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Friday, May 05, 2006

Arrogance or Confidence...You Decide

Brazil Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has named his team for Brazil's opening group match against Croatia.

The starting XI will be Dida(goalkeeper), Cafu, Juan, Lucio and Roberto Carlos (defenders), Emerson and Ze Roberto(midfielders), Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Kaka (forwards).

Considering that Parreira hasn't even named the Brazil squad yet, this is a move of stunning arrogance. What it says to Croatia is this: 'even if you know who you are going to be playing against six weeks in advance, you will still be unable to devise tactics to beat us...you're just not good enough'.

If I was Croatian, I would be extremely angry about this. Remember that the Croatian national team are no mugs - they finished 3rd in the 1998 World Cup and were unbeaten in qualifying for this one. I'd enjoy an upset in the opening Croatia v Brazil match - if only because it will force Brazil to play out of their skins in the other group matches.
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posted by mark_s at 4:47 PM 0 comments

Thursday, May 04, 2006

More World Cup Sponsors Madness

Now that World Cup fever is in full swing, all the usual 'sponsors' are out there filling up valuable television time with their embarrassing football themed ads.

Most shocking of all is Budweiser...the 'Official Beer of the 2006 World Cup' ! I kid you not. For those lucky enough not to have seen the adverts, they play upon Americans supposed ignorance of soccer and have the tagline "you do the football...we'll do the beer". Considering that their product (I am loathe to describe it as 'beer') is infamous for it's bland watered-down mass produced taste, I would like to suggest that "we do the football...and we'll do the beer, too".

A fizzy, tasteless American lager as 'Official Beer of the 2006 World Cup Finals' in Germany - home of many of the world's finest beers - is just beyond words. And to promote it that way to the Brits - home of the world's finest beers that aren't from Germany - just makes me want to weep. If there was a World Cup for beer, Budweiser would be San Marino.

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posted by mark_s at 11:03 PM 0 comments

The USA World Cup Squad

I know this was announced a couple of days back, but I'm slow, so there !

The complete squad as chosen by Bruce Arena is as follows :

Goalkeepers (3): Marcus Hahnemann, Tim Howard, Kasey Keller

Defenders (8): Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Jimmy Conrad, Cory Gibbs, Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Lewis, Oguchi Onyewu, Eddie Pope

Midfielders (8): DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Pablo Mastroeni, John O’Brien, Ben Olsen, Claudio Reyna

Forwards (4): Brian Ching, Eddie Johnson, Brian McBride, Josh Wolff

Most of the commentators (certainly in the United States) have been commenting on how many of these players actually play in Europe compared to the Americans last World Cup adventure.

But really, the most interesting thing is the consistency between the 2002 squad and this one. Just over half this squad played under the same manager in the 2002 Finals and certainly a large percentage of what would be Arena's starting XI played in the previous finals.

Personally, I think manager Bruce Arena has been very canny in the build up to these finals, integrating the domestic MLS players with the Europeans where possible and working extremely hard on fitness and teamwork in a way that many of the major soccer nations would be proud of.

He's also fortunate that a few of his most famous players - McBride and Convey, most notably - have had very good seasons. Expect a few surprises from the Americans again this time around.

Shame no Freddy Adu, though.
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posted by mark_s at 9:54 PM 0 comments

Steve McClaren is New England Manager...The World Keeps Turning

Well, it's finally over and it's taken the F.A three months to appoint the next England manager who is a guy that stands next to the guy who is the current England manager.

Yup, Steve McClaren is the new England manager . Like most of the nation, I can barely contain my indifference. You know you haven't exactly appointed 'Mr Charisma' when he's outshone at his own press conference by Brian Barwick, the F.A's Chief Executive.

Still, apparently he has the support of the England squad and that, so I'm told, is important. "If you don't have the dressing room, you have nothing", I heard one slack-jawed old pro say today. Um, well, every English footballer wants to play for England and the current squad want to continue to play for England, so - OF COURSE - McClaren has the backing of the squad.

A more telling indictment of his skills came in an interview with Gareth Southgate in The Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago. The current 'Boro captain said that McClaren wasn't experienced enough for the job. He also said that the senior Middlesborough players in conjunction with Chairman Steve Gibson were more responsible for turning around what was a pretty dire season than the manager.

And this is the guy the F.A's chosen to lead England ? Give me strength.

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posted by mark_s at 9:27 PM 1 comments

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oh, The Tension Is Too Much...

I don't know about you, but I often find the last ten minutes or so of important football matches unbearably tense. In fact, often, when watching on TV, I have to change the channel or leave the room. The last few minutes of the England v Greece qualifying match in 2002 being one such occasion.

Well, now you can - like a certain Mr Paul Hucker -
insure yourself against England's World Cup failure.

“I find when it goes to penalty shoot-outs it gets very difficult and I wanted to insure myself against psychological trauma.”, he said. I'm sure the £1 million of insurance cover will be some small comfort, Paul.

He insured himself via a company called BritishInsurance.com . I visited the site and was very disappointed not to see their 'World Cup All Risks Insurance' policy promoted on their homepage. Maybe this post will encourage them to proudly display this totally-worthwhile,-not-spurious-in-the-slightest insurance policy.

As for Mr Hucker, I can only hope the trauma of Wayne Rooney's injury hasn't thrown him into an irreversible depression.
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posted by mark_s at 10:16 AM 1 comments

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Get A Free Soccer Shirt

Those nice people at sportsbetting site Gamebookers are offering a free World Cup shirt for all new customers. The shirt can be for any World Cup team you like.

All you need to do to claim your free shirt is open a betting account, bet £30/45 Euros on any team to win the 2006 World Cup and a free shirt will be yours. You just have to be a new GameBookers customer.

Here's how it works :

i) Register and bet £30/45 Euros on any team to win the World Cup
ii) Gamebookers will send you a voucher to spend at Subside Sports and a special URL so you can claim your free World Cup shirt.
iii) Your shirt will be sent in the mail.
iv) This offer is open to customers from around the world.
v) Please Note: Vouchers are sent to new customers on Fridays

Click Here To Sign Up At Gamebookers.com.
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posted by mark_s at 1:16 PM 0 comments

Monday, May 01, 2006

Football Shaped Funeral Urns

Never underestimate the ingenuity of the Germans. And never doubt that their idea of taste is not necessarily matched around the world.

Consequently, a German funeral home is offering specially designed coffins for football fans. These can even be football shaped.

I really have nothing to add to this story. It speaks for itself on so many levels.
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posted by mark_s at 12:35 AM 0 comments

Rooney Injured

Suppose I'd better mention it. Wayne Rooney got injured in the Chelsea v Man United game. Metatarsal injury. Sven's decided to take him to the World Cup Finals regardless of his fitness, so he'll get to hobble around Germany watching his team mates play football, then. A lot of good that will do him, I'm sure.

No link for this one. Just Google it - I'm bored with Mr Rooney's injury already and it hasn't even been 48 hours. Note to self : must blog about soccer this week. Not injuries, not England managers.
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posted by mark_s at 12:30 AM 0 comments