World Cup Group Stage Round Up

This may be a long post as this has been one of the most action packed group stages ever!

First off the teams that have dropped out, England, Italy (who were both very unlucky in different ways both of which can perhaps be traced back to an unused red card in the England vs Uruguay game), Portugal, who have suffered from an unfit Ronaldo and Spain who just never recovered from the Holland game. I don’t think anyone could have predicted that these four teams wouldn’t make it through but they didn’t and I don’t think they will be that missed as the next round of games are very interesting.

BRA vs. CHI, COL vs. URU, FRA vs. NGA, GER vs. ALG, NED vs. MEX, CRC vs. GRE, ARG vs. SUI, BEL vs. USA
Those are the next round of games and there are a few that stand out immediately. Brazil vs Chile will be an excellent game and if Chile perform they have a real chance of progression against a Brazil team that have looked very poor defensively and look very reliant on Neymar. Costa Rica have a real chance of progress deep into the tournament which nobody would have predicted, Belgium v USA should be an excellent game, Argentina have been so so average so far apart from a certain Mr Messi and if he continues to perform he could win this tournament on his own. I expect Columbia to beat a Suarezless Uruguay, France to beat Nigeria and Germany to brush aside Algeria but as good as Holland have been I think Mexico, if they perform, could cause them problems. Either way there are a lot of excellent games and one thing is for sure I except the goal to continue to flow!

I have mentioned him a couple of times already but I can’t not go into more details about Luis Suarez. That moment will go down in World Cup infamy alongside Zidanes heatbutt apart from this is much worse because it’s his THIRD offence. One bite is bad, two is crazy but three is down right madness and the four month punishment shows that! He and indeed Uruguay need to take a long hard look at themselves. The Uruguay team, coach and indeed nation seem to have closed around Suarez as though he did nothing wrong. The coach has come out claimed the English media have scapegoated Suarez and are working with FIFA, the Uruguayan people have given Suarez a heroes welcome when he should have got the opposite as he may well have doomed his country for this tournament (also this gives a horrible image of what is right to young children watching but that’s another argument altogether). The player himself is lucky to still be playing in my opinion, he obviously has problems (he has been suspended for 34 games since 2010 without receiving one red card) and if he wasn’t so talented I believe Liverpool wouldn’t hesitate to sell him immediately, indeed they may still do so but that remains to be seen. Many people have come out and said this ban is too long (many of whom are Liverpool fans and I do agree that he has well and truly screwed them over more than anyone else and they have every right to be mad but that anger should be directed at Suarez himself) but when you think of it that if a 2 year old did this you would punish them and he is a grown man who has now done this three times I think that shows that the ban is needed. He has a young child and will one day have to tell them off for biting someone I imagine and that will be a very awkward conversation to listen in on!

This World Cup, for one reason or another, is shaping up to be one of the best ever and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

PS. As an Englishman I’d love to rant about how unlucky we were and how much needs changing within our game but that really is another rant for another time, right now I can enjoy the games as a neutral and just relax knowing whatever happens I won’t be disappointed (unless Uruguay get their hands on the trophy)

World Cup Week 1 Round Up!

Here are some of my observations from the first week of the tournament:

– The World Cup opening ceremony shouldn’t happen, it was awful!
– Pirlo is God.
– Raheem Stirling has a bright future
– Costa Rica probably aren’t the worst team in our group.
– Brazil have used up a large chunk of their luck in the win against Croatia
– Netherlands are up for this
– Spain not so much
– Columbia are winning best celebration
– Attack is winning over defense
– Van Persie’s goal will be shown over and over for years to come, quite rightly.
– The disappearing spray is the most simple and amazing idea ever.
– This one is for FIFA, good on you for implementing goal line technology but when the ball ripples the back of the net we dont need it confirmed!
– But FIFA when you do use it just show the part where it does cross the line please
– Honduras must have been watching Stoke in preparation for this World Cup
– Goals goals goals, already we’ve got more than double than last World Cup at this stage
– Spain looks like they’re down and out but I wouldn’t be so sure
– If Arsenal can sort out Joel Campbell’s permit then they have one heck of a player
– The future for England is as bright as it’s ever been.
– Messi and most of the big name players are off and running
– For the first time in years France might actually have turned up at a tournament… As long as they don’t fall out with each other
– Japan have amazing fans
– When it rains in Brazil it can really rain
– If Columbia had Falcao they would be so scary
– Germany have arrived and Muller is still in form from 4 years ago
– Pepe is a liability (even if Muller didn’t help his case)
– USA must have decided to only play for the first and last 10 minutes and it’s left them with a real chance to get out of the ‘group of death’
– I think we could all have predicted the first draw would be Iran v Nigeria and we weren’t disappointed
– Fabio Capello must be cursed when it comes to goalkeeping errors in the first games at world cups.

Feel free to comment with your own as the games go on!

Sepp Blatter has finally lost it.

After all of the alligations flying around FIFA about corruption and bribery today Sepp Blatter stood in front of FIFA and rather than face these claims and talk about them like he should have done he came out and said this:

“We shall wonder if one day our game is played on another planet? Why not? Then we will have not only a World Cup we will have inter-planetary competitions. Why not?”

Seriously he is talking about playing football against other planets. This after earlier in the week he accused the British media of ‘racism’ regarding the whole Qatar situation. How he can think it’s easier I have no idea, how he cant see the corruption within his organization I have no idea.

He is deep into his fourth term of office and when he started he said this would be his last, a statement he has since gone back on and it looks like he will stand again for a fifth term and for the good of football I hope he doesn’t. This week UEFA members began to show how much they don’t like Mr Blatter by Greg Dyke walking out and the head of the Dutch FA questioning Mr Blatters methods.

Today is just another page of the farcical story that FIFA have begun and I hope for the sake of football this story is drawing to a close.

Off to Rio we go!

So the World Cup is almost upon us and I think the best England team for this tournament looks something like Hart, Jones, Cahill, jagielka, Baines, Gerrard, Henderson, Sterling, Barkley, Lallana, Sturridge but I think Roy will go more Hart, Johnson, Cahill, jagielka, Baines, Gerrard, Henderson, Sterling, Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge.

Now in my opinion Johnson is very poor defensively and this will be targeted by stronger teams, he is only here because very few other options and he has international experience.
Barkley is so exciting, always turning and running, so skilful with ball and will scare teams. Rooney for all the good he does in qualifying (39 goals for england, 0 in world cups) he just doesn’t look at his best and we can’t continue to pick players on their names. But as much as I would like to play Barkley he may be a better option coming off the bench and using fresh legs to attack teams.
With Welbeck he will offer more defensivly than Lallana and Sterling but I think with Henderson and Gerrard you want Lallana and Sterling and their attacking edge and skills.

End of the day its a tough group that we will do well to get out. Beyond that I have looked at the different outcomes and the last 16 game should be fine but quarter finals is our limit as i think we will end up facing Brazil or Spain pand I can’t see us winning those games. As an England fan I just want us to play entertaining football and give the fans hope for the future and as a football fan I really do hope this tournament lives up to the expectations.

Ross Barkley

After Wednesday game against Ecuador and indeed most of last season I can’t be the only person who is mightly impressed with Ross Barkley. He is good at getting ball and running at defenders, he has pace, power and as proven against Man City a beautiful shot. He really is one of the brightest young English talents around and here in lies the problem.

“He’s got drive, he’s got energy, But he’s got a lot to learn as well, not least of all when he needs to release the ball, when he can turn with it, when he just needs to secure it, because for every good turn there was a time when he lost the ball and put us on the back foot defensively.”  “Barkley’s rather hoping he can get in the starting XI and be the main man. He has wonderful pace and ball control. What he’s got to learn is at this level every mistake can be crucial. The trick you try at the wrong moment could lead to the turnover that costs you the game. I was anxious to play down the expectations. I’ve seen too many young players lifted to the stars, made the new Keegan, the new Hoddle, the new Gascoigne, the new Terry, the new Rio. Every time someone has a half-good game, they are the new star.” – Roy Hodgson on Ross Barkley after Wednesday’s game.

These were the words of Roy Hodgson after the game on Wednesday and I can see exactly what he is trying to do, he’s trying to stop people like me and everyone else ranting and raving about Ross Barkley being a world beater at 20. He’s trying to lower our expectations so we don’t do what we’ve done with Wayne Rooney and put the weight of all our expectations on one players shoulders for 10 years.
While I can see what Roy is doing I think he needs to be careful about knocking Barkley down too much, after all he is only 20 and the be picked out for criticism after his 1st international can’t feel great. I honestly believe that a quiet word in private would have done better. Yes if you give the ball away against a team like Italy you might not see if again for 10 minutes, and in Manaus you don’t want to be chasing the ball for 10 minutes, but the positives from Ross in that game we’re very encouraging.

“He is a special player, a unique player and this is so rare. He is the biggest talent for his age I have seen in European football. He has power, pace and technical ability – elements you rarely find in a player. He would look at home in the Spanish, German or Dutch models, no doubt about it.” – Roberto Martinez on Ross Barkley

His club manager Roberto Martinez isn’t afraid to say how good he believes Ross is and I truly believe every word, and as an English man it is very exciting but I do also think that while he has potential he is still a long way from being an England starter on a regular basis and being truly one of the best players in Europe, with time he will get there, but right now I think he should be kept in the wings and slowly introduced.
Players like Barkley and Sterling are the future of English football and I would hate to see them burn out young or not be able to handle the pressure the fans and media will inevitably pile onto them so perhaps, for this World Cup at least, they should be kept as impact subs, where I believe they will be able to provide a great impact than if they start every game.

Money Talks

More allegations are coming out about Qatar are their world cup bid and it turns out money may have been involved in getting the World Cup to Qatar (who knew hey!).
Qatar are ranked 95th, to put that into context the lowest ranked team in this tournament are Australia who are ranked 59th. Qatar have never reached a major tournament, they had no stadiums ready for the tournament, in the summer the temperature will push well over 40 degrees, hardly ideal conditions for a world cup but the pockets of Mr Blatter and his commrades were sufficiently lined. (having had a quick look at the evidence that has come out I have to say that Sepp Blatter isn’t directly named as taking a bribe and I believe he voted against Qatar but as the head of the organisation he needs to make sure things like this aren’t happening so must be held responsible).
But it was awarded to them and that in itself has created more problems, there are reports that by the time the tournament starts over 4000 migrant workers will have died building the stadia (over 500 already have) and there are also discussions about moving the World Cup to the winter which is a whole other matter but simply it’s a ridiculous idea.
Mohammed Bin Hamman was the former Fifa vice president who in 2010 was seen as part of the Qatar 2022 bid team and it is around his involvement that these allegations revolve. Obviously we need to let this run its course and see what FIFA decide to do but I believe a revote is the right action and a change in how FIFA operate is also necessary.