World Cup – Saturday 26th June

Africa Dreams On

I’m back after taking a small breather for more public house duties. On Friday Spain squeaked through along with mightily impressive Chile to complete the group stage escapees. Today saw the first two teams qualify for the quarter finals. It’s starting to get serious…

Results – Saturday 26th June

  Round 2 Uruguay 2 – 1 South Korea
    USA 1 – 2 Ghana
Post Match Review
 Today brought forth our first two quarter finalists. Uruguay confirmed their pedigree with a win over toothless South Korea. It was a closely fought game for the most part but unlike the Koreans the South Americans had quality up front, and that is why they won out in the end.

The evening fixture saw Ghana knock out USA. From a neutrals perspective it has to be good news to see the sole remaining African side progress. They have some talented players including the impressive Gyan up front and they could potentially get to the semi-finals, but I don’t feel they are good enough to get to the final.

There was a good performance too from John Pantsil who plays for my old club Fulham. Of course there were no Africans back in my day – just local boys from the west end. Sometimes we would warm up in the park next to Craven Cottage using jumpers for goalposts. Then we had time for quick pint with the fans before kick off. Happy days!

Fixtures – Sunday 27th June

  Round 2 England vs Germany
    Argentina vs Mexico
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Germans have a reputation for having no sense of humour but scientists at the Max Plank institute have proved this to be incorrect. Professor Heinz Wolf and his research team discovered that David Hasslehoff has carved out a successful pop career in Germany proving beyond all doubt that Fritz is up for fun after all.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron Hello again footy friends! I don’t know about you but I love the tennis and today I’ve been glued to Wimbledon as well as the world cup. There’s just too much to watch and I barely have time to walk my incontinent fat poodle!
On the plus side there’s only 2 games each day now requiring my psychic attentions, so let’s start with THE BIG ONE!

England and Germany – hmmm. How do we decide? It’s a toss up isn’t it. Well let’s have a toss then! Heads England, tails Germany… and it’s HEADS – England to win! What’s more the coin tells me that the winning goal will come from a header scored by The Queen.

It’s those Falkland thieving Argentinians later against Mexico. What does my psychic coin have to say about that one! Blast – the Argies to win that one.

What an exciting day we have ahead. Is there any other way to prepare than with a few Fox’s Party Rings?

Pre Match Comment
There is a general concensus that six teams have a statistically reasonable chance of winning: Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Holland, England or Germany. England’s match tomorrow is the first big clash involving two of these teams. All of the talk going into the game seems to be about previous encounters but that really does count for nothing.

Nobody can predict the outcome with confidence because it is too close to call. I would go as far as saying that England have more experience and more potential match winners while Germany have more youth and innate confidence. In a game of small margins it could come down to a moment of brilliance or a mistake. If both teams play to their potential I would give England the edge but when does that happen?

View from the sofa

Now that we are into the knock-out stages here is a quick review of the group stages. There were 48 games of which 34 resulted in a win and 14 were drawn. A total of 101 goals were scored at an average of 2 goals per game.

Here are my top 10 headlines from the group stages:

  • 1998 cup holders France knocked out
  • Reigning 2006 champions Italy finish bottom of their group
  • Portugal hit North Korea for 7
  • New Zealand depart undefeated
  • Rob Green’s blunder gifts USA a point
  • Yakubu is guilty of the miss of the tournament
  • Maradona reassures the world he is not gay in a press conference
  • Ghana are the sole African qualifier
  • Vuvuzelas would be a talking point if you could hear yourself talk
  • Sven Goran-Eriksson paid £2M to manage Ivory Coast for three games

Finally, here’s a quick look at the 16 qualifying teams in terms of their FIFA world rankings and country populations. There’s a few interesting statistics here.

Team FIFA
Ranking
Population
Order (million)
Brazil 1 2 184
Spain 2 8 40
Portugal 3 13 11
Holland 4 11 16
Germany 5 5 83
Argentina 6 9 39
England 7 6 51
USA 14 1 293
Uruguay 16 16 3
Mexico 17 4 104
Chile 18 12 16
Paraguay 31 14 6
Ghana 32 10 21
Solvakia 34 15 21
Japan 45 3 127
South Korea 47 4 49

Interesting that the United States and Uruguay have similar world rankings yet the US have 100 times the population. Furthermore Uruguay are through to the quarter finals and USA went out tonight. Statistics – what do they mean?

World Cup – Thursday 24th June

Back Home To Rome

Almost the end of the group stage and Italy join France on the trip home as the giant killings continue. Details below…

Also, don’t forget to enter the fabulous World Cup Golden Mullet competition if you haven’t yet done so. Even if you hate the football you have to love the hair!

Results – Thursday 24th June

  Group E: Denmark 1 – 3 Japan
  Group E: Holland 2 – 1 Cameroon
  Group F: Slovakia 3 – 2 Italy
  Group F: Paraguay 0 – 0 New Zealand
Post Match Review
Ron Atkinson “Silvio Berlusconi, Luciano Pavarotti, Julius Caesar, Leonardo Da Vinci, Giorgio Armani, Gino D’Acampo, Joe Dolce, Dale Winton can you hear me? Your boys took one hell of a beating!”

Fixtures – Friday 25th June

  Group G: North Korea vs Ivory Coast
  Group G: Portugal vs Brazil
  Group H: Switzerland vs Honduras
  Group H: Chile vs Spain
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Following Ronaldo’s world record £80m transfer from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009 some 80,000 fans attended a welcome ceremony at the stadium. This beats Emile Heskeys transfer to Aston Villa when nobody turned up. Not even the press.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron Prepare for passion footy fans as Latin comes to town on Friday! Portugal and Brazil is going to be HOT HOT HOT! Brazil will come out on top but it won’t be easy and I expect a sending off for the fiesty Portuguese. Ivory Coast have too many dance moves for North Korea and will win that one.

In the evening Switzerland won’t have it all their way against the Hondurans with their slick hips and hot blood. That one will end honours even. Finally it’s going to be a love-in when Spain meet Chile as two beautiful footballing sides meet. But there’s a lovers tiff – a sting in the tail! Magnificent Spain will LOSE to Chile. Yes – you heard it hear first – the holiday romance will come to a crashing end!

Oh, and in case you are wondering what I’m dunking in my tea today I have chosen Macaroons to mark Cameroon’s last match before they travel home. TTFN biscuit lovers!

England Update

Injury Report
Bones As you know Wayne Rooney left the field early with an ankle problem. My tricorder reading showed it to be what we call a “niggle” and he is beaming up to sick bay on The Enterprise twice a day for an ice pack.
Tabloid Roundup
Scum Reporter It was a proud performance from our lads in red and white. Our headline today was “Hail Defoe! Now The Foe”. We are going to be building up to Sunday’s game with Germany with all sorts of racist incendiary rhetoric. On Sunday we will lead with “Let’s bash the boche” and on Monday it will be “You’re Goring home” if we win or “Down and Kraut” if we lose. Of course a win will probably put us up against the Argies so I have lots more jingoistic abuse for the front and back pages. We are just hoping we don’t come up against Brazil because it’s tough coming up with bigotted headlines for them.
Interview From Number 10
 We can all breathe a sigh of relief now that England are through to the second round. It seemed that the entire country came to a stand-still yesterday as everybody stopped to watch the match against Slovenia. Prime Minister David Cameron, did you manage to sneak away from affairs of office to watch the match?
 
 I managed to watch some of the game while I was attending to my in-tray. I would just like to say “Congratulations” to the entire England team for their performance.
 
 How were you nerves during the game? Were you always confident we would win?

 
 I never doubted we would win. I always back our soccer team to win over 60 minutes. I thought we were unlucky to lose our first two matches but it all worked out in the end.
 
 Erm, we actually drew the first two matches Prime Minister. So was there any player who stood out for you?

 
 The win was very much a team effort but I thought Michael Owen did well and David Beckham always tries his best. Also Dave Rooney was unlucky not to score later on.
 
 I see. Tell me Prime Minister do you normally watch much football?

 
 As much as I can yes. I’m a keen supporter of the Tottenham but unfortunately I never have time to go and see The Reds play. I try to follow their results and it’s good when they score the goals.
 
 Finally, how far do you think England can go in this competition? Do you think they could win it?

 
 I would like to think so! Of course it’s not going to be easy but we are a great footballing nation and it might just be our year. One thing’s for sure if we do lift the cup I will join the squad for an open top bus ride around London. And if we lose I will be sending Nick Clegg to the airport. Speaking of which, where have our coffees got to?

View from the sofa

There were incredible scenes as Slovakia beat world Champs Italy 3-2 to send them home early. It must spell the end of Lippi’s managerial reign although he will bemoan the lack of a cutting edge in his ageing squad. Also in Group E Paraguay earned the point they needed to go through but spare a thought for New Zealand who can go home with immense pride having draw all three games against all odds.

Group F was not without drama as a dynamic Japan beat Denmark thanks to two fine free kicks and a shaky performance from keeper Sorenson. I’m so pleased Japan have qualified as they are my “second team”. They play with such enthusiasm and happiness, there is no diving or play acting and there are no stars – just a great team ethic.

Speaking of Japan I actually thought for an instant that they had sponsorship on their shirts with name like Honda and Matsui on display. It would be fun if they could find a few more names like Nissan, Toyota or a guy called Rav to give the number 4 shirt to.

Holland meanwhile went about their business calmly to record their third group win without the need for any fireworks.

By the end of tomorrow we will know the full second round line-up. There have been a few very exciting games so far but with Brazil vs Portugal and Spain vs Chile to come Friday could become THE day of the tournament so far.

World Cup – Wednesday 23 June

Business as usual

The path to glory is rarely straight. The path to ignomony is always kinked. England remain on course for either following a richly deserved victory over Slovenia.

Results – Wednesday 23rd June

  Group C: England 1 – 0 Slovenia
  Group C: USA 1 – 0 Algeria
  Group D: Germany 1 – 0 Ghana
  Group D: Australia 2 – 1 Serbia
Post Match Review
 Twice denied by failings in their own camp England are no longer to be decried following this decisive group encounter. Where before there was tension there was determination. Where there was panic there was guile. Where there was Heskey there was – Defoe.

The words of Capello, Terry et al receded in our memories as the incisiveness of old opened up Slovenia time and again. Milner was a thorn in one side, Gerrard the other and Defoe the sole finisher in a game less close then the scoreline would suggest.

Slovenian chances merely served to provide the English defence with chances to prove themselves. And they did. Terry was collosal and James resolute. Rooney somehow denied was replaced by Cole and some team will later pay for his impotence today. The players left it on the pitch and Capello – impassioned – left it on the sidelines.

Today we witnessed the heart and spirit missing from previous games. This day the lions were restored to English shirts. This day the pride returned.

Fixtures – Thursday 24th June

  Group E: Slovakia vs Italy
  Group E: Paraguay vs New Zealand
  Group F: Denmark vs Japan
  Group F: Cameroon vs Holland
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 In 1992 Denmark they failed to qualify for the European Championships but were granted late entry after the withdrawal of warring Yugoslavia. They proceeded to win the tournament although they have yet to win a World Cup.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron Well done England! I’ve had my agent hang another flag out of my window. That’s 9 of them now. I’m toasting your victory with custard creams – the regal queen of biscuits!

Did you know that animals have an amazing foresight? It’s true you know. Only yesterday my fat poodle Kevin went to the front door and barked and moments later the postman arrived! Also, he always knows when it is meal time even before I have finished filling his bowl. Clever dog Kevin!

Kevin is going to predict tomorrows results and prove to you just how clever he is aren’t you Kevin wevin!. Choose a team boy! … He’s sniffing my right hand – that’s Italy! And again – which hand…Paraguay – clever pooch! Try again …. Not sure? No? I think that means a draw between Denmark and Japan. And one more – which hand Kevin, which hand? ….Urrrghhh. BAD BOY! I’ve told him about that before! He just won’t learn.

In the final match Holland are going to crap on Cameroon.

View from the sofa

Talk is cheap and there has been lots of it in the last week. Yes we have played poorly but here we are in the second round undefeated and yet to concede a goal created by the opposition. Our stock is on the rise and we have a platform to build upon. Germany awaits and then perhaps Argentina. Opportunities to lay ghosts to rest – we just have to take them.

If you aspire to win this tournament you have to beat these teams, and more. You need longevity more than a flash in the pan. If you want proof just look at todays play at Wimbledon – the fifth set between Isner and Mahut rests in the balance at a world record 59 all. Somebody will win through and that vistory will count for as much as a straight sets walkover. It’s all about the result.

A final word from the Cap’n…

Captain Pugwash Yo ho ho and a bottle of Baileys! The ships all a’merry with frolicks and unwholesome behaviour atop deck and down below. All the men are drinking to master Defoe and his moment of magic! There’s going to be some sore heads in the morning that’s for sure. I’ll let the lads enjoy themselves tonight for tomorrow we set sail for Germany. Tis not a happy tide that has greeted us there before. This time we will be ready for it…

Sick-as-a-parrot-ometer 23 June

World Cup – Tuesday 22nd June

Reasons To Be Cheerful

On the eve of Englands (latest) crunch match I have a good feeling about it. Groundless optimism? Not so – as I explain in View From The Sofa below.

Elsewhere Groups A and B are decided. Through go Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico and South Korea. Meanwhile office bins across the country will tomorrow be full of bits of paper with the words South Africa, France, Greece and Nigeria written on them. Anyone for a Wimbledon sweepstake?

Results – Tuesday 22nd June

  Group A : France 1 – 2 South Africa
  Group A: Mexico 0 – 1 Uruguay
  Group B: Greece 0 – 2 Argentina
  Group B: Nigeria 2 – 2 South Korea
Spotlight on France
 There can be no doubt that the World Cup has been a disaster for France. They were poor in qualifying, they cheated Ireland out of a finals place with that well publicised hand ball and are going home early with just one point from their three group games. If anything their off the pitch antics have been even worse with players threatening to strike, the manager a figure of ridicule and Nicolas Anelka sent home early. Marcel, speaking as a typical Frenchman dans la rue how do you feel about the state of French football?

. . . . .

 I’ll take that to mean you’re speechless

Fixtures – Wednesday 23rd June

  Group C: England vs Slovenia
  Group C: USA vs Algeria
  Group D: Ghana vs Germany
  Group D: Serbia vs Australia
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Sheep outnumber people in Australia 6 to 1, yet none feature in the 2010 world cup squad.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron There are some huge ties today and today I’m going engage the ancient art of “spin the bottle” to predict the future. Ghana and Germany …. Germany to win. Serbia and Australia ….. Serbia to win. USA against Algeria is … USA. That’s your lot punters.

I’m just teasing! You want to know about England vs Slovenia. Here goes … Oh blimey, the bottle fell off the table and broke! Let’s say England then. I hope there aren’t any bits of glass in my plate of chocolate bourbons…

View from the sofa

As you know England have suffered the usual setbacks on and off the field since they arrived in South Africa and at times the doom and gloom has been overwhelming. On the eve of our final group match it’s time to find some positives, so here we go…

  • If England beat Slovenia they will qualify for the second round.
  • Fabio Capello says there are no rifts in the squad.
  • Tohn Terry backs the manager. We must have imagined his previous interview.
  • France are going home with squad problems that make the England camp look like the Waltons.
  • Plenty of other major teams may be going home this week.

…and your final reason to be cheerful…

Update from the Scotland camp with Kenny Dogleash:

 Things are quiet today as the squad continue to recuperate from last seasons domestic rigours. Some of the lads have gone on holiday to Benidorm. Others are playing a lot of X-box and watching the World Cup on TV. Of course it’s not all relaxation – there’s also an eye on pre-season training. The boys each have personal plans to hit the Glasgow night clubs, drink until they can barely walk and wind up at the kebab shop. It’s the Scottish way.

Are you feeling better about things? In a dog-eat-dog world the important thing is that there is always somebody worse off than you. Unless your name is Yakubu that is. If you haven’t seen his miss click here and prepare to suspend your disbelief. Forget miss of this World Cup, this must rate as the worst miss in any world cup ever. Enjoy!

World Cup – Monday 21st June

Dancing in the streets of Lisbon

Today in a nutshell: Ronaldo’s Portugal thrash North Korea. Spain thrill on the pitch to get points on the board and set up an exciting tie with Chile who maintain their 100% record with a win over Switzerland. It’s official – the World Cup is no longer boring!

Results – Monday 21st June

  Group G: Portugal 7 – 0 North Korea
  Group H: Chile 1 – 0 Switzerland
  Group H: Spain 2 – 0 Honduras
Post Match Review
Ron Atkinson Some in the media have been guilty of taking their eye off the ball. They were busy talking up the likes of Brazil and Argentina and forgot about little old Portugal. Well people with football manager coats like me never took them lightly and their 7-0 demolition of North Korea sends out a reminder that Ronaldo’s team are not just here to make up the numbers. Neighbours Spain meanwhile could have scored a similar amount against Honduras and those two teams could find themselves up against each other in the next round. What a special tie that would be – something like Crewe against Port Vale on a wet Tuesday evening in the Johnson Paint Trophy.

Fixtures – Tuesday 22nd June

  Group A: Mexico vs Uruguay
  Group A: France vs South Africa
  Group B: Nigeria vs South Korea
  Group B: Greece vs Argentina
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 Nigeria has a population of 129 million yet none of the players in the National Squad actually play in the Nigerian League.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron The final round of matches starts tomorrow and we find out who will stay and who will go. Let me help you with your betting slips as I ask folk from the spirit world to help with the predictions…

…I’m hearing a voice. I think it’s Dickie Davies! What’s that Dickie? You think Mexico and Uruguay will draw? What else? France and South Africa also to draw. That’s good Dickie. Now what can you tell us from Group B? Argentina to beat Greece. Yes – I got that… and another draw between Nigeria and South Korea. That’s a lot of draws Dickie – are you sure? What’s that – you’re going faint…. well there’s no need for that kind of language from beyond the grave! I’ve never heard such crude profanity from the netherworld!

What a sweary man – I was only asking. I’m going to have a fig roll with my cocoa to get the blood back in my cheeks.

Hang, on, isn’t Dickie Davis still alive?

Pundit Corner
In a strip bar somewhere in South Africa I would like to imagine the following exchange…
The tournament reached its half way stage today with 32 of the 64 games completed and we have seen each team play twice. Which players have put in the eye catching performances so far? Well the player that entered the tournament with the most expectation against him was Lionel Messi and it has to be said that he has certainly been the dominant influence for Argentina. Would you agree with that Sven?
 
For sure Messi is capable of great things. He would walk into any team in the world, but the tournament is bigger than one person. I have been impressed by other South Americans too. Here’s a young talented Brazilian that I have been keeping an eye on.
We must also mention a young German – the talented playmaker Mesut Ozil. Many viewers will have got their first sight of him in the last week and I have to say he really lived up to expectations with some wonderful touches. He really does look a star in the making.
 
There is certainly a lot of German talent on show. I have been on the look out during the matches this week and here’s another young German that aroused my interest.
I know England have barely got out of the blocks and most fans would feel that all of the players have underperformed, but do you feel there is anyone we can look forward to seeing before this tournament is out?
 
Well it’s not been the best start for England and we can only hope to see better later on this week. That said,
it’s been hard for me to ignore the WAGs. They see to be getting a lot of coverage and I can’t help but watch.
That’s a good spot Sven. Let’s just hope that JT doesn’t take his eye off the ball with these sort of distractions in the back of his mind.

View from the sofa

We are at the half way stage of the tournament which is a good or bad thing depending on whether you are a tournament half empty kind of person. With one group game left it can all change but at the time of writing there are some huge potential shocks in store and most of them concern European teams. Consider this:

  • 1998 World Champions France are in disarray. If they don’t beat Mexico it will be au revior. Oh, and very funny.
  • England almost certainly have to beat Slovenia to progress, despite their “easy” group
  • Germany could still slip out if they lose to dangerous table topping Ghana. Why do I have visions of a penalty shoot out with them at some point later?
  • World Champions Italy have to beat tricky Slovakia to ensure qualification
  • Surely Portugal won’t lose 2nd spot with a plus 9 goal difference over Ivory Coast! Except they play Brazil, while Sven’s men take on the North Korean whipping boys. It couldn’t happen. Could it?
  • Spains unbeated qualification campaign counts for naught as they take on mightily impressive Chile in a game they must win to be sure of progressing further

Only the Dutch have made light work of qualification from the group phases as far as European teams go. The African teams had little genuine hope resting upon them and only Ghana have a better than 50% chance of qualifying. The predominant force so far has been the South American contingent with Brazil and Argentina looking like they could go the distance and Chile and Paraguay also set to progress.

We may still be in the group stage but from now on every game is effectively a cup game. Lose and you are probably out. This is when the competition really begins…

World Cup – Sunday 20th June

Bad Hair Day

The games continue to come thick and fast and each day they get better-er and more dramatic-er. Could we be about to see Italy get knocked out in the group stage? Who cares – the real excitement comes with the news that today I launch my Golden Mullet competition where you can win a very special prize.

Golden Mullet Award
Golden Mullet Award

Scroll down for the sad facts…

Results – Sunday 20th June

  Group F: Slovakia 2 – 0 Paraguay
  Group F: Italy 1 – 1 New Zealand
  Group G: Brazil 3 – 1 Ivory Coast

Fixtures – Monday 21st June

  Group G: Portugal vs North Korea
  Group H: Chile vs Switzerland
  Group H: Spain vs Honduras
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 A match between Honduras and El Salvador in 1970 resulted in a three day war. They should have reverted to penalties.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron The plucky performance of North Korea has caught everyone’s imagination and I have broken out a very special packet of Tunnocks Teacakes to accompany their performance. The tarot cards have told me to expect a surprise draw in that fixture. Would you believe it?! Group H pits Libran Chile against Sagitarius Switzerland so there will be miscommunicated between them, possible resulting in a tiff. Chile will win. Mighty Spain will finally get three points on the board against Honduras, with their sign entering the 11th solar thingymajig. Or something.
Pre Match Comment
Not many people expected Spain to have to break sweat in this group but if they lose tomorrow it’s a bus ride to Jo’burg airport. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Chile in action again. Their attacking play was refreshing to watch last time out, while North Korea will also be taking a lot of new fans with them into their match against Portugal following their last display against Brazil. Can they beat Ronaldo’s team and blow the group wide open?

View from the sofa

Yet another super-power comes a cropper at these finals. World champions Italy held to a draw by New Zealand ranks as the shock of the tournament so far. Football in NZ has such a low profile that a game against fiercest rivals Australia only attracted a crowd of 500 people so today’s result is astonishing. Paraguay proved that their last performance was no fluke with a skilfull and well deserved win over a rigid Slovakia while Brazil beat Ivory Coast in a feast of a game.

The Brazilians played some joyful stuff in patches with central defenders running the line and putting crosses in from the corner flag while Sven’s Ivory Coast weren’t without menace of their own, but Drogba’s goal proved only a consolation. Brazil are through to round 2 but have an anxious wait to find out how serious Elano’s leg injury is – a genuine injury amidst a plethora of rather pathetic dives and “simulations”. The signs for him weren’t good.

Golden Mullet Competition

Ask yourself a question: What would a World Cup be without bad hair? Which young boy hasn’t watched a finals game and not dreamed that one day he too could have a hairstyle just like one of his TV heroes?

To celebrate bad hair from around the footballing world I’m today launching my Golden Mullet competition. It’s simple to play and anyone can enter. All you have to do is decide on the three worst barnets from the gallery below. E-mail your top three choices in order from 1 (your nomination for worst Golden Mullet) to 3 (third worst) and the entry that most closely matches my expert opinion will win a very special prize. Yes, the winner will receive a football – and not just any football. This is THE football that has been sitting in my garage THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE world cup. Just think about that…

Super Prize
Super Prize

If that wasn’t enough, I will fake the signatures of some of football’s great players. It’s a unique prize, so what are you waiting for?! Judging will take place on Thursday 8th July if I remember and the winner will receive the ball in person or by post unless it’s expensive or inconvenient. The judge’s decision is final and questionable.

Here are your contenders:

Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio
Team: Italy

Style:
My Little Pony

Miguel Barreira
Miguel Barreira
Team: Portugal

Style: Pineapple

Team: USA

Style: Satanic

Alexi Lalas
Alexi Lalas
Team: Brazil

Style: Lobotomy

Ronaldo
Ronaldo
David Seaman
David Seaman
Team: England

Style: Mr Pringle

Carlos Valderama
Carlos Valderama
Team: Columbia

Style:
Muppet Show

Team: Germany

Style: Porn Star

Rudi Voller
Rudi Voller
Team: Nigeria

Style: Big girl

Taribo West
Taribo West
Abel Xavier
Abel Xavier
Team: Portugal

Style: Inexplicable

Christian Zeige
Christian Zeige
Team: Portugal

Style: Mr T

What are you waiting for? Put that Alice Band down and get that entry emailed…

World Cup – Saturday 19th June

The Day After Yesterday

This evening’s world cup update comes a little early. You see I’m off to the pub so the evening match hasn’t yet kicked off. Don’t panic – aside from my blog you can actually catch world cup matches live on television and via the internet, while there has also been some newspaper interest in reporting events in South Africa.

Results – Saturday 19th June

  Group E: Holland 1 – 0 Japan
  Group D: Australia 1 – 1 Ghana
  Group E: Cameroon L – L Denmark
Post Match Review
 What a refreshing game we saw today between Australia and Ghana after yesterdays rubbish from England. The Aussies got a pummeling in their last outing against Germany so they were out to make amends today and when they took the lead there looked to be a way back for them in this competition. Then striker Kewell handles the ball in the box and gets sent off and it’s backs against the wall. Don’t forget they had Cahill sent off in their last match too. Ghana scored from the spot and kept on coming against the 10 men. It really was squeaky bum time but they held on in the end for a point. They like to do things the hard way down under.
 
 That’s right Ron. If Kewell had just taken the catch cleanly then the Ghanaian striker would have been back in the pavillion and the other team would have been a man short. Instead he spills it and it’s a penalty. Captain Lucas Neil will be asking himself why he didn’t move Kewell to a deeper fielding position against that sort of pace attack. It’s that old footballing cliché again – “catches win matches.”. It’s hard to see the Australians winning the world cup ashes now. They need to win all their remaining matches and I can’t see that happening.

Fixtures – Sunday 20th June

  Group F: Slovakia vs Paraguay
  Group F: Italy vs New Zealand
  Group G: Brazil vs Ivory Coast
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 New Zealand striker Rory Fallon plays for League 1 Plymouth Argyle. His father was manager of the national side in their only previous World Cup finals outing in 1982. People from New Zealand are always amused to be mistaken for Australians.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron Ooh – is it that time? It’s earlier than usual – what’s going on? I’ve only just finished a pack of digestives and I haven’t even opened my evening ration of ginger nuts! I don’t even know who’s playing tomorrow. I’ll stick a hair pin in the TV guide to predict the results – that is as scientific as my other methods. Here goes…

…Paraguay to beat Slovakia…
…Italy to beat New Zealand… – this seems to be working!
…and Brazil to beat Antiques Roadshow.

There. Do I get the evening off now? That means I can watch “Mary, Queen of shops”. Anything but this bloody non-stop football. I’m sick of it!

Pre Match Comment
The competition is really starting to hot up now and Brazil’s match with Ivory Coast has been hotly anticipated since the draw was made last year. Brazil seemed a little subdued by their own standards last time out while Ivory Coast will feel they have something to prove so this could turn out to be the match of the round. Mind you, we have said that about other matches and been bored to tears. I’m just hoping that Robinho produces his international form instead of his club form, and that Drogba reproduces his club form and not his international form.

England Update

Injury Report
Bones I’m afraid there’s bad news to report from the sick bay. Emile Heskey remains as fit and skillful as a carthorse. FIFA rules prevent me from using my phaser on him. Not even with it set to stun.
Tabloid Roundup
Scum Reporter We salute David James for his bristling sarcasm when interviewed after England’s bore draw with Algeria. There’s also reaction in todays paper (and tomorrows chip paper) about Rooney’s criticism of the crowd for booing after the match in our feature article “Roo Boo Stew”, and we have an interview with the fan got into the team dressing room after the match and managed to talk with Becks. We think this could have been a potential security disaster. I mean what if it had been Posh?

View from the sofa

I have been absorbing events today minus the sound as I don’t want to listen to endless speculation about England. That’s made for an interesting experience and also meant I have missed a few key moments because I have been looking away and didn’t hear the crowd roar.

Here’s a roundup of a few things that have caught my attention in the last day or so…

  • In case you haven’t already seen it there’s a fabulous video clip from an interview with Maradona in which an innocent interview question is lost in translation. Even if you have already seen this I know you won’t be able to resist watching it again.
  • Four North Korean players are rumoured to have defected – a claim denied by the team coach. I don’t know if it’s true but it raises questions about North Korea’s claims to be an eden of democracy. I do hope they aren’t fibbing
  • French striker Nicolas Anelka is reported to be going home following a huge row with manager Domenech. For the first time in his career Anelka appears to have done something the fans can respect him for. Well done!

There. That’s your lot for today. I’ve got a pub to go to…

World Cup – Friday 18th June

It’s In The Eyes

Anybody that has predicted all the results so far clearly knows nothing about football. As for us experts we have all got it wrong…

Results – Friday 18th June

  Group D: Germany 0 – 1 Serbia
  Group C: Slovenia 2 – 2 USA
  Group C: England 0 – 0 Algeria
Post Match Review
Is there no respite from this malady for England’s brave? Princes William and Harry played royal witness to groundhog day as Algeria continued where America left off. On the day it was meant to be, it was not meant to be. They huffed and they puffed but they couldn’t blow the plucky Algerian defence down. James returned as custodian – a safe pair of hands. Barry swept up in front of the back four – a stablising influence. Heskey stood his ground – a solid anchor. Safe, stable and solid – watchwords for the career a la Capello – but we bought a ticket to see dangerous, mobile and flexible! Britannia but all shield and no trident. The fans know it. The players know it. The question is, “does the manager know it?”.

Capello, wooden in thunderbird caricature as in tactics will be hoping for international rescue. England still waits but it no longer expects.

Fixtures – Saturday 19th June

  Group E: Holland vs Japan
  Group D: Ghana vs Australia
  Group D: Cameroon vs Denmark
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 The Japanese squad numbers jump from 3 to 5 as the number 4 is considered unlucky in the country. Four is pronounced “shi” which is the same as “death.” This isn’t as strange as it sounds. In England the number 1 shirt is considered unlucky
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron What’s going on? Did I upset Doris Stokes? There’s trouble I the netherworld and my tea leaves are all over the place, so I’m switching to my crystal ball instead. Let’s give it a rub – I don’t know how my balls got so sticky! That’s better. I’m seeing an orange sun – that’ll be Netherlands vs Japan I suppose. I don’t know where I left the instructions so I don’t really know what that means. I’m all in a tis now! Oh sod it – Holland to win, Ghana to win , Denmark to draw. And I’ve just finished off the hob nobs.

View from the sofa

The captain gets first say tonight. In so much as you can say anything…

Captain Pugwash There’s an ill wind blows that makes the old ship creak from bow to foc’lse. Where it comes from no man can say and yet here is as again, like a foreboding. My steadiest hands are pale with the sickness yet they have sailed through this and much worse. Is there a smell of mutiny in the air? Me thinks it be time to pass the rum around. Ahargh!

Sick-as-a-parrot-ometer 18 June

Sometimes from amidst a dense cloud of confusion and chaos emerges stark clarity. The fog of war engulfed the England squad this evening as they fought a shadowy spectre on an unforgiving battlefield. Passes went astray, progressive play hard to come by. Fits and starts. A glimmer and then a gaffe. It was a nothing performance by a highly talented England side against an Algerian team that in playing to their potential were scant opposition for any team of calibre. So what went wrong?

There were so many clues. The pre-match hubbub about the keeper was an irrelevance. The stale and predictable tactics gave an early hint to the problem. The introduction of Barry provided some initial stability and impetus from the back but this again was a red herring. Every player performed below his best to one degree or another. Rooney was largely peripheral. Gerrard kept sticking when he should have twisted and vice versa. Lampard was away with the fairies. You only knew Terry was on the pitch when the ref blew for a foul. Here a truly world class spine was lost in some parallax an eyes blink to the left of reality. What can cause not one or two but all of a team to under-perform to such an extent?

Still confused? Were heads down? Not really. Were the team unfit? Not in the least. Were there flashes of temper or loss of disipline? No, just a booking for a block on a player. Were the team trying? You bet. So we have 11 fit players of quality all trying hard, playing with discipline and yet they under-performed and failed to deliver.

Everything you needed to know about the reasons for tonight’s performance (and hence result) was there to see in the player’s eyes. There was fear, pressure and frustration. Lampard was worst affected – he was paralysed. Gerrard was strong but – he appeared to be carrying the world on his shoulders. Carragher wore the look of a soldier about to leave the trenches. Football is a game you play against yourself. That shadowy spectre they fenced with all evening was England. There was only one team on the pitch and it played out a draw with itself.

So for all of the frustration and disappointment amongst the fans I would implore you not to judge the players because they are blameless, although they may blame themselves.

The best managers don’t appear to do anything. They gently guide a team in a direction. They define points of focus for individuals and create an environment where everyone knows what is required and expected of them but equally importantly they know why they are valuable. Individuals are given the latitude to express themselves and channel their hunger for the game into something positive. That is the art of management at this level because all of the basics are givens to these elite players.

Brian Clough is the perfect example. He would take an exceptional crosser of the ball and tell him in no uncertain terms that his job was solely to put the ball onto the head of the centre forwards. There would be no criticism for not tackling back and no request for the player to play a foreign position. That player would be in his element excelling at the thing he does best and being judged on those simple instructions alone.

Fabio Capello is the strict disciplinarian. There are many admirable facets to this approach, especially when dealing with multi-millionaires who usually rule the roost on their club turf. He rules the team with an iron fist, Iron is strong but it is also inflexible. The players are not happy with the formation or tactics. They can’t say it but it is obvious. Unlike the rebellious French team the England boys are heads down trying to deliver Fabio’s plans on the pitch, but they aren’t comfortable with it and each time they fail to execute these plans the manager is heaping the pressure back on them to do better next time instead of looking at himself. A great manager of men stands firm – at the right times – but crucially knows when to change course or take advice from elsewhere.

Capello’s legacy to his role as England manager rests entirely on what he does for the final group game against Slovenia. If he stands firm nothing will change, we will draw at best and exit the tournament. Alternatively if he drops the barrier he has erected between himself and the players, has a laugh with them and changes the squad and formation to allow them to express themselves we might just see the kind of exhillarating celebratory football that wins world cups.

What are you doing on Wednesday?

World Cup – Thursday 17th June

That’s why they call it Les Blues

We have now seen every team. Most of the opening matches have been cagey but now teams have to start getting results and that can only mean desperate measures. The last resort – they are going to have to actually play some football…

Results – Wednesday 16th June

  Group H: Honduras 0 – 1 Chile
  Group H: Spain 0 – 1 Switzerland
  Group A: South Africa 0 – 3 Uruguay

Results – Thursday 17th June

  Group B: Argentina 4 – 1 South Korea
  Group B: Greece 2 – 1 Nigeria
  Group A: France 0 – 2 Mexico

Fixtures – Friday 18th June

  Group D: Germany vs Serbia
  Group C: Slovenia vs USA
  Group C: England vs Algeria
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
 England’s Glen Johnson was arrested in B&Q for stealing a toilet seat along with Ben May of Millwall.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron Can Germany continue their fine start to the world cup? Ja, naturlich! The force is strong in this one and they will deal with Serbia with little problem. The US face Slovenia and will be on a high after their draw with England. They will have to settle for a draw however as Slovenia will be feeling stubborn. The big one – England against Algeria? It won’t be a walkover but Fabios men are on a biorhythmic upturn and will win! Hooray!
Pre Match Comment
Today will go down as the day France imploded. We knew there were deep rifts within the squad and management team and the question was when and not if France would come a cropper. Manager Raymond Domenech knows that even a win in their final group game to secure qualification may well not be enough to secure his tenure beyond the world cup.

After their sticky start all eyes are on England and they are expected to improve. There’s a belief within the camp and it would be no surprise to see a more attacking formation to face the Algerians. There’s no doubt that the surprise defeats inflicted against Spain and France will have taken the spotlight off the England players. Let’s see how that translates to performances on the pitch.

View from the sofa

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday but life rudely intervened. Three fascinating games took place that really shook the competition up. First the Chile team won their game with a confident attacking verve that has marked them out from most other teams so far with their conservative performances. The final match of the first round of games saw the shock of the tournament with average Switzerland stunning joint favourites Brazil with a 1 – 0 victory. That result came from nowhere and we won’t know till the next game whether it was just an off day for Spain. The evening match saw hosts South Africa sensationally thrashed 3 – 0 by Uruguay. They were as poor as Uruguay were good and their participation beyond the group stages looks to be highly doubtful

Today served up more drama – things are certainly hotting up. Argentina followed up their dominant but narrow vistory against a useful looking Nigeria with a 4 – 1 defeat against a resilient South Korea. There’s no mistake that this team are genuine contenders – at least until manager Maradona screws it up. The appalling Greeks remained appalling but somehow contrived to beat Nigeria largely due to a sending off. They remain crap however. Yet more drama in the evening when France’s anticipated capitulation finally materialised. A dreadful performance saw them dispatched by Mexico and they are clinging onto hopes of qualification, although this would only prolong the inevitable.

It’s England tomorrow and suddenly our belittled victory over Mexico in a recent friendly is looking more impressive. I’m confident that our formation and performance will improve and – unless we are very unlucky – this should be enough to give us a much needed win against Algeria.

Anyway, this world cup thing. Is it worth it? FIFA have insisted that the Jules Rimet trophy is made of solid gold but Martyn Poliakoff of Nottingham University has calculated that this cannot be the case because the weight would prevent players from easily lifting it.

His contention is that it must be hollow. I feel that his theory is only half formed. The logical extension of his assertion is that it is not only hollow but made of chocolate and contains a toy. How great would that be – if the winning team hoisted the trophy, then sat circled on the pitch ripping off golden foil and breaking chunks of chocolate off. We can all dream…

World Cup – Tuesday 15th June

It’s a country of two halves

The “group of death” played out their first fixtures today. A dangerous Portugal side featuring Ronaldo took on a powerful Ivory Coast with Didier Drogba. Joint Favourites Brazil played the deadly North Koreans. Drama guaranteed?

Results – Tuesday 15th June

  Group F: New Zealand 1 – 1 Slovakia
  Group G: Ivory Coast 0 – 0 Portugal
  Group G: Brazil 2 – 1 North Korea
Post Match Review
The eagerly anticipated match of the round has just finished and it was supposed to be a landslide victory for joint favourites Brazil against the unfashionable and unfancied North Koreans. The plucky minnows ran their socks off and played with such heart that Brazil were mightily relieved to take the lead after half time and then grab a second later on. Nobody could begrudge the Koreans their consolation goal. We are lucky to have North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (or his stand-in if you believe like some that he died in 2003). Kim, you must feel very proud of your boys despite the defeat.
 
Kim Jong-Il This was a wonderful victory for the homeland. We showed the imperialist west that they are no match for our mighty nation. This 5 goal victory for my country will force the world to take notice of us
 
Well, it was as you say a spirited performance but Brazil did actually beat North Korea. The score was 2 – 1.
 
Kim Jong-Il There is no such place as North Korea! Brazil were beaten 6 – 0 by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. We will not accept any interference with our internal affairs and the result stands. If you disagree with me we will invade somewhere.
 
OK, let’s talk about your team instead. Young striker Jong Tae-Se has been called the Wayne Rooney of Asia. I have to say that I was very impressed with his contribution. Do you think that the comparisons with Rooney are valid?
 
Kim Jong-Il He is better than Rooney, better than Ronaldo, better than Messi. He is as good as Jimmy Hill in his prime. I personally taught him everything he knows about football. The glorious world cup winning team will devote their 7 – 0 World Cup final victory to me in a special parade in the people’s capital.
 
Whatever you say Kim.

Fixtures – Wednesday 16th June

  Group H: Honduras vs Chile
  Group H: Spain vs Switzerland
  Group A: South Africa vs Uruguay
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
Bambi Chile keeper Rojas faked injury from a firework in an attempt to get a qualifier match with Brazil called off, with his team losing. He received a life ban from the game and Chile were denied entry to the 1994 world cup finals. In an interesting parallel Rob Green faked the ground swallowing him up after last Saturday’s goalkeeping blunder against the US but unfortunately for him it was just in his mind.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron Cooeee readers! What an exciting day it’s going to be with a lot of fluidity across the zodiac spectrum. And you know what that means? Goals – lots of them! And not just goals. Curiously there will be romantic advances from an unexpected quarter during the Honduras vs Chile game. It will also be a ding dong game with Chile scoring the most. Meanwhile the reign of Spain goals will fall mostly on the Swiss who will be in for a disappointment and also a welcome invitation from a friend. Then we are back into the second round of games with a stalemate for South Africa and Capricorn Uruguay who will at least be in a positive mood with career opportunities just a finger tip away. What a lovely world cup it has been so far. I’m celebrating with mint tea and some garibaldis!

View from the sofa

There haven’t really been any upsets so far but today was perhaps the closest we got. New Zealand are the lowest rated side in South Africa and qualification was a victory in itself. They trailed the competent Slovakians until the last minute when an equaliser sent them into raptures and earned them their first even world cup point. Congratulations to the All Whites!

Today’s big game between Portugal and the Ivory Coast was by contrast a big let down. It finished goalless and was for the most part incident-free. The ultimate mismatch though was reserved for the mighty Brazil versus North Korea – a team almost as secretive as its origins suggest. The Koreans worked tirelessly to close down the Brazilians who loped around the pitch without any urgency except for (surprisingly) Robinho until the half time whistle blew.

Eventually a couple of moments of genius saw Brazil go two up through Maicon and Elano (both in my fantasy team – yeah!) and just when you thought the floodgates might open the North Koreans pulled back a consolation. It wasn’t what many people would have expected but it was enthralling in its own way. This is the beauty of football – you often know what to expect but sometimes it just doesn’t pan out that way.

Off the pitch ITV pundit Robbie Earle was sacked after complimentary tickets issued to him ended up in the hands of the wrong people. I have to say it’s a shame because he’s one of the few pundits who talks any sense and he is also one of the nicest guys around. Speaking of nice guys England defender Matt Upson today visited an orphanage to meet for the first time the boy he has been sponsoring. The boy was found to be wearing an England shirt – bearing the name of Rooney. It obviously takes more than money to persuade a child to have their football top adorned with the name or a third choice reserve defender.

World Cup – Monday 14th June

I think I’m turning Japanese

On paper todays games had great potential. The “total football” of Holland against 1992 European Champions & fierce neighbours Denmark. Japan – the rising power in Asian football versus “The Indomitable Lions” of Cameroon, and reigning World Champions Italy against South American minnows Paraguay (population 6 million) who beat Brazil in qualification. Unfortunately these games were played on grass…

Results – Monday 14th June

  Group E: Holland 2 – 0 Denmark
  Group E: Japan 1 – 0 Cameroon
  Group F: Italy 1 – 1 Paraguay
Post Match Review
Big Ron We finally got sight of the reigning World Cup holders Italy and on todays form they won’t be here on July 11th. It’s as we expected – many of the squad are passed their prime. Sure, they held the ball well for 90 minutes but there was little thrust and they had to rely on a goalkeeping error to earn a draw off a mediocre Paraguayan side. Will they qualify? Probably, but on this showing they won’t cause the better defences too many problems. They would kill for some of my old players like Dalian Atkinson, Steve Frogatt or Mickey Gynn
 
For me Italy remain one of the favourites, despite their ageing squad. Creep creep, smarm, boyish grin, uncontrovertial comments with a few cliches thrown in, etc, etc

Fixtures – Tuesday 15th June

  Group F: New Zealand vs Slovakia
  Group G: Ivory Coast vs Portugal
  Group G: Brazil vs North Korea
Gazza’s Daily Football Factoids
Bambi FIFA has confirmed North Korea will only be able to play striker Kim Myong-Won as a goalkeeper at this summer’s World Cup. The forward was named as a provisional keeper but under FIFA rules each team must have three keepers which means he may now only be played as a keeper and cannot play up front.
Mystic Ron’s World Cup Horoscope
Mystic Ron I’m all aquiver at the thought of lovely Ronaldo playing up front for Portugal tomorrow against the Ivory Coast! He’s so dashing, don’t you think? He reminds me of a young Charlton Heston, all bronzed and purposeful. Oooh, I’ve just dropped my digestive in my tea thinking about it – what a nana I am! I suppose you want some predictions then. Slovakia to squeeze past New Zealand, Brazil to make light work of North Korea and – I can’t bring myself to say it. Ronaldo’s star is on the rise once again but his team will face adversity and may argue with a loved one, so I’m going to nudge towards the Africans.
Pre Match Comment
Motty This is the day we expect matches of great contrast in the “group of death”. Lowly North Korea have a daunting task as they take on the might of Brazil and the best they can hope for is that the South Americans are in forgiving mood and only win by a small margin. The tie of the day though sees Portugal take on the Ivory Coast. It is Ronaldo against Drogba. It is a European team rebuilding after the retirement of greats like Figo against an African team brimming with talented Premiership players reaching their peak.

Will we see Drogba play with his broken arm? Is there more to Portugal than Ronaldo? Mrs Motson is a big Ronaldo fan so I know who she will be rooting for. I also have it on good authority that Ronaldo is a great admirer of our very own Mystic Ron. Would you believe it!

View from the sofa

For the first time my view hasn’t been entirely from the sofa. I saw the first half of the Holland match at Walkabout over an enjoyable lunch with the lads from work. The screen was HUGE – I mean it would just about fit on the side of my house, and the quality was superb considering. Of course I would have to sit in next doors back garden to get a decent view and that’s going to be hard to explain to them. Oh, the game? The teams mostly cancelled each other out but the Dutch had a bit more about them and I suspect there is a lot more to come from them. More intruigingly, should we call them Holland, Netherlands or the Dutch?

The Japan vs Cameroon game passed me by – something to do with being at work – although I caught the highlights. Apparently this was Japans first world cup win on foreign soil. I have a sneaky fondness for Japan and I will be rooting for them although the flirtation is doomed to failure before very long. I just like them – they are just so enthusiastic and uncynical. As for Cameroon they have some well known quality names such as Eto, Geremi, Bassong and Assou-Ekotto yet it appears that combined they were less than the sum of their parts. So much for some of the hype that has billed them as contenders for a long run in the cup.

The evening was supposed to remind us why Italy are World Champions but instead it just reminded us why they won’t be in 3 weeks time. They can pass it around all day but there was no cutting edge and almost no change in pace. They will qualify and may progress to the quarter finals but on this showing the fat lady is going through her warm up routine.

Finally, you probably have a nagging feeling that something is missing from this world cup. Yes, that’s right, there hasn’t been an England World Cup song to dominate the airwaves – not even the ritualistic churning out of Three Lions. Perhaps the line “Three Lions on a shirt” was deemed too risky in case a news story broke about drunken fans running amok on a game reserve and getting mauled by a big cat.

In fact there are a few new football songs knocking about and for me this track by Dave Henson beats the competition hands down. It’s almost as funny as the John Barnes rap. Almost.