Tag Archives: Group C

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.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

World Cup Preview – Group C – USA


Howdy partner, y’all a look at these Yanks

THE BASICS
• Nickname: The Yanks
• Colors: White, blue and red
• FIFA Ranking: 14
• How They Got Here: Finished first in the CONCACAF despite a fairly inconsistent showing
• World Cup Pedigree: 8 World Cups, finished third in 1930 and have qualified for the knockout round only two more times (’94 as hosts, ’02)

THE PLOT

Undoubtedly the world’s superpower in most other fields, the people from the US of A just can’t seem to get the whole round ball thing quite right. Consistently veiled in mediocrity, the best sporting talents produced in America seem to continue to flow towards the other more popular sporting outlets. While soccer (as it’s known in that part of the world) has an undoubted strong following, world cup success could crystallise support for a code to reach new heights. This is more a tale of cultural acceptance for the soccer community, who is still struggling to find its feet.

THE DIRECTOR

Bob Bradley

Bradley is by no means a popular choice for manager has been constantly criticised by pundits from the West to the East. Bradley struggles to please the average American fan, who expects action and has grown up on other high intensity sports that are part of the psyche of the average American. He prides himself on the side’s stability, consistency and fitness – emphasis on results over anything else. Undoubtedly, it’s a result based business, but his style of play hasn’t drawn in too many admirers. He has come under particularly direct fire for failing to employ flexible tactics and maintaining losing formations throughout games (Confederations Cup final against Brazil).

LEADING MAN

Landon Donovan

Donovan is the biggest name in the side, even if he probably isn’t their best talent. At 28 and with 100 caps to add to his wikipedia profile, the veteran will be the undoubted key to produce any sort of success. Speed, vision, passing, touch and attitude are his main positives, but his extended stay in the MLS still restrains his development to a true top class midfielder. A brief period at Everton showed significant promise and would have served to dampen some doubters.

SUPPORTING CAST

Clint Dempsey (midfielder, Fulham) has been some what of a revelation in England and has made leaps and bounds under everyone’s favourite bloke, Roy Hodgson. The experience he would have gained throughout their impressive Europa Cup run should give him confidence to stand up on the world stage. Don’t expect him to play too deep; he could start as a lone striker and if that’s the case will be the difference between a victory and a loss more than once. Michael Bradley (midfielder, Borussia Mönchengladbach) is a real enigma. Is it really true that he’s the coach’s son? Is this some kind of junior age joke? Apparently it’s not and he really is a feature of the side. Passthesugar is sceptical, to say the least, but he’ll try fill the important role of “box-to-box midfielder” for the Yanks. I still can’t believe that this is the coaches son… Oguchi Onyewu (defender, AC Milan) hasn’t played in 2010 following a knee injury sustained during qualification. His fitness continues to be an ominous injury cloud throughout the build up.

GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Jozy Altidore

Altidore is a crafty footballer who has largely failed in a disappointing loan move to Hull in the Premier League. In and out of the starting side, Altidore is a stereotypical candidate for this section. With Hull moving down a division and desperate to alleviate their financial woes, Altidore could become flotsam and be looking for a move from parent club Villarreal, where he is out of favour to say the least. The American saves his best efforts for the national side and looked dangerous throughout the Confederations Cup. A complete package, with speed, strength and a knack for goals, Altidore needs to lift to the next level to be billed as “the hottest property” by Andy Gray.

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Bradley

Bradley. OMG! He’s still the coach’s son! He was also sent off in the Confed Cup semi-final leaving his team short.

FORMATION

Nothing’s for certain here – but your soccer correspondent favours a 4-5-1/4-3-3 with Dempsey and Donovan looking to push forward and wide from midfield. Bradley could opt for a 4-2-2, however and shove Dempsey next to Altidore in a two pronged forward line.

THE STRIP

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

The Star Trek franchise

The original “Star Trek” kinda sucked, but “Wrath of Khan” ruled. Then the “Search for Spock” was bad, but “The Voyage Home” was good. So on, so forth. USA works just like that. In 1990, things were bad. In ’94, things were better. Then the disastrous ’98 cup. Then ’02 was amazing. Since ’06 was a shambles, it’s not without of reason to speculate that this will be a bounce-back year.

THE ADVERTISMENT
This is marvelous. If this doesn’t pump you up, you ain’t American – I’m not American and didn’t watch the whole thing…

USELESS TRIVIA

Not only does average daily TV viewing in the U.S. (around 8 hours) lead the world, it’s about twice as much as the closest competitor (Greece).

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

In 1950, the United States recorded, perhaps, one of the greatest upsets in sports history, knocking off England 1-0. The lone American goal was scored by Haitian immigrant Joe Gaetjens. The U.S. opens the 2010 World Cup playing against England (in jerseys, by the way, that are modeled after the ’50 version) with a striker who is the son of, you guessed it, Haitian immigrants. (His dad’s name was Joseph, just like Gaetjens.) A 1-0 victory with an Altidore goal is just about too perfect though, even for Hollywood right?

FINAL VERDICT

Finally the USA have some resemblance of depth to their squad. More than three quarters of the side is employed overseas, which is a big change from previous campaigns. As discussed elsewhere, Group C is nothing special either – England will be strong, but Slovenia and Algeria offer little going forward. The US will surely be content with second in the group and look destined to face off against Germany in a repeat of ’02. Group D certainly isn’t straight forward for the Germans, however, and the US will be praying for a bit of luck and a weaker opposition qualifying top of Group D. Reaching the quarter finals will be a great success for the side and is probably all they could wish for. It was alluded to above that ’06 was a veritable disaster, and all players will be looking to rectify the issue.

Consitently average across the squad + Favourable draw + Nationalistic sentiment – consistently average across the squad – Bradley (both manager and player) = another year in world cup wilderness with a straight forward second round exit.

Tagged , , ,

World Cup Preview – Group C – Slovenia


Slovenia – another country that just gets the blood pumping

THE BASICS
• Nickname: Zmajeceki (Dragons)
• Colors: White, green and yellow
• FIFA Ranking: 23
• How They Got Here: Finished second in a European qualifying group (above the Czech Republic and Poland, below Slovakia); beat Russia 2-2 on away goals in a two-leg playoff.
• World Cup Pedigree: 1 World Cup (’02) as Slovenia, eliminated in group stage; 8 World Cups (’30, ’50, ’54, ’58, ’62, ’74, ’82, ’90) as part of Yugoslavia.

THE PLOT

Slovenia really shouldn’t be in the tournament. There final has already come and passed in qualification. They’ve accounted for the more highly fancied Czechs and Russians in an outstanding 2010 that has seen them move to 23rd in the world. They couldn’t have had a tighter escape than against the Russians and don’t seem to have the depth, nor class to give anyone too much of a shake. Any team hailing from the Yogoslavian area, however, deserves some respect. Traditionally, Yugoslavia capped the number of Slovenians in the national team, and they’ll be out to once and for all put this misconception to bed.

THE DIRECTOR

Matjaz Kek

In his playing days Kek was a robust defender and it seems that his playing style has rubbed off onto his favoured tactical paradigm. Slovenia play a compact system that is highly organised and high pressured. Kek always has his team challenging at every contest and the side’s defensive pedigree is their dominant hallmark. Conceding just the paltry 4 goals in 10 qualifying games is an accomplishment, regardless of the opposition. Kek will ensure that the same type of steely resolve is evident in Africa.

LEADING MAN

Bostjan Cesar

It’s difficult to spruik the side when their best player earns his dosh at Grenoble in Ligue 1. I suppose he won’t be worried about glamour or anything like that. Hopefully their main defensive man will continue his impressive qualification form and refrain from too many leg-breaking challenges. He’s a West Brom product and his expertise garnered from that set up will be like golden pearls in South Africa.

*An additional note: If you’re leading man doesn’t have anything worthy of making this blog on youtube, then you know you’re in trouble.

SUPPORTING CAST

Milivoje Novakovic (forward, Cologne) netted 5 goals during qualification and looks to be their number one attacking weapon. He hasn’t missed an international in a fair while, and while he isn’t a regular started at Cologne, will be good enough for their style of play. Robert Koren (midfield, West Brom) is the prime reason that I’m even bothering to write this article. What a hero RoKo is! The veteran midfielder has vast experience across English leagues and is as crafty as he is willing. Koren has recently been released by the Baggies, who are building upon an already strong midfield for their forthcoming EPL campaign. Koren is a fan favourite and is capable of that match-winning strike from well outside the area. The diminutive figure will also be tasked with handling most of the team’s media commitments, which should not be underestimated. Look for Koren to score twice against England in the surprise of the tournament. (Both penalties, of course) Miso Brecko (defender, Cologne) needs just the solitary adjective: solid.

GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Rene Krhin

This guy really does have bucket loads of promise. Krhin is a member of Inter Milan’s setup and if Mourinho sees anything in the kid, then that’s good enough for me. He’s an attacking option who may not get a start in front of Koren. Slovenia’s best option, however, would be to gamble on the youngster and put him at the top of their midfielder for some much needed goals.

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Ceser

Was carded more times than any other player from a bottom half ligue 1 team and looks like a hardcore thug. He made the headlines in England recently by stating that he’d make it “unpleasant” for England and that he is specifically aiming for Rooney, who he still bears a grudge against for a challenge during his time at West Brom. Don’t be surprised if he pulls a gun or sledge hammer from inside his shorts and kills the bloke if they aren’t winning.

FORMATION

A tight 4-4-2 that often resembles a 6-3-1, the Slovenians will kick the ball to their opposition’s keeper from the outset and simply sit back and wait to concede. Similar to powerhouses, Algeria, they’ll only have one poor dude looking to score.

THE STRIP

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

“Taken”

An unheralded movie that was released under the radar that’s not really spectacular or breath-taking, but it’s effective, well made and more enjoyable than you think it should be. Both film and soccer team feature bald Eastern European hitmen.e

TRAILER
Gotta love anytime someone breaks out the Queen tribute video…

USELESS TRIVIA

With only about 2 million people, Slovenia is the smallest country in this year’s tournament. The’ll have the smallest impact too.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

Cold War battle against the US? Already knocked out the mother country in Russia… this fairytale has already been scripted. A second round showdown with Germany will be a more fanciful fairytale than Little Red Riding Hood.

FINAL VERDICT

They won an impressive 6 times in qualification and for all the fuss made around their defensive bent, they must know how to win football games. Their qualification group was anything but straightforward, too, with Slovakia, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Poland all with far greater experience and bigger name players. That wasn’t it either, they also scored away in Russia and then all stood in the goal mouth for 90 minutes at home to book their plane tickets. Could they be a darkhouse? They’re in an average quality group. They should beat Algeria (but don’t watch this game whatever you do) and will fancy their chances to sneak a goalless point against England or the US. The Dragons look to lack a little fire power, however, and maybe Brazil ’14, when Krhin is more experienced, will be their best chance.

Tagged , , , ,

World Cup Preview – Group C – England


THE BASICS
• Nickname: The Three Lions
• Colors: White and Red
• FIFA Ranking: 8
• How They Got Here: Dominated (9-0-1 with 34 goals scored) a rather weak European qualifying group
• World Cup Pedigree: 12 World Cups, 1 title (’66, when they hosted), lost in the quarterfinals four times

THE PLOT

Which WAG will get the most attention in South Africa will surely depend on their frocks at the team’s opening dinner. Just kidding – the football looks to be the focus for once this time round. Crucially, Beckham was ruled out and this may be a blessing in disguise. He’ll divert a heavy load of media attention away from the playing group and good act as an extremely positive mentor for several of their younger talents. (And they have a few) The real question in an international tournament is deciding whether the class that English players show in the Premier League is as good as that shown in other leagues. With the footballing focus of the world veritably trained onto the Premier League, it’s so hard to weigh up the form of the English side. Their reputations are typically inflated by an obsessive media, but they’ll be out to shake off this tag on the world stage. They’ll also be desperate to shake off their tag as perennial world cup chokers in 2010 after years of heartbreak. There is unprecedented pressure on the side. A tactical mastermind for a manager and several quality players have meant that the public will settle for nothing less than the trophy this year.

THE DIRECTOR

Fabio Capello

Fabio is a tremendous tactician. He is held in high regard across Europe as one of the most successful coaches of this generation. Capello is a true no-nonsense character. Discipline is probably his best attribute, as evident in his swift response to the Terry/Bridge debacle. Capello hasn’t changed a whole lot in the England set up, however, and is yet to spring any major surprise. He’s managed to find a way to play Gerrard and Lampard together in the centre of the pitch, which could be important for their chances. Yet another easy qualifying group for the English sees them underdone before South Africa, and Capello will surely be worried that the side will be found lacking against quality opposition. Ultimately, Capello brings a winning culture. He’s brought victory to Roma, Juventus, AC Milan and Real Madrid. Will he bring victory to England?

LEADING MAN

Wayne Rooney

The impact that Rooney will have on the side can simply not be overstated. Rooney has the complete package. You’ll always be confident that he’ll finish anything that even vaguely resembles a chance. You’ll always be confident that he’ll produce something out of nothing at some stage at the Cup. 2010 has been far and away his best season to date. A true break out season, in which he was being touted as the best player in Europe on more than one occasion. It’ll be intriguing to see if he can produce the same efficacy for the All Whites, where he is utilised on the edge of the box more than right in the 6 yard area. Rooney is also renowned for his desperation and tenacity and will certainly not be the player to throw in the towel. The Roonometer has been set up ontop the Big Ben in London – if Rooney starts to fire then any pressure on the rest of the team will be sure to subside. Could win the tournament on his own boot.

SUPPORTING CAST

Frank Lampard (midfielder, Chelsea) had an indifferent start to the campaign, but as of late has rekindled the vintage Lampard of old. 22 goals as a midfielder is truly remarkable, but what is often overlooked is his 14 assists that isn’t too shabby either. Franky is another English player who fans stick above their breakfast table and little girls place on their bed side table. Lampard’s combination with Gerrard will be crucial – if the love is there, then they could produce anything. Rio Ferdinand (defender, Manchester United) is the skipper of the side, but still remains doubtful to even pull on the strip. Even when not injured for Man United in 2010, he’s been erratic. He lacks pace, doesn’t look as strong in the air as he used to be, and seems to have lost respect from his playing group. Rio has always produced his finest for the national side, however, and his experience will be missed if he’s ruled out. Steven Gerrard (midfielder, Liverpool) hasn’t managed to recapture his stunning ’09 season. He’s been stuck in a losing and under performing side, but has still shown glimpses of his best. Gerrard is tireless and has better vision than an eagle. He’s yet another player who’ll wear his passion all over his sleeve in South Africa. Gareth Barry (midfielder, Manchester City) has been placed under the heaviest of injury clouds by team doctors. His participation is crucial. Barry has been the picture of consistency all year (if not spectacular) and will provide crucial steel to the midfield and cover for his defenders. If he fails to recover in time, then the side’s team sheet will look a whole lot weaker with a name like Huddlestone in the line up.

GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

James Milner and Adam Johnson

England will have injury concerns throughout June/July. In fact, every side will have such concerns. These two certainly won’t make the starting side, but could be crucial in the long run. Depth of squad is a prerequisite for World Cup success and don’t be surprised if either of these two walk out onto the pitch in the business end of the tournament. Milner is highly versatile, but has made the potentially career-changing move to the centre of midfield. Johnson has been a revelation at Man City, keeping many bigger named and better paid stars on the bench. Johnson could be the man to solve England’s perennial left wing lacking. (It’s true that these two are pretty much already hottest property, but who did you want me to pick? In fact, why don’t you tell me by commenting down below…)

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

Whoever the goalkeeper is

The real question mark over the side remains the last line of defence. Gazing over the EPL team sheets in 2010, the majority of quality keepers are foreign born. Fridel, Sorenson, Schwarzer, Reina, Friedel and Given to name only a few of these names. Joe Hart has probably been the shining light in this area with stunning performance after stunning performance for Birmingham. Debate still rages, however, over who the number 1 should be with whispers beginning to point towards David Clamity James to be the starter. Whoever it is, he’ll be the villain. Expect them to be bundled out on penalties – expect the finger to be pointed at the goalie.

FORMATION

Question marks over this area too. The only thing we know is that Fabio will always favour a holding midfielder. If Barry’s not fit, then Carrick of Huddlestone will just have to do. Without Barry the gaffer might lean towards a 4-5-1 with a more compressed set up. The midfield is probably their best area and Capello surely knows that. In the past they’ve lined up with a traditional 4-4-2 and expect the same from the team that invented football.

THE STRIP

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

“Robin Hood”

It doesn’t matter who’s involved (Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Russell Crowe, David Beckham, Paul Gascogine, Wayne Rooney) or who’s directing (Kevin Reynolds, Ridley Scott, Bobby Robson, Capello), you already know the story, you know how it’s going to end and you know it’s not going to be completely satisfying.

THE ADVERTISMENT

USELESS TRIVIA

Everyone loves to hate England. Enough Said.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

I’m gonna leave this one up to the readers – there are so many fairytale options. The best script that is posted below will win nothing. But you should do it anyway.

Here’s my effort: England create history by winning every knockout game by penalties, and spectacularly only score penalties the entire tournament. Three 1-0 group wins (all Lampard penalties – actually who will take ’em?) sends them through. And then they exorcise their demons with penalty wins against Germany and Brazil on their way to glory. All the players will be knighted and moulded into permanent pure gold replicas in Madam Tossards or whatever that place is called.

FINAL VERDICT

So much depends on their injury concerns to key players. If the likes of Rooney, Barry, Ferdinand and Gerrard are under 100% then the England team doesn’t roar like the lion it could. Undoubtedly, however, England have a strong spine to their team. Recent comments by discard Gary Neville claimed that Paul Scholes still remains their best midfielder. Passthesugar wouldn’t go that far, but certainly the red head would have added a good dash of experience and technical nous to the broth. Capello looks to be their trump card. In qualification, for once, England didn’t struggle or look like missing out. Compared to Erikson and McLaren, Capello looks the goods and will hopefully be able to wring out every last bit of quality onto the green grass in South Africa. While Rooney is the most important cog in the side, they will only go as far as their defence allows them, or as long as it takes for a goalkeeping blunder. Looking at their team sheet, there just seems to be something missing. England have a dream draw passed the group stages (not to say the group is anything more than mediocre) and will fancy their chances against the Germans in the quarter finals and Argentinians or French in the semis. They’re well clear of Brazil and Spain, who always seem to get the better of the traditional and largely boring English. Don’t expect them to score a whole bunch of meat pies, but several 1-0 or 2-1 results will be all they need to give the Queen a heart attack and spark Elton John into a frenzy of song covers. (God, please don’t make me watch several ticker-tape parades with those idiots on the top of a red double decker. PLEASE.) Maybe it’s because all there players ply their trade in the EPL, or maybe it’s because of that image that won’t get out the way – yes the one of them losing on penalties. If they can avoid such a situation, then they should proceed to the latter stages.

Average group + Dream knockout stage draw + Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard in the same team + Capello – Media commotion constantly – Injury concerns – Penalty nervousness – Drunk English streakers = Top of the group and a semi-final appearance in South Africa. From here, anything could happen. It’s about time they got their hands on some silverware and if results fall their way it could happen.


Tagged , , , , , ,