Tag Archives: World Cup

FFA: Psychological Problems, Future Blueprints and the A-League


Socceroos

Soccerwhoos?

 

At current, I am scouring Jonathan Wilson’s veritable magnum opus, Inverting the Pyramid. As I stumble through this dense and frequently daunting HIST2034/FTBL101 compendium, that has truly proved a jarring amalgamation of the bane academia of history with a pastime, that at its root, enjoys a gloriously perfunctory accessibility, it seemed apt to contrast the globalisation of the world’s most unencumbered commodity with the stagnant progress of Australia’s national competition.

This is a country that treats football, more pertinently domestic football, with indifference at best. Australian culture is steeped with a sporting identity, but for the floundering A-League, that competes with the more traditional national sporting codes, the forthcoming version 8.0 could a tipping point for the future, whether  positively or otherwise. While the rites of passage journeys of Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton have ignited a flickering spark on the sporting landscape, attempts by the Football Federation of Australia have been thwarted by an ineluctable fact: Australian domestic sides compete in the best leagues in the world for their respective sports, be it AFL, NRL, Super 15 or the Sheffield Shield. With the proliferation of international coverage of football abroad, accompanied by Australia’s naturally refined and expensive sporting palette, the A-League has stagnated as a purveyor of mediocrity. Australia’s footballing populace is characterised, most discerningly, by their lack of sleep and late night habits in watching the English brand.

If Inverting the Pyramid spun the wonderful tales of football enigmas who spread the crimson thread of British supremacy and its past times to far-reaching corners of the world, then Australia’s clear absence must be noted. For a land that is drastically embossed with the English watermark, the lack of football is striking. While football spread to the imaginative, but poverty-stricken, villages of South America and Africa, gained a foothold in the Eastern European life of degradation and has seemingly conquered the remote Asian landscape, Australia, with New Zealand in tow, have remained untouched. Some have suggested that the uncouth convict origins drew the population to a more physical endeavour, but this seems a difficult leap to make, as Wilson’s description of early-period football seems a more close breed of rugby than the modern-day round ball version.

It seems more likely, however, that while Australia may have been served by their very own Alexander Hutton in Frank Lowy, of which I could only provide an injustice through description, and who has almost single handedly overseen the development of football as we know it in Australia through the 1970s to current, the sport is yet to meet its next visionary. If Alexander Hutton is credited with introducing the game to South America, then it is Charlie Miller who enjoys the accolades of its expansion. As philosophers describe, a movement may begin with an individual and then be propelled by a follower, but it still remains in infancy before it gains “followers of followers”. Only at this third removal from the initial starting point will the trend gain any momentum. This phenomenon is axiomatic throughout society, with marketers and businesspersons developing strategies over social media campaigns and celebrity endorsement. This is shown most succinctly by Derek Sivers and his TED company relies on this notion to gain interest and attention: Watch it Here

For football in Australia, Lowy marks stage 2 of this extended trend. To move forward, the Australian audience needs their next persuasive character, whether it be player, manager or administrator to imbue the local game with its own identity. Surely, 2006 marked a serious window of opportunity, with only a thinly velied Fabio Grosso dive, who has bewilderingly been heavily linked with a move to the A League, and an errant Luis Cantejelo shrill of his whistle barring the Socceroos from an unlikely quarter final appearance in Germany. For the English, tournament heartbreak has become a part of the national identity, but for Australia the disappointing African adventure of 2010 has had more a more sinister fallout, with Pim’s lack of ambition driving fans away, rather than towards, the round ball.

If the Australian sporting public demands the best, then it seems the World Cup and national team success would be the most self-evident mechanism to shift the national paradigm. The FFA must cast aside their inhibitions and provide a platform for an earnest campaign in 2018. Rather than financing the now defunct North Queensland Fury or the Gold Coast United, the game’s governing body should be distilling the talent pool with the foremost training ideologies, techniques and scientific developments; 3 areas Australia traditionally excels at in other codes. Following the lead of the burgeoning Japanese footballing community, that has achieved domestic league growth following national improvement, if not overwhelming success, would be a start.

But surely the most promising avenue towards such an outcome must be Australia’s spectacularly fruitless  2018/2022 World Cup bid. To go back on the small, but nonetheless valuable, progress that has been made would be a retrograde step. While critics have bemoaned the financial waste of the Lowy-led recent World Cup bids, the FFA must rally to ensure future support does not wane. The Australian footballing community must demand a further bid when the time comes, for this would provide the impetus to embrace the one truly international sport as the preeminent Australian game.

#tellhimhisdreaming

 

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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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Team of the Week


Remember, this is only based on first group round matches (even though you’re reading this after sides have played a 2nd match)

Ozil dominated all over the pitch...

Ozil dominated all over the pitch...

Goalkeeper

At the back we’ll employ the Nigerian Enyeama who shaded Howard of the US and South African Khune. Enyeama was the only thing preventing 1-0 from an extra zero; 10-0. It felt like one of those days where Martin Tyler pulls out the “he looks determined to not be beaten”, a phrase that gets its fair share of air time. Just as a preview: This bloke has booked his spot for next week with an astonishing display. Running out of superlatives.

Defenders

After one of the lowest scoring starts to a world cup we’ll play the defensive minded 5-4-1. It’s a shame that this wasn’t even the most defensive formation we saw, but nevertheless credit must be given to several stand outs who looked harder to break down than a pistachio. If we could play 3 right backs we probably would. Maicon and Phillip Lahm would have been certain starters in any given week if it wasn’t for Mauricio Isla bursting onto the scene for Chile. Isla showed a consistent attacking bent and a prominent threat down the flanks. Looks the complete package.

Stephane Grichting, Winston Reid and Oguchi Onyewu make up our flat back three. Other candidates include Frenchman Toullalan and Jung-Soo Lee who featured in a fluent South Korean display. It’s ironic that Reid books his place as a goal scorer. Grichting was simply colossal at the back and we very nearly played the entire Swiss defence. Onyewu stepped up for the US in a crucial game for them that could give them an outside chance to finish top of the group.

Bursting down the left, PTS fancies Gabriel Heinze who is once again picked predominantly for his aerial goal threat. Heinze’s goal was a superb header. He showed promise throughout the game as well.

Nadir Belhadj and Phillip Lahm are the most significant omissions (defending omissions) from our starting 11.

Midfielders

PTS has gone with Danielle de Rossi as the quarterback for the side. While the Italians didn’t get the result they hoped, they looked comfortable on the ball. De Rossi was central to all of their efforts. Alexis Sanchez will start on the right of midfield after leading his Chilean buddies to a famous opening win. He showed why Real Madrid are chasing his autograph. Creative genius at its best. He gets the nod as vice captain too, after showing his bag of tricks against Honduras. On the left of midfield it has to be Giovanni dos Santos who was an obvious standout way back on the opening night. The Mexcian showed incredible touch and while played centrally for his country, will threaten from the left for passthesugar. Our attack minded central midfielder is Mesut Ozil (Captain) who announced his arrival on the biggest stage in style. Tipped by passthesugar to “get yourself labelled as the hottest property by a commentator”, everyone at FFTD will be on the lookout for that phrase tonight when Ze Germans play Serbia. Had the ball on a string over the 90 minutes and could have scored a hat trick himself. Ozil captains the side, as he was the best performer of the first round.

Park Ji Sung, Lukas Podolski, Tshabalala and Fernandez are all unlucky to miss out. Abou Diaby was also a standout in a poor French outfit. While Slovakia didn’t live up the hype fuelled by passthesugar himself, Vladimir Weiss in the centre of the park still showed more quality than many of his compatriots.

Forwards

With no strikers impressing, we’ll squeeze an extra midfielder into the squad. Lionel Messi showed his Barcelona form is a transferrable commodity and that he will be the player of the tournament come July 12. While this selection is controversial, we’ll tell our players to keep the ball at their feet after the Jualani looked more eager to skid away than a horse at the start of the Melbourne Cup. Messi will look for the trio of Sanchez, Santos and Ozil to run into the space behind the defence.

Asamoah Gyan was the only player to even vaguely push for a place and could be considered unlucky. The Socceroos strker, Not Available, was also unlucky to miss out. Maybe the Asian Rooney Jong showed he’s not totally talk, but he wasn’t particularly impressive.

Substitutes

We’re limiting ourselves to picking players that actually came on as substitutes. The standout was probably Eljero Elia who gave Holland some much needed width and flair when he was introduced late into the game. We won’t be making too many subs, so remarkably, he’ll be the lone player on the bench. The Mexican sub that set up the goal is hard done by…

The Gaffer

Several coaches showed they’re still important in football, but the Swiss mastermind, Ottmar Hitzfield, will be in charge of the locker room. A bit more defensive please – and don’t have a heart attack either!

The fans

It has to go to the South Africans, who were unwavering in their Vuvuzela blowing skills. They celebrated madly before the tournament and after Tshabalala’s goal. They made the 1st week memorable in the homeland.

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World Cup Brainstorming – the largely incoherent thoughts of a sleep deprived man


If you thought we’d been lazing around, doing nothing and watching football – then ahh, you’d be right! Despite the distraction of university exams for the majority of our correspondents, the World Cup has reigned supreme with daily FFTD conferences in front of the fireplace and SBS HD. And after all our late nights and maccas runs we’ve got a little to say:

Blast Off - The World Cup kicks off!

Blast Off - The World Cup kicks off!

Goalkeeping – The Tale of 2 Extremes

Shot stoppers in South Africa have been making the headlines far too often for most football fan’s fancy. First it was the ongoing whining about the Jubalani (shut up! We get it! It does funny thing and you can’t play the long balls so well! Cool!). Now it’s the remarkable keeping blunders that have towered over many a contest so far. Indeed it seemed that the “goalkeeping error” was the highest scorer throughout the first week. Amongst many other predictions, I suppose if you predict every possible outcome you’re bound to get something right, a lack of quality goal keepers was a more blatantly obvious theme than the theme of romance in Romeo & Juliet. More than half of our previews featured concerns over the goalkeeper including England, who produced the most significant blunder to date. Don’t think they can blame it all on the ball either – if you’re playing with an inflatable pool toy you still have to make the right decisions to come out and meet a cross or punch away.

Enyeama has been a veritable standout. Simply mesmerising against Los Pumas with his often beyond comprehension elasticity, I’m currently watching the poor boy shake his head after yet another keeping howler. Heartbreaking camera work, as the keeper looked like tears weren’t far away. In truth, Enyeama had kept his side in the contest, with remarkable save after remarkable save, but in the end, it seemed even he wasn’t immune from the goalkeeping curse that seems to be sweeping the Cup by storm. (As I finish the sentence – live reporting at its best – Enyeama pulls another cracker to hold the marauding Greeks at bay.) Another honourable mention goes to Tim Howard who showed his full array of shot stopping expertise against the English. His smothering save from a Heskey drive will stay in the memory for a while.

All in all, we had the good, bad and ugly.

“Our 10-0-0 just didn’t work today… maybe we’ll reconsider” Every manager so far

Defence has been the overwhelming centre piece of South Africa so far. Almost half the managers have opted for negative formations, and in many cases, formations counter to their standard practice. The Swiss were arguably the most dogged, although the Japanese, Uruguayans and Paraguayans all deserve mentions. Focusing on the Swiss, Grichting and Senderos (while he was on) were dogged and tireless. Employing a 4-4-1-1, they played a man-marking system rather than the regulation zonal system. Defenders would push up to 15 metres to latch onto their opposition’s shirts, ensuring he has no space to turn and little time on the ball. They’d obviously done their research, because the vast spaces in behind the central defenders at these moments were never exploited by a toothless Spain. No one was prepared to make the run in behind the Swiss into the space once Villa had dropped deep to have a touch on the ball. Further, the Spanish offered almost no width. At times you could throw the proverbial blanket over the midfield and striker. Ramos was the only man who looked to move forward into the space, but he lacked technical ability in the touch and in truth should have scored on at least one occasion. Although I’m not personally a fan of Jesus Navas – that kid just can’t cross the ball – he changed the game after his arrival, consistently popping up in dangerous wide positions.

Man-marking could be having a renaissance amongst tacticians. Chile have opted for such a defensive system and employ a deep lying sweeper who looks to trap any balls played through their back 3. Their 1-3-3-3 is highly unusual and unique, but hasn’t been tested as yet. But in theory, the formation is the ideal for what we’v been considering so far. Apparently, they’ll swap to a 3-1-3-3 when they face the better sides, not that that’s particularly defensive. The Asian teams so far (besides Australia) haven’t surprised with their prodigal defences. Their idea of football is to swarm the opposition akin to bees to a honey pot. Japan particularly, looked to be playing with 15 men at stages against the Cameroonians, who didn’t have enough time to shout Eto’o before the whole Japanese squad was standing on their feet.

Strikers with an eye for the wrong goal

The other feature so far has been defensive minded strikers. What? Hold on, let me explain. While the notion of defending from the front has become somewhat of a bedrock within the modern footballing rhetoric, 2010 South Africa has possibly thrown up its first major tactical addition to the collective brain trust. A pattern has emerged in which teams pass the ball along the ground, eventually finding a lone front man, who drops back towards midfield, opening space in behind the defender who has hopefully pressed up the pitch with his man. Attacking wingers or midfields such as Oezil, Gerrard, Muller, Robinho, Sneijder and Honda are prepared to run into the space left in behind the defence, posing their own direct goal threat. It seems that these creative midfielders are more about scoring themselves than assisting others. The Gerrard and Oezil goals were the clearest demonstrations of the feature. Maybe the Jubalani has had something to do with the pattern, as the long ball into a target man has so far been ruled out by players who can’t seem to get a grip on a ball nicknamed “the snitch” by at least one colleague.

So all in all, we’ve seen a disappointing opening to Africa’s 1st World Cup. But already, the standard has lifted. Last night was probably the best football I’ve seen in 2010, with a pulsating Greece/Nigeria clash displaying the type of urgency we’ve come to expect. The Mexicans continued on their impressive way over a dismal and dispassionate France and Argentina leapt to favouritism and qualification on the back of a Lionel Messi extravaganza. But more on all that to follow…

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