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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Shouldn't the World Cup Involve the BEST Teams In The World ?

This has been bugging me for a while now and yes, I know it's an old argument, but shouldn't the finals of the World Cup be contested by the best football teams in the world ?

Up until very recently I have always agreed with the concept of allowing more teams from the emerging football nations to compete and this has, as Sepp Blatter and others have noted, resulted in increased popularity for the sport and increased skill levels among the 'lesser' countries.

However, once again Saudi Arabia have qualified as top of their group after a victory on Aug 17th, 2005 over a below par South Korea. You may not remember this but Saudi Arabia were in the same group as Germany and The Republic of Ireland in the 2002 World Cup Finals and were hammered 8-0 by the Germans in the opening game. Essentially, they were cannon fodder for the rest of the group and I don't doubt that the same will happen this time around.

Is it really in football's best interests to have teams like the Saudis competing in the finals when far superior teams will not even qualify ? Clearly not. Fans want to see the World's best nations competing in the World Cup Finals regardless of where they are from. Surely, it is time to put back the clock and give more qualifying places to the best teams.

The fact that these are mostly European based is irrelevant except to the likes of Blatter who has long been in a power struggle with UEFA and its executive. It's time to put pointless politicking aside and allow what are truly the best footballing countries in the world to compete in the finals. I accept that it isn't going to happen in the 2006 competition, but surely allowing teams like Saudi Arabia at the expense of teams like Holland (who failed to qualify in 2002) devalues the tournament. It's time this stopped.


posted by mark_s at 5:24 PM 0 comments

France Slips In FIFA Rankings - What Does It All Mean

France have slipped to 9th equal in the latest FIFA world rankings after their performances in the World Cup qualifying campaign. Failure to beat the likes of the Republic of Ireland and an overperforming Israeli team has meant that this is their lowest standing since they won the '98 World Cup Finals.

This means that - at least in FIFA's eyes - France are now a worse team than England (who are 7th in the Aug 2005 list), which is debatable; and the USA - who now seem to be the 6th best football team in the world ! And this is the point I wanted to make...what kind of ranking system can result in the USA being rated as the 6th best team ? Better than Portugal, Italy and Germany ? Huh. This really doesn't make sense.

Reading through the
FIFA ranking system , it starts to become clear that the 'regional weighting' system actually isn't very weighted at all, allowing such mighty giants of international football as Iran and the USA to be ranked higher than Euro 2004 winners Greece and World Cup regulars like Sweden. Just take a look at that section of the ranking system and ask yourself this simple question: is the UEFA group really only fractionally more competitive than CONCAF - the group that includes the United States.

The question is, of course, do these rankings really matter ? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. These rankings form part of the basis for the seedings in the 2006 World Cup. I know the seedings are mainly based on performance in the last three world cups, but something as obviously flawed as the FIFA World rankings have any part to play ? The answer is clearly: NO.

posted by mark_s at 9:26 AM 0 comments

Friday, August 19, 2005

Ivory Coast - The Savvy 2006 World Cup Bet ?

Despite - or even because of - their 3-0 loss in the recent friendly against a resurgent French side, the Ivory Coast are still the thinking man's bet in the 2006 World Cup.

Looking almost certain to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, they have a strong team and are my pick for the 'surprise' quarter finalists in 2006. Names like Drogba and Toure are familiar to fans of the English Premiership, but throughout the team they have technical ability and - better than that - a sense of team that is rare among even the elite of world football.

I've put my money where my mouth is and bet heavily on the Ivory Coast to achieve a quarter final position and I would suggest you do the same. The best value is at the peer-to-peer betting exchanges like BetFair but there will be good odds to be had elsewhere, I'm sure. Try walking in to your local William Hill this week and see what they will offer you.

posted by mark_s at 8:36 PM 0 comments

Does England Really Need 4 Great Midfielders

Watching the England v Denmark game, it struck me that part of the reason we fared so poorly was the fact that our midfield was made up of four great players not four ideal players for those positions. Essentially, England played three central midfielders and, um, Joe Cole...who is, well...just what position does Joe Cole really play in !?

If we persist with the notion that Lampard, Gerrard and Beckham can play in the same midfield, then it is kind of inevitable we are going to take a pasting from sides that actually put out a team. Surely, Sven et al can see that it is a better bet to play very good players in their natural position rather than great players out of position.

Frankly, the England team should be above pandering to egos and should be about constructing a winning team. If Denmark - with a population of all of 5 million - can construct a healthy midfield with width (Rommedahl, etc.), strength (Gravesen) and ability, it can't be beyond England to do the same.

I find myself in the bizarre position of agreeing with David Platt's comments on SkySports which isn't something that happens every day !

posted by mark_s at 7:58 PM 0 comments