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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Attacking A Player Is Not A Reason Not To Play For The National Side

I freely confess that I'd never heard of this guy but this news piece on Reuters caught my eye.

It appears that Singapore's Noh Alam Shah, while being completely banned from any domestic games whatsoever, is still eligible to play for his national side.

Alam Shah was fined and banned from his domestic league after attacking Singapore Armed Forces defender Daniel Bennett during the RHB Cup Final last month. Shah elbowed and kicked Bennett and then kneed him in the back of the head when Bennett was on the ground.

However, the Singapore Football Federation has stated that Alam Shah is still eligible to play for the national side during World Cup 2010 qualifiers if selected.

By some strange coincidence, Shah is one of the most highly rated strikers in Asia, scoring 10 goals in the recent ASEAN soccer championships.

I wonder what would have happened had the guy not been such a major part of Singapore's chances of qualifying from their World Cup group?

For those that like that kind of thing, here's the YouTube video of his red card :

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posted by mark_s at 3:40 PM 0 comments

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New England Boss...But No English

It's looking 99% certain that Fabio Capello will become the new manager of England.

Capello, as everyone knows, is a proven, top class manager - winning league trophies in Italy and Spain plus the inevitable Champions League title.

But is Capello really a good choice for a nation that rates itself way above the realities of their football.

One of the things that has been claimed is that Capello is unafraid of puncturing big egos and dropping big name players if they aren't performing. Naturally enough, lots of England fans think that this is a good thing.

There is a view among England fans that the players are all 'big time Charlies' who don't really care about playing for their country and need a good kick up the arse.

This may well be true. But, the thing with Capello is that he IS the big ego. The reason he falls out with big name players (Beckham, Totti...etc.) is less to do with their performance and more to do with Capello attempting to show the world that he is the main man.

Beckham, remember, was frozen out by Capello for having the nerve to sign a contract with a club that wanted him instead of one that really didn't.

"He'll never play for Real again", Capello claimed.

Except that Beckham did play for Real again and was a major contributor to Real's reclaiming of La Liga title.

So much for the 'hard taskmaster' tag.

The other problem with Capello is that he doesn't speak much English. Put aside easily made jokes about this being true of many England players as well, it is a problem to have a manager that can't really communicate with his players.

I'm not sure that Joe Cole and Wright-Phillips are really going to understand "gioc la sfera all'uomo ed al funzionamento grandi sopra ai knockdowns" .

I'm even less sure that Capello would be able to say "play the ball to the big man and run on to the knockdowns".

Anyway, Capello is the new England boss. England will qualify. England will get knocked out in the quarter-finals.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

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posted by mark_s at 8:24 PM 0 comments

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Who Exactly Organises This Shambles ?

Africa is a big place. No, really. It's a BIG place. It's so big, in fact, that on maps of the World, they actually shrink it to fit.

Don't believe me ? Here's a map showing the real size of the continent.

Hopefully, you're now getting the idea that Africa is, um, a BIG PLACE.

So, which idiots would put the first four World Cup 2010 qualifying matches for African nations on consecutive weekends?

Step forward, those geniuses at FIFA.

This hare-brained scheme means that many African teams will spend a whole month criss-crossing the continent, dealing with unreliable transportation and organisation, with barely a rest in between.

If you consider that, for example, Swaziland are in the same group as Togo (a distance of nearly 3,000 miles), you can see the problem.

As the CEO of the South African FA, Raymond Hack, points out with masterful understatement, "this seems a little tough on the players".

Oh, and these qualifiers take place in May, so there will be the heat to contend with too.

Well done, FIFA, another masterstroke of organisation.

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posted by mark_s at 9:37 PM 0 comments

The Great England Manager Debacle

OK, so The F.A sacked Steve 'What-Do-I-Do-Now' McClaren for proving he is a true Englishman when he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Croatia.

Not a real surprise, to be honest.

And, of course, the usual high profile casualties of the last round of top level sackings are being considered for the job - Capello, Mourinho, Lippi - you know the names.

However, in true English style, it's already being handled very badly.

I particularly enjoyed today's News of the World article that manages the astonishing feat of simultaneously saying that Mourinho wants the England job and categorically denying that he will have anything to do with it.

The essence of the article is that Mourinho was already to say 'yes' to England when some European super club offered him a job starting next season. So he will say 'no' instead.

All this despite quotes like :

"But when the English people say they want me and the players say they want me...well, I can't say no. It would be an honour to be manager of England and I am excited by the responsibilities of this England job."

If the article proves true, there will be more claims that Mourinho was using England to get a top European job.

Um...bull. Mourinho's record over the last 3-4 years is the best in Europe and he doesn't need England to help him get another high profile management role.

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posted by mark_s at 8:25 PM 0 comments

World Cup 2010 Qualifiers

It's good to be back and posting on this 'ere World Cup football blog. It's been a long time.

But the draw for the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup Finals has been announced - the complete list is here on the official FIFA site

The most notable fixtures thrown up by this draw are the pairing of England with Croatia in Group 6 - Croatia, of course, put England out of Euro 2008.

Also in Europe, Greece seem to have been given a free pass to the Finals as their Group 2 opponents include Latvia, Luxembourg and Moldova. Still, the Greeks have been impressive of late and did, of course, win Euro 2004, so good luck to 'em.

In North America, I can barely understand the system. But the end result will be that the USA and Mexico qualify, so I really wouldn't worry about the details.

Elsewhere, there should be typical chaos in the African groups, but expect Nigeria not to mess it all up this time.

Down in South America, the qualification process is already underway with the usual suspects plus Paraguay looking strong.

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posted by mark_s at 8:12 PM 0 comments