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Friday, May 26, 2006

England B : B-low Par

Did you see what I did there in this post's headline. 'B-low Par''s a pun, y'see. Just like them proper journalists in The Sun and that.

Anyway, England 'B' contrived to lose to Belarus 2-1 last night. Sven, as usual, was
talking up the positives after the game - Owen felt fine, Ashley Cole and Campbell played 90 minutes, yada,yada,yada...

And yeah, I guess, those things are important. But how about this - England were OK for the first half and an absolute shambles in the second. They lacked guts and ambition. And really, what did Sven learn about his squad and stand-by players.

Well, he learnt that Owen Hargreaves should never, ever be allowed to play right-back, ever. Not even for a pub team. Never.....Ever. Ever.

He also learnt that 'lucky' Robert Green is injury prone.

And he learnt that if you play three-quarters of Tottenham's first choice midfield you get a pretty good midfield that, and I know this may come as a surprise, looks like they've played together before.

He also learnt that if you take off all the tall players and play a frontline of midgets, your attackers won't win the first balls and headers. Defoe, Joe Cole, Walcott, Lennon - not a single one of them over about 5 feet six inches tall.

The one real positive - Aaron Lennon. He may only be two feet tall, but he's a damn fine player and scared the living daylights out Belarus. It didn't matter who they used to try to stop him, they couldn't do it. He's going to be very useful addition to the World Cup squad.

posted by mark_s at 2:47 PM 1 comments

Yesterday's Match Results

Here's the results of yesterday's (thur 25 may) games, for anyone who hasn't already caught them:

England B: 1 Belarus: 2

Sweden:0 Finland: 0

Australia: 1 Greece: 0

posted by mark_s at 2:26 PM 0 comments

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Today's Friendlies and Upcoming International Matches

The real beginning of preparation for the Germany World Cup 2006 has started with a packed schedule of friendlies between now and the Finals themselves:

Today's Matches:

Australia (1) v Greece (0)

England 'B' vs Belarus

Sweden v Finland

Fri May 26:

South Korea v Bosnia Herzegovina

United States v Venezuela

Saudi Arabia v Czech Republic

Turkey vs Ghana

For a complete list of friendlies up to the opening match of the Finals, visit ESPN

The most interesting and potentially enlightening of the forthcoming games are these:

Switzerland vs Ivory Coast on Sat May 27.
Both teams are outsiders and both have the potential to spring a surprise. This will show how competitive these two sides really are.

Italy v Ukraine Fri Jun 2
I'm expecting the Ukraine to do well at these Finals and if Shevchenko is fit, this match will prove a stern test for both teams. It will be interesting to see how well the occasionally casual Ukraine defence holds up under the fire-power of the Italians. A draw would serve both sides well.


posted by mark_s at 4:04 PM 0 comments

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

2006 World Cup Injury Round Up

Everyone's fit. Well, most people are fit, except these big name/important players :

Rooney (England) - his Doctor was sacked, Beckham is doing a good job of talking up England's chances without him, there's still a good chance he will miss the whole tournament.

Smicer (Czech Republic) - Still struggling with the injury that kept him out of the latter stages of Bordeaux's season. Becoming less and less likely he'll recover.

Shevchenko (Ukraine) - Almost certain to be fit for the World Cup group games, but has ruled himself out of Ukraine's match against Costa Rica. Incidentally, any one who likes a bet should still be looking at Shevchenko as a potential top goalscorer.

Roque Santa Cruz (Paraguay) - Pretty much the only Paraguayian player anyone has ever heard of has tendonitis of the knee. He missed much of the Bundesliga season and, despite denials, looks a doubt for the opening World Cup match at the very least.

Johan Vonlanthen (Switzerland) - Swiss wunderkid Vonlanthen - who has been predicted to be one of the young stars of the 2006 World Cup - has damaged a hamstring and is now
a doubt for the Finals.

Claudio Reyna (United States) - The always injury prone USA captain limped off after their game against Morocco this week and is hoping that a scan will provide positive news ahead of the Finals in June. Certainly Reyna is a quality player, but the Americans have cover in midfield, so this isn't an England without Rooney type situation.

posted by mark_s at 5:09 PM 0 comments

Will The Real Germany Please Stand Up ?

One of the things I've always liked about the Germans is their unshakeable self-confidence. This applies both to Germans I've met personally and, of course, to the German national football team. They have always seem to know where they're going and exactly how they're going to get there.

This World Cup, however, you can almost taste the uncertainty and there seems to be a feeling of impending doom, despite the considerable advantage of playing all matches at home.

All the old faces are coming out of the woodwork to stick the knife in and the football hasn't even started yet. Berti Vogts has
accused the German players of being workshy . Lothar Matthaeus thinks Germany have "no chance at all" and that he could do a better job (always was a modest guy). Only 7% of Germans think that Germany can win this World Cup.

With this kind of build up, and with a few injuries to key players, I'm beginning to wonder if this will be a disaster of similar scale to France's performance at the 2002 Finals. Thi s is all so unlike the Germans, after all.

It might be time to look for bets on Germany not to qualify from Group A. SportingOdds have this possibility at 6/1 and that looks good value to me.

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posted by mark_s at 2:39 PM 2 comments

Rooney's Doctor 'Leaves' Man United

Manchester United Doctor, Mike Stone has parted company with the side. Dr Stone is Wayne Rooney's doctor and the guy that has been saying Rooney is making "a perfect recovery".

United are, of course, claiming in their statement that "Dr Stone has left after a difference of opinion on a non-footballing and non-clinical issue,".

I wouldn't dare to suggest that Dr Stone's sudden departure has anything to do with Wayne Rooney's fitness. I am sure that is just a coincidence of timing. Yeah, that must be it. Just a coincidence.

Any suggestion that Manchester United's reluctance to let Rooney go to the World Cup has been undermined by Dr Stone's positive prognosis is of course, to be dismissed. If only because United can afford better lawyers than I can.

However if this 'difference of opinion' wasn't about football or medical issues, then that doesn't leave a whole lot of issues that Dr Stone would be involved with.

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posted by mark_s at 12:40 PM 0 comments

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lies, Lies and Damn Statistics

I'm not trying to play down the potential problem of racially motivated violence, but I thought this was a bizarre and extremely slanted article in The Washington Post.

The title of the article 'Violence in Germany Surges Ahead of World Cup' is extremely misleading. While it seems to be a fact that racial violence in Germany has increased over the last year; associating this with the World Cup is sensationalist nonsense. Racism in Germany, quite clearly to anyone prepared to think about it for more than 30 seconds, hasn't increased because of the World Cup. There is no clear link between the two things whatsoever.

Indeed, judging from the statistics, it would equally be true to say 'Violence in Germany Surges Ahead of An English Blogger Mentioning Racial Violence'. I can, of course, assure you that I am no more the cause of increasing violence than is the World Cup Finals.

Racial violence is, of course, a worldwide problem. Ill-researched and badly thought through articles
like this one don't really help. Unfortunately, they are a worldwide problem too.

posted by mark_s at 7:52 PM 1 comments

World Cup Soccer...Hey, Hey Team USA

It might just be my imagination, but it seems that - finally - the United States of America has 'got' soccer.

In my real life (yep, I have one, honest) I have a lot of clients in the US of A and this time it is they - not I - who are initiating all the talk about the 2006 World Cup Finals.

I know that qualifies only as anecdotal evidence, but it is also true that the American media is far more interested this time around. There's been an ever increasing number of previews, predictions and commentary from major US sports news sources over the last few days and the whole thing seems to be gathering momentum. Check out this as a good example.

This can only be good for football..sorry, soccer...because, in order to truly make it the biggest sport in the world; the best athletes from the biggest countries need to be playing it.

Rather than choosing NFL or Basketball, talented American kids need to be playing soccer. The same goes for the Chinese and Indians. All three of these countries have huge populations, capable of supporting genuine top ten soccer teams.

There's no guarantee that having a very large population will ensure a successful team (Russia, anybody ?) but soccer/football is the biggest team sport in the world and needs the most skillful sportsmen playing it - no matter where they are from.

If the expansion of the game in Asia and North America is the only thing that current FIFA president/dictator/megalomania Sepp Blatter is remembered for, then it is an impressive legacy.

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posted by mark_s at 6:18 PM 0 comments

Dawson Added To England Stand-By List

Tottenham defender Michael Dawson has been added to England's stand-by list after Luke Young (Charlton right back) pulled out through injury. Young was deputising for Manc motormouth Gary Neville.

Michael Dawson is a centre half with one year of Premiership experience. Luke Young is a right back. This isn't the cleverest of moves. The problem is: when I tried to think of another English right back of sufficient quality to play at international level, not a single name sprang to mind.

This is another thing that gives the lie to the claim that the current England squad has strength in depth. It doesn't. There's lots of good central defenders and lots of good midfielders and nothing else.

posted by mark_s at 12:22 PM 0 comments