World Cup Merchandise
Click Here
World Cup Betting & Odds
Click Here
2010 World Cup Tickets
Click Here

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Not Such A Strong Squad

It's been said for a while now that the current England football team is the strongest for a long time and that now is the best chance we've ever had of repeating our 1966 World Cup triumph.

Proponents of this view point to the strength of our midfield (Lampard, Beckham, Gerrard) and the number of quality central defenders (Terry, Campbell, Ferdinand, Ledley King, etc. etc,) as evidence of the truth of this. And yes, we do have some extremely good midfielders and central defenders, plus a couple of world class strikers in Owen and Rooney.

However, looking at
proposed teams for the next qualifying match against Austria, this claim really doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. What other really top class strikers do we have aside from Owen and Rooney ? Um...none. What cover do we have if Paul Robinson is injured. Um...David James.

Who do we have to replace Gary Neville ? Um...Luke Young ! Who do we have playing on the left of midfield. one most of the time. In short, we have some extremely good players and - with the exception of central defence - no real quality cover for any of them. This a World Cup winning soccer team does not make.

posted by mark_s at 12:47 PM

Predictions for the World Cup Qualifiers

Of the October World Cup qualifying games, it looks clear to me that the following teams are pretty much certain to qualify :

Holland (Group 1)- They need a draw against the Czech Republic to go through. The Czechs are without leading scorer and terror of short people everywhere - Jan Koller. While Holland aren't really the kind of team that likes to play for a draw, I think this is a likely outcome to this match.

Portugal (Group 3) - Technically, they can be caught by Russia or Slovakia but the Portugese are five points clear of both these teams and aren't going to mess up at the final hurdle. They save that kind of thing for the finals themselves.

Italy (Group 5) - Another team that are five points clear and with one of their final two matches being against Moldova, the Italians are pretty much home and dry.

Outside of the European groups, the picture isn't clear at all - with pretty much
all to play for in the African Groups in particular.

posted by mark_s at 12:23 PM 0 comments

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sweden vs Croatia - World Cup Qualifier Preview

Sweden vs Croatia is shaping up to be one of the most interesting of the forthcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

Sweden currently lead Group 8 with 21 points, one point ahead of Croatia and - on paper at least - look the stronger team. However, the Croatians have already beaten Sweden in Sweden, so the return in Zagreb looks like it's going to be a good one as this will pretty much determine who qualifies for Germany 2006. Expect some good attacking football from both sides.

Details of the Swedish squad here.

posted by mark_s at 7:08 PM 0 comments

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Best Way To Get World Cup Tickets ?

The best way to get World Cup soccer tickets ?

Well, according to Franz Beckenbauer - the chief of the 2006 World Cup organising committee - "...if you know someone in Angola or Congo who can get tickets, then that's the best way..."

Interviewed on a German talk show, Beckenbauer said that only the smaller Federations still had tickets available for the 2006 World Cup finals, so if you knew someone or had relatives abroad, you might be able to get your World Cup tickets through them.

Back here in the real world, you can buy tickets via TicketCity or and even get tickets for the remaining qualifying games. You'll pay a premium for these World Cup tickets, but they are the real thing and will arrive quickly.

posted by mark_s at 12:19 PM 0 comments

Yet More Fun And Games In Africa

I don't know about you but -for me - the most fun in the lead up to the final round of World Cup qualifiers has been in Group 4 where Nigeria are struggling to qualify.

I've posted before about some of the problems,
accusations of bribery and requests to FIFA concerning the final two football matches (Nigeria v Zimbabwe and Angola v Rwanda) .

Now The Nigerian Independent Newspaper is suggesting that
Nigeria might send secret spies to Kigali (where Angola play Rwanda) in order to ensure that the game is fair and honourable; thereby giving Nigeria a fighting chance of qualifying.

The Nigerian sports minister -
Samaila Seidu Sambawa - has denied this, however, saying :

“We would have actually done that but we discovered that it was not necessary since FIFA and CAF have taken special interest in the match...”

He goes onto the say that he fully expects Rwanda to win (they rarely lose at home, apparently) and implies that if there is any other outcome, something dodgy must be going on.

I'm sure you'll agree that this is all great fun and I'd like to start similar conspiracy theories surrounding England's loss to Northern Ireland. If only because it would be more enjoyable than the game itself was.


posted by mark_s at 11:56 AM 0 comments

Monday, September 26, 2005

David James Is Definitely Going to Germany

Yup, David James will definitely be in the England squad for Germany. According to, um, David James that is.

He says this is a
recent interview in that most quality of English newspapers - The People :

"In my view it would be silly to think England would go to a World Cup with goalkeepers who have so little international experience..."

James feels that he [James] is the man with the experience and that this would be invaluable to the England World Cup football squad. Hmm...experience of flapping at crosses, racing off the line when it would be clearly better to stay and fumbling simple shots. Yup, all World Cup teams need that kind of experience to help them through.

The sad fact is that (aside from Spurs' mighty Paul Robinson - almost certain to be England's first choice keeper) James is probably as good as any of the other contenders and barring a miracle, will be in the Germany 2006 squad.

What happened to the days when we had Shilton and Clemence vying for the goalkeeping position ?

posted by mark_s at 2:27 PM 0 comments

Koller's Injury Could Mean End For Czech's

The Czech Republic's chances of qualifying for next year's Germany World Cup took a battering over the weekend with news of Jan Koller's injury.

The Czechs are second in their group behind Holland with a critical game against the Dutch still to come and the loss of Koller may swing the game against them. Although he's about fifteen feet tall and looks like he will trip over his feet at any moment (kind of like Peter Crouch), Koller has scored 9 in the qualifying matches so far and he links up extremely well with Milan Baros.

Baros is a player who really does need a strong, physical striking partner to play alongside of - something that someone should tell David O'Leary. Baros scores when he doesn't have to spend all his time holding the ball up. Koller could do this and his importance to the Czech Republic shouldn't be underestimated.

I think this tips the balance of the group in favour of the Dutch. It would be a great shame if the Czechs fail to make it to Germany 2006, so let's hope that they get through anyway. Either as one of the two best performing runners-up or via the play-offs.

posted by mark_s at 2:11 PM 0 comments