 3 points their task is a difficult one.

Cameroon carried some expectancy with them as another team with African hopes behind them, but an unconvincing performance from both teams led to another mostly tedious match.  French Cameroonian coach Paul le Guen played a large role in the loss, opting to leave out Arsenal midfielder Alex Song and playing star striker Samuel Eto’o in a wide right position – the same as he did last season at Inter, but lacking the support he received in that side. He was largely anonymous, and when he found himself in good positions with the ball, he failed to make an impression and seemed slightly disinterested. Left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto also failed to reproduce his good club-form in this match, with much of the attacking efforts centred on his runs up the wing. His crossing left much to be desired however. Japan were very defensive, often getting their whole team behind the ball, and were fairly lucky to score considering they had only 2 or 3 chances the entire match. Expect them to perform in a similar fashion against the Oranje looking to reach first gear tomorrow night.

Predictions: Netherlands 2-0 Japan

Cameroon 1-1 Denmark

Group F

Ageing Italy’s progress from this group was supposed to be easy, but Paraguay put up strong resistance and held them to another drab 1-1 draw. The first half saw the greaseballs passing nice and fluidly but without much to show for it and conceding from a free-kick. Diving bastard Daniele de Rossi equalised in a more entertaining second half after some poor keeping from an Italy corner. New Zealand are next up for Italy and you can expect them to challenge right to the death, just as they did in their opener. Antonio di Natale might find himself with a starting berth, and perhaps Bulldog Gattuso will get a chance to nip some heels. Fabio Cannavaro showed his age with a less than convincing performance at the back, but the consistent Zambrotta showed his worth to the Italian cause. Paraguay left star men Roque Santa Cruz and Oscar Cardozo on the bench, and although both made appearances, they failed to make an impact. Hopefully either or both of them will play from the start against Slovakia. Paraguay will be delighted with a point against the world champions, but without the error from keeper Villar they could have taken all 3.

Slovakia looked to get their tournament off to a winning start that would have put them in a strong position to progress, but world cup super-underdogs New Zealand put that idea to bed with a rousing finale. Leading 1-0 from early in the second half, Slovakia couldn’t manage to put the result beyond doubt. Then in injury time up popped up centre-back Winston Reid to win the All White’s first ever finals point. Slovakia’s main creativity stemmed from Vladimir Weiss (son of coach Vladimir Weiss, and grandson of former Czechoslovakian footballer Vladimir Weiss) and team freak Marek Hamsek, while Martin Skrtel in the heart of the defense was rarely troubled. They created plenty of chances to further the lead but just couldn’t put it away, worrying signs for the next match, a probable qualification decider against Paraguay.  New Zealands 3-4-3 formation paid dividends as they defended well in numbers and got forward well, though they failed to have much of threat up front despite boasting A-League top score Shane Smeltz and Middlesbrough man Chris Killen. FFTD head writer passthesugar was delighted to see West Brom man Chris Wood take to the field in the closing stages. New Zealand will fancy their chances of pulling off a shock result against the pizza boys on Sunday night, especially with highly rated goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon missing the match through injury.

Predictions: Italy 2-0 New Zealand

Paraguay 1-1 Slovakia

Group G

The Group of Death! Finally! The chance to witness some real hard-fought football with four teams going all out in their efforts to just scrape through against some seriously tough opposition. So Portugal v Ivory Coast was bound to be the screamer of a match it turned out to be. Oh wait a second…it was actually the single worst game of the tournament so far. I can’t believe I tried so hard not to find out the score for this game while I was at uni the whole day doing exams, to come home and watch this rubbish. With the only moment of note being a superb Ronaldo effort that smashed the upright from 35 yards. The two sides actually looked content to remain scoreless. Ronaldo looked disinterested and still hasn’t scored for Portugal in 16 months or something. Deco may as well have not played. Danny – the new Portugal no. 10, was equally anonymous.  The Ivorians looked more interested, but couldn’t get used to the infamous ‘Jabulani’. Didier Drogba made a much-hyped yet uneventful cameo towards the end, and the Toure brothers each put in reliable shifts but there was nothing to write home about. Both sides will need to improve dramatically to get anything out of their next games, even against group underdogs North Korea.

Speaking of North Korea, sorry, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, they put up a pretty damn good fight against the highly favoured but ultimately disappointing Brazilians! NK-an Rooney showed how proud he is to be representing his nation with his waterworks display during the anthem, and he put in a solid shift on the pitch for their Fearless Leader. They showed excellent organisation and discipline in a defensive showing that certainly raised their stature in the eyes of the public. However, bare in mind that Brazil are not at all what they used to be. Nowadays they play in a similar fashion to how their coach and ex-captain used to play – strong, defensive, and unflashy – in stark contrast to what we are used to from the once-stylish South Americans, players like Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Denilson et al. With Kaka still struggling to find the form that made him the best player in the world a few years ago, and the rest of the team not really finding their groove. Robinho surprised with a decent performance, and his through ball to set up Elano was delectable. I’ve decided Maicon’s definitely goal wasn’t intentional, so don’t bother trying to argue it. Hopefully Brazil will bring the style back for the next match against the Ivory Coast on Sunday night.

Predictions: Portugal 2-1 DPRK

Brazil 2-0 Ivory Coast

Group H

Well here’s a pretty straightforward group, right? Spain are unbeaten in the last year or so and they’re coming up against a Switzerland side missing both their top scorer of all time and an important winger. Wait, what? Spain lost? Are you sure? Blimey! The supposed best team in the world were outclassed by a stellar defensive performance, surely the best in recent years not masterminded by Jose Mourinho. New Barca boy David Villa was guilty of complacency when he decided to go for the entertaining to score rather than the simple, golden boy Torres looked ordinary when he came on towards the end of the match, Casillas certainly could have played better, and Xabi Alonso’s 30-yard pile-driver that smashed off the woodwork showed that it was just not Spain’s day. To give an example of how defensive Switzerland were, Gerard Pique spent most of the match playing as a striker rather than centre-back. For the Swiss, Stephan Lichtsteiner put in a rock-solid display in defense even after losing Philippe Senderos to injury, and Gelson Fernandes put away a brave goal to put them in the lead in what is undoubtedly the upset of the tournament thus far. Spain will need to regroup and show their class in what they expect will be an easy win against Honduras, whilst Switzerland face the daunting task of playing a threatening Chile.

Chile played some of the best attacking football so far against a lackluster Honduras. 21-year-old Alexis Sanchez shone the brightest with a fantastic display down the right wing, and they really should have won by more. Chile’s crossing was fantastic throughout the match, Mauricio Isla also playing a big role when coming forward from right back. Honduras were outclassed all over the pitch, and hulking centre-midfield Wilson Palacios was less influential than he is generally for Tottenham. He should have been sent off in the second half, too. The Central Americans clearly missed their highly rated striker David Suazo, and they will hope he returns to full fitness soon. Unfortunately we were not able to witness any more Palacios’ on the field, though Wilson had two brothers warming the bench. Hopefully they will all play together before the tournament is out. Wigan man Maynor Figueroa was disappointing at the back. Chile will need to find their scoring boots if they are to succeed against the Swiss steamroller, whilst the Hondurans will probably be playing for pride against the Spanish.

Predictions: Spain 3-0 Honduras

Chile 0-0 Switzerland

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Argentina – Genuine Contenders?


The general consensus in the footballing world at the moment is that Germany and Argentina have been the teams which have impressed so far at the World Cup. Germany did it against a rather poor Australian outfit, and it could have easily been a repeat of their 2002 opening encounter against Saudi Arabia. Argentina first beat a respectable Nigerian side 1-0, a team that lacks a bit of quality, but to be fair to the South American’s it was just one of those days where the ball wasn’t finding the back of the net. Then last night they played some breathtaking football, to brush aside Asia’s best footballing nation in South Korea. Messi and Tevez ran the show, and Gonzalo Higuain continued on his brilliant goalscoring form which we saw throughout the La Liga season. But the real question is, are Argentina good enough to win the World Cup?

Diego shows how it's done from outside the white lines

Jubalani Shmubalani

Rewind back to the 2006 World Cup, and Argentina were in the “group of death”. They strolled passed Ivory Coast and then produced one of the better international performances in recent times, beating Serbia & Montenegro 6-0. Qualifying with ease, pundits around the word lauded over the Argentinians, putting them down as the team to beat. Then came the round of 16, and an unimpressive  2-1 extra-time victory over Mexico. In the quarter-finals, Argentina lost to the German’s (typically) on penalties. Pekerman came under intense criticism over his decision to use Lionel Messi as a substitute throughout the tournament, as well as the decision to start Cambiasso on the bench in the quarter-finals. But the overall story of Argentina’s tournament was their breathtaking form in the group stages, in contrast to their rather flat performances in the knockout rounds. One would hope this will not be the case this time round.

This World Cup we see a fairly different side though. Mascherano and Heinze are the only two players who regained their spots in the starting XI from the last World Cup. Messi, Tevez, Higuain and Di Maria are some of the most exciting players at the tournament, and they will be the men who can lead Argentina to World Cup glory. Sadly, Gutierrez still finds himself in the team; even more worryingly at right-back. Maradona as a matter of fact cannot fathom an Argentine team without Jonas: “Mascherano, Messi, Jonás and eight more”. Argentina once again also have Jewish representation in their squad – Walter Samuel, who I have been led to believe is a non-practicing Jew. Let’s hope that hamstring injury won’t rule him out the the rest of the tournament.

Last but not forgotten is Diego Maradona. He may not be a tactical genius, but he certainly seems to be a motivational phenomenon. He seems to instil confidence into every player in his team. They all look very comfortable on the ball, and what is very important is that they have been encouraged to express themselves with the ball at their feet. Maradona stuck with Higuain after his assortment of misses against Nigeria, and as we all know, it paid off massively. What Maradona has done brilliantly, is give Messi the license the roam. Messi has been everywhere, and there is no doubt Maradona knows where to start the man, who’s playing style is almost identical to the infamous gaffer. Most importantly, the Argentinian squad all love Diego to bits. They trust him and they respect him, something which cannot be said for the French camp.

While we have to wait and see whether or not Argentina’s brilliant performances will carry through the knockout stages, we can certainly say we have been greatly entertained by Maradona’s men (And Maradona himself, he just can’t help himself when the ball rolls up to him!). Unlike Michael Cockerill (PTS’s favourite journalist!), I am not sensationally claiming that Argentina are the best thing since sliced bread, but with Lionel Messi, and his incredible supporting act, who knows what this team can achieve?


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Group Matches (P)review


Round-up Groups A-D

So the 2010 World Cup is well under way, and with a paltry average of 1.56 goals a game after the first round of group games compared to 2.43 at this stage in 2006, I think it’s fair to say that this has not been quite what global audiences hoped or expected. A closer look, however, would suggest that perhaps this lack of goals is not so surprising; the defensively minded 4-2-3-1 formation du jour has certainly made itself known at the competition. Let’s hope for some more goals second time round!

So, a quick round up and summary of what can we expect from the rest of the group matches:

Group A

Ok, well South Africa have already lost 3-0 to a far more attack minded Uruguay outfit than we experienced against France back in the second match of the tournament, quite understandably. Whilst the scoreline is slightly flattering in favour of the South Americans, they certainly deserved the win, and South Africa’s discipline was poor. South Africa didn’t show the energy and creativity they did against Mexico, and talismanic midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala was wasteful. Diego Forlan proved his worth to Uruguay, scoring the first two goals and playing a part in the third and they now look well-placed to go through the group.

Coming up tonight is France v Mexico, a must-win game for both teams. France will surely drop the awful Govou for Florent Malouda, in the form of his career, and perhaps Franck Ribery will pass the ball to a player? It’s anyone’s guess! It would be nice to see ‘Handball-Henry’ for more than 20 minutes but seems unlikely given Raymond Domenech’s tendency to be a stubborn imbecile. Mexico will look to speedy youngster Giovanni dos Santos again to provide the flair for the team, as well as the basis for everything good they create – another example of a player who hasn’t had much club game time in recent years experiencing a resurgence in his fortunes at the World Cup. And perhaps ManU new boy Javi Hernandez will get a decent run?

Prediction: France 2-2 Mexico

Group B

Argentina escaped the brick wall of Nigeria with a less than convincing 1-0 win, but we were still lucky enough to witness some of the gold that makes Lionel Messi the best player in the world. Some strange decisions by mad-man Maradona, but that’s not really a surprise at all, is it? He came out and said that the only three players guaranteed starting positions were Messi, Mascherano, and Gutierrez – a fairly startling claim considering the wealth of talent in the squad. Then we witnessed the latter playing at right back, quite different from his left-wing berth at Newcastle – another instance of players too good to be left out, perhaps.  A tough game tonight against South Korea will likely prove a greater challenge than Nigeria. The Super Eagles looked strong at the back but were undone by Heinze’s rocket-header into the top-corner early on. They didn’t look so good up front, but with attacking players like Obafemi Martins, John Utaka, and Kanu supporting the Yak, they will always pose a threat, especially in the air.  Vincent Enyeama put in a great display between the sticks to keep them in the match, and they’ll fancy their chances of picking up 3 points tonight against Greece.

South Korea showed that they’ve got what it takes with a solid 2-0 win over a poor and frankly negative Greece. South Korea meet Argentina tonight in what will hopefully prove to be the most exciting game the group, and could well decide first place. Park Ji-Sung looked good, and their stylish play is in stark contrast to most teams in the tournament thus far. They will have to hold back a bit against Messi’s men, but should put up a good fight. Dark horse for the quarters?

Greece have a reputation for being a strong and organised defensive side, but here they were undone by some slick passing, much more of which is to come when they face Argentina. Up front they looked lacking in ideas. Points for them in the rest of the group will be hard to come by. They have a chance to sneak a draw tonight against Nigeria, but my guess says they will finish as group B whipping boys.

Predictions: Argentina 2-1 South Korea

Greece 0-1 Nigeria

Maradona quotes this week:

“I am not afraid of anyone or anything – unless they are wearing a mask…”

On Pele: “He should go back to the museum and stay there.”

On Michel Platini: “He’s French and we all know how French people are. If they say ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ that’s something.”

More insightful than I could ever hope to be. Wonderful stuff, let’s hope they keep coming!

Group C

England opened their campaign with a hard-fought 1-1 draw with the USA – a decent result for them, despite what most people seem to think. St. Stevie’s early goal – a real skipper’s goal – was cancelled out by Rob Green’s decision to let Clint Dempsey’s pass trickle over the line. What? Surely that wasn’t an accident? Whatever. England should still win the group, and they’d better hope they do, otherwise they can expect to face a rampant Germany in the second round, who on first showing will tear them a collective new asshole.  Despite what most critics seem to think I still reckon Heskey was rubbish and should make way for Crouch, or alternatively, Gerrard move forward and Barry take over in the centre. Cole should replace the lacklustre Milner on the left.

The US, on the other hand, looked lively and much hungrier than England, but still failed to trouble the England defenders too much. Altidore was probably the pick of the bunch, strolling past the creaking bones of Jamie Carragher. Some increased invention from his team-mates in their next match against Slovenia could see a fair few goals scored, and if they’re lucky they might edge England out at the top of the group.

The Slovenia v Algeria match was one of the poorest matches yet. No one on the field could come to grips with the diabolical Jabulani ball, with passes being floated almost out of the stadium. The highlight (lowlight?) of the match came when Algerian keeper Faouzi Chouachi threw West Brom alumni Robert Koren’s tame strike into the side of the net. Both teams looked defensive, with chances on goal coming at a premium. Nadir Belhadj looked lively for Algeria, getting forward regularly from his left-back role, but failed to inspire a goal. Interesting statistic: Abdelkader Ghezzal picked up two yellows in just 14 minutes and 19 seconds, making him the fastest substitute to pick up two yellow cards in World Cup history. There’s really not much else to be said about this game. Both teams will struggle again on Friday night and one would expect England and USA to push on from Group C.

Predictions: England 2-0 Algeria

USA 1-0 Slovenia

Group D

Aussie Aussie Aussie! Nein!

No cheering from the Aussies after their 4-0 demolition at the hands of a clinical German outfit that could have scored even more goals. Lucas Podolski played a big part just as the webmaster predicted, and his fine finish in the 8th minute started the rout. Mesut Ozil also had a strong showing, playing in the roaming role behind Klose. Ballack’s absence was hardly noticed with Bastian Schweinsteiger effortlessly slotting into a deeper role. That said, Pim Verbeek’s tactics were extremely negative, choosing not to field a recognized striker in a compact but ill-disciplined and ill-prepared 4-2-1-2-1 formation. Lucas Neill and Craig Moore looked out of their depth and far too slow at the back. Tim Cahill clearly forgot to eat the Weetbix he so heartily endorses. The only positive comments can come from the performance of Brett Emerton, Wilkshire to a lesser extent, and Brett Holman who injected some much needed energy at half-time. Verbeek’s questionable tactics have come under much criticism, and the Aussies will need to bounce back with gusto against Ghana on Saturday night if they are to have any chance of going through.

Ghana and Serbia produced the first victory for an African nation at the tournament, and it was quite an entertaining game to boot. Serbia looked surprisingly frail at the back, and human giant Nikola Zigic was wasteful up front. They failed to produce sustained pressure on the Ghanaian goal and suffered for it. Ghana were slightly better, pressuring the Serbian defence whenever they were in possession. Asamoah Gyan netted a penalty to take the lead after Serbia had gone down to 10 men, and this win gives them a good chance of going through to the next round. Serbia will struggle with the speed and efficiency of the German attack, and a loss will probably knock them out of the running for second round qualification. Ghana face Australia who will be desperate for a victory, and perhaps in this case, desperation will prevail over superiority.

Predictions: Australia 1-0 Ghana

Germany 3-1 Serbia

Acknowledgements: Thanks to editor and minor contributor, Fishface Shakur.

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Are England 2010 the real deal?


With the start of their World Cup campaign just a number of hours away it got me thinking what this England Squad is actually capable of.  On paper the English squad always appears to be up there with the very best however much like the South African cricket team (much to the disappointment of the webmaster I might add) they have a ridiculous record of choking on the big stage.  In saying this the English faithful must have breathed a huge sigh of relief knowing that they are no chance of facing off against one Luiz Felipe Scolari. Big Phil was responsible for knocking the Three Lions out at the quarterfinal stage of the last 3 major tournaments they have been involved in (WC ’02 with Brazil as well as Euro ’04 and WC ’06 with Portugal). After the embarrassment of failing to qualify for Euro 2008, England were determined to prove a point during qualification and did so with 8 consecutive wins, making the road to South Africa quite comfortable with 27 out of 30 possible points. Perhaps more importantly than this they managed to regain some respect with 4-1 and 5-1 victories against Croatia, the side who had been responsible for keeping them out  in ’08.

In doing some research I stumbled along an article that suggested that the English squad actually has the highest average age (only slightly, by .1 of a year) of all of the 32 nations competing. However this was before Michael Dawson replaced the injured Rio Ferdinand which has brought down the average age from 28.7 to 28.5 putting them in second position behind Brazil and only slightly ahead of our beloved Socceroos. Despite the fact that at 40, David James probably brings that average up quite a bit, it got me thinking that for a number of the English stars this is just about their last chance for international glory. Whilst most of them will probably still feature at the Euro ’12 championships (provided they qualify) nothing could compare to the lifting that little Gold Trophy and surely by 2014 a lot of them will be on the other side of their best footballing days. For the likes of Stevie G and Frank Lampard who have seen much success at club level, yet only tasted bitter disappointed time and time again for England, South Africa 2010 could be the best chance if not the last they get (you would expect at 34 and 36 respectively, WC ’14 will come a bit too late for both of them).

So realistically are England bringing the real deal to South Africa 2010? Can they finally after 44 years lift the trophy once more? Lets look at the Pro’s and Con’s..

Pro’s:

  1. Capello – brings a wealth of experience to the side having achieved great success in both Italy and Spain, he is also England’s most successful international manager with a 75% win record almost 15% better than any previous manager
  2. No encounter with “Big Phil”
  3. Possibly the easiest route to the quarterfinal – simple group, followed by Serbia, Ghana or hopefully Socceroos in round of 16
  4. Quality squad with good depth and international experience
  5. A group of seriously determined men, ready to prove their worth on the biggest stage – potentially last chance for many and a chance to demand respect after rather disappointing previous results
  6. With skipper Ferdinand falling to the injury curse England still have two massively influential and inspiring leaders in the new captain,  Stevie G and vice captain Franky Lamps – not to mention former skipper JT

Con’s

  1. WAGS – if they’re anything like what we usually can expect from the English WAGS they can only be a distraction – although its no surprise, have you seen what they look like?! Crouchy and Stevie G aren’t doing too bad for themselves.. Pity about Ashley Cole
  2. The expectation and pressure from the media back home simply cannot be underestimated – they literally carry the weight of the entire nation on their shoulders, weighed down by the desperation for them to finally bring home the cup and title as world champs
  3. Pressure and reliance on Rooney – not to mention his temper (remember disastrous end to WC in ’06 with red card for stomping, also more recently in the last friendly – abusing the ref). Rooney is an absolute gun, a complete striker who never gives up and is capable of just about anything but will need to keep his calm and not allow the other teams to wind him up – if England are to lift the trophy he has got to be at his absolute best
  4. Inability to win a penalty shoot-out – G-d help England if it gets to that
  5. Heskey – to be honest I’m not entirely sure why he’s even there but Capello seems to insist he’s the starting man along side Rooney (who am I to argue..) however I cannot see him scoring a goal.. ever (his 7 goals in 58 games would support this). He’s way past it, would much rather see Crouch or Defoe neither of which are too brilliant either, but at least pose a goal scoring threat
  6. Chokers tag will be playing on their minds

In the opinion of the webmaster this is in fact England’s year and for once they will be able to shake off their tag as chokers, allowing them to finally progress past the quarter final. This should see them face off against Brazil in the semi final in what could be one of the games of the tournament. Although what happens from there I feel is too close to call. I for one, hope that South Africa 2010 will be England’s turn to shine and that they finally fulfill the potential that they have so often failed to live up to, they simply have too much class to keep failing. Come July 11 the webmaster would be happy to see Stevie G lifting the trophy.

Come on England!

Webmaster over and out.

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