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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Play Against Hungary and Croatia or Grimsby - A Tough Decision

Love this article in The Malta Independent about Maltese international Luke Dimech, who also plays - as I'm sure you all knew - for Chester.

Seems that the lad is struggling to decide whether he should be playing international football in World Cup qualifiers against Hungary and Croatia or for his club side against Grimsby and Mansfield.

Um. Well. Let me see. It's a tricky one, I know. Mansfield or Hungary. Grimsby or Croatia. Yeah, I can see that it's a real dilemma. Right up there with Fermat's Last Theorem and whether or not Porn actresses can legitimately call themselves 'stars' when less people see them in action than watch [picking a name completely at random] Chester play football.

I can just see Luke at 70 explaining to his grandkids that he could have played against Hungary in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers but chose instead to play Mansfield in whatever the Fourth Division is called this season.


posted by mark_s at 6:58 PM 0 comments

Terry Injured - More Doubts for England Qualifiers

John Terry has injured himself in today's game against Spurs (about which no more will be said...ever) and, according to Jose Mourinho, who knows about these things, is a doubt for the England match against Wales.

If Terry doesn't play, this will mean no Gary Neville, No Sol Campbell and no Ledley King in England's defence. The cynic in me is going to start looking for good odds on a draw. You read it here first.

posted by mark_s at 6:34 PM 0 comments

Friday, August 26, 2005

France World Cup Qualifiers - Bye, Bye, France ?!

France coach Raymond Domenech is seemingly playing mind games with his own players by saying crazy things like this :

"If we lose against the Faeroes, the Ireland match will no longer be decisive. It will just be a friendly," Domenech said. "I'm not saying the Faeroe Islands are Brazil, but you have to beat them to play a worthwhile match in Ireland."

Far be it from me to suggest the the French coach doesn't seem to have much confidence in himself or his players, but the sudden unretirement of Zidane and Makelele combined with some of the comments reported here and here does seem to indicate that Domenech is more than a little worried about France's chances of qualification.

Personally, I'm hoping the Republic of Ireland will give them an old fashioned hammering, finally putting pay to bed the myth of the French as a supreme footballing power.

posted by mark_s at 10:27 AM 0 comments

Quick Ante-Post World Cup Betting Round Up

Not too many of the online bookies are offering many markets on World Cup football just yet and there really isn't a lot of value to be had right now. Brazil to win is always a solid bet, though. Best value I can find is 4/1 at SportingOdds. Definitely worth a punt at that price.

Just been taking a look at the US sportsbooks, and Brazil to win is currently available at 9/2 at VipSports, so if you fancy a piece of that, sign up now before the line changes.

An each way bet - well, Bet365 have the Czech Republic at 25/1 when they are 20/1 pretty much everywhere else. I tip the Czechs at pretty much every major tournament and they never quite live up to their undeniable ability, but at that price, I'm not going to resist and neither should you. If you don't have a Bet365 account, they'll give you a bunch of free bets and they've got a free placepot promotion for existing customers running at the moment, which just increases the value of this bet.


posted by mark_s at 10:01 AM 0 comments

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Newcastle and Real Agree Fee for Owen - Not A Hope !

It seems that Real Madrid and Newcastle have agreed a fairly massive fee for Michael Owen meaning it is just down to Owen and Newcastle to agree terms.

I don't want to disappoint any Geordies reading this, but Owen would be mad to go to Newcastle and I don't think it's going to happen.

For one thing, him and Shearer were never a great partnership for England and I don't see that being any different now. Secondly, Newcastle are a club in permanent turmoil - Souness is unlikely to last, they can't keep their top players happy, they're not in Europe, so what exactly would the attraction be for Michael Owen.

All this stuff I've heard about Owen not getting into the England World Cup squad if he doesn't play regularly for Real is nonsense. We all know Sven isn't going to leave him out even if he only plays one game for Madrid. I can see the apologists for the England manager already talking about how 'fresh' Owen will be if he only gets a few games for Real this season, how 'hungry' he'll be and what a class player he is.

Write your own cliches...Owen will play in the 2006 World Cup in Germany if he only had one leg. Signing for Newcastle isn't going to make a damn bit of difference one way or another.

posted by mark_s at 11:51 AM 0 comments

Ideas Above Their Station - South Korean Coach Quit

Despite leading South Korea to a second successive World Cup Finals, their coach Jo Bonfrere has resigned, as reported in the International Herald Tribune and elsewhere.

Far be it from me to derive amusement from this, but the following quote did make me chuckle :

"Coach Bonfrere has decided it would be difficult for him to continue being a coach under current circumstances," said Lee Hoi Taek, chairman of the association committee. "And the technical committee members agreed with him on this".

Not so much resigned as fired, then.

Essentially, it seems that Mr Bonfrere was,um, forcibly resigned because of the poor performances of his team. Now, while South Korea reached the Semi Finals of the 2002 World Cup tournament, they did so on home turf and with - shall we say - some interesting, but helpful, refereeing decisions along the way. It appears that this success has gone to the heads of the aforementioned Association Committee and they are punishing their coach for doing his job.

There are, doubtless, some good players in the South Korean side, but the Koreans are not footballing giants and their Association would do well to remember this when it comes to finding a replacement for the hapless Mr Bonfrere.

posted by mark_s at 11:21 AM 0 comments

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gerrard Injured - The Shape of Things To Come

Steven Gerrard - never the most injury free player - has picked up a knock and it is looking likely he won't play in the next couple of world cup qualifiers. While, at this early stage of the season, this is hardly critical and England should be able to cope with Wales without too much difficulty, I think this is the shape of things to come.

Seeing Frank Lampard interviewed after the Chelsea v Arsenal game, it struck me just how worn down he looked and we're only at the second match of the season. If he looks that unhealthy and used up already, just imagine how exhausted he'll be by the end of the season.

As I fully expect Lampard to play every game for Chelski this term, I'm willing to bet on a poor World Cup for him and, as Gerrard's season started pretty much before the last one ended, it wouldn't surprise me if he was injured before a major finals again.

Why do we do this to our players ? I want England to win the World Cup in Germany as much as the next guy, but right now, I'm going to predict we go out in the second round after a shocking performance or two.

posted by mark_s at 10:39 AM 0 comments

Sunday, August 21, 2005

2006 World Cup Groups to be Decided By Drawing Lots

Changes in the way teams level on points in World Cup groups are ranked mean that the likelihood of a side missing out by the drawing of lots is much increased.

In this article on the fabulous
Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation
website, it explains the difference between previous World Cup tournaments and the forthcoming competition in Germany and makes it clear that it is more likely that teams will qualify simply through the drawing of lots.

They are making this out to be a bad thing. My own perverse sense of humour and better than average understanding of the related concepts of 'chance' and statistics means that I rather like the idea of a side like Israel, for example, qualifying for the next round at the expense of a team like the Czech Republic who are - by all objective criteria - a clearly superior side.

More luck, less judgement. That's the way to run the world's biggest team sports competition. Hooray for FIFA.

posted by mark_s at 8:39 PM 0 comments

Kasabian and Kaiser Chiefs Compete For Official England Song

Today's Observer Newspaper indicates that indie, um, giants Kasabian and Kaiser Chiefs are both up for the job of releasing the official England World Cup song for Germany 2006.

Personally, I think it might be advisable to wait until England have actually qualified for the World Cup before we think about such worthless trivia, but hell, what do I know.

Secondly, it makes me want to weep that two such derivative, third-rate bands should even be considered for such a task. Neither has much grasp of melody and a suitably anthemic song seems way beyond the grasp of Stone Roses clones Kasabian. At least Kaiser Chiefs are named after a football team.

My own view is that this kind of thing is best left to professional songwriters and is best performed by here-today-gone-tomorrow pop puppets like Girls Aloud - footballers wives in training, one and all.


posted by mark_s at 7:23 PM 0 comments