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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sweden Get The Other 'Best Runners' Up Place

Having been pipped to automatic qualification as group winners by Croatia, Sweden managed to nick a 'best runners up' place after their result last night.

Poland - having lost to an impressive looking England - get the other 'best runners up' place.

Congratulations to both teams are, of course, in order. Now, far be it from me to suggest that these 'best runners up' places are fixed, but the calculations are bizarre, considering that some European groups have six teams and some have seven. If you are unfortunate enough - like the Czech Republic - to be in a group with seven teams, then your results against the lowest placed team in the group don't count, making it less likely to get on of these qualification places.

Doesn't that sound strange to you. Surely, there must be a better way and fairer way of qualifying for the World's major soccer tournament ? Well, there probably is, but FIFA want as many different nations to play their own unique brands of football in Germany 2006 and so what if a few of the world's best teams don't qualify. We can always watch Trinidad or Saudi Arabia instead.

posted by mark_s at 11:00 AM 2 comments

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

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posted by mark_s at 8:35 PM 0 comments

Monday, October 10, 2005

What Kind of Injury is a 'Dead Leg' Anyway ?

I must just find out just what kind of injury a 'dead leg' is. After all, The Republic of Ireland's Kevin Kilbane is looking doubtful for Wednesday's game against Switzerland with this terrible affliction and Michael Owen didn't manage to play for Newcastle 10 days ago because he - too - was suffering from a dead leg. Indeed, in Owen's case he only trained for a couple of days before the England v Austria game.

Um...this football type of 'dead leg' must be very different from the kinds of dead legs kids used to give each other in Primary School. Because I got a few of those and twenty minutes later I was fine. Unless of course - and I know this must be extremely unlikely as nobody could ever accuse ultra professional, hard-working footballers of being pampered whining hypocondriacs - these are actually one and the same 'injury'.

In which case footballers are pampered whining hypocondriacs. Shocking. But you heard it here first.

posted by mark_s at 9:30 PM 3 comments

And 92% of the tickets go to...where ?

The Daily Telegraph has pointed out that only 8% of tickets for matches involving England will be made available to the FA. This, in practice, means that only 4,000 tickets for each football match. Whilst people selling tickets on the black market are sure to be overjoyed by this news, I some how doubt this was the intention.

So, where are the other 92% of World Tickets going. Well, it seems that many are going to the media (fair enough) and VIPs. The Telegraph says this :

"...The Westfalen Stadium, which has a capacity of 66,981 for matches involving Dortmund, will be able to seat only 50,276 fans for the World Cup... "

Ah, I get it. England fans get 5,300 tickets approximately while VIPs/the media get over 15,000. That's certain to create a great atsmophere. Good thinking FIFA. And here was I thinking that it was the fans who are supposed to be the VIPs at football matches. How naive of me.

posted by mark_s at 9:16 PM 0 comments

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Bit of a Craic'er - Northern Ireland v Wales

Result : Northern Ireland 2 Wales 3

Now this was a football match. While neither team had anything to play for in terms of qualification, national pride meant that here was a match that both teams really wanted to win. And it was a cracking game of soccer. Certainly put England v Austria in the shade.

Lawrie Sanchez - a man for whom I have a great deal of time - had his Northern Ireland playing like a team; something that Svennis the Menace seems unable to reproduce with England. I like to see international sides that play like a team that plays with each other every week. It's a sign of a quality manager/coaching staff and makes for more attractive football.

The Wales team didn't have this, but what they do have is some top class Premiership players, like Ryan Giggs and Simon Davies. That kind of width and delivery combined with the attacking threat of Hartson and Earnshaw meant a great game of soccer.

Basically, Giggs and Davies ran riot and the Northern Ireland defence couldn't cope. The Irish were also hamstrung by consistently pinging balls to Jones' back post and hoping Quinn would nod them down. Not a good tactic when your team's best players - Healy and Davis - play better with the ball at their feet.

It's no surprise that when Northern Ireland played more passing football in the second half they got themselves back in the game. This was one match where a draw would have been a satisfying result for the neutral and supporter alike.

posted by mark_s at 9:54 AM 0 comments

England Vs Austria - The National Nearly Rejoices

England v Austria Result : 1-0 to England.

Due to some mad FIFA inspired qualification craziness, England have qualified for Germany 2006. The nation rejoices....well, not quite.

The match was terrible. England played like a team who didn't really care about winning. They defended far too deep and the pace of the match was slower than two sloths mating. Except without the climax.

Good performances : Despite my questioning his ability at this level, Luke Young (playing instead of the injured Gary Neville) acquited himself well, was solid in defence and did break foward a la Neville. Some nice football.

Joe Cole - was pretty good in the first half, actually keeping the width of the team and delivering some good crosses into the box. Went missing in the second half along with pretty much the rest of the England side though.

Terrible Performances : Well, nobody actually played terribly - it was just all so lacklustre, with the second half being an exercise in running around in ever decreasing circles. No one wanted to take the game by the scruff of the neck and actually win it with style.

The Little and Large Show : Owen and Crouch. Well, it kinda that Crouch headed the ball a lot and Owen ran on to pick up the ball. That was the idea, and yeah, that's what happened.

But in all honesty Peter Crouch isn't really a good enough striker (you know, someone who is supposed to get goals) to play at international level. He was embarassingly wide with the few decent chances that came his way.

Beckham's Red Card : He was done over by a combination of overacting by that Austrian guy and a referee who didn't get a single major decision right all game. Luckily the Poland game is now meaningless and it might given Sven the opportunity to put out a balanced midfield. Nah...that's a hope too far.

posted by mark_s at 9:29 AM 0 comments