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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Japan Lose to USA In First of 9 Friendlies

Japan lost 3-2 to a below full-strength United States side in San Francisco yesterday. This isn't in itself worthy of much comment or even a particularly surprising result. What is interesting is that this is the first of NINE pre-World Cup games that Japan have scheduled. Count 'em...nine games, including matches against Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

This is a country that is taking it's World Cup preparations seriously and is building a real team to compete in Germany this summer. And Bruce Arena seems to be doing the same with his USA side. The Japan match was the third they've played this year, including a 5-0 demolition of Norway.

This kind of rigorous approach to the tournament worked extremely well for Gus Hiddink's South Korea side before the 2002 Finals and it will stand both Japan and the USA in good stead this time around.

It's a shame that England aren't able to do the same thing. Our chances of winning the damn thing would be much improved, but I can't see the likes of Mourinho, Ferguson and Wenger releasing their best players for 9 friendlies between now and June.

posted by mark_s at 1:14 PM 0 comments

Friday, February 10, 2006

I've Always Been Proud of My ______ Heritage

"I've always been proud of my [insert name of World Cup team here] heritage..."

You're going to be hearing this a lot over the next few months as the smaller nations to have qualified for the World Cup Finals cast their nets and try to haul in anyone who have even the vaguest connection with their country.

Players who were previously not even aware that they had some Angolan or Trinidadian heritage will start claiming how proud they are of this ancestry in a cynical and transparent attempt to disguise the fact that they are so desperate to play World Cup football - even if it is for a country they've never visited and can't even locate on a map.

So the
Trinidad and Tobago vs Iceland friendly has English Fulham 'Keeper Tony Warner in the squad along with a few Scots and a couple of Americans.

These players have, no doubt, "always been proud of their Caribbean heritage".

The current FIFA rules state this : "A player must either have lived in a country for at least two years [before he can become a naturalized citizen], or have a parent or grandparent who was born there...Players who have played for one country's A team at national level are not allowed to change nationality."

This is a pretty dumb rule....particularly as it has meant that Owen Hargreaves is an England player. There's just no excuse for that.

posted by mark_s at 7:34 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Turkey Fans Ban

Quick follow up to my last post. FIFA have instructed Turkey that they must play their next six home games at a neutral venue and behind closed doors. Full details in this Reuters newswire article.

posted by mark_s at 10:42 PM 0 comments

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Turkey's Fate Hangs In The Balance

Following the brawl between the Swiss and the Turks in the November 2005 play-off match, FIFA will be deciding Turkey's fate on Monday and Tuesday of this week (5-6 Feb). It is possible that they could be banned from international football or be forced to play behind closed doors.

It's interesting that it is Turkey's fate being decided and not Turkey and Switzerland's fates, isn't it ? My recollection was that the match reports indicated that the Swiss were by no means innocent, particularly midfielder Benjamin Huggel.

Regardless of innocence and 'guilt' in all this - isn't threatening to ban a football team from world football rather an over the top response to what was, after all, just a scrap. No one died, no one was seriously was frustration spilling over into aggression.

I think the comments of Sepp Blatter, FIFA supremo, have caused this to become such a major incident. He said this: "Something is going wrong in football. I've never seen anything like it..." Never seen anything like it ?!? You can't have watched much football, then, Sepp, me ol' mate.

Could it possibly have been because of the particular teams involved ? Sepp what nationality is he, again ?


posted by mark_s at 7:28 PM 0 comments

Scolari Wants England Job

Portugal and former Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari is one of the names in the hat for the England job, having won the World Cup with Brazil and had a creditable Euro 2004 in charge of Portugal.

There's just one, minor problem. He doesn't speak English. Cynical commentators on the game would suggest that most English players can't really speak English either, so what's the problem. I, of course, rise above such cheap gags and would never suggest such a thing.

Scolari thinks it will take him 2 or 3 months to master the language (!) and that "It is not a problem for the job as the language for the players I know very well, but it is important for communication with the media." in a BBC radio interview.

Um, sorry, Mr Scolari...not being able to speak the language of the team you are managing IS a problem. One that should exclude you from even being considered for the job. Oh, and it will take more than 2-3 months to learn the language, especially the variant of it spoken by such erudite and literary brains as Joe Cole and John Terry.

posted by mark_s at 7:16 PM 0 comments