Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Greek Tragedy in the making or not ?

I was in the bakery section of the supermarket the other day, when to my surprise I saw that they were selling the roundish lump of dough with a dollop of sweet red gunk in the middle otherwise known as the ubiquitous jam/jelly doughnut. As you are reading this, I know that you are beginning to wonder what this has got to do with a game of football, apart from both objects being round. Who can guess the connection, well the doughnut is symbolic of the festival of lights, Chaunkah, which is a celebration of the last time that Israel beat the Greeks, and lo and behold, Israel just happen to be facing Greece tonight in a vital European qualifier.

So the question is, can Israel overcome one of their oldest foes again after over 2,000 years of trying? the omens don’t look good. Before I carry on, I know that all the Maccabi Tel-Aviv basketball fans who are reading this are going to say that Maccabi often beat Greek teams at Chanukah time, sorry guys, that does not count. I doubt that many of the players for Maccabi would qualify as members of the tribe.

I am sure that many of you good readers have head of the term a Greek tragedy, but are not quite sure what it means, so I went to Bet Shemesh’s eminent Greek Scholar, Dr Lisa Maurice and asked her for a quick definition. I told her I wanted 3 lines not the 3 days that she said would be needed to explain the concept, but she came through and here roughly is what she said. A play were the cast think that the they are good and things are going to work out, but in the end their hopes prove futile and they are shown not to be up too standard.

Sounds familiar, yes we could be talking about, the Israel national football team. The defeat to Croatia on Saturday night was very disappointing as the Croatians did not play well at all, and better execution of the chances that fell Israel’s way early on, would probably have given Israel a win. Therein lies the hope, Israel did create chances and good ones and Schechter’s goal was very well taken. Israel also tends to play better away from home, perhaps because there is less pressure on them.
If they were not expected to win against Croatia, then they are certainly expected to lose tonight. As I said in the last blog, in the absence of Yossi Benayoun, who is now expected to be out for 6 months with injury, somebody has to take the responsibility of pushing the team forward. Schecther, did his bit, but Gilly Vermouth was very disappointing, he has to play well for Israel to have a chance. Perhaps Fernandez will give Lior Rafelov a chance as he did well when he came on as a substitute.

This leads us to the manager, Louis Fernandez, who is a very unpopular figure in the Israeli press and this is not just because he is French, although that is just cause for me. The claim is that he has not brought any order to the team, there is no structure, some of these criticisms are justified, but the players have to take a lot of the blame and the press most for overstating the level of Israeli football. One thing is for sure, it is fun to watch Fernandez (I think the Israeli FA thought he was Spanish, because of his name, and the Spanish are world champs and European Champs at the moment) striding up and down his technical error, sucking on his lollipops and throwing his arms about in those classic Gallic shrugs.
A quick word about the Greeks, they are not that good, but always seem to do well against Israel. The crowd in Athens will be very hostile, the Greek number 7 Samaras, likes scoring against Israel. As the table stands, Greece and Georgia have 5 points and Israel 4, so there is still all too play for.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Israel V Croatia a preview

Hello, and welcome back, after lots of pressure from you the readers, I am back to help you follow Israel’s progress through the qualification tournament for the 2012 European championships (aka Euro 2012) set to be hosted by Poland and Ukraine in June of that year.
Before previewing the game, a brief explanation is needed with those not so au fait with qualifying for major tournaments. The 50 or so odd countries that are part of the European football federation (you will be stretched if you know your geography to say that all of these countries are actually in Europe, Israel being a case in point) have been divided up into nine groups of either five or six teams. The winners of each group automatically qualify. The 2nd placed team with the best record from amongst the nine groups also gets in. The remaining eight 2nd placed teams then play off next November to see which four teams round out the competition. Add in the host nations and we are left with 16 teams to compete in Euro 2012 .

Israel was drawn in group F, to play Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Georgia and Malta, and was seeded third in this group. So far Israel has beaten Malta at home and drawn away in Georgia.

So to the game itself, now I am going to write something, and you are going to think, well that is obvious, and that is, any other result other than a defeat will be a good one for Israel. Israel is expected to lose this game, as I mentioned earlier, they are the number three seed in the group and Croatia is number one. In one of the local newspapers they did a comparison of the probable opening 11 players on each side and the Croatian team was valued at 200 million Euro with Israel at 40 million Euro. Hopefully that gap in value, 5 times more will not translate into a similar result on the field.
However as the cliché goes “football is a funny old game”. Croatia have started their qualifying campaign with a 3-0 away victory over Latvia and a 0-0 draw against Greece, they were poor in failing to qualify for the World Cup and their form has tapered off since the glory days soon after the breakup of the old Yugoslavia . The last times these two nations met in Ramat Gan, the Croatians won 4-3 in a seven goal thriller, so as far as entertainment goes the omens are good.

The bad news for Israel is their best player is out injured. Yossi Benayoun will be missing for a couple of months with an Achilles injury, can Israel manage without him, are the next generation ready for the step up? Before we try to answer those questions, I must say a word about Yossi. He is obviously a mutant, as we know he comes from Dimona, where that secret installation that we are not allowed to talk about is located, just ask Mordechai Vanunu what happens when you do. The fact that he is so talented is not where the mutation manifests itself, no, the mutation is that he is so modest with it. Israeli football is awash with ex players whose mouths were bigger than their feet, so that they constantly were putting their feet in their mouths about how brilliant they were, instead of letting their feet do the talking on the pitch. The most classic case of this was Eyal Berkovitz, when he was at West Ham, one of his teammates tried to kick his head off, he was so disliked.

Yossi was desperate to get fit for this game, he even went to Belgrade to see the “The Serbian Witch” who uses a compound made from the placenta of horses to speed up the recovery. Of course it didn’t work, but I don’t think she charged him as the Serbs hate the Croats.

Back to the questions, there is no doubt that a new generation of skillful Israeli players are around, the question is do they have the mentality to succeed at his level. I will be bold and say the answer is yes, this does not mean that Israel will win, but that they should give a good account of themselves, despite all the negative vibes emanating from the Israeli press.
Itai Schechter is a case in point, he is a very fast, strong and skillful player who is making a name for himself in the Champions league for Hapoel Tel-Aviv, if the midfield and especially Gili Vermouth, (if he plays well, Israel has a chance) can provide him with good service, he will certainly cause the Croatians problems. Itai comes from a religious family, and as a teenager, had real issues with his undoubted ability and the problem of playing on the day of rest. He chose football, but still has an observant outlook on life. He caused a controversy whilst playing for Hapoel, when after scoring a goal against Salzburg, he pulled a Kippah out of his sock, put it on and prayed in the middle of the pitch. The Austrian crowd booed loudly and the referee showed him a yellow card.

On Sunday or Monday I will preview the Greece V Israel game and also talk about Israel’s rather eccentric manager Louis Fernandez.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Final- a preview

So, Spain v Holland, a mouthwatering prospect or is it. I hope that these two teams will produce a spectacle of football which will be long remembered, but I have my doubts, therefore it is my duty to warn those who are not so au fait with this game that it could be very boring and here are the reasons why.
A number of people complained to me that Spain v Germany was a boring game, Spain had the majority of the possession, yet they only won 1-0. For the football purist, Spain was a joy to watch, complete control of the ball. Passing it at will with the Germans content to sit back and try and catch them on the counter attack much as the Swiss did against Spain. There is a very big risk with this strategy, if you don’t catch your opponent on the break, eventually Spain because of their sheer amount of talent are going to score and then you have to chase the game.
This means pushing more and more players forward in an attempt to find the equalizer, thus leaving your defence exposed to lethal Spanish counter attacks and also the Spanish ability to just hold onto the ball with their amazing short passing game known as tacky-tacky as the ball pings from foot to foot.
This is the problem the Dutch face today, their defence is not very good, so therefore they are going to try and close Spain down inside the Spanish half, rather like a full court press in basketball. They will also hope by this high pressure game to steal a goal from a Spanish mistake and then defend for their lives.
The best hope for a good game is an early goal for Spain, as then the Dutch will have to come at them, and this will lead to a more open game. Players to watch for, Robben and Sneijder for the Dutch and look out for Van Persie, it is time he delivered for the Dutch. Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro and of course our favourite Bet Shemesh aaars lookalike David Villa for Spain.

Let us hope for a classic


Politics, Religion and Football before the Final

So we are now less than 24 hours from the final and can almost start looking forward to Rio in 2014, but before we get to the final itself, let us look at some of the side effects and issues associated with the world cup.
The first of these is the politics, for those who have been watching the games and not just following this blog. One can’t have not help but notice the procession of heads of states at these games, if your national team is doing well, you can be assured that the politicians will want to be seen and therefore associated with something which makes the people happy. Angela Merkel could not control herself against Argentina. King Juan Carlos was coolness personified against Germany and as for crown princess Maxima of Holland, well her joy was unrestrained as Holland went ahead against Uruguay. This association however can backfire, if the team flops, The Argentinean president Cristiana Kirchner who is up for reelection, campaigned for free screenings of games and arranged for large screens to be erected all over the country, which was all well and good until the Argies lost 4-0 to the Sherman’s.
So the feel good factor which politicians try to feed off is manifested in another way. In nine months time there will be a baby boom in at least the countries that advanced to the last four. This is actually very important to some of these countries especially the Dutch, where a leap in the indigenous population is very important due to the number of Moslems already in the country. Obviously in the Catholic countries this will not be so felt, which leads us nicely into the last facet at which I wish to look at today.
The most commonly observed act during this tournament has been the sight of players crossing themselves throughout the games.
The two countries playing in the final embody their separate faiths. As an Englishman, when I think of Spain, I conjure up images of El Cid, Catherine of Aragon (cause of the Reformation in England) The Spanish Armada and of course who could have expected Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition.
The Dutch as we know play in Orange and Prince William of Orange became William the third of England in 1689 before going on to defeat the Catholic King James the second of England at the battle of the Boyne on July 12th 1690 (could be a good omen for the Dutch) to establish Protestant hegemony in Ireland, which has survived in the north at least to this day and has been the cause of so much trouble in the Emerald Isle.

The facts speak for themselves, only one truly Protestant country has ever one the world cup, that being England, and even though Germany was the home of the Protestant movement, their best teams and players have traditionally come from Bavaria, a staunchly Catholic province, so we will call them half and half.
So why does it seem that Catholics are better at football than Protestants, well there a number of reasons, the first is historical and relates to the reason Luther posted his articles(a man obviously ahead of his time, the first blogger) Luther was against the indulgencies of the Catholic church. Indulgency is the watchword of Catholic football, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, need I continue, play there football in an over indulgent, somewhat extravagant manner and it seems to work.
The next reason is the way the two faiths deal with sin or in this case, mistakes on and off the football field. In Catholicism, you sin or stray and one simply has to go to confession, say a couple of Hail Mary’s (and that is not the American football kind) receive absolution and you are free to err again. This translates to the football field to a much more relaxed attitude to giving the ball away or missing a goal. The players don’t even need to confess, they just cross themselves and are good to go again. Not so with the Protestants, who view sin in a much more serious manner. There is no hope for sinners until they die. This means that the burdens of making an error are far greater. No-one in England has really forgiven or forgotten the litany of players who have missed penalties or made glaring mistakes and thus caused England to lose.
Off the field, the same differences are apparent, in a Non football related example. President Mitterrand of France was known for his indiscretions which barely caused an eyelid to be raised. Compare that to the reaction in the USA, to the behaviour of President Clinton, in a Catholic country, a shrug of the shoulders may have ensued.
The English camp was riven a few months before the world cup, due to allegations against the then Captain, John Terry, of affairs unbecoming.
This was a definite factor in the poor performance of the English team, as the rumours about similar behaviour by other players and recriminations amongst the players continued.
In France and Spain nobody could see what the fuss was about. Team Spirit is very important.
So if this theory holds true, Spain will emerge victorious later today. But perhaps King William of Orange will again triumph. We will have to wait and see.
I will post a more traditional preview of the final later today, remember to check back


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

2nd Semi-Final

Today’s game is the long awaited clash between the Condor Legion and the republicans, will we see another Guernica? But seriously now, Germany and Spain is a repeat of the 2008 European Final, in which Spain emerged victorious.
To be honest the Spanish haven’t really shined in S Africa, but they are one game away from the final against Holland, who beat Uruguay 3-2 last night, (the goals were great)
The Sherman’s on the other hand have been like a steamroller, scoring a hatful of goals.
A Spain v Holland final would pit the two best teams never to win the world cup against each other, whereas a Holland v Germany final, would give the Dutch a chance for revenge for their defeat to Germany in the 1974 final, which will always be looked back on as a classic.
The Germans will be without Muller for this game and whoever replaces him will have to play well, as Muller has scored 4 goals and been hugely involved in most of Germany’s best attacking play.
The question for the Spanish is should they play Torres or not? There is no doubt to his ability, but he has been very poor throughout the tournament and the Spanish have only really started to look dangerous in their games after he has been substituted.
Last night’s semi final provided us with 5 excellent goals, but not much excitement, let’s hope that tonight’s game gives us neutral fans both.
An interesting little side note, with which you can impress your friends with your knowledge, whoever wins the final will be the first European team to win the World cup when it has not been played in Europe. To date Brazil is the only nation who has won a world cup hosted outside of its own continent.


Monday, 5 July 2010

first semi-final

It just goes to show, why it is so difficult winning ones fortune by dong the football pools or filling out the toto as it is known here. Before the Quarter-Finals, all the pundits, including this one were talking how well the S American nations were doing, and hey presto, we only have one team, Uruguay, from that continent who have survived to the semi-finals. They will be playing Holland the conquerors of the self imploding Brazilians.
I am not going to make a prediction for this game and thus hurt the chances of the team I plump for. I do not want to be thought of as Sir Mick Jagger, lead singer of the rolling stones, is at the moment. He has been supporting the four following teams in person, USA, England, Brazil, Argentina, and we all know where they are now.
Actually I don’t mind making one prediction which I hope will be wrong. It does not really matter who wins this game as they will probably lose to the Sherman’s in the final.
The Uruguayans are depending on ones perspective, riding their luck or have fate on their side. The incident in the last minute of the 120 in their game against Ghana amplifies this point. The number 8 Suarez, handled the ball as it was going into the net to deny Ghana what would have been the game winning incident. The referee quite rightly awarded a penalty and dismissed Suarez with a straight red card. The Ghanaians missed the subsequent penalty and Suarez celebrated by punching his fists in the air on his way to the changing room and a one match ban which means he misses the semi-final. He was later quoted as saying it was worth it. Luck or fate we shall see.
The Dutch have to be in the look out for the anti-climax. Coming from a goal behind to beat Brazil is an outstanding achievement and the Dutch coach has to ensure that his players do not rest on their clogs, thinking that they have done the hard work and now it will be easy. I can’t even predict what type of game this may be. I just hope it will be a good one.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Quarter finals part II

June the 30th 1986 was the day I was inducted into the army. It was also the day that W Germany were due to play Argentina in what was expected to be a very good game and one that I was not going to see. Well in the end it was a very good final with the Argentineans coming out victorious 3-2 after extra time. I was also fortunate enough to see the whole game as the bus drivers taking us to our base refused to move until the game was finished. It was painful to see Maradona lifting the trophy as this was the world cup of the hand of god incident as I have mentioned previously.
In 1990, a now unified Germany and Argentina again met in the final, with the Germans winning a terrible game with a late penalty, thankfully sparing the watching world the agony of another 30 minutes of dross.
In 2006 also in the Quarters, the Germans ran out victorious on penalties. In fact the 1986 game is the only occasion that the Argies have won in 5 attempts.
This year, these two teams have played the most exciting football and are the top scorers to date. They both have young goalkeepers with little experience so it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. Although it is hard to admit it, as I loathe Diego Armando, the best final we could probably see is a clash between Brazil and Argentina.
In the 2nd game tomorrow, we see Spain against Paraguay. As I was growing up I remember Spain and Paraguay as countries both ruled by fascist dictatorships, and they have both come a long way since then. Spain is one of the favourites and on paper should be far too strong for Paraguay, who was appalling against Japan, but football is a funny old game and the Spanish temperament is fragile. Let us hope that this will be a good game worthy of a world cup quarter-final.


Quarter-Finals part I

So, we have arrived at the quarter-final stage and what a feast awaits us. The first game up has always produced classic encounters in the past. In 1974, Holland played Brazil in a game which changed world football. Brazil were a side in transition, and as any woman who has given birth will tell you that is the most difficult part of labour. Pele had retired from international football and the team was looking for a new identity. The Dutch came with the new philosophy known as total football, where the players all closed down on the opponents like a swarm of bees, somewhat like a full court press in basketball, denying the playmaker time on the ball. The Dutch were led by Johan Cruyff, arguably one of the best players of all time. The Brazilian response to this method, was just to kick the hell out of the Dutch, check it out on you tube, by the way the Dutch won 2-0.
1994 – Quarter final stage, the Brazilians got their revenge, with an unforgettable 3-2 victory sealed with an outrageous free kick by Branco, after the Dutch had come back from 2-0 down to tie the game. Once again look it up on you tube.
1998, Semi finals Brazil won a penalty shoot out win (4-2) after a 1-1 draw which was a great advert for the game. So this game promises a lot.
The 2nd game today pits Uruguay against Ghana, Uruguay tend to do well in the years ending in zero, they won the tournament in 1930 and 1950 and were losing semi-finalists to Brazil in 1970. This is new territory for Ghana, they prepared for the game by having a party, with lots of singing and dancing, a refreshing approach to the game.
The Ghanaians are very strong and fit and Uruguay have tired in the closing stages of their games, so if they can keep this one tight until the end, Ghana should be in with a good chance of being the first African team to reach a world cup Semi-final.
I will post about tomorrow’s games later today


Thursday, 1 July 2010

End of term reports

Here in Israel school is out for the summer and the world cup is also having a break, so now would seem like a good time to give out report cards.
We shall do this by continent. There is no doubt, which is top of the class. South America, four out of the five nations have reached the last eight, and Chile was unlucky in that they had to play Brazil. S America has also provided 3 of the most entertaining coaches. If the football is not up too standard, then watching the reactions of the coaches of Paraguay, Chile and Argentina is entertainment in itself. It is interesting to note that all 3 coaches are Argentinean by birth, what do they say about hot blooded Latinos ? However nothing is perfect and Paraguay played out one of the worst games in world cup history against Japan. It will be interesting to see what they do against Spain. Grade A

Moving up the continent, let’s look at Central and N America. Overall they did well. The USA won their group and probably should have beaten Ghana, they had enough chances and were left to rue their profligacy in front of goal. Interesting fact, the USA were the only group winners not to advance to the last eight. Mexico was entertaining and very unlucky against Argentina to go behind to a goal that was clearly offside. Until that moment they were giving the Argies a very good game and as with England against Germany, there will always be the what if issue hanging over the game. It would be best if we could ignore Honduras as they brought nothing to the tournament. For them just Qualifying was the main achievement. Grade A-

Asia, this has been a good tournament for Asia, Japan and S Korea, both did well to qualify for the last 16 coming through difficult groups. They both played S American opposition and put up a good showing. Even N Korea brought something different to the table, apart from the 2md half against Portugal when they let in 6 goals, they were well organized and fought hard. Grade B+

Oceania- i.e. Australia and New Zealand, New Zealand surprised everyone, they did not lose a game and this will be a big boost for football in a country dominated by the oval ball. Australia on the other hand will be disappointed. They forgot to turn up against Germany, managed a draw against Ghana and beat Serbia. It is possible that the witch doctor employed by Harry Kewell to remove the curses on him, actually made things worse. Kewell got sent off after 25 minutes and he seemed to spread his bad luck over the whole side. Grade B

Africa. This has not been a good tournament for Africa, save for the exception of Ghana. Cameroon, Nigeria and Ivory Coast all disappointed bitterly. The Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathon (I kid you not, that is his name) has issued a decree banning the national team from competing in any tournament for the next 2 years while an investigation and overhaul goes on. This will likely lead to FIFA banning Nigeria, as they don’t like to see government interference in the running of football. Cameroon lost all three of their games and the Ivory Coast only managed to beat N Korea. Although S Africa is the host, not a lot was expected from them and as for Algeria, well they were actually France B as they had 10 French born players in their side that only played for Algeria because they weren’t good enough to play for France and we saw how bad France was. Grade C- (even if Ghana advances I would only award a C+)
Now, we come to the bottom of the class. Europe. Europe has to be divided up somewhat. At the top we have Germany, Spain and Holland, although I still have reservations about Holland and Spain. Holland has had an easy path to the last eight and despite winning all 4 of their games they have not impressed. There were also, in the last game, signs of the normal strife which for some reason always appears in the Dutch dressing room. Let’s see how they do against Brazil, more on that tomorrow. Spain also has not played to expectations, but there are signs that they are peaking at the right time. Germany has definitely been the teacher’s pet of Europe. They have scored nine goals and been entertaining and the officials have more or less favoured them.
The smaller Europeans did OK, not much was expected from Slovenia and Slovakia, for them qualifying was an achievement. Then comes, Denmark, Greece, Serbia and Switzerland, they were all disappointing even though they all won one game, they did not entertain and never looked like doing so.
Finally we come to the real under achievers, France, Italy, England and Portugal. With the talent at their disposal, they were awful. The mudslinging and recriminations will be long and hard. The Press in the respective countries is like a pack of bloodhounds waiting to tear their rabbit’s to pieces. The question is how, will these countries respond? I will be writing a separate post on views on this subject. Grade D-

Your comments will be appreciated

Tomorrow we will preview the Quarterfinals.


Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Today, we will complete the list of quarter finalists. I have already previewed the Paraguay v Japan (17.00)game so that leaves us with the Battle of the Iberian Peninsular, Spain v Portugal, kick off 21.30. This is a Derby game(a match between local rivals)so bragging rights are at stake and there is no love lost between these two teams.

The Spanish came into the tournament as one of the favourites, but did not play as well as expected in the first round. The fact that they qualified though now makes them a very dangerous proposition as they are undoubtedly a very talented team.

Portugal spanked N Korea 7-0 and played out two scoreless draws in their other games. Let’s see who can realise the significance of this information. Correct, they have not yet conceded a goal, no mean feat considering who they have played. The key to this game for Portugal is which Christiano Ronaldo turns up. Against Brazil, he tried to shoot every time he touched the ball, he seemed to forget that he is one of a team. If he can remember to pass to his team mates then Spain could be in trouble.

I think that the Spanish would be better off without Fernando Torres as he is obviously not over his injury and is actually doing more harm than good for the Spanish cause at the moment. We have seen some good games in this round, so let’s hope we finish off with a cracker.

The Quarter Finals do not start until Friday, so we will have time to review the tournament to date. Remember to post your comments


Monday, 28 June 2010

Correction for tody's game

In my turmoil over the performance of England, I previewed the wrong game tonight. Brazil is playing Chile, with Paraguay v Japan tomorrow. This should also be another very good game. These 2 teams came in 1st and 2nd in the S American qualifying tournament, and as I have written earlier, the Chileans love to attack. The goals are beginning to flow now, we had 9 scored yesterday and we could see a hatful in this game. The other thing both these teams know how to do well is kick the opponent, so watch out fro a red card.



Sunday, 27 June 2010

A bad day for England and Mexico and a look forward to the 3rd set of games

As much as people will say that the goal that England were not awarded turned the game, the truth has to be told. England did not deserve to win. They were bad from their first game and only showed very rare glimpses of their supposed potential. I can not think of one moment, by an English Player which would make as the Americans like to say the highlight reel. So the long wait for another victory goes on and there will have to be a fundamental shift in attitudes toward the game in England for that wait to be over. This is unlikely to happen as the money driven demands of success, do not let teams take time to nurture talent, in the way that Germans for example have done as they showed us yesterday.
The Germans played with a Blitzkrieg style straight out of Rommel’s manual of how to attack, flanking the opposition at great speed, with Panzers coming up through the middle to kill off the shell shocked remains of a defense. They easily could have scored more than the four they did.
In the 2nd game we saw another awful decision, this time against Mexico, which almost caused a riot when the replay was shown on the big screen. The governing body of football FIFA is going to have to come to the realization, that at least for when it comes to goals, they have to rake advantage of modern technology.
Aside from that the Argies look good coming forward but shaky at the back. The Quarter final between the Sherman’s and the Argies should be a cracker.

So England goes into mourning but the tournament continues, it is difficult to predict what today holds after the heavyweight clashes of yesterday. There is no history, in the games today. The Dutch are up against Slovenia, the conquerors of the Italians and I don’t see them making the same mistakes that the Italians did. The Dutch could have advanced to a very winnable quarter final without having had to go up a gear. In the 2nd game, we have Paraguay v Japan. The Japanese impressed everyone with their defeat of Denmark and scored probably 3 of the best goals we have seen so far. Honda who with his peroxide dyed hair is far from civic has found an accord with his team mates, that has taken all by surprise, but Paraguay are very well organized, so this should be an interesting game.

Please post comments if you have them, it is all nice to get feedback


Once more into the breech and a word about the gallant USA

Before we get to today’s matches, a word about the USA. I hope this tournament will be seen as a watershed for the game in the USA. World football can only benefit from a strong USA team and with the resources at their disposal, this should now become a reality. For the American fans new to the game, the defeat to Ghana will be a salutary lesson. Football is a cruel game, in which one very rarely gets a second chance. The USA had numerous chances in the 2nd half to win the game all of which they failed to convert and boom, one long ball and Ghana are ahead. We look forward to see the USA in Rio in 2014.
So far in this tournament we have already had Au Revoir to the Frogs, Arrivederchi to the ities, the question is will it be so long England or Auf Wiedersehn Pet to the Shermans.

The following statement will be read out at 17.29 tomorrow in the House of Commons.
An ultimatum was passed to the German ambassador, stating that if Germany did not withdraw from (read S Africa for) Poland by 17.30, then hostilities between the two countries would commence. Sadly, we have received no reply from the Germans, so we are now at war.

A bit melodramatic, you may think? Not at all, for most English, beating the Hun is more important than winning the world cup, the feelings are mutual.

The Kaiser Franz (Beckenbauer, probably the best sweeper ever to play the game) has fanned the flames by claiming that the English only play in the style known as kick (preferably the opponent) and rush and that the Premier League is not as good as the Bundesleiga. Mr. Capello, himself an Italian who has no love for the Sherman’s , now does not have to think to hard, how to motivate his team.

The history between these two nations in big tournaments is long and full of unforgettable moments, with Jerry definitely holding the upper hand.

1966 England beat the then W Germany 4-2 in the final after extra time, with the did it, or did it not, cross the line goal, an incident which is still argued about today.

1970 in Mexico, England was 2-0 ahead and cruising with 15 minutes to go. A strange substitution and a terrible mistake by the goalie who let the ball through his body (some things don’t change, do they Mr. Green) and W Germany came from behind to win 3-2.

Italia 90, semi-final England 1- Germany 1. Stuart Pearce (current assistant manager) blasts his penalty over the bar. Germany win

Euro 1996, Penalties again, this time another England defender misses and Germany win again.

Most people reading this will see a pattern developing here and maybe will begin to understand why this is such a big game. So get your tin helmets ready, the dam busters are in the air, the great escape is about to begin. In this game no quarter will be given and none asked for and to paraphrase dear Winnie (not the poo or Mandela)
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight them in Bloemfontein. We shall fight them on the field, we shall fight them with growing confidence, and we shall never surrender.

Awaiting the winner of this clash of the titans, will be either Argentina or Mexico. Everybody has been very impressed by the Argies to date, but they haven’t really been challenged yet and have been able to impose their game on the opposition. Mexico will be a tougher nut to crack.

Enjoy a great day of World Cup football


Friday, 25 June 2010

!st round last day and a look forward to 2nd round

Hi and welcome back. Today should provide very entertaining as we come to the close of the group stages. First up is Brazil, who has begun to look ominously good, versus their old colonial masters from Portugal. The Portuguese scored 7 in their last game, but admittedly that was against N Korea. A number of the Portuguese squad are actually Brazilian born and Portugal are often considered the Brazil of Europe. The result of this game is largely academic as it will only determine who the teams will face in the next round. The runner up, which will probably be Portugal, is slated to face the winner of Spain’s group, which was supposed to be Spain and still could be, but more of that later.
In the second game in this group (kick off 17.00) N Korea are up against the Ivory Coast. As the N Koreans lost their last game 7-0, they will need to put in a good performance to try and avoid a course of re-education when they get home. Ivory Coast is also playing for their pride, and they even have a remote chance of qualifying. They need to score at least 7 and hope that Portugal loses by 2 goals. An unlikely scenario but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it.

In the later games tonight. Spain is the latest European team to be in a very tight spot. They basically have to win to go through and they are up against tough opponents in Chile, who have looked very good and who also know that if they lose to Spain they may not go through despite wining their first 2 games. A draw may suffice for Spain in the unlikely event that Switzerland doesn’t beat Honduras, but Honduras has been one of the poorest teams of the tournament so far and the Swiss know that a victory for them would most likely see them through. It will be interesting to see, if the Swiss know how to attack, to date they have basically only played defense. As mentioned above, positioning is important here, as the runner’s up in this group will likely have to face Brazil, a daunting prospect.

Tomorrow sees the beginning of the Knock out stages of the tournament. If the sides are level after 90 minutes, then they play an extra 30 minutes of extra time. There is no golden goal, the full 30 minutes are played even if one side scores. If the deadlock has not been broken after 120 minutes, we go to one of the cruelest forms of torture known to mankind, the Penalty Shootout. Each team has to choose 5 players who will take the spot kicks as they are known. This is not recommended viewing for anyone with a heart condition. If the teams are still level after 5 penalties, it becomes a sudden death affair.
Some teams are good at penalties other are awful. Let’s see if you can guess who is good and who is bad. Ok, that’s enough time. The Sherman’s are excellent and the English and Italians are awful (they lost the final in 1994 when Baggio blasted over the bar). You can be almost certain that if it goes to Penalties, England will lose and grown men will cry. Luckily for the Italians, they are already on their way home.

The next round opens with 2 intriguing games for out entertainment. Uruguay v S Korea (17.00) in the early game and Ghana v USA in the late game (21.30). The Uruguayans have looked very good and should be too strong for the S Koreans, who will be happy that they have got this far.
The 2nd game is much harder to call. Both sides have done well to make it through. The USA feels that there is a conspiracy against them as they have suffered some rather dodgy refereeing decisions. There is no doubt that they are emotionally fired up and are on a roll. However Ghana is the best team they have faced to date (England will improve but were awful when they played the USA) and I predict this to be a very tight but good game.
On Sunday we shall have a quick review of the 1st round highlights and low points and look forward to the renewing of hostilities between England and Deutschland


Thursday, 24 June 2010

Group D ZE Shermans

In the second set of games today, every team can still go through and the hopes of a continent are resting on the broad shoulders of Ghana. The first world cup ever to be hosted in the Dark Continent has not gone as planned for the African nations. S Africa and Cameroon are already out and barring a miracle the Ivory Coast are almost out. Last night, Nigeria blew their chance, with what will go down as one of the worst misses in World Cup History. Check it out on You Tube. Yakubu miss v S Korea, it has to be seen to be believed.

Ghana only has to avoid defeat to progress, but unfortunately, they have to play against our Friend the Pig Climber and his pack of hunds. I hate to have to say his, but the Germans were unlucky against Serbia last week. The Spanish referee must have lost some of his forebears to bombing by the Condor legion during the Spanish civil war. This is the only possible explanation for one of the most ridiculous and unfair displays by a referee I have ever seen.

This leaves the Germans in a precarious position, a bit like Penelope Pitstop relying on the Ant Hill gang, in the form of Australia to come to rescue her from the hooded claw of Serbia.

The Germans really need to win to make sure of their progress, for if they only draw and Serbia beat Australia, then The Germans will be following France and possibly England back home.

The question is, can Australia manage to finish a game with a full side, so far 2 games, 2 players sent off. They seem to have forgotten that they are playing Association Football and not Aussie Rules, where hard physical contact is an art form. Australia could also still qualify. A win against Serbia coupled with a German loss to Ghana and they go through.

Tonight (kick off 21.30) will be very tense, a lot of beer will be swilled and the Australians will then hope they have a reason to chunder. Come on Ghana and Australia


world cup En Ger Land

The equation is simple, England win and they are through, any other result and they will most probably be on their way home. It is also pretty straightforward for the USA, they just have to match whatever result England achieves and they are through.

This backs to the wall, situation is a not unusual for England to be in, both on and off the field of play.

1879, the Zulus had just defeated the British at the battle of Isandhlwana, and the surviving Troops, defeated the Zulu army at the Battle of Rorke’s drift, an action in which 11 Victoria crosses were awarded (The highest medal for gallantry which can be given) and which was later immortalized in the film, Zulu starring Michael Caine.

Could that be an omen as there are 11 players in a football team?

Twenty years later, the lifting of the siege of Mafeking after 217 days was considered the turning point of the Boer War. There is a definite siege mentality in the current England camp and they need to turn a corner.

Both in 1986 and 1990, England started their world cup campaigns poorly and came into their final group game having to win, which they did on both occasions, In fact in 1990 they reached the semi-finals, losing to Germany on penalties.

That is the history, but why does it always have to be this way. The excuses or reasons are myriad. The usual one is that the pressure on the players from the fans back home is so intense, that they freeze. This is usually dismissed by those who say that anyone who is earning around 500,000 shekels a week (I kid you not) should be able to cope with the pressure.

The next most popular excuse/reason is that the players are simply not good enough, they lack the skill and intelligence of the S Americans or Europeans. There is something to this.

After that, the blame is laid on the English clubs, who don’t let homegrown talent come through but instead rely on foreign imports, in the desire for domestic and European titles. This is definitely a problem, but one that is not restricted to England as the top European teams are all multinational affairs and you don’t hear the Spanish or Italians complaining about this.

No, I believe the reason is that the English Football team suffers from a masochistic Self defeating personality disorder. This can be seen in the following symptoms:

1) Choosing people and situations that lead to disappointment or failure, even when better options are clearly available. E.g. Passing to the wrong player, throwing the ball into your own goal and missing an open goal.

2) Rejects or renders ineffective the attempts of others to help. E.g. what does that Italian twat, Mr. Capello think he can teach me John Terry (ex England captain who lost his job as captain for having an affair with the girlfriend of his team mate.)

3) Incites angry or rejecting responses from others and then feels hurt, defeated, or humiliated when criticized for doing so. E.g. Wayne Rooney attacking the England fans for booing the 0-0 draw with Algeria.

It is therefore not surprising that England fans go through the whole gamut of emotions in the build up to and during the actual game. This is also something which is unavoidable to almost all English born. So today at 17.00 don’t try and reach me or most other English you may know. By 19.00, we will know if England lives to play another day (Saturday night at 21.30)

I will end with two quotes from Shakespeare’s Henry V before the battle of Agincourt.

“That he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made. We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us”.

“The game's afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Wayne, England, and Mr. Capello”

I will be posting a separate piece about group D