Tag Archives: Serbia

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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World Cup Preview – Group D – Serbia


THE BASICS

• Nickname: Beli Orlovi (White Eagles)
• Colors: Red, white and blue
• FIFA Ranking: 16
• How They Got Here: Qualified first in a European group featuring France, Romania and Austria.
• World Cup Pedigree: 1st World Cup as just Serbia; 1 World Cup (’06) as Serbia & Montenegro; 8 World Cups (’30, ’50, ’54, ’58, ’62, ’74, ’82, ’90) as part of Yugoslavia.

THE PLOT

Will a team, playing for itself and by itself for the first time in its history, recapture the national pride it lost in their last World Cup? And can a solid performance on the world’s biggest stage help Serbia recover from a past marred by violence and ultra-nationalism? Serbia are a highly fancied side by many experts. Ranked 16th in the world, if the Serbians can get out of their tough group, then they could knock off some bigger name sides. Well organised, well coached, and with arguably the best defence in the World Cup, they were touted as ’06 dark horses when coupled with Montenegro, but failed dismally on that occasion. Can they put all that past them?

*Many people smarter than I have argued that soccer and the national psyche are intertwined. In Serbia, violence and horror is part of their past. Austrian poet Peter Handke described Serbia as “Europe’s most forlorn country.” It was the first nation put on trial for genocide after the war in the ’90s and it has a deep underlying ultra-nationalist rage that destroyed much of the country’s soccer infrastructure. Hooliganism and nationalism have historically gone hand-in-hand in Serbia and this video doesn’t do much to dispel such an argument:

THE DIRECTOR

Radomir Antic

Antic is the only man to coach Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid (the big 3 in Spain – historically). Antic has previously employed attractive brands of football across the Spanish clubs, and is an expert at uncovering talent and helping them to prosper. The 62 year old is a veteran of the world game and is well regarded in many circles.

LEADING MAN

Nemanja Vidic

Is it a good sign that the team’s best player is a central defender? Well, for most teams no, but Serbia’s balance of players pushes them towards a defensive style, and this makes the Man United centre half at the centre of all the action. Vidic in 2009 was one of the best players across Europe. It’s a big statement to challenge for EPL player of the year as a defender. But 2010 has seen a drop in form that is so often associated with big name players after a stellar season – 2nd year syndrome. Nevertheless, a Vidic poor performance is still a good performance for the majority of defenders.

SUPPORTING CAST

Dejan Stankovic (midfielder, Internazionale) is another Inter player that looks to have finally earned his stripes in 2010 as a world class midfielder. He’s a big reason why Serbia’s defence is so formidable. Don’t expect him to venture into the attacking half too far, but he is known for the occasional speculative effort (see goals of the year) Milos Krasic (midfielder, CSKA Moscow) bucks the trend and is probably the Serbian’s biggest threat going forward. He’s a wide player who hit the bakc of the net 13 times in Russia this year – could he be the next Arshavin? (I have no idea, you tell me…) Vladimir Stojkovic (goalkeeper, Wigan) Yet another team that has quality across the pitch with a considerably below par shot stopper. Stojkovic is the 3rd choice at Wigan, who aren’t the flashiest of sides to say the least. Branislav Ivanovic (defender, Chelsea) was a controversial choice to make the official EPL team of the season, but the Chelsea utility is undoubtedly a fine defender. He offers a lot going forward too, and will have a handy combination with Krasic. It will be interesting to see how he fares without his Chelsea friends around him and against some high quality attack (if they make it that far), as Ivanovic isn’t every critics favourite player.

GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Neven Subotic

Subotic is the next vidic. He has the menacing look, he has the build and he has the record to make a big money move to top tier club. He’s only 21 and has already splashed the water in the USA after switching from their U20 set up to Serbia last year. Plying his trade with Borussia Dortmund, everyone in the know says he’ll be the next in a long line of Eastern European defenders to get his name in lights.

THE VILLIAN

Stojkovic

You can just picture it can’t you?

THE FORMATION

Antic the traditional will start with a 4-4-2. A flat back four will sit deep and look to ensure their keeper doesn’t have to anything but stand and look pretty. Goals will come, but not in bucketloads, so it will be interesting to see a plan B if they concede early against a side like Australia, who have a strong defensive set up themselves (am I dreaming?)

THE STRIP

IT’S SORTA LIKE…

“Nightmare on Elm Street”

Rising from the ashes of a horrible event (Freddie getting burned alive, Serbia failing to win a game in ’06), a frightening (it’s not just their imposing-looking players, Serbia had 10 yellow cards and 1 red in ’06) menace is unleashed on the world.

THE ADVERTISMENT

USELESS TRIVIA

Back at home they have 36697 farm tractors per million Serbs – but who’s counting? Useless!

FINAL VERDICT

Back in 2010 on their lonesome and once again picked by many as their dark horse. Last time round they exited in a complete shambles, but look to have rebuilt a strong and robust squad that will challenge every team they face in South Africa. The game with the Aussies will challenge broadcaster’s ability to display more than one red card on the mini-scoreboard on the top left of our plasmas, and in truth discipline could cost them in the long run. 10 yellow cards and 1 red in ’06 saw them missing valuable players for some games, and similar mistakes this time could see them fail once again. The sides attack isn’t terrible, they’re just inexperienced and youthful, but they’ll be able to supply enough goals in PTS’ opinion. Maybe 2014 will be there year, however, as their defenders will still be around and their attackers will have grown up a little. (How many teams have I said that about already… and why is it that Brazil always seems to have the best squad!?!) Can the Brazil of the Balkans break into world football elite? Well, PTS fancies their chances and is predicting them to upset the form guide and finish top of the group. They’re probably a bigger chance to beat the Germans than the super fit Ghanians or Australians. While that sounds funny, it’s true.

No. 1 defensive set up in the land + top class coach + relatively easy draw beyond the group stages – everyone knows who they are now – everyone knows what they’ll do on the pitch – everyone knows they will struggle for goals = Everyone knows they’ll get out of the group and fall at the next hurdle against the English.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

Qualifying with three nil all draws (yes it’s possible) would be a good laugh. Winning the entire thing without scoring a goal (other than penalty shoot-outs) would be downright hysterical. Truly in a fairytale world.

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Ghanian injuries lift Socceroo chances


Watching one Mr Mensah come off early for Sunderland in their title race defining match up last weekend got us thinking. Another Ghanian under a growing injury cloud, how many more before the African’s chances fade away? It continued a growing trend of injuries in Australia’s tough group in South Africa. Most notable is Michael Essien who still hasn’t returned from his latest setback and by all reports is doubtful at best to feature in his own continent. It is easy to understate the importance of Essien to Ghana’s hopes of success. Essien is one of word football’s best and he is crucial for Ghana’s attack and defence. Without him, the Aussies are on par, or even better. With the Chelsea man in the team, Culina and Grella probably won’t be quality enough to stop his substantial threat.

The Ghana game will most probably define Australia’s campaign. Coming off a most probable loss against Germany in the opening game, anything other than victory in this matchup will make qualification unlikely. The Serbs waiting in game 3 will be a tougher task than the Ghanians and hopefully the Aussies will only need the draw against the steely defences of Vidic and Ivanovic to progress. Without Essien, Australia can start with an attacking mindset and play their preferred 4-2-3-1 with the two holding midfielders worrying more to push forward than track back. Bresciano may even be favoured over the more defensive Wilshire or Emerton in an attempt for goals and more goals. The Serbs favour a defensive setup, and despite the quality that they possess, will likely struggle for goals and if the Aussies can limit any damages against the Germans they should have the better goal difference to allow them to qualify with only 4 points.

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