Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mosque in Manhattan

An intriguing debate has been rumbling along nicely in the United States. Park 51, a complex in lower Manhattan, is the location where The Cordoba Center (American spelling as it is in New York - forgive me conscience) has been earmarked for construction. The group of Muslims behind the $110 million project want the current building demolished and want to erect The Cordoba Center.

The only problem being that it is two "blocks" from "Ground Zero". As this became newsworthy the debate has fire-balled into an argument most prominently between anti-Islamist rhetoric and liberal voices - not so much Muslims as they don't really deserve a voice.

There are a few Muslims who have spoken out and the few represent a moderate voice. The voice that The Cordoba Center want people to hear. Voices 'Middle America' don't really want to hear because in their minds the planned construction is categorically insensitive to those that lost their lives on 11th September 2001. How dare any Muslim plan to establish a center for inter-faith discourse near Ground Zero.

Ultimately, Middle America has lost the battle - "the project surmounted a final hurdle on Aug. 3, 2010, when a decision by the New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission cleared the way for the construction of Park51. The tower of as many as 15 stories will house a mosque, a 500-seat auditorium, and a pool. Its leaders say it will be modeled on the Y.M.C.A. and Jewish Community Center in Manhattan."

Again, this brings into question the level of tolerance Muslims feel in the United States. Quite inversely to what has been demonstrated by a minority of white Americans, Muslims have lived for a long time in the US without ever feeling the need to relocate and indeed the number increases with reversion and immigration.

What is surprising is that there is still a latent hatred that rears its loose limb from the ground every once in a while. In fact, much of the liberal United States is geographically retained in relatively small geographic areas. The same areas that are constantly democratic havens.

Sometimes it feels like a ticking time-bomb and while Michael Bloomberg came out with some utterly positive statements about the liberties of religious expression, it still must mean that much of the US is off limits for Muslims.

In any case Bloomberg's speech (thank you Dimitri) reasserted the importance of change, liberty and freedom of expression after the decree was passed.

The center can now be built. But much work needs to be done to educate even a small minority of the US that fears or hates Islam so much. Dr. Akbar Ahmed appeared on Jon Stewart recently and is looking to bridge a gap that is much wider than it is in Europe, however, it seems Muslims have an easier task in the UK or Germany than they do Stateside. France, Switzerland...perhaps there are problems but Muslims general liberties exist.

It is the fear of those freedoms being removed and the lack of some actual freedoms that harms the Muslim psyche so much and until that fear is removed there will always be a distinct gap in what interaction communities can do.

By the same token, where does America face its biggest problem with its Muslim communities? Middle-class Muslims. Again Middle America is so easily misinformed and is so easily malleable that one way or another they affect consumer, political and social decision making.

Who started it? We will never really know but when an empire holds power and responsibility it will never be perceived by the liberal as working without an agenda.

Despite Bloomberg or Municipal Commissions, the reason why middle-class Muslims in America have been moved to any degree has been affected by US foreign policy. And it isn't likely to change with any affect anytime soon.

Afghanistan and Iraq and any other movement or motion of military might continues to blight the good work done on the ground in the US. A unified voice is what Muslims need a la Akbar Ahmed and a unified effort would solve much of the problems America face...on the ground and at policy level.

I can't see it happening and I can't see middle Americans changing either so its to the pockets of inter-culture and inter-faith success that we look to maintain our hope and happiness.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saudi Blackberry Ban

Looks like I told you so.

Saudi's ban was set to kick in earlier than the UAE's and lo and behold there is a deal already.

Posturing children, posturing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Developments, copy cats and boxing champions

Developments at Liverpool seem reaching some kind of boiling point. I'm sure we've all been here before (as Liverpool fans). I wasn't so much disappointed when the Americans bought Liverpool as non-plussed as it didn't seem as magnificent as a DIC or a sovereign wealth fund - but it was something.

It hasn't worked out and now it is quite possible we will have new Chinese or Canadian/Arab owners in the near future. Apart from, which courts its own controversy, I've found a new Liverpool website that isn't as updated but is the most balanced writing I've seen online about LFC. - worth a read and written by a jingo.

Aside from football, if there is one thing I don't like it is plagiarism. Now I love Mo Zaher's blog, Irrelevant Combinations, but when I wrote my last post about Blackberry he essentially took my views to his larger audience. A bit like New Kidz On the Block making a Beatles' song popular. Anyway, check out his writings.

Staying on Mo, he has lost his crown as Boxing Champion. Much like I took Chuma's crown as FIFA champion, even though its an inferior game. Fight Night Round 3 despite being dated has provided some classic moments in my mind and next year they will release Fight Night Champion.

It was touted as a motion game but that looks to have been dashed as an option I'm not a big fan of the motion based games on the Wii and I'm equally apprehensive about xbox's future system. However, rather than reinvent games I think these systems will enhance the experience.

Much like Blackberry is a globalised extension of communication and not a real substitute for face-to-face interactions (my belief) I feel action and sports is the same. Who knows? Who cares?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

So, ummm Blackberry? Ah Dubai...

Hmmm, so I'm back. In Dubai. I don't really know how that happened.Very blurry. Almost didn't get on the plane but I did and the last 3 weeks are history. Like I never left this place.

Reporting and news here is essentially replicated on the most. The media uses major newswires and some of the shittest papers ( in England to relay news. However, local or national news is still evolving and with a lack of correspondents outside of the country, you can sense how insular a place this is.

One story of note is that of the Blackberry. The scourge of humanity and social interaction. It ruins any meeting or conversation and it is essentially worshiped by its users. I had one...a basic one for a little while. I find it vile...and so does the UAE government.

Bobbie Johnson blogged a year or so ago on the implications of government intervention in personal interactions utilising "BBM" so this has been bubbling up for a while now.

Well, the problem arises out of Blackberry's encryption coding for its BBM service, which 1) means that the government can't prevent National Security breaches and 2) becomes even more of a problem when Blackberry states that it doesn't even know how to decode it. Highly unbelievable.

The last couple of weeks has been about dialogue between the government and RIM (the slightly unfortunate name of the company behind Blackberry) so that the authorities have access to information exchanged.

Well, its all come to a head now, like a pulsating whitehead on the dotted face of my ex-wife. Blackberry is to be blocked in the UAE by both providers on the command of the government.

Good. I'm usually quite rebellious but Blackberries (I assume thats how you refer to them in the plural) are plastic shit that ruin social interaction on a REAL LEVEL. Virtual existences should be confined to desktops or work time or when you are alone not when we are in the middle of something.

However, I think this is posturing and pressure on RIM to give up the encryption to the government. Come October 11th I think it'll be a very different story. I am not one for tech stories but Mo is so techy is almost pixelated when we meet.

And if you are a bird and you like make-up this might be the place to go.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The World Cup's business end and a note on Liverpool

This is the last stretch now. The last 8 teams. The wheat has been extracted from the chaff and essentially these are the best 8 teams in the world right now. Perhaps its just a tournament and some of this is a one off. But for now you should take this as an indicator.

A case in point: Ghana. Aside from Egypt, Ghana have been the most consistent since the start of the year of all the African nations. Their preparation and comfort with their coach has been a far stretch from all the other sides from Africa that qualified. Nigeria are joining France in the close to the bone stakes of government intervention.

Paraguay have been tough, combative and resolute. Not pretty but accurate enough to keep out the opposition. Uruguay similarly are condense. Their major difference is the front two: clinical. Argentina it could be said are the worst side to have qualified based on their streaky campaign to get to South Africa but going forward they have clicked. At the back they haven't been tested.

Not many would have said Germany would be real contenders but after England their movement and speed has to be complimented. Are they due a mistake? Yes, they can be got at. When the onus is on them to attack they are susceptible. Ghana could have exploited that but were profligate.

Brazil and Spain, the pre-tournament favourites have now found a flow that could take them to a meeting in the final. Brazil are Dunga's Brazil. Nothing fancy, just ultimately tough to beat and clinical on the counter. Spain are finding their feet - they stepped up the speed of their passing against Portugal during the second half and looked like they were in total control. They know what they need to do. And The Netherlands really do have another gear to move into.

Whether they do that is another question.
However, it is now or never. Port Elizabeth isn't the best place for the teams to meet for the fourth time in the World Cup. The pitch has come in for a great deal of criticism. Both teams have been effective rather than beautiful. Fabiano is flying at the moment and the Dutch can say their best player is either Sneider or Robben who has only just come back in.

Holland know that they are yet to impress but neither team is likely to. What I will say is that Brazil seem to control their gears more comfortably than the Dutch. For that I can see Brazil winning. But what do I know. I think Johan Cruyff is trying to induce some free flowing football from Brazil so that the Dutch can exploit some space - doubt those mind games will work with the stubborn Dunga.

Ghana and Uruguay. Well, either way this is delving into the historical. Only two other African teams have made it to the Quarters and Ghana have a continent behind ( them wishing them as the first semi-finalists from Africa. This will be tight. Uruguay are content to hit on the break while being solid in Midfield. Lugano has been immense at the back and they have conceded only once. Forlan and Suarez have switched between one another for the goals but they are a formidable partnership to have when you need them. Ghana rely on Gyan but he and a host of players are nursing injuries. Both Mensahs are in need of fitness tests as is Prince Boateng who has arguably been their best player. Muntari is likely to come in for Ayew who is also struggling.

Its those niggling injuries that perhaps puts them at a disadvantage. Uruguay look like they are experienced even if they aren't if you know what I mean. They look ready. Ghana have the support of a continent and have been precise in their play and measly in conceding. However, they have conceded and I worry that they are not physically ready because of the length of their campaign so far...same as Uruguay's but just harder on the body and mind I feel. El Pais, Uruguay's most highly read daily quotes two time coach as saying they will not afford Ghana too much respect.

I hope that doesn't bite him on his backside. Uruguay have won two World Cups. Long ago in 1930 and 1950. Pioneers in the sport despite their small size. Prior to that they won Olympic Gold and as a result wear four stars on their shirt. The Olympics was the unofficial World Championship, yet they still revel in that fact. Their heritage may spur on this team and I don't feel they have over achieved. They look comfortable. More comfortable than Paraguay or Argentina. The best balance of all the South Americans bar an incredibly resolute Brazil.

But this is the business end. I can't wait.

And domestically, Liverpool have perhaps the nicest man in football as their new manager. As a fan, I'm right behind him despite being unhappy with Rafa's treatment. But he had burnt his bridges and had made too many mistakes this season. Part of me wanted him to stay for what he gave us but as much instability as the owners have given us the one way to keep going was to keep winning and not all our woes could be blamed on the Americans. Roy has a tough job but I really do hope he does well. He deserves it and so do we.

Monday, June 28, 2010


You carry your performances forward. If you play well and know your abilities you take it forward with you to the next game. If you don't play well but you still win you run the risk of blinding yourself with your success.

It is simple. England. Before the part-time fans begin their "yeah, but if it was over the line then..."

No, England were trounced by a superior team. That isn't to say England doesn't have some of the best players in the world in the side. They do. But Capello abused this side with his belief and stubbornness in his tactics that were born and died in the 1990's. Players in the wrong place and in the wrong positions.

Let's be clear. Sven Goran Eriksson's team were better than this one. Dull, lifeless....sounds like a L'oreal advert.

And even if England went in at 2 - 2, Germany were quicker, more creative and more disciplined. Germany deserved to win. England deserved it to be this bad. And their momentum from the warm-up games and the way they started this tournament...actually, even against the States they were better, more English...they were always going to lose.

Mexico too. They had such a great opportunity but they were beaten by Uruguay and despite some bad luck against Argentina, they fell apart. They lacked confidence.

There is no such thing as a friendly or a dead rubber. You want to win regardless.

What a dramatic day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Only a C?

The first day of knock-out football has begun at the 2010 World Cup.

Some might think that there is a tectonic shift in football at the moment. Perhaps they're right. I think the worries were there before this World Cup started.

Sepp Blatter's 5 + 4 ruling (which has recently been shot down by the EU) showed that enough domestic talent wasn't breaking through across the continent. I don't know. Spain's system grooms technicality from a very young age and was seriously addressed to ensure that no matter the size of a player, that the essentials of first touch, passing and movement were in place before moving into a higher level.

I doubt that those things aren't in place in France or Italy or even in England where size usually matters. France's issue was uniquely destined to occur because of the nature of their team and the explosion in South Africa was a culmination of issues rather than football.

Italy, well, they are flooded with foreign talent in their leagues. This is a remnant of the 90's and their boom time (ala Premier League modern day) and hasn't necessarily been addressed. At the same time, players like Quagliarella (who impressed in his only real chance against Slovakia) show that there is still the talent. I am sure this will be addressed after the abysmal tournament they had. I think it should have been addressed after 2006 but the euphoria of winning the World Cup meant it was a welcome relief to the scandal that had embroiled Italian football at that time. They weren't the best team in the world - they'd just played tournament football and had won it with luck too.

Is it a shift? No, its just an increase in competitiveness. All teams are fit and now the teams that are progressing and most that haven't except for Honduras have addressed organisation. It wasn't a fluke that New Zealand took 3 points. They were well organised and disciplined. They worked hard and deserved something from every game.

Not great to watch but look at Uruguay. So well drilled and hard to break down added to the fact they have such clinical finishers. That was the difference today against South Korea. They took their chances and half chances lets say. Now the Korean peninsula can concentrate on politics again. South Korea fell away after losing to Argentina. They started with such self belief but got unhinged and didn't recover. The Nigeria match is a testament to that. They were easily penetrable.

And the United States supported by Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger. Bizarre. However, they played so well and achieved so much in the Confederations Cup. And they started slowly this tournament. They kept falling behind but still achieved what they wanted. They finished top of their group and they were super fit. Beyond organisation, they were pace and tenacity personified. USA Today's C grade is a little harsh but tonight they came up against a real test.

Ghana. I am surprised yet not at the same time. I watched them in the African Nations and it was evident they were the wisest of the lot. They didn't sack their manager for a high profile one. They reached the final of the African Nations Cup without having to break too much of a sweat with a young team. They lined up organised (there's that word again) - they lined up hard to beat. 4 5 1. And that discipline and organisation isn't just adhered to with 2 banks that aren't penetrable. The difference between them and let's say New Zealand, is precision and delicate movement.

Their passes they make time for. If they are pressed the must keep the ball. They try not to make a rushed pass and if they are in the 2nd or final third of the pitch they pick their pass perfectly. Isn't necessarily attractive and they might not be the most talented - I think the Ivory Coast are. But they reached the final in Angola with a trusted, obedient team. Muntari was sent packing and they knew who their boss is.

Now he is back but he hasn't started once. No Essien. Not even Appiah starts. The Ghanaian FA didn't want a high profile man to take charge to just show their best side. Sven Goran Eriksson might have wanted the Ivory Coast to do well but even their players looked happy to just win 3 nil against North Korea. They danced after their 3rd. What was there to dance about? You are going home!

No, Ghana are different. And they may not get past Uruguay to what would be an amazing achievement in getting to the semis. Maybe not. But this is a young team. This is the Under 20 World Champions. Maybe they won't achieve the greatness that is expected of them. Nigeria never did after winning Olympic Gold. But they have potential. And they haven't reached the Quarter Finals by fluke. This is a good team who have achieved what they deserved. And what a tournament Kevin Prince Boateng is having. A late inclusion (which will rankle Muntari and the old guard) but hard working, combative, creative, precise....goal scoring?! From Tottenham outcast to Portsmouth villain to hated by Germany to the Quarter Finals of the World Cup. Not bad.

If Uruguay get to the semis what an amazing achievement too. Back to their glory days. Either way what a top start to the knock-outs.

And now the traditional big guns role out. England awaits. Germany does too. By the way, if you thought the English constantly ranted on about the past, then you are mistaken. The Germans are still as bothered about 1966 as much the English.

And Argentina Mexico...well, two relatively attacking sides but as I wrote previously, the Mexicans have tried to bolster their chances by playing South American opposition more often. However, the Argentinian paper, La Nacion wrote about their ability to role over and respect more reputable South American opposition. 10 games in recent times against Argentina and only 1 win. Tough task but a chance to right the wrongs of the second round 4 years ago.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Thats it. The first 2 weeks of the tournament are over. All the group / league action is done. We are half way through this World Cup. Sometimes it feels like it is going slowly and other times too quick. Italy crashing out felt like being in another world for a moment.

I doubt that the world order of football has shifted dramatically. I just think coaches in South America are more savvy and require discipline from their players.

None more so that Oscar Tabarez. He has such an organised team. 4 3 3 to a 4 5 1 formation and Forlan is in genius mode so far. They have not conceded once. I can not see past Uruguay beating South Korea who were a mess against Nigeria.

El Pais of Uruguay feels that surely the country will enter the top ten of world football after today's game. Pretty confident and so they should be. However, the paper is worried about Nelson Mandela Bay's pitch. Beautiful stadium but the pitch has taken a battering from the rain beating Port Elizabeth over the last two weeks. England had to play on it but I wonder how much impact it will have on the game.

Huh Jung Moo, South Korea's coach, says his players have set a target of the semi-finals for themselves. I can't see that happening if they play as bad as they did against Nigeria. Weren't as organised. I feel like the Argentina game shook them up more than they realise.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


The finalists of four years ago are gone. One with a whimper, the other with a shrug of their shoulders and national disgrace to face at home. Neither were the best in the world four years ago and neither showed enough to sit at the table of the best 16 teams in world football at the moment.

French football came extremely close to mixing the sport with politics - a big no no with FIFA. It has led to bans for such football luminaries as Greece and Pakistan as FIFA insists that the beautiful game remains an independent, democratic process completely separate from government interference.

Marcello Lippi has already assumed full responsibility of the world champions dismal tournament. Apparently, the team played throughout with a fear and Lippi says this is down to a lack of preparation and only he can take the well as taking questions about Totti from Ugandan journalists.

Argentina may well face the same two knockout opponents they played in Germany four years ago if the footballing Gods make it so. Maxi Rodriguez's impressive strike in extra time against Mexico sent Argentina through to a tempestuous quarter final with Germany in the last World Cup. La Nacion of Buenos Aires is keen to point out that Mexico has faltered against stronger opposition and as a result arranged friendlies with the likes of Argentina. In the last 10 meetings between the two sides, Mexico have won once.

Because of its propensity to submit to more reputable opponents, the Mexicans have thrown the wealth of the Mexican league into meaty ties with South American neighbours in order to gain experience and strength. La Nacion thinks it has failed and it will again. Perhaps, as Mexico showed against Uruguay they may not be up to the task. Tight, intricate passing moves need to be finished off and Argentina have been on form. Both teams lack a bit at the back though.

Looks like the Kaiser thinks England stuffed up their tournament and I'd have to agree with him. I'm sure the English tabloids will want this pinned up in the dressing room as motivation, but if they read Beckenbauer's column carefully, they will see he has a lot of respect but believes they are burnt out from a glut of domestic football. Should be a classic and as Prank said, if Germany play the way they have, England will be in trouble.

Nice to see Ghana made it through. Seems as though plumming for the Africans is natural but they will now face a talented US side. And Uruguay and Paraguay have made it through. Uruguay have a great chance of beating South Korea and reaching the quarters. They have been impressive in their balance. Great defending - have conceded no goals and the forwards of Suarez and Forlan have now both scored in this tournament. South Korea looked shakey against a profligate Nigerian side. Wonder if Lagerback will stay now that their is trouble in the ranks.

Lets see who Paraguay play - either Japan or Denmark. Hard to call. Holland will come up against Slovakia now...great opportunity to get to the quarters.

It just gets Juicier.

The way it stands now ... we are going to have a fantastic round of 16. It will only get better. The big game that we will all anxiously be waiting for is, England vs Germany. England got through and everyone is overjoyed and singing praises like it's the second coming. England put on a good first half performance however I thought they took their foot of the gas in the second half and I am sure that against quality opposition that would have cost them. Rooney still looks far from his best. England will need to step up at least three gears if they are to blitzkrieg a very talented, young, hungry German side. Of course this is not a German side to be feared compared to their earlier teams but this German side in 2 years are going to be a force to reckon with. Ozil for me is their standout player and I know Wenger has had his eye on him for a while, so it is time for him to sign young Ozil. England still looked shaky at the back and to be honest they haven't been tested against quality opponents. Germany will be a big test and if they get through then they would most probably face a rampaging Argentinian side. All very exciting.

Very happy about the US qualifying because they have been one of the better teams in the competition. They are playing with heart, spirit and they are playing exciting football. Bob Bradley has a good group of players who are all plying their trade in leagues in Europe and it shows. Landon has been outstanding and I'm sure there are some Premier League sides who have their eye on young Michael Bradley. We now just need to wait for the Michael Bay directed Hollywood Summer Blockbuster " Freedom Kick" about how this US team against all odds played a team of terrorist footballers for the freedom and security of the free world and American way of life. Bruce Willis will make an excellent Bob Bradley.

Ghana have by far been the best African team on display, they are quick, creative and well organized. A potent combination of West African flair and European organization. However what will hamper their advancement in this competition is their lack of quality in the final third. They don't possess a striker who can find the back of the net. So far Ghana have been unable to score a goal in open play which needs to be rectified against an American team that is riding high on momentum.

The next two days will decide the last of the round of 16 , with a very tasty Brazil and Portugal game on the Friday. Colonizer vs Colonizee. I think they both will qualify from their group leading to a possible showdowns with Spain and Chile ( fingers crossed).

That's about it for the time being, my advice to the English fans is to come back down to earth because your team still weren't able to finish off a mediocre Slovenian side. For a team packed with such quality and experience they should be doing better. As I mentioned earlier if they play like they did today against the Germans in the round of 16 they will be on a Ryanair flight back home. They really need to step it up or ze Germans vill Blitzkrieg right past dem.

Upwards and Onwards.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mmmm spicy

I love Chile. I haven't even fully formed an opinion on them. But they have been the freshest, attacking team so far in this World Cup. It will be an absolute tragedy if they get knocked out by Spain having worked so hard to top group H.

Their media is about as tense as I am about it all...especially since they are coming up against the former masters. 1,500 police are to be deployed in Santiago in case it turns into a riot fest.

So France are out and the inquest begins. Spectacular fall from grace. Can't forget that this is the same team that battled to the last World Cup final. Domenech's refusal to shake Carlos Alberto Pareira's hand added to the ignominy. Apparently, it was for saying that France didn't deserve to be at the tournament...

Seems like all the French are at it. David Ginola is attacking Gerrard Houllier, 17 years after the former French manager called him a criminal and placing all the blame on their non-qualification for the '94 World Cup on poor old David.

The South Africans are already looking to the future with a 'positive' attitude.

Mutiny? Really? I'm sorry its not France. The Daily Mail refers to John Terry's apology only to position it as a back-track. Sorry, I'm not John Terry's biggest fan but please, apart from talking out of turn he didn't do too much wrong. If Capello chooses not to play Cole because John Terry says then he is getting paid 6 million for cutting off noses to spite your faces. Then we are all living in fear of not stepping on the toes of the over compensating regime of Capello and Baldini. Yes, the players are all over paid but if you don't like them then don't get involved. You can't change what they are. You can change the wage structure and see what happens but I think you would have a real revolt on your hands.

Anyway, England are bound to win...right?

Mmmm spicy

I love Chile. I haven't even fully formed an opinion on them. But they have been the freshest, attacking team so far in this World Cup. It will be an absolute tragedy if they get knocked out by Spain having worked so hard to top group H.

Their media is about as tense as I am about it all...especially since they are coming up against the former masters. 1,500 police are to be deployed in Santiago in case it turns into a riot fest.

So France are out and the inquest begins. Spectacular fall from grace. Can't forget that this is the same team that battled to the last World Cup final. Domenech's refusal to shake Carlos Alberto Pareira's hand added to the ignominy. Apparently, it was for saying that France didn't deserve to be at the tournament...

Seems like all the French are at it. David Ginola is attacking Gerrard Houllier, 17 years after the former French manager called him a criminal and placing all the blame on their non-qualification for the '94 World Cup on poor old David.

The South Africans are already looking to the future with a 'positive' attitude.

Mutiny? Really? I'm sorry its not France. The Daily Mail refers to John Terry's apology only to position it as a back-track. Sorry, I'm not John Terry's biggest fan but please, apart from talking out of turn he didn't do too much wrong. If Capello chooses not to play Cole because John Terry says then he is getting paid 6 million for cutting off noses to spite your faces. Then we are all living in fear of not stepping on the toes of the over compensating regime of Capello and Baldini. Yes, the players are all over paid but if you don't like them then don't get involved. You can't change what they are. You can change the wage structure and see what happens but I think you would have a real revolt on your hands.

Anyway, England are bound to win...right?

Monday, June 21, 2010

This is it...

This is the last 13.30 kick off of the World Cup. The World Cup reaches the peak of its volume in conjunction with the summer equinox. The longest day and the most games will have been played so far.

I would get you some news from North Korea about today's game against Portugal. A rematch of the classic Eusebio starring 1966 Quarter Final which ended 5 - 3 to Portugal after the Koreans jumped to a 3 nil lead.

A Bola, Portuguese sports newspaper issues a rallying cry to their own "dear, great leader" - so they mock North that up on the dressing room Kim Nam Il.

Additionally, the same paper reports that Cameroon manager, Paul Le Guen, who said he wasn't going to resign has been appointed Australian coach. Pim Verbeek will leave his role after the tournament so they were on the look-out anyway.

A word on the Africans. Its so disappointing that none of the African teams seem secure for the last 16. Ghana have the best opportunity but have to face Germany. The Ivory Coast dominated possession in key areas at times but really waited (Sven influence) until it was too late to have a crack.

The goal that killed them off was Luis Fabiano's second, which by all standards was handled twice by the striker before he finished. The referee even had the gall to ask the player if he had handled it! Why ask if you are in doubt? That is your decision right there. Anyway, Abidjan Post is fairly transfixed on that incident rather than Kaka's unfair dismissal.

23 minutes in, North Korea are giving the Portuguese a run for their money. Nil nil.

And the England camp seem a little more in sync than their French counterparts. Lampard, Terry and Capello all engaging with the media in the last two days to issue rallying cries and point out there is no rebel faction as per the media's insistence.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

French Unity and Player Democracy

What an interesting couple of days. Anelka sent home and now a revolt of sorts. Reports initially came in that after arriving on the team bus, Patrice Evra, team captain and manager extraordinaire (mais non) had a heated discussion. This spilled on to the training ground when the physical trainer was engaged in the conversation.

It transpires that the physical trainer, Robert Duverne, was leaking information to the press regarding internal team matters. What transpired in the changing rooms at half time between Domenech and Anelka was an internal matter and it would seem that the Manager felt he had dealt with the situation by substituting the striker for Gignac.

However, Duverne went to the press and because of the exposure of the altercation the French Football Federation decided to send Anelka home. Wind of the leak reached the players and hence the ensuing protest.

After reaching the training ground and snubbing the French media at the complex, the players went back on to the bus and convened to decide on their next move, which was to give Domenech a note to pass on to the media stating that they would not train in protest to the FFF. It was the FFF's decision not Domenech's.

So they won't train? Well, it seems only for today as part of the protest and in support of Nicolas Anelka. Is this galvanising? Is this unity? Seems so. If they beat South Africa and beat them well, they may still sneak through. A big if though.

Meanwhile, England's nervous camp are probably meeting with Fabio Capello right now. They're going to air everything they are feeling and aren't happy about. Seems as though Joe Cole's stock in the England set-up has never been higher but John Terry has re-emerged as the 'real' captain of this team in a candid press conference.

Amongst this backdrop of frustrated European footballing powers, lets not take away from New Zealand's achievements in holding off the Italians. Italy were far from boring but could only breach the Kiwis once in response to an early goal by Shane Smeltz.

The New Zealand Herald are obviously extremely proud of their teams achievements while La Repubblica complains of the implications if Italy even do qualify, which they should. Now they are worried about coming up against the Dutch.

Paraguay beat a truly uninspiring Slovakian team. They really have missed an opportunity but fair play to the South Americans...a plucky European style win.

And on the 10th Day

We have the first victims of the World Cup. Cameroon have a game to play but for nothing except pride. They played well, created through the middle, kept the ball well and used width. Well balanced going forward. However, they only got to grips with Denmarks diagonal balls a bit too late and then the defensive cover let Denmark in with the simplest of goals. Guess they will rue their game with Japan the most.

Slovakia weren't great against New Zealand earlier in the week. Weiss was about the only bright player they had and they will face similar determination against Paraguay. However, the South Americans will be more clinical and precise in their movement, control and passing than New Zealand were. Slovakia need to up the ante and Paraguay need the points too. I'm expecting cagey over flamboyance.

Paraguay are a defensive team but it looks as though the Slovaks will add another defensive midfielder to their equation and try and hit on the break today. They seem to know how to play one way. Novy Cas is described as gutter press in Slovakia - so its a bit like The Sun in the UK then. Anyway, their insight says the Slovakia will line up 4 4 2....

Much of this tournament has been beset by nervousness on the players and that usually derives from excess discipline. Too much accountability. England suffered from it. One commenter on a popular website said that they played like they were at the office. Yes, an English office. When you don't have the freedom to enjoy your work you become pent up and there was an anguish in the way many of the players at this tournament have played.

Saying that other nations have played with a freedom and enjoyment of the game that has been clear for all to see. Chile are the prime example.

Paraguayan La Nacion calls for goals and a celebration today - especially because it is Father's Day...apparently. The newspaper expects Roque Santa Cruz to come in as part of a front three - similar to Uruguay and that there will be more attacking intent. Paraguay might well be the favourites but it has to translate onto the pitch, says La Nacion...

Nations really do expect. You forget once you're bedded into any one culture that a country in a place you might not know anything about has as much expectation as you. Especially, in a globalised world, I don't think people get to respect other people's feelings. Fascinating that football actually bridges divides that many people don't want to cross. Wow, that was deep.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Offensive Cameroons

Jyllands Posten, more synonymous with offensive, sacrilegious cartoon mongering, quotes Samuel Eto'o ahead of Denmark's important clash with Cameroon. Eto'o either fears or respects Denmark's "supertaktiks" according to the Posten and expects it will be tough to break down such a disciplined side. Based on Cameroon's first game against Japan, he is probably right.

Eto'o was wasted on the right wing against Japan and looked like the lacked genuine penetration. They have one more chance to get it right before they face an even tougher task in Holland, probably with a fit Robben in the side.

Cameroonian sports magazine, Camfoot, quotes Paul Le Guen prior to this pivotal match. He felt there were some below par performances and that not only does he need to take responsibility but he focuses on the players taking the blame too in order to make sure their Japanese misfortune doesn't strike again.

And finally, L'equipe wonders whether Anelka would have been sent home at all if the magazine hadn't published what had happened at half-time against Mexico. Not only did Anelka refuse the commandments of his coach but had a few choice words for Monsieur Domenech, which resulted in him being substituted. As a result of L'equipe's revelation, the FFF moved quickly to send Anelka home. Usually, a fairly calm character....looks like the first Lemming has jumped.

Media Squirt - Day 9 - Part 1

National despondency isn't just reserved for the English or the French. Harry Kewell isn't a happy bunny. Michael Cockerill of the Sydney Morning Herald questioned his commitment to the team and asked for him to step up against Ghana. Kewell wasn't a happy bunny and sought out the journalist after a training session.

I can understand why the Australians are so unhappy but they are a man down during this game against Ghana, with Kewell already sent off for handling the ball in the penalty area. 1 - 1. Australia's general predicament is not all Kewell's fault. The backline is ageing and Craig Moore doesn't even have a club team to play for. Lucas Neill is not a central defender and they aren't as dynamic as they were in Germany.

And Ghana's Chronicle newspaper are quite pleased that Australia's Tim Cahill is suspended making their job a little easier. All they need to worry about is if goalkeeper Kingson can catch a ball....his mistake has given the Socceroos a valuable goal. All square at the moment.

Day 9 - Media Squirt

Rafael Van Der Vaart will gain his 80th cap against an organised Japanese side today. 40 minutes in and no score. De Telegraaf reports on the choice of Van Marwijk to pick Van Der Vaart over Eljero Elia who looked bright against Denmark from the bench. I feel they needed width, without Robben especially and Elia gave them that.

Japan coach Okada said he is confident ahead of the match but expects a handful. Not on that first half showing. Dull game.

The rant

Right, Prank had his rant last night about France. And to some degree I understand why. For a long time France have been indelibly linked to Arsenal because of the faith shown in those players but to see how misused they were is infuriating for a team that prided itself on being World Champions in 1998. No, no, no...World Champignons and they weren't worthy of that title in 98. Brazil were.

As for England. Right, well lets get this clear. This is for all the fans who end up supporting England. Whether you're in Lebanon and your team didn't qualify and you wear either Brazil or England or Italy or Spain's shirt as a medallion. This is for the England fans who are from Cheltenham Town and haven't had success in their lifetime so go along with the official England Supporters Association like all the hooligans used to be able to. This is for the fans of Liverpool, Man United, Arsenal and whoever else you support but your allegiance is to your club and not your country.

Tonight was justification why England means nothing to our tribal club allegiances. I am English by default and in any previous World Cup, I have supported the opposition, NOT England.

Many Scousers or Liverpool fans haven't supported England after Thatcher's reign marginalised the city. Most English will look at Liverpool as perennial victims. "We're not English we are Scouse" goes the song. Maybe other cities feel the same maybe they don't. But I've never supported England.

Until this year, until I felt like they deserved it. Like I could look past the songs that are ingrained in the British Empire's dominance of the world - Rule Britannia etc. Like I could look past the fact that England was synonymous with the country's racist element.

I felt I could. I felt like all the other fans who usually support England. Their local team has been abysmal but beyond that the Premier League has produced its greatest crop and they deserve this despite being overpaid and lacking in intelligence. Nevermind, lets give it a go.

Fine. But the fans sang the national anthem 3 times tonight and then booed off the team. Well, firstly, if your backing this team then back it. Rooney stomped off screaming at the end that this "was our own fans booing us". Turncoats. This is the same team you harp on about 1966 for every 2 weeks. Yet when they need galvanising beyond the national anthem you can't do it.

No "You'll Never Walk Alone". None of that. Those players felt pressure. But that isn't their excuse. They should know how to deal with that pressure. They were poor, awful. Worse than France. But where has that derived from.

They started well against the US and that was by default. Here's the thing, England have been under this new "discipline" that Capello (who earns 6 million pound sterling a year to draw with Algeria) has instilled in this team. They coasted an easy qualifying group but credit to them for that. However, they drew with America and there was doom and gloom surrounding that. But I didn't feel that. I felt that the tempo of the opening game was good and they were not kick and rush as Beckenbauer said.

No, they played with drive and were slightly unfortunate that they didn't win. And at the centre of that was their new captain, Steven Gerrard. And yes, because he is Liverpool's captain and because Jamie Carragher is in there, I've felt like 'you know what, I want those players to do well'. Even Rooney. He plays for United, yet I've felt like this Liverpool lad is a good player. He deserves it.

Gerrard drove that team from the centre of that pitch because that is where he is comfortable and where is most effective. He is the most adaptable and gets misused (Domenech misuses in another way but thats what he does - misuses) because of team ethic. Lampard couldn't play on the left. Yet he was awful tonight. Awful.

But as soon as Barry is fit, Gerrard gets lumped on the left. Not even just behind Rooney where he could make an impact. NO JOE COLE? Why? Why? Not once has he been on the pitch. He played a right footed winger to replace Aaron Lennon. In the end he played Rooney on the right.

This is a man who earns 6 million a year! No way. You get very limited opportunities to get it right at World Cups. This is not Serie A. This is now or never football. I went to Anfield and watched a Liverpool side with Heskey and Gerrard beat Roma managed by Capello two nil. His team were awful.

When they selected him for the job, it is because he canvassed so hard for the job. He wasn't the first name they wanted. Not at all.

Even if England win this, I'm pretty much done supporting them. Despite such a lousy season for Liverpool, I'd rather be disappointed by the ones I love than the ones I don't care about. Its an arrogance to be paid that much and to deliver so little against a team that were beaten by Egypt in January 4 nil.

It is an arrogance to turn up because you are branded the Premier League and you can't even control a ball. But the players basics went out the window because they DID NOT believe in the system or the decisions.

Benitez for Liverpool fell on his decisions. Domenech with France has left out key players and stuck with players like Govou. If he wasn't leaving he would have been pushed. Capello, two games into his first tournament has not entertained nor given England fans any confidence.

If I'd been a neutral I would've wanted my money back. South Africans are mad about the Premier League. If they had seen this from the stands at Green Point, I'd have gone back to reception. Forget tomorrows headlines. This is not a rallying cry. This is why I'd rather have a passport with a Liverbird on it than a horse and a lion (the latter of which there are none in the English countryside - so why they are the 3 lions I have no clue).

If they win the World Cup or even top this group they will not have deserved it based on tonight. And I blame it on him. Stubbornness. There is no time for stubbornness. Joe Cole deserved 90 minutes. Not Barry. Ok, fine Lampard had a stinker but he deserves that place more than Heskey or Barry. Heskey provides space for Rooney and links play well. But he does not score goals and goals count when the other striker might not reach form.

This World Cup started slowly because of organised, tactical football. England did not have to be that way. They have the quality and the strength. They played with fire against the US at times, driven by Gerrard. Tonight, Gerrard was playing his graveyard shift. And now England played worse than imagined.

I said before the game that winning wasn't enough. That tonight was a chance to stick the flag in the ground and say "be afraid of us". Slovenia, good luck. Well done Algeria.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Statement of Intent and Opportunities Missed

The American media are a bit focused on the disallowed goal that would have earned them a valuable 3 points. Still, they are better than their first half show and a little unlucky as the 2nd came after some sustained pressure.

The Slovenes will also feel they've missed on securing 6 points which would surely have left them with not alot to do against England to qualify. "Stopped" Delo simply reads. The Slovenian public will feel their balloon was burst so close to the finish line.

England play Algeria tonight and after so many big names have faltered in recent days, tonight has to be a signal of the team's ability to punch at a higher weight than the rest. Algeria are definitely without form - they are lesser than the team the nipped past in qualification; Egypt. The victory almost caused a diplomatic fall-out between the maghreb neighbours but of the two sides they are no where near as good or disciplined.

If England don't show it tonight - if they don't win well, not just win, then they will have let an opportunity go by. From most accounts it looks like Gerrard will be switched to the left with Barry coming in. That would be daft. It really would. If he plays behind Rooney then no problems but he is nowhere near as affective on the left and would in fact expose Cole at left back.

Not a big contest, but a big game for England's ambitions.

Premature Euphoria

"Shit, Damn. Now Its Close Again"

Germans look to retract into their shell.

Meanwhile, in England's group the Yanks take on Slovenia who beat Algeria in their opening game. Most people think nobody cares in the United States... Well, USA Today's frontpage carries a piece on today's game and reports that the USA - England game was the most watched football match in American TV history....Not bad for its 5th important sport - however, most played sport in the States. Landon Donovan talks to USA Today and says that if they lose today they are out.

Popular Slovenian daily, Delo, predicts a one nil win for Matias Kek's men. "Say, Say USA but Not Today" reads Delo's headline.

Tonnes more American fans in Ellis Park. Should be a good one. Yank win I predict. Tight game though.


There was something distinctly different about the Germans last weekend. Fluidity and creativity accompanied Germany's trademark solidity. The Telegraph's Rory Smith refers to it as Total Football with a Teutonic twist.

Not only is the Bundesliga the most attended league in all of Europe (standing room still exists as well as much cheaper tickets) but all of the squad currently play in Germany. There is an upward curve according to players such as Khedira. In fact, Khedira is not only part of the upward curve but represents the new ethnicity of the 'new' Germany. Brazilian, Turkish, Tunisian - they've all brought and learnt aspects that make this young team (this is the youngest of any team at the tournament) so fundamentally different to what we expect from the Germans.

And the music of choice in the dressing room is in fact a representation of this fresh side. Not sure why mind. Bushido, the German-Tunisian rapper sounds rubbish but then again I don't know what he is saying.

The Serbs have got their work cut out. They suffered from the discipline Ghana showed at the weekend and like many teams opted for the wings but that was to far deep in their own half to make an impact. Credit to Ghana but saying that a lot was expected of Krasic and Jovanovic.

Joachim Loewe is a great coach and there is absolutely no doubt at all that his team will be prepared for the Serb backlash he outlined at his pre-match press conference.

A draw. I know but I'm still going for a draw

Death and ghosts

Prank's frustration is borne out of the hope that one of football's "powerhouses" are not only bowing out at such an early stage but in the manner in which they whimper, crawling back to the airport. Not just yet, one more game and a mathematical possibility. French sports paper, L'equipe's front page says it all.
Zidane isn't happy that Gourcuff didn't play but the in-house ego and internal fighting Prank alluded to indicates the reasons why such a decision was taken...he wasn't the only one not playing well.

El Mercurio of Mexico reports on the outpouring of emotion on the streets of Mexico City and around the Angel of Independence monument. Added to the fact that the stadium in Polokwane was full of Mexicans, in fact outnumbering the French. For a country that had lesser ambitions at this tournament, it is quite stunning and inspiring. Plus the Mexicans felt they had to do this for the Irish.

This is why international football is now the purest football left. Not the same player celebrations you see in the Premier League. Just emotion. This is the real badge. This isn't about the money. This is about pride and loyalty.

20 games already played so far....can't believe it. We are essentially a third of the way through the tournament. Absolutely gutted. But the impressive Germans are riding the crest of a wave in terms of national fervor and optimism ahead of the 2nd game against Serbia. German tabloid Bild focuses in on Philip Lahm's ambition to emulate the 1990 heroes of Italia 90. There is also a piece on Fabio Capello's retort to Franz Beckenbauer in which the England manager claimed ze Germans are scared. "Iz zis guy for real?" asks Bild...

The tabloid has a piece on a Serbian commentators howler during commentary of Germany's opener against the Socceroos. The commentator failed to note that Robert Enke committed suicide and told Serb viewers that he was injured hence Neuer was in goal. Serbs I suppose have a high tolerance to death.

Meanwhile, Serb tabloid, Blic is still reeling from the defeat to Ghana rather looking to the taller task of beating Germany.

Half way through the group stages. I'm going to miss the early kick-off when it goes.

Off with their heads !

This post could be in danger of devolving into a murderous rant... and I'm not even French. First of all congratulations to the Mexicans for a thoroughly deserved win. They played neat, attacking, quick organized football. I am utterly elated at the manner in which they won as well. Now onto the French, I'm not going to say much that hasn't already been said but the French are a disgrace and have disgraced the beautiful game with their lack of conviction and application. News of disharmony in the French squad have plagued the media space for 2 years now. What I can't understand is why Raymond Domenech still has his job ? He obviously has compromising pictures of the head of the French Football Governing body with little boys from Thailand or something worse because I can't see any plausible reason for him to have his job. He has singlehandedly dismantled a superpower of World Football. A team that boasts some of the most gifted players playing the game today won't even look each other in the eye. Throughout the Mexico game he was leaning back in the dugout with a smug smirk watching his piece de resistance. He will once again be subjected to an onslaught of biblical proportions but to what avail ? We already knew that this was his last hurrah with this team and his replacement Laurent Blanc ( who has a very easy act to follow, they can't be any worse under him at all) was waiting to take over after the World Cup. Ok then ... why not let Laurent coach them now ? Laurent was part of the World Cup and Euro winning team and just the change in management could have galvanized a team that seem like they would rather be vacationing in the South of France than be in South Africa.

This is unacceptable to me , after all, they are disrespecting the game, Henry who essentially ruined his spotless reputation because of his hand in their qualification, The Irish who deserved to be in this World Cup and their country. I think Platini should spend more time chastising his national coach before he castigates Maradona, whose team is producing on this stage and have a strong desire to win. You can never discount Maradona's passion for the game.

Au Revoir Les Bleus see you in Euro 2012 because we know you can't sink any lower.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Media Squirt - Day 7 - Part 3

Nigeria...what chances they had to be closer to qualification than South Korea and Greece today. Wasteful and self destructive. Very frustrating. Greece took advantage and in historic fashion.

Meanwhile, L'equipe heats up the intensity of tonight's match between the French and Mexico with an interview with Eric Abidal, the Barcelona and France centre back cum full back. They cannot even consider waiting until the last match to qualify according to Abidal.

And the Mexicans don't seem to feel any pressure at all according to El Mercurio. Fans are preparing in the cold winter of Polokwane, South Africa with a traditional roast....not like Sunderland footballers...but with Guacamole and Salsa.

France have a lot more pressure to deal with and they will have opportunities with this attacking Mexican side. Torrado will be critical to his backline alongside Marquez in midfield.

Gourcuff, seemingly sidelined by his teammates needs to up his game - Ribery was bright but not bright enough. Big game this - going to end in a draw - disappointing and nailbiting for both teams.

Media Squirt - Day 7 - Part 2

Argentina bagged 4 against a slightly over-respectful South Korea. Shame really, could have been so different had Korea equalised.

Anyway, recently in Dubai I opened a Nigeria Gossip and Glamour magazine left in my hotel room. It amused me. However, Nigeria's The Guardian newspaper reports on an author's unique way of inspiring the Super Eagles to victory today - a marathon bus ride. Creative - but odd

Greek tabloid, Espresso, reports on a 3 point strategy in order to win against Nigeria, which kicks off in 20 minutes. Looks like Greece are worried about the height of the Nigerians and not conceding the first goal. I don't like the way they play and it isn't effective at the moment. Change it before you retire Rehhagal.

Media Squirt - Day 7

Diego Armando Maradona versus Huh Jung-Moo....

Ok, it might not sound like the biggest showdown on earth (so many meanings to that) but Huh and Diego have unfinished business.

In 1986, guess Huh, sorry who had the unenviable task of marking Maradona in a 3 - 1 defeat? Well, it was Huh - I kind of spoilt that but still.

Argentina have the flair - South Korea have the speed. Its the Hand of God versus the Land of Dog.

Higuain was profligate on the weekend and I'm not sure why Milito isn't starting. Want to see Park Chu Young of Monaco do something.

Anyway, La Nacion of Buenos Aires says Maxi Rodriguez will start in place of the injured Veron. Damn shame that as he's in my fantasy XI. And Diego is critical of the referees and wants more protection for little man Messi. There is a seriousness about the Argentine media. No euphoria - just fairly cold optimism - a pragmatism, similar to the cynical style of the English press.

I can't read Korean but their English daily the Korea Times reports on the growing confidence ahead of this match. They feel they've got a chance to beat the 'powerhouse' but worry that if they lose they might find themselves in a tight spot against Nigeria. Excitement all around.

Robbie Earle's 50 free tickets.

Without the T.V. coverage, the majority of planet Earth would miss out on the World Cup. And what a travesty that would be.

The broadcasting of this showpiece is almost as critical as the football itself. It would seem that some of the best television broadcasting for this World Cup is in the United States. ABC shows it free-to-air with much of the other matches on pay-TV in the US with ESPN. ESPN have snapped up the legendary Martyn Tyler who most people will know from Sky in the UK or from his commentary on the Premier League matches broadcast ubiquitously across the globe. He is joined by Ian Darke and co-commentators such as Ally McCoist. Viewers in the States are quite pleased with this as the last time around in Germany the American and Irish commentary teams were below par.

Saying that, a part of me is a bit disappointed with the coverage in the UK. The BBC has long been without Des Lynam but Gary Lineker still doesn't do it for me. Hansen is still a legend but the token blacks included on the panels aren't in there on merit but to impose an African spirit to the showing.

I'd usually hate ITV's coverage and without Motty (not commentating but does some polemic on the highlights show) on BBC, I'd have to say that ITV have surpassed their licence funded rivals. Still, they've fallen for the "we should have black people for the African World Cup" trick as well.

Unusually, they sent home Robbie Earle as you will read. What on earth ITV were doing giving Robbie 50 free tickets I still don't know. 50?

Finally, I've touched upon the fact that Al Jazeera broadcasts in the Gulf and how difficult it has been for viewers there to watch - the fact it is subscription based World Cup viewing is still a bitter pill. But I suppose when FIFA handed out the rights to the World Cup it understood that the region had more disposable income than say an African country. But most or all of the countries around the world with the exception of China will show all or a portion of the matches for free.

It doesn't sit right. Not at all when you consider Al Jazeera broadcasts to the whole of North Africa as well as the rest of the Middle East. So it doesn't just affect the well-to-dos.

Anyway, a nation is on the verge of mourning. Bafana are a work in progress....a large construction no less. Forlan was magic in the hole but saying that he had a lot of time to turn for his first goal and controlled things without having anyone cover him.

As much as I feel sorry for South Africa they aren't ready as a team. They have such a rich heritage in the game but have lagged behind West African teams and North Africans to some extent for a while now. Having lived there, I know how passionate kids are for the game and how talented they are - raw diamonds.

But with the infrastructure they have in South Africa it is criminal that the sport hasn't churned out more Benni McCarthys or Nomvetes or Zumas. With the shift in political power I would have imagined that the mitigating circumstances of a racially divided sports scene would have eroded and there wouldn't be this rawness about the national team. At least they've got their vuvuzelas.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spain, Spain, What ye done ?

I guess now is as good a time as any for me to play best supporting actor to Quillock's scorching lead performance in World Cup punditry. As he has mentioned in every blog ... the name of this beautiful game is organization, strength in numbers behind the ball and counter-attack. Everyone seems to have taken a page out of the Mourinho and Benitez coaching manual because let's face it.... it's effective. As good as a passing side as Spain is , it is still supremely difficult to break down two well-organized walls of four. I am a little surprised at Del Bosque's decisions, to leave Torres out and not playing Fabregas at all. Granted my Arsenal bias will always want Fabregas in the starting 11 for Spain but in this case it is merited. Fabregas has had his best season at club level where he has been instrumental in winning clutch games in the last minute. His never say die attitude and talismanic aura should have been harnessed. Pedro is good but do you learn how to grind out a game when you play for the best club side in a generation... NO ! . Fabregas plays for a top European side but know what it takes to grind out a result and never give up. The Furia Roja were running out of ideas and were looking around the pitch for that little bit of inspiration, Fabregas could have provided it. For the next game I think Del Bosque should start Torres and Villa up front, start Fab and have Alonso ( by far the best player on the pitch) has a holding provider, with his range of passing he will be even more effective, starting play from deep. The only thing that will make this better is if England lose to Algeria which will make me purr like Mick McCarthy's best Barry White impression.

Onto other news found an interesting article written by an Indian journalist about the isolation of France's next big thing Yoan Gourcuff.

Shame because he has the potential and I think a move to Arsenal will see him truly blossom into a great player. Nothing like a little Arsene to get you going.

Anyways ... I hope for some more interesting games and bevare of ze Germans they look dangerous and with the Wizard of Ozil in such sublime form they could blitzkrieg the entire tournament.

Surprised? Don't be

The first shock of the tournament. Doubt anyone predicted that. But I'm not surprised. The theme of this first week has been discipline and organisation. The South Americans, Europeans, Asians and Africans have all done it. Even New Zealand. Organisation with a disciplined execution works.

It might bore us but it gets results. Doesn't matter how mad the ball is.

Switzerland under a twice European Cup winner in Ottmar Hitzfeld were always going to line up, two banks of four against a fluid, passing Spanish team. Alas, Spain couldn't make a real breakthrough as many teams have found slightly lesser opposition. The gap is finer across the board. Teams can't just turn up and do what they knew best. They have to be organised. And so it is Spain find themselves in a spot of bother. Honduras next. Spain'll want 3 points and should get them. But doubt has crept into them now.

Chile were by far the most attractive team so far. Speed and solid passing and movement. Fernandez was at the centre of everything. Good side. Sanchez on the right was frightening and with a fit Suazo, Chile will be hot to handle....wahay.

The Honduran media know how to look on the bright side though. Daily Diez newspaper, ran with a headline on goalkeeper Noel Valladares' stunning save from Ponce's close range header. That is looking on the bright side.

Should've been two but Bielsa has warned that his side need 16 chances to score one. Might be their downfall. As a result, the Chilean newspapers are fairly content but conservative in their outlook. Concepcion's daily (Concepcion was the focal point of this year's quake) La Estrella runs with an interview with goalkeeping captain, Claudio Bravo urging his team mates to keep their feet on the ground.

That is the complete first round of matches and what a way to end the first real phase of the tournament. A surprise; nice or not. And anyone picking Villa in their fantasy XI will be a bit disappointed.

But we move back to group A tonight. South Africa and Uruguay meet in a game that will decide much of the host nation's chance of getting out of this group. I don't think they will do it and I don't think they deserve to. As hosts they qualified but they didn't qualify for Germany nor the last African Nations Cup. That's not a pedigree and as much as South Africa is hosting a great tournament this team isn't quite deserving. Durban's The Independent runs a rallying piece but they will need much more to beat a resilient and skillful Uruguayan side.

Ovacion Digital of Uruguay's El Pais (The Nation) newspaper is in a state of confusion as how to approach tonight's game in Pretoria. Considering that South Africa play a similar sort of counter attacking football, do the 'Celeste' play with 3 strikers or with one upfront on his own. Neither can really afford to lay back. El Pais says that tonight's match is like standing at a road crossing. Once you've pressed the button you will know whether there is an opportunity to cross in the near future.

How metaphorical an analogy for a nervous nation it would seem. No or never I say. If they don't win this, they have to rely on their final game against Mexico and that is the reason there is so much conjecture on the part of the Uruguayan media. Mexico are attacking. Uruguay are counter attackers and this provides them with their best opportunity to win. So do they settle for a draw here and try and qualify in the last match? Risky.

We see much of England's media and their approach to the national team and it is a touch refreshing to see how other countries do their bidding.

Anyway, looking forward to it. Uruguay to win.

Staying Alive.

Day 5 done. 5 goals on day 5. Not quite a glut of goals but still a bit more action than we've seen. Seems like there is an Italia 90 feel to this tournament so far. Plenty of conservative coaches. New Zealand faired well and did themselves proud. Slovakia will be kicking themselves for not making the most of this but saying that the Kiwis set themselves up well.

The Ivory Coast have to play Brazil next but I don't think they'll be too displeased with a point. Better than the start they had in Germany. Portugal will play North Korea and after today's performance it won't be plain sailing. Brazil laboured to victory but with some genuine creativity down the middle from Robinho and a slightly fortuitous goal from Maicon they got home in the end. Kim Jong Il will be proud of the organisation of his army influenced side. Prank suggested the Koreans lives depended on their performances. I think the 'Dear One' will be quite pleased.

Nonetheless, Day 6 awaits us and this is the first chance to see Chile. Chile managed by Argentinian (and former Argentina coach) Marcelo Bielsa have been touted as the surprise dark horses of this World Cup. That usually is the kiss of death...quite literally. In 94 Pele tipped the Colombians as potential World Cup winners and such was the weight of expectation, Andres Escobar was shot to death for his unfortunate own-goal. Lucky Rob Green doesn't live in Bogota...more on him later.

The only violence in relation to this tournament has been of Salvador Cabanas, the Paraguayan dynamo who would have been at this tournament had he not been shot in the head in January. Luckily, the incident in Mexico, where he plies his trade, left him harmed but not dead. A real shame actually. My hyperbole for other players doesn't do this little man much justice. Seems to still be having an affect on the team though.

So, will Chile actually surprise us? Well, Bielsa is revered in post-Earthquake ravaged Chile. He instilled a sense of national pride before the quake and as with Greece, a bit of joy in the football would be a boost to the country.

Interesting team actually. Only finished second behind Brazil in qualifying and line-up in a dynamic 3 3 1 3 formation. A playmaker behind 3 forward, including Mexican based Humberto Suazo. Suazo scored 10 in qualifying but the playmaker is key to this equation. Matias Fernandez or 'Matigol' is very skillful and creation down the middle will be pivotal in this tournament. Not many teams have mastered it so far and Chile need points early before they come up against Spain. So watch out for him.

Honduras are another team related to a bit of violence. Wilson Palacios who is not 100 per cent ahead of the clash with Chile, lost his brother to a kidnapping and murder case when he first joined Tottenham. Apparently, the Honduran team suffer from a lack of concentration when it comes to tactical positioning and execution. I would too if I had to worry about kidnapping.

Anyway, Colombian coach, Rueda, has Premiership experience in his team with Wilson Palacios, Hendry Thomas and Maynor Figueroa to pick from. Palacios is the playmaker in this team - at Spurs he plays more of a linchpin, defensive midfield role. So thats a worry. They line up 4 4 2 and rely on 'forays' from their full backs. I wonder if they will struggle like the other coaches who get stuck in the middle and cross into the box. Considering Rueda will be drilling them on tactics I'm guessing they will be rigid in their approach and their warm-ups haven't been great.

But you should check out this mad team profiles by a very young lady on Noor TV. Quite disconcerting

Still, first time since 1982 that they've qualified. A bit like New Zealand and they did themselves proud. Hard one to call really but I'll give Chile a win by a couple of goals. 2 nil.

Spain tomorrow. You don't need me to tell you about them. Should be a thrill but I imagine Switzerland will do what Denmark did to the Netherlands. Park the bus and counter. Didn't work for Denmark.

And then South Africa versus Uruguay. Mphela against Forlan. Suarez didn't impress against France so he and Forlan need to connect better. I think they'll have more chance to tomorrow night and I think it will be the end of the road for South Africa. Uruguay have a bit more discipline and a bit more quality. 2 - 1 to Uruguay.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kim Jong Il Watches The Match at Wetherspoons

Not really. But what is fascinating is that contrary to reports that the isolated communist nation wouldn't be able to watch their team in action against Brazil is is now...see what I did there link to 1966? Nevermind. It'll make some sort of convoluted sense in a minute.

South Korea had cancelled their feed across the northern part of the peninsula due to the growing tensions after Kim Jong Il denied bombing a naval ship of his southern brothers out of the water, killing many. South Korea insists it was no case of mistaken identity and North Koreans wouldn't have been able to watch this summer's action...but they wouldn't have known that until it started, if they knew where it started. Well, thats all changed now as the filthy Wall Street Journal reports.

Even North Koreans get to watch the World Cup for free. We can't say that for everywhere, even in the developed world. Someone should have a word. Shaz, have a word.

Well, the good news is they get to watch their national team play in the World Cup for the first time since 1966 - now you see the link right? It was the year England won their only World Cup (as if they haven't stopped telling you) that North Korea made a name for themselves, beating Italy and pushing Portugal all the way in a quarter final at Goodison Park. Apparently, all the toffees wanted the Koreans to win because they were the, why does that seem wrong?

Anyway, a filmmaker has made a...well a film about it all about it!

Anyway, its seems as though we have a conservative World Cup on our hands. Not only did David Cameron's party get into some sort of power but now they're affecting the football. Dull, tight affairs all round. Even the skill filled teams of the Ivory Coast and Portugal ruined my predictions of great excitement with a nil nil draw.

I don't know why I'm surprised. Like I said in a recent post, all the coaches and all the teams are now experienced enough to play disciplined organised football. Conditions are harder - pitches are hard, bouncy rubber ball. But at the same time, there has been an unwillingness to venture out of the formation and create chances through the middle. Its just too rigid.

Apart from Germany that is who after the first round (so far) have looked more than impressive. That said it was against an aging, disorganised Socceroo outfit. Mesut Ozil was sublime and the runs from midfield made a difference.

Well, surely Brazil won't make us suffer? They won't? Well, I wouldn't be surprised. They are described as functional and even World Cup legend Carlos Alberto is worried about this Brazil. They are after all in the mould of their coach. Turgid, tough, resilient. I should assume this is a reaction to their showing at the last World Cup when they only reached the Quarter Finals. They were carrying too many ill disciplined players - remember Ronaldinho has been dropped, no Ronaldo and even no place for Pato.

But they do have Robinho and Kaka. Let's hope they bring some delight to the table. Has to be a Brazilian win. 3 nil I say.

North Korea though have been training in some odd Rocky like ways. Carrying each other to build each others strength etc. I'm not joking. I'd prove it if anyone could find them and the Telegraph's Jim White has been hunting for their team.

For any insight on to how they will play you need to speak to people who've watched them. That'd be World Soccer then.

Apparently, Hong Yong-Jo provides the dynamism upfront and will play for knock-downs from his out and out striker colleague Jong Tae-Se. 5 at the back? Looks like a dull affair. Like I say, hope Brazil can kick-off some creativity.

3 nil I'll go for.